The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Referring Sites Report in Google Analytics: Know the Value of Websites Linking to You


Which referring sites provide you the most value?I truly enjoy speaking with people about web marketing. Actually, some will say that you can’t shut me up! I had a great conversation with a marketing manager the other day about sources of revenue for a website. He wasn’t extremely familiar with how web analytics packages work, so I was explaining how you can find out which referring sites are the most valuable to your business. The conversation took off (I could literally see a light bulb going on above his head) so I pulled out my laptop and started showing off some of the functionality in Google Analytics. Based on that conversation, it hit me that a blog post detailing the Referring Sites report in Google Analytics would be a good idea. And here it is!

What’s a Referring Site?
The definition of a referring site is any website (blog, forum, affiliate, etc.) that sends visitors to your website. That may be a bit vague, so let me expand on that definition. In most web analytics packages, traffic is broken down by referring sites, search engine traffic, and direct traffic. These are the most basic sources of traffic for your website. Back to referring sites, so a blog post that mentions your product, a social media site with a link to your website, and a link from an affiliate website are all examples of a referring site. The beautiful part about the top web analytics packages is that they all provide detailed reporting for referring websites. As you know from previous posts, I’m a big advocate of both Coremetrics and Google Analytics, but this post just focuses on the referring sites report in the latest version of Google Analytics.

So What Can You See in the Referring Sites Report?
Plenty. Let’s start with the top level referring sites report. As usual in Google Analytics (GA), you can view trending at the top of the report with the list of referring sites at the bottom of the report. You can view a summary of the data you’re analyzing right below the trending and you can easily view the referring sites data by Site Usage, Goal Conversion, and E-commerce. By the way, GA has one of the most intuitive user interfaces among the most popular web analytics packages. Under Site Usage, you can see statistics such as Visits, Average Time on Site, and Bounce Rate, which provides a great starting point. In addition, Google Analytics enables you to visit the referring site right from the report (in a new window). I love this feature for when I see a new referring site show up and I’m not familiar with the website in question. At the top level of this report, you can also click Goal Conversion to see the conversion rate for all of your events, again, broken down by referring site. So, you can see Ecommerce conversion rate, RSS subscriptions, newsletter registrations, etc. for each referring site in your report. Last, but definitely not least, you can click the E-Commerce tab to see revenue by referring site. In addition, GA enables you to segment your data with a quick dropdown labeled “Segment”. I’ll cover this later, but as an example, you can click the segment dropdown and choose “Landing Page” to see the top landing pages that people visit from your referring sites.

Screenshot of the Referring Sites Report in Google Analytics:
--Note, these are just sample screenshots. They don't match the examples.--
The Referring Sites Report in Google Analytics

So in just minutes, you were able to see your top referring sites by visitors, goal conversion, and revenue. Now, isn’t this a great way to determine the value of a site linking to you? Imagine this…a website you just recently advertised with said, “We sent 14,000 visitors your way last week. Isn’t that outstanding?” Well sure, but it looks like 60% of those visitors bounced, only 3% signed up for our newsletter, and those 14,000 visitors only generated $400 in revenue. It’s powerful to have that data. :-)

Drill Into Your Referring Sites Report
Now many of you might be excited about what I just explained above. But why stop there? {OK, I don't mean to sound like a late night tv commercial for the craftmatic bed!} Let’s go one layer deeper into the referring sites report. I’ll click one of the top referring sites in the report. By clicking the site, you are now telling Google Analytics to focus on this one site and give you more data about this referring site. Once in the report, you will see trending again up top, which is a great way to see data over time for this specific website. For example, you might see a spike in activity, a gradual trend upwards or downwards… Also notice that GA provides the same report layout, keeping it consistent while you analyze different activities. This makes it very easy to find what you’re looking for and to become extremely proficient at finding the data you need. You’ll notice the segment dropdown again, this time set to Referral Path, which is the actual path from within the referring website (where visitors actually came from.) This is outstanding because you can now find the exact location on the site that people are finding your link or advertisement. I can’t tell you how many times a new referring site pops up, and I immediately want to see the actual page where the link resides. Was it a blog post, a mention on a forum, one of our ads, etc? GA enables you to view the URL in a new window right from the reporting.

