Online Marketing Consultant

Jul 29


John Tanner

John Tanner

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... ... and Increase ... -- Part 1 -- Many ... hire a Search Engine ... (SEO) expert or firm simply to increase their monthly visitors without ... the quality


Eliminate Guesswork and Increase Conversion
-- Part 1 --

Many companies hire a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) expert or firm simply to increase their monthly visitors without considering the quality of those visitors. The end result is decent rankings and traffic, Online Marketing Consultant Articles but poor returns.

In this article, John Tanner of (POSITIVE POSITIONING) explains techniques to increase visitor conversion by improving the quality of site traffic and guiding prospects towards a desired action.

Key Phrases Influence Visitor Volume and Quality
Key phrases have a direct impact on the quantity and quality of visitors you can expect to your site.
Optimizing your web site for the wrong key phrases will cost you time, money, and valuable leads/sales.

Visitor quality refers to how well visitors fit into your target audience, which significantly affects your Return On Investment (ROI).

Search Engine Optimization experts use a combination of client suggestions, software, resources, testing, and common sense to determine the most advantageous key phrases based on a client's particular goals.

Although extensive research goes into key phrase selection, it is highly educated guesswork at best and focuses mostly on visitor volume rather than quality. Many SEO experts will analyze popularity vs. competition, and use a short-term bidding strategy to test their selections. However, to measure quality we need conversion metrics to understand which phrases and referrers drive the most inquiries and/or sales.

Analysis Software and Services Tend to Fall Short
Log analysis software and similar products provide valuable information for SEO experts. Some of the most valuable information includes:
·Total visitor volume
·Unique visitors
·Average session duration
·Top entry pages
·Top exit pages
·Top referrers
·Search engines
·Top key phrases
·And more

Most of these products aggregate visitor data. They show us averages and treat all of our visitors as if they were part of a single group. While most analytical products and services give us insight into our visitor volume and where it originates, they generally do a poor job of informing us of visitor quality.

NetIQ deserves some credit for their WebTrends Reporting Series 6.1 (scheduled for release in July of 2003), which uses client-side scripting technology and a proprietary data file (they call it SmartSource) to get at conversion metrics. However, client-side scripting can cause problems, particularly dealing with relevancy scoring and browser compatibility. But NetIQ does a better job than most if you choose to go that route.

Log analysis software is a necessary component of any SEO campaign, but additional tools are needed when it comes to measuring and reporting visitor quality.

Focusing on "An Audience of One"
Believe it or not, visiting a web site is generally not a group event. To maximize quality traffic we need to treat our visitors as individuals.

If visitor quality refers to how likely visitor fits into our target audience and performs our desired action, then we need to focus on those visitors that take our desired action to improve overall visitor quality.

For the purpose of this article, let's say the goal of your web site is "Lead/Inquiry generation." Therefore, the desired action is for visitors to fill out your online form(s), which enables you to persuade them to take the next step in your sales process.

You increase overall visitor quality by increasing traffic from the web site referrers, search engines, and key phrases that have a track record of delivering "target visitors." This means re-optimizing your SEO campaign for the key phrases and referrers utilized most often by the visitors that take your desired action.

Differentiating Target Visitors from General Visitors
To truly improve visitor quality, you have to track your visitors carefully and pay particular attention to target visitors.

Once a visitor fills out a form(s), you are able to categorize them as a "Target Visitor". A percentage of your target visitor population will be in the initial stages of their investigation process and not fill out your form(s). This is expected, and you won't be able to identify them as target visitors at this point. We aren't focusing on visitors likely to fill out our forms; we are focusing on those that take action.

It is acceptable to group all of your target visitor information together, but you don't want to combine target and general visitor data. We've covered some important background information, now lets take a look at how to track web site visitors. (End of Part 1 - 692 words including title)

-- Part 2 --

How to Track Your Visitors
If you aren't opposed to many hours of tedious manual tracking, the most inexpensive method of analyzing visitor patterns at the individual level is to wade through the web site's log files.

