Using Goals and Micro-Conversions in Analytics to Match Your Customer Funnel

Often, when webmasters and business owners try to identify the ultimate purpose of their website, they think of one thing: Sales. Increasing revenue is often the number one purpose for any given website, no matter what the business. While different types of businesses have different ways to increase revenue, it’s pretty typical that most business owners and marketing managers are primarily concerned about the site’s impact on their bottom line before anything else.   The mechanics that influence the bottom line can vary dramatically: Webmasters may be relying on product sales and eCommerce transactions. Lead generation sites may gather new customers primarily from contact forms that arm their sales team with the information needed to follow up. Content writers and blogs may focus on engagement metrics so they can monetize their site to advertisers. Whatever the case, there are measureable milestones that can act as great performance indicators for sites of all types.   However, as the digital world continues to become more complex, with more and more channels used to market your business, and more steps that lead customers from discovery to conversion, it’s important to measure all goals on your site and ensure they align with your customer’s journey. Below, we look at three different types of websites and the macro-conversions and micro-conversions often associated with each of these types of sites.

Setting Up Goals for eCommerce Sites

E-Commerce websites have a pretty straightforward purpose, and it should come as no surprise that the primary macro-conversion should be a sale. But what steps go into identifying the micro-conversions that might come with your eCommerce site?   CrazyEgg recommends first identifying the macro-conversions for your site, and then simply brainstorming other activities that can act as milestones to signal that a user might be close to purchasing or further engaging with your content. These can include the following:  
  • Signing up for a newsletter
  • Adding a product to a user’s cart or favorites
  • Reading or writing reviews
  • Watching a video about the product
  • Sharing the product on social media
  Once you’ve identified the tools in your marketing arsenal that can serve as micro-conversions, the next step is learning how to measure them. Depending on the tracking that you’re using, this can include destination URLs set up within Analytics, or events to be tracked using either Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager.   The training video above walks over how to set up goals and events for eCommerce sites. For Tag Manager, the video below walks over the details of integrating tags in Tag Manager with your data layer to synchronize goals with Google Analytics.   Ensure that you track the micro-conversions on your site, and nurture the channels and marketing efforts that are leading users to these small conversions prior to a purchase. For instance, if you find that users are adding an item to their cart yet not converting, this can alert you to complications within the purchasing funnel that may be preventing a sale. First, take a look at your purchasing funnel and monitor any exit pages for drop-offs. While you make fixes to simplify the purchasing process, nurture the channels and marketing messages that are driving users to the product. Some guiding questions can include:  
  • Have any social media campaigns explicitly focused on this product?
  • Where are people adding the product? Is this a featured product from your homepage, or are users actively seeking out the product through your navigation?
  • Are you driving users to land on this particular product page using AdWords, the Display Network, or organic search?
  Double-down on these marketing efforts to ensure that you continue to drive a steady stream of leads to the site. In doing so, you’re helping customers to discover your site, build trust, and can ultimately retarget the user until a purchase is made.

Lead Generation

With a lead generation site, businesses are often selling a service rather than an individual commodity. As a result, the end goal is simply having a user submit a contact form indicating that they’re interested in a particular service. Sites like this often need to require on multiple channels in order to acquire conversions, and simple steps can often signal interest and trust in the brand while also signalling purchasing intent.   ConversionXL points out that these are divided into two different types of conversions. Citing a report from NN/g, there are two distinct types of micro-conversions that become especially relevant for lead generation sites:  
  • Process Milestones – These actions lead directly to a macro-conversion. In this case, this could include viewing the pricing menu or even a secondary contact form on the site designed to request more information.
  • Secondary Actions – These actions don’t necessarily translate to a particular conversion funnel, but signal interest and trust in the brand or the product. This could include visiting a certain number of pages, comments on a blog post, or sharing a page using social media. Other actions also include downloading an ebook or whitepaper–something to supplement your conversion funnel by requesting a newsletter subscription to access the gated content. Those who fill out the form are indicating trust, brand affinity, and a willingness to read more of your content.
  It’s critically important to look at these secondary actions as a paramount part of your marketing efforts. Since the financial decision may take place without a physical meeting or phone conversation, secondary actions often serve to build trust in the brand, augmenting the sales pitch by illustrating your site’s ability to act as an authority and a resource for these brands. Again, it’s crucial to find ways to nurture these channels and identify how to reach more users that trust the brand and can amplify your content’s reach. This can happen across a number of different channels: From email marketing to content marketing and social media, brands can develop ways to build trust for their site and nurture the potential to groom leads out of these very preliminary signs of interest.

