Web Analytics Critical to Overall Communications Strategy

Written By: Daniel Cubero on July 28, 2010

One of the truly fascinating tools available for marketers today is web analytics. The effectiveness of a marketing or communications plan can no longer be measured by sales alone. Analytics software allows us to explore many other important, usually deeper, variables such as number of visits, traffic sources, navigation, and popular keywords from which we can construct a meaningful communications plan. Monitoring how people are finding your website using Analytics has several applications with regard to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and web traffic. We think it is even more valuable to take a step back and look at measuring your overall marketing/communications strategy, rather than to view it as one tactic. Here are some tips:

1. Use the Power of Information, Don’t Just Compile It
Having analytics software and using it are two very different things. Similar to a good solid database, the information garnered from this source can be extremely helpful in discovering trends in your target market. These can be opportunities to find people that are or could potentially be using your products or services. But each of these tools is only useful if they are actually being… well, used. All the information in the world isn’t helpful if there’s an overwhelming amount of it, with no way to filter out what’s relevant and what’s not. You also need the capability to interpret trends accurately. Try to avoid using analytics blindly without regard to how your data correlates with your brand and organization.

2. Use Multiple Media to Inform and Integrate Your Messages
It’s important to make sure your communication and marketing messages and efforts are integrated – that the same message is reaching the appropriate audiences across all mediums to avoid conflicting messages and/or confusion – this gives your brand a clear voice. Analytics tools such as navigation tracking and keyword tracking allow an organization to monitor the areas and topics that are most appealing to the user of the site. One of the advantages of the web is that, unlike television advertisements, it is a voluntary journey to find information about a company. For example, not many people are triggered into buying a Big Mac when they have clearly devoted an hour of “not getting up time” to watch their favorite show (probably the Bachelorette)! Using a pressure-free system like an analytics tool allows you to gauge what information users deem as important. That information can then be used to reinforce and enhance traditional marketing practices (print, television, radio) from an informed, research oriented foundation. This turns into a positive feedback loop between the two mediums, thus resulting in a more integrated approach to communications.

3. Don’t Fall Prey to Brand Dissonance
If you monitor the keywords that people use to find your website or blog and find that they don’t align with the brand strategy, you could have a problem. While it’s possible to have found a niche market that sees your products and services as useful, (potentially warranting an opportunity to expand) it is also possible, albeit unfortunate, to find your brand being used in search engines with negative connotations or words and phrases that are irrelevant to your firm’s core competencies. If this is the case, you will likely need to revamp your branding efforts to realign customer perception to your branding goals, or to establish new goals altogether. This could also mean something much worse: that dissonance could be the result of brand terrorism or a badly handled public controversy, in which case you should initiate your crisis communications plan immediately (cough, cough…BP Oil)! Fortunately though, many analytics tool results are recorded in near real-time so you can act quickly if your brand needs rescuing.

4. Spend Wisely – Take Note of Geographical Tendencies
Effectively targeting your audience is paramount to the success of any given campaign. A feature that is both interesting and useful on many analytics tools is a map overlay feature. This type of feature allows the analytics follower to view where web hits are coming from. For one, it’s cool to see that your business may be getting attention from Australia, Egypt and India, but it has practical application as well.

Because advertising expenses are largely determined by the frequency and reach of a medium, it benefits an organization to pay to target its message to those that are most interested in the products and services of a firm, while not paying to advertise to those who are unlikely to buy. One compelling aspect of various analytics tools is to see where much of your web traffic is being generated based on geographical location. Although not perfect, this method allows an organization to understand generally where people are hearing the message and opting to learn more via the internet. Maybe it doesn’t hurt to have international exposure for your brand, but make sure you’re not paying for it if it’s not helpful to your long term goals.

5. Beware of Idle Time
Similar to targeting geographically, ensuring your message hits your target market at a time that empowers a potential customer to use a product or service is an important part of a communications plan. Because many analytics tools provide web-traffic information in near real-time, an analyst can match user traffic with sales and adjust accordingly.

