Solution: Stop reading reports and start asking questions.
Broken links, missing images and "Buy Now" buttons below the scroll line are just a few of the slap-on-the-forehead, "d'oh! mistakes" that a Web analytics tool can reveal right out of the box. Many Web managers have crowed about the immediate ROI on such tools, only to discover the next round of payback is not so easy.
Eventually, it's no longer worth the effort. What's a customer experience optimizer to do? Web analytics reports are worthless (except as alarms) unless you have a specific goal in mind.
Start with a particular customer process and follow it from landing page to conversion. Ask, "How can we improve the success rate?" A clickstream report is now a baseline. Make a change to your site and look at the difference between the baseline and the new report to determine if it was a good change or not.
You have now entered the realm of experimentation and continuous improvement where you are digging for gold rather than harvesting fruit.
The benefits of Web analytics tools are enjoyed by those who use them as tools and not as a crystal ball. Here are a few questions to get you started:
Which lead source generates the most profitable customers?
Which call to action resonates best with my target audience?
Which combination of product offerings generates the most profitable sales?
Which product description moves the most closeout products?
Which loyalty program results in the most return purchase?
The future no longer belongs to the report reader but to the data miner. Not the one with the most reports, but the one who asks the best questions.
Jim Sterne is the producer of the Emetrics Summit (www.emetrics.org).
Problem: We use both paid and organic search. What's the best way to integrate the two?
Solution: The goal of an integrated SEM campaign is to deliver better overall ROI than search engine optimization and pay-per-click campaigns yield independently. To conduct an integrated campaign, the following best practices should be taken into account.
Treat the search results page as a distinct medium. SEO and pay-per-click both function via the medium of the search engine results page. Users interact with search engine results pages holistically, so integrated SEM campaigns should plan and strategize holistically for this medium.
Deliver a coherent message on the search results page. Integrated SEM makes it possible to dramatically increase mind share on the search results medium overall when the following factors are considered:
Do the paid ad text and the organic listing "snippet" have a similar language, style and tone?
Are they both highly ranked?
Do the paid ads display URL and the organic listing's URL match up?
Optimize continually. Integrated SEM involves continually and dynamically optimizing across the organic and paid formats. For example, have new competitors entered the pay-per-click ad space and dramatically increased costs? Has the physical layout of the search results page changed and made pay-per-click listings more prominent than organic ones for a particular key phrase? Is one format simply performing better or more poorly than expected? Integrated SEM providers should monitor factors like these and many others to dynamically optimize campaigns.
Use pay-per-click as research for SEO. Paid search marketing data are an underutilized resource for easily and inexpensively determining the ROI potential for key phrases prior to implementing them in the organic search format. Traffic estimations, which are a staple of pre-SEO research and planning, can tell us how many searches to expect for a key phrase, but data from paid search can tell us what the users who queried the key phrase were actually interested in. By sharing research and conducting integrated strategy and planning sessions, the integrated SEM team leverages all available data to produce the best possible campaigns.
Problem: CAN-SPAM says that e-mail opt-out mechanisms must be "clear and conspicuous." Can I use double-step opt-outs or unsubscribe buttons to do this in a way that is beneficial to both me and the recipient?
Solution: The philosophy of the Federal Trade Commission that comes through in its proposed regulations is that senders cannot encumber opt-outs with extraneous requirements. Thinking about the consumer experience can guide the answer to this problem. What is most appealing to your recipient is an opt-out process that is easy and directly to the point. If they no longer wish to receive your messages, chances are they are not going to want to fill out a survey as to why or give any personally identifiable information. In addition, if you make the opt-out process difficult, you are probably also increasing the likelihood that they will hit the "Report Spam" button, which in turn could damage your reputation.
A mechanism that is easy to use, however, is not automatically CAN-SPAM compliant. For example, the "Unsubscribe" button is a tool provided by some ISPs. The button replaces the spam button directly in the users' interface for trusted senders. However, CAN-SPAM specifies that commercial e-mails should contain an opt-out mechanism, so it is important to remember that senders cannot abdicate responsibility for providing an e-mail- or Web-based opt-out mechanism inside each commercial e-mail.
As important as it is to have an easy opt-out process for your receivers, it is especially important to properly manage and honor those requests to avoid careless and potentially costly mistakes. Some opt-out tips to consider:
Handle the requests in real time?at present, you only have 10 days to process these (and this time may be reduced to three days in the future).
Look into compliance service providers designed to manage opt-out requests across all your e-mail lists.
If you're using e-mail as an opt-out mechanism, turn off your spam filter on e-mail addresses dedicated to receive opt-outs. Above all, your opt-out process needs to work.
Justin B. Weiss is the director of legislative affairs for the Email Sender & Provider Coalition (www.espcoalition.org/).