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Are You Making the Most of Your Online Marketing Efforts?

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Many businesses struggle with comprehensively planning, executing, and continuously improving their online marketing. Your brand has to be highly visible and provide a superb customer experience to beat the competition. This takes time, is downright hard and can be pretty overwhelming!

How do you know if you’re making the most of your online marketing opportunities? Here are 5 steps to help you get there.

  • Have a clearly defined online marketing plan
  • Embrace data
  • Get executive buy-in and budget
  • Measure ad campaign effectiveness
  • Test and optimize your digital destinations

Have a Clearly Defined Online Marketing Plan

Many of our clients initially come to us without a clear plan for improving their online marketing efforts. They are not alone. In 2014, a SmartInsights poll found that “nearly 50% of marketers don’t have a defined digital marketing plan.”

Without a solid online marketing strategy, many businesses suffer these common issues:

  • No clear vision of what they’re trying to achieve
  • Not understanding their customers
  • Insufficient resources allocated to online marketing
  • Wasting money on things that aren’t working
  • Failing to achieve their business goals while watching competitors succeed

So, what can you do to get started on a comprehensive strategy if you don’t have one?

SmartInsights provides a very helpful tool for creating online marketing plans. Their Digital Marketing Strategy Planning Template (free basic membership required) will guide you through the process of creating “actionable plans that improve commercial results using integrated digital communications based on marketplace insight and analytics.”

Embrace Data

Are you measuring the effectiveness of your online marketing efforts? Many businesses have installed Google Analytics on their websites, but don’t know how to learn from the data and get actionable information. Note: if you’re using the default Analytics dashboard, you have not fully embraced data.

In order to become a data-driven organization, you must methodically analyze your website data and measure the results of your actions (campaigns, SEO efforts, website changes, etc.). This is an ongoing process that should yield continuous improvements in both your digital drivers and destinations.

How can you get a jumpstart in learning to be a data analyst?

If you live in the Spokane area, you can sign up for our Analytics for Mareketers Six Week Course that begins on April 29, 2015. We’ll walk you through the basics of how to use Google Analytics and then teach you the in-the-trenches specifics of how to use it for your current job, business, or the career you’d like to have in the future.

If you don’t live in the Spokane area or want to dive in on your own there are some great blogs, books, and video resources out there. I talked with Ed about his go-to analytics resources. It starts with his Google Analytics superhero Avinash Kaushik. But he’s also a big fan of Justin Curtoli, Caleb WhitmoreAnnie Cushing, Dana DiTomaso, the Moz blog, and of course Google’s Analytics IQ videos. The important thing is to just dive in and get started.

Get Executive Buy-In & Budget

In order to start and sustain a successful, long-term online marketing program for your business, it is critical to have buy-in from top-level executives. If you don’t have this support, your efforts are at risk of not getting enough funding and can easily be derailed by internal politics.

To get executives on board, you’ll need convincing data on how digital marketing can benefit your business and a well-researched strategic plan. This proposal, often referred to as a “Case for Change,” should include:

  • A review of your business’ current online marketing efforts
  • Industry research and analysis
  • Competitor analysis
  • Agenda and timeline for your proposed initiative
  • Defined structure, activities, and process
  • Resource requirements (staff, training, consultants/agencies, software, etc.)

We have assisted many our clients, at various stages in their online marketing program development, in getting executive buy-in. The resulting allocation of budget, resources, and staff have positively impacted the effects online marketing has on their businesses. Read about how we helped Avista Utilities create a Case for Change.

Measure Ad Campaign Effectiveness

Tracking campaigns will help you figure out what’s not working, how to cut the fat, and the best ways to reinvest that money in campaigns that are working to meet your goals.

There are multiple components to every online campaign, each of which can be tested and optimized.

  • Your ad content (visuals and text)
  • Your offer
  • Ad placement & targeting
  • Your landing pages

The tricky part is identifying the goals, objectives, key performance indicators, and parameters for success by which you will measure your campaigns.

In his article, Digital Marketing and Measurement Model, Avinash Kaushik says, “The root cause of failure in most digital marketing campaigns is not the lack of creativity in the banner ad or TV spot or the sexiness of the website. It is not even (often) the people involved. It is quite simply the lack of structured thinking about what the real purpose of the campaign is and a lack of an objective set of measures with which to identify success or failure.”

Be sure to check out Avinash’s Digital Marketing and Measurement Model for help in better defining your campaign goals and objectives.

Test and Optimize Your Digital Destinations

Now that you’ve created killer ad campaigns and other drivers (email, SEO efforts, PR, etc.), it’s time to close the deal by sending people to destinations that provide seamless and compelling experiences.

