Articles written in March, 2010

March 30 2010

AdWords Search Funnels: The Right Step Toward Proper Attribution

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Last week, Google announced a new set of reports within the AdWords interface called Search Funnels, which are rolling out to all AdWords accounts within the next few weeks. With search funnels, advertisers will be able to obtain a truer sense of value and attribution for keywords that help in the conversion process.

Currently, AdWords assigns credit to a conversion to the first click’s keyword, ad, ad group, and campaign up to 30 days after that first click occurred. For example, suppose I perform a search on Google for the term brown shoes on March 29th. I click on the ad, view a couple of pages, but I don’t convert. Two weeks later, say, April 11th, I search for brown dockers shoes, click on another ad, and this time I convert. AdWords will assign the credit for the conversion to my original search term of brown shoes (provided the advertiser is bidding on that keyword).

Now, with the new search funnels report section, I’ll be able to see which AdWords keywords helped my original keyword convert, as well as a funnel (hence the name) of each keyword that led to a conversion in succession. This new search funnels report section is going to have nine different reports like “assisted conversions”, “last click analysis” and “top paths” to perform deeper conversion analysis than possible before.

Why it’s “the right step” toward proper attribution
Before this product launch, you had two possible options for assigning credit to a keyword for a conversion. You could log-in to AdWords and view the reports in the interface (first-click attribution), or, you could use Google Analytics to view the keywords that matched goals (last-click attribution). If you were an advertiser, you would, over time, start bidding more for the converting keywords that either AdWords or Analytics were displaying, and less for the “non-converting” keywords. As it turns out – and as the more experienced marketers long ago deduced – other keywords lend a big helping hand along the way, but never received the proper credit. What would happen is that advertisers would either shut down those keywords that didn’t appear to convert, or change their bidding philosophy to such an extent that these assisting keywords become irrelevant over time. The result: the number of conversions would struggle to climb, leaving advertisers scratching their heads.

Now, we can assign importance and value to those assisting keywords, and not automatically cast them off as losers or rejects. They are an integral part in the conversion cycle; keywords that assist in the conversion process should remain active and managed intelligently for optimal campaign success.

Why it’s only “a step” at this point
It’s not an end-all, be-all solution, but it’s a great start. Search funnels in AdWords does have a few limitations. First, you must import your Google Analytics goals into AdWords, which is not a big deal for an administrator, but still something that must be done.

As of now, search funnels can only report on AdWords keywords and web site visits. If a user in the conversion process accesses a site directly after previously clicking on an AdWords ad, that user’s direct visit cannot be tracked in search funnels. Not even natural / organic search engine queries are available in search funnels at this time. Also, while the new search funnels reports look like they belong in Google Analytics and not AdWords, they’re actually not available in Analytics yet.

So, true attribution – if there is even such a thing – is not yet within our grasp. But with search funnels, Google has taken a very large step toward that general direction. I recommend you log-in to your account today, import your goals, and discover which assisting keywords should be optimized for greater campaign success.

March 22 2010

Setting Up Goals in Google Analytics

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Measuring page views, average time on site, bounce rate, or clicks from AdWords just doesn’t cut it anymore. You absolutely need to measure your website’s performance. It’s not about how your visitors start or where they come from, it’s about what they do and what they don’t do.

And, it’s not very difficult to do.

Google Analytics allows you to create up to 20 goals in any individual profile. With a maximum of 50 profiles per Google Analytics account, you have the possibility to create as many as one thousand goals in your account! One thousand!

Let me show you how to create a goal in Google Analytics, so that you can start measuring true web site outcomes today. First, there are three types of Goals that Google Analytics offers:

URL Destination: The URL (after the .com part) that a user sees in their address bar when they reach an important page of your site. Your shopping cart’s “Thank You” page, a receipt page, or a download page are all examples of important pages on your site (They’re important because it took a user to perform an important action, like fill out an inquiry form or buy something from your store).
– Time on site: The time that users spend on your site can be tracked as a goal. If you think that a successful visit to your site means that a user spent more than five minutes on it, you can set it up as a Goal. If you think spending less than 30 minutes on your site is a successful visit, you can also set that up as well.
– Pages/Visit: The pages per visit that users view can also be measured as a Goal. Suppose 8 or more pages per visit denotes a successful visit for you, or less than 20 pages per visit is a success, it can be measured.

To set up a Goal, log-in to your Google Analytics account and click on the Edit link, which is found to the far right of where your profile is listed on the Overview screen. Scroll down to find the Goals window. Click on Add goal in Goal Set 1 to begin.

From here, you’ll be able to enter in a goal name, activate it (turn the goal on or leave it off), and edit the goal position. The 20 available goals per profile are organized into four buckets of five goals each. Next, choose from one of the three goal types described above. If you choose URL Destination, you’ll be able to enter in the Goal URL and a Goal Value. Enter in everything after the .com or .net part of your URL, and leave the goal on Head Match (There are many other possibilities when dynamic URLs and regular expressions are involved, but I’ll save those for a later blog post). You also enter in a funnel of up to ten pages, where you can track the specific path website visitors take to reach your goal pages.

