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E-mail Marketing and Web Analytics: A Perfect Pair

  |  September 20, 2010   |  Comments

Using analytics can help you grow your e-mail list, improve e-mail performance, and provide more relevant content via e-mail.

Last week I spoke at the ExactTarget Connections Conference in Indianapolis. I always enjoy giving presentations, but the topic of using Web analytics to improve e-mail marketing performance is especially near and dear to my heart.

Measuring and improving the ROI of e-mail marketing campaigns was cited as a challenge by 65 percent of marketers surveyed last year. While over 80 percent of those surveyed were looking at basic metrics like bounces, opens, and clicks, only 43 percent were tracking conversion rates. And a measly 25 percent were looking at clickstream data, which is the path taken on the website after a recipient clicks through from the e-mail message (all statistics from MarketingSherpa).

Most e-mail campaigns culminate on a website – that's usually where the conversion happens, whether it's a direct sale, lead generation, or some other goal. If you're tracking conversions but not the clickstream that gets people to the desired action, you've got a big black hole in your process. You can't look for ways to optimize that part of the campaign if you don't know what people are doing between the time they click out of the e-mail and either convert or exit your website.

Web analytics software used to be very expensive – and a bit difficult to master. But Google Analytics changed all that. It's free and it's a great option for businesses of all sizes; I have friends running small business websites that use it as well as large association clients that rely on it. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles of some of the more sophisticated programs, but it'll give you what you need to get some basic understanding.

Once your analytics are in place, there are a variety of different ways to use them to improve your e-mail efforts. Here are a few examples from my client case study file.

Growing Your E-mail List

Your website should be ground zero for your e-mail list growth efforts. While most companies include an opt-in e-mail sign-up as part of their websites, few use the analytics around this process as a way to optimize it.

Back in 2003, I did what we now call a clickstream analysis for a large client. They had a multi-page e-mail sign-up process, and when I ran the numbers I found that only 10 percent of the people that started the registration completed it. That meant that 90 percent of those who were initially interested in having an e-mail relationship with the client were turned off by something in the sign-up process and changed their minds.

By looking at the drop off from page to page, I was able to see where the biggest exits were. But it's not enough to know that you're losing 30 percent of potential registrants after page 1 of sign-up; you need to look at the page, imagine yourself as one of the registrants, and pinpoint things on the page (copy, design, layout) that are driving people away. You have to be able to make this jump from quantitative data to qualitative action in order to test and implement changes.

By reviewing the clickstream data, I was able to recommend inexpensive changes to the registration flow which dramatically increased the conversion rate – and their monthly list growth.

Improving E-mail Performance

Last year, I worked with another client on a lead generation e-mail campaign that included a video. The "view the video" call to action garnered 65 percent of the clicks from the e-mail, but generated only 10 percent of leads; just 2 percent of the clicks went on to fill out an online form to receive a free white paper and/or trial of the product. This was compared to the Free Trial/Learn More calls to action, which generated 90 percent of the leads, converting 28 percent of the clicks to prospective customers.

Initially we thought that those that clicked to view the video may have been less qualified than those that chose to learn more or sign up for a free trial. But then we looked at the Web analytics on the video landing page.

The bounce rate on that video landing page – the percentage of people that landed there and then left the website without visiting any other pages – was very high. The video was relatively long (probably too long), lasting a couple minutes. The analytics package the client was using not only tracked average time spent on site, it was able to show us how long each visit lasted and build a line chart to show us what percentage of the audience was there 30 seconds in, a minute in, etc. This was enlightening – only 20 percent of all visits lasted long enough to watch the complete video.

Which is why the conversion rate from this page was so low. A visual review of the page showed that there was no call to action present until the very end of the video. This is a common mistake that marketers new to video make – do not assume that a person will need to or want to watch your entire video. Provide a call to action that's clearly visible on the page from the time they land on the page until they exit, so that visitors can take the next step you want them to whenever they are ready.

Providing More Relevant Content via E-mail

Providing relevant content is a challenge faced by 76 percent of e-mail marketers, according to a MarketingSherpa survey last year. Utilizing Web analytics, either in granular or aggregate form, can help you achieve this goal.

If your website has a log-in, you will be able to track clickstream at a granular (individual) level. This is especially true if you cookie your visitors so they are recognized and automatically logged in any time they visit your website.

If you don't have a log-in, then you are limited to collecting aggregate data. But if you can isolate visitors coming from one of your e-mail efforts, then you can get an overview of what, at a general level, these people are interested in.

Either way, you can use this behavioral data to inform your upcoming e-mail campaigns. By targeting content to the audience's interests, you increase your relevancy and should see a boost in your results.

Until next time,

Jeanne

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings is a 20 year veteran of the online/email marketing industry, having started her career with CompuServe in the late 1980s. As Vice President of Global Strategic Services for Alchemy Worx, Jennings helps organizations become more effective and more profitable online. Previously Jennings ran her own email marketing consultancy with a focus on strategy; clients included AARP, Hasbro, Scholastic, Verizon and Weight Watchers International. Want to learn more? Check out her blog.

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