Brett Crosby is the co-founder of Urchin Software, which was acquired by Google in 2005 and whose on-demand version is now Google Analytics, a free service that generates detailed statistics about Web site visitors. He currently is group manager of Google Analytics. BtoB recently asked Crosby about trends in search marketing and Web site optimization.
BtoB: By all accounts Google is snaring an increasing amount of search queries and marketing budgets, even as the economy worsens. To what do you attribute that success?
Crosby: Google is doing lots of things on behalf of businesses, and b-to-b folks in particular. Consider Web analytics. It allows you to not fly blind when doing search engine optimization and search engine marketing—to see how people got to your site, what they did once they were there and if they converted into one of your goals.
We also offer for free Web Site Optimizer, which enables you to test different recipes on a Web page, like headlines and buttons, to make sure you have the best page possible for customers. With lead generation as a primary goal for many b-to-b companies, the whole point is do more of the stuff that works well.
BtoB: What's been the impact of Google Analytics within the marketing suite?
Crosby: When I started this three years ago, the Web analytics industry was a niche interest for many. But because Google Analytics was free and had Google's moniker on it, it drove awareness of the concept. This is critical to understand: Many more people within businesses now have a stake in their Web sites, where they didn't think of it before.
BtoB: What are some of the important features in the new release?
Crosby: It now offers advanced segmentation, allowing you to create segments of visitors to your site so you can separate buyers from tire kickers, see what made them convert and replicate that elsewhere on the site. The neat thing is, when you set up a segment, it's not just from that point forward, but shows information about all historical data as well. This is one of the most significant new features.
Another new feature is custom reporting. We offer reports on what we feel are most significant, but now users can set up reports they'd like to see.
We also launched something called Motion Charts; it's like a bubble chart, where the biggest bubbles represent, for example, the most bounces per page or the most purchases. And it plays over time, so you can watch this information unfold over, say, the last three months, so you can watch for spikes. It's also a great presentation tool, so you can tell a story to your colleagues and the C-suite.
Another thing we're proud of is AdSense integration with Google Analytics. A lot of Google customers rely on AdSense as a supplemental source of revenue, and now with Google Analytics you can see which articles are most popular and which ads are being clicked on, what revenue per page is being generated and more. Our customers have been asking for this for a long time.
BtoB: What does the future hold for search marketing and Web site optimization?
Crosby: I came from a startup background and lived through the dot-com bust. Today's worldwide economy mirrors what happened back then to the high-tech industry. As a result, I think you'll see the same thing now as you saw back then, which is people getting more interested in making sure everything they're doing is trackable and efficient. The bulk of people's ad and marketing focus will be on things that work, with a proven ROI.
The Web site now is the window into what customers want. You can see what they're searching for, and once they're on your site you can see what they're voting for and the exact content they want. If you're doing a good job of listening to what they're telling you, you'll be rewarded. If not, you'll suffer the consequences. M