One of the most common questions I hear around this time of year is, "How can I tell if changes I made to the site had any effect? Or, is it simply a factor of seasonality, and how can I tell?"
Without significantly decent analytics, this could be a near to impossible task. The best way to measure the impact of traffic over time is to look at year over year data broken down by day. You should be able to predict the changes in traffic and revenue simply by seeing what happened in years past and what those growth rates were.
It's important to realize that day-by-day the data will not be an exact match, especially since Thanksgiving doesn't lie on the same day of the year. When you look at your data trends, match them based on patterns similar to the years before. Otherwise, the numbers will look a bit odd. Your KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, should be clearly defined before you even look at this data.
Common KPIs to look at are traffic, revenue, conversion rates and gross margin. This is a great list of data to start with.
With search engine optimization, any traffic and/or revenue increased beyond the predicted amount could be considered a win. This will keep the guesswork low and easy to try and tackle.
The Gross Margin is a significantly important factor when PPC (define) marketing is involved. As we know, costs go up year over year and, with a steady shrinkage in profits, you really need to look at your strategies closely.
Strategies to Keep Your PPC Costs Down
Look at your quality score (define); we know the worse your landing page score, the higher the click costs are. Try and optimize your landing pages to be more targeted and interesting.
With larger sites, it's important to build these pages on the fly to scale. In many cases you could have hundreds of millions of combinations of words. Thus, it's more important than ever to use a search engine to get the most important data you have stored within your system.
This content can be easily modified to produce a "Great" quality score and you'll benefit with a higher volume of traffic at a much lower cost.
Harness your internal search engine logs to find those keywords that you may not be buying. This can offer a great amount of keyword combinations you may not have thought about and can drive hidden revenue on both a paid search and natural search campaign.
Natural search, or SEO (define), can use these keywords when you properly link appropriate pages together with combinations of targeted words.
For example, if you have a page about waterproof cameras, provide a list of related products that are also waterproof. You can cluster related content together that can be helpful for a user, as well as helpful for search engines.
All of your strategies should be easy to measure within a paid search campaign. However, they could be less than easy with your natural search campaigns. As tempting as it may be, never allow your technical teams to add tracking IDs to your URLs; this will keep the search engines from ranking the pages appropriately and will only hurt the actual value they may offer. Thus, keep all of your tracking within a cookie rather than appending it to the end of a URL.
Meet Your Favorite Search Engine Watch Contributors
Many of SEW's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Thom Craver, Josh Braaten, Lisa Barone, Simon Heseltine, Josh McCoy, Lisa Raehsler, Greg Jarboe, Dan Cristo, Joseph Kerschbaum, John Gagnon, Eric Enge and more!