Hidden Pay Per Click Engagement

Conversions are king, that’s for sure, but what about when a pay per click (PPC) keyword isn’t getting conversions? Do you pause it? Some PPC management tools out there will focus on “Costly Keywords” but don’t take into consideration other site engagement metrics. But there’s more to PPC optimization than simply pausing or adding keywords!

PPC Conversion Optimization

Again, if we have a website and we are running PPC it is all about getting visitors to convert. There are a myriad of things involved in PPC optimization, but we’ll assume for this article that your keywords and ad copy are perfect (ha!). First off, make sure you have AdWords conversion tracking in place on your conversion page (eg: Thank You, Order Confirmation, Articles…). This conversion pixel should be on the same page that triggers your Google Analytics goal (because you have goal tracking set up… right??). Once tracking, you can easily see, in both Google AdWords and Google Analytics, which keywords are driving conversions. But now lets take a look at those keywords that aren’t.

PPC Site Engagement Metrics

If some keywords are not converting it is time to determine whether or not the pause them. But don’t just pause them if they aren’t converting, make sure you are pausing them because visitors are not engaging. Now, a full ‘engagement’ is a conversion, but visitors can engage with your site in other ways. We have mentioned in this column previously the importance of what we call site engagement metrics. Our focus here is simple, did a visitor try to engage with the site at all? These metrics are simply Bounce Rate, Average Time on Site and Pages per Session. These engagement metrics help you evaluate whether a keyword is good at driving an engaged audience, but maybe there is a slight alteration to a landing page or steps that would help that audience cross the finish line.
There is so much more that goes into this analysis, but just be sure you aren’t pausing keywords simply because they haven’t generated a conversion. If they are driving an audience who is looking at pages and staying a while, then perhaps there are slight changes that can be done to that funnel as opposed to selecting all new keywords. So while conversion is king, site engagement rules the castle!

When is an ad network’s job finished?

When you purchase digital advertising from an ad networks, such as display or PPC, they are very happy to quickly send out an invoice. Following that they will have calls and send you data, typically in Excel or Powerpoint form, that shows how they are doing. “You’re getting a ton of impressions” or “We’re really seeing a ramp up in click throughs this month”. As an analyst I can typically always tell a good story with numbers, but is it the right story?

Take me to the finish line

It’s all about conversions! My gripe with the digital advertising industry has been that they are all too happy to leave the conversation at their data, or what they think they can control. However, what a refreshing change it would be if these firms also helped you out by guiding you to areas of optimization. Here are a couple of questions/conversations I wish I heard more from digital agencies:

  • We feel the message in your ad should have more action-oriented terms.
  • The color scheme of your ad really goes against what we have seen work in the past for other clients.
  • Your landing page messaging/design really doesn’t match the ad creative we are using.
  • If our focus is conversion we’d really recommend a larger call to action with more action terms.
  • We noticed a few steps int he process where we think people may be falling out. Are you seeing this as well?

These are just a few of the things I would have loved to have heard from agencies the last few months. But instead it was the same old stuff; here’s your data, we’re showing a lot of impressions, yay! If digital agencies were more focused on your success perhaps they should bill by the conversion, or at least part of their invoice should be success driven. So the next time you have a call with your digital agency/network ask them how they might help you to improve conversions. After all, it’s in their best interest for you to be successful, not to see you leave after 3-months!

The Social Divide

It turns out there’s a pretty large divide between marketers and consumers… are you shocked? According to a Boston Retail Partners study retailers expected to see a 34% increase from their social media channels. However, an eMarketer study found that consumers weren’t as apt to use social media to drive their purchases via a “Buy Button”. The numbers come out like so: 17% Tumblr, 14% Instagram, 13% Pinterest, 12% Twitter, and 9% Facebook.

Social Engagement

Granted, this question was hyper-focused on social media users clicking a “Buy Button”, but it begs a larger question, should you be so buy-centric on social platforms? I’ve always been a proponent of social media to drive awareness, be it of a brand, product, service, etc. However, many many marketers hear a buzz word and immediately think it’s the next big thing. If done with a proper strategy in mind social can absolutely drive sales online, but just consider the mindsets of the social media channels. Or better yet, what is YOUR mindset when you’re on Facebook or Instagram? Are you ever in a buying mood or are you really just there for cat photos (can’t it be both?!?!)?

Is That Bad, Should I not Have Done That?

This is not a post about how social media is a bad channel, it’s about the need for a strategy and closing the divide between your business and your consumers. Make sure you understand your audience as well as their wants, needs, interests and how they utilize the web. This knowledge will help drive your marketing decisions and will drive consumers to your goal, closing the great divide!

