Interpreting Web Analytics for Actionable Data-Driven Marketing

As marketing has become more data-driven, it’s become gradually easier to gather data, but increasingly more difficult to digest, analyze and interpret all of the data in order to take action. There seems to be an overabundant amount of tools that allow marketers to collect data, many of which are free, like Google Analytics, however, without enough time in the day to analyze and interpret it, the data collected becomes useless and more of a hassle to house than grow your business from.

To help solve this problem, we’ve partnered with GitGrow, a simplified analytics tool that informs data-driven recommendations to improve your site. By accessing your current Google Analytics data and integrating with MixRank, GitGrow saves you the time you would normally spend on interpreting data and determining where to focus your online marketing efforts.

The GitGrow and MixRank integration offers a side-by-side comparison of your organic, paid search and contextual keywords that allows you to visualize the keywords you’re ranking for and paying for across various online marketing channels.

Take a sneak peek at the integration here:

To take advantage of the amazing partnership between GitGrow and MixRank, try GitGrow for free. Along with the MixRank keywords, GitGrow also offers:

  • Automated Summary Reports of Web Analytics: Receive a weekly executive presentation tailored for reporting to business users.
  • Easy to Implement Recommendations: Based on trends in your data, leverage recommendations to improve your website’s overall performance.
  • Customized Out-of-the-Box Benchmarks: Uncover how the performance of your site ranks with comparable companies of your industry.

For a limited time, GitGrow is offering a 30-day free trial. Claim for your free GitGrow account today!

Forging Ahead With Multichannel Competitive Intelligence In The Age Of Big Data

This is a guest blog post by Jason Warnock, Vice President Market Intelligence and Measurement of Yesmail Interactive.


Marketing is like a newborn; it demands constant attention, it manages to surprise you just when you think you’ve figured it out, and the way it changes every day is absolutely fascinating. Just think of how different the marketing landscape is today than it was a few years ago.

 

No matter the size, and regardless of the industry, a company without a website is unheard of. In a similar way, a company without a Facebook and Twitter accounts is becoming as rare as a non-invasive airport security check while Youtube and Google+ are turning into a necessity.  Similarly, it is an absolute anomaly for a company not to have an email program: from basic ones like Welcome and Transactional, to more strategic ones like Nurturing and Life-cycle. Meanwhile Search and Display have already earned a permanent place in a savvy marketer’s arsenal since their inherent reliance on data accounts for warmer leads and easier conversions than are achieved by many of the traditional marketing avenues.

 

In just one short paragraph, we have enumerated seven different channels that have become essential for an adequate marketing strategy, not to mention an outstanding one.

 

Needless to say, in the era of “Big Data”, it is imperative that each individual channel strategy is dictated by data-driven insights. That’s not the news here. The news is that it is no longer sufficient to develop those insights in a vacuum, i.e. only using metrics marketers have for their own marketing efforts. Instead, it is far more valuable to include industry, and even more so, competitors’ campaign data to inform marketing plans. 

 

As marketers give more and more attention to monitoring and analyzing industry trends and competitors’ practices, few big data analytics solutions successfully integrate the seven essential digital channels and make it possible for marketers to easily monitor trends, track their KPIs, and put the collected data to work for them. 

 

Yesmail Market Intelligence is the first of its kind to successfully house data from social media networks, email providers, company websites and, now, display advertising made possible by a partnership with MixRank, the leading provider of digital display ad data. The integration between MixRank’s innovative crawler technology and Yesmail’s leading platform for competitive intelligence brings to market a seamlessly integrated multichannel tool that provides digital data across seven channels in one centralized and easy-to-use dashboard. This breakthrough allows marketers to spend fewer resources on researching and testing and, instead, invest in developing profitable and informed marketing campaigns. Yesmail is thrilled to partner with MixRank to deliver a solution that saves marketers both time and money as it allows them to develop profitable and informed marketing campaigns that can outperform the competition. 

 

It’s Big Data, at its finest.

