Measurable, predictable marketing here to stay

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There is a fundamental change taking place as advertisers and marketers spend more and more of their budgets online: the science of online measurement, or what is commonly called analytics, is heating up.

The great promise of the Internet and its media offerings is the ability to harvest better information to enhance both the user experience and marketing effectiveness. In today's world of search engine marketing, analytics is moving into the mainstream and bringing with it new levels of media effectiveness and more powerful insight. In fact, there may be no precedent for the types of insight now available.

But first, some clarification: there actually are several elements of effective online analytics. What occurs on your Web site is one set of information and is vital to understanding "What happened?" But knowing the performance of your marketing tactics is also important. In other words, "How did I spend money?"

By bringing these two views together, online marketers are elevating the science and accountability of online budgets, much to the delight of an approving chief marketing officer.

For starters, remember that you can't measure what you can't track. Measurement and tracking of some simple key performance indicators will get you moving in the right direction. Measuring cost per action, for example, produces a baseline estimate of the value of each success event. Return on advertising spend allows you to begin to understand the overall effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

Buying or acquiring basic technology to measure these types of indicators is a common and very worthwhile cost of conducting intelligent business online. Analytics solutions vary by the amount of marketing spend and a host of site-specific factors, but offerings from Yahoo partners Coremetrics, Omniture, WebSideStory and WebTrends are all good starting points. If anything, the options and dimensions opened up by analytics make the need for automation and scale even more important, so good technology is a must.

Advanced analytics practitioners are increasingly thinking about people, process and organization. They talk about multichannel marketing being the norm, so process and organization that recognize the holistic marketing view is vital. The next step is building a team dedicated to the science of holistic analytics. Done right, their value pays off almost overnight.

As the world moves online - Forrester estimates suggest that domestic audiences consume as much as 34 percent of their media from Internet-based sources - so too does the opportunity for Web-based business intelligence. Simply reporting on what happened won't do. Action and accountability are what matter. Effective, measurable, predictable marketing is here to stay.

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