How to Vastly Improve Your Search Marketing Efforts

  |  May 18, 2009   |  Comments

Book review: Dennis Mortensen's "Yahoo Web Analytics" walks through the critical processes of correctly installing analytics tools through to collecting actionable data insights.

For the first time in many a long month, I'm working from my U.K. office. And timely it is, as I'm speaking at the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit in London this week. And just two weeks after the same conference in San Jose, CA, you can probably imagine I've been doing a lot of networking and talking with our online cousins on the post-click side.

At these conferences, I particularly enjoy hanging with Dennis Mortensen, COO with IndexTools until its acquisition by Yahoo last year. Now, as director of data insights at Yahoo, Mortensen has captured his years of experience in Web analytics and conveniently (for us) put it neatly in place in his new book.

Although its title is "Yahoo Web Analytics," I can assure you this isn't a single-source guide. It's most certainly a search marketer's reference to the world of "what happened next." There are a few excellent books on the subject of Web analytics, but as the marketplace (and the economy) changes, the more recent the book, the better.

Not only is this book the most current, it's also written in a more casual style (for a tech ref), which very much reflects the author's character. Let's face it, data can be dull unless someone puts an interesting story around it. And Mortensen has his fair share of interesting stories to tell.

Having access to a powerful analytics tool allows you to shower yourself in meaningful data daily. But working with data-driven folks every day, I know it's the people who decode the data, not the tool. And that's where this book fills that vital gap: I can see the data, but what does it mean?

Step by step, Mortensen walks through the critical processes of correctly installing analytics tools through to collecting actionable data insights. Prior to its acquisition by Yahoo, IndexTools had long been a favorite in the search marketing world, and this book provides a good emphasis on search metrics.

Nor does the book shy away from the "why should search get the credit for everything" debate. In fact, there's a wonderful analogy from my colleague Tami Dalley included in the chapter on utilizing an enterprise Web analytics platform. She's well qualified to comment on such complexities as attribution filters and modeling and simplifies the conundrum this way:

    Imagine a game of football...The quarterback throws the ball to the receiver in a perfect pass. The receiver runs like the wind all the way to the five-yard line before running into the defense. Before he is tackled, he gives the ball to another player who dodges the defense and takes it into the end zone to score a touchdown. The crowd goes wild.

    The quarterback's mother thinks, "My son is a star! Without his excellent pass, there would be no touchdown at all!" The receiver's mother is there also and says to her friends, "Without that brilliant 80-yard run from my son, there would be no touchdown." Then the girlfriend of the scorer says, "Wait a minute, it was my boyfriend who scored the touchdown -- the full credit belongs to him."

    So who does deserve the credit?

And this is what traffic attribution is all about.

Once you have a greater understanding of the interplay between the various on- and offline channels and their impact on search marketing, it's so much easier to work up a great online marketing strategy. And, of course, that most likely means you'll be more realistic about setting search goals and vastly improve return on investment.

The book goes into great detail about data collection advice and groupings to track almost everything, from simple-page views to custom-created fields. For search marketers there's excellent advice on how to best implement campaign tracking, including paid search setup, multiple campaign categories, and merchandising tracking and reporting. There's also expert-level optimization techniques for Flash and AJAX (define) based objects.

Finally, Mortensen includes an excellent full-color gallery of dashboard examples.

Advance praise for the book comes from the biggest names in the analytics field: Jim Sterne, Bryan Eisenberg, Eric T. Peterson, Tim Ash, Jason Burby, and more. But the anomaly of my friend Avinash Kaushik, Google's own analytics evangelist and author, writing the forward to a book on Yahoo analytics tickled me!

Will I be reading this book on the beach when I take a vacation? Nope. Will it be sitting next to me at my desk for the next month or so? Absolutely!

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Mike Grehan

Mike Grehan is currently chief marketing officer and managing director at Acronym, where he is responsible for directing thought leadership programs and cross-platform marketing initiatives, as well as developing new, innovative content marketing campaigns.

Prior to joining Acronym, Grehan was group publishing director at Incisive Media, publisher of Search Engine Watch and ClickZ, and producer of the SES international conference series. Previously, he worked as a search marketing consultant with a number of international agencies handling global clients such as SAP and Motorola. Recognized as a leading search marketing expert, Grehan came online in 1995 and is the author of numerous books and white papers on the subject and is currently in the process of writing his new book From Search to Social: Marketing to the Connected Consumer to be published by Wiley later in 2014.

In March 2010 he was elected to SEMPO's board of directors and after a year as vice president he then served two years as president and is now the current chairman.

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