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.

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?

Facebook Insights now includes Facebook social plug ins for analytics

Facebook Insights
Facebook Insights indicates the responses a Fan page receives

Big news from Facebook, analytics fans — Insights is now improved with more Facebook-ishness. Ok, ok, no such noun, adjective, or verb. But it is improved.

With anticipation of expanded usage, Facebook now allows Insight administrators to measure social plug in usage — the plug ins being the well-known “Like” and “Share” Facebook buttons. Facebook also revised the dashboard for more drill-down capability into data and graphs.

For those who have never heard of Insight — it is a Facebook analytics tool designed to measure engagement of 3 major sets of Facebook services; Facebook Applications, Facebook Fanpages, and Facebook Ads (You can read more about how to use these Facebook services at the article I wrote). With Facebook’s popularity among internet users (and marketers), it would be inevitable that an analytics solution would be created.

For more on the new features, check out the official Facebook developer page, as well as the Mashable article based on the developer page.

Crain article on digital sites geared for women shows segmentation is essential for savvy business online

Today many online communities court women for lifestyle and consumer interests

Crain’s New York had a great recent article on online media properties and the increase competition among online women communities. The article focused on the relaunch or iVillage — NBC is attempting to make a portfolio of brands — as well as Glam Media’s continued dominance.  From the article:

“Magazine publishers are also getting better at identifying audiences across their networks of sites and delivering them in big numbers, media buyers say. Hearst Digital Media’s network had 17.6 million visitors in February, comScore reports, and Conde Nast Digital had 15.3 million”

These are just the opening salvos — Glam Media has the largest number of unique visitors at 78.0 million (comScore figure).  All hail from the “fragmentation of audiences and the way people now use search engines to travel around the Web.”    You can read more at Crain’s New York (Site has a thing or 2 for Women)

Takeaways for small businesses:

  • Business owners must pay attention to the different sites/properties available to their business, and see if there is an audience that rings true to their goals — to strengthen its position in a market or even extend its audience (long tail).
  • In paying attention, businesses should decide what services and features to focus on the most — the fragmentation that is occurring has made being a jack-of-all-trades a very expensive proposition to maintain.  The cost for marketing to as much traffic as possible may exceed the revenue generated.   See the Zimana blog articles on segmentation and the Orient express as well as the post on the Lexus LF-A launch for examples of how large organizations deal (or not deal) with segmentation.
  • In focusing on a segment, the marketing dollars and effort will be better focus and can yield better results for campaigns and attracting the right visitors who will convert.

50% of US population have a social media profile (from WebProNews)

This is a from a tweet sent via PRWire:

Here is a preview of the information:

A new study released today shows that consumer use of social networking web sites is not a youth phenomenon. Apparently now at least half of those living in the United States have social media profiles. While nearly eight in ten teens (78 percent) and 18 to 24s (77 percent) have personal profile pages, almost two-thirds of 25 to 34s (65 percent) and half of 35 to 44s (51 percent) also now have personal profile pages

There are also comments on how interest in online radio programs have spurred interest, particularly with the 18 to 24 segment.  You can learn about more about the article at WebProNews –