Digital Strategy, explained to a four-year-old

We were recently asked by a client to explain what we do as if they were a four-year-old, paying homage to Denzel Washington in “Philadelphia”. At first we laughed, as did they, but then we got to thinking that there is a lot of stuff to think about when you’re a small(er) business and it has to be difficult to sift through all the clutter. So, since we had to do it any way for our client, here is our explanation of digital strategy & marketing, to a four-year-old. Well, a four-year-old with some business acumen…

In this series:

It’s getting a little personal

Personalization is one of many new buzzwords making the digital marketing rounds these days, but in fact it’s not really new at all. The concept has always been there, the platforms have always existed, but perhaps the reason for the buzz is the fact that ‘more’ platforms now exist? Regardless, the same issues exist today as they have for many years and why many sites haven’t implemented any personalization features.

Personalization is difficult

Well, yes, implementing personalization on your site can seem daunting. First you have to either learn about your content management system’s capabilities or install plugins or software that require even more education. But that’s the easy part, the next step is actually coming up with the strategy. This is where I have seen about 98% of all personalization discussions end. Why? Because this takes a lot of time, conceptualization and [fingers crossed] a large whiteboard. You need to get in a room and think through the possibilities. A few questions right off the bat: How will you personalize? Who will get personalized content? What messages make the most sense?

How will you personalize?

The how is more about the content and less about the software/platform. You may want to simply show a banner ad to the visitor, or maybe a large text box at the top of the page, or perhaps a completely dynamic content block within the page copy. All of these are options, but the question is, which one will work best? Strategizing will help, but either trial and error or, better yet, AB testing are really the best ways to find out.

Who will get personalized content?

When you personalize it’s not an all or nothing kind of thing. You can target iPhone users or residents of New York. That doesn’t mean those that don’t fall into those groups have to get something too. This also helps in your testing of personalized content, as maybe you test a message to the eastern United State and leave the standard copy to the Western US. The basic question is, will a visitor falling into ‘this’ group be more apt to engage if you display them a personalized message versus standard copy?

What messages make the most sense?

Typically action-based messages ‘tend’ to do the best, but it really depends on the audience. For instance, content sites may display soccer-related content for anyone viewing a Women’s World Cup page or perhaps a visitor from Florida gets a text box saying there’s a 50% chance of rain today. Commerce and Lead-gen sites may push visitors towards an action based on navigation behavior. “Only 10 left in stock” to a visitor who looked at blue widgets or “Contact us today and save 10%” to a visitor looking for rental properties.

Personalization Strategy

It all boils down to having a strategy. Think through the questions above and how you’ll implement the messaging. Personalization is an incredibly powerful tool, as eMarketer notes “Nearly three-quarters cited increased visitor engagement as a main benefit from real-time personalization.”

Oooh look, a squirrel!

In today’s world of flashy advertising, new fangled gadgets and the seemingly limitless capabilities of the internet it is easy for us to be overwhelmed.

I’m no scientist, but as I type this Pandora plays in the background, my iPhone is at the ready to my right and I am typing this on screen number one of my two-screen setup. All of this… wait, a biker just went by on the street outside my window… where was I?

The point here is FOCUS. Although you probably need it personally, I’m not necessarily talking about personal focus. Keeping your digital strategy focused is nearly an impossible task these days. With so many new technologies, tracking and targeting tools it is no wonder marketers get so overwhelmed day in and day out. So how do we get back on track? Lets ‘focus’ on that…

New isn’t always better

If you don’t know how to drive stick shift why in the world would you ‘upgrade’ your car to a manual Ferrari? This happens all the time in the business world though. Too many companies abandon their digital strategy because a new shiny object comes out promising to pinpoint audience segments with a message specifically for them and ultimately get them to buy more. Now, this strategy works when you’re ready, but not if you don’t know how to drive stick.

Stick to the basics…

Ya, ya, the basics are boring. I get it. However, typically the sports team that wins their championship tends to focus on the fundamentals, or basics (unless you’re the New England Patriots I guess). This should apply to your digital strategy. Can your analytics track the entire visitor experience? Do your inbound marketing tactics drive visitors to the right landing pages? Are the calls to action on your site clear and noticeable? These are all digital strategy fundamentals and too many companies do not exhaust their options here before moving onto the next big thing.

It’s not working…

Brand loyalty isn’t what it used to be these days. Music tastes change by the hour. And there seems to be a new diet every second. My point is that we are always quick to jump to the next thing as opposed to seeing if what we currently have could actually work for us. Are you utilizing your tracking tools to their fullest potential? Are you driving visitors to the right landing pages? Are you taking advantage of all the segmentation features in your content management system? The next new thing won’t solve the issues of you not using your tools to their fullest. It’s sort of like a power saw because you can’t use a measuring tape when using your hand saw. Your cuts will still be way off with or without the power.

