Month: October 2012

Web Analytics: Why You Should Still Look at Your Raw Data


When you think about how much time you spend in your various analytics platforms, I bet you haven’t really divided up your work between pre-packaged “Cooked” reports and actual raw data.  Pre-packaged would include custom queries, comparison tables, excel inspired dashboards with lots of fun colors and charts affirming just how smart you are, and so on.  On the other hand, the land of raw data includes just that; raw, un-segmented data representing an unfiltered, ungrouped look at every aspect of a visit from the time of entry to the time of departure.  All actions including individual page bounce rate, time on site, pages viewed, time on page, path flow, conversion, purchase, day since last visit, etc. are all included here.

Website Analytics

Most of us practitioners produce very beautiful, color-rich reporting for our various department heads, C-level folks (no numbers here, just colors and arrows right), Customer service and Sales to name a few.

However, what some of us seem to be moving away from is the actual data itself.  I am seeing more and more “canned” comparison reporting that is the culmination of several data variables showing nothing more than a macro view of a complete mash-up of data points.  Unfortunately, it tells me nothing as to what is truly driving the trend/path/action/etc.  Even worse, it can often lead to the wrong conclusion and resulting course of action.

Two great examples presented at the Online Marketing Summit conference by my colleague Adam Proehl illustrate the point.

Online Metrics


The first is very simply, averages can be very misleading.  In this case, while the average lake depth is 3 feet, there can still be some deep spots.  I like to think of bounce rate as another area where it can give very misleading information and resulting conclusions.  Bounce rate is a great metric, but its greatness comes with a price and that is time.  You need time to look at bounce rates across all landing pages, not just site wide or home page.  Doing so can give you a false sense of security or a false sense of fear.

The second illustration demonstrates the problems you can encounter when co-mingling two variables and drawing conclusions about them.  In this case my partner Adam, while a very accomplished hoopster, is certainly no king of the rock.

Web Analytics

While these examples are a bit tongue and cheek, I hope the point is clear.  Regardless of what form your data and reporting takes at its final stages, try to always start with the raw data itself.  You will gain tremendous insights about true performance across various segments and in turn you will be able to give your teams and recipients more insights and better direction going forward.


SEO Breadcrumbs: Not Just for the Birds


In the Hansel and Gretel story, Hansel takes a slice of bread and leaves a trail of bread crumbs for them to follow home. SEO Bread CrumbsHowever, they find that the birds have eaten the crumbs and they are lost in the woods. I’m sure that in 1812 the Brothers Grimm had no idea that part of the story would be translated into a piece of SEO lexicon 200 years later.

Breadcrumbs add another form of navigation for visitors to find their way around your Web site. They build out a logical path of what pages have been visited and where they are in relation to the site flow.

Breadcrumbs are important in two areas of site development; SEO and usability. From a usability standpoint, breadcrumbs can reduce the number of clicks for users to get back to a higher level page that they were on previously. For this blog, we are going to focus on the benefits of breadcrumbs at an SEO level.

  1. Types – There are 3 main types of breadcrumbs.
    1. Path (History) based breadcrumbs: These lay out the visitors’ path as they traversed your site. These breadcrumbs are dynamically generated and build your click path as you get more granular into the site. Below is an example from Best Buy:
    2. Location based: These pages are static and show the location of the site visitor in relation to site structure.
    3. Attribute based: Breadcrumbs that give categorical information before diving into details. These are generally used on large shopping sites with a lot of products.
  2. Benefits – Breadcrumbs provide many advantages from a SEO level.
    1. Keyword Density – Breadcrumbs add focused keywords to your page building density.
    2. Emphasis – If programmed correctly in your CSS, the Search Engines will recognize the keywords as being most important on their page. Amazon has its breadcrumbs set up to be H1 tags.
    3. Indexation – Google is integrating breadcrumb navigation into its search results creating a relevant link deep into the site.
  3. Best Practices – Breadcrumbs can be a wonderful addition to your site but follow these best practices before following the crumbs:
    1. Usage – Do not use as purely as an SEO tactic. Breadcrumbs should only be added if you have the type of site to support it. They should be dynamically generated and add to a user’s experience.
    2. Navigation – Breadcrumbs are an ADDITION to your navigation, not a replacement.
    3. Keywords – Be short and concise with your breadcrumbs. Do not stuff with keywords and make unreadable (see point a).
    4. Consistency – Dynamically generated on every page is the best way to build.
    5. Linking – Utilize good anchor text and allow the user to click to previous pages in the crumb trail. The last/current page the user is on should not be clickable.


