All posts in analytics

  • Underrated Marketing Metrics

    Repost from AZDS Blog: Written by Viktor Stigson

    Many sports fans mistakenly reduce Kobe Bryant’s basketball greatness to a few overarching statistics: 19 NBA seasons, 25.4 points per game, and 32,482 career points (good for 3rd all time).

    Impressive, yes, but do they tell the whole story of No. 24? Not a chance.

    Kobe’s legendary career doesn’t just come down to the “sexy” statistics (i.e. scoring), it’s also about the less glamorous, behind-the-scenes numbers. A shooting guard with 6,122 assists (4.8/game), 1,882 steals (1.5/game), 6,800 rebounds (5.3/game), and 627 blocks (0.5/game)? Now that’s truly great.

    Forgive us for rambling about Kobe Bryant (we can’t help it), but the story of the Black Mamba can actually teach us a lot about another of our favorite topics: digital marketing analytics. Namely, instead of focusing exclusively on the world’s most popular website metrics (i.e. total visits, conversions, revenue), let’s dig a little deeper and uncover the full story behind your online presence.

    With that said, below are some of the most widely used metrics in the world of digital marketing and a few of our favorite, most underrated metrics that merit equal attention.


    The UsualVisits
    There’s no denying the significance of overall site traffic, but simply reporting on visits leaves us with a significant unknown: did these visits represent quality or simply quantity?


    The UnderratedPages Per Visit
    There are many metrics for measuring quality of visitor, but few are as straight-to-the-point as pages per visit. The premise is simple: large quantities of visits are only beneficial if they are actually interested in your content. If visitors are bouncing directly after the first or second page, you are either a) targeting the wrong audience, b) lacking compelling content and/or design, or c) both.


    The UsualAverage Visit Duration
    In principle, average visit duration seems like the perfect metric for tracking user engagement. On closer examination, however, it’s not always as reliant as one would think.

    For example, when Google Analytics calculates time on site, it does so by compiling the totals of each time on page. The problem is that if a visitor bounces from a specific page, that page’s total time will be calculated as 0:00—regardless if said visitor spent 10 seconds or 10 minutes on that page. As such, there’s no accurate way of knowing exactly how much time each visitor actually spent on the site as a whole.

    Secondly, we also have to consider the impact of site speed. Ideally, your site will be getting faster with time, meaning visitors will spend less time waiting and more time browsing. If that is indeed the case, they could hypothetically have a shorter visit duration than a year before but ultimately be more engaged in the content.


    The UnderratedGoals
    A better, and more reliant, way to track your visitor’s engagement is by measuring how many goals they completed on your site. Google Analytics allows you to track virtually any kind of objectives, from email signups to contacts to inquiries. For our clients, we consistently measure goals like spa reservations, weddings rfp, meetings rfp, party rfp, Open Table reservations, and email subscriptions. It’s a great way of tracking not only engagement but also the most coveted stat of all: conversions.


    The UsualMobile/Tablet Visits
    Non-desktop visits are a crucial metric, but the fact of the matter is that tablet and mobile visits are sky-rocketing across all industries. How can you measure if your site is making the most of these lucrative channels?


    The UnderratedMobile/Tablet Conversion Rate
    Optimization for mobile and tablet is arguably the biggest trend in digital marketing and no metric tracks its efficiency quite like non-desktop conversion rate. As you build your responsive sites, watch this stat like a hawk (for both mobile and tablet)—taking note of the slightest conversion fluctuations following design and layout changes. The day mobile and tablet conversion rates start approaching desktop conversion rates—at least in the luxury hotel industry—is the day we can all rejoice.


    The UsualPages Viewed
    It’s imperative to know which of your pages drives the most traffic. Wouldn’t it also be imperative to know which pages are the most user friendly?


    The UnderratedPage Timings
    Enter page timings, a Google Analytics tab that allows us to compare how quickly each page loads compared to overall site average. The key here is to make sure your most popular pages also perform efficiently. If they do, you’ll create positive user experience, happy visitors, and excellent customer retention—returning visitors who had a good online experience with your site. If they don’t, you’ll see the complete opposite—bad UX and poor retention—and you’ll also lose ground in the Google SEO algorithm for bad site speed.

    Here are some statistics to get the wheels spinning about the importance of fast load times in an age of sky-high expectations (courtesy of Relentless Technology):

    • 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.
    • 40% will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.
    • Amazon discovered that a 1/10th second delay equals a 1% drop in sales.


