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The Ginsu Guide to Search Analytics

watson-frank
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The All Star Analytics Team panel was one of the most popular so far at SES London, so I thought I'd share some search analytics strategies from my SES London presentation.

The ability to track online (and in many cases offline) advertising to offline conversions has been the biggest hurdle in measuring ROI (define) for many Web-based or Web-involved businesses.

Analytics companies have recently integrated with customer relationship management (CRM) programs, such as Salesforce and other hosted solutions, to overcome this barrier.

This closed loop marketing will have a far-reaching impact on advertising market share, as more companies become aware of the numerous benefits it provides.

First and foremost, it allows more efficiency in advertising purchases. Obviously the source of any company's greatest ROI will garner more spend. (In this model a true zero-sum game is possible.) If online advertising were a slot machine, and you put $20 in and got $40 back, would you stop after one transaction? Or would you keep going until it was no longer giving you more than you put in?

Even without the closed loop you can do this for online conversion. For offline conversions, you need advanced analytics.

When you're able to track an individual instance of advertising to a conversion, then you can test specifics and drop wasted ads and concentrate on successful ones. You can learn which banner, what size, placement, and even time of day brought you a sale. Similarly, you can find out what keyword and ad text converts the best or what combination of ads, banners, and e-mail lead to the most sales.

How is this done?

Advanced tracking and analytics capture referring information and hold it in a cookie. (Accuracy? Never 100 percent.) When a visitor becomes a customer or a lead, this cookied information is passed into a hidden form field that passes it into your CRM. So when there's a conversion, the information can be passed back into the analytics program for in-depth examination.

When a lead is generated, it can be associated with an advertising campaign. That way, you can determine advertising spend more accurately. When a sale is made, you have the ability to determine CPA (define).

Use of this improved our media spend by 30 percent and allowed very thorough testing to improve it even more.

By creating funnels and examining their results, you can apply this information to landing page design, general page navigation, and other variables.

This methodology is a major area that has an impact on the sales process itself. Sales leads that convert consistently to more valued sales can then be passed to a company's better closers. We used this lead distribution method to increase sales by an additional 25 percent. No sense giving a new or slumping sales person the gold leads, as anyone who's watched "Glengarry Glen Ross" can tell you.

The scope of knowledge becomes nearly endless with segmentation and funnels. ROI based on impressions, page views, click-throughs, "time on site," and common paths/site behavior can be measured.

Before you get there, you need to start with a system that integrates online and offline elements. Don't forget to ask the various analytics vendors if they have the ability to achieve all of these things.

And if they're giving away steak knives, run.

Chris Boggs Fires Back

Chris Boggs: So funny you should write on this topic the very day I heard a refreshingly well-versed client (believe it or not this company has more than one person who understands search -- oh joy!) describe the measurement of offline conversions as the "Holy Grail." Then some guy reached out to me in a networking forum about meeting up to inform me about their offline call tracking conversion system.

I'd hoped to find coverage of your session, but as of press time I hadn't found anyone who typed a recap -- obviously because they were sitting on the edge of their seats awaiting more wondrous knowledge to escape your lips.

Did other panelists discuss call-tracking? Some people call this the perfect way to measure offline conversions. Jury's still out. Using a unique phone number tied into an online spot -- especially if you can have a large enough range of assigned numbers to target searches by keyword or campaign/ad group -- would be pretty tight.

Closed-loop marketing is a bit of a Holy Grail idea as well. In 2001, Cliff Allen wrote of it:

"Unfortunately, prospective customers don't always understand that we want to hear about their needs, which means they are often reluctant to share information. However, by carefully listening and observing, we can sometimes overcome this reluctance and help customers buy the right product -- even when they're not eager to let us help them."

The closed-loop process is something that likely can be done faster seven years later, but will it always be accurate or lend great insight the way you describe, Frank? I don't think so.

The key success metric to this research may be less in creating compelling reasons for the client to communicate with you. Instead, it may be investing in the right person to answer the call.

I wish I had made the panel but the blog coverage of SES was great.

Join us for SES New York March 17-20 and for training classes March 21.


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