Optimization by Numbers

The automotive and online marketing industries share a common thread. Both reflect the growing complexity of modern culture.

In simpler times, combustion engines ruled the roads, and online marketers created nifty little pop-up ads. Now, with the advent of new technologies and shifting consumer interests, what were once straightforward disciplines have splintered in a myriad of multifaceted service offerings -- all of which must be mastered by industry professionals.

The shift to alternative fuels and growing concern for the environment have compelled automobile manufacturing to become extremely research and development intensive, resulting in hybridization and hydrogen fueling innovations. Increased audience savvy, and the move toward user control have led to the creation of new online marketing channels, from search to display, from social to affiliate.

In the complex world of online marketing, you will likely be asked to run several digital programs at any given time. While getting these programs off the ground can be an achievement in itself, the real challenge is campaign optimization. How do you keep track of what is working? In which channels should you invest further, and in which should you pull the plug?

You don't need a chassis dynamometer or fuel injection diagnostic tools to tweak your campaign's effectiveness. A properly configured Web analytics platform can deliver the information you need to help you optimize by the numbers.

Commit to KPI

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are the basis for the selection, implementation, configuration and management of your Web analytics platform. Without expressly defined KPIs, you may not even know which analytics platform is right for your business. If your goals are complex, then maybe it's time to consider Omniture over Google Analytics, or to search for an alternative analytics solution.

Mapping out KPIs is step one in determining which platform is right for your business. Website-specific KPI definitions will drive the overall implementation and configuration of whatever analytics platform you choose. They tell your IT team or consultants which data points are important to you and which actions need to be tracked.

KPIs will also be used to develop the reporting from your analytics package, and this data will help influence future campaign decisions. Clear KPI definitions can help prevent data reporting problems before they occur -- whether you're dealing with SEO, paid search, display media, or any other combination of online channels.

Process Makes Perfect

You need to have a process in place to successfully manage the wealth of data that analytics platforms place at your disposal. The level of process needed will depend on your business needs, goals, and budget. Some industries may need to review their data on a daily or even hourly basis, where others may find that a monthly review cycle is sufficient.

At a basic level, you'll need an analysis and report review cycle of your data. Reviewing the analyzed data on a regular basis will yield results and keep you on track. Both analysis and reporting should be done in a unified manner so that you're not looking at campaign variables in a vacuum.

Staff the Service

A great analytics setup means nothing without the right people analyzing and acting on the data. Few transformational business ideas come from taking a Web analytics report at face value. Someone must properly interpret the data.

This obvious but necessary role is often overlooked when budgeting for Web analytics, and while working for a large agency I've seen many staffing setups for analytics operations. Some companies with one or two resources spend 20 percent of their time maintaining the Web analytics from an IT perspective while outsourcing the analysis to their agency partners. Other companies fully staff system management and analysis.

Analytics staffing is pretty indicative of how much an organization values the online space and how important an understanding of user behavior is to their business model.

Act on Analysis

Pursuing proper organization right out of the gate can help you tame the digital chaos of Web data. To successfully navigate the complexities of modern online marketing campaigns, plan your approach, optimize analytics, and staff the right people.

To reach your performance goals, data must be mined, interpreted, and intelligently acted upon. This last point is crucial. Determining what action is required -- site design modifications, organic content expansion, form field changes, or A/B testing -- should be built into your review process.

Of course, this requires commitment, focus, and budget. In an industry where user behavior can shift on a whim, there's no room for passivity in analytics. Just as Ford must roll out updated models each year, your campaign must adjust to the changing online climate.

A great benefit of online marketing is its measurability, maybe more so than any other media. But a constant flow of data can take your targeted strategies on strange tangents. Following the numbers and maintaining accurate analytics can help make campaign management a far simpler matter.

About the author

William Flaiz is vice president of search engine optimization (SEO) and web analytics at Razorfish (formerly Avenue A | Razorfish). In this role, he oversees the firm's global SEO and web analytics practice that services clients across the US, Europe, and Asia.

William manages a staff of more than 30 account services partners, analysts, and strategists, in defining the needs and providing solutions that help clients to measure and optimize their web site investments.

William joined the Philadelphia office of Avenue A | Razorfish in 2002 to establish the web development practice there and, within six months, he led the development of an award-winning healthcare portal for eMedicine. During this time, he managed the creative, user experience, and customer insights groups, growing the revenue and staff dedicated to web development projects, which accounts for approximately 1/3 of the office's revenues today. More recently, William served as vice president of operations for the Philadelphia office, overseeing all agency planning and financials.

William taught classes on web development and the Internet at various universities in Philadelphia, and has served as a judge for the eHealthcare Leadership Awards for the past three years. He has spoken at industry conferences and authored articles for industry publications, including MD Net Guide, the Center for Business Intelligence pharmaceutical series, and the Nashville Advertising Federation.

William earned a B.S. in accounting and finance and MS in information systems from Drexel University.