6 Must-have elements to include in your Digital Analytics Dashboard



The appeal of online marketing is that a site owner can track almost everything related to site and visitor behaviour. This leaves us with a problem of plenty and often data overload, not knowing which are the important areas that can give us information leading to actionable changes. I am reminded of a quote by Einstein “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” To put it simply, my recommendation is to build a dashboard covering 6 business critical areas only and share and review these with your leadership team every week. Each department head viz Marketing, IT Head etc can then go away and use deeper analytics reports with their supplier agencies to investigate issues arising out of this dashboard.

1. Sources of Traffic
 
Know where your sites visitors are coming from on a weekly basis. Broad sources are Search Engines (SEO and SEM), Direct/Bookmarked (when a user types your url in the browser or uses a prior bookmark), Other Sites/Campaigns (traffic from sites you have partnered with or have paid to put your ads on).
 
Benefit: Track the changes in trend of each and see the correlation effect of your marketing activities eg Direct traffic going up when you have a TV campaign running.

2. Campaign Performance

Track and compare the CPA and Conversion rate for each paid campaign eg Adwords, Affiliates, Email. Observe the impact one channel has on another.
 
Benefit: Understand which online channel gives you the best ROI. Also note how different channels perform at different times of the month and adjust your schedule accordingly.
 
3. Conversion Funnel

Chart the consumer journey from the time they land on your site and then go through the various steps in your purchase path.  If you are A/B testing two different landing pages, compare conversion funnels for both for greater insights.

Benefits: See where drop-outs occur and apply changes to plug the leakage.

4. Keyword Ranks
 
Identify the top 10 most important keywords for your business category that you should ideally rank high for in the search engines. Record your sites ranking for these keywords in both Paid and Organic Rankings once a week, preferably on the most important business day/time and when your PPC budgets are unlikely to maxed out. You can get an analyst to do this manually or use a paid monitoring tool like AWR to automate the task across multiple search engines.
 
Benefits: Benchmark your search ranking against competitors and also monitor changes in PPC rank strategy by others.
 
5. Website Usage

Top line numbers on how visitors are interacting with your website. Trends in metrics such as ‘time spent’ and ‘bounce rate’ can indicate the engagement levels and navigational ease of your site. If your ‘bounce rate’ increases consistently, you probably have a page or site section that users frequently exit from. This may be because they are confused or haven’t found what they were looking for.
 
Benefits: Understand how visitors use your site and identify problem areas around content and landing pages.

6. Webmaster Stats

Measure back end stats such as site average page load times and server down times as these can severely impact metrics like bounce rates, time spent and conversion rates.

Benefits: Understand how your infrastructure and hardware capabilities impact the users experience. Keep Marketing and Analytics team informed when a server side issue occurs so this reasoning can be used to explain fluctuations in other metrics.

One area I have omitted here is Competitor Tracking which is important as no online business operates in a vacuum and one should never be blindsided by a key competitor. However this kind of tracking is usually through 3rd party suppliers and comes at a premium and as such can be deferred until a business can get numbers 1-6 right first. I will cover this area in detail in a future post.

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Digital needs to grow up

In my last post, I discussed in length the 5 major challenges Digital Agencies face today as they try to grow their individual shares of the growing digital ad spend pie. Today I’ll offer a few suggestions towards this goal.

To use a sports metaphor, Online needs to stop projecting itself as the new kid on the playground, with the shinier bat and pads. Fancy flash dashboards and a dazzling array of metrics will get you only so far with astute marketing heads. If you want to score then build partnerships, and you may get to bat up the order someday. The traditional guys own the relationships. If we keep telling them online is going to gobble up offline, they’ll only get more protective of their turf.

Online shops must start by understanding what it is that has made traditional media agencies so indispensable to clients. Firstly, Offline delivers tangible campaigns that touches all our major senses – hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, touching, the last 3 through sampling and retail experiences. A billboard on a busy intersection, a full-page ad on the back of MX, a kiosk in the centre of a high footfall suburban mall are all examples we associate with advertising from our growing up experiences. To those of us who have made advertising and marketing our careers, these are the first channels we instinctively turn to for a brand activity. Online ads cannot deliver the same lasting impact or memorability as TV, as proved by a recent UK study.

Display agencies combat this by promising to deliver ‘bonus’ impressions and clicks to their clients. This is done in conjunction with publishers who provide cheap RON impressions across their vast network of sites. These are then presented within a ‘campaign over delivery’ section in the post analysis report. PPC agencies do not go down this route as Search is a ‘client pays only for clicks’ model. This leaves Search agencies at a disadvantage compared to their Display counterparts as their only USP is the promise of quality leads through direct response. But here’s the risk. Since Search agencies concentrate so much on search metrics not on marketing outcomes, clients see search as a commodity service. This lowers the barriers to exit and could lead to them either changing agencies or going in-house to save on substantial management fees. So Digital Agencies need to think of enhanced value and establish a clear differentiator.

There are 2 kinds of clients out there and we need to have separate approaches for these:
1. Those who don’t get online and let their traditional agency lead
2. Those who get online, but have all the online agencies knocking on their door or realize if they are spending all that money they may as well take it in-house

There are 5 things agencies need to do to make themselves resilient:
1. Start creating experiments to show finite effect of Search/Display on offline events. Eg Coupons available only on a search landing page
2. Build attribution models for clients to prove offline-online effect. They won’t do it so we have to.
3. Engage traditional agency heads and clients directly. Don’t leave the PR to your Search Engine rep. 
4. Cut the search/online jargon. It took years for people to understand GRPs and TARPs, don’t make them swallow CPCs, Quality Score and Rank now.
5. Think like marketers not search geeks. It’s all about market share. Hire a few MBA’s if you have to.

