Web Analytics

Mobile-geddon: Have You Run Out of Time to Go Mobile?

Last week Google rolled out a new mobile-friendly search update; this long-awaited and much-hyped update has been designed to boost the search rankings of mobile-friendly pages on mobile search results. Back in November 2014, Google rolled out the mobile-friendly tag on mobile search results, and this new update follows in a similar vein. In their latest announcement, Google described the new update as helping searchers “more easily find high-quality and relevant results where text is readable without tapping or zooming, tap targets are spaced appropriately, and the page avoids unplayable content or horizontal scrolling.”

With only one week passed since the update launched, it’s hard to say how much of an impact the change has had on search rankings. Google has said that the update may take time to reach full effect, but there are a few details we already know:

  1. Google will now use the “mobile friendliness” of a page as one of the signals that are used in search ranking.
  2. The update only applies to searches performed on mobile devices.
  3. The update applies to individual pages, not entire websites. So, if the single page or article is mobile-friendly, it can still get the boost, even if the rest of your site is not.

So, what does this update mean for you?

First, don’t panic if you haven’t yet built a mobile site. There are still over 200 signals other than mobile friendliness that Google uses when ranking pages. Remember, this update only applies to mobile users and doesn’t impact desktop searches at all.

Next, check how your site looks to a mobile user. Google has tools like the Mobile-Friendly Test that can help. Make sure you weigh the potential costs vs. benefits of developing a mobile site. For some, it may only require a few adjustments to current settings or templates, but for others it might mean a completely new site design.

Regardless of how your site is designed, what your market segment is, or what your online strategy looks like, Google is sending a strong message with this update: they view mobile search as a different experience from desktops, and are going to give mobile-friendly sites an advantage.

As the team’s “stats guy,” Luke Schoenrock is our go-to staff member for analytics and reporting—as well as witty remarks.

Posted in Web Analytics

Making Sense of Social Media Metrics

At Christianity Today, we have been gaining a lot of experience in building our brands on social media. In fact, in 2014 we began to realize that more of our audience was discovering and engaging with our content via social media sites than through our traditional homepages. For some, that may seem like a terrifying loss of control, but we have seen it as an opportunity to expand our reach to new audiences. We have even launched a sponsorship program that allows our advertising customers to reach out to our engaged social media community. The consumer has moved the conversation to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest; it’s up to us to follow them, or risk losing them to the brands that will.

The problem we immediately ran into when we started to engage with social media was the data. There was so much data, and so much of it was completely worthless. What we needed was a set of flexible metrics for measuring our social media efforts. Then we discovered four simple metrics, developed by Avinash Kaushik, that help to cut through the noise and find real, useful insights.

Many marketers focus on amassing big numbers on their Facebook profile or Twitter feed. But what does that actually tell you? Does the number of followers I have on Twitter help me determine if my tweets are actually effective at driving people where I want them to go? Or does it simply a measure of my current brand recognition?

As Avinash puts it, “What matters is everything that happens after you post/tweet/participate! Did you grab attention? Did you deliver delight? Did you cause people to want to share? Did you initiate a discussion? Did you cause people to take an action? Did your participation deliver economic value?”

The four metrics below are designed to help you answer those questions, and they can be applied to virtually any social media site or campaign.

1. Conversation Rate: The number of audience comments (or replies) per post.

The conversation rate measures your effectiveness at understanding and reaching your audience. Are you connecting, or just shouting? A lot of marketers approach social media (and, if we’re honest, most of their online campaigns) as though they were using traditional TV or billboard ads: They shout as loudly as possible into the darkness, without even listening for a response. With social media, the response is the entire point of the campaign. Measuring the conversation rate helps you know what engages your audience.

2. Amplification Rate: The number of shares/retweets/repins etc. per post.

This is the magic of social media. Nothing else can spread a campaign faster than the “viral” effect of social media sharing. This tells you what types of content get your followers excited and what connects with them so deeply that they feel like they have to share it with their own network.

