SEM Pre-Click & Post-Click Double Feature: Conversion Attribution and Q&A with Analytics Guru Eric Peterson

In The Trenches is a spotlight of tips, tricks, and news about the tools search engine marketing professionals use to give them a leg up on the competition. Today: news from the search engines, today’s double feature is Pre-Click: Conversion Attribution 101 and Post-Click Q&A with web analytics guru with Eric Peterson, who shares his insights on the topics.

News from the search engines

Google AdWords: Search based keyword tool

Perhaps one of the biggest stories of the week, but it’s still worth another mention. For awhile, my Google rep has been able to help with keyword suggestions by using an internal tool which compares the keywords in my AdWords account with organic keywords that rank well for the same destination sites. This has been a fantastic supplement because no matter how many proverbial rocks we look under, there’s always new keywords to be found.

In fact, in a recent post on the Inside AdWords Blog, Google admits that “20% of the queries Google receives each day are ones we haven’t seen in at least 90 days, if at all.” That’s a huge opportunity for savvy SEM pros like us.

Well, this week that internal tool was been released to the public. The Search Based Keyword Tool in Google’s own words:

You know that the Google search engine starts with searches conducted by users and helps them find relevant pages. But for keyword targeting, what you want is a tool that goes in the opposite direction by starting with your pages and identifying keywords that potential customers are searching on to find your products or services. The Search-based Keyword Tool does exactly this, leveraging search query data relevant to your website’s content. In other words, this new tool gives you keywords that are highly relevant to your site but are not part of your AdWords campaigns. This helps you take advantage of missed opportunities.

It even links to your current AdWords accounts for increased functionality. Many of us use third party tools to help find keywords, but this tool comes straight from the source and I think SEM pros are really going to like it.

Here’s a screenshot:


Yahoo Search Marketing: More power to block domains

With so much going on at Yahoo!, there hasn’t been much news coming out of the search marketing platform. However, in a recent post on the Yahoo! Search Marketing Blog, it was announced that they’re opening up the domain blocking tool for their Search Network from 250 to 500.

Some of the reasons to block domains include: poor traffic, high costs, you don’t want to run on a competitor’s website, you don’t like the content of the site itself, etc. I think we all know the weeds begin to grow in any SEM account if you don’t pull them quickly.

Microsoft: Now offering informative podcasts

As listed on the Microsoft adCenter community site, Microsoft has launched Microsoft Advertising: Insights, the official podcast of Microsoft Advertising.

Insights will cover all things digital advertising, primarily focusing on search out of the gate. We’ll discuss the state of the industry, what’s happening behind the scenes with Microsoft Advertising and adCenter, and deliver useful information that can help you with your search campaigns.

In this week’s edition, we discuss some holiday tips and tricks to be thinking about to ensure your search campaigns are primed and ready for the holiday season. In the coming weeks we will provide direct links to iTunes and Zune so you can subscribe to Insights, but in the meantime, feel free to listen inline, or save the attached file for offline listening.

Check out the site via the link above for more info and to download the podcast.

In-depth: Master conversion attribution with pre-click analysis

Eric Peterson often mentions “multi-touch campaign analysis” and, if analytics is mastering the post-click, Conversion Attribution will help you master the pre-click. “The Death of the Last Ad Clicked” sounds like a Radiohead album or a Sherlock Holmes mystery, but it is in fact the biggest paradigm shift in online measurement methodology since the term “conversion” was uttered. According to Microsoft’s Atlas Institute, “typically, between 93-95% of audience engagements with online advertising receive no credit at all when advertisers review campaign ROI.” That’s huge when you consider that most marketers are only looking at 5-7% of user media interaction when optimizing conversions. Conversion Attribution is the key to our future, folks.

Once all of your online media is tracked in one system, you’ll be able to see all of the pathways that users took to finally convert. For example, User #1 saw a display ad on Monday, clicked a sponsorship on Tuesday, received an email from you on Wednesday, and then came back on Friday via a paid search ad and then converted. Conversion Attribution helps give credit to the entire conversion pathway, not just the last ad clicked.