Google Webmaster Tools Adds “Disavow Links” Tool


Google Webmaster ToolsSince the release of the Google Panda algorithm update in 2011, which can harm a site’s rankings if there are too many spammy or low quality links, webmasters have been trying to find a way to remove links to their site from outside sites. Up until now all you could do was ask the other site to remove the link or make it a no-follow, but that can be a hard battle to win since nobody wants to admit their site is low quality.

Google just announced the release of a new functionality in Webmaster Tools that will allow you to disavow a link to your site. It is still a best practice to try and remove the links manually, but if that fails you now have another option. It is not exactly the same as a no-follow tag, but is very, very close.

Matt Cutt’s warning: 

Do not use this tool unless you know what you are doing and you are sure that you need it. Do not be the guy (or gal) who accidentally disavows every link going to your website. If you are that guy, you should not use this tool.

Here is the URL for the new Google Disavow Link Tool:

What to do:

  1. Create a text file with one URL per line – to ignore a domain use domain:url
  2. Upload your file
  3. Review the warnings to make sure you really want to proceed
  4. Submit

This process will not be immediate so you have to be patient as you wait for Google to re-crawl your site. As Google re-crawls your site the links you’ve uploaded will get annotated. This process could take a few weeks to avoid webmasters from turning links on and off in real time.

This will be a great way to get rid of those links that you have not been able to remove up until now and allow us webmasters to focus on acquiring those high-quality links that Google is looking for.

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6 Tips for Email Frequency


Email Marketing GuidelinesAfter spending days working on copy for a client’s email campaign, I started thinking about the age old question of how much really is too much. No matter what, you always want to have an onboarding/welcome campaign going on, but what happens after that? Do you send weekly? Bi-weekly? Monthly? Every 2 days? There’s no silver bullet, but there are a few things you can do to get an idea of how to answer that question for your business.

  1. Ask your customers. If you can, build a preference center and let the customer decide what they want to receive and when.
  2. Test it out. If a preference center is not an option, take a small sample of your list and try mailing to them at different cadences and see where people drop off.
  3. Segment. If you have a handful of different types of messages, make sure you’re getting the right one to the right person. If it’s relevant, they’ll most likely look it.
  4. Build a recurring email campaign. A weekly special or monthly newsletter will keep people coming back for more. Just make sure it doesn’t go stale.
  5. Keep an eye on the numbers. If your list starts to drop, then go back to the drawing the board and try it again.
  6. Ask your customers. Send them short email and ask them how often they want to receive emails from you.

In simple terms, you need to know your customers to give them what they want. We all have more ways to find information about your company than ever before, so utilize them. Use social media as customer research for your email programs. Use blogs to refer people back to your email program and use your website to promote it.

There is a saturation point, you just have to do find where that is for your business and tailor your email program for that.

Ready to advance your email marketing skills? Check out the on-demand class, "Email Offers, Timing, and Frequency". OMI instructor Karen Talavera will go beyond the basics into email optimization, and will reveal offer s that work, how to determine optimal frequency, when to send emails, and more. Get Instant Access Now.


3 Reasons B2B Marketers Should Blog


Many B2B companies that I work with are skeptical of creating a blog for various reasons. Most are concerned over starting something that they won’t keep up with, but also that it may harm the reputation of their company. Here are a couple of the most common reasons I’ve heard:

  • I don’t have anything interesting to say
  • Nobody wants to read it
  • We don’t have resources that will commit to writing blogs

Do these sounds familiar to you? These are some of the most common reasons companies don’t start blogs, but here are 3 reasons why you should consider starting a blog.

  1. Blogging keeps your website fresh and dynamic. This, for many of our clients in the B2B space, is something that can be difficult to maintain.
  2. It's easier than you think. You don’t have to blog every day. Start out small and work up to more frequent posts.
  3. Shorten the sales cycle by creating blog content that answers your prospects' questions. Talk with your sales team to learn what questions or concerns they have been hearing from customers most often and then write a blog post to answer those. This will provide a topic and be helpful for not only the sales team but your customers.

Ready to get started? Great! Here's your 3 point-blogging checklist:

  • ID your audience and do research on who they are and what they are interested in learning more about
  • Create a calendar for the month of blog post topics, but write a couple extra to back fill in case the need should arise
  • Set goals for the blog to help gauge success. Goals can include: increase SEO rankings, increase traffic to the site, help customers etc...