3. Applause Rate: The number of likes/favorites/+1s etc. per post.

This one may be the simplest of them all. Like the Conversation and Amplification Rates, Applause helps you gain insights into what drives your audience. They are literally telling you what they like. Interestingly, these rates won’t always coincide. There are certain types of posts that people just feel the need to share with a friend, while others seem to demand a comment. Sometimes the audience just likes what you’ve posted, and that’s a great thing to know. If you can entertain or give free help, you’ll build valuable goodwill and loyalty.

4. Economic/Referral Value: Sum of revenue/goal value from social media segments.

Finally, don’t forget the bottom line! Direct sales shouldn’t be the only reason you engage with social media, but they can still be a factor. Take note of what those social followers do, buy, and subscribe to. Does your site sell products? You can use your website analytics software (Google Analytics is free and easy to use) to segment out traffic from social media sites and see how well your posts drive sales. Don’t have hard sales on your site? Figure out the value of soft conversions: What does increased traffic earn you in onsite advertising or newsletter subscription revenue? What are lead generations worth?

All of these metrics can be pulled together for most social media sites, but there are also analytics tools that can help you. Check out the rest of Avinash’s post for more great tips and tools to help aggregate the data.

To connect with Christianity Today’s own highly engaged audience on social media, take a look at our sponsored posts and contact one of our Account Reps for more details.

As the team’s “stats guy,” Luke Schoenrock is our go-to staff member for analytics and reporting—as well as witty remarks.

Posted in Advertising Tips, Online Advertising, Social Media, Web Analytics

The Scoop on Subject Lines: Some Interesting Data

Our friends at MailChimp, the online email and newsletter service, have done some pretty nifty research on how individual words used in subject lines affect open rates. The popularity of their service has provided them with a pretty large sample size to work from—something like 24 billion emails! From that massive group they were able to look at approximately 22,000 distinct words and see if any relationships existed between the words used and open rates. According to MailChimp, the numbers are based on “standard deviations from the mean open rate for a user/list.” Some of their findings may surprise you…

  1. Personalization. Using personalized names in the subject line definitely had a positive effect on open rates, but this effect was much more dramatic when both first and last names were used. When employing both first and last names, the email was 33% more likely to be opened, as opposed to 17% for last name only, and 9% for first name only.
  2. Free vs Freebie. Which word do you think had the better open rate? “Freebie” was the winner with a 26% increase as opposed to “Free” which came in at 2%. An interesting aside: not all industries were positively effected by the “Free” approach. The retail, business/finance, medical, real estate, and travel sectors were adversely affected by the use of the word “free” in the subject line. The recruitment/staffing and restaurant sectors showed the most positive impact from “Free” (+45% & +11%, respectively).
  3. Time sensitivity. The words “urgent” (79%), “breaking” (68%), “important” (55%), and “alert” (31%) all proved extremely effective at increasing potential open rates.
  4. “Thank You” works. Using the word pair “Thank You” in subject lines increased the open rate by 57%, as opposed to “Sign Up” or “Last Chance” which actually had a negative effect on open rates.
  5. Capitalization. I’ve never been a big fan of using ALL CAPS IN SUBJECT LINES, but research shows a 7% boost in open rates when all caps were employed. Contrast that with -1% when at least one word is capitalized.

It all goes to show how important a single word can be in your subject lines, and how a little tweak can have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns. You can explore the results of MailChimp’s research in greater detail by viewing the blog article in its entirety.

Posted in Email Marketing, Web Analytics

How to Use Campaign Tracking with Online Banner Advertising

How well did your last online advertising campaign perform? Of course you can ask the advertising vendor for impression and click through data, but that will only tell you how effectively your ad created interest and drove clicks. But is that really all you care about? Are those numbers affecting your bottom line? If you’re looking for more data and actionable insights, there are some simple steps you should follow to track your online campaigns.

1. House Keeping

Before you can track anything you need to be certain that all of the pages of your website, especially the landing page for your campaign, have the correct tracking software installed. Many sites use Google Analytics as it is free, relatively simple to implement, and easy to use if you have a little bit of programming know-how. However there is a large number of other tracking options at various pay levels. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on Google Analytics, but you’ll find the tips below are helpful regardless of which analytics tool your site is using.

2. Tagging a Link

Once you’re certain that the site is being tracked correctly and that your campaign’s landing page has all the tracking it needs, you’ll want to take a look at the link to that land page. If you’re not tagging that URL with campaign tracking, you’re missing out on a lot of potential insights. For Google Analytics, you can set up a custom campaign by adding special parameters to the end of your URL (Adobe Omniture and most other tools all have their own versions of campaign tracking). That may sound daunting, but luckily Google has provided a tool that simplifies the process. By using Google’s URL Builder you can easily add parameters that will tell Google Analytics the source, medium, campaign name, keyword term and content for any link.

A well-tagged URL would look something like this: www.mywebsite.com/?utm_source=ChristianityToday&utm_medium=BannerAd&utm_campaign=blue

You should supply source, medium, and campaign names for the tracking to work. The other parameters are optional. Now if someone clicks on an ad that contains this link, Google Analytics will record that the visitor came from ChristianityToday, via a BannerAd with the campaign name blue.

3. Tracking the Link

The URL I created above will appear in Google Analytics in Campaigns under the Traffic Sources tab. I’m able to sort my campaigns by source, medium, and campaign. I can see the number of visits that came via each, how long they stayed on the site, average bounce rates, and pages visited. If I have ecommerce enabled, I can even click on links under the Explorer tab to see revenue amounts and goal completions.

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Going Further

One last tip: The Traffic Sources – Campaigns report has a wealth of information, but sometimes the pre-set fields in this report just aren’t quite enough. If you’re looking for more insights, try creating a Custom Segment to focus on one or more advertising campaign. By clicking on the Advanced Segments button in any report, you can easily build a new custom segment that filters to include only a specified source, medium or campaign. Now, you can take that segment and apply it to any other report. Want to know where most of a campaign’s visitors are located? Apply the segment to the Demographics reports. Curious about what devices your customers are using? Head to the Technology or Mobile reports and apply your advanced segment.

Posted in Advertising Tips, Online Advertising, Web Analytics

Help Safeguard the Future of Data-Driven Marketing

As you’ve probably heard, Congress and the FTC seem to have it in for data-driven marketing, even going so far as to compare it with the activities of the NSA that have recently come to light. The DMA is countering their claims at every turn. What can advertisers and publishers do to help? An August 7 post by Stephanie Miller on the DMA’s blog gave five great talking points to use whenever you hear someone suggesting that responsible data-driven marketing is not good for our economy or consumers. Here are my favorite three:

  1. A solution already exists to enable consumers to opt out of targeted online marketing, the Ad Options icon, which is displayed on trillions of online ads every month. Of the 25+ million who have clicked this icon, only a small number have opted out. Could it be that the majority decided that receiving relevant advertising is a good thing?
  1. Consumers vote for their preferences by clicking targeted ads twice as often as non-targeted ads. Since advertisers pay higher rates for targeted than non-targeted advertising, publishers, retailers and other online service providers stay in business, which is good for the economy.
  1. An April 2013 survey commissioned by the Digital Advertising Alliance found the following:
  • More than 90% of Americans polled said free content was important to the overall value of the Internet
  • More than 60% said it was “extremely” important
  • More than 75% said they prefer content (e.g., news, blogs, entertainment) to remain free and supported by advertising
  • Fewer than 10% said they’d rather pay for ad-free content

So, consumers want the Internet to remain free, they like and respond to targeted ads, and those who don’t like them can easily opt out. It sounds like a win-win to me! Here’s a link to an informative video from the DMA’s Data-Driven Marketing Institute to learn more about what they’re doing to counter this very real threat to the future of data-driven marketing.

Posted in Email Marketing, Online Advertising, Web Analytics