The tricky part is that there are many variables to coming up with a solid Conversion Attribution model. For example, what percentage of the conversion value to you give the first interaction vs. the last. What about display view-thrus…they can’t be worth as much as a search click? Or should they on this campaign? Time is considered as well. Was this ad interaction last month? Last week? An hour before the conversion? These are all questions that are just now being entered into the discussion and I imagine will take years to test and analyze before clear answers can be made.

If you’re a search marketing pro, check out Search Marketing Standard which offers one of the only print publications dedicated to search marketing. In the current issue, I go in depth into Conversion Attribution with a lot of real-world reports and charts that will enhance you understanding of the topic.

In-depth: Post-Click Q&A with Eric T. Peterson

If you get hired by my agency to the technology team, there are three books I have you read to help shape your digital point of view:

  1. Meatball Sundae: Is Your Marketing out of Sync? by Seth Godin for all-around New Media thinking.
  2. Don’t Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug for website usability.
  3. Web Analytics Demystified by Eric T. Peterson which, to me, is the best foundation manual for web analytics.

Earlier this year in this column, I dedicated a series of posts to Web Analytics for SEM [Dummies]. As the online marketing industry grows, it’s become very apparent that Web Analytics needs to become a core competency for everyone involved. For search engine marketers, to understand that post-click spectrum is absolutely vital to proper and accurate optimization. Bottom line, if you don’t have web analytics expertise, you’re only seeing one part of the story from your keywords–analytics is the key to full understanding.

Eric is one of the most well known and busiest web analytics gurus in the world which makes me very happy to present this Q&A of his insights on the synergy between SEM and Analytics.

Q. What is your background in Web Analytics?

Eric: I have worked in the field of web analytics since 1998 when I started at WebTrends doing web design. My big move into doing analysis and consulting came in 2002 when I moved to San Diego to work as a Senior E-Business Analyst for WebSideStory and shortly thereafter wrote my first book, Web Analytics Demystified. After Demystified, I authored Web Site Measurement Hacks with the folks at O’Reilly & Associates and then self-published The Big Book of Key Performance Indicators. Around the same time I started The Web Analytics Forum at Yahoo Groups which has become a thriving community of nearly 6,000 web analytics practitioners around the globe and shortly after that founded “Web Analytics Wednesdays” with June Dershewitz from Semphonic.

In 2007 I founded my own strategic consulting group, Web Analytics Demystified, Inc. and have been happily helping companies around the world make the most of their investment in web analytics tools, technology, and people. The company affords me a unique opportunity to support the global web analytics community through a variety of channels (webcasts, live presentations, white papers, research, my blog, the Web Analytics Association, etc.)

Q. Have you used analytics to provide insights for search marketing? What are some things you’ve learned?

Eric: Yep. I don’t think there is enough space on the page to describe all the things I’ve learned over the years but I’ll try. Initially I was surprised that companies have a tendency to think about search marketing as immediate and direct — the word either converts or it doesn’t. But the relationship most sites have with their audience is more complex than that and so the nuances of “brand” versus “non-brand” terms and fat head versus long-tail (for example) needs to be studied pretty closely and watched over time.

The unfortunate problem with this is, of course, most of the web analytics applications out there today don’t support multi-touch campaign attribution analysis — the idea that you need to see not just the “last” campaign/term clicked but the first, last, and all the clicks in between. Because solutions like Google Analytics, which is a fantastic solution especially since the recent 3.0 upgrade, don’t have a true notion of the “visitor” the search marketer’s visibility is somewhat limited. I think that once the economy situation is resolved that campaign attribution is the next big problem search marketers are going to have to face.

