The Value of Site-Side Analytics and Optimization

Most organizations are comfortable investing in online advertising analytics and campaign tuning, but investment in site-side analytics and optimization lags far behind.

Campaign Optimization vs. Site Optimization

There are a few reasons why people tend to gravitate toward optimizing campaigns instead of optimizing their sites:

  • Centralized knowledge/decision-making. Online advertising and landing pages often are managed by a single group, or, in some cases, a single person. This makes it easier to evaluate and make changes quickly.

  • Need to justify spending. Now that budgets are tighter, the need to justify all spending is a bigger issue. If you spend $50,000 or $5 million on an online campaign, stakeholders want to know how it’s performing and need to understand the campaign ROI (define). Everyone has an incentive to maximize that campaign’s effectiveness. Its performance is almost certain to be evaluated.
  • Ad networks that push performance. Since the ad networks know there’s a push for accountability and ROI, they’ve created tools to help tune banners and landing pages. They know the more effective the campaign, the greater chance of more ad revenue in the future; again, in everyone’s best interest.
  • Quickly delivered feedback. Campaigns can be a quick, easy way to see the result of changes. By tuning a landing page or a banner call to action, you can see results in lift of click-throughs and sometimes campaign conversion almost immediately.

The Cost of Lost Opportunity

Even though a site may receive heavy traffic as a result of online media, most visitors typically arrive via direct or non-paid search rather than via a landing page or campaign. So although a majority of efforts and resources may focus on tuning campaigns and landing pages and on converting visitors who arrive through those channels, they’re usually only a fraction of the audience. I’m not saying don’t spend the time on optimizing campaigns and landing pages. Actually, I’m saying just the opposite. Keep doing it if you’re doing it, but do the same for the rest of the site.

There are costs tied to both campaigns and the overall site. These may include development, management, hosting, copywriting, and design. Even more important is the opportunity cost that’s lost by not converting site visitors when they arrive — no matter how they get there.

People who access the site directly often behave differently than those who access the site through natural search and ad campaigns. Also, different search strategies and different campaigns often perform very differently.

Look at Traffic and Triggers

Instead of just focusing analysis and optimization efforts on your banners or landing pages or on how visitors coming from banners convert, consider how you can have an impact on your audience overall.

You may find there are different conversion triggers for different segments, personas, and traffic drivers. To know where to focus your efforts, you must first understand overall site traffic and behaviors. This can help you identify the groups or segments with the greatest potential for improved conversion rates.

Don’t get too caught up in justifying your ad spending as it relates to the Web site. If you haven’t been asked to justify spending on the site or haven’t struggled to get budget for site-related items, you probably will soon. Stay ahead of the question and start focusing now!

Check out some of my past columns on identifying, prioritizing, and acting on opportunities to get started on site optimization.

Meet Burby at Search Engine Strategies in New York City, February 27-March 2.

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