Analytics Archaeology

Web analytics give you the information you need to make informed decisions for your online marketing strategy… if you’re collecting the right information.

What if you haven’t been? Is it possible to reconstruct information?

We ran into this question recently while working with an engineering company.  They were paying out fairly large sums for PPC (pay per click) advertising on Google and bing, and they were getting calls from new customers, so they felt happy. Naturally, if they could reduce the amount they spent and still get those calls, they’d be even happier.

Usually, this is a fairly simple matter. We look at analytics to see what’s going on, develop a strategy, and implement it. In this case, the paid ads weren’t showing up in the web analytics — or not in a way that could be identified.

This case is a good example of how a little lateral thinking can let you make up for missing information. Here’s what we did first:

  1. We looked at the analytics for the Adwords account, saw some common patterns, and made recommendations based on what we saw there. You should always keep an eye on your ads’ performance and tweak your set up in response. The client made some changes in his ad text and bids, as well.
  2. We updated the content, and the client also had the code updated. These improvements in the site lowered the cost of the ads. I used to work with a PPC specialist who said Adwords is like an auction where the price of the chair depends not only on who else is bidding, but also on how good the chair is going to look in your house. Another way to look at it is to understand that Google wants to earn a certain amount of money from their page, so an ad that gets more clicks and a site that satisfies Google’s customers better will pay them more, and your price per click goes down.
  3. We asked the client to connect the Adwords and analytics accounts (here’s how) so we could see the paid traffic and the organic (unpaid) search. At this point, if there had been goals set up, we could have compared the conversion rates of the two types of traffic, and within a couple of weeks we’d have seen some information.

There are two problems, though. First, there are no goals set up: conversion for this client is a phone call. Second, he’s paying out hundreds a day on his ads, so we want to be able to get some data for him as fast as possible.

First, we can take a broad view. We checked the traffic sources for the few days since we finished taking the steps described above (the chart below is on the default dashboard of Google Analytics; we’ve removed the specific data for our example, but you’ll see the actual numbers on yours). We can see that organic search is bringing in the majority of the traffic, which is what we like to see. We can also see that both direct and referral traffic could be increased, suggesting that some linkbuilding and social media would be beneficial.

traffic sources

Now, we can hone in on the data. We can’t check conversion rates, but we can compare paid traffic with the site average on other metrics. Our paid traffic information is new, but the site average is based on long-term data. We see that the paid visitors spend more time than average on the site — just over 38% more. This is a good sign. On the other hand, we can also see that the percentage of new visitors is actually lower for paid traffic than for organic search. Our client is paying repeatedly for the same visitors.

Moving in closer still, we can look at the cities from which clients come. Fortunately, our client has a national market, and his service is specialized enough that he can track his new customers’ cities. We can see, when he gains a new customer from Schenectady, whether this new customer came from paid search or from organic search. We can also tell how many times they visited, and whether they kept clicking through the ad, or if they came back directly.With a little math, we can determine the conversion rates we need. In this case, it looks as though the ads are doing a good job, so we just need to bring the cost per conversion down as low as possible.

If your business wouldn’t give you this information, that just means that you have to look from another angle. Keep digging until you find a way of getting a good guess at the information you’re lacking.

In this case, we can come up with a good list of actionable items from our digging:

  • Set up measurable goals on the site, whether with dedicated phone numbers, compelling contact forms on the ad landing pages, or specific landing pages for each ad.
  • Rework the ads’ landing pages to encourage customers to come back directly instead of revisiting through the ads.
  • Now that the cost of advertising is going down, shift some of that investment toward linkbuilding and improved landing page design to increase organic search traffic, referral traffic and conversion.

In short, when you don’t seem to have the information you need, begin collecting it — but also dig for it in other ways and work toward actionable discoveries.







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