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May 23, 2008

4 Easy Stats to Watch for in Analytics

Analytics is a dirty word to many web users. The word depicts tons of boring stats that only a select few individuals can make heads or tails of. Goal conversions, funnels, filters, and traffic sources make a user's head spin. Don't stop reading just yet. There are actually some easier stats to understand that will directly affect how your web site design.

Here's the good news - Most of the information is easy to find and easy to read

Here's the bad news - It requires actually exploring a few minutes to find these things. *gasp*

I know. I said this was going to be easy. It is easy once you know what to look for. I'm not going to walk you through the steps to find this information. That's your job, and I'd have to list the steps for each analytics. So, here are the 4 easy stats to watch for in Analytics and why they're important.

1 - Flash support - If your website uses any amount of flash at all, it is important to know if your users have flash and that they have the version you are using. If 10 percent of them do not then you have a problem. See? That was easy, right?

2 - Broadband - If you have a high percentage of dial-up users, and your site loads slow on dial-up, you'll want to address this fact. A previous client of mine had the opposite effect. Their dial-up users converted better than their broadband users. The assumption was that once a page loaded, any page at all, the users were committed.

3. Version of OS - No matter how much you love Linux or Mac, the majority of users are using Windows. All of your website's details should be PC friendly above all else.

4. Browser type - Every last detail of your site must work when using Internet Explorer. Over 90% of internet users are using it, so your page must be designed with IE in mind.

May 21, 2008

Make Sure Your Business Is In Front Of Your Customers Faces When They Want You

Last week I found 2 copies of the Yellow Pages, yes 2 delivered on different days, on my doorstep . You remember Yellow Pages, right? Those huge, thick old style books printed on real paper from trees that you used to have to flip through endlessly trying to find a location or phone number. Antiques, I know. I threw them away, or rather recycled them of course, not knowing I may actually need one one day. I can't remember the last time I did need one. With a world of information at my fingertips anytime I need or want it why would I need this relic? After all, all I need to do is type a few words into Google and they'll do the searching for me and present me with the best, most relevant information. Right? Well, not if your business isn't optimized on the web.

So last night I was looking for dinner. My boyfriend unfortunately got to pick dinner for the night, which of course was fried chicken, my least favorite. Well, I thought we must find a chicken joint that serves macaroni and cheese. If I'm forced to eat fried chicken there better be some cheese involved because, being from Wisconsin I know that it's not really food if it doesn't have cheese on it. But I digress. My boyfriend and I both knew there was a fast food chicken joint up the road from us but we couldn't agree on which one it was.

So, my search began. My boyfriend thought it was a Popeye's Chicken. So, I Googled Popeye's Chicken. The URL for the first result looked promising enough, www.popeyeschicken.com, but in the search results the title only said "WELCOME TO POPEYES!" Woah! First of all quit screaming at me (using all caps can give that impression on your users) and second of all where's the "fried chicken"? I guess they don't want people to find them when searching for fried chicken. I clicked through to the site and found the entire site is in flash so the search engines have know idea what this site is about. I navigate my way through the flash and find the menu. No mac & cheese. Bummer.

Okay, on to Church's Chicken. Googling Churchs Chicken, the search results show www.churchs.com, good. The title is simply "Church's Chicken", at least we know they have chicken. Now, this site is all flash too. Except more annoying as it has all these fancy effects and sounds. I navigate to the menu and wait for the animations to load and find - no mac & cheese!

Okay, obviously I'm not going to get my cheese with dinner. So, while still on the Church's Chicken site I decide to check the locator to determine if it's a Church's up the street. I type in Dallas, TX and the website tells me there are no restaurants in Dallas, TX. Come on now, it's Texas! Of course there are Church's Chicken...and many at that.

Frustrated now, I search for Churchs Chicken Dallas. Google results display a map at the top of the page and 10 links for various Church's locations all linking to churchs.com where the locator did not work. I click though to the map and see there's no restaurant indicated in my area. Okay, maybe that was a Popeye's after all. I Google Popeyes Chicken Dallas and I get the map results where they are all linking to www.popeyes.com instead of popeyeschicken.com. I opt for avoiding yet another dead end site and click through to the Google map. But there's no Popeye's Chicken near me anywhere!

About ready to give up on this whole internet thing (yes, I know that would leave me jobless), I give popeyes.com a chance. What do you know, another flash site. Yippee! This site is different from the first so I check the previous site and finally notice that popeyeschicken.com is only for the Washington DC area, yet it ranks for Popeyes Chicken above the main Popeye's Chicken site which I didn't even notice in my search. Oy! Moving on, I find a link to a locator on popeyes.com in the flash menu. This prompts my browser's pop up blocker to bleep at me. Oh boy, here we go. I go back and this time opt to click on the text link in the footer (yay! at least they have this!). Finally, popeyes.com gets something right and I am taken to a locator that when Dallas, TX is entered it returns results. And there it was, a fried chicken joint up the street. I decided to check the menu on this Popeye's site and low and behold - mac & cheese. Glorious!!!

So, yeah about 30 minutes or more later I got what I was looking for, or so I thought. I think I might have found it faster in the old Yellow Pages. I'm obviously a very experienced internet user and searcher and I had all these problems. I'm sure I would've given up had I not been a curious SEO but a "normal" person.

