Understanding Search Analytics to Make Better Data-Driven Decisions

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1 Understanding Search Analytics to Make Better Data-Driven Decisions A Digital Marketing Depot White Paper

2 Executive Summary: The proliferation of online data from a growing number of digital devices and channels is redefining the role of the analyst in digital marketing. Analysts now are being challenged to discover, identify, codify, evaluate and synthesize meaningful and contextual stories from huge amounts of data. At the same time, they must be careful not to collect data for the sake of data collection. Increasingly, is the responsibility of the analyst to educate and influence key business decision makers by working together to formulate questions to solve and a hypothesis to test. Ultimately, analysts need to sift through the data noise to provide focused insights that help businesses optimize and monetize their search marketing initiatives. This white paper explores emerging shifts in consumer use of technology, specifically mobile devices, and their impact on search analysts and marketers as they try to achieve strategic and campaign goals. The white paper provides recommendations for maximizing the effectiveness of both paid and organic search campaigns through such tools and time parting and competitive benchmarking. Note: This white paper is based on a webcast from Digital Marketing Depot. Thanks to the original contributors: Aaron Wester, Director, Analytics & Research, and Nick Morrelli, Senior Digital Analyst, Covario. To view the on-demand version of this webcast, please visit Contents: Executive summary...1 Mobile spurs consumer platform shift...2 The new norm: sequential screening...2 Smartphones as starting point...2 Consumers use desktops and tablets for more complex tasks...3 Tools to solve attribution, conversion challenges...5 Universal tag tracks multi-device usage...6 Understand the differences between paid and organic searchers...6 Conclusion Third Door Media, Inc

3 Mobile spurs consumer platform shift Today s online consumers are more sophisticated than ever before. A library of the world s knowledge and consumable goods are only clicks away through a variety of devices any time of the day or night, practically anywhere in the world. Consumers are capitalizing on these choices by using multiple browsers on multiple devices from multiple locations to make more informed purchase decisions. This multi-platform phenomenon is part of a generational shift toward mobile devices. These shifts occur every decade. For example, in the 1980s, platform usage shifted from mainframes to mini-computers. In the 1990s, there was a platform shift from mini-computers to desktop computers. These platform shifts are driving analytical and marketing shifts as well. Just a few years ago, analysts only needed to measure page views on a website to drive efficient decision making. But as technology evolved and the number of digital signals available for evaluation grew, analysts needed to adjust their reporting to account for online transactions. More recently, the online consumer experience extended to mobile devices and analysts needed to catch up to report on mobile transactions. Now the online consumer experience has shifted again to include multiple devices, turning the purchase path into an attribution nightmare. A library of the world s knowledge and consumable goods are only clicks away through a variety of devices any time of the day or night, practically anywhere in the world. The new norm: sequential screening Consumers visit 10.4 different online sources before making a purchase decision, according to a Google and Shopper Sciences study. These sources come from multiple browsers, devices, locations and times. Essentially, consumers start their purchase path on one device, and end up purchasing a product or service from somewhere completely different. Another Google study, The New Multi-Screen World, found that 98% of consumers move between devices during the same day; 90% employ multiple screens sequentially to accomplish a task over time. Fortunately for search analysts and marketers, several trends are emerging to help understand how consumers view and interact with online content across devices. Smartphones as starting point Sixty-five percent of consumers searching for information begin on their smartphones, making smartphones the most common starting point for online activities, according to The New Multi-Screen World study (see Table 1). At an average of 17 minutes per day, however, smartphone viewing time trails both desktops and tablets. The implication is that consumers do not rely on their smartphones to complete online transactions. There may be several reasons driving this paradigm. Marketers are working hard to make online content available seamlessly on a variety of devices using responsive design techniques with CSS 3, Jquery and Javascript to create resolution-dependent breakpoints by device. Developers typically hide content from mobile users, however HTTP objects such as image calls, beacon requests and script calls meant for the desktop experience still load in the background. This creates a significant lag in load time. Responsive design is useful to create a seamless experience tied to multiple devices. Without it, organizations must use a highly controlled subdomain that differentiates the mobile experience from the desktop experience by creating crude javascript detection by device types using the user agent header string Third Door Media, Inc

4 Table 1: Sequential screening begins with smartphones Source: The New Multi-Screen World Ultimately, the solution to the lag-time problem is a commitment to a mobile-first strategy. Developers can work with designers to create a balanced function and flow process that is optimized for maximum throughput and load times. Compression techniques can be used to block HTTP objects from loading based on the various resolution breakpoints. Consumers use desktops and tablets for more complex tasks Research also shows that consumers use their desktops and tablets to do more complex online tasks such as handling finances, shopping or booking travel. Thirty-eight percent of consumers begin their online travel bookings on their desktops; 15% of consumers start making travel plans on their tablets, according to The New Multi-Screen World study (see Tables 2 and 3). Table 2: Desktops as starting point for complex online tasks Source: The New Multi-Screen World 2014 Third Door Media, Inc