    The UsualConversions
    Conversions are the most important online metric of all—for good reason—but there are ways to supplement these stats to gain further insights into your visitors’ most frequent conversion processes.


    The UnderratedAssisted Conversions
    Combine all your major acquisition channels—from organic search to direct traffic to referrals—and you’re left with the giant, interconnected web that is digital marketing. This is where assisted conversions come in.

    Also known as multi channel conversions, these insightful metrics are the best tools around for tracking how all of your marketing efforts work together to create conversions. How did your visitors find you? Which touch points did they engage with before converting? Which acquisition channel was ultimately responsible for the conversion? How many days did your visitors take before converting? Which were the top conversion paths? All of this information is available to you simply by studying your multi channel funnels—allowing you to optimize and improve each of your marketing efforts accordingly.

    We like to think of it like this: a healthy multi channel process map is a foolproof sign of a holistic and complete digital marketing campaign.

  • why does good digital have meaning?

    I recently saw a very interesting TED talk about the meaning of work.  Dan Ariely spoke at TEDx in Rio about why human beings need and desire meaning in what they do to do their best work and ultimately innovate and inspire change.  If you haven’t seen the video yet (you still should watch the entire talk) he runs several experiments centered around having individuals complete tasks and showing them different reactions after the work is completed.  It turned out that the groups where someone reviewing the project after completion showed some sort of acknowledgement or care, were far more wiling do more work.

    I believe that in addition to seeing meaning in our work, there is a close connection here with empathy.  If as an employer or boss you can’t empathize with the work that you are assigning to someone, then it is very likely that the person will not have the drive to do it well (because they won’t find much meaning in what they are doing).  Obviously there are going to be tasks that simply need to get done and carry little meaning, but even on those tasks it is very important to acknowledge completion and compliment (or judge) the work.  By actually looking at results, or the completed task, you portray importance, which certainly helps someone create meaning in what they are doing.

    In the digital world, I think it is very important to look at overall campaign and brand meaning to establish a successful message or story.  As good advertisers we often sound like a broken record in saying that the story or the message is the most important aspect of the communication piece (whether digital or traditional or even non-traditional), but it is very true.  The story is what creates meaning with the customer and creates a connection that otherwise wouldn’t have taken place.

    With digital you have even less time than ever before to create meaning because there are so many crappy digital advertisements.  If you can create relevance through a combination of excellent creative and specific targeting then you have an opportunity to create an excellent campaign.  At AZDS we have been working with Chango (a search remarketing company) on a campaign for a couple of our clients.  The philosophy is quite simple, but the tactics and strategy are fare more complicated.  We are combining search remarketing (customer acquisition), with traditional remarkerting, with FBX (Facebook Exchange Network).  We are using specific search history to target relevant users with elegantly designed creative.  New customers (that previously haven’t interacted with the brand/visited the website) are being targeted and acquired based on their Google search history, and then repeat customers or customers that have interacted with the brand in some way, are being remarketed to based on their interests and level of connection with the brand.  This sort of specificity and detail is what adds value and creates a level of meaning with a growing audience.

    A similar strategy  is even more powerful if you can establish different creative based on purchase stage (where an individual is within the purchase funnel) and or create connections with personalized creative taking interests and other personal information into account.

  • visual content and SEO

    As content marketing trudges forward and SEOers understand the value of quality content for improving overall search rankings, we are faced with the question of how successful visual content (infographics, videos, etc.) is.  One major question is how and why it would be important to use visual content?  As a designer this question is easily answered.  It adds elegance to otherwise static and boring content.  It makes content easy to understand and can be viewed quickly.  From a traditional SEO perspective, however, this isn’t always so easy to answer as they feel that Google won’t be able to truly index all of the content.  There are tricks such as video site maps, but at the end of the day, all of that content is not going to be indexable nor findable (some, but not all).  My personal belief is that the combination and variety of quality content (in different media forms) is what is inherently going to improve pagerank, domain and page trust.  I also think that finding other important and relavent content that can be embedded is key because it is the stepping stone to true virality.

    From a holistic approach,we can look at content and say that a variety of content forms provide visual interest and should engage users and potential customers far more than simple text.  Also, with recent Google Algo changes, they are rewarding companies that are content innovators.  Content innovators isn’t just a term for writers, it is someone who both contributes, organizes, writes, and designs content and content plans.  They understand the differences between simply writing great content and writing content that is suitable for the online/interactive experience.  I think that a true content innovator would agree that using a variety of content forms (including infographics for link building) is crucial.

