Retail / eCommerce Paid Search tips: Product Analytics ideas from Adlucent – SES New York 2012

For retail or e-commerce paid search, look at the full picture.

That’s the concept Meghan Danielson of Adlucent presented in one of the mini-sessions at the 2012 Search Engine Strategies New York expo. She was speaking about product analytics, identifying words that lead to specific conversions.

Three ideas she mentioned in a short presentation are worth checking if you having some difficulty attributing conversion for your retail or e-commerce site.  Meghan summed it up – “If they came in and bought something else, what does that tell you about the keyword and the page their landing on“

Branded keywords

Because of a strong consistent presence in search traffic, branded keywords can mask seasonal trends.  If a keyword led to a product purchase, then you have a starting point for a bid strategy – that keyword can be enhanced with a paid search program (Pierre’s note: eMarketer noted that a study indicated that people were more likely to act on a keyword result that appeared in organic and paid search).

Bundling products

Visitors brought to a site by one keyword may purchase a different product.  Such purchase may be an indicator to bundle products together.  Businesses should consider what backend processes would be affected with this kind of retail offer. (Pierre’s note: This may be a good coupon/ad and landing page strategy to use)


Another factor similar to the bundled amount is price. Meghan says sometimes people decide to select another product shown on the site when the price of their original intention was not the amount expected.  “Am I price competitive to let people get what they came for?”

For these last two points: Consider planning an A/B test on products offered or on price (multi) to see what is an actual factor.

How Web Analytics Helps Small Businesses – Where to Start with Measurement

Many small businesses think of web analytics as search engine optimization, but that perspective is a partial view. Analytics encourages the organization of a digital presence for a business or an organization. These days such planning is important. It means providing speedy management of marketing content, be it online or off, such that a business can ultimately manage costs.

Some small businesses analyze results from a campaign effort – after a website is launched, a video is uploaded in YouTube, or a Facebook page is launched. This is an understandable step – many businesses see analytics in an application and treat the analysis as an audit. But the real work happens during the preliminary planning of a digital presence. This can consume some time, particularly now with so many options for a small business to choose. A business should review two aspects  first before tweet or a site visit is measured.

1. What is the purpose of the website in the business model? Does it serve as an augment for offline marketing?  Is it for sales through e-Commerce? Is it a way to deliver customer support through online chats and community hosting? Answering these questions will set the tone for what content should be on the site – images, downloads, and which pages should retain visitors for longer than a moment. Even trust badges can be influential (see my Business Agility post Building Trust Through Transparency).  It will also lead to how a site and its subdomains are set. The end result is the arrangement of how a site should be tagged.

2. What marketing is planned? Thanks to QR codes and URL tagging, for example, small businesses can create marketing plans to anticipate how customers discover the company site, and ultimately the business itself.  Experian, eMarketer, and other research firms have indicators that people tend to review products and services online prior to making a purchase.  The ideas is establishing an reasonable assumption of how your business is exposed to leads and customers.  An assumption may change overtime, but that is reasonable given that marketing materials can become outdated over time.

Once these two steps are addressed, a small business can begin to make reasonable adjustments to a marketing plan with few headaches and reduced expense.  There are still some technical verifications needed, depending on the complexity of the site and tagging required – many large enterprises have a team on analytic experts to manage the effort. But for small businesses developing a plan and monitoring as it moves ahead makes any analytics information valuable.


When Custom Variables Are Consistently Useful: Customer segmentation by membership

New York Times ad for subscriptions

Ah, the New York Times. A paper with global stature.  No paper made more significant headlines of its own in the online world when the New York Times announced its digital subscription program (details here). The skinny is that visitors who are not subscribers can view up to 20 post in a month, while subscribers of one of three digital news packages have unlimited access. When non-subscribers click on their 21st article, they can purchase a subscription. The plan was implement in March 2011, and the jury is still out on how well the paywall plan is working. New York Times is noted to be the largest newspaper publisher who has implementing a paywall.

Many online blogs operate like a newspaper, and while many still are not at the scope of New York Times, a financial model for making a profit can be a challenge. So what would a small business do to emulate a paywall, or even figure how to better serve its audience? One analytics feature that would be helpful is developing a custom variable to distinguish subscribers online.

A few words on custom variables. Custom variables are a javascript call out that measure page actions for specific activity, In the case of visitor, measurement can include such as the number of pageviews from members who log in on a members-only site. The variable is typically activated by modifying the analytics code, inserting the following Javascript call out with parameters.

Google Analytics requires that index, name, and value are identified. They are determined as followed method accepts four parameters:

  • index—This is a slot number, with a single value from 1 – 5, inclusive. This is meant as a key for one custom variable, so you can have index 1, and index 2, an index 3, and so on.
  • name— This is a string that identifies the custom variable.
  • value—This ia a value that is paired with a name. You can pair a number of values with a custom variable name, such as a custom variable name gender and supply male and female as two possible values.
  • opt_scope—The scope for the custom variable, usually for an additiona description

Most web analytics solutions have some variation of the callout. Piwik, for example, uses the Javascript callout setCustomVariable( index, name, value, scope ) where scope is named “visit” or “pages” depending on whether your variable is tracking based on visits or pages.

