Questions? (877) 643-7244
FutureNow Article
Tuesday, Jun. 16, 2009

Are Your Analytics Causing You to Lose 30% of Your Sales?

By Jeff Sexton
June 16th, 2009

Most companies measure keyword performance – and especially PPC keyword performance – based on one factor: did that word or phrase bring converting visitors to the site on the visit in which they converted.

So the natural thing to do is trim non-performing words and phrases in order to increase the efficiency of your PPC spend.  And that’s exactly what one client did, except rather than increasing his efficiency, he dropped his sales by 30%.

Why?

Because, depending on what you sell, lots of people buy on their second, third, or umpteenth visit to your site, rather than the first visit.  Those visitors are building confidence in you as they move through their buying process.  But most systems don’t (or can’t) track user behavior over multiple visits.   So when those early and middle buying-stage keywords shown up as non-converters, they get cut.

The shame is that not everyone is able to track the following sales drop off, which may not occur for days, weeks, or months, back to the act of cutting those keywords.

Trading away Dennis Rodman as a Non-performing Player?

Would you trade Dennis Rodman for non-performance?  Of course not, right?  Rodman’s defensive stats alone tell the tale.  At his prime, Dennis was pulling down a truly astonishing 18.7 rebounds per game.  For reference, the previous year’s league leader in rebounds (David Robinson) averaged 13 per game.

But if the only stats you looked at involved scoring, you’d get a different picture. Comparing Rodman’s 8-9 points per game against other star players’ 20 or more points per game, you’d likely have been misled into trading Rodman, only to find yourself wondering why you started losing games and everyone else’s scoring stats went up against your team.

Think of your assisting keywords terms as the Dennis Rodman’s of your PPC campaign, except you’ll get all the assists and none of the off-court shenanigan’s.

There’s plenty of other ways myopic analysis can leading you astray

A recent eConsultancy post discusses how Google’s default window for tracking cookies can distort traffic data.  Left in its default cookie window setting, Google Analytics (GA) will classify visitors as “search”-driven traffic for six months following a single search based click through to your site – regardless of how they got to your site previous to that search or how they might arrive at your site following that search. Here’s an example of how this might skew your results:

Let’s say you’re driving traffic to your site via radio ads and that a listener, after hearing your ad, types your url directly into his browser.  Later, he comes back but this time, he types your business name into Google and clicks through on a displayed search result.  Following that, he visits your site three more times via bookmark or directly typing your URL into his site. That’s a total of 5 visits.

Question: How many of those visits would GA classify as search-driven?

Answer: 4 out of 5.

GA would count the first search-based visit and then all of the remaining 3 visits, despite the fact that the following three visits didn’t use search and may have taken place several months after the initial search.  Multiply that by all your visitors/visits, and you can see how your understanding of what drives traffic to your website might be distorted in favor of search. And under the impression that your traffic was mostly generated by search and not, say, your radio ads, you might be tempted to cut them from your ad spend.   Obviously, the same thing could apply with e-mail campaigns, magazine ads, etc.

Bringing Clarity and Orientation to Web Improvement Efforts

Any experienced Web Analyst or Website Optimizer could extend this list of “gotchas” and “classic mistakes” almost indefinitely.  It’s just not that uncommon for an uncareful analysis of data to lead online marketers either to analysis paralysis or sub-optimal optimization strategies.  Is it any wonder that 70% of businesses collecting wed data fail to act on their analytics data?

Obviously this issue has been central to Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg’s Web careers since the beginning.  It’s why they helped found the Web Analytics Association; why they published The Marketer’s Common Sense Guide to eMetrics, Call to Action and Always Be Testing; why they created Persuasion Architecture; and ultimately why they’ve built the OnTarget program.

The central theme amongst all of these issues is bringing clarity and actionable insight to Web improvement and online marketing efforts.  They are all answers to the business owner who feels confused or disoriented by the data he’s given and want’s a clear direction toward more sales/conversions and improved website performance.

So, if you find yourself struggling to make sense of your online marketing data, or frustrated by non- or counter-productive optimization efforts, ask yourself: are you giving credit where it’s deserved?  Or do you need help achieving greater clarity and actionable insight from your optimization efforts?

Add Your Comments

Comments (76)

  1. [...] Are Your Analytics Causing You to Lose 30% of Your Sales? [...]

  2. Good points!

    But hopefully people aren’t making PPC decisions purely on data from Google Analytics.

    Google Adwords Conversion Tracking fx. uses a 30-days cookie to track conversions, without regarding other channels. That’s the (main) reason why you are seeing different conversion numbers in the two tools.

    Both of them are as wrong as they are right in their method of tracking a conversion. But if you don’t know this basic stuff, can you really call yourself a Web Analyst?

    Besides, only very few tools offer the posibility to track and measure delayed conversion, or which marketing channels a conversion has been exposed to. And most of them haven’t figured out yet how to do good reports on it.

    Maybe there’s a subject for a future article there? I for one would love to hear more about it.

  3. [...] Are Your Analytics Causing You to Lose 30% of Your Sales?, GrokDotCom [...]

