The Internet and, most specifically, search engines have shifted the balance of power from seller to buyer. Everything from the most important strategic direction to minuscule product details is available with just a few clicks of the mouse.
Many businesses have failed to embrace this reality: Understanding the behaviors and motivations of prospects and customers coming to your Web site is essential to developing and growing relationships to sustain business growth.
Until recently, typical Web site measurement tools and implementations have been unsuccessful in providing these views and understandings. They have yielded broad indications of overall traffic and page views and reams of data that sit in stacks on Web managers’ and marketers’ desks, waiting for someone to pour through them to understand what might be going on that was valuable or could be actionable.
Rather than continuing to focus on buying more search terms or raising bids on existing terms, progress can be made by perfecting tracking, measurement and visibility. This will help drive your search programs to provide bottom-line results by being able to see visitor patterns by segment and buy cycle position, continually improving the interactions and value to the prospect.
How can this be done? First of all, the baseline data need to be gathered by implementing a tracking capability to detect unique users’ paths and actions on your site, a capability available from many Web analytics providers.
But more importantly, a “translation” architecture then needs to be built (now enabled but not provided by some providers) that relates this vast data set to meaningful business views that can answer questions such as:
· Are my current hypotheses about my target market segments correct?
· Are there segments on my site that I have failed to address?
· Do I have the content, tools and “offers” that are most valuable to each segment at each point in their buying process (versus my needs, which tend to be to sell products now)?
A company will be unable to support its business with only the installation of a Web analytics platform. Issues that must be addressed before building the “translation” correctly are related to the awareness, consideration, trial and purchase phases of a particular product or service’s buying cycle.
Currently, Web site measurements emphasize the first and last points of the sales process: initial clicks from the search engine and final sales or conversions (not buyer-centric, nor the information about where things break down). Instead, tracking and translating meaningful prospect activities such as requesting specific information, downloads of tips and toolkits and providing information as indicative of a growing relationship allow a qualifying process that can be tied back to levels of engagement needed to build a relationship and eventually close a sale.
By understanding various Web site pages and activities from their relative business value and assigning them placements and relative scores in your pipeline, you can work to keep prospects on the engagement path by detecting and fixing problems in their way.
By seeing segments of prospects as entities and their actions as scenarios, sellers can provide buyers the “goods” as they want to have them, taking advantage of the buyer’s new power for your firm’s benefit. The alternative is to become increasingly irrelevant, out of the buyer’s good graces and eventually uncompetitive. ROI from a final conversion perspective is one piece of evidence on the effectiveness of your search program and Web site, but visibility to your buyers is more powerful in the long run.