This latest webinar from Webtrends features Forrester data and a great overview of how analytic is changing the face of new digital devices. Play the webinar below, and see how any of the concepts can respark your analysis approach. If you’re stuck regarding how to regard your web analytics results, consider how your metrics reflect the digital data inputs or correlate to your business data. How relevant are the results to your business today?
Great webinar by the Webtrends team and wonderful support from Forrester.
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.
Remember Sam Goody? No, not the fourth grader who made funny sounds. I’m talking the former record retailer, aka Musicland in some parts of the United States. Music industry changes lead to the demise of Sam Goody – who would’ve thought that Apple and Amazon would become the largest music retailers?
A similar effect can happen to your website. Changes in industry preferences, customer tastes, and new advances in online media can affect how your site is discovered. Scripting language has lead to new ways that webpages can function and interact, which gets translated into new ways a visitor experiences a website. Moreover, online experiences are become more closely aligned with offline sales. According to Experian in the 2011 Digital Marketer benchmark study, 73% of surveyed digital users review prices online before making a purchase, while 69% research products. 17% search social networks sites for information before a purchase. So the importance of online vitality has become essential to sales and business growth.
Updates also yield a positive effect on search engines rank. Search engines like updated sites, with more placing emphasis on visitor actions. Google’s Panda introduction, for example, reportedly downplaying links since so many black-hat SEO activities occurred with buying useless links attempting to gain more website authority.
Yet many businesses treat their website as a static property, because website maintenance seems to take both time and patience if there is a coding problem. But a balance of evolutionary changes, and a monitoring schedule with a web analytics solution, can convey business vitality that can lead to sales. Here’s some starting points to consider and what can be done.
- Inspect site function Google has a HTML checker that gives feedback on which changes are needed – it is located in Webmaster Tools, so you would need a Google account and include your site. You can check how your website appears in a browser, the speed in which pages are loaded, and verify the function of an analytics code. To check the appearance of a website in a browser, use Adobe’s BrowserLab or Browsershots. For page speed, use Yottaa, a free MongoDB-based solution in which you upload your URL for a page load test. Another similar tool is Pingdom, which combines Yottaa’s features into s neat waterfall results graph similar to Browershots. In addition, Google offers a page speed testing service to support its search engine’s emphasis on page loading (see here). The service increase page speed performance for website.
- Is the traffic navigating in the manner in which you planned? Examine the goal and funnel reports to determine where along the traffic is dropping out of your site. Consider a heatmap at the point of visitor drop-off, and also consider a A/B test. These tests can indicate if minor changes would be effective to increase goal conversions – the number of intended actions a goal page vistor undertakes.
- Is the exit rate high on a page with a number of links to additional material – One way to minimize exits on a page with a number of outbpound links is to add a “_target=blank” to those links; The link will appear as <a href = “http://www.yoursite.com _target=blank”> in the HTML code. Doing so will permit the new page to open in a new tab (This works for laptop/desktop browsers, and will not work in a mobile site, however). If the exit continues to be high, consider revising the content – use an A/B test for comparison.
- Is the trend of returning visitors increasing? A new site may have a high number of new visits at the start, but returning visitors are key for long term success – Their presence shortens the number of times to complete a sale if they are researching your business. To further engage them, consider social media widgets that display your activity and where visitors can reach you regularly. Twitter and Facebook both offer free widgets which can be embedded into a website. There are plugins for blogs as well. Yoast offers a Slideshare plugin for WordPress.
- Can you participate on sharing sites that can refer traffic sources? Though still useful, gaining quality sites to link to yours can be a time consuming task. Finding communities to augment a linking strategy may provide a consistent source of traffic. Images posted in Pinterest can be linked to blogs, creating another source for visitors to discover your site. BizSugar, Digg, and StumbleUpon can be combined with Facebook and Twitter for sharing your generated content.
As your business grows and changes, your site should also grow and change as well, reflecting your new products, services, locations, testimonials, articles, listings and anything else you would like to share with your current and potential customers. When you do not create a regular plan for updating your website, you are giving the advantage to your competitors. Regardless if you created your site or paid for your website, you have wasted time and money if no reinvestment occurs.
