Would you believe me when I say that your digital analytics data –, from Google Analytics or WebTrends, et. al. –, might be hindering your ability to make some important strategic decisions?
Perhaps you are skeptical.
I understand. We do have A LOT of data in our analytics tools.
But sometimes, going outside our analytics tools can yield non-normal insights that can deliver a competitive advantage.
I want to share two such examples in this post. Neither is an example of just site analytics. Rather, it's all about beyond-the-site analytics. Or maybe, beyond-our-blinders analytics. Or omg-why-am-I-not-rocking-whats-clearly-rock-worthy analytics.
With all that set up, you'll be surprised to learn that both examples are bar charts! Both drop dead simple in their presentation, but incredible in the insights that they can bring to the fore.
In the first case one value will come from the site analytics tool, the other one from your CMS. In the second example, there is no site analytics data, that bar chart will tell you that you might be celebrating success too early when it comes to Search while pinpointing for you how high the upper limit is.
Excited? Let's learn a couple interesting analytical approaches, and have some fun.
#1: Content Creation – Content Consumption Balance Analysis.
This is a very simple analysis of the tussle between what you are providing vs. what the customers actually want. Originally, I'd recommended it for content, or B2B, sites;, over time I've come to rely on it for pretty much any type of company.
Content marketing is all the rage, as you are well aware. Consistently producing good content that is relevant to your users is very important. Your users are happier. But fresh, relevant content is also of value in our search engine optimization efforts, and it keeps a pipeline of socially shareable assets going. Both of these things combine to attract new audiences for our business.
The challenge is in determining what to produce, what content to market? In answering that question we often get trapped in "top ten pages viewed" type reports in our digital analytics tools. Sadly, these show a narrow, siloed viewed of any website.
Try this on your site … total the percentage of unique pageviews in the top ten rows of your most viewed pages report. What's the total? I'm confident it will be a tiny percentage. I'm sure you are going to discover that an astonishing percent of consumption is in rows beyond the top ten or twenty.
So how do we escape the narrow view? How can we look at tens of thousands of rows of data? How do we find a better balance between producing content that we like producing and content that our audiences actually crave?
Think of how difficult those questions are for Texas Instruments (or your website) to answer. There is sooooo much content there. How do we focus, and prioritize?
Here's a very simple way to start.
Step One: Count the amount of content in each area of your site. This data will be in your CMS platform. For www.ti.com the content clusters might be: Products, Applications, Tools & Software, Support, Community, Sample & Buy, etc. For my beloved www.nytimes.com it might be World, US, Politics, Business, DealBook, Technology, Sports, Science, Health, Arts and Style. A shampoo company might be represented by these clusters: Expert Access, Personal Consultation, Products, Looks & Trends, Science, Samples & Offers.
Step Two: Count the unique pageviews in each of those areas. This data will be in your web analytics tool.
Unique pageviews is a count of the number of visits where a page is viewed, and in this case it is our proxy for interest. [Unique pageviews essentially removes multiple views of the page in each visit.]
Step Three: Plot this amazingly insightful bar chart (in this case for the shampoo/beauty products company)…..
In blue is the percentage of content in each section, and in red are the unique pageviews.
You'll always find something delightful when you plot this for your own site. But the first thing you'll note are the big mismatches.
In this case the business has a ton of content in Personal Consultation, Products and Looks & Trends areas and yet almost no one who visits your site seems to care about it (as intimated by how many people visit that section). The highest amount of content is in the Science area, yet it only accounts for 10% of consumption.
The other side is not pretty either. There is a ton of interest in Expert Access, Samples & Offers and About your company. Yet you don't have nearly as much content in those areas. Not good either.
Now, be aware that we are not looking for a perfect straight line match. No siree, Bob! All the blue and red bars won't align, and perhaps they should not (after all we have to sell product! :)).
But, you don't want vast mismatches either.
What is the point in producing expensive videos on Looks & Trends when no one seems to care? And perhaps we need to figure out how to invest more in Expert Access because that seems to be the #1 thing people want.
[And can't you just see how this really deep understanding of customer interest, based on their data and not your opinions or, worse, an "expert's" opinion, will be incredible when it comes to fueling your social media strategy? Engagement will rain down from the sky in torrents!]
An amazingly simple, yet deeply insightful, analysis that raises valuable questions. All waiting for you at the intersection of your CMS data (% content) and your Digital Analytics platform (% unique pageviews).
This graph will just be the first important step.
I encourage a quick qualitative analysis of the content as well.
