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Narrowing the analytics focus

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At the same time Web analytics tools are seeing their tracking increased in breadth and depth in, b-to-b marketers are working to focus their own attention on what really matters. “I focus on different areas at different times, but I try not to get too overwhelmed with the data,” said Lance R. Schneider, e-business manager at Budnick Converting. His company sells industrial tapes, so its Web site content is heavily weighted toward technical data sheets and customization options. Working with search engine company Google's Google Analytics, Schneider said he focuses on a few key metrics, such as bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who come to the site and immediately leave), and looks at others as time permits. Rather than paying too much attention to the overall number of visitors, Schneider said, he is focusing more on who those people are and what they are looking for. By defining “personas” for types of Web site visitors—for example, price-focused purchasing agents versus functionality-oriented engineers—he is working to create “navigation with a purpose” paths through the site and measure how efficiently they guide visitors to their goals. Understanding the different types of Web visitors lets you analyze their behavior better, said Stefan Heeke, Siemens Corp.'s director of interactive marketing and communications, global campaign measurement. For example, targeting a metric like “time on site” might be exactly the wrong thing to do for users whose goal is to find an answer quickly, Heeke said. In that case, he said, “It's really all about service: How we respond to an inquiry; how do people find stuff?” Personas are valuable for differentiating the customer support user from the sales prospect you would like to see spend more time with the Web site, said Bryan Eisenberg, a partner at Bryan & Jeffrey Eisenberg & Associates and a co-founder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. “Not all customers are equal, and not all Web sites are equal,” he said. “That's the value of segmentation.” By defining the personas, Eisenberg said, you can do a better job of measuring how well the site meets the needs of each group. If you want them to download white papers or view videos, you can track those things, then supplement the statistics with surveys that specifically ask users what task brought them to your site and whether they were successful, he said. In fact, Eisenberg thinks running the standard reports from a Web analytics tool without going further is a mistake. In a blog post titled “69 free (or low-cost) tools to improve your Web site,” he gives his No. 1 ranking to UserTesting.com, a service that makes usability testing affordable, letting you hire three or more reviewers for $29 each. So instead of inferring where people are getting lost on your Web site, you can have a tester tell you directly. Joe Hendershot, president of marketing firm B2B Inc., said he is intrigued by the possibility of extending the data he gets from Web analytics with a marketing automation tool that would also help him manage e-mail and advertising campaigns, as well as manage the leads captured from a Web site. “It's a way to monitor the persona of people who are visiting your Web site so you can deliver a sales-ready lead to the sales force.” That captured identification means that when they request something like a quote or a download, “you can monitor those people individually over time and score their level of engagement.” A similar capability is available from Unica Corp., another software vendor that views Web analytics as one component of a broader interactive marketing suite. “We will deal with as much or as little information is available; but, as we learn more about an individual, we will take advantage of that,” said Jay Henderson, Unica's director of product marketing. “Typically, the way it works is you give a little bit of content away for free, but then you have some premium content where they will trade a little bit of personal information for that content. Or, if they're browsing from work, often you can figure out what account that's related to based on IP address; and maybe later on, they give you their name or e-mail address. You can then bring forward the history of that individual who may have been browsing as an anonymous user.” Unica's software will also try to aggregate visitor contacts by company or domain, letting the marketer see what organizations are coming to the Web site, Henderson said. In b-to-b, that can be more important than looking at the behavior of individuals. Unica is one of several commercial analytics platforms, which can cost on average XYZ. But by far the most-used Web analytics tool (TRUE?) today is a free one offered by Google. Sam Sebastian, who heads the b-to-b and local-market segments at Google, said Google Analytics excels for those who want to keep things simple—and even may tell many users more than they want or need to know. “It's almost like using Excel or Word, where there's the basic functionality and then there are all the advanced features most of us never use,” Sebastian said. Instead of setting up reams of reports, he recommended “figuring out what the key metrics are and not going too crazy, especially in times of reduced resources.” Budnick's Schneider said Google Analytics has served him well so far, but added, “I was just on the Omniture Web site yesterday, downloading white papers and looking at webinars.” And while he hasn't yet been convinced to sign with the vendor (now a unit of Adobe Systems Inc.), Schneider said, “it's going to come down to price-to-value. If I can be convinced it will provide more in-depth insight than I ever could have imagined with the free tool, then we're going to jump on it.” M
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