Using the Log File method, you start from the bottom of the log file and work your way towards the top. I recommend analyzing only a month of data at a time with this method.

Log File Method Step-by-Step (from the bottom of the file towards the top):

1.You begin scanning the log file for the URL of your form's confirmation page...once found, you know that a visitor as submitted your form. (Hint: Use wordpad or notepad's Find feature)
2.Write down the visitor's IP Address. Then write down all the pages (URLs) that were visited by this IP address (You may want to reorder them from first to last afterwards so you can see the path each target visitor took through your site from beginning to end.)
3.Write down the Entry page and Exit page (first and last page associated with the visitor's IP address)
4.The first entry may have referrer information (if your web server is set up to log this information). The referrer URL will tell you how the visitor found your web site (including search engine and keyword information.)
5.If the user came from a search engine, write down which search engine and which key phrases he/she used to find the site.
6.Repeat steps 1 through 5 for each target visitor

Issues with the Log File Method
The method above has a few flaws. The most notable is that the majority of visitors don't fill out a form on their first visit. While this doesn't sound like a big deal, it is important to capture the original referrer, search engine, and key phrases the visitor used. This can't be accomplished unless the visitor performs your desired action on their first visit (using the log file method).

Moreover, it is difficult to track a prospect's visit history since many Internet users get their IP Addresses assigned dynamically. So even if you go through several months of log files, you may not be able to locate a visitor's initial visit. The best option is to use cookies to track visit history.

However, there are more sophisticated options available, but generally come with a higher price than $0 like the log file method discussed above.

Is There a Better Alternative for Tracking Target Visitors Individually?
It may be worthwhile to review products such as WebTrends Reporting Series 6.1. Even if it doesn't meet your needs, similar products may start hitting the market soon.

You may also consider identifying a set of requirements and features that would provide maximum benefit for your organization (and/or clients), and having a professional development firm build your solution.

POSITIVE POSITIONING hired a firm by the name of 360 IMPACT (a partner firm based in Europe) to build a Visitor Tracking System (VTS) for our needs. The system tracks each of our client's site visitors in real-time. As soon as a visitor hits one of our client's sites, the system recognizes the:

·Current and original referrer URL
·Current and original Search engines used
·Current and original key phrases the visitor used
·Current and original path through the site
·Visitor's IP address
·Visitor type (General/Target Visitor)
·Number of times they visited
·Original and current date and time of their session
·Date and time of the original and current visit
·Date and time of the visitor's last update
·Conversion data (like inquiry or shopping cart details)
·And more

The VTS attaches all of the above information to inquiry/checkout form results allowing our clients get these details in their email along with their form data.

The system we had built automatically distinguishes target visitors from general visitors and provides conversion reports showing us exactly where we should be focusing our SEO investment. What's more, it doesn't require programming, script, or include files in any of our client's pages.

When evaluating a potential system like this, be sure client-side code doesn't reduce performance, or otherwise hurt your SEO efforts.

Put this Information to Work and Watch Your Leads (and/or Sales) grow
You will need to track a minimum of 30 to 50 target visitors in order to see a real pattern emerging. Once you have a good amount of data, you will see which referrers are sending the most "Target Visitors", which key phrases your best prospects tend to use, the optimal path(s) through your site (that often ends in a visitor performing your desired action.)

Let me stress that while log analysis software and other reporting packages do a good job at reporting general traffic patterns, total referrers and key phrases; our focus is on "Target Visitor" statistics exclusively.

Now you are able to re-optimize your SEO campaign to focus on "Target Visitor" attracting key phrases (and bids,) adjust your site to make the optimal path(s) easier to follow, and focus more attention on referring sites that generate leads and/or sales.

Tell Us How it Worked For You
Once you give this method a shot, you should see increased conversions within 60 days. Please send us an email to let us know how it improved your numbers, or share your thoughts. (End of Part 2 - 904 words including titles)