Analysing mobile traffic in Google Analytics

One of the hottest topics in multi-channel retailing over the past 12 months has been the growth in mobile commerce. As sales of smartphones continue to rise, so too does the percentage of people browsing the Internet through their mobile device and indeed purchasing products.

My role at Leapfrogg involves delving in and out of Google Analytics on a daily basis. One of the best segments in Analytics is the mobile traffic segment, which can provide you with extremely interesting insights.

Google Analytics now has a default segment for mobile visitors under ‘Visitors > Mobile > Mobile Devices’. You should be able to see a trend of traffic from mobile devices, rather like below:

The screenshot above is a comparison in mobile traffic from January 2011 to January 2010 for one of our clients. The number of visits from mobile devices has increased by 558% in just one year, indicating the pace at which this sector is growing.

From this screen, you can also find out answers to the following questions, all of which can help to formulate your mobile strategy:

  • What percentage of your overall traffic is from mobile? How has this figure grown in the past few months?
  • What operating system have they come from, i.e. iPad, iPhone, Android or Blackberry?
  • If you have goals set up, what actions are mobile visitors performing on your site? Are conversion rates higher or lower from mobile users than other traffic sources?
  • If e-commerce data is set up, how much revenue have you obtained from mobile? How does this stack up against other traffic sources?

If you are finding a high proportion of traffic is coming via mobile but conversion rates and revenue are low, you may want to think about advertising to these users with specific mobile-only paid search campaigns. Another way of improving conversion rates would be to invest in a mobile optimised site, something which a lot of big brands have put time and effort into this year.

Alternatively, if you receive a high proportion of traffic from a particular operator, (i.e. iPhones), you may already have a market for your target audience in which you could develop a mobile app. There are pros and cons for developing apps as oppose to optimising your site for mobile users, the subject of a blog post at a later date…

Hopefully this will give you an idea so you can at least start to think about a mobile strategy for your business. How has your mobile traffic grown in the past year?

What we’ve learnt in 2010 (and what we look forward to in 2011)

With contributions from various members of the Leapfrogg team, we take a look back at what we’ve learnt this year in digital marketing and online retail.  We also look forward to 2011; what we’ll be keeping an eye on and how we expect 2010’s developments to evolve.

Google continues to innovate but at what cost?

Leapfrogg’s natural search team, Suzanne and Ben Adam, comment on the significant changes Google has made to both its back end architecture and search experience:

“2010 saw Google roll out its new indexing system, ‘caffeine’, which updates their search index on a continuous basis and therefore should provide more up to date results to users. The Mayday update, placed more emphasis on authority sites for long tail searches. Sites that create fresh, useful, original content, in a range of formats (i.e. images, video) and optimise for long tail searches will benefit most from these updates. These are good practices that we’ve been advocating for many years so from our point of view the changes have had little impact on the recommendations we make to clients.

The typical Google searcher would probably understand little of ‘caffeine’ and ‘Mayday’ but 2010 has seen an unprecedented number of changes to Google’s search engine results page (SERP) that certainly would not have gone unnoticed, most notably Instant Search, Previews, the somewhat pointless blue arrows, and Google Places.

In 2011, it will be interesting to see if the increasingly cluttered Google results page turns users off OR will the changes to back end architecture counter this by reducing the amount of spam and therefore making search results more relevant and fresh? With Bing increasingly offering a viable alternative to Google, will we see users jump ship? Or is ‘Googling’ just too synonymous with the act of searching in the mindset of most search engine users? 2011 is shaping up to be a pivotal year in the search engine wars, not to mention the threat posed by the big social networks, such as Facebook”.

The growing influence of social signals on search engine rankings

Social Media and Content Executive, James Mortimer, comments on the continued convergence of search and social:

“2010 has seen Google and Bing confirm that tweets and Facebook ‘likes’ have an influence on search rankings. In 2011, I expect to see the continued convergence of search and social. This will demand that companies take a much more holistic view of SEO; an approach where traditional activities, such as keyword optimisation and link building are combined with more contemporary tactics in social media marketing, an approach we’ve been advocating for a long time. I am sure more and more companies will adopt this more holistic approach now that the major search engines have confirmed a direct relationship between search engine rankings and social media activity, particularly on Twitter.

If, as suspected, one of the factors the search engines focus on is the number of followers on Twitter, will we see an increase in the use of auto-following tools to artificially inflate followers? Personally, I refuse to follow anybody who has an unnatural looking Twitter profile (i.e. following 23,984 people with almost the same number following them back!) but will the search engines be able to spot this kind of activity?

The importance of having a local ‘footprint’

Analyst, Andy, and Client Services Director, Greg, have been paying particular attention to the growing importance of local search:

“In October, Google updated how it displays local search results; they are no longer restricted to a specific section at the top of the SERP. Instead, local results on Google are now integrated into the main ‘natural’ listings. With Google placing more and more emphasis on local listings, we expect 2011 will see an increase in online shoppers entering phrases such as “designer dresses” and being served results that includes listings for nearby retail stores (regardless of whether they use a location term within their search query).

What we find most interesting about this change is the potential impact it has on retailers without physical stores, for example ASOS. Herein lies a somewhat ironic dilemma for online retailers in 2011 – an online brand could start to suffer in the search results because it DOESN’T have a physical store(s)”. Do not be suprised to see brands that have traditionally traded online, for example ASOS and Amazon, develop some form of high street presence in 2011 (note; this will not be necessarily be purely as a result of Google’s change to local listings).