Is the content in Personal Consultation and Looks & Trends complete garbage? If it is then you want to raise the quality before you lay off the staff that is producing that content. And by layoff I mean lovingly reassign to productive areas. :)
Another cross-validation strategy I often use is to deploy the "greatest survey in the world ," and ask people the three golden questions: Why are you here? Were you able to complete your task? If not, why not?
The answers provide incredible context about why people really come to your site and deliver additional insights about where you invest in content production.
But it all starts with the graph.
Go do one for your own site. I promise it will be revealing. More than that, it will bring more customer-centricity to your digital efforts. And what do happier customers deliver? More revenue!
#2:Quantifying the Missed, Search, Opportunity.
Given current trends in how people seek out content online, how they look for answers to their problems, hunt for the next great product to solve their life problems…. it has become a benchmark that around half of your traffic should come via search engines like Bing, Google, Yandex, Baidu and others.
An obsession with SEO and PPC is pretty much warranted in most companies, across platforms (desktop, mobile – it is particularly heartbreaking how poor most companies do on mobile platforms).
That said, it might surprise you that even today most companies don't know how profoundly they are missing the giganto opportunity that Search provides. There are many reasons for this. Management does not get it, they have no online products so why care, they are doing Facebook ads and really what else does anyone else need, yada, yada, yada.
I believe one of the most important reasons for undervaluing the Search opportunity is: Data!
Data as in the source that a company uses to determine if their Search efforts are succeeding or failing. Data as in their web analytics tool of choice. Google Analytics. SiteCatalyst. WebTrends. Others.
What? Data you have is making you blind? Yes. Let me explain.
When you log into Google Analytics and you see this graph for Search traffic (SEO + PPC), would you declare your Search efforts to be a resounding success and order champagne for everyone?
Most likely yes. And I would not fault you for doing that. This company has made impressive progress with acquiring ever more traffic via search engines.
Sadly this graph only reflects optimization of the local maxima.
What's missing from the celebration is the answer to this question: What does the global maxima look like?
In other words, what percentage of all the people you could possibly have captured at the search engine were you actually able to capture? What is the upper limit for what the above graph represents?
An amazing question, right?
If our search traffic was up 150% year-over-year, should it have been up 20,000% year-over-year because there is that much demand out there? And it is not up that much because our Search program is simply not ambitious enough? Or worse, because we stink?
Your web analytics tool can't answer that question because it does not have the data, hence you are unable to make the smartest possible decision about your Search success.
But fear not, this is a solvable problem.
This bar chart attempts to answer that question by showing you the demand that was at the search engine, and the percentage that you, in this case a travel company, captured….
If you were this travel company, the bar graph might take your breath away.
You are all about booking hotel rooms, selling airline tickets, renting cars, and you've invested enormous sums in high margin activity like booking cruises (entire ships!) and up-selling lucrative activities and excursions.
Yet your magnificent search strategy (SEO + PPC) resulted in you capturing such a small percentage of the demand!
Remember these are not random people you target on TV or Radio whose intention/relevance you are utterly clueless about. These were actual people who are raising their hands and essentially saying "sell to me, I want something you have!" To think you just managed to get those little green bars' worth.
But, remember our blue Analytics graph above? According to that we are totally rocking Search!
Yes, that is true and you should be happy about that (local maxima). You should not be satisfied. In fact you should be downright hungry/angry/happy because of the orange bars (the global maxima!).
For every Search (or other media platform) at a strategic level you should ask yourself this question: Are we optimizing for a local maxima or a global maxima?
I would recommend that latter. It is harder, more fun and you get to deliver crazy business success!
Then the question becomes…. where do you get this valuable orange-green graph?
There are two ways to look at the data you see. Impression Share or Click Share.
In both cases you have to do a bunch of work, the good news is that this is strategic analysis and you don't do it every single day (unless you absolutely insist on wasting your time).
Search Impression Share.
Traditional marketers (especially those that grew up with TV, billboards, or digital display advertising) try to solve for impressions. "How many times did people search for xyz, of those how many times did my website show up on the search results page, paid plus organic?" How many impressions did our brand get?
Not a problem. For Google you can use the AdWords Keyword Tool to get the data you are looking for. (For other search engines please reach out to your Account Manager at that company, they'll share this with you in 20 seconds.)
Here's what the screen will look like…
The query you run, like I'm doing for Market Motive, my startup that offers certification courses in Analytics. SEO, PPC, Mobile marketing, will return Ad Group ideas and Keyword ideas.
