If you’re a citizen of the good ‘ole US of A, you already received your 2010 Census in the mail. For those of you reading this from overseas, every 10 years, our government asks us to self-identify, to provide basic information about the people in our household in a Decennial Census. The information we all provide is used for myriad purposes, everything from allocating dollars from government programs to protecting the rights of minority voters, to…targeting. Businesses have long used Census data to determine market share, find pockets of highly qualified candidates and to measure local and regional successes.
Historically, one of the companies that has benefited most from the cycle of refreshing Census data is Nielsen Media Research Group, the same folks that created the concept of DMAs (Designated Marketing Areas) that are used in SiteCatalyst geo-segmentation reports. While offline marketers who work in the Direct Mail/Database Marketing field are keenly aware of DMA data, many online-only marketers haven’t fully unlocked the power of this reporting.
The 2010 Census will take nearly two years to tabulate and publish, but when it’s available, marketers around the country will see which DMAs have grown and which have shrunk relative to one another. In SiteCatalyst, the DMA report is valuable, but rather static. Obviously, we know what are the largest cities and markets in the USA, and visitation from those DMAs generally will not change much over time on a macro level. Regardless of where you’re based in the US, unless your business focus is highly regional, your top 15 DMAs probably include many of the same ones shown in the report below.

Interesting information, but hardly surprising. Or actionable for that matter. So even though Easter was last month, my cabinet is still loaded with Marshmallow Peeps (the Peeps Bunnies, to be honest. The “old skool Peeps” have too high of a marshmallow-to-sugar ratio). But anyhow, here is one of my favorite “Easter Eggs” in the SiteCatalyst user interface. This will be especially valuable if you do spot-market advertising, want to determine lift within a market, or understand where you have good market penetration and where it’s lacking. All this is just a few clicks away. First, run the Visitor Profile > Geosegmentation > US DMA report that’s shown above, then navigate to the top right of your screen and click on the highlighted area that says “Visitors Per Capita”


Voila! Now you have an interesting and actionable report that will look something like this:

DMA Penetration report in SiteCatlalyst

DMA Penetration report in SiteCatalyst

So…what in blazes does this mean? To help explain, I’ve added shading to the report. The markets at the top (Boston, Austin, Washington DC) show higher than average market penetration. Those that are shaded are where this fictional company under-indexes against US panel and Census data. You can interpret the data for Boston to mean that out of every 10,000 people in that DMA, 61.4 of them visited the site in the given time frame. That is nearly 2X the national average, as represented by the field showing Boston’s penetration is 99.9% above the national average. That’s not the area code in parenthesis next to the DMA name, but rather the DMA number that Nielsen assigns. You’ll note that New York has dropped from 1st on the ranked report to 10th on the penetration report, but NYC still over-indexes compared to the national average, showing better-than-average visitation from that crucial market.
Except for Kansas City and Chicago, this fictional site has subpar penetration in the Midwest. Markets like Cleveland, Columbus, and the Twin Cities show lower-than-average visitation. If these markets are important to this site’s over-arching strategy, they need to invest locally. So, what happens if they do invest? Can we track that in SiteCatalyst too? Really, would I have asked the question if the answer were ‘no?’ Am I actually having a dialogue with myself right now? Yes? Sorry. Back to our example…this company sees they are weak in Columbus, Ohio, and so they run a quick test campaign from February 14th through the 18th targeting visitors from the Columbus market using display ads on major search engines. Did it work? Let’s see.

To get the view below, first use the filter on the top right to choose the DMA number for the market you wish to track. Columbus’s is 535 (but of course, you already knew that, right?) On the resulting screen, switch over to the “Trended” view and you’ll see a report similar to what’s shown below.


Now we can see what happened when marketing spend was pulled from the Columbus market on the 18th of February; visitation tanked! The geo-targeted marketing had been driving traffic, and when it stopped, there was a discernible decrease in Visitors, roughly 100-200 per day fewer than during the campaign.
Proof positive that geo-targeting works. And while you may have already seen how well Omniture products like Test and Target execute geo-targeting, it’s not always as apparent for offline, spot-market campaigns, but now you see a way to get these data. I should note that by default, SiteCatalyst only reports visitors (which are the same as daily unique visitors) for each Geosegmentation category; if additional metrics (such as weekly or monthly unique visitors) are needed, a VISTA rule can be used to copy geographic information into props/eVars.

So other than geo-targeting through display or contextual search, how else can you track regional penetration this way? Just a few ideas include:

  • White Mail/catalogs
  • Spot cable buys
  • Outdoor/out-of-home
  • Mobile promotions
  • Local magazine buys
  • Feeder market analysis
  • Guerrilla marketing endeavors

So make sure you return your Census forms (it’s the law!), send me your unwanted Peeps (I prefer stale to fresh) and if you don’t want your marshmallow treats, at least have the decency not to do this to them. Oh, the horror!