Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How does Google use "conversion data" for organic search rankings?

A colleague of mine had been reading about the fact that Google uses "conversion data" to help determine quality of a site for ranking it in a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for a keyword search. He had some questions about how Google obtains this data. Essentially: How does Google determine that a user is converting after the click? Especially if Google Analytics is not being used by the visited site. I wanted to share my perspective on my blog. This is related to the May Day Google algorithm update.

His question:

A quick question on bold text below – how would you interpret this?  “behavior data” - CTR on organic links in SERPs?, time on site?  “conversion data” - what do you think they define as a conversion on a site?  Thanks in advance.
The problem with long tail keywords are that despite generating some absurd percentage of overall site traffic for well-optimized content, most of the time the quality of traffic isn't good enough to convert.  I would guess a significant percentage of long tail visitors are sent to a website because search engines aren't quite sure whether your content is up to snuff for shorter, highly competitive, generic keywords.

Maile Ohye all but confirmed the fact Google is moving to user behavior data as a better signal than say keyword density to rank content in the SERPs.  She also hinted at Google using conversion data for organic ranking signals as well, which got me worried yet again about what Google considers a conversion for my websites (heck, I might introduce a quality score all my own to Google on that one!).

My response:

From what I've read, there are at least two ways for Google to gauge conversion on your site:

1. A large percentage of visitors who click on your organic listing do not return quickly or at all to the SERP by clicking back to it or do not return to Google quickly to conduct another same or similar search. Also, if they do not perform the same keyword search or a refined search on the same keyword phrase, they likely found what they were looking for on your site. They can assume amount of time spent on your site by when a visitor returns by clicking back or by when the same user returns to Google to conduct another similar search.

2.  Another way they can gauge conversion is if you have Google Analytics turned on, and even better: If you have conversion tracking turned on and if you are advertising via Google AdWords. Similar additional ways they gauge conversion: Sites using Google Checkout, people using Google Chrome.... Interesting, although a tad "conspiracy-theory" article on their data collection here.

SEOMoz is a well-respected SEO source, and they concur:

First, let me state that I do think they use all the data they collect (or will collect) from search query logs, Google Analytics, Google Adsense, Google Toolbar, browser extensions, Doubleclick, FeedBurner, etc. to improve both their ranking algorithms and ads targeting technology. That is the reason, in my opinion, they offer all of these tools for free.  The data they collect is far more valuable.  It is so valuable that Ask is even considering selling this data.

and then also this, which confirms my statement above under #1, and speaks to your comment about CTR from the SERP page:
if we know that people are clicking on the #1 result we’re doing something right, and if they’re hitting next page or reformulating their query, we’re doing something wrong.


Fascinating, huh? ;)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Top 10 Metrics for Email Marketing Success

In this article, I've listed for you all of the metrics I recommend any email marketer be tracking, recording and analyzing as part of their email marketing campaigns. Too often, companies push messaging out to their subscribers or purchased email lists and don't pay attention to the results in an effective way. Almost every email marketing tool out there provides a majority of these metrics if not all of them, so now is the time to start yourself a good old fashioned Excel spreadsheet (at a minimum) and begin tracking each of these items so that you can make more informed decisions about campaigns to come and make the most of your spend (in time and money).

What you can do with each of these metrics is:
  1. Try to determine what the industry average is. Look at reports from Forrester or ClickZ or hire individuals to manage your email marketing who have worked in your specific industry.
  2. Look at past stats for your company to set a benchmark for a minimum level of success. You can always be improving.
  3. Set a desired state for each metric at the industry average, twice your existing stat, or whatever feels most comfortable as an aggressive yet attainable goal.

You should be tracking as many of these metrics as possible by campaign.

  • Sales: Quantity of leads, quantity of sales converted off of an email referred website visitor, or actual revenue generated off of those click-throughs.
  • ROI: Calculate the costs (in both software, tools and time spent) for each email campaign and subtract that from the total revenue generated. You can get pretty complex with ROI calculations beyond this simple formula, but I won't get into that here.
  • Conversion Rates: The % of email referred visitors who convert into a sale or lead.
  • Value of an email subscriber: The number of subscriptions divided by the revenue generated from email marketing.
  • Total number of email subscribers.
  • Unsubscribe Rate: Usually you can get this from the tool you're using to send & manage your email list, provided to you by campaign.
  • Customer frequency: Average number of unique visitors driven by email each month.
  • Open Rate: This is a good guage of how effective your subject line is in grabbing the attention of recipients. Also mixed into this is a value of your brand's awareness or affinity among subscribers - loyal customers may be more inclined to open regardless of the effectiveness of the subject line, eager to find deals and promotions being announced.
  • Click-through Rate: The % of opened emails that generated a click through to your desired URL. Similar to "Open Rate" but this one is a measure of how effective your email's content is in generating enough interest to drive that recipient to become a web-site visitor to get more information.
  • Deliverability: In some tools, you can also find a metric called "Bounce Rate" which will tell you the % of emails sent that came back as "Undeliverable" because either the email address is no longer valid or the email could not be delivered for another reason such as that email service provider's server was down.

More on deliverability:
You should learn to cleanse your list based on which emails are reported as undeliverable so that you don't continue sending emails to these over and over. However, more importantly, if the % is high, look at two things:
  1. The source you used for obtaining the email. If you purchase emails from a list and this particular list has a high bounce rate, you'll want to talk to the source to make sure you're getting your money's worth. 
  2. The lead capture form you are using to capture emails from subscribers yourself: 
 If you are obtaining the emails yourself but the bounce rate on deliverability is high, consider putting in an "email verification" process where you provide two fields for entering email and make sure they match (this prevents what's called "fat-fingering": a mistakenly inputted email address) or an email verification link sent to that address after the form is submitted. In the latter case, you plan not to use the email address in marketing campaigns until the link is clicked to verify the address is correct, however this is likely to bring down the likeliness that each person will fully convert into a subscriber since it requires an additional step.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...