Does your retail website currently offer visitors a buying guide? If you’re like most, you do. With the holiday season upon us, the vast majority of online retailers have either launched new buying guides or enhanced existing ones from last season. The prevailing wisdom of course is that buying guides are an effective navigational tool and persuasion strategy.

But are they really?? Just how effective are buying guides at driving sales and conversion? How do you know they are working? And most importantly, how can learn what isn’t working this season and improve it next season?

In my conversations with many retailers, I’m actually surprised at how few can quantify the contribution of buying guides to overall sales. And when I ask retailers why they are not measuring buying guides, the answer is almost always that “it’s too hard”.

Fortunately, it’s not. In fact, chances are that you can measure the success of your buying guide without even modifying any web analytics code on your site. Here’s how:

Step One (5 minutes): Identify the pages on your website that represent the buying guide. For example, you may have 5 sections – For Him, For Her, Kids, Friend, and Parents. Each section will have one or several pages. Make a note of these, ideally in MS Excel.

Step Two (2 minutes): Go into Omniture SiteCatalyst -> Traffic -> Segmentation -> Most Popular Pages. Your default metric will be Page Views. Click on this metric to get the Metrics Wizard pop-up. In this wizard, look for a tab called “Participation”. Under Participation, you should find several metrics including Revenue Participation and Order Participation. If you do not have these metrics, or do not see the Participation tab, call your account manager or executive and ask that they be turned on. In many cases, this is already included in your contract.

Step Three (3 minutes): In the Metrics Wizard, create a new calculated metric called Order Conversion. Define this calculated metric as “Order Participation/Visits” and save it as a Percentage with 2 decimals places. Once you’ve save this metric, drag it onto the data columns canvas. Click back over to the Participation tab, and drag Revenue Participation onto the canvas. And finally, click over to the Standard tab, and drag Visits over to the canvas. You should now have a column canvas with Visits, Revenue Participation, and Order Conversion. Click “Run Comparison Report”.

You should now be looking at a Most Popular Page reports with Visits, Revenue Participation, and Order Conversion as metrics. So what does this mean? Visits tells you how much traffic each page has seen for your given date range. Revenue Participation tells you the total revenue amount that resulted from visits that touched a particular page. For example, if my Home Page had 10 visits and $100 in Revenue Participation, this would indicate that buying activity in those 10 visits resulted in $100 in total revenue. Be advised that every page in the session will receive equal credit for the purchase, and as such, your Total Revenue Participation will exceed Total Revenue. Yes, this is a good thing – trust me. Lastly, Order Conversion – similar to Revenue Participation, Order Conversion is allocating all Orders across each page in a session that produced an Order. By expressing this as a calculating metric, you can easily determine which pages convert well and which do not.

Step Four (4 minutes): Now you’re all set. Using your Excel spreadsheet from Step One as a guide, search for your Buying Guide pages in the Most Popular Pages report. You’ll quickly see which pages have the most sales contribution and greatest conversion. Is it the “For Him” section, the “Kids” section? With this report at your fingertips, you’ll eliminate this guesswork and can focus on the top performers. Equally important, you can dive deep into the poor performers to understand why they may not be pulling their weight.

This is a quick introduction to a larger concept called “Content Valuation”. Once you grasp this, there are many more sophistication techniques you can apply – such as thematic content groupings and clustering.

If you’d like help with this, please do not hesitate to contact the Omniture Best Practices group. In the meantime, enjoy your newfound wisdom and be sure to add this report to your standard KPI dashboards and set up your alerts. Investing 20 seconds each day to keep tabs on this online asset can mean the difference between a good holiday season and a great one!