Hi every­one,

Yes, I admit it — it’s been far too long since I last posted on my blog. I do apol­o­gize. But to be fair, I’ve been deep in trenches here at Omni­ture work­ing on some incred­i­bly excit­ing projects that will ben­e­fit all our cus­tomers in the weeks and months ahead!

Last post I wrote why unique vis­i­tors can be so dif­fer­ent when using web ana­lyt­ics or online busi­ness opti­miza­tion plat­forms like Omni­ture Site­Cat­a­lyst, and audi­ence mea­sure­ment ser­vices like Com­score Medi­aMetrix, Nielsen Netrat­ings, or Hit­wise. My intent was to demys­tify the method­olo­gies behind these very dif­fer­ent approaches to Inter­net mea­sure­ment. With this post, I wanted to offer some guide­lines on when and why, in my opin­ion, you should use one approach ver­sus another.

As many of you know Web ana­lyt­ics and/or online busi­ness opti­miza­tion has tremen­dous poten­tial to improve the online and offline cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. There is arguably no greater weapon at your dis­posal to opti­mize your mar­ket­ing ROI. From acqui­si­tion activ­i­ties like search, ban­ner, TV, and print cam­paigns to online and offline con­ver­sion to reten­tion activ­i­ties like newslet­ters, tell-a-friend, call cen­ter, and loy­alty pro­grams, web ana­lyt­ics should be your defin­i­tive opti­miza­tion plat­form. Why? Because it pro­vides the most gran­u­lar insight into cus­tomer behav­ior. It is your low­est com­mon denom­i­na­tor across all these cus­tomer touch points. And by lever­ag­ing web ana­lyt­ics across all these ini­tia­tives, you achieve a sin­gle ver­sion of truth — rather than try­ing to make deci­sions from 5 dif­fer­ent data sources. In short, web ana­lyt­ics can help you improve online and offline suc­cess by iden­ti­fy­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties through­out the cus­tomer life­cy­cle. As an orga­ni­za­tional opti­miza­tion plat­form, web ana­lyt­ics helps you answer ques­tions like:

How effec­tive are my cam­paigns?“
“Which cus­tomer seg­ments are most valu­able?“
“How can I improve my acqui­si­tion suc­cess?“
“How can I improve our con­ver­sion fun­nel?“
“How can we bet­ter retain our most valu­able cus­tomers?“
“How can we improve cus­tomer loy­alty?“
“How can we offer a bet­ter cus­tomer expe­ri­ence?“
“Which mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives are most prof­itable?“
“How do multi-channel buy­ers dif­fer from single-channel buy­ers?“
“How can I remar­ket to non-converters to improve over­all success?”

The list goes on and on.

In my opin­ion, audi­ence mea­sure­ment helps you answer a much dif­fer­ent set of ques­tions. Because audi­ence mea­sure­ment ser­vices aim to mea­sure vis­i­tor activ­ity across mul­ti­ple web­sites, they are valu­able largely from a com­pet­i­tive intel­li­gence stand­point. For exam­ple, audi­ence mea­sure­ment ser­vices can enlighten you as to what web­sites vis­i­tors go to before and after they visit your own web­site. This infor­ma­tion can help fine tune your com­pet­i­tive intel­li­gence efforts and pro­vide an impor­tant indi­ca­tor as to over­all vis­i­tor loy­alty (i.e. how many of your vis­i­tors are multi-site vis­i­tors and to what extent?). Fur­ther­more, if you see one par­tic­u­lar com­peti­tor gain­ing vis­i­tor share, it may be worth closer exam­i­na­tion of their web­site to deter­mine if they’ve intro­duced any new pro­mo­tions or cam­paigns that are attract­ing your visitors.

Audi­ence mea­sure­ment ser­vices have also evolved con­sid­er­ably to offer some really cool new met­rics. For exam­ple, Hit­wise has emerged as a pow­er­ful resource to iden­tify which key­words peo­ple are using to get to your com­peti­tors web­sites. In today’s increas­ingly com­pet­i­tive PPC mar­ket­place, this kind of insight can eas­ily shift the bal­ance of power — and profit — in your favor.