To learn more about B2B blogging, check out the class, "Corporate Blogging" by OMI instructor Jeremy Victor. You will learn: 

  • How to approach your blog with confidence
  • The framework for launching a blog
  • How to identify the necessary roles and select the right people to contribute
  • Techniques for working with contributors


Modern B2B Marketing: 5 Tips for Success from Jon Miller


I'm thrilled to announce that Jon Miller, VP Marketing, will be our guest speaker Tuesday, October 16, 2012 at our Digital Leaders Cocktail Hour [registration is free!] at our office in San Francisco, CA. Jon will present best practices for B2B marketing success, and talk about how to build a great career in digital marketing. We'll also mix and mingle over drinks with the best and brightest in digital marketing. Please reserve your seat now and join us.

Jon leads strategy and execution for all aspects of Marketo's thought leadership and content marketing programs. He is executive editor of the popular Marketo blog, Modern B2B Marketing, and author of the comprehensive handbook, The Definitive Guide to Marketing Metrics and Analytics. Jon holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Harvard College and has an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

1. What is modern B2B marketing?

As I wrote way back in 2007, the core tenants of Modern B2B Marketing is that modern marketers:

  • Know that customers control their attention and that marketers should engage when and how the customer wants
  • Create leverage by enabling and nurturing a community of customers, prospects, partners, and other influencers
  • Are left-brained (math and science over creativity and art)
  • Are accountable – and more influential as a result

2. Why is it important for B2B marketers to use marketing automation and adopt a modern approach to their marketing?

If you ask the VP Sales about their system of record, you’ll hear about CRM. If you ask the CFO, you’ll hear about ERP.  And you’ll get answers from the VP Support, VP Human Resources, and almost every other department in the enterprise.

But if you ask the CMO, you’ll hear crickets…. or something about a hodgepodge collection of spreadsheets and cobbled-on features to CRM.

The need for marketing departments to have a platform and system of record “of their own” is driving modern marketers to adopt marketing software – and especially marketing automation – at an accelerating rate.  And these investments can deliver amazing ROI.

Consider this:  The Marketo Benchmark on Revenue Performance (Sept 15, 2012) found that companies that use marketing automation source more pipeline from marketing, have more productive sales reps, and experience better revenue attainment.

3. What are the most common mistakes B2B marketers make?

It’s a mistake to take the responses to any campaign and call them leads. Downloading your paper, watching your demo or signing up for your Webinar doesn’t make someone a lead. Usually, these respondents are in the prebuying cycle and are just looking for information or researching. Without lead scoring to find the true leads, and lead nurturing to develop relationships with the rest, marketers are doomed to inefficient lead generation.

Second, marketers sometimes think that they’re doing lead nurturing by sending their contacts a monthly newsletter and an occasional Webinar invite. This is not lead nurturing; successful nurturing needs to be a personalized process for building individual relationships over time by (a) staying in the front of prospects’ minds with relevant, useful information and (b) watching and listening to each prospect and reacting in an appropriate way to accelerate his or her buying cycle with appropriate responses.

Third (and this is a bit self-serving but true nonetheless) it’s a mistake to try to implement modern demand-generation processes without marketing automation. You simply can’t keep track of all the appropriate activities, scores and next steps for each lead without technology to help — and it’s much cheaper to buy software to automate these processes than to hire people to manage it manually.

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4. For marketers just getting started in marketing automation, where should they begin?

Most categories of enterprise software are “all-or-nothing propositions” that require you to fully implement the new system, transforming your processes completely. But marketing automation is different.  Marketing automation can deliver fast results – but then requires ongoing usage and adapting business processes to get full benefit. The most successful users of marketing automation have a big vision for what they want to do, but deliver fast value and then evolve from there to drive maximum value.

In other words, go for the quick wins. Often, this is in a basic Lead Recycling strategy, or basic lead scoring to help prioritize sales time on the hottest leads and opportunities.

5. Where do you see the marketing automation industry headed in the next 5 years?

One of the biggest changes is that marketing automation is no longer so email-centric. Email is still important, but increasingly it’s just one of many channels used for developing relationships with leads.

For example, social is increasingly important. If you “Like” Marketo on Facebook and I can get my status updates to show up in your newsfeed, then I am nurturing the relationship – probably even more effectively than I would over email. The same is true for your LinkedIn today, Pinterest account, or any other channel where people can follow your brand.

On the lead scoring side, it’s no longer confined to behaviors just on the corporate website. What you tweet and who you follow can be important buying signs, just like visiting a pricing page.


What are Google Adwords Shared Budgets?


