Web Analytics

Canceling Events: What Might Have Been

"Sunny with Snow" by Parhamr as commonly used in weather forecasts
“Sunny with Snow” by Parhamr as commonly used in weather forecasts

Right now, I’m supposed to be speaking at the AMA in the AM (the Baltimore Chapter of the American Marketing Association) but instead I’m writing a blog post. You see, we got some snow this morning and the event has been postponed – hopefully until a nice warm, sunny day! It’s difficult for organizations to make the decision to cancel an event, but hopefully people understand that it’s more important to stay safe when the roads are bad than it is to attend an event.

Weather considerations are a major factor in many event planning decisions. Many meeting and event planners select warm weather venues during the winter months but snow is not the only reason for a weather cancellation – hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, thunderstorms, and even extreme heat have caused events to be canceled. Some events even have alternate online plans if the event won’t be able to be held as scheduled. Fortunately, this morning’s event wasn’t of a critical nature and the decision to cancel was an easy one.

Considerations when making an event cancellation decision:

– Weather conditions / forecast: Are there weather advisories, watches, or warnings in effect? Is there more bad weather predicted during the time of the event?

– Travel advisories: Have local, state, or federal agencies issued travel advisories? Is there a snow emergency plan or other travel limitation in effect? Has the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued an alert?

– Number of attendees expected: Is it a small meeting or a large conference? The number of people attending makes a difference in how easy an event can be rescheduled.

– Distance of attendees from event venue: Are the attendees local or do they need to travel long distances to attend? Are the attendees staying in the event hotel/venue?

What other factors play into your decision when canceling events? Please leave a comment below to let me know.

2010 Blog Post Recap and Looking Forward to 2011

Mistletoe=Dung on a Twig. Eeuuuwwww!
Mistletoe=Dung on a Twig. Eeuuuwwww!

In January, 2010, I posted about how I was lucky at Affiliate Summit West 2010, and I’m ending the year with some lucky affiliate news from buy.at – I won their final Christmas quiz! I was able to determine the literal meaning of the word mistletoe is “Dung on a twig.” Can I just state for the record: YUCK!!! I now have an entirely new mental picture whenever someone talks about kissing under the mistletoe…

It seems affiliates were lucky for me in 2010, and maybe not so surprisingly my most popular blog post mentions no less than EIGHT affiliate marketers mentioned in it! Listed below are my top ten 2010 blog posts, ranked via pageviews according to my Google Analytics account. Count them down with me as we count down the last few hours of 2010:

10. Affiliate Summit West 2011 and Social Media Marketing 2011

9. 5 Questions About Building Brands Via Social Media

8. Talking SEO for our 1st Blog Birthday-Anniversary-Blogiversaryday

7. Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three…

6. How Do You Know Who To Interact With On Social Media?

5. Why Didn’t I Ask “How Did You Hear About Us?” I Already Know.

4. Twitter Chats – Fantastic for Insights and Visibility

3. Putting The Social Back In Social Media

2. Top 12 Twitter Chats by Day – What are your Favorites?

1. 2010 Internet Marketing Olympics Dream Team

Happy New Year – 2011! My wish is that the new year is happy, healthy, and prosperous for us all!

If you look at the topics of the blog posts above, there is a wide mix of marketing topics including social media, Twitter chats, brand building, SEO, and even some web analytics and email testing. What would you like to see more of in 2011? Please leave a comment below and let me know!

An Exciting Week for Conferences and Webinars

Great Conference Conversation at Affiliate Summit
Great Conference Conversation at Affiliate Summit East 2010

In an earlier post, I told you about my fascination with webinars and some tips for making them better. Last week I had an opportunity to participate in a webinar from the other side of the microphone. I was asked to be part of a panel for Social Media in Action: The Marketer’s Perspective, a webinar from WhatTheyThink – the printing and publishing industry’s leading media organization. It was a great experience and one I hope to repeat soon.