 

About the Author

Jason_warnock

Jason Warnock is a seasoned veteran of email deliverability and digital marketing. After creating successful email applications for Canadian bank CIBC, Jason initiated and managed Deliverability Operations for Digital Connexxions (2006) implementing several key strategies for major publishing clients. After a successful acquisition of Digital Connexxions in 2006 by infoUSA, Jason proceeded to become Director of Deliverability for Yesmail (2007) followed by VP of Deliverability Services for Infogroup (2011). Jason has transformed Infogroup Deliverability into an industry leading solution through enhanced offerings of technology and client services. Jason has designed successful technical and business strategies for several large Fortune 500 companies including: HP, Coke, Kodak, Facebook, eBay, Ancestry.com, and United Airlines. Jason is also a recognized industry leader in digital marketing intelligence and competitive marketing intelligence through his work in co-creating Yesmail’s Market Intelligence platform with Andrew Ferraccioli and Jeff Hulshof.

 

You’re Not Failing Enough

I was asked to give a talk about paid traffic sources at 500 Startups last week. The presentation is embedded below.

Although I couldn’t resist diving into deep, specific, tactical stuff near the end, the three most important points I wanted to impress upon my audience were:

  1. Most online ad campaigns (even those created by professionals) fail
  2. The only foolproof way to succeed is to try (and fail) enough to exhaust every other option except the successful one
  3. Therefore, your objective should be to fail as quickly and cheaply as possible

It’s become common knowledge among the lean startup movement that you should launch quickly, iterate, pivot, etc. But I want to take this one step further as applied to traffic (and startups as a whole):

When you launch a campaign, your objective should be to make it fail.

When you launch an advertising experiment, it will most likely fail. The null hypothesis is that it fails. This is a good thing, because it creates defensible barriers to entry for your business.In other words, once you have a successful campaign, a novice with a $100 AdWords coupon won’t be able to disrupt your acquisition channels.

If chances are that your campaign fails, you might as well do it quickly and painlessly.

I know it seems crazy to set a goal of losing money. But just give it a try. Because here’s what happens when a campaign fails:

  1. The campaign failed because it spent money without bringing in enough conversions or revenue to pay for itself.
  2. If the campaign is spending money, it’s generating traffic.
  3. If the campaign is generating traffic, it’s also generating data: click costs, conversion rates, ad copy and landing page split test results, etc.

And as any good marketer will tell you, data is everything. He who has the most data wins.

Don’t aim for launching a campaign that’s instantly successful/viral/profitable. That’s a fool’s errand, and it can only lead to disappointment.

Your only objective with a new campaign should be to collect enough data to validate or disprove your assumptions.

Then go back to the drawing board, use what you’ve learned to create a new campaign that fails slightly less than the last one, and try again.

Don’t worry about the conversion rate or CPC with a new campaign. Just get the data, so you have a baseline you can optimize from.

If you get an additional data point about what works and what doesn’t you win, no matter the result.

Pickup artists call this mindset outcome independence, defined as “The mindset of not focusing on a specific result, or growing attached to any outcome.”

If you’re not attached to the outcome of a split test, you’ll never get demoralized by its inevitable failure. And you’ll never risk giving up on a traffic source or acquisition strategy too quickly because your first few campaigns failed.

This can be an incredibly powerful mindset. Embrace failure. Never stop testing. And the successes will come in time.

The high rate of failure for most ad campaigns is the reason we started MixRank. We built our startup to catalog and analyze millions of split tests and campaigns  so you can learn from your competitors’ mistakes rather than making them all over again.

I don’t post that frequently, so your best bet to get notified about new posts like this one is to subscribe by RSS.

How to Hire a Great Marketer for Your Company

A lot of people have been asking me for help with hiring marketing people for their company. I keep repeating the same advice, so I thought I would lay it out here. 

My usual disclaimer: This advice is mostly targeted towards startups and lead gen companies who are interested in significantly increasing their traffic and conversions. In other words, performance marketing. If you’re more interested in branding or social media marketing (whatever that is), then this post probably isn’t for you.

There are five key questions you should ask yourself about any potential marketing hire.

