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Measure your online success in a bear market


Digital marketing can give you a competitive advantage in these tough economic times, according to Google Australia’s Michael Fox.

The average Australian now spends 25 percent* of their media consumption time on the internet. In keeping with this, Australian small businesses understand that having a strong online presence in order to reach their customers and potential customers is no longer a nice-to-have component in the marketing mix.

An increasing number of Australian businesses are investing time in including search and online marketing in their business strategy and also as a way to maximise their existing online presence.

So, how can you best keep track of the impact of your online marketing spend in today’s tight economic times?

Understanding how your customers and potential customers engage with your website and to what extent your online marketing campaigns drive qualified leads are two of the best ways to ensure online success. Let’s tackle these two points separately:

Measuring the impact of your website

There are plenty of free online tools, including Google Analytics, that allow you to understand how your website is working for your business. These detailed tools monitor aggregate visitor patterns, including how users arrived, where they clicked, and how they departed from your site.

Within these, the five criteria that you should look at to understand how your spend is influencing audience behaviour are:

  • Visitors. Determine who is accessing your site, how often they visit and how long they spend on your site.
  • Traffic sources. Are visitors to your site a result of a ‘natural search’? Have they clicked from another site? Or was the visit the result of a well-performing, paid search advertisement?
  • Content. Is your website user-friendly and relevant to your target audience? If your website is hard to navigate and the home page does not deliver targeted content to the user, chances are that your site will be performing poorly in search results.
  • Goals. Set clear goals as to what you want to achieve via your website – outline achievable conversion rates (which can be monitored through Google Analytics or Google AdWords Conversion Tracking) to drive your bottom line.
  • E-commerce. Analyse commerce tracking, identify what is driving visitor loyalty and, in turn, driving revenue sources.

You can then make improvements to your site until you’re getting the results you want.

Understanding cost-per-click success

Search marketing is a targeted, cost-effective way to reach your desired customers. It is a way to ensure that when your customer is looking for information as part of their purchase decision-making process, your product or service remains in the top search results. Most importantly, it is one of the most measurable forms of marketing that also allows you the flexibility to manage your budget to provide you with a maximum return on your initial investment.

Research shows us that visitors who reach a website by clicking on a search marketing ad are more likely to spend longer on the site than those who enter a website address directly into their browser**.

There are several free performance monitoring tools, such as Adwords Conversion Tracking, that allow you to monitor sales, sign-ups and leads, and then optimise your cost-per-click (CPC) ‘bids’ accordingly. These tools allow you to see what proportion of your ads are being clicked on, known as click-through-rate, as well as see if your keywords are performing consistently – your pre-determined keyword phrases will be rated on a scale from poor to good, allowing you to change your keyword phrases on an ongoing basis to achieve the best results.

Most importantly though, ensuring strong return on investment requires action. If you discover that your ads are performing poorly, take the time to revise and get it right.  The online advertising environment is dynamic, and you can pause, cancel or resume campaigns at the click of a mouse.

To quickly boost your search marketing results and drive additional traffic to your website:

  • Delete anything that is not performing. When it comes to keywords, conversion tracking will highlight the response rate. If a keyword is returning poor results, think about how it adds to the users experience. Put yourself in your target customer’s shoes and ask ‘would this deliver what I’m searching for?’
  • Emulate success. Expand on what you are doing well. Add more keywords and ads similar to the best performers.
  • Maintain your account at least weekly. You have the flexibility to update and manage your ads at any time, so use it.
  • Work with the seasons. If you have new product and service or entering a key retail period, update your keywords to reflect this.For example, if you have an office product that will be selling at a competitive price around tax time, ensure that your keywords in some way reflect tax time savings to reflect user search demand.

There are plenty of options to directly monitor how online is driving your bottom line and to ensure it is delivering maximum bang for your buck. Jump online and explore them.

Michael Fox is an integral part of the Adwords team at Google Australia. He works closely with a range of organisations to ensure that each business makes the most of the online space to achieve their business goals.

*   Source: Media Consumption – Forrester Techno graphics 2006 & Bear Stearns
Australian Ad Spend – Zenith Optimedia Ad Figures October 2007

**  Bounce Rate: The percentage of visitors that leave the start site without clicking further. (Study conducted by Millward Brown in Germany in 2007.)

Photo: ansik (Flickr)