When you decide to implement custom variables, you need to consider your site needs carefully against your budget, since most paid solutions offer more flexibility with variables. Piwik and Google Analytics, both free solutions, limit the number of custom variables, while paid solutions Yahoo Web Analytics and Omniture Site Catalyst permit more variables and offering even more customization.

But custom variables can help track visitors to distinguish traffic patterns between members and non-members. Such an arrangement would help your blog develop what effort would convert non-subscribers to subscribers, as well as may other ideas to maintain traffic onsite and provide unique, nuanced treatment for two separate sets of visitors.

There are plenty of other ways a custom variable can be used. Justin Cutroni offers a unique way of using custom variables for coupons – you can read about his process here.

What other ways can custom variables be useful?

How to expand your analytics knowledge: Three books that show managers how

Web Analytics 2.0
Avinash Kaushik's excellent guide for analytics in management

Yahoo Web Analytics
Dennis Mortensen has written a great guide on analytic dashboards as well as his analytics solution, sold to Yahoo in 2008

Need a little more information on using analytics within your organization?  There are three great books that I have had the pleasure of reviewing at Small Business Trends, an award winning small business blog started by editor Anita Campbell.  Written by the leading experts in web analytics and business intelligence, these can help develop an organization around the timely use of analytics tools.

  • Analytics At Work (Thomas Davenport, Jeanne Harris) — focuses on analytics within an organization.  Differing from their first book, Competing on Analytics, Analytics at Work is for medium sized organizations that want to incorporate business intelligence tools for operational efficiency but not as a leading advantage in a given industry.
  • Yahoo Web Analytics (Dennis Mortensen) — this book is more than a how-to regarding Yahoo! Web Analytics.  It’s perfect for online merchants who are interested in Yahoo Web Analytics, but also advanced analytics practitioners who need additional ideas for Javascript code and segmentation analysis.

I have also reviewed other business books with Ivana Taylor, founder of DIY Marketers and the book editor for SBT.  We try to review business books we genuinely like and that have great use for small business owners.   A great one Ivana did  is called Success Made Simple which featured perspective from Amish small businesses

Small Business Trends covers a number of great small business subjects and tips.  Definitely a must follow for any small business owner.

What other business books have been a great aid to your business or outlook?

How iPad + Hyundai Equus = Analytics opportunity for revolutionizing customer service at auto dealers

Apple’s iPad may be revolutionizing customer service for auto dealers


The iPad has received much hype since Apple’s announcement.  But the news that really caught my attention was Hyundai’s offering an iPad in the glove box of every new Equus.  The Equus is the brand’s most expensive vehicle, a premium sedan aiming to be a BMW 7 series alternative.  The iPad will serve as a service manual instead of the standard brochure.

Now this may sound like a slight come down for Apple — why have a $500 computer serve as a book — but there is a marketing advantage for Hyundai and Apple, along with an analytics opportunity as well.

Hyundai is in an interesting position. It has been strengthening its brand as of late to gain more upscale customers, but unlike Toyota, Nissan, and Honda, they can not create a whole new network and sales division by scratch (ie Lexus, Infiniti, and Acura). Adding an iPad creates a special and timely interest about the Equus.

For Apple, the inclusion addresses the criticisms for what an iPad can be besides an extra computer device.  Although much has been said about the ebook reader capability (and even more said about e-book pricing — more later in a separate post), there are not  many innovative examples to show the capability of an iPad or Slate device.  Replacing the service manual changes that.  The iPad revitalizes a long ignored feature in an automobile and renews the usability in an interesting way, similar to how Starbucks revitalized how consumers perceive coffee.

The iPad also becomes an analytics conduit for information.  According to USA Today’s article on Hyundai and Apple, the iPad will provide service information:

“The iPad will also schedule service appointments, for which owners won’t even have to drive to the dealer. To give the brand a more upscale feel, (Hyundai CEO John) Krafcik is creating a system in which a service attendant will pick up the car from the owner and leave them a loaner. Hyundai also is offering home test drives for potential buyers.”

This means increased customer service capability and more information on its target customers, premium buyers.  Toyota, Nissan, and Honda had the natural progression of customer lifestyle — buyers wanting more premium vehicles as they progress professionally — but these brands did not have the feedback potential Hyundai will have from customer communication to the dealer via the iPad (Maybe Toyota could learn a trick or two for the Lexus LF-A — see the Zimana blog post on it.)

Can an iPad be better in a Hyundai? With a little analytics, like Obama, yes it can!

Takeaways for small businesses:

  • Match your branding accordingly with whomever you partner with — Apple is not a luxury brand, but features and its stores incorporate features of a premium brand (and it is positioning iPad to be superior to netbooks).  This is a fit for Hyundai, which is not an Acura but will limit production on Equus, establishing some premium level above the vehicle on the second rung, Genesis.
  • Technology can serve as a gateway to offline engagement of customers.  Using the iPad will allow Hyundai to use all the techniques and tools to encourage a positive engagement at the dealership. Auto owners have had a negative impression of dealership experience, and all automakers struggle to ensure that any repair is a positive experience that will lead to repeat sales.
  • Analytics can aid your brands effort to strengthen its image by providing a means to gather customer feedback and infer how to improve customer service or product offering.