I’ve just realised it has been a month since I last posted. That is too long, so my humble apologies. For those of you who aren’t aware I have been guest posting on eConsultancy as well (follow me on facebook/twitter if you want to get all the updates!), so I have been busy still. Anyway, moving onwards, I thought today I’d look at a little side project that I’ve been working on looking at a website where the conversion takes place off site. This adds a level of complication that you spend half your life looking at solving. This is especially pertinent for those sites whose sales process is completely offline (eg lead generation websites) or where the sale process is online but on another site (eg PayPal, eBay, Amazon, etc). Here are my top five tips on how to get better analytics:
1: Collect as much data as you can
This may sound blindingly obvious, but if your users complete the sale offsite, collect the last possible point that they’re on your site as your conversion point. By that, I don’t mean the last page (because many pages have a ‘checkout’ link that will point out of your site). What you can do instead is tag up the outbound link so that you can collect the data.
In Google Analytics you need to collect the information as a faux page view using the _trackPageview parameter. This effectively reloads your tag when a user clicks on a link with a custom value for your page url. I’d recommend you choose wisely as you don’t want to use a link that is later going to be used as a proper page. Google has a very good example of how to do this on their support site:
This onclick event is something that can be used in SiteCatalyst as well to much greater effect. As well as being able to set up custom links on any page, you can also do the same in your downloads reports and your exit link report. You can also include in your onclick event LinkTrackVars and LinkTrackEvents (look them up in the help under codes 1452 and 1453 on how to complete these from a technical point of view).
I’m sure that all other tools have something equivalent you can use with an onclick event – talk to your account managers and they’ll be able to tell you.
As with all of these work arounds you need to be wary that you aren’t measuring your end goal. This is just the last available point you can collect data to. What you would see if you could look at the whole data set may be that different traffic sources, partnerships, etc convert in different manners – but you have less control over that. What you do have control over is your website and how many of them you can get across that divide.
2: Use all the data that is collected
Frequently I find people who have collected a whole host of data on one system not comparing it to a whole host of data they’ve been given from another system. The most frequently used response to this is that they don’t match up and you are comparing apples with oranges. Those of you who have been paying attention may have noticed that I even said as much in my last post – you can’t compare analytics systems.
Just because you can’t compare analytics systems doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use both of them. They can both be used for various different insightful bits of information that can then be used together. The trick is to compare the insights and not the data.
|Early Analytics experts showing that there is a link between conversion and rotation of the screen
That is to say that if you have a lot data about your sales process from the point that they leave the site you can easily compare this with the information that you have about what people do on the site. A promotion driving more people to click through to sale, but sale conversion has gone down in the same time then you may be able to link the two and do something about it. Think about the things that you’d like to do about it and see if they make an improvement. This stuff is all about insight – use as much as you have available in your arsenal.
When looking at lead generation, this should be much, much easier. You should be able to track using other systems what goes on between collecting the lead and making the sale. It may take several months of course and you may need to get your company at a stage where they are monitoring things like how many phone calls they are making and how many sales based on medium (web, phone, face to face, etc), but it should be possible.
3: Collect more information in your web analytics tool
For lead generation, you tend not to be able to collect information in your analytics tools about sales, but where the sale process is online, it may be possible. In fact, it is the way that affiliates and aggregators have been paid for years. The user does all the fancy stuff on one website and when they buy off the second website a cleverly inserted tag on the final page lets you know that they have bought. Everyone is a winner. Well you are.
Suddenly you have another step in the process because you can match like with like information on where people have come from, what they’ve done, etc. More importantly the website that you are selling through should be more than delighted to do this because it means that you’re more likely to improve your site to be able to sell through them (thus making them more money). You may find certain difficulty in this though where big websites like Amazon and eBay insist that you use their information, but if you can negotiate with them then it may be more likely. Insurance websites, in my experience, are much happier to deal with super affiliates that affiliate networks because they think that it gets a bit closer to the customer.
Even doing this sort of thing as an affiliate has its possibilities. If you can auto generate a random code from your analytics tool when people click pass the details through (a ‘Customer code’) that you can pass into your third party tools then you should be able to link up the data sources directly. They won’t match because of the different filtering you do, but you a mapping exercise will allow you to look at like for like.
4: Collect more information in your sales funnel tool
So you can’t collect the information in your analytics tool. Can you collect the information in your sales funnel tool? This is probably more pertinent to lead generation websites, but why not pass into your sales funnel tool some information about how the user got to the site in the first place? It should be a simple process using cookies to store a users campaign code if they arrive at the site and then pass that through into your sales funnel tool. That’s what analytics tools do anyway so inserting this simple step shouldn’t be difficult.
This allows you to do something slightly different to the above – it takes away a huge amount of information about what the user did, where they came from etc, but for your campaigns you should get a whole host of information about how likely they are to convert. This will allow you to prioritise your spend on different areas. It won’t give you everything that you wanted, but it should allow you to do more than you were previously able to.
5: Integrate all your systems
I suppose this wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t suggest that you integrate all your systems. It’s highly unlikely this will work out for you, but I think I should mention it.
Why won’t it work out? Well none of your systems are ever going to match up
. However if you can make it so that you are only using one system, then you may be in a better world. The difficulty of this is that very few companies make a tool that can do all these things and many companies have finance tools that are too indoctrinated in the company culture to be able to just change. Especially if you sell through many channels.
My advice? Your best value for money is through going through steps 1 – 4 above. Most of them will give you quick, cheap wins. If you’re Amazon or eBay you can go for option 5, but for the rest of you it probably isn’t worth it.