I was pleased by the adept way that Cary Sherburne moderated the panel, although my recent experience with a live panel moderator, Jen Goode, set a standard so high I wasn’t sure anyone could match it. Jen moderated an Ask The Experts roundtable at Affiliate Summit East 2010 and the discussion at her roundtable was informative and lively (and not just because of the brownies she brought for attendees). I learned so much at past Affiliate Summits I have attended that I was inspired to put in my own proposal to speak at Affiliate Summit West 2011. If you have any interest in using web analytics and online marketing best practices to assist in website redesign, please vote for my session: WEB REDESIGN BY THE NUMBERS. You have until Friday, October 8, 2010 to help select sessions for Affiliate Summit West 2011.

I was lucky enough to attend the last Affiliate Summit West on a free pass, and last week I was surprised with a free ticket to attend another conference! Eloqua is a marketing automation company that I spent nearly a year working with in order to supplement email automation and segmentation processes. I attended the Eloqua Experience in 2008 and took copious notes on lead scoring and lead nurturing in order to implement best practices and procedures for a former employer. Eloqua’s combination of automating targeting, measurement and sales intelligence impressed me enough to make a complimentary comment in a Twitter chat more than a month ago. Impressively, Eloqua not only responded to my Tweet to thank me, but they remembered what an Eloqua fan I was when they surprised me with the conference ticket in a blog post. Unfortunately, the combination of lack of a corporate travel budget combined with last-minute timing made attending a conference on the other side of the country virtually impossible, but I’m hoping the invitation will be extended for next year’s conference!

What conferences are you looking forward to attending next year? Please let me know in the comments section below! I’m working on putting together a list of interesting marketing conferences and webinars for 2011 and I’ll be happy to give you credit for finding the best marketing conference ever if you post a comment about it below!

Photo courtesy of Shawn Collins and Affiliate Summit.

Why Didn’t I Ask “How Did You Hear About Us?” I Already Know.

Please don't ask "How did you hear about us?"
Please don’t ask, “How did you hear about us?”

Today I participated in #CROchat, a Twitter Chat on conversion rate optimization that has become a favorite, and a discussion started about the length of qualification forms. Ion Interactive said no matter what length the form is please don’t ask, “How did you hear about us?” Several of the #CROchat participants agreed, but Carlos Del Rio wanted an explanation. Ion Interactive shared a blog post by Anna Talerico on banishing self-serving questions from your conversion process, and although I agree, I feel that’s only part of the answer.

Yes, you should definitely limit or remove questions that don’t have any value for the customer from your conversion path, especially the “How did you hear about us?” question. During my DRTV (direct response television) days, clients often wanted to have the call center ask it and we would get free-form answers like “my wife/mother/friend/boss told me to call” or “I saw it in the newspaper” (tough to do when it was a TV-only campaign). People lie, or they tell you what they think you want to hear, or they simply say, “I don’t remember” which is true more often than not.

Here’s what to do instead: Set up campaign tracking.

  • Track by medium – Online (SEO, PPC, Affiliate, Email, Social Media), TV, Radio, Print (Newspaper, Magazine), Billboard, etc.
  • Track by source – Google, Yahoo/Bing, Email Newsletter, WJZ-TV, WWMX-FM, USA Today, etc. – Be as specific as you can: is there a specific webpage, newspaper section, radio or television show?
  • Track by content – Make sure you test ads against one another. Continuous testing will optimize your media spend.
  • Track by keyword term – This is especially helpful for PPC ads, but you can also track any special phrases in your other ads.

Joe Teixeira from MoreVisibility wrote a great blog post on how to set up tracking in Google Analytics. His post’s emphasis is on paid search campaigns, but with a little ingenuity you can make it work for any other media.

