At Search Engine Strategies New York this week, some of the best-attended sessions are about Web analytics. Two sessions I sat in on yesterday had standing-room only crowds. It's clear that search marketers – like all online marketers – are finally realizing that it's not all about getting people to your site. The volume game is fine when driving volume is cheap, but with concerns about rising keyword prices and a looming recession, it's only natural that there's a new round of belt-tightening going on.
Smart online marketers have been using analytics to squeeze better performance from the traffic they already have, instead of looking for new ways to drive low-converting traffic. From the looks of things, the idea is catching on, with the desire to learn about Web analytics spreading to the masses.
Google Analytics Evangelist Avinash Kaushik noted in his presentation that there are four keys to Web analytics success:
1. Integrate or Die – Measuring basic metrics are the price of entry. To succeed, you need to apply those measurements to other events beyond your Web site, and see what's making or costing you money.
2. Measure Bounce Rate – Bounce rate is your Web site visitor saying to you, "I came, I saw, I puked." If they come to one page and leave right away, you're not giving visitors what they're looking for. Figure that out and fix it.
3. Go Beyond Ego Bidding – The definition of success for one site will be different than success for another. The key is to find your own success metric, such as conversions, or time on site, and measure your performance against that metric.
4. Experiment or Go Home – Most sites are designed by "HiPPOs": The Highest Paid Person's Opinion. That often means the site is not designed around what users are searching for. You could be sending people to a less relevant page than you could or should be doing, or offering something different than what was promised in your search ads. Avinash calls this "Writing a check on a search engine that your site can't cash." Both are bad for the user.
If you missed the analytics sessions yesterday, there are still plenty of options. This afternoon, Google is putting on a session about Google Analytics and Website Optimizer, and Omniture is doing one on optimizing SEM campaigns. Later, Tim Ash will show you how to test and tune your landing page. For a deep dive into analytics, Matt Bailey is leading a four-hour training session on Web analytics on Friday.