But simply bringing new prospects to its Web site wasn't enough. To maximize sales, Discount Tire needed to know more about the actions that its visitors were taking once they clicked on a text ad. The retailer, already a big user of Google AdWords, in which advertisers can select their own keywords and create their own ads, recently deployed Google Analytics to better measure its online marketing tactics.
The results were immediate. With the new tool in place, Discount Tire was able to tell which landing pages worked best and which ones tripped up customers, how users entered and exited the site, and where and why they halted a purchase midstream. These data give "us the insight we need to quickly see which step in the online sales process is broken so we can fix it immediately," says Mike Bolland, Discount Tire's e-business supervisor.
Closed-loop marketing analysis
Because Google's Analytics tool was integrated with Discount Tire's keyword search campaigns, the retailer was able to achieve the type of closed-loop marketing analysis that all advertisers crave -- ultimately helping it determine the return on investment of search marketing efforts. In the first week using it, sales increased 14%. Since then, the company has gotten even better at turning those tire-kickers into buyers.
The ability to track and measure data is often touted as online marketing's great leap forward. And when it comes to keyword search advertising and Web site-driven marketing, actionable data are available in abundance.
On the search-marketing side, advertisers focus on optimizing their keyword bids and measuring conversion rates, often using packed-to-the-gills spreadsheets managed by teams of interns, but increasingly with the aid of keyword bid management tools as well.
On the Web site side, marketers use Web analytics tools to track page views and user behavior, and measure site traffic by metrics including geography, time of day and more.
Keyword management and Web analysis
Bringing those two sides together -- keyword management and Web analysis -- has emerged as the next big thing in search engine marketing."With our clients, we obviously can record a lot of keyword-level data: how much did the keyword cost, how many times was it clicked on, how much traffic is it generating," says Jeremy Cornfeldt, VP-search and affiliate marketing for Carat Fusion. "What we've begun focusing on a lot more is trying to tie this into the Web analytics side, so we can really understand the lifetime value of [search] customers."
For instance, Carat has worked with AOL extensively to track how customers that enter AOL sites via keyword search ads cross-pollinate across different AOL properties and return over time. "It's about much more than just the initial click-through," he says.
Driving much of the focus around this important new capability was Google's decision last fall to make its Google Analytics tool available for free. Since Analytics is deeply integrated with the popular AdWords program, market-watchers seemed most interested in whether Google's entrance would amount to a death sentence for Web analysis vendors such as WebTrends, WebSideStory, CoreMetrics, Omniture and others. So far, that hasn't been the case. Instead, those vendors re-focused on their larger, more profitable customers and turned their attention to adding capabilities such as search keyword management.
'Marketing performance management'
"At the high end of the market, we're moving toward providing tools for marketing performance management, not just Web analytics," says Jason Palmer, VP-products at Web analytics vendor WebTrends. In March, it delivered the latest version of its platform with a new component, Marketing Lab, designed to give marketers a full, lifetime view of customer online behavior.
There's no doubt that, traditionally, search marketing and Web analysis have been "two separate skill sets," says Matt Spiegel, managing director of Resolution Media, the search marketing arm of Omnicom Group. "But because of how big search marketing has become, and how many first-time visitors an effective search campaign brings in, combining those two capabilities has become very important. I love the idea of the two sides coming together in one tool set."
Ease of use may be the biggest gain as search optimization and Web analysis converge.
Performance marketing company Adteractive purchases keyword ads for its clients through all the major search providers. It uses a Web analytics tool from vendor WebSideStory to track customer behavior. "If they are not converting, we can figure out why," says David Rodnitzky, director-search engine marketing.
Increased monetized click-through rates
For one client, Adteractive found 17% of keyword click-through visitors were leaving a landing page via a link that inadvertently caused them to leave the site. By moving that link, they were able to increase the site's monetized keyword click-through rates by almost 40%, he says.
For more and more advertisers, it's the combination of keyword management and Web site analytics that makes such Web site-and online sales-optimization possible.