There will be times, especially when dealing with offline media, when people don’t cooperate and just use the “base URL” instead of your customized version with tracking in place. Watch your analytics to see spikes in traffic where many of the users are coming from the custom URL and use your best judgment on attributing some or all of the “base” traffic to that source. If you’ve got a sophisticated analytics program like Coremetrics, you can even track your viewers by first click, last click, or distributed click attribution. Eric T. Peterson did a great white paper on appropriate attribution that might be helpful for a better understanding of that concept.

How did you hear about this blog post? Since I don’t advertise I can tell you without asking, someone saw my Tweet and either directly or through a combination of events (your mother saw my Tweet and told you to check out my post) you made it here. I can look at my analytics and tell you for sure or you can leave a comment below to let me know!

Testing, Testing, One, Two, Three… #SMchat Topic for 05/12/10

MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2010
Photo credit: MarketingProfs

Last week, I presented along with Stephanie Miller from Return Path, at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum (MPB2B). Our topic was “Email Testing for Higher ROI” and it expanded on the testing theme that was prevalent throughout the conference. Marketing campaign testing is important to increase revenue and strengthen return on investment. In a nutshell, you need to develop a baseline/benchmark, determine your testing methodology and hypothesis, test it out, analyze the results, and refine and repeat based on your initial test results. There were several testing questions that were discussed at MPB2B and I’d like to continue those discussions at this week’s #SMchat Twitter chat.

The #SMchat topic for May 12th is Testing! What questions do you have about testing? What answers / examples would you like to share? Please join us from 1-2:30P ET on 5/12/10 to talk about testing including these conversation-starters:

Welcome…please tell us about you!
Q1 – Do you test your marketing campaigns? How often?
Q2 – What part(s) of your marketing do you test? (i.e. PPC, email, landing pages, etc.)
Q3 – Is there a better/easier web page testing program than Google Website Optimizer?
Q4 – Do you have a method to your testing or just test at random?
Q5 – Do you believe in doing similar and expanding or doing diverse tests and narrowing?
Q6 – What do you consider “statistically significant” results & why?
Q7 – What will you test next?

Any other testing questions you have? Please feel free to leave them in the comments section below!

Location, Location, Location!

I’m in Boston speaking at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, which is a beautiful city for a conference although Boston has had some water problems in the past few days. (Can you say ‘massive water main break?’ See my post on the3six5.com for more details.) It struck me as a great location, being a quick train or plane ride from most of the East Coast, yet easily accessible from the rest of the country as well. It got me thinking about locations – both big (like cities) and small (like conference rooms).

Sitting on the left corner
Sharon sits on the left.

I sit on the left. I write with my left hand and it makes it easier for me to sit on the left corner of a table if I’m going to be writing – that way I don’t bump elbows with anyone. Being a leftie, the seat at the far left or end of the table makes sense for me. Although my children both write with their right hands, my son throws with his left hand and my daughter bats left-handed. Locating them in certain positions when playing sports makes sense, too.

M3 Left-Handed Batter Position
M3 Left-Handed Batter Location

For example, my daughter gains an advantage in fast-pitch softball by batting left-handed – she’s already several steps closer to 1st base so it’s easier for her to make it there. Are you making it easier for your customers to make it to the checkout (or form for non-ecommerce sites) by placing the call to action correctly? Best practices say that you should state your offer often (at least 3 times) and “above the fold.” Use your web analytics to make sure you know the most common screen sizes and then place the call to action and conversion process starting point in a prominent location where users don’t have to scroll. Hubspot has a great article on using heat maps to determine optimal placement. That’s one way to take advantage of location on your website.

T3 Lacrosse Location
T3 Left-Handed Lacrosse Positions

Another way to gain advantage is by marketing to your customers at the right place and the right time (see my post on that here), but it’s also important to take control of the playing field by being in the right location. My son is a lacrosse defenseman and being a leftie gives him the advantage of being able to stay in the middle of the field on defense and have his stick comfortably positioned to line up with a right-handed shooter coming toward him. What do you do to position your product/services so that they line up with your customer’s needs? It also gives him an advantage when he has the ball on offense because his body is lined up between the ball and the defender.