Q. What kinds of information at the keyword level could be found in an analytics tool?

Eric: Rather than give you a list of metrics, dimensions, and reports to answer this question I would encourage your readers to get Google Analytics installed on their site and look for themselves. Because Google Analytics is free the barrier to entry is very low. Now that the product includes session-level segmentation, custom reports, and the Motion Reports visualization you can really learn a tremendous amount about how search impacts traffic, revenue, and “engagement.”

Q. What are some kinds of reports that a search marketer could find helpful in a web analytics tool?

Eric: See my previous answer. There are folks out there that spend way more time than I do focusing on search marketing and search analytics. I recommend Ian Lurie at Portent Interactive and my friend Gary Angel from Semphonic for deep detail on the exact reports your audience will need to optimize their search marketing efforts.

Q. Three of the three key tasks for search marketers are keyword creation, optimizing, and reporting. How can Web Analytics help with these tasks?

Eric: Web analytics is the gateway to knowing what words to optimize for and whether the optimization is working. Without web analytics you can count clicks and basic conversion events; with web analytics you can explore the relationship between offsite and onsite search, the dwell times and click-depths associated with individual keywords and keyword groups, the likelihood that keywords will bring in visitors who continue to come back to the site … the list goes on and on. I think the reality is that anyone spending any significant amount of money on SEO or SEM efforts without a solid understanding is probably wasting both their time and their money.

Web analytics is hard, especially when the stakes are high like they will certainly be this holiday season. But trying to get by without web analytics is flying blind.

Q. How can analytics provide some insight between paid and organic search from an optimization standpoint?

Eric: Provided you’ve properly tagged your paid search efforts, web analytics does a good job of differentiating paid and organic and helping the search marketer differentiate the value associated with each. Google Analytics does an absolutely phenomenal job of differentiating the two and now, with Advanced Segmentation, lets you get an even closer look at the traffic both strategies are driving to your site.

Q. We can track conversions with search. What are some other things that web analytics can track which could be helpful?

Eric: I have spend a bunch of time thinking about how to measure Visitor Engagement, and have gone so far as to have authored a 50 page white paper on the subject that your readers are welcome to download I have spent a lot of time in the past few years looking at search traffic not from a conversion perspective but from an engagement point-of-view … asking questions like “If they don’t purchase, are they at least spending time on my site? Are they commenting on my blog? Are they downloading my white papers? Or are they truly unqualified traffic?”

The new Google Analytics gives you great features to explore the value associated with your search traffic. Read up about Advanced Segmentation!

Q. What are some things you would like more online marketers to understand about web analytics?

Eric: See my answer above about multi-touch campaign analysis. I think too many folks are narrowly focused on immediate returns but it’s not as simple as that in a lot of cases. Also see my response about needing to have web analytics … you have to have (and understand) web analytics to be an effective search marketer. Period.

Q. What would be a good way for search marketers to start learning more about web analytics?

Eric: Three things:

1) Read Web Analytics Demystified (shameless plug) which is still, to this day, the most widely read and widely recommended book for folks learning about web analytics.

2) Get Google Analytics and start playing with it. It’s great, it’s free, it’s easy enough to install and get started with … no reason not to use Google Analytics if you’re interested in learning more about web analytics.

3) Join the Web Analytics Forum at Yahoo Groups which is the world’s largest community of web analytics practitioners. The folks in the Forum are great about answering questions and are some of the nicest, most selfless professionals I have ever had the honor of working with.

Thank you very much, Eric, for your insights. Readers, for more info, check out Eric’s books and website.

Josh Dreller is the Director of Media Technology for Fuor Digital, an agency concentrated in the research, planning, buying and stewardship of digital media marketing campaigns. Josh can be reached at The In The Trenches column appears Fridays at Search Engine Land.

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

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Search Marketing Toolbox


About The Author: has been a search marketer since 2003 with a focus on SEM technology. As a media technologist fluent in the use of leading industry systems, Josh stays abreast of cutting edge digital marketing and measurement tools to maximize the effect of digital media on business goals. He has a deep passion to monitor the constantly evolving intersection between marketing and technology. You can follow him on Twitter at @mediatechguy.

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