Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - October 2007
Welcome to the latest monthly edition of our newsletter, covering web search and marketing issues that can help business websites achieve more from the Internet.
In this issue we look at some of the main data trends that can help you make the most from your website analytics, which is an essential part of any online marketing strategy. We also review the latest announcement from Microsoft, who have just launched 'blended search' results on their Live Search engine. Finally we report on a new email scam that's targeting Google AdWords customers.
On to this month's edition...
Making the most of website analytics
An essential part of any website marketing campaign is your own analytics data – the statistics that show the number of visits to the site, which pages are viewed, where these visitors come from (referrals), and at what point they leave. Analytics can provide much more information as well, yet there are key data trends that can provide valuable information on the effectiveness of your online strategy.
Most websites will have access to some form of analytics data, probably provided by their web hosting company or as a subscription to a software package. We have previously reviewed the different types of website statistics programmes available, including Google Analytics which launched at the end of 2005.
Google Analytics recently underwent changes to the way data is presented and it remains a powerful and user-friendly analytics package that should be seriously considered, especially if your hosting service only provides a basic level of data. It’s also free!
Changing over from one analytics package to another can create discrepancies in data due to the way that different packages record and analyse traffic logs, so the trends over time through one analytics package are more valuable. As you review these trends, you need to consider what Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are important for your business, to see whether they are improving or not.
For example, how well is your site working for your visitors and what is the proportion of unique visitors or the split between first time visits and repeat visits over a period of time? You can review how long, on average, your visitors spend on your site. If you have a large site but the time being spent is relatively short, then there could be an underlying problem with the type of visitors your site is attracting, or with the way the site is being perceived or how well it works.
You might need to look at the entry and exit points on the site to get an indication of whether visitors are leaving straight away (possibly the wrong type of visitors for your business?) or if they are leaving at a common point within the site (perhaps where a page is slow to load or an enquiry form is asking for too much information?). This type of data can then give you ideas on what needs to be changed so that you can test alternative approaches and review the change in the statistics over the next few months.
Website analytics may also show that some pages are being visited more than others, which can again reflect your site optimisation and ranking performance, or the navigation routes into the site from the Home Page. If key pages are not being visited enough, or less important pages are attracting proportionately higher volumes of traffic, you might need to look at how these pages are performing in the search results, or whether links to them form other pages need to be revised and made more, or less, prominent.
The referral data within an analytics package will also indicate which search engines or other websites are driving most visitors to your site and, with search, which terms have they been using. This can reflect how your site is ranking (or which PPC terms are performing well) but does this also reflect how people are searching and therefore are there other terms that should also be driving more visits to your site?
Reviewing trends within a website analytics package should be done at least monthly and often more frequently, particularly if there are changes being made to the website or the marketing campaign – whether online or offline. The depth of data available can provide an excellent insight into how your web business is performing and should be used as a tool to test, adjust and review on a regular basis.
If you’d like to know more about how your website analytics can be used effectively to monitor and improve your online performance, contact us now for more information.
Microsoft launches 'blended search' results
Microsoft has just announced that it is changing the way that search results will be displayed on its Live Search engine. Satya Nadella, the corporate VP of the search and advertising platform group at Microsoft is quoted as saying about the new style of results: "We call it blended search...We're giving you instant answers."
What a user will see with these new 'blended search' results, for example, is that a search for product information will now include photos and links to reviews and shopping information as part of the search results, with additional information being taken from sites like Amazon and PriceGrabber. Microsoft will also be extending this approach to other types of searches, such as for local businesses, health information and entertainment.
Microsoft say that the idea with this new results format is to try to 'anticipate what users want', yet in reality this appears to be little different from the 'universal search' format introduced previously by Google, or the new style of results developed earlier this year by Ask. Microsoft is therefore at least trying to keep up with the market, rather than to move it forward significantly.
Perhaps more realistically, Nadella is quoted as saying that his goal was not necessarily to steal customers from Google, but rather to entice Microsoft's millions of users to turn to the service more frequently. This comes as ComScore reports that Google accounted for 56.5% of all web searches in the US in August, up nearly 10 percentage points from a year earlier. Yahoo was a distant second with 23.3% of the market, followed by Microsoft with 11.3% and Ask.com and AOL with 4.5%.
With Google becoming synonymous with 'search' on the Internet, they continue to establish what appears to be an unassailable position, with an even greater share of the search market in countries like the UK and Australia. Any developments that Google add have to be replicated by the other search tools to retain a similar offering, whereas new developments by the other main search tools - such as Ask's recent enhancements - seem to struggle to gain any new market share against user's conservative search behaviour and reliance on Google's results.
If you'd like to know more about how these search results may impact your business and website optimisation, please contact us for more details.
New email scam targeting Google AdWords customers
In the ever more creative and ambitious world of the email scammer, a new email targeting Google AdWords accounts has recently come to light which advertisers need to be aware of, plus a new version of Microsoft’s software updates email is also being circulated with a link to a virus.
The Google AdWords email closely replicates the format and content of the genuine ones that are sent out by Google regarding the approval status of an advert within an AdWords account, claiming that an advert includes a Pop-Up or contravenes their guidelines in other ways. However, on closer inspection it is a scam that includes a link that supposedly goes to the account login page - where you can review the status of the advert – yet in reality is takes you to a URL that is not a Google domain yet appears to be the relevant AdWords login page.
Therefore if a user logs in to this page to view their account they are potentially exposing their account details to the scammers and, although billing details should be secure, they will have access to the full AdWords account information.
If you have a Google AdWords account please check that any emails you receive from Google (or possibly from Yahoo or Microsoft regarding their PPC accounts) has a legitimate URL for the login page link, or the landing page is also a Google URL as the email link may redirect to the scammer's site. The email should also include an AdWords account number which you can check to see if this is correct (but if you need to login to your account to check this, make sure you do so from the main Google site and not from the link in the email).
This scam is just one of the numerous malicious emails that are sent out every day to generate 'phishing' attacks to get user login details to bank accounts or other secure sites, or to circulate viruses. There is also an email now circulating that appears to come from Microsoft regarding a security software update together with a link that tells you to download the update – of course, you shouldn’t do this otherwise you are risking your PC or network to a virus attack. Microsoft has posted information about checking the legitimacy of software update emails from them.
If you receive emails regarding your AdWords or other PPC accounts and are not sure if they are genuine or not, please contact us for advice.
Recent articles from The Marketing Workbench
The Marketing Workbench is our regular web marketing blog covering news and comment on Internet marketing events and trends. If you want to keep track of current stories you can visit this section of our website on a regular basis, or set up an RSS feed. These are just some of the items posted over the past month:
- Google launches AdSense for mobiles
- Search retargeting
- A guide to measuring ROI
- Offline behaviour driving online search
- Widgets as a marketing tool
- Trademarks on Microsoft adCenter
We hope you've found this month's issue useful. Please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website's performance. Also, if there are any issues you would like to see in future editions of this newsletter, please submit your suggestions to us.