Joining the dots

Paid search manager, Amelia, saw huge benefits in the use of software and advanced tracking tools to measure the success of multi-channel marketing campaigns:

The growth in mobile highlights the key challenge faced by brands; ¾ of consumers use two or more channels to browse, research & purchase products. Not only does this demand that brands have a presence where consumers expect them to be (online, mobile, the high street and so on) but it makes analysis and optimisation of the path to sale absolutely essential. We’ve really seen the value of investing in software to better understand the user journey. The ability to measure the first click to the final sale visit (whether this is online or in-store) is crucial when evaluating the returns from digital marketing activity. We have been amazed with some of the insights we have found when looking at sale journeys, particularly for retailers where the path to sale is more likely to involve a number of channels over a period of time. Seeing the overall sale path journey enables us to quantify the success of specific keywords which contribute to sales via brand terms or via different traffic sources”.

The year mobile finally took off

MD, Rosie, comments on how the year when brands finally saw some measurable returns from mobile commerce:

“It seems that every year, for as long as I can remember, analysts have claimed that ‘this will be the year mobile commerce’ takes off. Well 2010 might just be the year that this claim was finally justified.  Smart phone adoption still represents a relatively small percentage of the overall market, however, the number of people subscribing to smart phones this year has been significant enough for a number of brands to finally see tangible benefits of investing in mobile enabled websites and applications.

2011 will see this trend continue as more and more brands learn from the early adopters and invest in mobile commerce. However, it is vital that marketers understand the difference between the conventional browser and mobile experience. With mobile, there is an even greater emphasis to give people exactly what they want as smaller screens make it difficult for functionality, such as dynamic merchandising, to work effectively. Keeping things simple will be key to success for mobile websites and applications”.

Don’t run before you can walk

Head of Social Media and Content, Lucy comments on the need to ensure tactical execution is linked back to commercial objectives:

“Everyone seems to have embraced Twitter and Facebook this year, but we’ve sometimes pushed back on briefs because we didn’t believe social media was really going to deliver to a brands commercial objectives. It’s all too easy to jump on the social media bandwagon. However, when a marketing team has limited budget, often the more tried and tested direct marketing or more quantifiable and measurable link building and online PR activity can be proven to deliver more.

Although we love it when our brands want to experiment, we always need to ensure campaigns deliver to the bottom line. If you’re selling to a target audience that isn’t highly active in social media, then sometimes it is not the right medium to use. But even if it is, we very much advocate that clients get the basics right before they start investing in social media, for example. Very much a case of learning to walk before you run”.

Agencies need to evolve

Sales and Marketing Director, Ben, comments on how the role digital agencies need to take with their clients:

“In 2010, I’ve seen a noticeable shift in what clients expect from their agency partners. Clients are looking for much more than tactical delivery…and so they should. We’ve really seen the value of more closely aligning digital strategies to a client’s commercial objectives and completely changed the language we use to communicate with prospects and clients as a result.

It highlights to me how the SEO industry needs to evolve in 2011 beginning with a rebrand. SEO is a dated term that fails to represent the remit of the job undertaken by forward thinking agencies. The convergence of search and social, the need to be creating useful and unique content, and the strategic and analytical value added by an agency is much more than SEO. In 2011, I’d like to see less emphasis on somewhat dated language such as ‘rankings’, and especially those agencies still making ‘guarantees’, to instead focus on messaging that more closely reflects the landscape and the expectations of clients”.

 

What were you key lessons from 2010? What are you going to be keeping a close on in 2011? We’d love to hear from you?

Digital marketing benchmarking report for premium home and garden retailers

Over the course of 2010, Leapfrogg is conducting a series of surveys investigating premium retailers’ use of, and attitudes, towards digital marketing. We are looking at a number of very specific niche markets beginning with home and garden. Further surveys will look at premium fashion, health and beauty, and food and wine.

This first survey was sent to 80 premium home and garden retailers with just over a quarter taking part. Respondents included well recognised high street brands and smaller retailers.

The full report is available to download here. Below we have included some of the key findings:

Use of marketing channels

The top five online marketing channels being ‘heavily’ or ‘partially’ used by premium home and garden retailers are articles and press releases (75%), email marketing (67%), search engine optimisation (67%), paid search (66%) and voucher codes (48%).

Respondents are ‘just getting started’ with social networking (38%), micro-blogging i.e. Twitter (33%), blogging (30%) and involvement in forums and communities (25%).

Interestingly, respondents have ‘no intention of becoming involved’ in the creation of audio (55%) or video content (35%), mobile marketing (33%) and shopping/comparison engines (33%). And although a number of retailers are adopting the use of voucher codes, a further 33% have no intention of using them.

It is suggested that premium home and garden retailers take the time to investigate the opportunities presented by video and mobile in particular. Video and the use of mobile technology to access the Internet, read product reviews and download coupons/vouchers are experiencing significant growth with consumers.

Importance of marketing channels

The top five online channels that are considered most important to the success of the business are search engine optimisation (76%), email marketing (50%), articles and press releases (33%), paid search (30%) and reputation management (25%).