By keeping your site up to date, you have contributed to the vitality of your business. Yottaa notes that a 1% increase in load speed leads to a 7% decrease in conversions.
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.
Many people have heard of Porsche, but only the die-hard enthusiasts reflect on the history of its most famous product, the 911. The nameplate has been redesigned 5 times in its storied history – a new one is being introduced for 2012. But each time a redesign was announced, car enthusiasts understood what kind of vehicle to anticipate – a sports car with a rear-mounted 6 cylinder engine in a rounded rear body, 2+2 seating, and headlamps pronounced above the hood and fenders.
Now what does an automobile have to do with blogs? Well, a 911 is an example of an evolutionary updates that retain favorite aspects and gain enhancement with new ones. You can take the same approach with evergreen content, articles that consistently attract traffic for your site.
First, what is the benefit, besides drawing traffic?
Evergreen posts can give an indicator for new content, by implying what topics can be repeated. Using the Porsche example, you may have a popular evergreen post on driving a Porsche 911; A potential follow-up post could be on a driving comparison of the 911 against other Porsche models, like a Boxster, or an older model, like a 924 (We’ll skip the 914 to avoid hurt feelings of the Porsche sport car club arguments in the 1970s). The choice can give an opportunity to build content that can keep you audience browsing on your site a bit longer.
An evergreen post can also provide an ease in brainstorming new post ideas, refreshing the mind by allowing a focus on topics that require few thinking steps to extend. If your post is a year old, for example, find an aspect of the topic that has been updated. I did a post on Microsoft’s first store, then did a follow up when Microsoft announced its plans a year later. These kinds of updates can save you time behind the laptop because some of the structure is already there.
Even posts from bloggers or sharing from readers can also give new branches from an evergreen topic. This is particularly useful for topics such as sports, politics, entertainment, and neighborhood events.
Here are a few ideas for creating and managing evergreen content:
Use analytics tools to first identity evergreen content
To determine an evergreen content, look at the content report in your web analytics solution and examine the average time on site and visits. You should have an idea of when posts were made. Many blog URLs can be set to include the date.
When you look at the content report, you can then see a post and its date, then sort by time on site or exit rate. An ordered comparison can be done, but for examining a sort based on multiple dimensions you would have to export into a spreadsheet.
Use site search to determine topics that visitors may be looking for
Sometimes search results from the site search reports can give ideas on what people are generally looking for and not finding (If you are not sure, this is an activated feature on many analytics tools such as Google Analytics – A quick refresher will be posted soon). Those ideas can influence your evergreen topic due to their degree of relativity to the topic. For example, let’s say you find results that indicate that visitors are looking for Porsche repairs. Your blog may be on Porsche history, so post on repair history may be a good topic to build upon past historical views and develop an intro into repair topics that may be closer to what people are looking for. The best approach is to use your experience on the topic when reviewing site search
To date or not to date?
Consider what naming the date in the title can do — Dates can, er, “date” the material, but I have seen blogs receive traffic for a post written more than a few years ago. Try to keep dates naturally in the post, rather than in the title.
Retweet evergreen posts with updates
In addition to making a new post, you can update the evergreen post with additional material or a few comments regarding what is new. Consider also sharing evergreen posts in a your email distribution as well
Consider a video version of your evergreen topics
A video version of your evergreen content can give a different spin on the topic and can be another augment.
Consider giveaways of related plans and how-tos
Giveaways become great evergreen topics that continue to attract traffic. White paper downloads can be giveaways, as are how-to charts or informative graphs.
Consider contrarian views
A friend of mine sent me a post about a filter bubble online – how the scope of internet information can become narrow due to a dependency of an algorithm matching search usage, and was sent as help to a post I was writing on the spread of information. Most evergreen posts are usually about a utilitarian topics, but some reasonable debate can infuse life into even the most pedestrian of topics. An article on planning holiday marketing can be a debate about whether holiday catalogs are really useful, for example.