Anyone with a good answer to all five is worth his weight in gold- hire him immediately. Hitting three or four of these points can make for a very good hire, as long as you have support staff in place and are willing to spend some time training and getting this person up to speed. And unless you already have a very strong marketing system in place and are bringing this person in at a junior level, I would be careful about expecting much out of someone possessing two or less of these qualities.

Does he have a strong track record of driving traffic?

This is probably the biggest predictor of success in internet marketing. If there’s any way for you to snag someone with deep operational experience, who has the experience of getting his hands dirty and actually building effective campaigns from the ground up, do it.

A low-level, detailed understanding of things like SEO factors and AdWords Quality Score means that you’ll be able to get properly structured campaigns up and running very quickly.

Ideally, your hire has experience driving traffic to his own startup or marketing business, or has managed campaigns for a large e-commerce advertiser.

Is he obsessive and meticulous about metrics?

Internet marketing in 2011 is a lot more about analytics than creativity. You can’t afford to hire someone who will be sloppy about metrics or optimization.

Ask your prospective hire to build a small sample campaign or marketing plan. Is he tracking everything throughout the funnel down to the specific traffic source or creative? Is he going to write four versions of every ad and landing page and split test relentlessly? 

Some of the most effective marketers I know are not Mad-Men style hustlers but rather quiet analytics nerds who love digging around in spreadsheets and building mathematical models.

Is he a strong and prolific communicator?

After targeting, the most important factor in any campaign’s success is the strength of the copy. A good writer, even without specific copywriting experience will eventually be able to produce good copy, but a great salesman who can’t write well will be bogged down by the process.

Your marketer is in charge of every point at which you interact with customers, from the headline on your landing page to registration emails. Someone who can quickly produce compelling and well-written content will have a direct and material impact on your conversion rate. 

A good proxy for identifying a good writer is finding a good reader. Ask everyone you interview about the last book they read.

Does he have experience managing both small and large budgets?

A small marketing budget demands certain constraints that a large budget does not. Specifically, every dollar has to return results, and you can’t afford to bid against large national or go on too many branding adventures.

“Scrappy” is the word that comes to mind here. Again, someone with experience spending his own money on marketing campaigns is most valuable here.

You should find someone who knows how to work within the constraints of a startup budget but also has experience quickly scaling campaigns once you find product-market fit.

Does he have the makings of a competent salesman?

Claude Hopkins famously said that marketing is salesmanship in print, and that couldn’t be more true today. Many sales tactics, like identifying a customer’s deepest needs and desires, addressing objections, and closing the sale are directly relevant for one-to-many marketing campaigns. 

Your marketing hire doesn’t necessarily need the same aggressive, outgoing personality as a top tier sales guy. But he should be able to develop a deep understanding of the customer and know how to build a relationship with customers.

I’ll admit I based this list at least in part on myself and successful marketers I know well, so it’s far from comprehensive. Are there any other qualities a great marketer possesses? Leave a comment!

By the way, we built MixRank to automate many of the research and analytics tasks you would need to hire a marketer for. We think anyone can use MixRank to build successful campaigns. Try it out today (we have a free version).

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This Common Tracking Mistake Is Costing You Thousands of Dollars

A few years ago, when I was still getting my feet wet in internet marketing and not making very much money, I had a conversation with an incredibly successful affiliate marketer. This man had come from humble beginnings, starting with little seed money and no marketing knowledge to generating millions of dollars in commissions for himself in less than a year.And he did this by promoting lead-gen offers in the financial space, one the most fiercely competitive and difficult to break into niches out there.Of course, I was dying to learn the secret of his success.I knew he worked very hard, but lots of people work hard without approaching his level of success. So I pressed him to tell me exactly what he was doing to be wildly successful where so many of his competitors failed. And he told me.He said….

“I track everything down to the individual ad level from impression to conversion”

He was advertising on AdWords in the highly contested finance niche, where clicks could easily cost $4-$10 each. His competitors were experienced affiliates and PPC managers for major performance advertisers, so they knew what they were doing.They all carefully tracked each keyword via a unique subid, so they knew exactly which keywords were converting well for their offer. But they weren’t tracking everything.When building a PPC campaign, most advertisers, even experienced search marketers, take two parallel paths in optimizing their campaign:

  1. They look at every keyword’s CTR and conversion rate, and eliminate poorly performing keywords that either have a high CPC(because of low CTR) or a low EPC(because of low conversion rate)
  2. Simultaneously, they test different headlines on their ads to see which one gets more clicks, keeping the ads that have a higher CTR

Do you see what they’re missing????