The areas that are felt to be unimportant are voucher codes (33%), social networking (30%), audio (27%), mobile marketing (24%) and shopping and comparison sites (24%).

Understandably, premium brands may feel the use of voucher codes ‘cheapens’ their offering. However, Leapfrogg would consider it a concern that so few companies rate the importance of social networking and mobile marketing, in particular.

Channel rating according to return on investment (ROI)

The key channels that are claimed to deliver return on investment are search engine optimisation (SEO), email marketing, and articles and press releases.

In respect of the other 13 online channels the majority view is that the return on investment is indifferent.  Social networking is perceived to have a very poor return on investment by one quarter of the respondents, suggesting that premium home and garden retailers have not yet implemented appropriate systems to measure their social media marketing efforts with accuracy and in line with business goals.

Channel resource plans

The online activities where resource is being increased in 2010, compared to 2009, are social networking (65%), email marketing (60%), micro-blogging (58%), SEO (57%), activity in forums and communities (43%) and blogging (44%).

Plans to increase resource in social networking is interesting when it is considered that a quarter of respondents perceived social networking to have a very poor return on investment, whilst a lack of internal resource (see later section) was also deemed a significant barrier to the success of social media efforts. It is therefore suggested that premium home and garden retailers need to carefully consider objectives from social media activity, set up appropriate systems to measure performance and ensure adequate levels of in-house resource are dedicated to managing social media effectively.

Multi-channel marketing

Results indicate that respondents combine more traditional online activities, such as SEO, PPC and email when running multi-channel campaigns. Social media and blogging also represent popular channels, yet integrating mobile is very low, despite consumers growing use of smart phone technology to access the Internet.

It is recommended that premium home and garden retailers consider all the ‘touch points’ between brand and consumer and implement multi-channel marketing campaigns that ensure a consistent offering and message is present across all of them.

Management of marketing channels

Marketing is the department responsible for managing all online activities except PR, of which there is either a dedicated department or it is outsourced.  IT is responsible for search engine optimisation (SEO) in just over one third of the retailers who responded, which might suggest it is viewed as a technical discipline as opposed to a marketing activity.

Knowledge of customers

Generally, premium home and garden retailers feel that they need to know more about the behaviour of their customers online. 82% do not know how their customers behave on social networks and 66% do not know what their customers are saying about their brand online.

The latter is a particular point of interest as consumers are increasingly willing, and easily able, to share their thoughts with hundreds, possibly thousands of others through blogs, forums, reviews sites and social networks. In turn, purchasing decisions are heavily influenced by the positive and negative reviews a retailer may receive online. It is therefore suggested respondents investigate the use of buzz monitoring tools to quickly identify the conversations happening around their brand and products.

55% feel informed about their customer’s behaviour on their website suggesting respondents have implemented, and are using analytical tools to good effect. However, 45% appear not to be using tools, such as Google Analytics, to great effect therefore limiting the opportunity to make informed decisions on optimising site performance.

Knowledge of search engine ranking factors

Premium home and garden retailers rate keyword placement (67%), website architecture (57%), Meta tags (55%), the user experience (48%) and external links (43%) as crucial to achieving high search engine rankings. Rich media content and blogging were considered by the majority as important but not crucial to improving search engine rankings.

A quarter of respondents were unsure of the impact on search engine rankings of choice of technology and social media activity. Concerning the latter, it is recommended respondents investigate the relationship between search and social media as these channels cannot, and should not, operate in isolation of one another.

Goal setting

Half of premium home and garden retailers used past performance as a benchmark for setting goals for digital marketing activity along with basing predictions on financial goals.

One third of respondents do not currently set goals for digital marketing activity. It is highly recommended that premium home and garden retailers work to establish objectives using SMART methodology to ensure there is direction and focus for digital marketing activity. In addition, appropriate tools and processes should be put in place to measure goals accurately.

Ability to track goals accurately

Respondents rated their ability to track search engine rankings (57%), online conversions (48%), email marketing performance (47%), behaviour of site visitors (35%) and affiliate marketing (33%) as good.

Areas not being tracked accurately include conversions from social media activity (74%), mobile marketing (73%) and customer lifetime value (71%).

59% do not currently track overall return on investment from digital marketing activity.

This would indicate there is still a great deal of progress to be made in the area of measurement. Retailers should be implementing the appropriate tools and processes to measure the impact of each online channel. Better tracking will not only enable return on investment to be calculated from each channel but also provide invaluable data for forecasting and developing future strategies.

Agency relationships

The split between managing work in-house and the use of external agencies is 50:50 with a slight preference for conducting more of the work in-house but using specialist agencies where needed. Those that use external resources use specialist SEO agencies, full service digital agencies, web designers, affiliate marketing and PR companies.

Premium home and garden retailers rated the ability to deliver results (95%) as the most important factor when working with an agency. Specific knowledge of the customers’ market (76%), and having open lines of communication (67%) also rated particularly highly.

Premium home and garden retailers believe it is ‘crucial’ that an online agency has knowledge of the clients’ target audience (80%), their key performance indicators (73%) and knowledge of the business plan (53%). Yet only 40% believe an agency should have knowledge of the clients’ offline marketing strategy (40%).  This indicates that premium home and garden retailers need to better communicate offline activity with their agencies therefore ensuring a consistent, and properly integrated online/offline marketing strategy.