Testing your email campaigns is a great way to determine your customer’s needs in order to have them line up with your goals and objectives. Stephanie Miller and I will be discussing that topic at our Hands-on Session: Email Testing for Higher ROI during the MarketingProfs B2B Forum and I’ll share some of our tips and tricks online after the presentation for those who couldn’t attend.

I hope that you will share some of your tips and tricks on location, call to action, email, or any other relevant topic in the comments section below!

Marketing and Web Analytics – #SMchat 4/21/10

Web Analytics
Web Analytics

I’m a numbers junkie – if there was nothing else going on in my world, I could spend all day trying to take website analytics data and make it into actionable plans to increase marketing campaign ROI, so when I needed a last-minute topic for #SMchat, I thought marketing and web analytics would be great.

I’m sure many of you have a great grasp on website analytics, but in case you don’t, the Google Analytics ‘Beginning Analytics: Interpreting and Acting on Your Data’ video on You Tube is a great place to start.

Here are the questions to prepare you for the 4/21/10 Twitter chat on marketing and web analytics:

Intro: Welcome to #SMChat – tell us all about you!

Q1: What web analytics metric do you use the most? Why?

Q2: Benefits of free vs. paid web analytics tools?

Q3: Google Analytics, Coremetrics, Omniture, WebTrends, etc. – which do you prefer & why?

Q4: Do you think social media engagement analytics are valid? RE: Avinash Kaushik’s posts on Measuring Online Engagement: What Role Does Web Analytics Play? http://bit.ly/d4dETE and Social Media Analytics: Twitter: Quantitative & Qualitative Metrics http://bit.ly/aktwtr

Q5: What’s your toughest marketing/web analytics question?

I also wanted to take a moment to thank Avinash Kaushik for his quick response to a late-night (Eastern time) query on this week’s #SMchat topic. It was truly appreciated!

Please join me and the #SMChat crew on 4/21/10 from 1-2:30P ET for answers to the questions above and feel free to suggest in the comments below anything else you’d like to see discussed! I look forward to seeing you on Twitter or on my blog!

Cyber Monday Mayhem: Bigger Is Not Always Better

Cyber Monday started out for me with a phone call from the school nurse and Mostyn Medical Mayhem. It seems that T3’s (our son’s) lips and tongue were swollen from an allergic reaction, possibly to a medication he’s been taking. Bigger is not always better, especially when it causes breathing through constricted airways. Fortunately, it was not immediately life-threatening, so instead of the ER it was a trip to the doctor’s office. Several hours later, with a different medicine, antihistamines and steroids to take down the immediate swelling and we’re ready to do some Cyber Monday shopping.

Coremetrics Benchmark reports Cyber Monday 2009 total sales up 11% over 2008, and up 12% over Black Friday 2009. Sounds like bigger is better, right? Not necessarily when it comes to customer satisfaction. I spent more than two hours trying to make a purchase on a major internet retailer’s site due to slow page loading times and a shopping cart that would suddenly jump back to the homepage. Just as I thought I was getting to the page where I could pay for my purchase and be done and…”We’re sorry! We no longer have available the notebook PC you’re trying to customize, or some of its components.” This was a big ticket item (over US$500) but I didn’t buy it from that retailer at that time because of the bigger traffic numbers that the site was experiencing.

To end my evening, I was trying to catch up on Twitter posts when I came across an article by Tim Ash from SiteTuners.com on Landing Page Optimization. Tim’s take on landing pages, that I wholeheartedly agree with, is that ‘Less is More’ which plays into my bigger isn’t always better theme. In addition to testing and personalization, some of Tim’s main points for landing pages were:

  • Fewer and smaller graphics
  • Shorter bulleted text
  • Reduced number of choices and links

Have you found bigger isn’t always better or less is more in your marketing and/or life? Let me know how by posting a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!