Screenshot of a Specific Referring Site in Google Analytics:
A Specific Referring Site in Google Analytics


So now we are getting more granular. At the top level, you knew that x amount of visitors came from the website. Now you can see x number of URL’s within the referring site that drove visitors to your website. And, you can easily click each tab like we did earlier to view each URL by Site Usage, Goal Conversion, and E-commerce. In addition, you can use the “Segment” dropdown to segment your data. For example, you can choose Landing Page to see which pages on your website visitors are landing on, you can click City or Region to see where they are geographically located, or you can click User Defined if you set up any custom segmentation. For example, you might have set up a segment for blog traffic. If you click User Defined, you would be able to view statistics based on people coming from this referring site, but that also that visited your blog.

Yes, Drill Into Your Reporting Even Further…
Why stop at the previous step? If you click one of the URL’s within your referring site report, you can view statistics for that one URL. You are telling GA to just give you data for that one URL and not the entire referring site. In this report, you can view trending up top for the URL in question (again, not for the entire site, just the URL). You can visit that URL in a new window, you can segment your data via the Segment dropdown, and you can view a summary of statistics at the bottom of the report. And once again, you can click each tab to view Site Usage, Goal Conversion, and E-Commerce for that one URL. Nice.

Screenshot of a Specific Link (URL) in the Referring Sites Report:
A Specific Link or URL in Google Analytics


How About a Hypothetical Referring Sites Example?
You launched a big campaign last week. There are 2 sites in particular that you want to compare. Both are vying for your long-term business, so this is a test for each of them. You are running advertising on both sites in various locations. Both sites show up in your referring sites report. Great. Let’s take a closer look.

Each site sent ~8,000 visitors your way. Immediately you see that 1 site had a 55% bounce rate and the other had a 10% bounce rate. Interesting. You click Goal Conversion and see that the first site (with a high bounce rate) had a 2% conversion rate and the second site with a 10% bounce rate had an 8% conversion rate. Your case is getting stronger for site #2, right? Let’s drill deeper into site #2. You see 4 URL’s from this referring site that drove visitors to your site. The trending (up top) shows a downward trend from the day it launched through yesterday. What’s the reason? The most popular link was on their blog, which based on new content being added daily to the blog, the post mentioning your site drops down the blog homepage and eventually off of the homepage. You still get traffic, but not as much. Bookmark that in your mind for future campaigns. Maybe you should focus your efforts on more blog related content versus other efforts. You check revenue by URL, which backs up the mention in the blog post. It sent the most traffic and revenue your way. Let’s pop back out and check the first site (the one with a high bounce rate and lower conversion rate). You are now viewing the referring site by URL. Most of the visitors came through the homepage advertisement, but that also had the highest bounce rate. Was it the creative? Or, since visitors that arrived from links deeper in the site stayed longer and converted at a higher rate, does that reflect a more valuable type of visitor? For example, are you getting more value from deeper site advertising? Sure, it won’t send you as much traffic, but you want a high return on investment (ROI), which means revenue. Traffic is good, but not if 55% of it bounces.

We can keep going, but I’ll stop my hypothetical analysis here! I hope you can see how powerful this set of reports can be for determining high quality traffic. And “High Quality” can be determined by you, and not the people sending you the traffic. ;-) What gets me even more excited is that web analytics packages are only getting stronger. You will be able to do more and more as the popular analytics packages evolve. Stay tuned for more posts about other web analytics reporting. I know that there’s a lot to cover, so subscribe to my feed and keep up to date on my latest posts.

GG

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Effective Email Marketing with BuyCostumes.com


Buying Halloween Costumes from BuyCostumes.comI love Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday of the year. It’s the only time during the year when I can scare people without the fear of getting arrested! :-) In the past, buying costumes was always something I did at one of those fly by night Halloween stores that pops up a month before the 31st and is gone by November 1st. Thanks to the web, buying costumes has gotten much easier. I’ve been a big fan of BuyCostumes.com for some time now. I’ve been buying from them for 3 years and each purchase has been a great buying experience. So, when I received their latest email, which prompted me to buy 2 costumes and some cool accessories, I figured it would be a ghoul, I mean good time to write a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a while.

