In my posi­tion I have the chance to observe and also assist media com­pa­nies as they mature towards data dri­ven orga­ni­za­tions. It’s an exhil­a­rat­ing time as our indus­try starts to move past the era of gut feel to a more robust improve­ment process. For exam­ple, some media com­pa­nies are dis­cov­er­ing that the ever pop­u­lar home page rotat­ing ban­ner is (gasp!) in fact decreas­ing over­all site con­sump­tion and impair­ing the vis­i­tor expe­ri­ence. How can that be when almost every­one in the indus­try uses it? This issue illus­trates per­fectly that an idea can eas­ily out­grow its own value based in part on the power of “me too” deci­sion making.

That leads me to one ques­tion I’ve heard a lot this year, and noth­ing could make me hap­pier. It goes some­thing like this: ‘Chad, we feel we have a solid ana­lyt­ics and analy­sis foun­da­tion. What’s the next step that will get us X?’ By X I mean any applic­a­ble key busi­ness require­ment crit­i­cal to the busi­ness. In our indus­try this usu­ally involves increas­ing onsite con­sump­tion or engage­ment, dri­ving greater loy­alty or becom­ing a stronger top of mind brand for a par­tic­u­lar niche. Glad you asked Mr/Ms Media. First, you can ALWAYS improve your ana­lyt­ics and mea­sure­ment strat­egy, meth­ods of analy­sis, adop­tion etc. I don’t want to min­i­mize that fact by hav­ing this discussion.

But, more lead­ing edge media com­pa­nies are ready and hun­gry for what I call prod­uct agnos­tic solu­tions. What does that mean? It sim­ply means using the best com­bi­na­tion of prod­ucts, ser­vices and best prac­tices to pro­vide a holis­tic long term solu­tion to those crit­i­cal busi­ness needs or KBR’s. We need to develop the best solu­tions that get you to your opti­miza­tion goals, and increas­ingly those solu­tions will be more than just report­ing. Analy­sis is crit­i­cal to your busi­ness, but act­ing on that analy­sis and test­ing the results of those actions in a con­fi­dence con­trolled envi­ron­ment will ulti­mately move you to a data dri­ven des­ti­na­tion. That’s why Omni­ture has spent so much effort and resources on dri­ving towards an entire opti­miza­tion suite, not just on SiteCatalyst.

Recently our Test&Target prod­uct received a big upgrade that allows it to be a big­ger part of prod­uct agnos­tic solu­tions, an upgrade that was geared specif­i­cally for our indus­try. As a media site, your goal isn’t to effi­ciently move a vis­i­tor through a fun­nel that leads from land­ing page to prod­uct to shop­ping cart to pur­chase con­fir­ma­tion (unless you charge a pre­mium for content-more on that in a later blog post). No, this busi­ness requires engage­ment, and media cus­tomers now have engage­ment spe­cific met­rics avail­able in T&T. You can read more about it here. You can now use con­fi­dence based test­ing with truly rel­e­vant media met­rics such as page views, time on site, and engage­ment, not just bor­row­ing met­rics that apply to other industries.

One media com­pany our con­sult­ing team works with has already jumped on these engage­ment met­rics and achieved a “throw an office party” improve­ment in site con­sump­tion. Our con­sul­tants intro­duced this cus­tomer to a sim­ple yet pow­er­ful test­ing con­cept called inclusion/exclusion test­ing. The idea is to remove indi­vid­ual mod­ules or site func­tion­al­ity from the home page and deter­mine which MISSING mod­ules are most crit­i­cal to over­all site con­sump­tion, in this case page views.

A series of test­ing showed with strong sta­tis­ti­cal con­fi­dence that two page mod­ules had neg­a­tive impact on con­sump­tion when removed, while two oth­ers had a pos­i­tive impact on con­sump­tion when removed. In other words the lat­ter two mod­ules caused over­all site con­sump­tion to go down when they were present on the home page. That rep­re­sents solid gold infor­ma­tion that test­ing can pro­vide a site expe­ri­ence or con­tent man­ager beyond the ini­tial ana­lyt­ics analy­sis. And the best part? This test­ing con­cept requires no new cre­ative and min­i­mal tech­ni­cal impact. It’s easy to do!

Change, Change, Change…

But the story doesn’t stop there-and unfor­tu­nately this is where many of us would be tempted to declare vic­tory. The next step was to test and imple­ment a more effec­tive com­bi­na­tion of modules-to take ACTION using the infor­ma­tion. The site uti­lized an addi­tional series of tests with dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions of site ele­ments to deter­mine which com­bi­na­tions were most effec­tive together. Again we’re not talk­ing about cre­at­ing new func­tion­al­ity, just re-considering the exist­ing pieces.

One par­tic­u­lar com­bi­na­tion, includ­ing the mod­ules crit­i­cal to con­sump­tion listed above, drove a 17% doc­u­mented uplift in over­all site con­sump­tion. That’s not just click through folks, that’s site wide impact mea­sured in page views!  This media com­pany has a CPM dri­ven model and that uplift means a more com­pelling story to sell to poten­tial adver­tis­ers as well as more adver­tis­ing rev­enue. Again, this is where analy­sis derives its true power, in con­junc­tion with sta­tis­ti­cally mea­sured and doc­u­mented IMPROVEMENTS when changes are made. Even fur­ther, this infor­ma­tion will be used to deter­mine which spe­cific user groups change behav­ior and can be tar­geted for even greater long term gains.

This is just one of many tests that can be run. Con­sider some other pos­si­bil­i­ties for a moment: page recla­ma­tion, lay­out, con­tent affin­ity test­ing. Going back to our “gut feel” state­ment ear­lier, is the fea­tured con­tent rotat­ing ban­ner (or your other fea­tured con­tent option) really the best way to increase con­tent con­sump­tion? Instead of rely­ing on the con­ven­tional wis­dom or “every­one else is doing it” you can deter­mine with cer­tainty for your busi­ness what the best options are, again using crit­i­cal Media KPI’s (engage­ment, con­sump­tion, time on site). Or, use the inte­gra­tion with your exist­ing Site­Cat­a­lyst imple­men­ta­tion to test with a cus­tom engage­ment met­ric that you’ve already built. There’s no time like the present to build on your ana­lyt­ics foun­da­tion by fol­low­ing the data with mean­ing­ful action.

What’s on your mind as a media/publishing site? Send me a com­ment or email. I’d love to hear about it!

4 comments
DavidWB
DavidWB

Blogs and Forums should be used as a Funneling mechanism and help you engage consumers away from your main site. they should be themed and the content should all be useful and user friendly. Blogs are a great way to informally connect with your communities and increase conversions through engagement.

Jon Butler
Jon Butler

Blogs and forums will only become a more important factor in gaining business, as the pressure to engage with your consumers increases.

fleurpower11
fleurpower11

Do you have any stats on how well forums and blogs perform? And on average do they bring an increase to the business?

Shawn Reed
Shawn Reed

Great points, Chad. It's important to differentiate between "getting value out of optimization efforts" and "completing site optimization", because the latter should never happen. It should be an ongoing process. One other point I wanted to make regarding the rotating homepage banner -- another negative impact most companies don't realize is that these banners are not SEO-friendly because the search engines usually cannot read their content. This means that the content you're often trying to promote the most can't be found in organic search. Using static images (with "alt" tags containing the keywords for the image or the page it links to) along with good, descriptive text is a much better approach for content promotion. Not only does it not create an excessive distraction from the rest of the page, but it helps bring in new visitors as well!