You'll be able to see a lot of fun data, but we are interested in two columns: Ad Share and Search Share.
Here are the official definitions:
This statistic describes the percentage of time that your ad is triggered. This statistic is specific to Google search performance only for your targeted country or territory.
This statistic describes the percentage of time that your website appeared on the first page of organic results. This statistic is specific to Google search performance only for your targeted country or territory
Essentially your Impression Share for Paid and Organic search results for the last 30 days.
It would be really cool to get this data clustered in your business categories (example: Hotels, Airlines, Rental Cars, Travel Leisure Activities, etc). You can't. You'll get individual keywords or clustered by Ad Group ideas. Extra work for you to download the data and aggregate it, but it is very valuable data so put in the extra effort.
The Ad Groups view is pretty helpful from an aggregated perspective. For Market Motive for example it gives: Certification Programs, Training Courses, Training and Certification, Online Classes, etc., etc. From there you can see how using Ad Share and Search Share I can create my own Orange-Green graph for Impression Share.
There are all kinds of filters you can explore in the AdWords Keyword Tool for mobile or desktop or language or countries etc.
The data is aggregated, but remember you are not trying to pinpoint the last click here. You are trying to get a very broad understanding of how much of the share of shelf you are successful in capturing from a strategic perspective.
Note: You'll only see Ad Share and Search Share data if your business' AdWords account is connected to your login. I.E. only proven owners of the data can see it.
Search Click Share.
For me personally this is a lot more fun.
My site could show up in search results a million times (so tons of impression on Google/Bing) and yet I might never get a single click. Even if I'm ranked #1 (Organic or Paid), I might have terrible copy in the SERPs or my Ad. Worse, my PPC ad might always be #8. Or my Organic result has not site links showing up or my Organic strategy is from 1969 and not yet adopted for Universal Search awesomeness.
So I like measuring Click Share, I don't like measuring impressions as a success of anything for my search strategy.
Of all the people who searched on www.bing.com for my specific keyword, or my specific business category, how many did I manage to attract to my website?
Really cool, right?
It will really put that blue graph from my web analytics tool in context. It will really help me understand my global maxima for search. Or something close to it.
You have two sub-choices to get your Search Click Share metric.
You can use a competitive intelligence tool like www.compete.com and run a Keyword Destinations report.
My query above is for airline tickets. I get a whole bunch of cool data, including how much I or my competitors are getting (Volume column), along with the distribution of Paid and Natural for the aforementioned volume of clicks.
You can create our orange-green graph from this data.
Compete is a competitive intelligence (CI) tool and you should spend some time understanding how CI tools collect data: 8 Competitive Intelligence Data Sources & Best Practices. Perhaps there is no greater place to remember GIGO than CI tools.
Another wonderful option for this data is to directly go to the source of the data, the search engine.
If you reach out to your Account Manager at Bing, Google, Yahoo! or other search engines, then they will be able to directly give you the Search Click Share orange-green graph.
The colors might look different and the data might be a visual representation rather than giving you a specific number down to the 45th decimal point (as I said earlier that is actually not that important)….
Usually the search engine will give you your Search Click Share, yellow bar above, for each of your business categories (a multi-channel retailer above). The overall size of the opportunity is represented by the light gray bar. Some of the sophisticated search engines will also index your performance against a peer leader (dark gray above).
The collection of these three elements will deliver the type of mind-blowing context that changes the way you think about Search, the size of the opportunity and the success you've achieved thus far.
Now you'll not only have my orange-green, you'll also know that while you and your category peer leader might think they are mortal enemies and fighting a zero sum game, the pie in reality is huge (represented by the light gray). Both of you need to internalize this new scale, identify who these new "enemies" are, and develop a new game plan to win.
This data (remember, it’s strategic analysis) helps you re-imagine your Search strategy, your digital focus areas and how you define, measure and reward success, or recognize the scope of failure, by your digital marketing team / agency.
So if your search account has an assigned Account Manager, ask them to give you this view of Click Share for your business lines. If you don't have an assigned Account Manager, consider using a competitive intelligence source like Compete or looking at the impression share data from the AdWords Keyword tool.
If I had to summarize this entire post: Step outside your web analytics tool. Ask smarter questions. Win big.
As always, it is your turn now.
Does your company, or perhaps you, use either of these two bar charts? If yes, which one do you find more actionable? If no, what changes might they drive in your digital strategy? Do you have other examples of data from outside site analytics tools that you find incredibly insightful?
Please share your recommendations, wisdom, critique and experiences via comments.