What can you do?

There are some simple questions to ask yourself before going out and spending money on that latest new technology:

  • Inbound Marketing
    • Have you exhausted your potential keyword opportunities and do you have content for them all?
    • Are you out of AB testing options for your Display, Email and PPC mediums?
    • Are you unable to target audiences any more granular than what your existing tools allow? Google has MANY targeting options…
  • Conversion Optimization
    • Have you conducted AB testing on all your landing pages through your existing testing tools?
    • Have you polled your website visitors through a usability test to see what they think you should do?
  • Website Analytics
    • Do you have more than just the basic tracking code implemented on your site?
    • Have you created Advanced Segments for several different factors including particular audiences?
    • Are you taking actions based on reviewing your analytics reports?

At the end of the day there are some really great tools out there that can absolutely help your business succeed online. However, make sure you’re utilizing them to take you to the next level, not to simply stay where you’re at. Remember that any new tool requires implementation and strategy time that adds to the overall cost. Instead of looking at the next shiny thing why not try and take full advantage of what you already have? The power is there, it is installed, but perhaps just needs a little TLC. It all starts with a strategy though… a failure to plan is a plan to fail (or in this case spend money on tools you don’t need).

Big Data and why you won’t use it, yet

Big data was going to revolutionize your marketing efforts. But according to an eMarketer report only 5% of businesses say that it is fundamentally changing the way they do business. How could that be? We have all the data we would ever need to micro-target our customers with the right message at the right time! The problem is lack of strategy and lack of understanding of how to actually use this wealth of knowledge. Above all else, many businesses do not have a data collection engine set up to track audience behavior and customer preferences. But fear not, help is here. Below are some common pitfalls and how you can start using Big Data to grow your business.

No Strategy, no gains

In “The Art of War” Sun Tzu talks at great length about devising a strategy to defeat an enemy. While the tactics may change from battle to battle, the fundamentals do not. Having an in-depth digital strategy allows you to focus your messaging and target the right customers but much of the data either has yet to be unlocked OR just isn’t being collected. For instance, with Google Analytics you can easily see where visitors come from. You can then see which states or cities perform the best OR perhaps which cities buy particular products. With this data you can retarget those customers with messaging around promotions or sales for said products. That sounds good in theory, but you have to sit down and map it out. You need to say “For Miami, FL visitors we want to show rain jackets” and “For Denver, CO visitors we want to show heavy coats”. But Big Data goes beyond that. What time of year do we show these messages? What about to customers who have already purchased a rain jacket or heavy coat? How long ago did they purchase? When do customers typically repurchase these jackets? This is the heart of Big Data. The ability to micro-target these audiences and spot trends. But the data itself won’t do anything. You need to interpret the data and have a ready-made message to display to the audience. Many firms are not built to handle this type of strategy in addition to just not having the time. Bringing in a third party digital strategist, such as those from Bluefin Strategy, can help you develop these strategies and messaging schemes to micro-target your audience and increase your bottom line!

I don’t Understand

As I mentioned above, there is a severe lack of understanding as to what Big Data can and will do for your company. It’s not your fault, there’s a million things Big Data can provide and you need to focus on running the business. Once you have a strategy of who your targets are and what their behavior is you can begin to show the messaging. But how? Do you do it on your site? What about in banner ads? Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising? What about offline through direct mail? There are multiple channels that allow you to take advantage of this amazing data source but understanding how to utilize them is paramount to success. The best strategy in the world will fall flat on its face if you’re not using the right medium to get the message out. Just as a financial advisor gives you investment options, a digital strategist can help you with placement options to ensure your message reaches the right audience at the right time.

So why won’t you use this, yet?

You will, eventually. Many businesses need to collect the proper data first. So step one is ensuring your web analytics is setup to collect the right data about your visitors and customers. Step two is to devise your strategy by developing audience segments and their needs. Step three is to develop messaging to each audience segment for various times of year or buying cycles. Step four is to implement the messaging to the audience using the mediums and tactics that make the most sense for each audience. Step five… success! It isn’t that difficult when you have the right tools and the right partners. A simple evaluation and strategy to get you started doesn’t cost much (maybe a couple thousand bucks), but it can reap huge rewards! Talk to a digital strategist to determine the most effective use of your data and to make sure you have all of the right pieces in place to thrive online!

We all need help!

