One of the biggest hurdles business owners and marketers face in creating marketing campaigns is bias. It is human nature, I suppose, that we believe our ideas and viewpoints are held by the majority of the public. However, it is important to remove your bias from the discussion when developing an ad campaign. Not all web surfers think alike or use the internet the same way to find information. More importantly to consider and understand…not all people think like you when it comes to finding information online.
For small and medium size business owners, this seems like one of the hardest marketing lessons to accept. It is understandable to expect a business owner, who built his or her business from the ground up, to have their pulse on what makes the business grow. When it comes to internet marketing and paid search campaigns, many business owners simply apply the same logic that helped build their business to the web. This is often a failing strategy, because of the bias inherent in the business owner’s thought process on what drives people to their website. It is this bias and inexperience from most business owners that lead to poorly created and managed paid search campaigns. Many of the fixes needed to restructure these campaigns are technical in design. For example, the business owner wasn’t aware of the proper way to build out and structure the campaign, which is to be expected. They have enough on their plates running their business, and probably never took the time to earn their Google AdWords Certification. Getting a business owner to agree to technical and structural change is relatively easy when providing paid search consultation, it is exactly the type of help they need and want to hear.
Where it gets challenging for the marketing consultant, is educating the business owner on how to drive higher quality traffic, when the recommendations are in stark contrast to the preconceptions of the business owner. I do not think many business owners like to hear their ideas on traffic generation are flawed. As a marketing consultant, educating the business owner on how to look past their own bias by showing real-time statistics to support your recommendations is imperative. Using Google Analytics (GA) is the most effective way to demonstrate the concept that not all searchers think alike and not all keywords are equal. Website visitors and their engagement with the site determine success for any campaign. As a business owner, learn to leverage that data to educate yourself and break down the walls of bias when creating and optimizing an online marketing campaign. Don’t assume you can just build out keywords based on how you search the internet. This will only limit your campaign’s effectiveness, because not all searchers think like you.
As companies evolve in their ability to analyze web traffic, it is becoming increasingly important to branch out to as many areas as possible to reach customers. Understanding how different sources of traffic interact with your website is equally significant in where you allocate your time and resources. Simply looking at bottom line traffic volume from various sources of traffic in Google Analytics (GA) is not enough. Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t always paint the most accurate picture either. Just because someone visited your site from an organic search, doesn’t rule out that they were influenced to visit your site from another channel.
A perfect example of this scenario lies in how social media impacts direct web traffic. In a recent study conducted by ForeSee, http://www.foreseeresults.com/news-events/press-releases/social-media-low-impact-on-web-traffic-2011-foresee.shtml it was concluded that “Less than 1% of website visits, on average, come directly from a social media URL. This finding suggests that the direct impact of social media is minimal, but also that the true value of social media cannot be quantified only by examining the traffic coming directly from a social media URL.” In simple terms, if you have a presence in social media, you probably do not see much traffic in your GA data related to social media traffic sources. Does this mean you should abandon your efforts to build your social media presence? Absolutely not, considering that 18% of website visitors acknowledge being influenced by social media to visit the site, according to the ForeSee report findings. That is a significant gap in the numbers, but does not indicate any sort of disconnect with visitors. In fact, it is closely in line with how people use social media – they are there for social interaction but can still be influenced by companies with solid social media marketing strategies. When it is time for those visitors to find a company, their previous exposure to your company in social media influences their decision to visit your site. They may do a search on Google to find you, and in the raw GA data Google organic gets credit for the site visit, but it was your social media presence that truly drove that visitor to your site.
Where it gets real interesting is how visitors influenced by social media interact with a website. According to the ForeSee report, visitors to websites influenced by social media are more loyal and satisfied customers, and they spend more than visitors who were not influenced by social media. When you factor this knowledge into the 1% statistic mentioned in the research, 1% becomes a more meaningful number.
The value of website visitors varies between sources of traffic. Establishing a presence across all aspects of the web provides companies the ability to reach out to all types of visitors. It is important to understand the symbiotic relationship between the different sources of traffic to your website. Keep that in mind the next time you are reviewing traffic sources and matching that up to your external web presence. Overall visits from your social media channels are most likely lower than other sources of traffic, but can be greater in terms of value to your bottom line.
If you are running a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaign, odds are that you are making changes to bids, ad copy, destination urls, and many other aspects of your campaign on a weekly basis. While the frequency of these optimization changes can vary, one important aspect that does not change is the importance of understanding the impact of your changes. Furthermore, how do the changes you make to your PPC campaigns influence the type of visitor you bring to the site? I always caution against making too many changes at once, as it will be difficult to determine which of those changes had the greatest impact. That is an entirely different topic altogether, so today I would like to focus on how best to manage and track the performance of your optimization efforts. There are many ways to track the changes, but using Google Analytics (GA) annotations I feel is the best means.
For example, in the Google AdWords interface you can review all of your campaign changes by clicking on the “Reporting” in the top navigation and choosing the sub-category “Change History”. This screen allows you to select different actions based on date range and the type of change you want to review. Once you select your options and click on the “Filter change history” button, you will see a larger graph with annotations based on the day and type of change that was made. Within this graph, you can see how the changes affected impressions, clicks, click-through rate, cost, and conversions. This is good information to have, but using Google Analytics as opposed to just the AdWords interface provides much deeper analysis.
Google Analytics helps answer the question I posed earlier, how do the changes you make to your PPC campaigns influence the type of visitor you bring to the site? If your goal is to attract new visitors, simply seeing an increase in traffic from a budget change does not tell the whole story. Did that budget increase in your PPC campaign result in an increase in new visitors? Using Google Analytics and annotations within your Google Analytics account can help identify that performance, where the AdWords interface does not. You still get to apply individual annotations to any day (similar to the AdWords interface) but it’s not automatic. You must go in and make the annotation yourself and describe the change (for example, “budget increase of $50” or “new Branding campaign added”). It’s important to remember, Google Analytics will not automatically track the changes in your PPC campaign. But it is the advanced reporting within Google Analytics that gives you the ability to look beyond simple increases or decreases in impressions or clicks due to campaign changes. The next time you are reviewing changes in your PPC campaigns, leverage Google Analytics and its annotation feature to manage and track your changes and delve deeper into the real impact of your optimizations efforts.