5 Table 3: Tablets as starting point for online trip planning and shopping Source: The New Multi-Screen World The marketing challenge created by sequential screening is that 61% of users fall off the conversion path before completing the first screen s tasks. Many users don t even complete the first task in the sequence. When users make it beyond the first task and move on to the second task, especially when the page content shifts, they complete the next task. The majority of pre-conversion fall-off occurs from a mobile device rather than a desktop. This may be the result of poor design and development, which prohibits the seamless engagement of the user across devices. Sequential screening conversions can be disrupted by any of the following design and development factors: Lack of relevant tailored content for optimal user experience. Lack of coordinated campaign targeting. Lack of responsive design controls. Lack of load-time optimization on device transitions. Lack of analysis around multi-device, time-parted intersections. Lack of multi-touch attribution insights. Lack of sessionized pathing visibility across devices. Multi-platform usage is also causing the gap between attributed and same-session user data to expand, causing wide variations in traffic and order attribution over time. In one case study, 75% of a marketer s social media orders were incorrectly attributed to direct load orders when same-session attribution was compared to a 30-day look back window. Tools to solve attribution, conversion challenges With so many online touch points populating the consumer purchase path, generic attribution models such as first-click or last-click are no longer accurate or effective. Analysts need to understand how to more accurately attribute and score every touch point in the increasingly complex consumer path. There are multiple ways to evaluate and plan for conversion performance. The consumer online experience today is driven by context. Four primary context points include goal orientation, location, user attitude and time. While user attitude and goal orientation may be more challenging to determine, intent and location can be determined through geographic map coordinates tracking through GPS location monitoring. Time also can be isolated and tracked through time-parting. Time-parting determining who to reach, what devices to reach them on, and when offers several benefits including: Multi-device intersections and deflections. Relevant and timely focused insights. Efficient management of ad campaigns on a tight budget. Competitive and generic benchmarking. Revealing conversion correlations Third Door Media, Inc

6 When search behavior is evaluated by device and then time parted, the results demonstrate search s influence to drive online engagement across devices. It also provides critical insight for organizations that are on a limited budget and want to effectively target content initiatives and ad campaigns. Google s enhanced campaigns for AdWords recognizes this need. Time-parting and location now can be accounted for as adjustments to a single campaign. By selecting the ad scheduling feature in your AdWords campaign settings, you can enable day-parting results in Google Analytics by hour of the day or day of the week. This will enable you to adjust bids for specific times of the day, then view Google Analytics performance data by time of day per campaign. The data can be exported as CSV for Excel and coupled with other dimensions from other disparate analytics platforms to drive recommendations or critical decisions that improve campaign performance. Enhanced campaigns for AdWords can also be integrated directly into Google Analytics resulting in optimal performance measures for the most productive campaign time parts. Time-parting can help you conduct competitive benchmarking as well. When a competitor uses a bit.ly URL shortener it allows you to see their traffic statistics and have it day-parted for free. Simply add a + sign to the end of the shortened URL from your browser, then select their time parting options to see a view of their traffic by time of day. This data can help you identify opportunities to drill down in your analytics. Universal tag tracks multi-device usage Another tool available to search marketers is Google s universal tag, which tracks multi-device usage through a single cookie. The cookie assigns a new unique user ID a UID parameter across all the devices that a consumer engages with coupled to the legacy client ID or CID parameter. To use the universal tag, organizations that initially implemented Google s legacy tracking code must update their beacons to call the new Javascript code analytics.js, which in turn enables cross-device reporting. Understand the differences between paid and organic searchers Lastly, it is critical for search analysts and marketers to understand the differences between paid and organic searchers when trying to improve attribution accuracy and conversion performance. Organic searchers represent 80% to 90% of all searchers, but convert at lower rates and are harder to analyze due to the increasing numbers of terms not provided Third Door Media, Inc

7 A simple tool to make organic searchers convert more like paid searchers is to include more calls to action on web pages. Words such as now or do it are easy to add to websites and convey urgency. It is also critical to treat different organic searchers differently based on what part of your website they visit. Organic search intent can be gleaned by the landing page URL. A visitor coming to your homepage may have a different intent or need than one going to your support page. T-Mobile marketers successfully increased the company s organic search conversion rate by 23% by adding calls to action to its site. T-Mobile organic listings looked more like its paid listings by adding the terms bring your phone in and get a SIM card to the beginning of its website text. Conclusion Analytics professionals are mandated to help their organizations know their online users, who are becoming more sophisticated and difficult to track. Search analysts and marketers need both quantitative and qualitative evaluation to provide stakeholders with concentrated and focused insights that enable informed decision making. The onus is on the analyst to be proactive, not reactive by understanding developing trends in sequential screening and using such tools as dayparting and time parting, organic search testing, competitive benchmarking to add context to campaign results and increase ROI. n About Covario Covario is a leading independent search/content marketing agency and software provider. The firm was selected by OMMA magazine as the Search Agency of the Year a record three years in a row from 2011 to It was also ranked in 2013 by Advertising Age magazine among the nation s Top 10 search agencies. Covario offers a suite of SaaS-based enterprise search, local SEO, mobile search, and social media marketing automation tools. Headquartered in San Diego, the firm has more than 200 team members globally, who are also located in Beijing, Chicago, London, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, Sao Paulo, Seattle, Singapore, Tokyo, Toronto, and other cities around the world. The firm s growing customer base includes global leaders in technology, consumer electronics, financial services, retail, ecommerce, media, entertainment, publishing, and consumer packaged goods. More information is available at About Digital Marketing Depot: Digital Marketing Depot is a resource center for digital marketing strategies and tactics. We feature hosted White Papers and E-Books, original research, and webcasts on digital marketing topics -- from advertising to analytics, SEO and PPC campaign management tools to social media management software, e-commerce to marketing, and much more about internet marketing Third Door Media, Inc

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