Blog Conversions

If the site is purely content driven, typically your macro-conversions would be unique visitors. This would give you a platform on which to build out your advertising pricing so that advertisers can get a sense of the amount of impressions and ads your site may serve. However, there are some significant micro-conversions that, in this case, could be lumped in with process milestones in order to better understand your visitor and nurture further visits. These could include the following:  
  • Sharing a certain piece on social media
  • Commenting on a blog post indicating engagement with the content
  • Visits to at least three pages or more
  • Time on site goals
  Time-on-site goals and pages visited goals are part of the default settings for custom goals within Analytics. Setting these up can be an easy way to open your eyes to additional marketing opportunities and ensure that you’re seeing a growing audience. Additionally, by measuring the micro-conversions on your blog, you can better measure the marketing channels that had the greatest impact–both for converting visitors and those who seemed to simply register interest and trust in the topics that you’re covering. What are some of the micro-conversions that you find to be important? Let us know in the comments below! For more information on how to better measure and understand your traffic, user behavior, and conversions, sign up for our newsletter!  [grwebform url=”https://app.getresponse.com/view_webform_v2.js?u=BHiDX&webforms_id=5634702″ css=”on” center=”on” center_margin=”200″/]

What’s the Scoop about Spam Referral Traffic?

Image courtesy of Christian Barmala
 

What’s the Scoop about Referral Spam Traffic?

In the world of SEO and online marketing, there is something out there that haunts us day and night, and keeps attacking and slashing like a villain from those terribly great horror movies from the 80’s. This culprit is Spam Referral Traffic. It is the talk of the town mainly because it keeps multiplying, there currently isn’t a cure-all solution for it, and the major search engines, like Google, haven’t made any major progress to put a stop to it. I know that a lot of people have discussed this topic, and there are many sources out on tips and tricks on how to get rid of (some) of it. However, I wanted to discuss exactly WHAT spam referral traffic is, WHY it is, and then provide the latest tips and tricks on HOW to get rid of it.

WHAT is this Referral Spam?

Spam referral traffic is essentially “fake traffic” that shows up within a website’s analytics metrics. They show up as URLs in the referral section of your reporting and because referral traffic is one of the major source categories within analytics, having this data showing up within the data can severely compromise the data for that website. This is especially the case if it’s a younger or smaller website that doesn’t get a lot of traffic on an average per month basis. There are “good bots” and “bad bots” that crawl websites throughout the internet. An example of a “good bot” is Googlebot. And we have to be very nice to this “good bot,” especially knowing that it determines your rankings on Google. But there are “bad bots” out there as well, and many of them are the source of this Spam Referral Traffic. This traffic comes from “bad bots” that people create for spamming purposes. The majority of spam referral traffic is known as “Ghost Referrers.” And they are called this because they never actually visit your website, but in fact go after your Google Analytics directly. The way that they accomplish this is through Google’s own Measurement Protocol, and by utilizing this, the spammers submit their data directly to the Google Analytics data. Ohow featured a pretty cool infographic that shows how Ghost Spam Works. I have included a shot of this below:  

WHY is there Spam Referral traffic?

Ultimately, the spammers are trying to get traffic back to their websites. So when people see these URLs within their site’s Google Analytics data, more often than not, curiosity will take over, people will navigate to that website in order to see what it is, and then they got you! Mission accomplished. These spammers are sending their “bad bots” to thousands of websites a day, and even if a small number of the website owners are navigating to these sites on a daily basis, that is a consistent flow of traffic to their sites! These people use the enticement of the steady flow of traffic as a selling point, and try to sell their services, or ad placements locations on their sites to potential customers. How do they sleep at night? 😉

HOW to tell if you have a Spam Referral Traffic Problem?

