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What is your web site’s goal?

Perhaps that’s a simple question for you, but maybe it takes a little bit of thought. Your goal (or more likely, goals) for your Web site should be based on your overall business strategy, and on how the Web fits into that strategy.

Welcome to the May Biznology Newsletter. I come to you each month with a topic at the center of business and technology—this month we’ll look at a basic question that should underlie everything you do with your Web site: What is Your Web Site’s Goal?

What do we mean by a goal, anyway?

Your goal(s) for your Web site speaks to its true purpose within your overall business. And to what your visitors are trying to do when they arrive there. Let’s look at a few examples.

  • Amazon: Online sales, pure and simple. In every visit, Amazon wants you to buy something. That’s what e-Commerce sites are all about.
  • Cadillac: Offline sales. Just like Amazon, Cadillac wants you to buy, but not online. Cadillac wants to show you why one of its cars is perfect for you so you’ll troop down to the dealer and buy one.
  • Bechtel: Leads. Bechtel’s engineers can design a building to your specifications and manage it through its construction. But you can’t just amble on over to the Bechtel dealer and ask for “a #7.” Bechtel wants you to contact them so they can engage with you to learn what your need is and persuade you that it is the company that can satisfy that need.
  • ESPN: Subscriber and advertising sales. ESPN wants you to pay a few dollars every month for “Insider” information that others don’t see—trade rumors, an analysis of your favorite team, etc. And they want you to look at all the ads they sell to their sponsors.

I know this is rather obvious. I also know that companies have many other reasons for their Web sites, too. They each want you to remember and value their brand. ESPN wants you watch its TV stations. They’d all like you to buy their stock. But we did list the main purpose of each site.

Why is a Web site’s goal so important?

Because it is the easiest way to measure success. To determine if Amazon’s Web site is successful, count the number of purchases. To see if the Web is working for Cadillac, measure the number of offline sales that came from the Web. You get the idea.

But you can go farther than that. The number of purchases is not where the value is—it is the value of those purchases that count. Your business might measure on profit, or on revenue, or on something more esoteric. But you measure something. To find the value of your Web site, you need to know what each purchase is worth. Then you can calculate the revenue (or profit) that your Web site is generating for you.

How do you measure a Web site’s success?

For some sites, it’s easy. Amazon knows how many e-Commerce purchases are made—the number of conversions. Amazon also knows the average order size, so they know what each conversion is worth to them. But how does Cadillac measure offline sales? And how on earth does Bechtel judge its Web site’s effectiveness in generating leads?

The answers to those questions separate the successful Web sites from the ones that are just hanging around. Cadillac’s Web site has a “Find Your Dealer” function, the way so many offline sales Web sites do. Cadillac must decide what constitutes a “conversion” for their Web site. It’s not a conversion in the sales sense of the word, for sure, but if they can convert a visitor into someone more qualified than that, it is a conversion of sorts—call it a Web conversion.

So what would constitute a Web conversion for Cadillac? It’s probably not just one thing. Cadillac should be happy whenever someone finds a dealer and prints out the address. Or if someone clicks a button to request a quote from their dealer. Or configures a car with add-ons. Each of these Web events can be counted. Similarly, Bechtel can provide a contact form by which a consultant calls the visitor to learn more about the problem. This can be counted, too.

But how do you monetize these metrics?

It’s not always easy, but it can be done.

We saw how easy it is for Amazon, but Cadillac and Bechtel have some thinking to do. Here are a few ideas:

  • Save the visitor money. If Cadillac offers a 3% off coupon to print from the Web site and bring into the dealer, visitors will be highly motivated to follow through. But that can add up quickly, especially if customers that would have bought from you anyway are nailing the coupons.
  • Save the visitor time. Tell the visitor that if they print the specifications for the car and bring it to the dealer, the dealer will be able to scan a bar code so that the dealer can immediately quote a price, tell you whether it is in stock, and commit to a delivery date. Cadillac could promise to do all this within 10 minutes.
  • Save the visitor effort. Bechtel could offer a fill-in-the blanks Request for Proposal form for construction projects that could be sent to several vendors, including Bechtel. The customer is saved some of the effort of having to think of all the things that should be in their RFP. (And Bechtel gets the RFP before any of their competitors do.)

You can probably think of other ways of closing the loop between your Web site and your offline leads and sales. Cadillac could then count how many visitors come to their Web site, and how many of those configure a car, and how many of those bring the configuration sheet to a dealer, and (ankle bone connected to the shin bone) how many actually purchase a car from the dealer. And they would know what each car is worth (in revenue or profit), so they could calculate the business value of every step in the process, including the Web site. They would also know the conversion rate of each of these steps, and they could set out to improve their Web site so that more visitors were persuaded to configure, or do some search marketing to get more traffic, or both. As they do, they would be able to watch the improvement that results from their efforts.

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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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