How­ever, when using audi­ence mea­sure­ment ser­vices, I always stress that you should focus most on rel­a­tive per­cent­ages, not absolute num­bers. As I talked about in my last blog post­ing, the absolute num­bers are often poor indi­ca­tors of actual traf­fic because the under­ly­ing pan­els are inher­ently biased, lim­ited, and so grossly nor­mal­ized that they paint a very mis­lead­ing pic­ture. For exam­ple, if you’re an elec­tron­ics retailer, it’s much more valu­able to under­stand that the top key­word is dri­ving 15% of your competitor’s traf­fic rather than know­ing the top key­word dri­ves 1 mil­lion unique vis­i­tors. The for­mer is action­able; the later is not.

Beyond com­pet­i­tive intel­li­gence, the audi­ence mea­sure­ment ser­vices can be an inter­est­ing source of demo­graphic data. The qual­ity of that data varies greatly by ser­vice — but even with the most exhaus­tive data sets, I per­son­ally have not used this much at all. A key chal­lenge for me is that you can’t really seg­ment by it. True, there are some great demo­graphic data points — but for most sites, you can’t drill into your seg­ment beyond one level because the pan­els are too small. For exam­ple, let’s say you want to under­stand the demo­graph­ics of your top cus­tomers (based on rev­enue per visit).

First, you’ll be dis­ap­pointed because the rev­enue reported by your audi­ence mea­sure­ment sys­tem won’t match your own order data­base or web ana­lyt­ics plat­form (both of which you know to be accu­rate). Sec­ond, your vis­its will also be off for the many rea­sons I dis­cussed in my pre­vi­ous blog post­ing. Because of these two dis­par­i­ties, your Key Per­for­mance Indi­ca­tor — rev­enue per visit — will vary widely from what you know to be true. But even for­get­ting all of that for a sec­ond — if you’re like most sites, you could only use audi­ence mea­sure­ment plat­form to see one level of demo­graph­ics — such as gen­der. When you try to drill into level two seg­men­ta­tion — like gen­der and age — you’re most likely out of luck. And lev­els 3, 4 or even 5 are com­pletely out of the question.

This may sound like a triv­ial dif­fer­ence, but it is not. When is the last time you ran a suc­cess­ful mar­ket­ing cam­paign based on 1 seg­ment dimen­sion? Can you imag­ine going to your CEO and explain­ing your multi-million dol­lar mar­ket­ing cam­paign tar­geted “Women”. Not “young women”, “afflu­ent women”, “sin­gle women”, “ath­letic women” — just women. In all but a few extra­or­di­nary cases, you’d be look­ing for a new job (yes, I real­ize there are some notable cases where com­pa­nies have been suc­cess­ful with one seg­ment dimen­sion, but they are very few and far between).

So again, while the demo­graph­ics pro­vided by audi­ence mea­sure­ment firms are inter­est­ing, I rarely use them.

To wrap up this blog post, I wanted to share one last rec­om­men­da­tion. That is when you can actu­ally use both ser­vices to drive mar­ket­ing ROI. Yes, you heard me cor­rectly — there are instances where the com­bi­na­tion of web ana­lyt­ics and audi­ence mea­sure­ment can actu­ally be a 1+1 = 3 proposition.

One such instance is search engine mar­ket­ing. Using a prod­uct like Omni­ture Search­Cen­ter in con­junc­tion with a ser­vice like Hit­wise can deliver rapid results that sig­nif­i­cantly impact your com­peti­tors. The beauty of this approach is that it can be auto­mated, so that shifts in the com­pet­i­tive land­scape and bid strate­gies can be quickly reflected in your own search cam­paign efforts. If you’d like to under­stand how to do this, please feel free to con­tact the Omni­ture Best Prac­tices Group.