Today’s companies are facing widening choices for developing a social media presence.
Much has been written about social communities – I noted a few books on the subject in my first All Analytics post, Social Media and Web Analytics Needs Your Dollars. What interests me about the topic now is the intensity and speed community development is becoming a consideration among marketers.
So is it best for a business to join an established community or to create one branded by the company itself?
Creating a community has some advantages. The prospect of starting anew, particular with so many open source tools to manage a platform available, certainly aids companies looking to strengthened brand image weaknesses. Klout, for example, has established a twitterchat format, Kloutchat, to get the word out on its activities, even as people weighed in the merits of Klout (for an inkling of thoughts, see the All Analytics discussion on Keeping Our Reliance on Klout & Other Social Media Tools in Check). Further along the community building curve, FICO, featured in the book The Social Organization by Anthony Bradley and Mark McDonald, created a community where people can share their credit building tips and insights. This leads to another point – a community, when engineered from a clean slate, can solve engagement issues. FICO could not offer credit management advice since it monitors credit reports.
Creating a community can also be a way to consolidate company culture among employees and to send a solid message to customers that ultimately builds value for all. This can be particular helpful if the purpose for the community has multiple topics associated with it.
Participating in a social platform enhances different strengths than creating one. Joining an established platform can position the group to be more readily discoverable. Collective intelligence can be pooled from an audience who is an occasional customer, leading to creative ideas and unique shares that can win over fence-sitting customers. Ford, for examples, has leverage its Facebook pages for specific models. Ford owners have sent in pictures of their favorite locations arrived in their Ford Explorers. All of this energized attention to updated models. In the end sales for the newly redesigned Explorer were 290% higher than the previous year, a victory in a vehicle segment that has seen significant overall sales decline (learn more on this Autoblog post)
Participating in a social platform also means selecting a partner well. Facebook is extremely popular, but what if its popularity declined due to its policies being scrutinized (see the post How Facebook-FTC Settlement Reflects Privacy & Analytics Challenges for details) or simply gradually becoming unpopular. Communities that had relied on Facebook could equally experience a downward trend in activity. For now Facebook has shown resilience, but there are other communities and platforms springing up which are not as resilient. Thus your community strategy becomes linked with the fortunes of the platform being selected.
The ultimate influence for a community selection is the engagement measurement capability. The tools vary, so care must be taken into how the tool results can be integrated into standard reporting. Much of the web analytics solutions treat websites from their first application as an online document. Communities set as a site subdirectory can be segmented, so development measurement on a page is a given. But with companies creating communities on a platform, managers must vet tools that would measure the engagement metrics of interest or develop a means to represent objectives.
With growing interest in communities, analytic solution providers have been making moves to adjust their products. Adobe Site Catalyst introduced real time segmentation features to better determine visitor groups on the fly, while Google added a social plug-in that now links an activity button – features such as Facebook shares, Tweets, and Linked In shares.
These changes are arriving at a time when many marketers face increasing pressure to justify their budgets through results. The growing adoption of marketing along the entire sales cycle in many instances requires new analytics skillsets and buy cycle segment that may not have been previously defined. But with care in selecting an analytic solution and deciding how a community fits within a buying cycle, managed steps for valuing community activity becomes possible.
- Connect With People. Start by talking to your customers (or intended) and ask how did they discover your business. Use the comments to help imagine your target audience, which dictates the primary direction of your website structure. Benchmarking similar sites can infer some ideas – Compete and Quantcast are great sources for comparing sites. But keep in mind, sites have unique visitor experiences and a specific business model (target customer, revenue) which may impact their content selection. So note what you see, but keep in mind the context in which the words or phrases used may be different than how you use it for your business.
- Write the words. Prepare a list of words and phrases that you think your audience might type into search engines when looking for your site. Don’t worry about being perfect: just be creative for brainstorming’s sake.
- Qualify your words with search results and online traffic Use online tools to qualify the words and refine phrases.
Type a word into Google search page and see what appears on the SERP (search engine results page). (Update 9/2012 – Up until 2011 Google included a tool called Wonderwheel in the SERP results. Wonderwheel provided additional suggested results that appear as spokes from your query. Since its discontinuation, many businesses have come to rely on a additional tools, such a Searchmetrics Suite to examine keywords in more detail. But other tools also exist.)
Use Google Insights to determine the search trends indexed by volume and geo-location; Some regions search for “car” rather than “auto”, for example. Word suggestions are also offer here as well.
To gain an idea of which keywords to refine, use a keyword discovery tool like this online cloud checker — any results 3% and below could probably benefit from appearing more frequently in the content. There are other site checkers available, such as DIYSEO, which can compare site content to competitor sites. All of these can compliment tools that typically come with pay-per-click services, like the Keyword Tool and Traffic Estimator in Google Adwords. Paid solutions typically provide comparisons across all search engines and more nuanced selection features. If you are a small business owner or blogger with little time, a great approach is to work with a free tool that focuses on the search engine initially and develop a budget for refining a broader selection of search engines.
- Choose Your Marketing Champaign: Create starter lists of keywords based on your marketing plan — ones for the site, a second for PPC ad (if used), then a third to be for potential social media usage (Twitter and/or blog content). This will give a focused effort to each channel — words which can appear on the main website, words in a PPC ad, and tweets exposure on Twitter. As time goes forward, you will figure how to refine and play off each effort, as well as figure out what phrases could be extended as a long tail from the starter list. For example PPC categories are based on keywords selected for a balance of demand and cost.Moreover social and search combination is increasingly affecting conversion. eMarketer posted a report on it in March 2011 — you can see it here.