It can get overwhelming to manage multiple budgets across many campaigns. This is especially true when certain campaigns always hit their daily budget and others don’t. Factor in news events or promotions and that can drive up search results. Sometimes the day of the week will make an impact and you’ll find yourself rearranging each campaigns budget on a daily basis. The good news is Google Adwords just recently announced a new option for managing budgets like this called Shared Budgets.

Shared Budgets allows you to automatically move leftover budget to campaigns that are near their daily limit. If you identify which campaigns usually near their daily limit, you can opt them into the Shared Budget option found under "Shared Libraries".

This is a great option if, for example, your Remarketing campaign hits its daily budget consistently on the weekends. By implementing the Shared Budget option and identifying other campaigns that the Shared Budget can take from, you’ll eliminate the likelihood of your campaigns going dark for a few hours each night.


Top 3 Conversion Optimization Myths from #ConvCon


Conversion Conference Florida kicked off this morning in beautiful Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The event is packed—and I love meeting so many smart marketers who are passionate about ROI.

Now, the discipline of conversion optimization is full of many myths, including "red converts better than blue," "short pages always outperform long pages," and more.

In his information-rich session, How to Develop a Conversion Optimization Strategy, Chris Goward, President of conversion optimization consultancy WiderFunnel, shared his top 3 myths of conversion optimization:

Myth 1: Multivariate Testing Provides the Best Results

Think multivariate testing is superior to A/B testing? Think again.

According to Chris, multivariate testing takes too long to reach a statistically significant result. Marketers will achieve better results with A/B testing, with which they can focus on strategy and a very specific A/B test.

Myth 2: You Don't Need Controlled Testing

If you want to achieve continuous improvements in your conversion program, you must test in a controlled environment. Without a controlled environment, you will never know which variables positively (or negatively) impact your conversion rate.

Myth 3: Usability Testing is a Substitute for Conversion Optimization

Need to learn is a visitor is able to complete a desired action that you give them? Usability testing is your tool because everything needs to be validated.

But real conversion optimization is the intersection of persuasion marketing (the processes of motivating visitors to take action), experience design (removing barriers to action), and the scientific method (testing your hypotheses).


Keyword Density or ‘Aggressive SEO’


Keyword DensityKeywords are always a main focus of any SEO discussion. The Search Engines use your keywords to determine what your site, and ultimately each page, should be ranked for. Matt Cutts from Google recently talked about this in an article called Stop Obsessing about Keyword Density! A More Useful Keyword Strategy. In this column he provides a strategy of how to build keyword density without overly stuffing the page and making it unreadable. However, in our recent research we have found that Google does indeed index ‘keyword stuffing’ if done in a certain way.

First, let’s take a look at the basics. In my previous post, Blind Side SEO, I discussed that the basic blocking and tackling in SEO produce the best results. To build density and emphasis you need to:

  • Perform Robust Keyword Research – You need to rely on more than tools to build a comprehensive yet concise list of keywords
    • Use tools to start a base list (AdWords, SEMRush, Wordtracker, etc.)
    • Find your most searched AND clicked Paid Search keywords
    • Mine your analytics to find high-engagement keyword referrals
    • Monitor Social Media to determine how people talk about your brand, product and/or services
  • Analyze Content On The Page – Search Engines index content above the 'electronic fold' higher than content further down on the page. Ensure that you include your keywords in the following areas:
    • In the Meta Title Tag and Description
    • In the H1 and reinforced in the H2, H3…
    • In a keyword optimized or path-based breadcrumb on the page
    • In image ALT tags and link anchor text
    • Emphasized in the copy (bold, italic’s, color, size)
    • In the copy (but keep in mind readability)

Before diving into the case study I need to set a requirement. ‘Aggressive SEO’ only appears to work on sites with a high number of indexed pages, a high text-to-html ratio and in competitive keyword areas.

We work with clients in the highly competitive Car Industry. In this market, Paid Search terms are regularly $2-5 a click and there is heavy competition from National and Local dealers. SEO is paramount to their success. These sites are designed to integrate databases with millions of cars and trucks. Therefore, site structure and keyword placement are integral to driving up keyword density.

Case Study – We compared two sites that were very similar in SEO rankings, link popularity, traffic, etc. and used the same model car (GMC Acadia) in the same market to test their placement on Google.