If you choose either Time on Site or Pages/Visit as the goal type, you’ll be able to enter in the time in hours, minutes, or seconds, or enter in the number of pages per visit. Each of these goal types allow you to choose “greater than” or “less than” options, depending on what you want to track. You’ll also be encouraged to enter in a goal value, so that you can associate a score (value) to each Goal Conversion.

Once you save your Goals, they will start to track right away. You’ll also notice tabs in most reports within Google Analytics labeled “Goal Set 1”. This is where report-level goal data is available. You’ll also find that you won’t need to play the guessing game any longer as far as how your site and marketing initiatives are performing. You’ll be able to see the performance of your site against its goals, which in turn, lets you make smarter, more confident decisions about your online presence.

March 5 2010

9 Great Reasons to use Google Website Optimizer

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I’ve made it a point in 2010 to expose as many of my colleagues and clients as possible to Google Website Optimizer. Anyone looking to improve conversion rates, Ecommerce revenue, customer satisfaction and web site user appeal really needs to sign up for a Google Website Optimizer account today and begin testing.

Surprisingly, Google Website Optimizer, and the concept of A/B or Multivariate testing is a tough sell. It’s not as easy as tagging each page of your site with Google Analytics, or creating a quick Ad Group with keywords and ads like you can with Google AdWords. With Google Website Optimizer, you have to bring in team members from different departments, or possibly, different vendors or organizations to plan, create / design images, write alternate text, tag pages, launch the experiment, analyze the results, and take appropriate action. This doesn’t include avoiding hurting the feelings of the person who designed the site or page and getting their cooperation (suggesting an experiment to improve a page or a site is not an easy psychological barrier to break down).

So I’ve put together a list of 9 solid reasons why you should use Google Website Optimizer on your site. If you want to use it on someone else’s site, use these reasons to convince them that it’s a great idea:

1. It’s Free, and there are no obligations. Let’s say you may become disatisfied with Google Website Optimizer. No sweat: simply remove the tags off of your site, and your involvement ends immediately. Let’s say that you love it and your conversion rates have sky-rocketed: you’ve spent $0 to get there (not counting any design work or man hours, obviously). You simply cannot beat “free”.

2. It focuses on Conversion Rate Optimization: The point of Google Website Optimizer isn’t to bring more traffic to your site. It’s to increase your conversion rates and improve your ROI from your online efforts. That means more money in your pocket.

3. It lets you create an unlimited number of experiments: Are you an “idea machine”, who constantly thinks of things to test or experiment with on your web site? Do you have multiple websites that you’d like to experiment with? GWO let’s you create as many experiments as you desire.

4. It’s extremely easy to install. Do you have six minutes? If so, you can create and launch a GWO experiment from start to finish. Simply copy and paste the few snippets of JavaScript code on your experiment pages, one snippet of code on your conversion page, and you’re done. Yes, it’s simply a copy and paste, something even I can do on a WYSIWYG editor.

5. It can handle robust multivariate experiments. Last year, YouTube ran a Google Website Optimizer experiment on their homepage with 1,024 different combinations. To date, that is the largest multivariate experiment ever created. Got ideas for a bigger one? GWO won’t disappoint you.

6. It automatically handles the experiment distribution. A frequent question that I receive is “Will I need to edit anything or change anything?”. Other than installing the basic snippets of code, the answer is no. No manual settings, no editing your destination URLs, no fancy programming. Just sit back and enjoy the results!

7. It displays your experiment to all sources of traffic. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to run a Google AdWords campaign in order to use Google Website Optimizer. All traffic – paid, organic, direct, or referring – will be exposed to your A/B or Multivariate experiment.

8. It features easy to read, downloadable reports. You don’t need to own a degree in Mathematics or Statistics in order to be able to interpret the results and take action based upon your results. You can also export your reports in a PDF, XML, CSV, or a TSV file format if you wish.

9. It allows “on-the-fly” experiment creation via an API. Google Website Optimizer is robust and offers its users an API that allows you to push experiments live without having to log-in to the Google Website Optimizer interface.

Bonus Reason:

10. It settles debates, squashes egos, and gives priority to the voice of your visitor. Google Website Optimizer is many great things as you’ve just read about. It’s also a fair and unbiased judge of your website’s pages. Don’t let inter-office disputes, arguments, or power plays dictate what your visitors receive on your site. Let your website visitors tell you what appeals to them and what they don’t like via the actions that they take. Do visitors convert at a higher rate when you use a green “Add To Cart” button versus a red “Add To Cart” button? Go green! Does your revenue increase when you use “15% off” instead of “Mail-In Rebate”? 15% off for everyone! More sales with a blue background, and less sales with a white background? Blue it is!

Do yourselves a huge favor in 2010 and begin using Google Website Optimizer to improve your conversion rates!

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