Posts Tagged ‘segmentation’
Google Analytics has a design approach to web analytics software that differs from many of its competitors. Whereas some tools require you to pre-define anything you want to track (such as events, page names and campaign data), Google Analytics allows you to define these in the code or URL of a page, and simply accepts whatever data is thrown at it. This greatly cuts down on the cost, in both time and money, of implementing and maintaining a Google Analytics account. The ease of implementation has been a huge win for Google Analytics.
However, this philosophy comes at a price. Because it indiscriminately accepts any data it’s given, it accepts any data it’s given. The result is that, if someone with the right skills is feeling particularly malicious, they can vandalize and seriously distort your business’ data. There are two ways this can be done.
We’ve been aware of these potential issues for some time now, but we wrestled a bit with the decision of whether or not to post this. On one hand, we like to share our knowledge and, since this is a very real fact about Google Analytics, it’s good for GA users to be aware of it. On the other hand, we’re potentially teaching people how to mess with someone’s GA deployment. Ultimately we decided on transparency and honesty — after all, we’re also going to tell you what you can do to protect yourself from these. But we must begin with a caveat: we do not endorse doing anything like this. We offer this information so you can be aware of potential security risks with your own data, and take the necessary steps to protect your data integrity. We are strong supporters of the Web Analyst’s Code of Ethics, and though that code doesn’t say much about messing with others’ data, the idea is generally to be open and honest with data.
(Update: I should also point out that Google Analytics is not alone in being vulnerable to some of this. The approach to campaigns and ease of copying other data makes it easier than with some tools, I think, but those stem from Google’s strengths rather than weakness. I offer Google Analytics up because they don’t have a service level agreement for everyone, and hence it’s up to you to protect some of your data. Despite any vulnerability, I do want to be clear that Google Analytics is a fine tool and this alone is not cause for alarm, just something to be aware of when implementing this tool, and by extension, others like it.)
With that out of the way, here are the potential exploits we’ve seen:
I am getting most of my research done now while I rock the baby to sleep every night. He’s not much of a sleeper so I am getting a LOT of work done.
Last night something in particular jumped out at me that could be the mostinteresting piece of industry news I have read all year. Eric Peterson of WebAnalyticsDemystified is working with the Web Analytics Association to build a web analyst ‘code of ethics’, so that we as an industry can take a stand on how we want to deal with the terabytes of personal information that we work through every day.
(As an aside, it’s great to see WA Demystified and the WAA working together on such an important issue. Based on the twitterblogosphere there have been some WestSideStoryesque Sharks-Jets moments in the past….)
Mr. Peterson has written a great first shot on goal at a code that all analysts can use and buy into – and our respective stakeholders (Both bosses and site visitors) will be able to read to better understand and trust our work. I am sure that this code will evolve over the coming months and the Napkyn team is both looking at them and planning to adopt them, but this blog isn’t to talk about things that I feel need to be changed. I would like to contribute by explaining why this code is awesome.
Now a code of Ethics isn’t a set of rules, they are a set of guidelines. If someone decides to do something sketchy with personal data, there won’t be a WAA SWAT team at their cube the next day. So why am I excited about it? The key points are below.
One of the most rewarding aspects of doing web analysis for my clients is seeing them buy into the concepts and recommendations that I make.
Is this a True New Visitor?
Rather than thinking of web analysis as purely a reporting medium, when clients see that the insight from web analytics is relevant to their business and actionable, everyone wins.
Often, Napkyn takes on clients who have vast experience in marketing and merchandise, but are not accustomed to using these same skills on the web.
The True New Visitor
During a Napkyn brainstorming session, we had to think of a term for new visitors to a client website who had no prior knowledge of the client’s brand (I’ll save the custom segment secret sauce for a later blog post). Calling these visitors simply ‘new visitors’ wouldn’t be correct, because they have some previous interaction with the company’s brand.
So we called this segment of website visitors ‘True New Visitors’.
That Brief History of Web Analytics is a tough act to follow, but I’ll give it my best shot with a few ways that paying attention to your web analytics can add a lot of value to your email marketing efforts.
Don't just fire your emails out. Take a little time to see what happens afterward!
First of all: Are your emails properly tracked? In other words, do you know how much money you’re making from each email that you send out? If not, you must read this blog post about tracking your emails.
