End of Year Analytics, Part I

Facebook ruffled some feathers with their auto-generated “your year” feature. Their algorithm takes the posts that appear to have been most important and makes a review of 2014. Like Google’s Stories (which document a “Night in Mexico City” that unfortunately was not part of my year), the Facebook year-end posts missed the mark sometimes by making choices human beings wouldn’t have made. Sometimes they reminded people of the death of a loved one in an inappropriately upbeat way — and some people were apparently upset to be reminded of the misery they’d posted about all year.

While some took things into their own hands — example below — others took the opportunity to reject the challenges of their year.

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When it comes to your website, looking on the bright side is not what you want. Start your year-end review of your website with an honest look at what worked and what didn’t.

Google Analytics is our starting point. If you use other web analytics programs, the names of your reports will be different, but you should see much the same kind of data.

Places to look:

  • Check your traffic and where it came from in the Acquisitions report. The Overview and the All Traffic report tend to provide the most insights for us, and we look for the things that are not predictable and normal. For example, here are HadenInteractive.com about two thirds of our visitors arrive via organic search, which is what we would have expected. But we see that our conversion rate for those visitors is about 2.25%. For people who come as direct traffic, the conversion rate is over 11%. In our case, a lot of visitors are coming for free advice, and that’s fine. But we should certainly explore our direct traffic further and look for ways to encourage it. We can also see that some of our referral traffic has a very high conversion rate, over 25% — we definitely want more links like that in the coming year.
  • Check your popular pages and posts in the Behavior > Site Content > All Pages report. For this website and many others where we blog, we see that we have people who regularly come to the blog page to read the new post. This is one of the benefits of regular blogging. But we also see popular pages or posts — content that gets thousands of visits a week year in and year out. We want to write more posts like that. Granted, we also sometimes see posts that got lots of traffic, but not the kind of traffic that brings leads and sales. Having a recipe go viral doesn’t do much for a an engineer’s website from the standpoint of business. Traffic is never a bad thing, but targeted traffic is the good thing.
  • Check your conversions in your Goals report. Spend some time in this section to see the path to conversion among your visitors. Do you see a long path with lots of visits before a visitor buys or makes contact? What source and medium is most effective? Do your multi-channel funnels include some surprises? For us, this section didn’t show us ineffective efforts so much as it showed us effective methods we hadn’t used as much as we should have. The information in this section of your analytics should give you some useful direction for how to allocate your resources.

Our customer relationship management software tells us that our website was responsible for most of our sales in 2014:

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While this could mean that we should spend more time networking, figure out what those miscellaneous leads were, or develop a referral program, it certainly does mean that we have to invest in our website. It’s a workhorse worth feeding. The first step of the year end review for your website is to identify what worked well for you in 2014 and to plan to do more of that in 2015.

Here are some questions to ask as you look over your website’s performance in 2014:

  • Where did we put our online marketing resources?
  • How effective were those initiatives?
  • What delivered the best ROI?
  • What did we invest in that didn’t perform well?

Doing more of what worked well is simple. For the things that don’t seem to have worked well, you need to dig further:

  • Did you invest too little? If you launched a website early in 2014, did nothing with it all year, and are dissatisfied with your website’s performance, that probably means that you need to invest more, not less. If you ran a few Cost Per Click campaigns of $100 each and set them up randomly, you probably didn’t even invest enough to get the data you need to optimize your campaigns.
  • Did you do it wrong? If you sent out an email newsletter each week in 2014 and saw only a handful of conversions while your organic traffic converted at a solid 5%, you need to change what you do with your email marketing. If you saw a handful of conversions — but only sent out a couple of newsletters, so that was a 5% conversion rate, then your casual approach was a mistake.
  • Are you misinterpreting your data? Your salesperson called on an individual and they visited your website a few times, signed up for a newsletter, and a couple of issues later, they converted. You mark that conversion as the result of a cold call, but they might never have taken action without your website and your email marketing. Make sure you are really looking at the results you think you’re looking at.
  • Is this just the wrong approach for you? Once you’re sure that you gave it the old college try and you’re confident that it didn’t work, cross that underperforming tactic off your list for 2015. We see that our typical new customer in 2014 found us through organic search or referral or less often through social media, and then came back as direct traffic. We see that traffic from blogging communities has a 0% conversion rate online, and doesn’t show up in our CRM as the source of any sales. However much we might enjoy participating in these communities, the ROI is dismal. If we want to continue this kind of participation, we shouldn’t do it on company time.

At this point, you should have an idea of what online marketing strategies and tactics worked well for you and should get more resources in 2015. You should be able to identify a few things to eliminate. And you should have a few things that are worth trying again, but differently.

If you are not able to make those three lists, we’ll be happy to help. Call us at 479-966-9761 or email Rosie. If you’re in Northwest Arkansas, we’d love to buy you a cup of coffee and help you figure out what worked well for you this year and what needs work.


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