  4. This is great example of why you need to look at campaigns over time and with the right metrics. It’s commonly assumed that “real time” reporting means you can make real time changes but as your post clearly notes, conversions can take hours — even days for the right type of product. As a result one has to look at the conversion steps and the big picture as well as the size of a sample to be sure you aren’t making bad changes.

  5. [...] Are Your Analytics Causing You to Lose 30% of Your Sales?, GrokDotCom [...]

  6. basically it is important to look at everything you do from every angle not just one.

  7. I totally agree.

    I am in the travel business as an affiliate – and it is only in rare cases that the customers buy on their first visit.

  8. I never thought that trimming would potentialy cause a sales / conversion loss. I will be more careful with my ppc schemes

  9. [...] segmentation and personalization, and others. As Jeff Sexton recently pointed out, if you have the wrong analytics it could cost you 30% of your sales. Can you afford that [...]

  10. [...] Jeff Sexton, “Are Your Analytics Causing You to Lose 30% of Your Sales?” GrokDotCom, Jun… Share and [...]

  11. [...] di investimento e di gestione delle campagne online basate sul modello di attribuzione Last-click possono compromettere il rendimento delle attività di online advertising e di acquisizione di traffico [...]

  12. Good Post , Thanks.
    I find google analytics is not exact.

  13. Your comparision to Rodman is extremely close to a blog entry I did back in April:

    http://blog.spurinteractive.com/tag/paid-search-tips/

    great points and I really enjoyed the article!

  14. Kalin,

    Wow! You weren’t kidding. I guess it’s easy to come to similar conclusions when experiencing similar PPC dynamics. Great post on your part, too. Thanks for pointing me to it.

    - Jeff

  15. Any recommendations on some keyword/conversion tracking software? Paid and free

  16. Phoenix,

    Not to sound too self-serving, but OnTarget is a good bet. I also believe that TeaLeaf can help with this sort of thing.

    - Jeff

  17. Well said. Too many companies don’t consider the importance of shoppers who may be interested on the first visit but more inclined to purchase at a later time. This is why addressing high-probability user needs and concerns is more important (but complementary to) a focus only on first-visit conversion.

  18. I find Google analytics to be inaccurate. What would you suggest would be the best?

  19. Google analytics just never did a good enough job for us, even though its an amazing service considering its free.

    We ended up developing our own inhouse analytics software in the end, because we got true real time reporting, and we werre enable to issue trackers which helped us to track all activities of every visitor to the site as an individual. Tracking analytics this way, makes this a very powerful proposition.

    We were also able to use the same software to track repeat visits from the same user, and their interaction with our email marketing. great stuff.

  20. Geofree,

    GA is a great tool! You just have to know how to set it up and also what it can and can’t do. If you want the kind of stuff that Khuram and I are talking about you need an additional tool. I’m biased, of course, but I recommend Future Now’s OnTarget

    - jeff

  21. yeah .. Google Analytic is the best tool, until you know how to set it good..

  22. Good article. This is unfortunatelly only one of the issues with GA

  23. Nice piece, thanks for sharing. The inaccuracy in stats is definitely one of the shortcomings of GA, combined with not actually owning the data yourself.

    Phoenix Furniture: You can try Logaholic Web Analytics at http://www.logaholic.com.
    It’s a smart and easy to use analytics tool, which will provide you with a thorough stats analysis. Logaholic isn’t free, but it’s certainly a lot cheaper than some other tools around. I have been using it myself for a while now and it does everything I need for my business.

  24. Thanks for good article.

  25. I was thinking GA is the best tool to track i see that it is not perfect.
    Coloring pages for kids

    Cat Coloring pages

  26. good article
    it’s insightful and informative.
    I think sometimes Google analytics didn’t do a good enough job for us

  27. Thanks for sharing, definatetly something to think about.

  28. It’s pretty convenient that Google, the biggest vendor of PPC advertising, offers for free an analytics product that is designed to make them look good, isn’t it? :)

  29. Good insights and some helpful resources. Thanks.

    Much more to learn about Google Analytics than is obvious at first. I believe it’s time I checked out some other analytics resources beyond Google. Any suggestions?

  30. People need to keep an eye on their domain properties. it makes such a vast difference in web performance.

  31. Ouch, 30% is brutal, and I hope they re-configured their campaign to get those sales back. I know that when I am looking for something to buy, I will usually check a few websites, and then go back to the best site, or the site I trust more. I can see how this works, I do it all the time.

  32. I’m sure you quickly set your client straight! The conversion rate can’t always be a one-to-one click to sale ratio, that’s just the nature of ecommerce. Many people use Google for research (even the PPC ads), so it’s important to give those people all the information they want in order to make them feel comfortable going through your checkout process.

  33. Thanks for the useful info..

  34. And. I think analytics increase the loading time of a webpage…

  35. Thanks for this great article. There are really better solutions than Google Analytics. But many of them cost lots of money…

  36. I can not believe that google analytics counts visit, if directly enter a URL or if you click on a bookmark, if that is the case, i indeed need to use a second source before concluding what’s actually going on my page.