Email Marketing and BuyCostumes.com
BuyCostumes.com has always done a good job at keeping in touch with me. And based on my positive experience with them, along with my love for Halloween, I’m also happy to check out their site to see their latest and greatest costumes and offers. Now, I've explained in a previous post how I believe that email marketing to your internal list is the most powerful online marketing channel. How powerful? Here's a good example. I remember speaking with a friend of mine about a month ago regarding Halloween (he also has 2 kids.) I explained that I needed to get moving and figure out what costume I was going to buy and that I just received a good offer via email. He quickly said, “You mean the email from BuyCostumes.com?” That’s powerful. So, I wanted to focus on what I believe are some of the key elements of BuyCostumes.com's effective email marketing.

The Email Creative:
Their email marketing creative always intrigues me enough that I click through to the site. They provide great visuals of their products and always provide excellent offers (like the most recent offer: spend $100 and receive $20 off). I knew I would spend $100, so their offer was a perfect fit. In addition, they always provide their offers in the upper right hand corner in a bold and dark font (easy to see). I also know to always look there to find the details of the offer. The subject lines they use are direct and typically explain the offer.

For example:
“Still time to save - 3 Killer Halloween Offers”.
This was a reminder, so I was already aware of the offers. Their creative always includes html text and images, giving people with connection issues or email clients that block images a way to find out more information. I can’t tell you how many times I have received emails with one block image, which can kill your campaign’s response rate…

They Don’t Bombard Me (Unless it’s Halloween...)
I never feel like they bombard with me emails, but I also don’t feel like they’ve been out of touch for too long. Yes, as we’re approaching Halloween, their email activity has definitely picked up (as you would guess it would), but it’s Halloween and I understand this is their big quarter. They have provided great offers along the way, all with a relatively short lifespan (which is smart). It’s hard to give people a sense of urgency if you give them a month to buy something. Actually, with email, an offer that expires in a month will probably never get used. Your email will drop below the fold in someone’s inbox, never to be seen again. Most email campaigns have a 3 to 5 day lifespan, and I’ve rarely seen a lifespan of more than 2 weeks.

Here’s an example:
BuyCostumes.com sent me an email with 3 great offers, which I left in my inbox. Then, like everyone, I was slammed with work. I made a mental note of one of the offers and moved on to my work. So, a few days later, I received a reminder, which immediately drove me to act. That's smart email marketing. I always recommend blasting a follow up to people that haven’t responded to the first email, if possible. The reason is simple…people are ridiculously busy and it’s entirely too easy for your email to fall below the fold in someone’s inbox. Then it’s history. A reminder is a smart way to take "should-have-been conversions" to "actual conversions".

BuyCostumes.com (the website) Meets Your Expectations
When you click through to a site like BuyCostumes.com, your hope is that it meets your expectations. The website should have a great selection, be easy to navigate, offer excellent imaging functionality so you can see costumes up close and personal, provide fun accessories you might need to polish off your Halloween costume, and of course offer competitive pricing. BuyCostumes.com definitely does not fall short. I’m a big horror fan, so to click Adult Costumes, Horror, and then drill into costumes for men makes it very easy for me to target what I’m looking for. Then they enable you to drill down even further by clicking a subcategory within Horror, like Horror Movies. The costume listing dynamically changes based on your criteria. With thousands of costumes on the website, this functionality makes finding the one you want much, much easier.

Product Detail Page on BuyCostumes.comProduct Detail Page Imaging Functionality (Pan and Zoom)
Once you find a costume, you can easily zoom into an image (which opens in a new window). You can pan and zoom to get a better look at the costume, which is almost essential if you are serious about your costumes (like I am). Although they do have pan and zoom functionality, I actually think BuyCostumes.com can do better in this category. But, if you break it down, the fact of the matter is that you can get a good look at the costume using their current functionality. More on this later in my post.