Digital Agencies – Looking Beyond Metrics & Media Forecasts

“Online to take over Print by 20XX”
“Online grows X% YOY, traditional media growth slows down”

These days not a week goes by that we don’t receive a new media forecast proclaiming the rise of online media. Only the growth percentages and years in the forecasts change. Most of these numbers are of course brought out by media groups with heavy investments in digital or interactive industry organisations.

My view is that these big growth percentages are expected because online is starting off a small base. So we (I work in online) have to start looking for big shifts in actual $ value numbers before we start beating drums. There are still challenges to overcome until Digital agencies can become viable businesses or standalone profit centres rather than token add-ons of large media agencies. Hoping that the above mentioned rosy media forecasts and our complex array of measurable metrics will keep each of us profitable only betrays a lack of vision. The big 5 challenges (in random order) are:

  1. Lack of attribution

From what I have seen the top 20 Australian brands do not have a significant online shopping presence i.e. their consumer’s research online, but buy offline for lack of choice. Now, you can throw stats at clients and tell them 60% of customer’s research online but until you can show them that those customers went on to buy at the store and not because there was a stall at the mall they don’t see the value of taking money from another media. Online needs to show that clicks delivered online can be attributed to a sale through a call-centre or a retail outlet. Traditional advertising has been using brand track studies, online surveys and retail figures to justify their spends for decades.

2. Small pool of prospects

There are some surefire online categories – Finance, Travel, Dating, Real Estate – unfortunately every big agency chases these. These clients have online business models and hence do not need to be sold on the value of online marketing to their businesses. But these big fish are also tough to snare and often have deep relationships with their offline agencies who may have their own online practices. So it’s a case of few fish and too many agencies.

3. Not getting a fair go

Attend an all-Agencies weekly WIP and you’ll often find the Media Agency dominating the discussion. Yes, traditional media agencies have relationships that go back longer with their clients and hence get more face time. Most C-level marketers started off at a time when traditional media were the only choices on a media plan and are averse to new media and its perceived complexity. With most media agencies headed by luminaries with illustrious records (and awards), media weightages can be swayed on reputation alone. Digital agencies and divisions must still rely on the crumbs on the table after the offline agency is finished.

4. Online isn’t a mass brand channel

Online doesn’t have the pulling power of TV yet. Big live events like cricket, AFL, Melbourne Cup and phenomenons like Master Chef aggregate audiences in a way no online property can.  Advertisers want to attach their brands to proven properties their target audience watches, even if their ads reach audiences outside their primary segments. People use the Internet to seek information, play games,  socialize on networks and watch videos. Not to watch ads in minuscule boxes or to click away from their favorite website to an advertisers website. Over decades we’ve learnt to accept advertisements on TV and as the quality has improved we’ve even grown to love them. The success of Gruen Transfer is proof of this.

5. Clients love traditional media

As a marketing client, I always looked forward to the days when the Creative & Media agency came in to the office. It was exciting and creative and put my boss in a good mood. Seeing the advertisements on TV or on a city billboard, also assured everyone from the CMO to the Finance Head that I was busy. Now in the complex work of Digital, be it developing search campaigns or setting up campaign tracking, clients have lesser scope to input and offer subjective opinion. The mass of metrics that Digital and PPC agencies churn out each week in voluminous excel spreadsheets also isolates them from their clients even more.

So there it is, a few challenges outlined, based on my own experience on both sides of the fence. In my next post I’ll touch upon a few strategies for Digital Agencies to consider in future.

How Aus Pollies are using Search in the Federal Election

Couldn’t resist snatching a look at what the two major parties are doing in the digital realm for this election. This election was supposed to be the big digital one taking cues from Obamas election in ‘08 but so far both parties are doing just ‘enough’ with the Libs marginally ahead. A classic example was the morning after the PM’s solo appearance on ABC’s Q&A show when Google searches for the Labor party and the PM were expected to spike. On this day however, the ruling party was conspicuous by its absence allowing its competitor to easily capture all those searches of Labor followers or potential fence-sitters.  Searches conducted on Tuesday for  ‘labor party’ and ‘julia gillard’ brought up paid ads instead by the Liberal Party attacking Labor failures. The Liberal party has obviously cleverly included in its list, Labor party brand terms and the names of Labors leaders ensuring users typing those terms see a Liberal Party ppc ad instead. The ads also use the recently launched Sitelinks format which offers users multiple links to click on to enable voters to explore different facets of the Liberal Party’s campaign.

Google Australia Federal Election Page
Google Australia Federal Election Page

Paid search (PPC) can be effectively used in an election as messages can be updated and put live within hours in response to trending election themes or breaking news. PPC formats allow Election Campaign managers a low cost environment to test and run multiple messages which can serve as a far more credible means of testing concepts than traditional focus groups. Enhanced formats like Sitelinks allow Campaign Managers to integrate their offline and social media components into the Search strategy. Tailored messages can also be used focusing on the most relevant issues for different geographies eg states and cities in contrast to traditional advertising’s one message must fit all. With only a handful of major parties buying search terms in Australia, the costs of setting up running an effective search campaign would be far less expensive than buying primetime radio or television spots.

Google has set up its own page covering the Australian Federal Election which tracks election search trends on the major parties, leaders and issues along with links to a Google Map mashup to find polling booths and Electoral bases in your surburb.