How to understand the search engines and grow your website!
learn how to use CounterCentral to grow your site & your business!
MEET TOM (AND WESLEY)
Once upon a time in a Starbucks, far, far away, there was a man with a website. His name was Tom...
Tom did love his website. He loved it a lot! He named it 'Wesley'.
And he always wanted the best for Wesley. He wanted Wesley to be happy!
WHAT MAKES A WEBSITE HAPPY?
Wesley, like all websites, wanted just two things:
Lots of people coming in, looking for what Wesley has to offer (or, as in people wearing grey suits like to say 'Lots of qualified traffic')
As many of these visitors as possible doing what Wesley (and Tom!) want them to do. Sign-up for a newsletter? Buy a cyclotron (or two)? Contact Tom for more information? Whatever it is that Wesley was designed for. Lots of traffic is great, but if visitors don't actually take any action it's not much fun for a website!
For those of you in suits, we are talking of course of maximizing Wesley's conversions rates (plural, because who knows? Maybe we want the visitor to do several things!)
Let's take a look and see how these two things might be achieved...
1. HOW TO GET LOTS OF VISITORS?
Let's start from the beginning and see what Tom did to drive people to his site. We are simplifying a bit but the main ideas are what matters!
There are two main ways to bring people to a website
Make the search engines fall in love with Wesley, so that they send him lots and lots of visitors.
Purchase traffic from popular (and related) web sites, or purchase keywords placement from search engines like Bing, Yahoo or Google
A. GETTING LOVE (FROM THE SEARCH ENGINES)
a. Search Engines looking at me...
Getting the search engines to love your site is no easy task. As a matter of fact a whole industry sprung up, trying to deal with that problem: it is called 'Search Engine Optimization' (SEO). Here is a quick summary of what search engines are doing when they evaluate a site for ranking:
Read the site and try to extract from the content what it is about and what queries it might be best able to answer
Analyze the site's structure. Which pages are more important? Which are less?
Look at the domain name and determine if it has 'authority'. Do many other domains link to it? Do these domains themselves have authority? Are they talking of the same subject? How old is the domain? What is its history?
Once a search engine has all that information about a site it is able to decide if it should include it in the results returned for a given query. Well established sites go on top of course, and newer or smaller sites tend to be found in page 2 or 3 (or more!) of the results.
BUT NOT ALWAYS!
Whenever someone finds your listing and clicks on it (even if it is on page 8), the search engine sits and watches what happens. Did the visitor stay on the site a long time? Did he look at a lot of pages? Or did he come back right away and clicked on another result?
In the first case, the search engine will assume that the visitor was happy with finding the link, and the site gets a bump in the rankings. From now on its average position will be a bit higher. In the second case, the opposite happens of course, and the site drops. The process is then repeated continuously.
In other words, search engines measure people's engagement with your site, and if they like what they see, you climb in the results!
b. How do I maximize people's engagement?
When a visitor clicks on your site, you want to be ready and make sure that he stays as long as possible, and sees as many pages as possible, and you DEFINITELY do not want him to 'bounce' off your site and go back to the search engine to try another result!
CounterCentral gives you the information you need to achieve just that:
Visitors Engagement by Entrance Pages. When a visitor enters my site on a certain page, how long will he stay on average? How many pages will he end-up looking at? And how many of these visitors just bounce off the page to go back to where they came from?
Find a page where the bounce rate is highlighted in red? You might have a problem with that page: its bounce rate is worse than the average for your site: you need to go take a look and see what might be turning visitors off. Same thing if you get a time-on-site or a number of page views highlighted in red.
Visitors Engagement by Screen Widths. The width of a visitor's screen directly impacts how your site will appear. What happens on very large screens? How about phones? Are some sizes a problem for visitors? Do you need to check your design? CounterCentral will tell you!
Visitors Engagement by Browser and OS types. Different browsers and operating systems show your site in different ways. Do you have a bug under Firefox for Windows that causes visitors to leave? If you do CounterCentral will tell you!
With these three reports, CounterCentral allows you to quickly identify problematic entrance pages, scren sizes and platforms for your site, so that you can address them and increase your visitors engagement. After that, it's time to check the results
After any changes you need to wait for a bit and see if Lynn agrees, and if she does, what the impact is on your visitor's engagement over the whole site. Did you make things better? Or worse? Our daily reports will tell you:
The reports we just showed you help you understand where and how your site may be under-performing, so that you can fix things and monitor your progress. As your site gets better at retaining visitors, your rankings will increase in the search engines. They will start loving you more and more and sending more and more people your way!
But what about the other way to get traffic? Purchasing visitors? Can CounterCentral help me with this?
B. BUYING TRAFFIC (THE SMART WAY)
a. Don't want to wait? Buy your way to the top!
There is a sure way to get as much traffic as you want, if you have the budget, it is to buy it. Search engines like Yahoo or Google sell placement at the top of their search results. If someone searches for a keyword that you have purchased, there you are popping up in the #1 spot! (and the search engine charges you the agreed-upon fee for each click on that link that brings a visitor to your site). This can get expensive, but if the return on investment is positive (if the traffic you are getting is buying your product), then it may be well worth it.
It then comes down to measuring your results. First of all, since you are paying per click, you do not want to be charged for double-clicks (someone who clicks on your link twice in a short period of then). Then, you want to be able to measure and compare your advertising campaigns performance. CounterCentral can help you do both.
b. No double-clicks for me!