Digital destinations are the places you’re sending people from your drivers. These destinations can include:

Ultimately, these destinations should convince your audience to take an action, such as: make a purchase, download content, or opt in to email. These actions should support the business outcomes you have set as goals.

Test! Test! Test!

At all times, you should be continuously testing your destinations to understand how users are interacting with them and how their behavior impacts conversion rates. You cannot afford to rely on gut instinct and personal opinion—even if the opinion hails from the CEO. KISSmetrics says, “These influential people sometimes are referred to as HiPPOs (highest paid person’s opinion); and, in many instances, they believe they know what is best for their website. Therefore, they don’t feel the need for (or understand the benefits of) running website tests.”

But when you are able to prove that something works or doesn’t work, by reporting on analytics data gathered through testing, it’s difficult for a HiPPO to say, “I want to stop that campaign because I’m sick of it,… Because I can now see that the campaign (that I hate) is performing 30% better than the one I like.”

What to Test

There is no one-size-fits-all answer for testing. To start, your business has unique challenges and issues that need to be identified. Use your analytics data to learn where the issues are (landing pages, product pages, checkout, etc) and then run tests to figure out exactly what is causing problems for users. All testing should be done in search of an answer to a specific question.

There are a variety of tests and survey tools that you can use:

  • A/B Testing & Multivariate Testing compares alternate design elements and content to see which performs best. We love Optimizely and use it for our clients!
  • User Testing will help you learn how people use your site/app and what’s actually causing problems for your users. We conduct remote and in-person user testing in our Spokane office. We also occasionally use UserTesting.com for quick remote tests.
  • Survey Tools allow you to understand what your customers want and what’s preventing them from achieving it. Qualaroo is a robust survey tool that can be integrated into your website.

“It’s much easier to double your business by doubling your conversion rate than by doubling your traffic.”

~ Jeffrey Eisenberg

I realize this is a lot to take in. But we hear a lot of the same questions from clients and wanted to create a foundation to you get started down the path. Hopefully this provides a good starting point for improving your online marketing efforts in 2015!

Analytics + Segmentation = PB&J

Analytics + Segmentation is the PB&J of web data

I just love a good PB&J. Tasy, tasty, tasty. At least I loved them before the recall. But I digress. It’s just that they remind me of analytics plus segmentation (or maybe I’m just hungry). But it just never fails me. Each and every time I segment important web analytics data I learn something new and am able to make immediate recommendations that helps my clients save money and grow their relevant search traffic.

So what is analytics segmentation, anyway?
It’s really pretty simple. It’s the process of comparing a set of data against a specific variable. Here’s an example that compares traffic sources of a specific web site against individual bounce rates. A bounce rate is recorded when a visitor gets to your web site and leaves without taking another action, so a lower bounce rate is better than a high one. It means that you have engaged your visitor and they are checking out your web site. It’s important to note, however, that blogs typically have high bounced rates and probably shouldn’t be judged by this metric. Here’s an analytic segmentation example:

What can we learn from the data in this example?
In this example, we are comparing the top five referring web sites against the bounce rate average of the web site (22%). In the easy to read chart, green mearures the percent lower than average and red the percentage higher than the average bounce rate (remember, you want low – green = good, red = bad). Let’s find out what we’ve learned that we can immediatelly apply to the web site.

Lesson #1 – Our existing customers are likely a bit bored
Direct traffic comes from visitors that type the web site URL directly and go to the web site (no search or referral). In this example, direct traffic has a 33% higher bounce rate than the web site average. Why is that? We can’t be exactly sure, but we can make some educated guesses. As these are likely returning visitors, maybe they are a bit bored. Maybe they want fresh content. They likely came to the web site, saw that it was exactly the same, and left, thus resulting in a bounce.

Action: Give them some tasty new content!

Lesson #2 – Review your Google CPC campaign conversion rates
Look at that horrible bounce rate for Google CPC! Their Google CPC campaign has a bounce rate that is 87% worse than the web site average. That is a huge waste of money! It’s time to take a look at this pay-per-click campaign and see what keywords have poor bounce rates and throw out the garbage.

Action: Review your paid search campaigs and eliminate poorly performing keywords.

Lesson #3 – Organic search traffic is kicking some serious butt
The organic search traffic has a significantly lower bounce rate than the web site average. The visitors from the search engines are finding their web site and clicking around. Very Nice!

Action: Expand SEO campaign to rank on page one for more long-tail keyword phrases

I hope this helps understand your web analytics a bit more. There are many more ways to segment your data. This is just one example. It’s exciting and powerful stuff. If you have any questions about analytics and what it can do for your business, just let us know. However, for those of you interested in really educating yourselves, I highly recommend checking out Avinash Kaushik’s blog. He’s the man.