If there is a mystery URL showing up in your analytics data, and you suspect that it might be spam referral traffic, there are a couple of ways to identify if it is in fact spam traffic.
  1. First is the name of the site. If the URL says something suspicious like “free-seo.com” or one of my favorites, “googlsucks.com” then chances are, it’s a spam site. Ohow provided a list of some of the most common spam referral sources here.
  2. Second is the Bounce Rate. Each and every one of these spam referrals will show a 100% bounce rate within the data.
  3. Third would be the Time On Site metrics, which will usually show up as a “0.00.”

HOW can I get rid of this Spam referral traffic?

One thing to point out is that there currently isn’t a simple one-step solution to get rid of this traffic. However, people have come up with a variety of solutions that have helped get rid of the spam, and get their analytics data back to “purity”. I will briefly cover some of the ways to do this. I wont go into too much detail, but I have included some good sources, so you can research each of these methods at your leisure.
Image courtesy of: Bruce Clay, Inc.
 

Option #1. Block Spam Traffic through the htaccess File

Moz provided an explanation of this process, and you can check this out here. To quote the article: “The best way to block referrers from accessing your site at all is to block them in your .htaccess file in the root directory of your domain. You can copy and paste the following code into your .htaccess file, assuming you’re on an Apache server.” This is a proven way to remove some of the spam traffic, however as more spam referral sites are created, you do have to keep updating your htaccess file. So if your website is only getting infiltrated by a handful of spam referral sites, this is a good way to do this.

Option #2. Remove Bots with Special Filters within Google Analytics

Within Analytics itself, you can use filters to filter out a lot of things from your analytics data. Some of these include IP addresses, specific country traffic, and more. You can also use these to weed out the spam referral traffic. Blog.analytics-toolkit.com provided a good step-by-step process for implementing this here. And our friends at Moz provided a good source for this about halfway down their article here. One important step that you need to take before setting any filters like above is to always keep a view of your website data that is raw and untampered data. This way, you can always go back to the pure data if you need to extract information.

Option #3. Utilize a WordPress Application

If your website is built with WordPress, there are special applications or widgets out there that you can use to filter out the spam referral traffic. These widgets are fairly easy to use, and you can quickly add in spam referral sources without having to go into the htaccess file directly. Here’s an example of one of these application, provided by Lesterchan.net.

Option #4. Implement Meta Referrer Tags

This is one of the newest methods of filtering out the spam referral traffic, and truth be told, I am still trying to wrap my head around this method. However it has been proven affective, and there is a good breakdown of it provided by the great people at Moz. You can view this article about adding Meta Referrer Tags here.

How to talk to your Clients about Spam Referral Traffic?

One of the challenges that SEOs face currently is explaining exactly what spam referral traffic is to their clients, and setting the right expectations about them. I have several points that I feel are important to convey to them.
  • First is that this is happening across the board, and is affecting websites big and small.
  • Second, the referral spam traffic does not affect organic search traffic. In fact these are not affecting a website’s search volume at all. As TheSEMPost concluded in their post, Google doesn’t include this into their ranking factors, which is good.
  • Third, that this is an on-going initiative. As more spam referral sources keep showing up in the analytic data, continuous action needs to be taken in order to keep the spam referral traffic removal updated.

In Conclusion

Spam referral traffic is here to stay and will continue to affect all of our websites as long as Google and the major search engines continue to allow them. So I think that we should all collectively send very strongly worded letters to Google and ask them to finally do something about it. Until this day comes, however, it is important to be educated about the enemy itself, know steps on how you can remedy the situation, and how your can achieve traffic success for yourself, as well as for your clients. Happy SEO-ing folks!
Image courtesy of: Vassilis
 