  • Site A– A national aggregator of car information:
    • The searched vehicle term is dynamically inserted in the title, new search field and in the database listings (16 total mentions). They did not follow all best practices (listed above) for SEO optimization.
    • Code Summary – When searching through the source code we found:
      • 272 mentions of ‘Acadia’
      • 76 mentions of ‘GMC Acadia’
      • 0 mentions of ‘Used GMC Acadia’
  • Site B– A national aggregator of car information:
    • The searched vehicle term is dynamically inserted in the title, breadcrumb, H1, new search field and in the database listings (16 total). This content is very powerful as it is above the “electronic fold.”
    • The term GMC Acadia is “stuffed” into 30 ‘nearby’ markets and in 6 ‘model years’ in a “Fat Footer”.
    • Code Summary – When searching through the source code we found:
      • 166 mentions of ‘Acadia’
      • 117 mentions of ‘GMC Acadia’
      • 63 mentions of ‘Used GMC Acadia’

Case Study Summary
The keyword cloud for Site A shows what the Google Bot sees on the page. Although they mentioned Acadia hundreds of times, it does not have high prominence on the page. Inadvertently they have created prominence around a term (miles) that does not add SEO value.

For Site B they have clearly indicated what keywords are most important. There does not appear to be any ‘keyword stuffing’ since there are hundreds of other words on the page. They have mastered keyword density for specific pages.

Mentioning the keyword hundreds of times on one page surely goes against every one of Google’s best practices for White Hat SEO. Yet, when searching for the same term in Google we found that Site B was in the 2nd spot for the search term, even out-positioning many local dealers, while Site A did not appear in the first 5 pages.

I am not endorsing Black Hat SEO methods to increase density by any means. In fact, we are strong believers of building quality content that caters to your customers' specific needs. Yet, it appears that 'Aggressive SEO' has not been completely ferreted out with the Google Penguin update.

Summary of Recommendations

  • Utilize all best practices for content building
  • Ensure that the majority of content and keywords appear above the ‘electronic fold’
  • Create a "Fat Footer" and link to static pages dedicated to important keyword terms
  • If you have a lot of content, get more aggressive with ‘keyword use’. Aim for 3-5% density.
  • Increase Social Authority and sharing



3 Landing Page Lessons from Steve Jobs


Steve Jobs AppleFriday was the anniversary of Steve Jobs' passing.

Steve was brilliant innovator—who married stunning, user-friendly designs with the latest advancements in technology. He had an innate ability for developing products that consumers wanted, before they even realized it.

Now you're probably thinking: what can Steve teach us about landing pages? The answer is: a lot.

1. Never Stop Innovating

Apple is a powerhouse of innovation, having introduced game changers such as the PowerBook, iMac, iPhone, iPod, and iPad. But innovation doesn't come without risks (the Newton, anyone)? Yet, with great risks come great rewards, and even with some failures along the way, innovation combined with continuous iteration has made Apple one of the most innovative companies in history.

Landing page lesson: To achieve dramatic lifts in your landing page performance, you must innovate. Test completely new experiences, messaging, layouts, campaign goals etc. While new innovations in your conversion program may not always win, if you keep pushing the needle and iterate along the way, you'll achieve game-changing wins like Steve did.

2. Keep it Simple, Focused, and User-Friendly

Apple's products combine beautiful, streamlined designs, with functional, user-friendly features.  In fact, Steve credits his calligraphy class at Reed College as the inspiration behind Apple's beautiful typography, graphics, and design. The combination of beauty with smart, user-centric features is the magic that fuels Apple's tremendous appeal.

Landing page lesson: The best landing pages keep the user in mind. They combine 1) a clear, benefit-focused message 2) user-friendly, streamlined design 3) and a strong, obvious call-to-action. But effective landing pages can be beautiful and engaging, too. If you are ready to start innovating, combine the key ingredients of a classic direct response campaign, with a beautiful design like the one below from ion interactive. But make sure to test first. Because depending on your business, goals, and target audience, there is a chance that a page that resembles a BlackBerry Bold may actually outperform a page that takes a cue from the iPhone 5 (strange, I know).

Beautiful landing page design

3. Marry Strategy, Design, and Technology

Steve's success at Apple is due not only to the fact that his products are beautiful, but that they are powered by the latest advancements in technology. From the iPhone's touchscreen, to the iPod Nano, to the MacBook Air, Apple's simple, elegant products are powered by impressive, game-changing technology.

Landing page lesson: A nice, well-designed landing page without a testing solution is okay. And a landing page testing and optimization solution without a smart strategy might help you somewhat. But you'll achieve the best results by combining your marketer brilliance with robust technology.

Just like Apple does.

Learn how to drive more conversions with better landing pages.

Watch B2B Landing Page Best Practices for Successand discover proven techniques for creating and optimizing high-converting B2B landing pages. Access it FREE with a trial to the Online Marketing Institute. Get instant access now.