Barriers to success

The barriers that prevent premium home and garden retailers from maximising their online marketing efforts are lack of internal resource, lack of budget and a lack of understanding.  Board approval and not having an appropriate measurement tool are also cited as significant barriers.

The ‘lack of internal resource’ is of particular interest as a high number of companies choose to manage digital marketing in-house yet do not appear to possess the necessary capacity to do so to maximum effect.

Download the full report here. If you would like to discuss any aspect of the report findings, please get in touch. And remember to keep a look out for future reports covering premium fashion, health and beauty, and food and wine.

Infographic – the online retail wheel of fortune

With ever-increasing competition online and the demand to deliver a multi-channel shopping experience, online retailers have a never ending list of actions they need to take in implementing a successful digital marketing strategy.

Add to that the growing sophistication in how search engines display their results; the introduction of blended search, personalised search, social search and real-time search demand a much more holistic approach to search engine optimisation (SEO); an approach that combines traditional activities, such as keyword selection and link building, with more contemporary tactics in social media and content marketing.

A successful online retail strategy is therefore made up of many parts that are continually growing and repeating throughout the customer buying cycle. This can at times be overwhelming as retailers struggle to find the resource, time and skills to succeed in every necessary area.

Understanding this, we thought we would lend a helping hand to online retailers by creating the infographic to end all infographics; the online retail wheel of fortune. This is a graphical representation of the main elements to be incorporated into your online strategy to maximise success.

And here it is! Now being rather large, and very detailed, you will need to download the pdf version to digest it fully, which you can access by clicking here.

As you will see we have split our graphic into four main sections, representing key stages of the customer buying cycle as follows:

Reach
Covering the top line projects and tactics aimed at maximising your online exposure, therefore enabling you to connect with as many prospects as possible, which in turn drives more of the right traffic to your website.

Engage
The tools and techniques you can use to ‘talk’ to your audience once you have found them.

Convert
How to turn those engaged prospects into customers by optimising the user experience on your site, for example.

Retain
The actions you need to take to encourage repeat sales and develop advocates of your brand.

For each key stage of the buying cycle, we have detailed areas of attack, top level projects, specific actions within those  projects and some of the key benefits you will experience. Start with ‘reach’ before working your way out and then around to the next stage.

We realise it is a lot to take in…but this should also highlight just how much is involved in researching, planning and implementing an integrated digital marketing strategy for retailers.

We’d love to hear from you with your comments.

25 questions to ask yourself before taking digital marketing in-house

From time to time, our clients will decide to take their entire digital marketing strategy, or perhaps certain activities, in-house. As an agency we have no problem with this. We accept that relationships built on transparency and trust will inevitably see some clients learn enough from our team, and develop the confidence, to eventually feel they can take things forward without the use of an agency.

Where this is the case, we like to help clients on their way by ensuring they fully understand the range of required skills, technology and resource to manage their online strategy to maximum effect. We do this by working with them to assess their capability and capacity through a series of questions, often with a workshop tagged on for good measure.

The agency vs in-house conundrum is one that you may well face at some stage. To help you decide whether in-house, outsourced or a combination of the two solutions is best for you, I thought I’d share a number of the questions we pose to our clients when they’re considering their options.

You’ll notice the questions tend to be more general than highly specific as responses will inevitably lead to further discussion. What we try and highlight to clients during this process is that search engine marketing has become increasingly complex over the years. This means a greater amount of expertise, experience and resource is needed than ever before if they are to maximise the effectiveness of their in-house efforts.

So with that in mind, here are 25 questions to help you assess whether you have the skills and resource to manage an integrated search, social media and content strategy in-house:

Search engine optimisation

1) What is your knowledge and understanding of search engine algorithms?

2) Are you aware of ‘blended search’, ‘personalised search’, ‘social search’ and ‘real-time search’, and what they mean for your search engine marketing efforts?

3) Do you know how to research and categorise search terms? What is your experience of incorporating these terms naturally into highly engaging web copy?

4) How will you be continuously building links to your website? What is your experience / knowledge of good practice in this area?

5) What knowledge do you have of user-experience and the impact this has on both search engine rankings and conversion rates?

6) Do you understand what needs to be considered when the time comes to redevelop your website, such as the choice of technology / content management system (CMS) and how to migrate from the old site to the new without negative impact?

7) What is your experience of using freely available tools, such as those in the Google Webmaster console and their role in analysing search engine performance?

Paid Search

8 What experience do you have in setting up and managing Paid Search campaigns?

9) Do you know how to analyse campaign data on an ongoing basis and optimise campaigns with a view to maximising ROI?

10) Do you have experience in landing page testing with the aim of improving conversion rates?

11) How much time can you dedicate each day to managing your Paid Search campaign?

Content

12) What provisions/plans/schedules do you have in place for creating content, on a regular basis, in formats, such as articles, press releases, blogs and video?

13) Do you know how to properly optimise all of the above formats?

14) Do you know how to most effectively distribute the above formats to maximise reach?

15) Do you know how to measure the impact of your content strategy?

Social Media

16) What research tools do you have to identify the websites, blogs, forums and communities where your target audience is most active?

17) Have you got a social media strategy in place based on this research?

18) Do you understand the ‘rules of engagement’ when it comes to using social media tools, such as Twitter?