    Morten

  37. This completely makes sense. I however see one problem with targeting more of those that are reaching your page– You omit thinking outside the box and reaching those obscure searchers who may use a keyword your current visitors have never done.

  38. Thanks for this important information. I never thought about that problem before…

  39. What a great post. Thanks for the information.

  40. I’ve been using Analytics since it was Urchin and never knew this. Thanks for the heads up.

    Kevin McLain
    Top Web Hosting Companies News

  41. Thanks for the informative AND detailed post. It’s always great to present this kind of information to savvy clients who are genuinely interested in improving their online ROI!

    Kayvan Mott

  42. Marry Christmas and happy New Year 2010 from croatia.

  43. Very interesting! It changes the whole prospective

  44. Well, so far I totally relied on GA. From now on I will have to take also other analytic tools into account. Thanks for pointing that out!

  45. Wow, super interesting post. building a relationship with your visitors is the most important thing you can do, and having a way to track that would be priceless.

  46. Thanks for helpful post.

  47. Great read. Knowing what the visitors are actually doing in a web site is the most vital information every business owner should analyse

  48. All the metrics in the world don’t add up until you involve the individual. Thanks for reminding us all that so vital point!

  49. Google Analytics is a really great tool form me. I dont think it can be inaccurate.

  50. Very in-depth and well-written article, thanks for it!

  51. I have uninstalled awstats from my server. After reading this I will consider using awstats again instead of analytics and in google webmaster tools google analytics causes slow performance.

  52. Really good blog. I need some dofollow blog?

  53. Im dont know, go on some SEO site then ask.

  54. Analytics are pretty good, but maybe you can’t trust them that much.

  55. “70% of businesses collecting wed data fail to act on their analytics data?” I can tell you that it’s expensive to do right, but most companies fail to realize the ROI. P.S. I think there’s a typo in that sentence: “wed”

  56. Whether you are using Google Analytics or another piece of software, the mistakes in the examples above can still take place. The tools can only provide so much data. We have to provide the analytical part of the equation.

  57. Analytics are pretty good, but maybe you can’t trust them that much, this is so tre

  58. Very interesting! We must be careful when we are changing things on website ..especially things that generate the sale.

  59. Such a valuable information. It’s very good to know about the analytics. Yes, they are good but we shouldn’t trust them. You have described this in a well manner. Nice article.

  60. Well said. Too many companies don’t consider the importance of shoppers who may be interested on the first visit but more inclined to purchase at a later time. This is why addressing high-probability user needs and concerns is more important (but complementary to) a focus only on first-visit conversion.

  61. Yes, what program will allow to track that?

  62. There must be something else that went wrong if you lose a big portion of your sales. It cannot be simply be thought of as caused by Google Analytics. Just my two cents.

  63. When is someone going to figure out all the details for successful online marketing? Google analytics are a good resource but there’s still a lot of interpretation that goes into deciphering the information.

  64. GA is quite frustrating, the number of indexed pages always seems to differ from the “site:” operator. Also the new Search Queries section gives me doubtful info.

  65. Google Analytics is a good tool but the only problem is it seems to slow your website down. I might awstats and see what thats like.

  66. [...] analytics here on FutureNow’s GrokDotCom / Marketing Optimization Blog.Read more: http://www.grokdotcom.com/2009/06/16/are-your-analytics-causing-you-to-lose-30-of-your-sales/ blog comments powered by Disqus var disqus_url = [...]

  67. Google analytics are a good resource but there’s still a lot of reporting means you can make real time interpretation changes but as your post clearly

  68. Google Adwords Conversion Tracking fx. uses a 30-days cookie to track conversions, without regarding other channels. That’s the (main) reason why you are seeing different conversion numbers in the two tools.

    Thanks and Regards

  69. I never thought of this before……sound really excellent by doing it as of now is of main priority…..

  70. ” Question: How many of those visits would GA classify as search-driven?
    Answer: 4 out of 5. ”

    This is very interesting information. I have never considered that before and it is defiantly something to think about…
    Are your so-called “search-based visitors” REALLY that, or a result of another advertising avenue you may be considering cutting from your budget?

  71. This is definitely a legitimate concern, particularly when determining the value of SEO work.

  72. But with all the analytics tools out there… how do we know which onse are correct?

  73. You are raising really interesting points about the 30% drop of sales after trimming non-performing keywords. The difficult part is to find out which keywords are helping and which ones are not. I’d love if a follow-up article would cover this topic.

  74. I have never looked at it like that. I will definitely exercise this when using analytics.

  75. Yes, I agree. Not all people will buy on their first visit. People mostly like to buy only on 2nd or 3rd visit.

  76. Always have trouble with analytics tools. I use google analytics but surely there must be a better one that is also more accurate out there? Someone can make a lot of money making one. Thanks for the article a good read

Add Your Comments

 

Print this Article
Share

Jeff is a Persuasion Architect, Web copywriter, blogger, and instructor of FutureNow's Persuasive Online Copywriting workshop. Follow Jeff Sexton on twitter

More articles from Jeff Sexton

Marketing Optimization Blog
FREE Newsletter Sign-Up
send it once every: