Opti­miza­tion has mul­ti­ple lev­els­for con­tin­ued success

A few weeks ago I wrote about the fact that Web ana­lyt­ics is no longer optional: whether it’s easy or hard is not the issue — Web ana­lyt­ics has become manda­tory for us all doing busi­ness using the Web.

Web site opti­miza­tion, as well, has become some­thing that busi­nesses can­not ignore.

Opti­miza­tion has become a buzz­word. As such, its mean­ing has become diluted; mar­keters may find it easy to roll their eyes when uttered once again, or gloss over it and ignore it.   Let’s take a look at the rise of “opti­miza­tion” and why its still a crit­i­cal con­cept that needs to spread even deeper into mar­ket­ing orga­ni­za­tions today.

Old-School Web Ana­lyt­ics: Site Optimization

Tra­di­tion­ally, Web ana­lyt­ics and opti­miza­tion was borne out of the idea of remov­ing bot­tle­necks on a site.  In the early days, whomever owned the Web site, often IT or spe­cial­ized eCom­merce teams, wanted to know where the bar­ri­ers for suc­cess­ful con­ver­sion were located, and would set out to remove those bar­ri­ers deliv­er­ing the best flow for the typ­i­cal vis­i­tor to the site. They were able to use ana­lyt­ics to fig­ure those pieces out.

Mar­keters Have Arrived: Cam­paign Optimization

In the last few years, as more mar­keters have dis­cov­ered Web ana­lyt­ics, they have begun embrac­ing the idea of opti­miz­ing their cam­paigns — that is, improv­ing each step of a user’s inter­ac­tion from first impres­sion or touch point (be it a ban­ner ad, an email or a search engine key­word) all the way through to the reg­is­tra­tion, con­ver­sion event or sale. With this cam­paign analy­sis comes the idea of using ana­lyt­ics to ensure that the cam­paign is suc­cess­ful and if not, mak­ing course cor­rec­tions while there is plenty of time to make sure it’s successful.

Are We There Yet?

Mature mar­ket­ing orga­ni­za­tions know that, if they are to con­tinue their adop­tion of being fully account­able for each dol­lar spent, and to increase their mea­sur­able con­tri­bu­tion to the orga­ni­za­tion, they must embrace opti­miza­tion as a cul­tural shift, on all of its many lev­els. Every­one in the depart­ment needs to be think­ing about con­tin­u­ous opti­miza­tion so that marketing’s con­tri­bu­tion can con­tinue to grow.

But even as mar­keters are begin­ning to take advan­tage of these types of opti­miza­tion, there tends to be a dis­con­nect at many lev­els within the orga­ni­za­tion.  Opti­miza­tion often occurs in a sort of ad hoc man­ner. As of yet, for many orga­ni­za­tions, there seems to be no top-down man­date push­ing the entire team to make opti­miza­tion a part of their cul­ture.

That must change — and mar­keters, who know the ben­e­fits of opti­miza­tion bet­ter than any­one, need to be the dri­ving force.

Start With the Tac­ti­cal, but Move to Strategic

My first two exam­ples — opti­miz­ing on the site level and cam­paign level — are tac­ti­cal in nature, and most mar­ket­ing depart­ments with rudi­men­tary ana­lyt­ics in place can begin embrac­ing opti­miza­tion at these levels.

But mar­keters can’t stop there, even when suc­cess is expe­ri­enced. Mar­keters need to broad­cast this suc­cess and use it to start ask­ing other ques­tions that lead to more strate­gic opti­miza­tion. Good ques­tions to ask include:

  • Where are we spend­ing our dol­lars for max­i­mum busi­ness benefit?
  • How do we best allo­cate between paid and nat­ural search, rich inter­net dis­play ads, sta­tic ban­ners, email?
  • How does our offline mar­ket­ing effec­tive­ness com­pare to our online mar­ket­ing effectiveness?

This will direct mar­ket­ing orga­ni­za­tions toward opti­miz­ing their bud­gets and spend­ing at reg­u­lar inter­vals. This can be done on a quar­terly, monthly, weekly — even daily — basis. It all depends on a company’s abil­ity to put the analy­sis to use with improv­ing actions. The process of opti­miza­tion for each com­pany is dif­fer­ent, but after some expe­ri­ence, each orga­ni­za­tion will fig­ure out the best ways and time inter­vals to make bud­get opti­miza­tion effec­tive and not burdensome.

Take opti­miza­tion to still another level: what needs to hap­pen in order to help bring opti­miza­tion into the con­scious­ness of the organization’s CMO and CEO? As mar­keters become more com­mit­ted to opti­miz­ing their con­tri­bu­tions to the com­pany, C-level exec­u­tives will begin buy­ing into that culture.

Finally, each orga­ni­za­tion needs to think about how its cus­tomers’ rela­tion­ships are strength­ened, and opti­mized across the orga­ni­za­tion. At every touch point, are they being given the best ser­vice and expe­ri­ence pos­si­ble? Is the orga­ni­za­tion as a whole com­mit­ted to opti­miz­ing the cus­tomers’ expe­ri­ences on an ongo­ing basis, and are the met­rics avail­able to mea­sure this in an unbi­ased manner?

While the Web site, the main chan­nel of dri­ving cus­tomer expe­ri­ences today, needs to sit at the cen­ter of all this, it can­not be the only area of the orga­ni­za­tion that looks to opti­mize its inter­ac­tions with customers.

What Does a Cul­ture of Opti­miza­tion Look Like?

Once all lev­els of an orga­ni­za­tion have embraced opti­miza­tion, there’s a sub­tle shift in team con­scious­ness. Gut feel, intu­ition and opin­ion take a back seat to met­rics and facts. Argu­ing and debat­ing var­i­ous ideas give way to dis­ci­plined test­ing. Every­one will know that new cam­paigns will have mul­ti­ple cre­atives designed to test, and that num­bers will drive the results to decide which ver­sion is the best one. Every­one knows that test­ing will be an ongo­ing process, because what’s “right” today is not nec­es­sar­ily “right” tomorrow.

In the past, mar­keters would launch a cam­paign and three months later, would look at all the data and announce its suc­cess (or lack thereof). In today’s world, an orga­ni­za­tion oper­at­ing that way gets left behind in an instant. Mar­keters can now launch cam­paigns and don’t have to wait to see if it is suc­cess­ful. They have the tools to ensure that it is suc­cess­ful, because they can adjust their course in real-time until it is successful..

Phil Pickard
Phil Pickard

Interesting that you bring up the point that web analytics is no longer optional. If I also understand correctly, if you are serious about being in business then you have some web analytics solution in place. If this is the case, then this also changes the business model for Web Analytics solution providers from helping businesses to get started in online optimization to offering better optimization solutions. Maybe this is already the case in many aspects of the industry, but what I believe this implies is that there is a shift from a technological advantage to an intellectual advantage and thus the development of a surge in 'extra value' through professional services and web analytics consulting services that intepret the mountain of data into actionable insights. I think that the tomorrow of business optimization will be driven by visionary individuals and well positioned analytics teams, which is something new and exciting to think about.

Soeren Sprogoe
Soeren Sprogoe

Very nice, and interesting article! One thing though: In most cases I find focusing on "How do we best allocate between [marketing channels]?" can be very, very dangerous. Because in most cases most analytics measure on the last channel the customer was exposed to, where as the first channel actually was the one who grabbed the attention of the customer. Imagine this scenario: - By accident I notice a banner advertising for cheap dog food on a site. I own a dog, and it catches my attention. So I click on it, and is directed to The Dog Food Shop via some affiliate program. I don't need any dog food right now, so I leave the site again. - A couple of days later I notice I'm running short on dog food. So I Google "dog food", and notice a PPC ad for the interesting Dog Food Shop that I visited the other day. I find an interesting offer, but I want to check out some other prices/offers so I leave again. - After checking the price on dog food in the local pet store (and finding out it's cheaper to buy this stuff online) I go home and Google for Dog Food Shop as I can't remember the URL. I click on the first result in the Organic SERP as this is the brand/shop I'm looking for. - Finally I convert by buying a dog food subscription for the next year. Ask yourself: If this was your shop, which channel would the conversion in the scenario be subscribed to? And which channel is actually the "order starter"? This is one of the biggest dilemmas in my mind, when it comes to comparing online marketing channels. So far only a few has started really dabling in this area, and allthough I don't use Omniture myself I've heard you guys have a tool for tracking this stuff. But one thing is being able to track, another is being able to analyse & respond to the data. I'm sure there's companies out there that are working with this, but I've only heard of a small handfull.

Chris Tackett
Chris Tackett

Been reading for a while now. Just wanted to say good job. Chris Tackett