Ratings and Reviews
They provide ratings and customer reviews, but I didn’t see many reviews… That’s a double-edged sword with providing reviews. It looks really bad when nobody is reviewing your products! So, I’ll help them out here…

Customers of BuyCostumes.com, review your products, let other customers know what you think, and make their buying experience even better! I just added a review so I’ve done my job. :-)

{Update: BuyCostumes.com launched a campaign to drive more reviews, and they added a nice incentive for customers (a chance to win a BuyCostumes-sponsored $150 Halloween Party). I recently received the email from BuyCostumes asking me to review the costumes that I just purchased. More about this later in the post.}

Search Functionality and Breadcrumb Trails
They have excellent search functionality, enabling you to search specific sections of the site and not just the entire site. They also provide a breadcrumb trail so you can easily find your way back to previous screens.

A Great Closer - Easy Ordering Process and Timely Shipping
I have always found it easy to order from BuyCostumes.com. Once you choose "checkout", it’s basically one step to submit your order. Their email correspondence is fast and provides you with all of the information you need (order details, track your order, contact customer service, etc.) Shipping is fast and I’ve never had a problem with the speed at which it arrives or the condition of the packaging. They’ve built up a lot of trust with me, which is extremely hard to gain and very easy to lose.

Possible Improvements for BuyCostumes.com
Don’t get me wrong, as you can see I think they do a great job. That said, there are always ways to improve.

* Segment their email list
I have always purchased horror costumes, yet I always get their general emails (which tells me that they haven’t segmented their list). It would be nice to get an email based on my previous purchases. For example, “Hi Glenn. We’ve noticed that you like our horror costumes. Here are the new horror costumes for 2007. Or, here are the top horror costumes from 2006.” So on and so forth. By the way, there are probably a thousand link-bait ideas for them, being a costume website!

* Provide Better Imaging Functionality
As I stated earlier, they provide good pan and zoom functionality, but I still think there is better technology out there. I think this type of imaging functionality is critical for buying costumes, so it would be a good idea for them to take a look at other solutions.

* Better Ratings and Reviews
This is not easy, since it’s based on customer participation. That said, they could encourage their customers to join the community and improve the site. Actually, it could be a good way to launch a word of mouth marketing campaign. For example, how many customers are as happy with BuyCostumes.com as I am? Probably quite a few. Tapping into passionate customers will only help their business, and WOM has become one of the hottest areas in web marketing. Also, how about a blog?? How fun would that be?

{Update: As I mentioned earlier, BuyCostumes launched a campaign to drive more reviews (very smart.) I received an email asking me to review my costumes for a chance to win a BuyCostumes-sponsored $150 Halloween Party. I explained above that I thought BuyCostumes.com should launch a campaign like this, and coincidentally, they did! And in true BuyCostumes form, they did a great job with the campaign. The email creative was clear and helpful, even providing the actual costumes you purchased with a link to the review form. Once you hit the site, the review form was extremely thorough, which will definitely help future buyers make informed decisions. And my favorite piece of functionality…you can upload photos of yourself (or your friends) in the costume! Fantastic idea… Great User Generated Content (UGC). The results? After browsing the site today, I see many more reviews. The campaign is working and I’m confident that these new customer reviews will help BuyCostumes meet and exceed customer expectations.}

I’ll close my post with two points…
1. If you are a Halloween fan, definitely check out BuyCostumes.com (and sign up for their email alerts). You may never buy a costume from another store or website.

2. If you are a web marketer and want to see a great example of effective email marketing, driving customers to a site that meets (or exceeds) their expectations, then you should also visit BuyCostumes.com and sign up for their email alerts (see link above).

By the way, I’ll be set up outside my house again for those of you trick or treating in my neighborhood…that is, if you dare…{cue evil laughter}. ;-)

GG

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

TIVO HD DVR at $300 - Too Little, Too Late?


