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FutureNow Article
Friday, Jul. 18, 2008

How to Use Any Tool to Optimize Better

By Bryan Eisenberg
July 18th, 2008

interactive toolboxAs a self-professed tool junkie, I’m a sucker for shiny new tools. I love tools of any kind — Web tools, software tools, and on a Sunday morning you might even find me in the Brooklyn Home Depot wiping the drool from my mug as admire this fine kosher beef grilling tool.

No doubt, these are exciting times if you love Web tools. For the many folks who are dizzy trying to sort out conversion optimization tool choices, it might be a little frustrating.

In “The Interactive Marketer 2.0,” I made the case for improved optimization in interactive marketing and to think outside the campaign. I listed several steps to get started, including the first step: Get good at free tools, then pay for them. Tools aren’t the indicator of success, but having a process and the people in place to take action are.

The good news in this barrage of 2.0 goodies is that many believe we’ve finally reached tool parity in the Web analytics space. JupiterResearch states the following:

“Despite some small skirmishes over capabilities like video and audio measurement, the Web analytics feature race is largely over,” explained John Lovett, Senior Analyst and lead author of the report for JupiterResearch. “Leading vendors will forge ahead by making data accessible and actionable while expanding offerings into adjacent marketing technologies.”

I agree.

Several people have accused me and my firm of having a Google bias. (Full disclosure: FutureNow is an authorized Google Optimizer consultant.) This simply isn’t true. A sizable percentage of our clients use other tools like Omniture, WebTrends, and Coremetrics. Our policy has always been to work with the analytics/tool vendors of the client’s choice. For many who are just getting started or are experiencing a marketing budget squeeze, the free and robust Google offerings simply make sense. Others have found a need for features available in other tools, and we’re happy to help them use those tools better.

A tool is just that, a tool.

A tool doesn’t persuade your visitors to take action, nor is it exclusively responsible for a company’s success in optimization. So when a client approaches me requesting a tool suggestion I always answer the same. If you have a tool in place now, use it better. If you don’t, start with something free and get good at using it.

A free tool may be all you need. While certain analytics vendors offer what are considered enterprise-level tools, the free and lower priced solutions are typically labeled for use by small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Still, you’d be surprised at the number of large clients who are satisfied with free or cheaper tools. And, we also have several SMB clients that have more sophisticated needs.

Bottom line: don’t get hung up selecting a tool. Any business, no matter the size, that isn’t optimizing today can extract great value from any tool on the market today. The important thing is to get started optimizing and measuring more effectively. There are no more excuses, not even a lower optimizing budget.

Which brings me to my next point. How does one use a tool effectively? You must operationalize it. Your process must lead your team to take an action, e.g., make a change that you can measure. Lastly, you must be able to gain insight about customer behavior from the data. And, you must do this over and over again. Without those three things in place, no tool will usher in the success you seek.

You must always do the work of optimization. A better treadmill won’t, all by itself, trim your love handles. Likewise, a cheap camera in the hands of a skilled photographer will always take better pictures than one used by a clumsy newbie.

A tool is a tool is a tool. Pick one, learn how to use it effectively, and you’ll see optimization success. Then we can talk about what other tools you might need.

Then we can all afford drool worthy gas grills in our backyards.

*Cross-posted on ClickZ.

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Editor’s Note: If you’re buried in data and looking for a better process to keep your campaigns customer-focused, accountable and metrics-driven, contact us today for a confidential and free consultation.

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Comments (10)

  1. I agree. It is hard to knock a free tool like Google Optimizer. It also gives me more information than I really need. I am sure the tool does a lot more than I use it for now.

    When you mix good and free, that is a hard combination to beat.

    I think where the real skill comes in, is using the data you already have to make intelligent decisions on what to change, move, etc….

    I just started using, and guess what? I am learning that the same copy on 2 different pages formatted differently, 1 page I am getting a lot of clicks viewing a video I have and on the other page with exact same copy laid out differently is getting little action.

    Well after I go a month and get a lot of solid click stream data, I will be changing the copy format to the higher performing layout.

    Data is good but knowing what to do based on data is even better. I am always learning, so I enjoy this.

  2. A tool is just a tool, except where it’s offered free for maximum penetration in order to log every visitor which triggers the JS block; for the purpose of painting a more complete picture of their browsing history, habits and tendencies for their more-complete-than-most-realize Google profile.

    At some point web masters have to step in and say that if knowledge is power, let’s stop herding it into the same hands. Those well-intentioned hands will always die or retire in a few short months, passing their infrastructure and data to people whose intentions we cannot know.

    But, Audio Bible is right; it’s hard to knock good and free. That’s why I currently use Google Analytics, Optimizer, Gmail, AdWords, AdSense, Calendar, Reader, Photos (Picasa) and more on a daily basis. Of these, we only plan to cease use of Analytics, AdSense and Optimizer since they are the ones which feed our visitor’s info into the G barn without their permission.

    What’s the motivating factor for inflicting a tool switcheroo on ourselves? Google’s recent steps to take their existing profile data to the next level through heavy involvement in active RFID tech, including chipped employee name badges and cars which store one’s “location history”. A quick search will show you more; what’s that they say… just Google it. ;)

  3. As your post says, “You must always do the work of optimization”, this is ultimately the case. Without applying information gained from even the best tools and continually refining your efforts you can’t gain any significant improvement in the SERPs.

  4. Excellent Post. Tools are tools. If we all remember that a website is just a marketing portal to get people to click, call or buy – than like every marketing effort, you need to test, test, test or optimize, optimize, optimize. I let my clients know that there are different types of optimization, some visible to the humans and some just for the robots: code, navigation, content, and ‘pretty’ or graphics. If you assign the right person in your company to manage the tasks at hand, as a optimization team, the company wins. Again, good post.

  5. How to Use Any Tool to Optimize Better…

    In “The Interactive Marketer 2.0,” I made the case for improved optimization in interactive marketing and to think outside the campaign. I listed several steps to get started, including the first step: Get good at free tools, then pay for them. Too…

  6. I think it’s also safe to say that a skilled optimizer without any tools would probably do a better job optimizing a site than an unskilled one with all the tools in the world.

    Just having the knowhow of how the net works is one of the biggest “tools” available.

    Aside from that, Google Analytics is my choice as well; however, I also run local stats off the apache logs because Google Analytics outright lies about the incoming organic clicks. I don’t know why but they inflate those numbers.

  7. re: doc, amen brother!

  8. Hi Bryan,
    So what’s your most favorite tool.
    Thanks for sharing

  9. Helal olsun valla ne güzel yazmış yaaa tebrikler

    10.Sınıf Coğrafya Kitabı Cevapları

    10.Sınıf Coğrafya Kitabı Cevapları

  10. Calendar, Reader run local stats off the apache painting a morechoice as well; however, I also Analytics, Optimizer, Gmail, AdWords, AdSense, of their browsing history, complete picture my habits and

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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