Digital Marketing HelpI had a conversation with a small business the other day where after presenting them with several issues that are easily fixed on their website the marketing person responded with, “ya we know all of that”. I guess this is why so many of us keep driving the car despite the engine light shining a Texas orange glow on the dash? How is it possible that in today’s landscape a business can dismiss such easy wins? Below I will outline a few of the common issues with the digital marketing landscape and how to overcome them with a digital strategy partner.

Lack of Knowledge

Many marketers in top positions have come from the Baby Boomer generation and haven’t grown up in the digital world. This isn’t bad, it just means there’s a larger learning curve, and we always fear what we don’t know. Another thing I have seen in my career is that many marketers don’t want to rock the boat for fear of getting the ax. Therefore, they just do the same things every year and don’t worry about upsetting what might be ‘sort of’ working today. Trying small things can reap huge benefits, but the quickest is implementing web analytics on your site complete with Event Tracking and Campaign Tracking Variables included. This is all offered free by Google and has very minimal upfront cost when working with a knowledgeable small agency to implement a rock solid analytics strategy. Knowledge equals power and web analytics provides it!

Lack of Time

There are hundreds of mediums and tactics to get your marketing message out there. Just within the digital marketing world there is SEO, PPC, Email Marketing, Social Media… etc. Many marketers today have a traditional and digital mix and really don’t have the time (or so they think) to monitor all of these moving pieces. Therefore they simply dip their toe in the water or keep it out all together, meaning not much attention is being paid and the results will suffer. Once web analytics are implemented on the site automatic reports can be setup to show how your inbound marketing is performing as well as where abandonment points may be on your website. This may take a couple of hours upfront, but then the reports are ‘set it and forget it’. Yes you still have to read them, but you won’t have to dig for the data every month to see what is working and what is not. Now you can answer with certainty to the question “what is our best online marketing medium”.

Lack of Money

When you add the word ‘digital’ to anything everyone expects the price tag to jump wildly. And in many companies’ defense digital agencies have been taking advantage of them for years with high margins and outrageously padded proposals. It’s like your electrician. If he charges you $50,000 for a job and says it will take 3 weeks you say, “OK, if that’s what it takes”. The truth is that many companies can get real digital strategy help for as little as $500 a month or quarter. Obviously the greater investment the greater the return, but the point is that it doesn’t have to be an ‘all in’ approach when it comes to your digital marketing investment. Additionally, many companies often think they need to spend $60,000 or more bringing on an internal resource. The point is, for a small investment (as little as just $2,000 per year) you can have a digital partner by your side guiding your digital initiatives and ensuring that your strategy is optimized and driving conversion success!

Bringing it all together

You don’t have to save the world all alone. I personally know nothing about an electrical circuit breaker and my electrician knows nothing of web analytics. But I also know that when I need an electrician I go for a small shop with a person I trust rather than some large regional company. My needs are smaller and therefore I want someone on that level. Hiring a digital strategy company is no different. On the flip side, larger companies can benefit from bringing on smaller agencies with lower costs for better resources. Many large agencies hire young kids out of college, so you’re paying top dollar for junior talent. You want a firm that understands that you do not have the knowledge, the time, nor the resources to do this on your own. Bringing on a digital marketing agency helps you focus on what you’re good at and lets them focus on what they are good at, driving website success!

You’re like, so social

There was a time for most of us not long ago, and many country clubs keep it going, when cliques determined whether you were part of the “in” crowd or if you were just a random person. That connection brought exclusivity to parties and good times that many people weren’t part of. Often you were called a “social butterfly” if you moved through these cliques and connected with many groups.

Social media is very similar in a lot of ways, hence the name. Social media does not simply equal Facebook nor Twitter. It does not simply equate to your posts on LinekdIn nor pictures on Instagram. Social media is about more than just one network and it’s about more than just posting random musings. By writing this I will probably post it on the various social channels, so perhaps your hypocrite flag is raised. However, if you’re reading this because you found it via one of those channels then my next point is proven.

A digital strategy is about finding where your audience is, where the conversation is taking place, and targeting them in those settings. Facebook and Twitter may very well be where that conversation is happening, but maybe it’s not. Perhaps it’s on blog sites or maybe in specialty forums. Social media is where a individuals are connecting and discussing topics in a community setting. These settings exist in many forms and in many places. ‘Social Media’ is not just ‘Facebook’ so if you’re asked about your social media strategy and your response is ‘Ya, we’ve got a Facebook page’ then you don’t have a strategy.

Some things to consider:

  • What is your target audience?
  • Where do these individuals congregate online?
  • What types of content are they discussing or consuming?

From the answers comes the proper channels and the proper messaging. Consult your friendly digital strategist to discuss the pros and cons of each channel and develop a cohesive social media strategy that fits perfectly with your larger digital strategy.