19) How will you be monitoring where your brand is being talked about online?

20) Have you had experience in dealing with negative comments about your brand or service online?

21) Do you monitor buzz on your industry so you can proactively respond?

22) How will you monitor / measure the success of your social media efforts?

23) What efforts do you make to retain customers and develop advocates of your brand?

Measurement

24) How will you set and measure goals and objectives? Do you have the appropriate experience, tools and processes in place to measure the variables that really matter, such as conversions, cost per conversion, lifetime value of customer and ROI?

25) Do you have experience in studying web analytics to make informed decisions about your website aimed at improving conversion rates?

As well as the above questions we also recommend people consider how they are going to keep pace with latest trends and developments  i.e. how much time can they dedicate to reading, attending conferences and so on? This is an important, but often overlooked, aspect of managing things in-house.

One point I would like to highlight is that even though I operate agency side I do not automatically assume outsourced is the best solution. It is entirely dependent on the organisation in question. It is rare amongst SME’s in particular, that one solution is more effective than the other. Usually, companies will have certain in-house skills and a certain amount of capacity to look after aspects of their strategy. But an agency will usually have invested in technology and a team of people possessing a wide range of skills that can be brought to the table to complement those possessed in-house.

Another equally important point to consider is that even when outsourcing to an agency, your involvement in the project is integral to its success. Digital marketing is never 100% outsourced because to a certain degree the success of a project is dictated by you, the client. I’ll be exploring this in more detail next time around.

Until then…

Why preparation is integral to success in digital marketing

Just before Christmas I had the honour of being best man to one of my life long friends. Of course with that honour came an equal measure of paralysing fear as I considered how I would deliver a best mans speech to remember; fear that was compounded further by an earlier showing as best man a few years ago where I still to this day cringe at just how much I fluffed it.

You’ll be happy to hear, however, that this time around I absolutely stormed it (if I can be so bold to say!). And you know what made the difference? Well, it really came down to one factor; preparation. A few years back, as a younger man (with a slight air of arrogance about me), I felt I could deliver a knock out speech with little planning and even less practice. As an older, and hopefully wiser man, I realised that research, planning and practice were essential components to a successful speech.

Where am I going with this? Well, preparation is equally important to the success of your digital marketing efforts. However, time and time again companies throw money and resource online with very little research or planning. It seems many of the basic principles that people apply to offline marketing campaigns are too easily forgotten when it comes to the implementation of online strategies. Instead, there is often a misguided notion that by throwing enough money at Google Adwords, sticking a keyword or two into a title tag or setting up a Twitter profile, a pot of gold will be waiting at the end of the rainbow.

It’s just not that easy I’m afraid. With increasing competition online and growing sophistication in how search engines display their results, research and planning is absolutely paramount to a successful online strategy. The introduction of blended search, personalised search, social search and real-time search demand a much more holistic approach to search engine optimisation (SEO); an approach that combines traditional activities, such as keyword selection and link building, with more contemporary tactics in social media and content marketing.

But a more holistic and sophisticated approach to SEO in turn demands a greater focus on research and planning. Research is essential in providing insight, focus and direction for your digital marketing strategy. Planning ensures your digital strategy is aligned with your objectives, internal time and resource, offline marketing and budget.

So with this in mind, what do we suggest you look at as part of a detailed research and planning phase? Well, here’s an insight into a few of the things we focus on during the first few weeks of a new project, and review at regular intervals thereafter:

Competitor analysis

For any new project, we ask a client who they consider to be the their key competitors. We then analyse the online marketing activity of these competitors, including SEO efforts, Paid Search campaigns, content and social media. By carrying out analysis of your competitors it provides insight, focus and direction for your own online efforts. Have you ever heard the saying, ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer?’ That’s why you need to analyse the competitive space and know exactly what you’re up against before you get started.

Prospects and customers

A number of sophisticated tools allow you to discover where your prospects and customers spend their time online, what they talk about and how they interact with one another, as well as who influences their purchasing decisions. This research allows you to create a community map; a visual representation of the websites, blogs, forums and social networks where your target audience is most active. In turn, this map dictates where you need to be pushing content along with the social media tools, such as Twitter, that you need to use to engage with your prospects, customers and those people who influence them.

It’s also well worth scouring the web for published research, reports and studies on the audience you are targeting. For example, if you’re market is 17-25 year olds there is bound to be some freely available research that provides insight their use of the Internet, such as the social networks they frequent most regularly. If not, you may even consider commissioning your own research!

Content brainstorming

The research that goes into creating a community map will highlight the problems, issues and concerns faced by your target audience. Analysing a number of your key competitors will also highlight where you can gain an advantage by creating content they may not have considered or by bettering what they are already doing. It is therefore important to audit the content you already have (digital assets) and then brainstorm new content ideas that may include additional resources on your website, articles, press releases, blog posts, images, video and audio. Creating and marketing content on an ongoing basis is essential in making your website a stronger resource, building authority and in entering social spaces with something of real value to the target audience.

Site architecture planning

One of the most important elements of creating a great website is information architecture. A site that is well organised and intuitive will set the foundations for search engine rankings, as well as benefiting visitors to your website with a clear and intuitive path to the point of conversion.