TIVO HD DVR Pricing Forces Customer Evangelist To Buy Competing DVRAs I mentioned in a previous post, I was a TIVO fanatic. Notice the word “was”. From the second I bought my first TIVO, I became a word of mouth marketing machine for the product. As a customer evangelist, I was my own viral marketing channel for TIVO (no pun intended). It’s what every company strives for, right? Get people so jazzed up about your product that they find ways to tell the world about it. Whether it’s in a blog post, at a party, at the park with your kids, at work, on a plane, train, etc. You get the point! So, with HD booming over the past few years and everyone buying HD TV’s, how would TIVO respond? If you want HD resolution, then you didn’t want to use a standard definition TIVO box. TIVO fans eagerly waited to see…

Well Hello Competitors!
As cable and satellite companies (like Comcast in my area) introduced their DVR’s at extremely reasonable prices, more and more people started to try them out. They were integrated into the cable box, supported by the cable company, and the installation just seemed “cleaner” than installing a TIVO. Again, TIVO fans waited to see what TIVO would do… Personally, at that time, I loved TIVO and would not give the Comcast DVR a try just yet… I was a loyal TIVO fan.

TIVO Offers Their HD DVR!!!...
…At $800? What? When most HD TV’s range from $1200 - $2500, you want to charge me a whopping $800 for a DVR?? Seriously? No, come on…you’re pulling my leg. There’s an extra zero in there or something. OK, I’m going overboard here, but this was my first reaction. So I was stuck…I loved TIVO, didn’t want to go to the dark side of using a cable company, but I wanted my HD TV!! I really have no idea what TIVO was thinking. They basically thumbed their noses at their top customers…the people that spread the word about their product like wildfire. Forcing them to make a decision like this was dead wrong. And, that TIVO's marketing department thought this was a good idea scares me as a professional.

The Call to TIVO Customer Service
So, reluctantly, I made the move to Comcast’s HD DVR, and overall, I was happy with the product. There are definitely some things I don’t like about it, but overall, I’m happy. Then I had to call TIVO to cancel one of my plans (I have 2 TIVO’s and one would remain hooked up to a standard def TV). The woman I spoke with was extremely nice and customer service oriented. I was expecting the AOL-like method of not letting you cancel the plan, but I didn’t experience that. She was professional, empathetic, and made me feel that I was her first call of the day (which I knew wasn’t the case…) Now, you should notice the word I used above “empathetic”. This is because when she asked why I was canceling one of my plans, I explained that $800 was ridiculous and although I love my TIVO, the smart decision was to make a move to Comcast. Then I waited to here her pitch for staying, why the HD TIVO was worth the $800, so on and forth. But, I didn’t hear that at all…you know what I heard?? “I hear you Glenn…to be honest, it’s hard for us to even afford the $800”. What?? That’s from a TIVO employee for crying out loud!! Now, if that’s not a reason to second guess your marketing strategy, then I don’t know what is.

Months Later, TIVO introduces their “Affordable” HD DVR
Great. Whoopee. Now I feel like they insulted my intelligence. This is what I was asking for months ago… I actually would have paid $400 back then. I said this all along to my wife. “If they were only a few hundred dollars less...” $400 was my limit, but they kept it at $800. Now, after making the move to Comcast, I’m supposed to do a double flip and buy the $300 HD TIVO? I don’t think so. Note that the $300 TIVO is a different product than the $800, but for the average customer, that doesn't matter.

It’s funny. In the past, whenever I heard someone talking about TIVO, I got a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. Now when I hear “TIVO”, it’s a much different feeling, like I just walked into a cheesy car dealership and a guy with a skinny tie, wearing floods, with a toothpick sticking out of his mouth just approached me. “Hey boss, looking for a new car? We've got some great prices...”

It’s funny how a marketing strategy can take someone from being a company fanatic to someone writing a post like this. Ouch. It truly is sad.

So, what do you think? Is it too little, too late?

GG

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

5 More Ways to Lower Your Bounce Rate (and Increase Your ROAS)


5 Ways to Lower Your Bounce Rate and Increase Your ROASWith robust web analytics packages in place, you have the ability to see which campaign landing pages are working for you and which ones aren’t. Bounce Rate has received a lot of coverage recently and I’ve also received a lot of questions about it. Why? Well, theoretically, if you can lower your bounce rate on a campaign landing page, you have a greater chance of converting visitors. That leads to more revenue, a higher Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) and happy executives. :-)