Your email vendor likely provides you with some basic metrics about how effective your send-outs are. Looking over your open rate, click-through rate, and number of complaints (unsubscriptions) is a great start–and very important in its own right–but there’s a lot more data to examine that can make your email send-outs even more effective.
In Google Analytics, you can create a custom segment to show where your email traffic is landing and how well your landing pages are doing for converting these visitors. Overall (site) bounce rate for email traffic is a good start in determining whether your emails bring visitors to content (products, articles, etc) that they’re interested in, but there’s more that can be done…
We’re in the thick of working on our monthly digital analysis reports
here at Napykn. At this point, we’re bringing together ideas developed from last month’s reports, looking at the most recent month’s data and refining our techniques based on our readings from numerous online sources.
Recently, we’ve been working with a few catalog-based companies who are increasingly shifting their focus into online sales. One proven segmenting technique that we’ve been recommending to these clients is to register alternate domain names and direct their catalog-based traffic to these domains.
It’s not a new idea. Anyone with a cursory knowledge of landing page optimization will tell you to register a particular domain name in order to draw in a particular group of visitors. But in the case of catalogers, we’re using it to segment their traffic into two sources:
- Visitors who use the website to make orders based on the catalog, and;
- Visitors who found the website through other means (organic or paid search, referring sites, etc.)
For example, a catalog company with the domain redfiretrucks.com also distributes a catalog. In the catalog itself, suggest to readers that they visit redfiretruckscatalog.com (and then it can be as simple as just redirecting the traffic – or you can do more interesting things with behavioral targeting). This way, we will know which website visitors have read the catalog, and which visitors are a product of the company’s online marketing efforts.
For $10-$15 per year, registering an additional domain name is a small investment to help give some order to the chaos of your online traffic.
So let’s think about ways to apply the concept of the ‘Sentinel page’
to your business.
First, think about the biggest group of mostly irrelevant traffic you have. By this I mean a segment of visitors that either cannot or most likely will not convert, either because it is not possible or because your site will not properly speak to the visitor’s intent. For example…
- eCommerce Business that only sells in the US: Anyone outside the US would be a ‘sentinel segment’.
- Irrelevent Products: Like a company that sells snowmobiles. I am guessing latin america would be a ‘sentinel segment’.
- Any business with high amounts of organic search traffic: Almost every business gets a certain kind of traffic from natural search that is irrelevant.
- Name confusion: If you had a site that sells ‘bermuda shorts’ and you see that you get a sizable group of visits that are looking for ‘bermuda vacations’.
Now we have a statistically significant segment that will not likely achieve the goals of your site, and your site will most likely not satisfy their intent. Let’s build a landing page to push them to.
Write targeted copy that attempts to satisfy the requirements of this segment. You know they aren’t going to convert, so try and give them what they are looking for. It will get you goodwill, and increase the quality of the data the rest of your site is generating because the sentinel page will separate out most of the irrelevant segment.
For example, in the case of the eCommerce business that only sells into the US:
- Build a page for European visitors. Use a tool like BTBuckets to autoforward all visitors from Europe to your ‘European Visitor Landing page”.
- On the page, let this visitor type know that you don’t ship to Europe, but provide some helpful links to either interesting pages for your product category, or directly to sites that DO ship to Europe (you could even become an affiliate!).
By creating an interstitial ‘sentinel page’ between a group of irrelevant traffic and your main site, you can both increase the effectiveness of the segment and the accuracy of your web analytics data.
I can’t wait for the next great idea I get from a client.
I have never had a client call
where I didn’t learn something new and interesting. As the digital analyst, we end up in an interesting intersection in a clients staff and vendor ecosystem where we get to see and talk about everything that happens online. We are monitoring the effects of detailed traffic generation initiatives, multivariate and landing page programs, advanced email campaigns…you name it.
One of our customers is an enterprise marketing software firm. Their product is designed to allow major online brands to survey their site visitors and better understand their motivation and needs. It’s great stuff. However, there is a ‘powered by’ link in the surveys that leads back to their site. This generates a fairly significant number of consumer traffic to a business to business website. This means:
- Bounce rates on pages with this ‘application referred’ traffic are very high.
- Associated conversions to this traffic type and all associated pages are very low.
For a site whose goal is to generate as many quality sales leads as possible, this traffic segment creates havoc with reporting.