After finding keywords, the advertisers in this niche would spend most of their efforts on writing enticing ads, using words like FREE! and Try It Now! that would get a lot of clicks, thus lowering their cost per click.This clever affiliate wasn’t doing that, because he knew better. And the reason he knew better is that he wasn’t just tracking how every keyword was converting like everyone else…he was also tracking how every single ad he wrote was converting.For every ad he wrote, he appended a unique tracking ID to the destination URL, which would get passed through as part of the subid to that offer. He had a huge spreadsheet listing thousands of these ID numbers and the unique ad variation and ad group it corresponded to.The meticulous record keeping paid off. By tracking how every single ad converted, he soon realized that his most profitable and successful ads were not the ones with the highest CTR. In fact, some of the ads that got less clicks were responsible for the majority of conversions.Those clicks cost more, but they brought in much higher quality traffic. Instead of trying to get as many people as possible to click on his ad, he pre-qualified potential customers through the ad text, so only the most motivated and profitable customers clicked through to his landing page.When all of his competitors were losing money trying to get a high click through rate and getting cheaper clicks, he optimized his campaign at the individual ad level, went for targeted clicks over cheap clicks and was incredibly successful.Had this affiliate not been tracking every ad, he would have continued to put up high-CTR but low converting ads, lost money on the campaign, and missed out on millions of dollars in revenue for his business.Track every single headline, body, display URL, image, anything and everything. Follow the user from the specific ad all the way to the conversion.If you’re not tracking every little bit of data possible, I guarantee you’re losing money. Don’t make that mistake.

Startup Marketing Lessons Learned Part 2: AdWords is Only the Beginning

I recently had the pleasure of assisting over 150 Hacker News members with marketing their startups. I was surprised to learn that I was giving the same advice over and over again. I’m collecting the most specific, actionable and useful marketing advice for startups in a 3 part series. This is part 2.Last time, we discussed marketing fundamentals you needed to get right before beginning to drive traffic to your project. I hope you’ve implemented some of those suggestions into your product marketing.I don’t want this blog to consist solely of vague textbook marketing advice. This week, we’re going deeper and diving right into specific methods you can use right now to generate a stream of interested customers for your startup. Let’s get started.

Test and Track Everything

…advertising is traced down to the fraction of a penny. The cost per reply and cost per dollar of sale show up with utter exactness. One ad is compared with another, one method with another. Headlines, settings, sizes, arguments and pictures are compared. To reduce the cost of results even one percent means much in some mail order advertising. So no guesswork is permitted. One must know what is best.

Can you guess which AdWords guru wrote the words above?That quote is from the seminal work Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins, written in the 1920s. You would think that, 80 years later, people would realize the importance of tracking, especially with how easy modern analytics software makes it.And yet, startup after startup is creating ads that link to their homepage, without any tracking variables appended. They can only guess if their ads are effective, and they’re collecting exactly zero data.Any ad campaign, even if it’s set up by an expert, will probably start out losing money. When you launch an ad campaign, you’re not just paying for customers, you’re paying for data about what works and what doesn’t, tested in the marketplace.As you collect data and optimize, the campaign will eventually pull into the black. But if you’re not collecting click and conversion data, you’ll never know what you need to optimize, and you’ll continue bleeding money forever.Don’t just track based on which campaign gets the highest CTR. You need to drill down to the individual ad and keyword level, and track both CTR and conversion rate for each ad. This is done by appending a unique id to the URL of each ad variation. If you can’t tell me exactly which headline is bringing you the most loyal customers, you’re doing it wrong. If you track everything down to the ad level, you’ll be able to know exactly where your most profitable customers are coming from. This is especially critical for recurring billing/subscription services, which many startups are. Again, optimize for CLV.Setting up tracking is super easy. Google Analytics has a simple URL Builder you can use to append tracking variables to any link. You’ll want to focus on the utm_term and utm_campaign variables.If you want even better, more customizable, real-time data, my friends at MixPanel are happy to help.If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this:Track Everything Now. Every second you’re not tracking, you’re losing money.

