It’s been six months since Google made the change that shook up the SEO market. If you are still perplexed about what to do about it, read on.
Keyword analysis is extremely important for optimizing both paid for and organic keyword traffic. Many pay per click buyers use Google Analytics (GA) to analyze their results. GA is fairly robust and can satisfy the needs of most buyers. But what about your organic keywords? It’s equally important to know which ones are driving the most traffic to your site.
Not Provided. This term refers to keywords where Google is no longer sharing information on their origin. This is not new news. Back in 2011, Google made a change that keywords from anyone searching from a secure site (denoted by an ‘s’ after the http in your URL bar) would show up in reporting as Not Provided. Then in October of 2013, they made the change universal for all Google organic search, hiding the keyword information that used to be so useful. Information on organic keywords is still available in Bing/Yahoo search. But, because Google search has 67% of the search market, you are now missing a large amount of information.
When Google first started down this path, Matt Cutts, the Head of the Spam Team at Google, guessed that Non Provided visits would remain in the single-digit percents. He was wrong. According to a BrightEdge survey from Q1, 2013, 56% of search traffic in the tech industry was already coming from Google secure search, and therefore showing up as Non Provided in GA. And now it’s a 100%, since all Google searches are secure.
There have been a number of very useful articles written about getting around this pesky problem:
Over half of the folks surveyed by Atlas Institute (Cookie Retention. Is the sky falling on cookies?) say they delete their cookies at least monthly. This data is not unlike data shared over the last few years from Nielsen and Jupiter, and is just another factor that needs to be considered as you think about attribution. Attribution refers to how you give credit to your various marketing efforts. It’s complicated and messy, but necessary to understand. Attribution tracking, or understanding the customer journey to conversion, is key to optimizing your site performance.
So why the buzz about multi-touch attribution modeling, and what does it even mean?
Just a few years ago, marketers favored First or Last Click attribution, meaning the first or final behavior that lead to the conversion is the one that received all of the credit. That means that if someone searched for your product and clicked on your ad one day but didn’t buy, the next day went directly to your website on their desktop, and on the third day went to your website via a mobile device, you’d attribute 100% of that person’s ROI to either that first ad or to the mobile device. The new norm however considers multiple sources along the customer journey as a way to gain much more real and useful information.
There are three primary ‘forms’ of multi-touch models: linear, position-based, and time-decay, and there are variations on each of these. A linear model assigns an equal attribution percent to each touch. Though better than a single-touch model, linear models are still somewhat arbitrary in that they assume each touch is as important as every other touch. Position-based models spread the attribution across the touch points, but not evenly. Typically these are more heavily weighted to first and last touch, with the remaining percent assigned to the ‘in-between’ touches. This seems to be used most with marketing efforts designed to generate a lot of leads into the funnel. A time-decay model assigns a larger % for attribution as the consumer goes through the touch points. This type of model is often used when a brand has a special promotion running with a quick close. Slingshot SEO published a nice checklist to help you decide which type of model would work best for you. It’s on page 13 of this study.
Why is multi-touch attribution important?
It helps you understand your consumer’s buying process
It helps you distribute your marketing spend to produce the greatest ROI
It can help justify your marketing budget
It creates much more accurate ‘cost per orders’
Multi-touch models aren’t perfect. Things get messy with cross-device tracking that can undermine the integrity of many of these systems. And it’s hard to tie offline advertising into your online attribution. But even messy, there is no question that multi-touch attribution is far more valuable than last-touch or first-touch attribution.
Given the relative newness of the field, there aren’t a huge number of companies in the attribution business, but there are some and the offerings continue to grow. Casey Carey, the CMO of Adometryprovided me with this list. I’ve added a brief blurb from each company’s website:
Adometry: They bring media types together to provide insights to guide and improve overall performance and incremental ROI of cross-channel campaigns.
TagMan: Their clients can manage and unify tag based technologies to produce one independent stream of clean marketing data from all channels.
Visual IQ: They are a cross-channel attribution software company looking to improve marketing performance.
DC Storm : They do multi-channel measurement, attribution and optimization.
Google Analytics: Released earlier this year, the GA tool allows you to choose your attribution preference (first touch, last touch, time decay).
Convertro: Their claim is that they provide advertisers with actionable spend recommendations so that marketing spend can be allocated in the most profitable way possible.
ebay enterprise, aka ClearSaleing: They claim their solution measures and calibrates across paid search, comparison shopping engines, display media, email communications, social media, natural traffic and more, and delivers recommendations for improvement both within and across channels.
C3 Metrics: They offer the ability to capture and make sense of billions of advertising touches.