In researching new content ideas it is important to plan how this content will be integrated into your website. During the research and planning stage it is therefore a good idea to map out your existing website and then, on the basis of continually adding new content, also map out where you expect the site to be in say, 3, 6 and 12 months time. This helps to provide direction and a clear goal of what you are working towards, therefore forming the basis of a content schedule.

Link research

In-bound links to your website from other sites of relevance and quality is a crucial factor in determining how well your website ranks on the major search engines, as well as driving traffic and increasing online awareness of your business.

Activity in content marketing and social media will yield links to your website but it’s a good idea to spend time researching specific websites, such as directories, organisations and industry bodies that you would ideally like a link from. Once you have your list you can then figure out the best way of gaining a link, be it a direct request, the offer of content, product trials or dare we say it, hard cash!

Benchmarking and setting up of reporting/tracking solutions

Traffic driven to your website from search engines, social media activity and content marketing should be measured by its impact on revenue. Search engine rankings and traffic alone are not appropriate measures of success for your digital marketing efforts; instead focus on conversions to calculate ROI and therefore the impact on your bottom line. At the research and planning stage consider the tools you need to use to measure ROI before setting realistic benchmarks and targets based on the research you have carried out above.

In summary, what I am trying to demonstrate is that when it comes to implementing a successful digital marketing strategy you can’t just jump straight in. Research and careful planning will allow you to maximise your reach, targeted traffic, online conversion rates, levels of customer retention, as well as the number of brand advocates. In an increasingly complex and competitive online space, meeting these objectives doesn’t just happen. Don’t abandon the thinking and methods you would usually adopt when investing your budget offline because although many so called SEO agencies and ‘consultants’ will fall over themselves to tell you so, there are no magic formulas when it comes to achieving long term, sustained success online.

How the big retailers conquered the recession (and the lessons you can learn from them)

As this is our first post of 2010, I’d like to welcome you back and wish everyone a very Happy New Year!

And what a start to the year it has been. Wherever I turn recently I am being bombarded with news that many of the UK’s largest retailers enjoyed a roaring, and in some cases, record Christmas trade. The likes of Next, John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Gap and House of Fraser are just some of those reporting some mind boggling trading figures.

Whoop whoop and high fives all round because after a year of doom and gloom it’s both a joy and relief to hear such marvellous success stories. And the even better news, especially if you work in digital, is that the Internet played a defining role for most of these businesses.

Although the recession suffocated the high street in 2009, it appears online retail, or e-tail if you like, may have saved many of our favourite high street names from suffering the same fate as big names such as Woolworths. For many of our largest retailers Internet sales have seemingly countered the losses of a quieter high street. And it’s not just big brands that have experienced this. We work with a small retailer based in Brighton. They invested in their digital marketing strategy at just the right time and it paid dividends in 2009. The client set growth targets of 22% for 2009. They hit 27% and although sales via the physical store were down the web more than made up for it.

But how have retailers achieved this and what can you learn from them? Well first and foremost, and perhaps most importantly, was the ‘fortune favours the brave’ approach taken by major brands and many smaller players alike. The wisest of retailers looked at the situation at the beginning of 2009 and realised to survive they needed to continue investing in marketing, particularly online, by ramping up their efforts in order to match the expectations and demand of their customers. Three key areas have been integral to success:

Improvements to website

Retailers worked hard to improve their websites, with a particular focus on design and user-experience. If there is one analogy that I cannot stop saying to people right now it is this…’you can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink’. No words could better describe the workings of a website because in many ways it is relatively easy to drive traffic to your website. However, actually turning visitors into customers is a whole different ball game. Research from Amaze and the University of Glasgow discovered a staggering 87% of customer abandon their baskets before completing their purchase. This should highlight just how hard you have to work to turn an interested window shopper into a purchasing customer.

This challenge is only met with a well designed, intuitive, content-rich website that instils trust in the visitor. Retailers are realising you need to offer a lot more than a list of products. Useful and engaging content, such as ‘how to’ guides, articles, blogs and especially video have become vital to retail websites over the last year or so. Marks and Spencer and ASOS are just a couple of the retailers who have invested heavily in cat walk style video to show their products off in a more engaging way. I don’t have the data available but I bet it’s had a profound impact on conversion rates.

Social media

Many retailers have also embraced social media as a means of creating open dialogue with their prospects and customers. Facebook and Twitter have proven to be particularly powerful tools with retailers looking to connect with their audiences with product updates, sales, promotions and so on. The recent figures released by Dell show that with the right strategy in place Twitter is a viable marketing channel that can be linked directly back to sales and ROI.

The rise of social media has also contributed to retailers upping their game when it comes to service. In an age where blogs, forums and review sites offer an open invitation for customers to say both good and bad things about a brand, companies have realised that they need to wow their customers with great service and communication. The use of social media tools are therefore perfect for creating open dialogue with customers both as a promotional tool and for customer service.

Measurement

Retailers are implementing systems that allow multiple channels to be measured with a high degree of accuracy. In turn, the marketers on the front line can demonstrate to the big cheeses that Internet marketing is not a passing fad but the most targeted, cost effective and measurable means of reaching their target audience available.

It is worth noting that retailers have also benefited from changes in consumer behaviour. The average consumer has become more astute and explorative when buying online meaning they’re investing more time in hunting down a bargain or discount. According to a recent Paypal report, 62% of shoppers believe the best bargains are to be had online. The advent of voucher codes along with the discount boom helps provide a constant incentive for people to browse and spend more time on the Internet than they would normally spend visiting the high street on a Saturday afternoon. (And with that men up and down the country are rejoicing as their better halves turn to the Internet instead of dragging them around the local shopping centre!!).

In a follow up post to this one I’ll be going into more detail on what needs to be included in your digital strategy for 2010 if you are to repeat some of the success stories highlighted above. In the meantime, bear this in mind; Retail Decisions (ReD) has calculated that internet retail sales in the UK hit £49.8 billion in 2009, up 21% from 2008. Overall, up to 33 million consumers made an online purchase last year. And according to research carried out by eDigitalResearch, four in ten consumers plan to spend more online next Christmas due to a positive online experience this year. It might be said therefore that online retail has defied the recession and in my view will continue to do so.

So as we say goodbye to a pretty rotten 2009, it’s time to start afresh and review your plans for 2010 to ensure you are positioning yourself to take full advantage.

Until next time…

Improving your bounce rates…Jump to it!

What are bounce rates and how do they affect me? I hear you ask…

Well, for starters, Google Analytics defines a bounce as any visit where the visitor arrives on a site and views only one page before they exit. So, in the eyes of a search engine, high bounce rates are a good indicator of a poor site experience or perhaps demonstrate the site’s lack of relevance to the search query entered by the user. Therefore, this means that bounce rates could be a significant factor affecting search engine rankings.

So, the relevance of bounce rates to you, as a site owner, is that not only will high bounce rates potentially reduce your rankings, but it also means you’re losing out on conversions.

But where can I find out how bouncy my site is? (Unfortunately not a particularly technical term but I like it)

You can take a look at bounce rates for specific pages on your site via its Google Analytics account. When investigating bounce rates on your site, keep in mind that in Internet terms, 50% is a moderate bounce rate so a page with a bounce rate below this is good news.

However, if you find that your pages have bounce rates higher than the 50% bench mark then you may wish to take some action to encourage visitors to move past the entry page and peruse the site further.

But how do I improve my bounce rates?

Hey presto! You’re in luck…below I have compiled some points you should consider in order to improve your page bounce rates and ultimately increase rankings and conversions. So sit up straight and pay attention…pens at the ready? Let’s go…

Navigation and Layout

  • Is the navigation and page layout consistent with the rest of the site?
  • Are there links to related pages (or products on an e-commerce site) to encourage navigation through the site?
  • Is the key information positioned above the fold of the page? A gripping image as an eye catcher and a short teaser paragraph are also key for encouraging visitors to stay on the site / convert for you.
  • Is there a sufficient amount of white space? Are there too many distractions putting the visitor off completing a conversion?

Copy

  • Think about the layout of your copy…Is the text broken up? Do you use bullet points? Have you bolded out important words? Think about making your copy as easy to read as possible for visitors.
  • Does the page include visible calls to action encouraging visitors to take a particular action? It is especially important that these appear above the fold of the page.
  • Are titles within your page copy bold and clear at the top of the page so the visitor can clearly see what the page is about?
  • Is there a sufficient amount of optimised content on the page to engage visitors? We usually recommend approximately 150 – 200 words per page. Remember to include relevant keywords in your copy.
  • Is the font a reasonable size making your content easier to read?

General

  • Are your contact details visible on every page in case the visitor has a question regarding your services or products? Can visitors tell how to contact you?
  • Do you provide good quality, high resolution images?
  • Does the site offer a search function in case the visitor cannot find what they are looking for on the landing page?

Points to consider for an e-commerce product page

  • Can visitors tell what to click on to place an order? Is there a “Buy now” button available above the fold of the page?
  • Can visitors find price information on the product?
  • Is there a sufficient description of the product / service on offer?

When considering your bounce rates please be aware that although the lower the bounce rate the better, this does not account for visitors who may be finding your site and contacting you straight away. These visitors may still be enquiring however as they do not navigate through your site, they will also be classed as a bouncing visitor.

All in all, anything which improves the usability of your website will have a positive knock on effect on your bounce rates and will likely increase conversions. Implementing any of the recommendations above is a quick, simple and effective way of improving bounce rates on your site, so what are you waiting for? Jump to it!

New call tracking solution launched

There is a famous quote in the world of sales and marketing; ‘half my advertising works, I just don’t know which half’. For businesses investing in a range of marketing channels, both online and offline, this is a common problem. This is particularly true when the goal of your marketing efforts is to have prospects call you; it is impossible to know with any real degree of accuracy which marketing channels, or campaigns, these phone calls have originated from. Even if your sales team do remember to ask it is unlikely the prospect will recall whether it was a Google ad, a natural search listing or the flyer they found in the back of a magazine.

But there is a solution to this problem. ‘Call tracking’ is an accurate, simple and cost-effective method of establishing where your telephone leads originate from. It allows you to quickly identify which marketing channels are generating you sales, and therefore providing the best return on investment (ROI). You can track phone calls back to natural search listings, Paid Search adverts and email campaigns, as well as traditional advertising, such as newspaper adverts, radio and TV.

There are various solutions available but having taken a really good look at each of them, we have come to the conclusion that market leaders, AdInsight, offer the tool which is best suited to our clients. Having struck a partnership deal with AdInsight we can now offer their tried and tested system to Leapfrogg clients at discounted rates and with the support of the Leapfrogg team in the implementation and management of the system.

So how does it work? Well, in simple terms, a different telephone number is displayed on your website depending on the origin of the visitor. So for example, a different number would be displayed to a visitor who has clicked on a Paid advert to that of a person clicking on a natural search engine listing.

All calls continue to be routed through to your office or call centre. However, with a call tracking system sitting in the middle, real-time data is collected telling you the exactly where the call originated from. As a result, a much more accurate picture of ROI can be established for each of your marketing channels.

Highly accurate tracking of this kind offers unparalleled marketing intelligence. By acting on the data the system provides you can refine your marketing efforts to focus time and budget only on the channels that you know are providing a return. Now that’s powerful stuff!

For more information call the Leapfrogg team on 01273 322830 and we’ll explain how it works in more detail.

25 things to remember when launching a new website

As an Account Manager I regularly oversee website optimisation projects that involve the launch of a new website. In working in partnership with a client, and their developer on a new website project, we have the opportunity to optimise the site from the ground up, which presents significant benefits when compared to optimising an existing website that may have prevalent issues that are difficult to overcome.

One major factor to consider when launching a new site relates to the URLs because more often than not they will change according to a new language, platform or content management system (CMS). Changing URLs without proper planning and implementation of redirects can have serious, negative consequences.

We have worked with numerous clients and seamlessly implemented a redirect strategy after which their traffic and conversion rates continue to rise month on month (with a little help from ongoing digital marketing activity!). However, we have also worked with clients who have completely ignored our recommendations. The worst was one who refused to implement 301 redirects, despite our pleading, and we could only watch as their site lost 90% of its traffic overnight. Nightmate stuff!

We find that with our clients, mostly SME’s, creating a new site is a huge undertaking and investment in terms of time, money and resource, not to mention a stressful and daunting project as there are so many aspects to consider. This is also without the inherent risks of working with external agencies, each of which comes with its own set of concerns.

Often, the excitement of launching a new site takes precedent over a few vitally important steps to work through in ensuring the smooth transition from old site to new. It is here where an experienced pair of hands prove useful. So if you have a new site launch in the pipeline, I have created a set of guidelines to cover the most basic points to remember, useful for clients and Account Managers alike:

Before Launch

  • Be aware that you may see fluctuations with rankings and traffic for a few days, perhaps weeks, following the change. As an Account Manager it is important to manage expectations
  • Run a ‘site:’ search on Google before the launch and note down how many URLs are indexed
  • Ensure webmaster tools and analytics codes are on the new site prior to launch
  • Get redirect information and mappings from the web develop and check through this
  • Keep a record of all key page URLs, if not all URLs
  • Carry out a full audit of the site to ensure everything is present and correct

At Launch

  • Test key URLs in search engine listings and ensure they correctly redirect to the new corresponding page
  • Use a redirect checker to ensure correct redirects have been used, normally 301 for the permanent move of page from one URL to another
  • Check again that webmaster tools, analytics, PPC conversion code and any other tracking code is present on the new site and working
  • Ensure that ecommerce tracking is working if you have this set up
  • Check webmaster tools for errors
  • Run a ‘site:’ search a day after the launch and compare the number of URLs with those recorded before the launch, exploring any discrepancies. If needed continue to do this periodically after the launch until everything has returned to normal. If there are discrepancies it is worth checking that links at all levels (category, sub category, product, news items, testimonials and other info pages etc.) have been redirected and resolved to the new URL
  • By running through the ‘site:’ search check for odd looking URLs that do not appear within the site structure and explore why these are present and what to do with them
  • Ensure duplicate versions of the site or pages do not exist:o Does the site resolve with and without the ‘www’.? It should only be visible one one or ther other

    o Does the homepage have multiple versions using /default, /home, /index, etc?. Again, your homepage, and all pages in fact, should have one, definitive URL and not be found on duplicates

    o Do breadcrumb trail links match the navigation links?

    o Does the homepage link in the navigation match the homepage URL?

    o Has the XML sitemap used the same URLs as the navigation?

    o Does the site resolve on both http and https, another common error we see regularly

  • Update the default homepage in analytics if necessary
  • Ensure that goals URLs within analytics have been updated and if necessary edited or expanded. If Goals have changed update them within any templates e.g. stats or other reports
  • Ensure all PPC URLs have been updated
  • Ensure the PPC campaign has been expanded to match any new developments, such as added products
  • Ensure PPC auto tagging is still working
  • Ensure the XML sitemap has been updated
  • If you have not checked this at the start of the project ensure that all necessary IP addresses or ranges have been blocked
  • Check to see if URLs need to be updated within a local listing and that the local listing resolves correctly

Post Launch

  • Check webmaster tools for errors
  • Carefully watch overall traffic and particularly natural search engine traffic for the next couple of weeks
  • Take a record of the new URLs beside the ones

This is a basic list of some of the checks that should be made when launching a site, however each project will present individual challenges and should be dealt with on an individual basis.

I hope this has been useful. Remember ‘301 redirects are your friend’ and a vital component in migrating an old site to a new one. But checking the redirects have worked correctly is hugely important, as well as the various other checks outlined above. Do not ruin the excitement of launching a new site with a mammoth drop in traffic because the redirects failed.