    One strategic tip regarding infographics is to use the Google reverse image search to find  uses of the graphic throughout the web so you can reach out  to ask for a reciprocal link.  Avoid making an infographic a spammy link farm, however it certainly has the potential to be quite valuable for SEO purposes.

    As an analytics guru, I think that the most important solution to understanding the value of visual content is simply looking at the Google Analytics content report to see how users are finding and interacting with your content.  You can setup simple custom searches to view content pages, and what role organic search is playing in driving traffic.  You can then mold a content strategy to best fit.


  • cross platform publishing and adaptive content

    How do we publish content that is device responsive, yet also serve content that is tailored or best suited for a particular platform?

    The simple answer (yet not most effective) is to have a mobile website and a non-mobile, primary website.  The issue with this is that not all mobile devices are created equally and moreover tablet devices are not mobile experiences.  They are a hybrid between a computer and a mobile device.  People are looking for more information (a complete browsing experience) on a tablet.  On a mobile device someone might be looking for something quickly, or looking for for an address/phone number (address and phone better be simple and accesible on a mobile platform).  The devices are also used very differently and in very different places.  A tablet device might be used in home or when commuting on public transit, while a mobile device is essentially used as the go-to device throughout the day.

    In addition to actually displaying your website, you also have to worry about device responsiveness for e-mail, SEO, SEM, Social, Apps, etc.

    A great graphic, from John Doherty is below (from an excellent presentation here):

    Great example of cross browser

    The best way to understand your users, and how they are interacting with your content is to look at Google Analytics and preview the device and mobile breakdown.  This gives you an idea of how many users are arriving at your site from specific devices.  The next step is to create a custom channel so that you are able to look at a particular mobile or tablet segment of users and see which specific pages they are looking at (images below).  Look at their browsing habits.  Short times on site could indicate frustration or content that isn’t fully accesible via mobile devices.  Long times on site, and a variety of different page views can indicate that your users are engaged and that your site is working for your users.  Of course the best possible solution is to have a site that is responsive to all experiences, but realistically, learning to understand your users and best tailoring the experience to them is a great way to begin.  What you will notice once you launch a responsive version of your website is that traffic, time on site, and pageviews of your website are all going to increase significantly.  If you are selling via e-commerce, responsive content will also increase online transactions and revenue.

    Mobile Device Report

    iOS Page Visits


    Device responsive content is no longer a “nice to have,” it is absolutely critical.  If you are feeding quality content, you must ensure that it is accesible from the plethora of devices used.


  • can social media sell soap

    If you missed it, there was an exceptional editorial in the NY Times on January 5th.  It was entitled, “Can Social Media Sell Soap?”

    The article engages us in a number of interesting paradigms that are currently prominent within the marketing world.  Social media as a channel allows marketers to communicate directly with their customers on a very personal level.  Because of social, people are now expecting the messages delivered to them to be very personal.  My belief is that our future will involve purely customized and personalized advertising that is specific to our interests and wants.

    If you think about it, this has been happening for years.  When you shop at a grocery store and provide them with your club card it is noting and filing all of the products that you purchase on each particular visit.  Their coupon database generally then creates offers that are relevant to your tastes (in fact if you usually buy Philadelphia Cream Cheese for example, they might try a coupon for a store brand cream cheese to get your business).  They provide coupons for very similar products.  This is strictly personal marketing.

    With TV and outdoor advertising everything is already becoming more and more personalized with the ability to “Shazam”  certain advertisements to provide the user with a personalized digital experience to go along with the story or message from the TV commercial.  This Super Bowl should be a great example of personalized TV advertising.

    If people are tired of advertising, it is because they are bombarded with generalized, over communicated, over commercialized, non-relevant messages.  Advertising that is personal, based on our tastes, interests, and desires is the type of advertising that isn’t invasive.

    Another important note regarding the topic is that metrics or measurement that goes along with advertising is changing immensely   We currently measure effectiveness of advertising with a yard stick from the past (because that is the only way we know how to measure the effectiveness of a particular advertisement).  But with social this simply doesn’t make sense.  Social media is creating an environment where we are changing perception gradually and interacting with customers on a very personal level.  Why do we need to measure engagement or direct ROI for something that is “speaking” with our customers at a very personal level?  We aren’t advertising anymore.  Rather, we are conversing.  If the conversing is done correctly, and in that I mean “social in nature” it will boost revenue, sales, and brand awareness/sentiment.


