Most web analytics tools, including Google Analytics, attribute online conversions to the most recent visit. Sure, you can define the funnel and see how many people enter the funnel, the visitors who abandon the funnel, and how many people ultimately convert, but only if all of these events happen in a single visit. Conversion in the B2B world doesn’t necessarily happen that way. There may have been many previous visits to your site via other channels that influenced a visitor to finally take the desired action. If you’re not capturing this information, you may not be making good decisions.

In March 2009, Business.com completed an analytics study of more than 27,000 B2B web sites. It’s a great study and well worth downloading. Here are some of the findings:

  • 93% of sites can’t see the influence that multiple campaigns/keywords have on conversions
  • 49% use a third-party web analytics program that only provides basic site traffic data or which, by default, use the “last click” method for connecting a prospect action (e.g., clicking on a banner ad or link in an email newsletter) with a conversion, such as a purchase or registration. (82% of these B2B sites used Google Analytics or Urchin software by Google)
  • 44% use no web analytics or, in rare cases, use a custom in-house solution

Most analytics programs attribute conversion to the last trackable link clicked before conversion, the “last click” method. In some cases, this may be just fine; perhaps conversion actually did happen in a single visit. But with lengthening sales cycles and the significant amount of purchase research that happens in the B2B world, prospects may have visited your site several times through various means before they returned once more to ultimately take action.

Business.com’s study cites the following example:

Let’s say that ABC Company is hosting a webinar next week.  ABC knows that the average value of a registration for one of their webinars is $10 (e.g., if they get 100 people at a webinar, they’ll typically generate a total of $1,000 in revenue from that set of attendees over the following 90 days). If a prospect clicks on a banner ad, visits the web site and registers for a webinar, then that banner is credited with causing the prospect to register for the webinar, and the banner is credited with the $10 value for a webinar registration. That prospect could visit the company web site three times in the last month after clicking on a sponsored link in a general search engine, an online directory listing and a link in a company email newsletter to which they subscribed months ago.  The banner ad only served to remind them that the webinar was coming up and they hadn’t yet registered.  A “last click” web analytics program ignores all the other activities that influenced the prospect to sign-up for the webinar.

In today’s hyper-ROI-focused economy, this could lead to some flawed decisions. In the above example, if the majority of people did exactly the same thing, management may decide to funnel their investment solely to similar banner ads. In doing so, they may eliminate touchpoints that played a strong role in ultimate conversion, critical touchpoints experienced early in the buying cycle-and the overall results from the banner ads may suddenly decrease due to the lack of such influencing factors.

In B2B, conversion is a process, not an event. It’s important to understand all the factors involved in that process and how each contributes to your desired conversion. As with most things in life, the best decisions are made with a full understanding of the facts and issues. Make sure your analytics tools are providing them.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: B2B Search Marketing Column | Channel: Search Marketing

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About The Author: is Managing Director of Proteus SEO , which specializes exclusively in B2B search engine optimization, and Proteus B2B, which specializes in repositioning business-to-business companies and their brands. You can reach Galen at gdeyoung@proteusb2b.com and follow him on Twitter.

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  • Kruston

    Useful contribution to an ongoing debate. All this is equally relevant to B2C as well as B2B though of course: the same issues apply. Solving them won’t be easy however!

  • Kruston

    A list of alternatives Analytics packages which allow ‘better’ (i the sense of this article) tracking would be useful for readers…assuming you have one..

  • markfsimmons@gmail.com

    Google Analytics allows you to change the javascript code to prevent it from attributing the conversion to the last click. Making this change will attribute the conversion to the very first click (&channel) in the conversion process. Yahoo’s Indextools has direct and intelligent filters that accomplish the same goal. It may be useful at times to attribute the conversion to the last click, it may not. It all depends on your campaign goals and objectives.

  • http://www.francis-seo.com Galen DeYoung

    @Kruston – Business.com’s study does note a few of the analytics packages that track influence, not just last click.

  • davidthemavin

    All you have to do is put some extra code in to track all the referral information. Google should make this a standard feature though.

    This blog tells you how they did it: http://www.epikone.com/blog/2006/11/10/how-does-google-analytics-track-conversion-referals/

    So how do you get around this? Well we’ve come up with a hack that we’re using with a few of our clients. The goal is to store all referral information about a specific visitor across all of their visits so we get a better understanding of the sales cycle.

    The Google Analytics Tracking Code re-writes the data in the campaign tracking cookie every time the visitor hits the site. We need a mechanism that can store data across multiple sessions and would only update the referral data and not overwrite it. To do this we wrote some JavaScript that uses the custom segment functionality to track the visitor’s referral information.

    Here’s a brief outline for what the JavaScript does:

    * When visitor lands on the site check the previous referral information.
    * If there is no previous referral info then gather the referral info and store it in a custom segment using utmSetVar()
    * If there is previous referral info, then UPDATE the custom segment to include the current referral information

    While this isn’t an ideal situation it does help. Using the User-defined report we can identify conversion rates for the various combinations of referral information that drove the visitor to your site during the sales cycle.

    Obviously this takes some technical know-how. But if you’re working with a client, and the client wants to know EVERY step in the process then this is a hack that can help.

 

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