- Consider how keywords appear on social media against your site content For a website content revision, keywords should appear thoughtfully though the site page – without overwhelming the site’s main message. Meta tags have lost emphasis with search engines over time, but they still should be used. More effective is the description tag which looks like the script below:<meta name=”description” lang=”en” content=”….” />The title tag on a webpage is also fair game for a keyword treatment <title>…</title> Many search engine rely on the description and title to describe a page, so try using more keyword phrases, and if feasible use one or two keywords in the page name. Keep in mind that Google Instant has modified search behavior since its introduction in 2010: Many people select the SERP from the first 3 to 4 words. Also, Facebook, along with many sharing sites like BizSugar, Digg, and SeededBuzz, rely on the descriptions to explain blog posts, so including keyword and keyword phrases aid traffic discovery and help with posts within social media.Never keyword “stuff”, which is inserting keywords every other word in the body of the site.
- Consider a thorough overhaul of site keywords periodically Online demand for keyword traffic can change the effectiveness of keywords over time — consider a thorough overhaul of site keywords at least once a year if you are only running a site, more frequently with marketing media usage (offline & online ads, blogs, social media, etc) and monthly with e-commerce and online sales. Apply knowledge of your offering, industry, and business operations to an analytics solution in order to guide update ideas. Use the content dashboards in a web analytics solution (Google Analytics, Piwik, Yahoo Web Analytics, Going Up!, Woopra, etc.), as well as search results data, to consider effective phrases that produced average time on site, high conversion, and low bounce rate metrics.
- Never presume that just inserting the right keywords in a site is the silver bullet for all your online sales. As implied in point 4, many ways exist to discover a site online — tweets, Facebook mentions, podcast mentions, mentions in online videos, sites for sharing posts, online presentations, and — wait for it — offline activity via attending trade shows, presentations, appearances. There’s a good reason Google Analytics examines direct traffic, referral sources, search traffic and more — In short, your site can be discovered in many ways, so the days of just throwing up a website and expecting traffic are long gone (and I doubt they ever existed). Moreover, search engine algorithms updates can change the amount of traffic arriving to your site, so a keyword review can insure that you are keeping up with the changes. The best sites manage a number of traffic sources to successfully connect with people.
(Note: this is a recap from 2011. Google is currently supporting this version as of September 12, 2012)
On March 17th Google announced a new version of Google Analytics (You can read the Google Analytics blog announcement here ). Version 5, previewed at the annual Google Analytic User Conference in San Francisco as well as at the Google Analytics blog, introduces significant improvements. It may have been the cause of earlier rumors of Google rolling out a paid analytic solution to compete with Webtrends and Omniture Site Catalyst (Note: Google released Google Analytics Premium since this post). But GA is ubiquitous, with numerous social media, email, and marketing measurement tools that enhance its features, so in my opinion, a new product change of that magnitude would have required a number of steps on Googles part coupled with negating some of Google’s claims about the current benefits of GA. But I digress.
I looked at a related post from Justin Cutroni, Director at Webshare (which had an announcement itself — merging with VKI Studios to form Cardinal Path). Justin is author of Google Analytics: Understanding Visitor Behavior (You can see a review of Google Analytics: Understanding Visitor Behavior at Small Business Trends) and Performance Marketing with Google Analytics (with Caleb Whitmore and Sebastian Tonkin). He gave a brief walk through of version five that captures the key differences, which you can see in the above video.
The user interface receives the most notable share of revisions, in an attempt to increase usability and report accessibility. Google revised the flexibility of creating a unique dashboard, as well as the navigation bar. It’s now a two-tier bar, placing reports selections above the graph. Metrics are also above the graph, so there’s less of a need to scroll down unless a deep dive is necessary (which makes sense). The kinds of available reports has been revised, with some eliminated based on user input. The dashboard is more closer to a wiki, with better flexibility for metrics shown and how there are displayed — a gauge is available, as well as pie charts and tabular graphs. Multiple dashboards can be created. Naming conventions are changes in some cases, such as Sources becoming Incoming sources.
A termcloud feature displays the traffic and page data, so search terms are displayed in a manner similar to a word cloud. Like Justin, I am excited about this feature because it should give casual users a new way to visualize what is working for their site. Blogger should benefit to figure out what words brought visitors to the site.
In the meantime, expect a follow up from me on the features and what I personally like about it soon, as the new version is rolled out.
There are many small businesses that believe that web analytics is linked entirely to PPC and keyword campaigns. It can be. But analytics solutions can do so much more by inferring your customers wants and desires from a number of marketing channels. Small businesses are bombarded with new means to market themselves, so as a business adds a new marketing tool — both online and offline — the new tools increases the attention needed. Remember your business can market itself through:
- Powerpoint presentations uploaded online
- Video uploaded and advertised through YouTube, Vimeo, AdMogul, etc.
- Magazine and Billboard ads with URLs to a landing page
- e-Mail (like MailChimps site analytics)
- Facebook (which requires a different approach to a keyword search….more later!)
- Profiles on sites such as Linked In, OPEN Forum, Biznik
- Local or specialty associations like the Web Analytics Association and the New York Entrepreneurship
- Customer responses via Yelp and Mr Tweet.
Plus, there are additional analytics for some of these, sources such as MailChimp’s Site Analytics (see a previous post on the subject here).
So the point is to use your analytics solutions as an anchor for understanding your marketing and managing your costs.