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  An assumption may change overtime, but that is reasonable given that marketing materials can become outdated over time.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.


Determine your most valuable customers: Customer Lifetime Value, inferred from analytics, spots the best profits segments

Google Analytics
Customer segmentation starts with your web analytics solution

Avinash Kaushik has always been a great evangelist for the Google Analytics solution, with useful tips at the Occam’s Razor blog, along with having written two books on the business of web analytics (see the Small Business Trends’ book review on his book Web Analytics 2.0). There are great examples of how to extract value from analytics data. This post on customer lifetime value shows the influence of analytics data to determine your most profitable customer segment.

Explained by David Hughes of E-mail Academy , the concept answers three questions regarding the value of an acquired customer base:

  • Did you pay enough to acquire customers from each marketing channel?
  • Did you acquire the best kind of customers?
  • How much could you spend on keeping them sweet with email and social media?

This concept, along with inference of the analytics data, can guide businesses to understand which segments of website traffic are worth the marketing effort.  Remember, your analytics data is more than just examining keywords.  You can examine your online presence, and infer some answers, as well as guidance for others.  I love this post from Avinash because it gets into the meat and potatoes of value.  This is not entirely new; Annastatia Holdren, a paid search evangelist for Google,  gave great comments during her Adwords training about monitoring the value of your keywords so that you are not paying more for traffic.

Key takeaways relevant for business owners looking to review their analytics.

  • Focus on discovering the actions of a segment, not just an individual – analytics is about understanding a group among total site visitor.
  • Being at the top of a given SERP may be costly in some instances.  There are many ways to drive customers to your site without going head to head on a keyword which may be expensive to use in an Adword or CPC campaign.  That expense becomes particularly costly if there are few visitors converting from use of that keyword.
  • Even if your business attempt to gain a SERP advantage via a focus on keywords, an overfocus on certain keywords can eliminate choices of other keywords and phrase which has lower traffic volume but potentially better odds of conversion – more sales, more sign ups, etc.
  • Business owners should consider offline means for customers to discover their site — even a well constructed print ad that links to a great landing page can general the right traffic if the ad is exposed to the right audience.  Foursquare, Twitter, Yelp, and social networking sites have provided new means of discovery.

To read the full explanation of the Customer Lifetime Value process, see the post at Occam’s Razor.

How relevant keywords in Facebook differs from those in search engines

Facebook conducted a great Facebook Ads presentation at the recent Search Engine Strategies New York expo in March. I sat in the audience as Sarah Smith, head of Online Operations in Facebook’s new Austin office, spoke about how small businesses and marketers should use Facebook ads. Great timing on Facebook’s part to offer a review to SES goers, given the recent statistics that online users are spending more time on Facebook than Google, and the massive buzz of the Betty White Hosting Saturday Night Live fanpage.

One of the best takeaways was regarding how keywords in Facebook ad content should be selected. Keywords should be deployed such that they connect to lifestyle activity, events, or how a product is used. These obtain the best response results in Facebook. This differs from search engine keyword tactics, where specific words or broad match incorporating a specific word is used. In fact Facebook calls keyword phrases “likes and interests”, similar to the FHTML that is a variation of HTML.

For example, the words “wine” or “red wine” may be used by a winery, but in a Facebook ad, phrases such “fine dining” will help the ad appear to relevant Facebook audience. According to Smith, businesses can use Facebook to find customers before they use the search engines to seek your business, product, or services.

This implies a few aspects that businesses and marketers should keep in mind:

  • Beyond a different keyword strategy, Facebook users are searching differently than those who are using search engines. This means campaign content must be formulated for Facebook with a different search in mind than that for a search engine.
  • Businesses that confuse web analytics for simply keyword performance will have to end. If a Facebook campaign is used alongside a PPC (Adwords, Adcenter, etc.), those business will miss opportunities to optimize their marketing and gain customers because all the channels will be treated the same.
  • Marketers will have to understand the influences and preferences customers more deeply to generate the “likes and interests” for the Facebook ads.

Ok, it’s your turn…how do you see advertising in Facebook being different than in Google or Bing Yahoo?

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How much are your clicks really worth?

Warren Buffett once said “Price is what you pay for; Value is what you get.”

This means the price does not define the worth of an item. Ask Lexus and Cadillac. Both brands offered hybrid versions of their highly desired vehicles, the Lexus LS450 and the Cadillac Escalade. The prices for the vehicles are significantly higher than their gasoline counterparts. The MSRP of a Lexus LS hyrbid starts at $106,000 while a gas-only LS starts at $63,825. So an owner is paying $40,000 for reduced gas consumption and better gas mileage, a difference that causes some to wonder if the choice is a poor economic one. Is a green image worth $40,000? For now the answer appears to be no, since Lexus and Cadillac are offering rebates on these hybrid models up to $10,000. You can read more about the hybrid rebate here at Autoblog.

I use the hybrid example of value to drive a point about overpaying for value, what you want or expect. Closer to the world of online marketing, the same sensibility can be extended to pay per click. Many business owners seek more traffic and conversions from SEO and PPC, but much thought is paid to how to value a bid? Is a PPC bid worth the cost?

Anastasia Holdren, of Sitening, put some real thought into that question and has developed a great method of valuing the worth of a click. A certified Adwords consultant, Anastasia teaches an excellent Adword training seminar (sponsored by the good folks at Google). She has managed web development projects, email marketing campaigns and search engine marketing (SEM) projects for clients including Osram Sylvania, Harvard Business School Executive Education, Cannondale, Air Jamaica, and countless others.

According to Anastasia, the Value Per Click (VPC) should be calculated. This means dividing the profit before advertising costs by the number of clicks. Say you make $100 gross profit. Take the amount and divide it by the number of clicks received in the same period, say 5. So $20 per click is the VPC. It is the maximum bid value; Exceeding it is essentially overpaying for profit-generating traffic! Again, price is what you pay for…value is what you get.

This approach is brilliant — it is similar thinking to valuing a stock against the expected cash flow from company earnings. This approach contributes a significant piece to the analytics puzzle — users must rely on analytic solutions to confirm the cost effectiveness of a campaign, to adjust the campaign accordingly, and accordingly, increase the value of their website, and increase the chance for profits.

You can check out Anastasia’s company Sitening, as well as her blog PPC Boot Camp for more pay per click tips and the schedule on upcoming Adword Seminars for Success.

What do you believe are any addition best practices for valuing the clicks your receive? Feel free to share here.