For a lot of people, marketing products and services online is done without a lot of planning. You have something to sell, and you think you have an idea about how to sell it, so using your previous life experience and skills you develop a website and online marketing campaign.
You wait a week… a trickle of traffic comes through, but no enquiries. You wait another week, watching the PPC bill start to climb, and the visitor numbers on your site ticking over at a snail’s pace.
If potential customers are not visiting, or if they do they disappear before purchasing or taking action, the answer will invariably be hiding in the numbers. Which numbers? The visitor statistics of your site.
What is the bounce rate for your site? What is the average time on site? Is there a page on the site with a high exit rate. The first thing I can recommend (if your are not already switched on) is to install Google Analytics.
This free tool from Google gets better every month, as they bring more in-depth reporting features into the service, and integrate it more tightly with AdWords and Google website optimiser. By having a clear history of statistics you can easily identified what are the key performing indicators for your site, and track this over time. You may for instance see that the conversion rate for the site is higher on evenings than in the mornings, or that there are higher bounce rates for pages on the weekends. Having good data allows you to make meaningful predictions and strategies on how to run your site, and takes out the guess work.
Here are 4 more areas where numbers should take precedence over opinion
The difference between design that looks fancy and design that accomplishes the goals of the site can be immense.
It can be very counter intuitive, but often the less aesthetically pleasing design performs better in terms of sales and enquiries, as well as the time users spend on site and how far users navigate. Once proven design features have been identified for your sites (such as enquiry form structure, or navigation design), these should be further split tested to continually improve performance.
While all copy should be in correct english, a subtle nuance or turn of phrase can make a large difference in the rate that a piece of sales copy converts into dollars. Once again split testing, either using a professional tool such as Google Website Optimiser or just manually will tell the story in numbers, rather than relying on memory.
For search engine optimisation, it’s all about finding the right numbers for your site. By looking at your analytics results, you will be able to find the terms that people are currently finding your site for when the search via a search engine. If these are not the phrases you want to be found for, or the numbers are not adequate then you need to look at number of relevant keywords that you have on a page, and the number of pages that you have indexed on Google for your site.
The biggest area where everything comes down to the numbers is in PPC marketing. In the AdWords campaigns that I manage, numbers like click through rate, and the number of impressions that a keyword receives are closely watched and acted on. If a keyword or ad falls below a certain threshold, it is instantly changed or deleted. This stops bad parts of the campaign ruining the performance of the rest. If campaigns are being optimized for conversions (trying to get the lowest cost per conversion, and the maximum amount of conversions in total) then keywords and even whole parts of the campaign can be removed if they are producing no conversions, or the cost per sale / enquiry is too high.
Also, when setting up campaigns instead of trying to be 100% accurate on exactly which keywords will do well, I will generally create a large account with almost every term that could be applicable to what is being sold. It’s kind of like brainstorming for PPC, where no idea is a bad one. Then, when the account is launched, I closely monitor which keywords are working well, and those that are not performing. The underperformers are removed, until via a process of elimination a highly performing campaign emerges.
And one area where numbers are not as important :
There is a lot of talk at the moment about getting as many followers as possible on social media sites such as Twitter, in order to sell affiliate or self generated product. While having a good number of followers will definitely help, the focus should be on quality. That also goes for the content you push back out onto the social network. Make sure that there is variety and quality in what you post, and most of all show your human side and connect with people. As soon as the message gets too strong, what were once insightful hints, tips and banter turns into spam.