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Archive for April, 2009

Track the Whole Not the Parts

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Most site owners are beginning to see the value in tracking their results.  It’s really the only objective way to analyze results and make improvements based on data.  Unfortunately, there is still a majority of folks that gather the data but never look at it, or use it as validation for their own prejudices rather than for gradual improvement.  One common mistake is measuring each part of the data rather than the data as a whole.

Remember, the real value in tracking data is seeing how visitors interact with your online marketing campaigns and the website.  Understanding how your conversion funnel is performing is an extremely valuable piece of information to improve sales or leads.  However, it’s only valuable if it’s truthful.

Here’s a common example of segmenting tracking data.  People love to review open rates and click through rates on an email campaign.  The higher the better right?  For the email campaign that’s likely true but for overall performance that’s incorrect.  If every single recipient clicks through to a landing page and no one converts then it’s not time to congratulate ourselves on how well the email did. 

Don’t fall into focusing on the metrics you’re comfortable with.  All end analysis should be weighed on Return on Investment, either through leads or direct sales.  That’s the number that really drives the process.  Furthermore, once ROI is calculated then those numbers can be broken down into all online marketing activity to understand what the most valuable activities are and test ways of improving the process.

Certainly we want to celebrate victories but not at the cost of ignoring areas in need of improvement.  Think of the process as a rising seesaw.  Each time the balance goes back and forth the seesaw rises.  If email metrics are on target but conversions are low, do some testing and improve conversion performance.  Perhaps after completeing landing page conversion, email metrics will need to get even better.  So the focus can return to the email campaigns.  More likely you’ll notice that something like organic search rates could use a bump and will want to bring those up to par before putting more effort into landing page or email optimization.

The point is that online marketing is the sum of many parts.  When all those parts are analyzed and optimized, the whole is greater than the parts.

Make Recurring Webpage Items Easy to Update

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Everyone could use some extra time right?  One of the biggest time consuming maintenance activities on a website is having to update something on every page of your site.  Depending on the change, it’s usually a cut and paste exercise but wouldn’t it be great to change it once and have that change appear across the site?  It’s a life saver for large sites but even small and medium sites can benefit from that.  When building or modifying a site identify every recurring feature and ensure it is up-datable from a single source.

There are several ways of doing this.  The most common is a server side include.  Rather than discussing the technical aspects let’s focus on common recurring elements that can benefit from includes.

  • Primary Navigation – It should be on every page and is an obvious beneficiary of using includes.  Further more it ensures consistent navigation
  • Secondary Navigation – Secondary levels can also benefit from includes and also ensures consistency.
  • Headers – If there is any advanced header that’s more than just an image (though that too can benefit from being an SSI element) it’s a good candidate.  In some cases it can be combined with the primary navigation depending on the layout.
  • Footer – The footer should be consistent and this is especially useful if a copyright or general notice that runs throughout the site is in the footer
  • Promotional Section – Any recurring area in the layout that highlights a current promotion.  This typically needs to be carefully planned as the promotion can get monotonous on every page.  If the layout and content are effective though, this is a simple way to ensure attention to current offers.

Don’t waste time.  Identify every recurring element in your site and set it up as a single source update.  Not only does it save maintenance time, it often holds site owners accountable to consistency.