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Counting what counts

Attendees learned the basics of search metrics at the recent “Measuring Search Success” session at the Toronto Search Engine Strategies conference, moderated by Chris Sherman, of Search Engine Watch. What should you be counting on your Web site? Read on.


Jeffrey Eisenberg stole the show on this panel. The CEO of FutureNow, a Web consultancy, delivered a message chock full of sage advice. Jeffrey listed the four basic objectives of a customer-facing Web site:

  1. Commerce: Increase orders and order size.
  2. Media: Attract eyeballs to increase ad impressions and subscriptions.
  3. Self Service: Decrease service costs.
  4. Lead Generation: Improve lead identification while lowering acquisition costs.

Once you’ve figured out what your site is about, you need to come to terms with the basic fact that all metrics programs can measure is a click—but they can measure every click that every visitor makes, which comprises a wealth of information. Jeffrey posits that people follow clicks the way a bloodhound follows a scent, citing that 63% of visitors abandon within two pages because they “lose the scent” (OneStat 3/8/04).
So you you need to align your site to meet searchers’ goals—you can’t just look at end goals (buying your consulting service), but at micro actions (downloading a white paper). Jeffrey discussed several ways to measure conversion rates:

  • Overall: Total conversions divided by total visits
  • Over time: When it covers multiple visits
  • By scenario: Visitors that start a scenario vs. those that complete it

(This last conversion rate, scenario conversion rate, is what I speak of as Web conversion rate in the latest Biznology newsletter.)
Jeffrey left us with some critical questions to ponder:

  • What pages are the ones where people come to one page on your site and then leave (single access pages)
  • Which are your top exit pages? Some pages are good exit pages (an order confirmation page) and some are bad (your home page).
  • How do you define your metrics?
  • What are your benchmarks?
  • How are the metrics trending? Trends are far more important than absolutes—which can be inaccurate.

Good measurements, Jeffrey argues, come with definitions that everyone agrees to, expectations for what a good or bad number is, a simple method of presentation (so you can quickly see what is going wrong, for example), and a set of agreed-to actions when things do go wrong. These qualities allow your business to respond quickly and appropriately to the metrics that you collect, so that the problem can be addressed. Your measurements, however, depend on your Web site’s goals. Retailers may track sales conversions and shopping cart abandonment whereas media sites might track subscriber conversions and site traffic. A lead generation site might track “Contact Us” forms filled out or phone calls from leads.
Laura Thieme of Web marketing consultancy Bizresearch challenged listeners on whether they are retaining their most valuable customers, based on ROI. Laura says that just 19% of search marketers perform any ROI analysis at all, although success rates vary widely from customer to customer. Even if they want to analyze the data, Laura further explained, they may not have the analytical skills required to do so.
Jeffrey also emphasized the need to track ROI, but added that your best benchmark is your own site yesterday, not your competitors today. Jeffrey’s bottom line is that Web analytics can pay off—and they pay off as fast as your company can make the changes pointed to by your metrics. The faster you can make changes, the quicker your payback for your metrics investment.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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