How Schema.org Markup Can Help You Succeed in the Age of Universal Search

Ever wish you could pick Google’s brain? Just for once, understand their motives, their next move and what it might mean for your website and your business? While Google is hardly an open book when it comes to their policies and plans, one of the best ways to get a “sneak peek” at what Google has in store – or understand their current practices is to take a look at their patents. Back in 2013, it was estimated that Google controlled more than 51,000 patents and patents pending. Needless to say, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. And although delving through all those patents is a full-time job in itself, there are a few that stick out. One of the interesting patents I’ve been exploring as of late is “Ranking Search Results Based on Entity Metrics.” Now, don’t leave this page to start researching how to add entity metrics to your website. Entity metrics simply added to your site and there are no tips for gaming the system. Instead, entity metrics are items that come about as a natural result of semantic search. They are the result of millions upon millions of user searches, actions and interactions. Over time, as search engines have grown equipped to better understand the human language rather than a robotic-like query, they’re also gaining a deeper understanding of why users are looking and the type of result they want for specific searches. By categorizing these entities, they’re able to make assumptions about what a user might be looking for and present the search engine result page in a particular manner. The result is a template-type SERP (more on that later). What are these “entity” metrics? While the list is not set in stone and can continue to grow as SERPs evolve, some of the current entities that Google is taking into account are notability, fame and relatedness.  For example, Barack Obama, is a notable figure and as such there are certain types of search results that appear. You’ll notice the result is entirely different than if you were to type in your next-door neighbor’s name.   Ben Affleck is someone who would be attributed to the fame metric, and on that same search, Jennifer Garner is returned in the results due to her relatedness to the actor – as is Matt Damon.   Relatedness doesn’t just apply to individuals, however. It can also apply to current events. For example, two weeks ago a search for North Carolina, would have returned the state’s official page, the Wikipedia page and excerpts from Wikipedia in a knowledge graph. Today, however news results are primarily featured. (Anyone up for a swim?) Why do these entity metrics matter? While the fact that searches for notable people or current events return more than just your standard 10-slot SERP is old news to nearly any searcher, what’s new is that understanding that Google isn’t just pulling these items at random. Instead, they’ve actually designed templates which designate what types of websites should show for certain searches. Here’s an example: Using the example above, you can see that Google has carved out and patented how their search results will appear for a popular search term, such as a top movie. So, even if you’re the #1 “Jurassic World” fan, and have built a website full of rich content and videos and clips, in this instance, ranking in the number one position may not be attainable. Not because your site isn’t properly optimized has a link penalty or has low-quality content. Simply because Google has “reserved” in the template slot, the official, designated website for the film. In fact, Google has specifically created parameters, known as VED parameters, to track these template slots. While VED parameters warrant an enormous post of their own (and Tim Resnick took a nice crack at it here), they can be found within the source code of SERPs and in the Google referral string. These codes essentially translate into placement on the page. For example, whether a result is a traditional organic result, an image one-box, a sitelink, etc.  So, while no one would have previously argued that SERPs were “random,” it’s clearly that Google has carved out and uniquely identified each portion of the SERP and uses these parameters to create and build upon their patented templates. And, for all of you conspiracy theorists out there – that slot isn’t reserved because someone cut a big fat check to Google. Rather, its reserved based on the patterns of user action that Google has observed for years and years. They’re in the business of giving users what they want, as quickly as possible. So, how can a business owner compete? News that Google has carved out space for the big wigs can be discouraging to the average site owner, but don’t worry, there’s more room on the page than you think. One of the best steps that a webmaster can take to compete after the advent of the knowledge graph is actually something that has been around for years – schema.org markup. For those unfamiliar with schema.org markup, in laymen’s terms is a markup language that allows Google and other search engines to better digest and understand your content. Some of the most common schema.org markups are for addresses and phone numbers. However, succeeding in the advent of the knowledge graph will require webmasters to think outside of the basic markup and dive deep into helping crawlers understand the content of your website and how it benefits users. As Google and other search engines continue to work toward anticipating the actions of their searchers, they want websites to clearly show them what users can accomplish on their site. For example, a hair salon may use schema.org to markup their scheduling tool. And, when the time comes to return a result for “hair salon san diego” Google will (most likely) be more likely to rank or showcase the site that allows users to easily take that end action—making an appointment. The same goes for restaurants, auto repair shops, etc. Using schema.org markup on your site will help Google understand the entities your site contains, making inclusion and prominence in the SERPs more likely. While schema.org is not the be-all, end-all of cracking universal search, it’s yet another tool at our disposal to take our web presence to the next level. So, as always, don’t underestimate the power of your webmaster.