One of the frequent uses of CounterCentral is to check that you are not being overcharged by the company selling you advertisement. They will claim that they sent you x number of visitors over the last week: you need to confirm this number using CounterCentral's Referrer Summary report.
In this example we can see that our advert on Google Adwords for one of the keywords we purchased (keyword 1) has generated 1,126 visits. This number should roughly match the number given to you by Adwords (small differences are OK. Large ones are not)
Do not hesitate to ask the people you buy advertising from for supporting data (specifically the timestamp an IP address of each visitor for which you have gotten charged). You can then compare with the same list, as generated in your CounterCentral 'visitors details' report. We filter all double-clicks out (and also get rid of all artificial visits, like robots), so the data that we show you is clean and can be relied upon.
Our Detailed Visitors Report
A special note about Google. If you are using Google Adwords to generate traffic to your site, make sure you don't rely on another Google product (Google Analytics) to measure the results of your campaigns as this would cause a conflict of interest. You need a third party to do this. CounterCentral, or someone else, but not Analytics
c. Am I getting my money's worth?
Now that we know we are paying the correct price for our new traffic, it is time to evaluate the performance of our investment and if we have several advertising/keywords campaigns, to compare them. This way we will know if the money we are spending is actually going to a good use. We will be able to stop investing in poorly performing ads or keywords and reallocate that money to our star performers!
For this we will look at the Referrers Report again. First we look at the engagement of the visitors coming from our different campaigns or keywords.
In this case we will concentrate on the bounce rate: this is the most important metric. Time-on-site and number of page views are important also, but bounce rate takes precedence. If visitors follow a link to you site and leave right away it means that they were not correctly targeted (assuming the landing page does not have bad issues in need of fixing, per the previous section)
So. What does the report below tell us and what can we do to optimize our advertising and allocate our money wisely?
We have several campaigns going (everything marked as 'organic' is natural search engine traffic that we are getting for free)
Google Adwords (we purchased three keywords and are paying for each click)
- Keyword 1: generates a lot of traffic, but its 65% bounce rate is very poor. We need to stop wasting money on this keyword.
- Keyword 2: generates little traffic and is bounce rate is just as bad (63%). To be stopped also.
- Keyword 3: is doing much better than the first two and the traffic is moderate. We should take some of the money we were spending on keywords 1 and 2 and allocate it to keyword 3.
Yahoo Ads (we purchased two keywords and are paying for each click)
- Keyword 1: is not doing very well. Moderate traffic, 57.2% bounce rate, which is poor. It should be interrupted
- Keyword 2: is our best search engine advertising campaign. It beats all the other by a wide margin with a bounce rate of 17.6%. We should definitely take some of the Adwords money and reinforce this keyword.
Email campaign (we purchased two targeted email lists and sent the same message)
- List 1: our first email campaign is very successful. The list that we purchased must be of excellent quality. The bounce rate is low and people spend a lot of time on the site. This is our best investment yet!
- List 2: this message is less successful. We got as many people clicking to our site but a larger percentage did not stay on it. This means that the list was legitimate, but not as well targeted.
As you can see, the Referrers report tells us a lot and allows us to take immediate action. Specifically we are going to cut back on our overall Adwords expense by getting rid of keywords 1 and 2. The money we save will go in part to keyword 3 and in part to Yahoo's campaign for keyword 2. We will also continue buying email lists from our first provider and send more marketing messages.
Now that we know how to optimize our campaigns, we can ask the next question...
d. Am I MAKING money?
We are now at a point where we have optimized our site and our campaigns. We are doing the best we can... But does that mean our investment is paying off? For this we need to look at our conversion rates.
A conversion is counted when a visitor takes a desired action on your web site. For example, imagine that the site sells widgets at $45 each. We have setup CounterCentral to count a conversion of type 1 when a visitor views the widget presentation page. And we count a conversion of type 2 when the user reaches the purchase confirmation page (and has paid us $45)
For illustration purposes, we have isolated one line from the referrer report with the conversions shown. This is our Adwords campaign for keyword #3 that we have reworked, improved and funded. We are paying 1.75 per click for this campaign. We now have a bounce rate of 10.6%, which is very good. Let's look at the report:
What we can see is that of the 1,014 visitors sent by the campaign, almost 30% viewed our product page, which is very good, and 4.8% ended-up making a purchase at $45 each. That is a revenue of 1,014 * 4.8% * $45 = $2,190.24.
Since we paid $1.75 per click and had 1,014 visits, our total cost is $1.75 * 1,014 = $1,774.50. We therefore made a profit of $415.74
Since you are using CounterCentral, you can conduct that analysis for every campaign you run. The data will be shown, along with conversions, in the Referrers report. Note that sometimes, assigning a monetary value to a conversion is not that easy. What is the worth to you of someone signing-up for your newsletter? Is it worth $5? $100? It all depends on your particular activity. Sometimes you have to do the best you can and estimate the value of a given conversion.
By alerting you if you are being unduly charged for double-clicks, by allowing you to compare your campaigns to each other, and by showing you whether of not your campaigns are profitable, CounterCentral allows you to purchase traffic the smart way, and makes your web site as efficient as it can be so that it can produce the results you want.
Make sure to take advantage of all it has to offer!
Addendum: read this document for information on properly configuring your pay-per-click and email campaigns for optimal detection par CounterCentral
2. HOW TO GET LOTS OF CONVERSIONS?To be continued...