Search Is Just The Tip of the Iceberg

Here’s an example of what the typical startup founder told me about their marketing campaign:

Out startup sells time tracking software for dog walkers. We’re already advertising online. We’re bidding on “dog walker time tracking” on Google Search and getting 3 clicks and 0 conversions a day. How do we get more traffic?

It’s not surprising that you’re not getting lots of traffic, because you’re stuck in a search-only mindset. You can thank Google’s excellent branding for that, because they would love to have you believe that the only way to get customers online is through buying search keywords.Here’s the truth about advertising online: most of your traffic and customers will not come from search. They will come from social networks(more on that soon) and other sites- and I don’t mean just the Google Content Network. Want to know a cheap, high volume traffic source your competitors aren’t using? Two words: media buys. Yes, I’m talking about banner ads and yes, they still work.You don’t have to have a big budget to start buying banner ad space. Start approaching smaller blogs in your niche, and offer to pay them a fixed amount to paste your ad code into their site for a month. Again, track everything.When you do a simple media buy, you don’t have to worry about maintaining a high CTR or relevance between ads and landing pages, you just need to get enough clicks and conversions to stay profitable.I’ll have a post exclusively about media buying coming soon, but for now, start looking around and negotiating. You’ll be amazed at the great deals and cheap traffic you can find.

Competitor Bidding Works, Take it To The Next Level

Bidding on the names of competitors on search is an effective tactic. You’re reaching customers who are at a later stage of the buying cycle. They already know they need your product or service, and now they’re just comparing the alternatives and reading reviews before committing to a purchase. Let your competitors spend money educating the market and finding qualified prospects, then snatch the customer from their grasp when he’s about to buy.[pullshow]Competitor bidding is a good start, but it’s only a start. Here’s how you can easily and inexpensively outfox your competitors on most traffic sources:[pullthis]Don’t stop at search. Follow competitors’ ads around the web.[/pullthis] Search for competitor names, features, products, etc, or get their keywords from a keyword research tool. Look at the search results for their name and main keywords. Are there any sites there that have AdSense? Any blogs that have written reviews of a competitor’s product? Those are all prime advertising opportunities.Approach them directly and offer to buy banner space, either on the whole blog or just on that specific post. Prospective customers searching for information about competitors will instead come across ads for your product, and some will inevitably convert. If you see a competitor’s ads on an AdSense block on a page, you’ve found a fantastic traffic source. Approach the webmaster and offer to buy a banner ad to replace the AdSense. You’ll be able to pay the webmaster more for the space because Google isn’t taking their 30% cut, so it should be a no brainer for them to accept your offer. Now not only have you cut off a competitor from a lucrative traffic source, but you’ve also uncovered a proven source of converting traffic. Repeat this enough, and you’ll be able to completely dominate your competitors outside of search while spending less than them.

Start Retargeting Right Away

Retargeting is the practice of showing ads to people who have already visited your site(but probably didn’t convert). Retargeting is very cost effective, and delivers incredibly high-converting traffic, because you’re only paying for impressions shown to people who have expressed an interest in your product. When building a retargeting campaign, create banners that prominently feature your name, logo, and color scheme. People who have seen that design before will notice and click. There are two easy ways you can use retargeting right away:AdWords has a retargeting option you can turn on for a campaign. Or, for greater reach, AdRoll has an easy self-serve retargeting system that ties into major ad networks. You just add their pixel to your site, they leave a cookie, and show banner ads that follow your visitors around the web, g
ently yet firmly reminding them to sign up for your site.There is so much involved in getting traffic online. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what’s possible. If nothing else, I hope this post has inspired you to explore other traffic sources with tracked, tested, creative campaigns. Next week: I show you how to easily increase your current traffic tenfold, discuss advanced optimization tactics to squeeze more out of your current campaigns, and finish with a little-known traffic tip I’ve never told anyone before.