On that note, don’t let an online marketing consultant or agency tell you that Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) isn’t important. That’s a classic example of someone not wanting to be accountable for the online marketing budget you will be handing them. Sure, there are other factors that come into play, but if you will be handing a consultant or agency tens of thousands of dollars per month in ad spend, then you should expect a return on that ad spend. If a consultant or agency won’t focus on how much revenue they will generate based on your ad spend (if that's your goal), run, don’t walk…and never look back. :-0

Back to my post! There are many things you can do to help lower your bounce rate and I have listed 5 additional ways below. So without further ado:

1. Listen to Your Customers
What a crazy idea, right? ;-) I know sometimes online marketers want to leverage their web analytics packages for everything, but there is so much you can learn from your customers and visitors. So, how do you reach out to them? How about using on-site surveys, tapping into your customer advisory board, or leveraging focus groups? This is one of the reasons I believe your in-house email list is so important…you can leverage your list to gain critical feedback. For example, what information are they looking for, in what order, how much information is too much, do reviews matter, or will video make a difference. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is so don’t be afraid to interact with other PEOPLE!

2. Use Multivariate Testing
Based on the feedback you receive from your customers and visitors (see above), you can start to craft your multivariate test for your campaign landing pages. Note, I explained how you can leverage multivariate testing using Google Website Optimizer in another post so I won’t go into detail on how to set up your test here. So, based on customer feedback, choose your landing page elements, create several versions of each element, and launch your test to scientifically determine the best combination of elements in order to decrease bounce rate and increase conversion. I can hear more sales coming in already. ;-)

3. Provide a Clear Internal Linking Structure
Let’s face it, sometimes people aren’t specifically interested in what you are selling on your campaign landing page. But, you don’t need to lose that traffic and revenue. You might have other items they are interested in and you need to let them know those other products are there. Using a clear navigation and linking structure, you can make sure those visitors don’t bounce and that they easily find the additional information. For example, you can provide a well structured right sidebar with related links. You can also provide related links below your product and pricing information.

For example, if someone visits your campaign landing page for HD TV’s and she doesn't see a 42" Plasma on the page (but you actually have 5 models that are elsewhere on the site), she might bounce! However, if you provided a right sidebar link that says "view other models by size and type", you might be able to lower your bounce rate and increase your conversion rate. This is a simple example, but you get the point!

4. Pay Attention to Your Creative Layout
We all know that there are many ways you can lay out a campaign landing page. We also know that certain visuals, colors, calls to action, and functionality impact conversion differently (based on a number of factors). When you are marketing a product or service, the right creative layout can be critical to increasing conversion. Your actual landing page layout will completely depend on your target market, your products, your pitch, and any additional information that can help drive sales. For some products, your landing page may need to contain interactivity using flash or ajax, but other products may need more text content to build credibility in the buyer’s mind. Some elements that you can consider testing are more product visuals on the page, better imaging functionality (pan and zoom), customer reviews, video (if it makes sense for your product), a wizard to help customers choose the right version of your product, etc. Then you can use multivariate testing to optimize the page content to increase conversion (see above).

5. Drive High Quality Traffic to Your Site (OK, not such an easy task...)
Who cares if you get 50,000 visitors from an online marketing campaign if 75% of those visitors bounce. You should analyze your traffic sources to see where you are getting the highest quality visitors from. Look for red flags…like a site you are advertising on that sends traffic yielding a high bounce rate and low conversion rate. Also, ensure you set goals for sales, registrations, rss subscriptions, etc. Make sure you understand where traffic is coming from and what those visitors are doing on your site. Track as many variables as you can so you can make educated decisions down the line.

For example, you might find that a recent email marketing campaign yielded lower traffic numbers than your paid search campaign, but higher revenue and registrations. In addition, you might find that 60% of the people from your paid search campaign bounced. You would obviously want to take a hard look at your paid search campaign to see why this is happening. Are you targeting the right keywords, is your landing page throwing off visitors, or is it the wrong product selection. You might find that minor changes can yield a much higher Return on Ad Spend (ROAS).

In closing, there are many things you can do to help lower your bounce rate. It’s definitely hard work, but can yield great results. My recommendation is that you start small, review your results and then expand your efforts. Little by little, you can start to optimize your landing pages and increase the effectiveness of your campaigns. So what are you waiting for? Stop reading this post and get moving! :-)

GG

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