For example, if a restaurant is experiencing low web traffic on Thursday nights after 5 o’clock, and sales during that time period are similarly low, the restaurant owner can use this information to tailor a message about a ‘half off dinner deal’ at that low traffic time, via radio, television, or the web, to drive sales during slow periods.

Analytics is not a cure-all solution. The takeaway from this is that it is but one tool among many for the purposes of powerful marketing and communications. Most analytics tools may be free, but it takes some critical thinking to increase the likelihood of a successful campaign. Sure, there are other ways of gathering information about the effectiveness of an advertising campaign, but with one that has so many capabilities and no cost, using analytics and using them correctly, can inform decisions and drastically improve a communications strategy.

Content has been Dethroned

Dan Cubero September 29, 2010

For years we have been taught that the way to attract people to our products and services — using web, newspaper, magazines, etc. – was to have the best stuff, the coolest STUFF, the primo STUFF, the most original STUFF. “Content is King” has dominated the way we understand media and the way we use media outlets to communicate.

This fundamental assumption — that having the best stuff will inevitably attract the correct demographic and ultimately lead to an engaged audience – is flawed. Sorry to those of you who spent countless hours finding statistics to create in-depth reports on various subjects, to those of you who poured your focused attention into editing paragraph 3, sentence 2 of that press release. We have entered a new age of marketing and public relations. It’s time to ditch our safety net and embrace the fact that “Content Is No Longer King.” A new contender is ready to assume the throne. “Conversation is King.”

Now I first heard about this concept from some guys over at LaunchPad INWAllen Battle and Bill Kalivas and then again from Brian Burrows at aMarCom Breakfast on September 10th. What I found, is that this concept intrigues people – it’s easy to find “heads nods of approval” or “thinking hard” facial expressions when the concept is mentioned. It’s agreeable and it’s catching on fast, largely because it is so intuitive.

The message is not that content is irrelevant, but that it can be. It’s not that content is NEVER important. There is a reason as to why content has made it this far as the driver of many modern media advances, especially in areas like SEOSEM and database marketing. For example, it is obviously important to have content that is recognizable by Google in order to be seen, but as many of us in marketing and public relations fields should know by now, being seen is only half the battle: who cares about the message if it is irrelevant, or worse, boring?

To all those focused on creating great pieces of literature I send a warning: If Twitter has taught us anything about mass customization, with its 140 character limit and personalized news feeds, it is that people have learned to value simplicity and relevance. Maybe most importantly, they just want to participate. Why not let them?

Just as traditional marketing is less acceptable to the modern audience — essentially, presenting your best side and hoping for the best – content be created with this mindset. It’s no longer a secret that online conversations are being held about your brand. Businesses are finally beginning to understand that it is essential to monitor these conversations, even better to participate in them, as appropriate. It is time to take it one step further and start to generate pieces of that discussion. Basically, don’t just create content for conversation, but foster the conversation around it as well.

Companies putting the idea to the test, largely using social media, are Pepsi(the Pepsi Refresh project, on Twitter), Starbucks (MyStarbucksIdea, onTwitter) and Dell (IdeaStorm, on Twitter). These companies no longer provide only information on products and services being offered, they ask customers what problems they are seeing with these products or services and ask for ideas on how to fix them, usually using incentives to drive broader participation.

It’s like this: don’t write your website assuming someone is going to read all of it – they’re probably just skimming. Don’t Tweet that you’re taking out the garbage – no one cares. If you want to be successful in the new era of marketing and public relations, just remember the fundamentals of normal dialogue: don’t make it all about you. Take the time to understand your demographic, their interests and then prove your value by providing the appropriate and relevant questions and information they desire. Only after you have taken these steps, and if you can adequately fill your audience’s hunger for participation, will a feeling of engagement and brand loyalty follow. Not all customers will fit the profile, but certainly your most engaged and involved customers will.

Let’s give a hats off to those smart guys at LaunchPad and others for the slogan “Conversation is King.” After all, content is just something to talk about.

Now hopefully this content wasn’t irrelevant… Help me out! Go talk about it and make it relevant!