Napkyn’s recommendation to the client was to create a specific landing page for this visitor type, with messaging designed to manage the overall intent of this segment, which is to find out ‘What happens to the information I just put in this survey, and is it safe?’. The landing page will still have a sales lead specific call to action, as a small percentage of this segment are potential customers. However in satisfying the initial information requirements of the overall segment, we will increase the lead-flow from this traffic type, and decrease the negative impact on overall page reports.
At this point in the conversation, the client said, “So what you want us to do is build a ‘Sentinel page’. It will sit between certain types of traffic and the main corporate site to separate the wheat from the chaff, and ensure that our overall site data stays clean.”
Eureka. I hadn’t thought about it that way before, but I liked it so much I stole the phrase.
So how can we apply this to your business? What should a Sentinel page say to weed the valuable visitors from the irrelevant traffic? We’ll be looking at these angles in my next post.
What do you think?
In a previous post I referenced the importance of considering only ‘convert-able’ traffic when looking at a goal conversion rate, i.e. only look at US visitor data if you don’t ship or service outside the US.
The reason that you always look at conversion when analyzing web data is because it allows you to always answer the “So What?” questions you receive when talking about data.
Lets use a few made up ‘boss conversations’ to illustrate:
No Conversion Data
“Ms. VP, our time spent per session has gone up 200% with European Visitors”
“….it’s just interesting is all….of course I’ll leave.”
“Ms. VP, our time spent per session has gone up 200% with European Visitors”
“Well, as time on site has gone up, conversion has gone down. Looking further into why, I see a high number of european views of our About Us and Shipping pages. I think we should add more up front information about our overseas shipping program and see how that impacts these numbers”
“I get it now. Make the change, keep me in the loop, and I want to give you a raise.” (or something like that)
You get the point.
Now if you want to take things a step further, there is a way to tie segmentation into conversion analysis to create an even clearer picture.
While there is such a thing as no-value visitor (one whom you can never convert), the majority of your visitors are normally people you can. Breaking down this group into segments based on how close they potentially are to your business allows you to better tie conversions into both analysis and optimization planning.
The example below is for an online merchant who has an average order size of 60-100 dollars, and the potential for repeat sales. The first thing we do is make a list of all the subsets of their traffic based on how close they are to the business, from cold to hot.
- New Visitors, unbranded natural search
- New Visitors, branded search
- New Visitors, Paid Search
- New Visitors, Direct Type In
- Repeat Visitors, all search
- Repeat Visitors, Direct type in
- Visitors from Email Marketing Campaigns
- Visitors who have created a wishlist or account (but no first purchase)
- Visitors from Shopping Cart abandoner triggered email
- Existing Customer visits
Each of these segments of your visitor population will have a completely different conversion rate, likely moving from quite low on the cold end of the spectrum to well above site average on the hot side.
This exercise alone will have you looking at your traffic in a totally different light, and asking a whole new set of questions that will allow you to optimize your business. Once you add in the percentage of traffic for each segment, you start to see significant opportunity costs in addressing the lower end of the spectrum. This will ultimately lead to the ability to plan to move visitors up the scale through mechanisms that don’t have adverse affects on the hotter categories.
Let’s go back to the discussion with the VP:
Conversion and Segmentation Data
“Ms. VP, while our conversion rate went up slighly last month overall, it was due to increased conversion from existing customers who got our summer specials email. Removing that visitor type means that we would have had lower than average conversions.”
“So What? We had a better month.”
“Our better month was because of a discount to people who have bought from us before, about 6% of our traffic. The majority of our underperformance comes from paid search new visitors, about 30% of our traffic. This group has no familiarity with our company, and our paid keywords all push visitors to our homepage. If we were to craft one or more custom landing pages for this visitor type, we would be able to educate on our business, increase sales, and optimize this segment over time.”
“I like the cut of your jib. Bring me a proposal for the landing page initiative, and pack your stuff. You’re corner office material.” (or something like that)
The more you understand who your visitors are in relation to ‘the heart’ of your business, and why they do (or don’t do) what you want online, the better you can influence decisionmaking with information and have an impact on your business.
This post’s takeaway: Try making a list similar to the one above for your business, and look at each segment’s conversion rate for the month of July. See what kind of questions it brings up and how much easier it is to define a plan of action.