What I learned from this is that no matter how big your business is, no matter whether you are local or international you absolutely need to use internet marketing services to position yourself to be in front of your customers faces when they are actively looking for you. If you have a business with multiple locations, make sure your business and all physical addresses are verified with Google Maps. If I was an average internet user looking for fried chicken and mac & cheese in Dallas I would've just gone to the nearest KFC and skipped all the hassle I went through.

Finally, it's also important to make sure your website accurately reflects your products and services. If you discontinue or no longer carry an item, take it off the website. Nobody likes to get excited about finding you have mac & cheese on your online menu only to go to your store and find no such thing.

Yes, I was eventually successful at locating a chicken joint with mac & cheese near me, but did I accomplish what I set out to do? Sadly, no. I was like a mouse racing for the cheese at the end of an obstacle course only to have it removed just as I arrived. My local Popeyes had no mac & cheese on the menu when we got there. So after all my searching I had clearly wasted my time and am not going to be interested in fried chicken again any time soon.

May 15, 2008

5 Common Mistakes People Make in Google Adwords

All too often I am horrified while reviewing a Google Adwords account. I run into bad campaign settings, large numbers of keywords with poor quality scores, and unappealing ad copy. Even the most studious of novices make what seem to be blatant errors.

Google originally created the Adwords interface as a user-friendly way for new advertisers and old-school veterans alike to be able to immediately jump into the wonderful world of online pay-per-click advertising. The tools that Google has provided are very helpful, and spending money has never been easier.

The idea of turning money into traffic has become extremely palatable to modern business users, but very simple mistakes can destroy any potential success an ad might generate. I thought a quick run-down of the common errors and a couple extra tips thrown into the mix would be helpful.

1. Language Preference Settings – This is accessible through the campaign settings. It is not good practice to select a campaign to display in all languages when the ad is written in English. Google will permit this circumstance to occur, but Google does not translate the ad. Non-English speakers will still see an English ad!

2. Display URL’s are part of the ad copy – A user’s eyes have a hard time distinguishing the words in www.myfavoritebusinesswebsite.com. The words in the URL all run together making it a non-selling point in an ad. The more effective solution is to type www.MyFavoriteBusinessWebsite.com. Now, it jumps out to users’ eyes and encourages them to click.

3. Keyword Relevancy - Including a bunch of keywords in one adgroup and writing an ad that sounds general enough to apply to all keywords is not an effective short-cut. All keywords must be closely related to each other in nature to be successful. Ex. Hammers may be used to put a crib together. They may also both be retail products. The may even be sold by the same manufacturer. Still, hammers and cribs don’t belong in the same adgroup.

4. “Free” keywords do not sell – If you’re trying to sell something, going after keywords with the word “free” is the easiest way to get a good click-through-rate and a terrible conversion rate. When users are searching for something free they are not looking to buy something.

5. The Content Network works – I frequently hear that the Content Network just doesn’t convert. That is simply not true, but the conversion rates are usually lower than search. The bids are usually lower though which frequently makes for an effective cost-per-conversion. My suggestion is to opt your search campaigns out of the Content Network and create a separate “Content Network only” campaign (credit my friend and sensei Brandy Eddings) This makes it easier to eyeball the general stats on the campaign summary screens, and to manage them separately (as they should be). It’s good to test different bidding on the Content Network by raising and lowering the bids until you find the optimum cost-per-conversion amount. I frequently find Google’s help sections inadequate, but their info on this subject is superb. Google Help

May 06, 2008

Web Analytics Madness

Yahoo jumped at the opportunity to purchase Index Tools; an analytics provider that charges a relatively small fee to each client to track the hits and conversions going their sites. Yahoo has announced that they will start providing Index Tools free of charge to some users.

Google bought an analytics company, Urchin, several years ago in order to provide this sort of tracking. By offering it free they were able to attract more advertisers. Google Adwords Conversion Tracking, while distinct from Google Analytics, has seen recent improvements as well.

Index Tools and Google Analytics are worlds apart in appearance and user-interface, but as far as functionality, there is very little difference between the two. Google presents more aesthetic looking graphs, while Index Tools makes it easier to cross more data variables on user charts, but the virtually all the same information is accessible through either one.

Acquiring a comparable analytics provider will make them much more attractive for the future, but Google’s upgrades will make it tough still. Google Adwords Conversion Tracking is now able to track more than one type of conversion for the same client. This is phenomenal step forward. Many advertisers want to track when users fill out a standard form or a form for information, but the ability to track both was limited. Each user could only be counted once, but each form was counted as a transaction. Using that format an advertiser could determine how many users had completed both forms, they could not determine which form had been filled out if they were individual form conversions. Google Analytics could be used for this purpose, but the process to do so was time consuming and cumbersome.

Google Analytics has recently started beta testing the ability to track information by different time periods as well; hourly/daily/weekly. While the daily and weekly will save time when creating a report, the hourly reports are the best advancement out of the lot. Previously, one could track all kinds of data for the different times of the day such as clicks, but the conversions weren’t displayed hourly. That means that it was difficult to tell the conversion rates at different times of the day. For a PPC Specialist, the conversion rates are crucial. Let’s hope this offering comes out of beta-testing ASAP.