Kenshoo: Their uniqueness comes from applying mathematical modeling with machine learning and algorithms.
I spoke with Chris Brinkworth at TagManabout multi-touch and device tracking. Their company conducted a study with the IAB (Internet Advertising Bureau in the UK) on this topic and he told me that “the majority (55%) of customers who make the journey to purchasing a product have had at least 2 marketing touches before doing so.” Where TagMan comes into play is, they drop tags in various places (in an email, on a landing page etc.) that will identify the same customer each time he turns up. They use 1st party cookies to do this (in many cases 1st party cookies are better than 3rd party cookies because 3rd party can be readily blocked by the user). Using tags to identify a consumer based on various data points such as IP address, email opens and cookie data allows you to follow that consumer. Additionally, Microsoft and Google both recently announced their plans to move away from 3rd party cookies and towards technology that will help with cross-device tracking.
And Chris reminded me, you can’t forget about the halo effect, especially as related to offline advertising. Here’s his example: say Macy’s is running a TV advertising campaign for sofas. TV viewers might be prompted after seeing the ads to search online for other sofa deals. As a result, JC Penney might see a spike in their search traffic. If they aren’t aware of Macys’ TV campaign, they may falsely believe that they’ve done something in search that’s having a positive impact. Companies like Optimal Socialcan help to tie these activities together.
In summary, attributing marketing success across multiple consumer touches, including cross-device, is key to understanding the ROI being produced from your marketing budget. Understanding the consumer’s journey will help you properly allocate your marketing budget as you move forward to accomplish your goals.
Step 1 was establishing goals for your social media campaign. This is important because your goals will largely drive the type of content you post, the types of behavior you want to drive and the places where you choose to have a presence. For instance, if your ultimate goal is to increase website sales, you might have the goal of driving more visitors to your site, or you may have the goal of increasing the number of positive comments about your product on Facebook or LinkedIn. On the other hand, if your ultimate goal is to drive awareness of your company, you may have goals around posting content that will be shared by others (especially influencers). Along with establishing goals, make sure you know how you will measure those goals. Google Analytics can help you understand web traffic and visitor behavior for instance.
Step 2 was figuring out where your audience is. This assumes that you already know who your audience is (in a general sense, as in their demographics and hopefully their interests). If you’re a small business, perhaps there is a site that others in your industry frequently visit for product reviews. If there’s a blog on that site, you might inquire about writing a guest post for them. Or perhaps your audience uses Facebook as a primary tool for connecting to each other. You’ll need to have a strong presence there as well, using helpful links to your own blog posts or useful product reviews.
Step 3 was to understand what success will look like for you. This is closely related to goals and means that you need to fully understand what it is you are after. Does success mean getting potential customers to engage with you one on one in social media, or does success mean making the phones ring. Either way, that success needs to support your goals.
Step 4 was establishing an editorial calendar. Not only does this help you organize, but it also will force you to remember that specific keywords are important in order for your posts to gain traction with the search engines. There are many templates that you can find on the Internet. Here are seven templates posted by Cedar Sage Marketing. What’s important is that the calendar has what you need. My calendar is very simple. I keep an Excel spreadsheet that has dates down the left hand side and the following categories across the top: Author, Title, Status (ie, written, published), 3-5 Keywords or Tags, Category, and Notes.
Step 5 was creating a social media policy. I’m not sure I can add to the original post on this one. You need to have an employee policy and it should be clear and support your company’s own mission. It can be brief and should be easy to understand.
Step 6 was monitoring your sites. When you first get started, this isn’t too difficult because you don’t have a lot to keep track of. But as you grow your viewer base, you’ll need to make sure you are keeping track of interactions in case someone wants to get in touch with you for instance, or in case someone has a bad experience. Here’s an example: I recently had an experience with Chobani Yogurt. I love this product and had bought a package of 12 cups. When I brought my package home, I noticed that one of the cups was very light and in fact turned out to be empty. I thought I should let Chobani know about this so I posted to their Facebook page and let them where I’d made the purchase. I heard back from them within an hour or so. Not only were they apologetic, but they asked for my email address so that they could send me a coupon for free product. It was immediate and made a great impression on me….and they now have my email address for future contact!
Step 7 was being prepared for negative comments. I’ve already posted about Handling Trolls here. Not only should you yourself have a plan for dealing with these comments but you should also make sure your management is forewarned. You don’t want an upset CEO calling you because they read something negative and want you to remove the comment immediately. Negative comments are to be expected. The trick is to handle them well and quickly, so that they will have little importance and visibility. And removing the comments is really a last resort option, as you don’t want your readers to doubt the honesty of the site.