  • value

    I had an interesting discussion recently with someone regarding the value of marketing.  I suppose the question was narrower in scope in that it was the value of advertising, but in reality advertising is a key part of marketing (or communication) and therefore I prefer to answer the question as the value of marketing.  If you question the power of marketing on the human mind, then you are questioning the design of the mind as a whole.  We are aesthetic beings.  We appreciate things that are well designed, and the messages that stick (or that we recall consciously or subconsciously) are the ones that were communicated to us in ways that were elegant in someway.  Our minds recall stories, which is why regardless of the channel or medium, storytelling is still how we as humans share messages with one another.  Our brains remember stories, but they do not remember specific facts.  Good marketing is done in a way where a story is told.  And (great marketing) is generally communicated in a way that is aesthetically pleasing.

    So, why is advertising important?  Advertising is important because without it, messages are difficult to communicate.  Without the knowledge that something exists, it is very difficult for people to go ‘there’ or buy ‘it’ (go figure).  Many will say that it is all referrals, but lets face it, many of the original patrons figured out that something exists and then shared it with their friends which is a form of advertising (word of mouth).  It is a very simple philosophy; if something is good, people will inevitably return.  And how about social media’s power over referrals?  Too big of a topic to discuss in this post (but obviously social sharing–and generating new business– is enormous whether on sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, or even Facebook).

    With all of this being said, marketing has now become so much more than simply communication of a message.  Marketing is a data game; it is a design and an artistic competition; it is exceptional content; it is social; it is SEO; and this is just the start of the list.  Marketing, done the right way, is a holistic task that is never finished.  But not to forget, if the message is weak or if the story is weak, then it will fail every single time.

    But, don’t do this!

  • share of voice with SEO

    I work with a number of advertising executives (mostly on the client side) that don’t believe share of voice actually makes a difference when advertising. I respectively disagree, when it comes to both digital advertising, as well as the share of voice on a search engine result page. Digital advertising share of voice is certainly debatable, because some will say that if the message is told clear enough, the presence on the page doesn’t matter. My personal opinion is that the more collaborative the message (using multiple forms of creative on the page), the more successful the campaign (and this is the reason I believe greatly in buying 100% share of voice with digital media).

    In fact, owning a page with creative that all works to communicate a message, can not only drive more conversions, but could also prove very effective with remarketing.  You would change the entire creative based on what the user is most likely to convert with.

    What isn’t debatable is the importance of share of voice with the search engine result page.  I don’t mean to say that position on the page doesn’t matter, but the number of positions that a brand occupies on the search page certainly increases the click through rate.  Take a look at the samples below.

    A separate note is that the number one organic position, which isn’t a venue (but a resource site) doesn’t have a second position in the local search.  This is great to see, because far too often you’ll notice that Google will mistake certain high PR sites and place them in local search.  I am pointing out (with the blue arrows) that having two placements on the page is better than just one (even if you sacrifice the number one position).  For example, on a search page with about seventeen results (seven local and ten organic), having two of those means having about a 12% SOV on the page vs. 5%.  That can be a huge advantage on highly competitive local keywords.


  • remarketing

    The simple definition of remarketing is showing ads to past customers, specific interest targeted customers, or engaged website users.  You are dropping a cookie on the users’ browser and recording information about their browsing habits and or specific interests.  It is known that if you remarket to customers, you are about 400% more likely to generate conversions.  This makes sense, because you are effectively advertising to “hot leads.”

    At AZDS we have sophisticated scripts that allow us to monitor what the visitor to our client’s site is doing and then remarket to that individual across the web accordingly.  For example if we have a repeat visitor that continually looks at restaurant pages on a hotel website, then we will remarket to them with F&B Creative (and maybe cross market our other venues).

    There are many other creative ways to remarket though.  Many businesses that engage in remarketing with Google AdWords or other websites can use a Facebook tool to greatly help with remarketing efforts.  The interest finder within Facebook ads (see below) is useful in finding related interests to then remarket to your potential users.  You’ll be blown away by some of the related interests.  You can use the interest finder to remarket to your social following or even simply find the relevant related interests and remarket to those individuals on a grand scale throughout the web.  You can then track back the ROI through Google Analytics multi-channel funnels.

    Above is an example of the precise interest finder within Facebook ads.  Notice that I am looking for individuals that are interested in Travel Channel, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Mandarin Oriental.  By doing this I can see that those same users are also interested in Tru TV, Nick JR (maybe the guest’s kids), Bizarre Foods, Animal Planet, etc.




  • integrating analytics into retail

    I found something quite interesting yesterday that confirmed what I have always personally thought.  I am still a strong believer that shopping for clothes is far easier in-store than online (I like Robert Graham and was recently introduced to Gant, which I also like).  If you care about fit, tailoring, style, etc., shopping online for clothes is a challenge.  Even if you can return online without problems, it just adds another step to the process.  Also online you are unable to try different clothes on with other items and shoes to see how the entire composition looks (which can lead to additional sales for the retailer).  Yet, while I was shopping, I was thinking about merchandise tracking and how analytics could play a part to enhance the overall in-store retail process (you may think I am nuts for thinking like this when shopping for clothes, but it is because I recently wrote a white paper on the topic for the hospitality industry, luxury retail, and real estate).  From a retailers perspective the more you know about the customer from the beginning the better.  You have an idea of what type of product the customer is looking for and is interested in buying.  You also have the ability to up-sell them on something that they weren’t necessarily looking for by understanding their tastes and what might push them into buying something (without any pressure of course).

    In the online experience, the user is subliminally fed all sorts of content based on their previous browsing history and even what they were just looking at.  A classic example of this is Amazon and their “customers also bought this…”  Now, almost every retailer is using this type of simple algorithm that looks for product that is tagged the same way and then automatically feeds the user that content.  Another powerful technique that retailers use online is remarketing (which I need to write a blog post on in the near future).  In a nutshell remarketing is showing ads to people that have already interacted with a brand in a certain way (search, web, email, etc.).  So, when online if you are on the Barney’s website looking at Hermes ties, but don’t actually end up buying one, you will see ads for Hermes ties throughout the web.  This is powerful because it subconsciously plays with you.  You see what you were looking at and eventually think, “it is time to buy it.”

    You can’t do any of that in-store, but what you can do is far more powerful.  You can actually have a “real” person helping the customer (building a relationship), finding them product that they actually might like and telling them how great they look in it.  Because we all like satisfaction and acceptance,  if we continually hear that from another person, we begin to believe it.  What you don’t have in the in-store experience is access to the inventory that is available online.

    All that being said, here is what I think could be a simple solution to this problem.  When a customer comes into a store, if they have shopped with the brand in the past, the sales person looks up their sales history on an iPhone POS (that way they don’t have to leave the customer to get this information).  Then they immediately have a record of what the person has bought, online and off, and can begin immediately feeding them product that the individual might like.  They don’t have to waste time showing the customer product that they simply know the customer won’t like.  In addition, they have access to the entire online inventory center from the “smart device.”  The sales person can show someone product for sizing, tell them how great they look, and then swipe their credit card on the iPhone (using something like Square) and have the exact product the shopper wants shipped to their home.  When the customer leaves, the sales person can make notes in the profile, and an entire customized user profile would be built (which would then sync with the e-commerce platform).  With that information, the store can then automatically build remarketing lists to a particular person’s tastes and show them relevant advertising when they are surfing the web.  When they come back to the store to shop again, the process (and tastes) are simply streamlined.

    This solution integrates the online and offline retail experience and allows for seemingly a perfect harmony.

  • e-mail design and creation

    I wrote a blog post a couple of days ago regarding tracking e-mail results, best practices regarding tracking ROI though e-mail, and segmentation of the e-mail database.  Now, I want to write briefly about e-mail design.

    E-mail design is not something that can be generalized for a variety of different businesses.  E-mail design and content should be custom for every single business.  If you are selling something online (or looking for some sort of goal completion) it is critical to optimize your content for the design that works best with your database.  This can be tested through A/B testing and segmentation of the database, which I discussed in the previous post.  For some businesses (who have a limited amount of captivating content , linking to outside content on a newsletter is actually even better than writing your own content   All unique individual content can be boring, while collaborating with others is exciting and interesting.  Also, from an SEO perspective, sharing other people’s content is a great way to get them to link back to your website.

    Other businesses, such as hotels that are selling a complete experience might find that a single message or hook generates the most room bookings (we have a number of clients where we use a single message in every e-blast), while a newsletter style format with lots of rich content and imagery works to sell F&B/events.  It is all about testing different formats with your content and monitoring the results.

    Bottom line is don’t just settle for a standard e-mail design.  Test, design, re-design, and write captivating, relavent content that will excite your audience.

    A couple of final no brainers regardless of the business:

    • ensure mobile functionality and ensure that the landing pages are both optimized for the full-screen experience and the mobile/tablet experience.
    • ensure you have rich content with imagery.  If an e-mail trying to sell something is all text; it will not perform well.  Images are worth a thousand words (but be sure to slice and dice to avoid spam filter issues).