Sunday, February 27, 2011

Web Analytics with Segmentation and Site Personalization tools Explained

In this post, I am writing this post for beginners to web analytics and try to enlighten them about the advantages of behavioral targeting and site personalization solutions. By using the available solutions on the market, you will discover plenty of features that you haven't heard of them before. Even if you did, you didn't know how valuable they are for your online business success. There are many website owners who take advantage of site personalization, optimization and segmentation tools, which allow them to successfully gain advantage over their competitors online.

Do You Know What Segmentation and Custom Reports Are?

fisheye image of woman with glasses thinking
I am not trying to tell you that your current web analytics solution is not worth it. I am sure that some of you didn't even play with the advanced features of your current web analytics platform. Before I get into more "complicated" stuff, ask yourself this simple question: "Did you ever had a chance to use or even experiment with Google Analytics custom reports and advanced segmentation?". If the answer for that question is "No", you should probably continue reading this article through.

I remember the first days that someone told me about segmentation. Honestly, I was kind of afraid. When I hear about a new technology or a new advanced feature, I am telling myself "Haaaa, another new technology that I need to learn all over again..". I am not a lazy guy, but I have too many things to do than learning new features in GA. That at least what I though prior to experimenting GA Advanced segmentation myself. If someone was kind enough to tell me the advantages and shown how much time I can earn back using those tools, I would have started using those tools a long time ago.

But it is not only about gaining precious time for completing tasks, but the valuable insight and actionable engagement features that those site personalization and behavioral targeting tools provides to you. You need to see the data in it global perspective in order to understand the advantages and implications of using those types of applications.

What Can I Achieve with Web Analytics Software?

I know that most of you don't even have the time to finish reading this article, but bare with me here. If you are already using a web analytics solution, please ask yourself this basic question: "What you want to achieve using your current web analytics software?" and if you have the answer for that, ask yourself "Have you managed to achieve your goals?". There are many answers for the first question.

Here are some of the reasons why website owners use Web Analytics in the first place:
  • View detailed website traffic statistics
  • Analyze their website traffic and make use of the data to improve their website in various ways
  • Monitor Online Campaign performance (e.g., Google Adwords, LinkedIn, Faceboook campaigns)
  • For improving their website SEO efforts
  • They hired a web analytics expert and he or she asked them to put a web analytics code on their website
  • Because that's what their competitors are doing (using a web analytics software)
  • It is free so why not using it (e.g., Google Analytics)
  • They like the user interface and they want to see how 40,000 visitors looks like on an active real-time map (e.g., Woopra)
  • They want to view real-time traffic statistics to see who is on the blog right now and what pages they are viewing (i.e., bloggers)
  • They want to use web analytics in order to increase their website conversion rate and ROI
  • Use web analytics data with CRM software (e.g., Salesforce, Oncontact, Microsoft CRM Dynamics, etc.)
  • And much more..

How Analytics are changing Business (With Avinash Kaushik)




Bottom line, everyone has its own reasons why using web analytics solution. Even so, people who understand the benefits of advanced website traffic analytics, site personalization and behavioral targeting tools are doing it for the following reasons:
  • Increase conversion rate, leads and maximize Return of Investment
  • Segment their visitor's traffic to get more accurate and relevant insight
  • Track trends
  • Improve website usability and design
  • Track their paid search campaigns efforts on various channels, whether online or offline
  • Serve relevant content to their visitors using site personalization features
  • Reduce shopping cart abandonment rate
  • Extract insight about website pitfalls that are not obvious by viewing default reports
  • View data in real-time and act fast
  • Detect visitor's interests
  • Manage and improve SEO strategies
  • Use A/B and Multivariate optimization tools to optimize site content and landing pages
  • Track mobile application usage
  • Track Social networks (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, etc.) engagement
  • Track video viral marketing engagement
  • and more..
Bottom line, the reason why website owners use web analytics is to convert more visitors into customers and increase leads. A lead can be any goal that a website owner/designer/webmaster set to himself.

Here are a few examples on leads that website owners or web analytic experts might set for the site:
  • Sign up for a paid service
  • Finish filling up a form on the site
  • Get a specific page on the site
  • Sign up for a newsletter
  • Write a post on a forum
  • Increase the number of products per purchase from 2 to 3
  • Increase time on site
  • Increase returning visitor rate (loyalty)
  • Increase revenue from Affiliate advertisements
  • Increase page views
  • and more...
I am sure that you can find some goals in that list that you would also want to achieve yourself. Not everybody does it to increase revenue. Some people putting up websites in order to increase the awareness of various matters, but most of the people who spend time working with web analytics and behavioral targeting tools want to increase the website revenue, especially if we are talking about an online business.

So now that you know why you need a web analytics software or why other people are using web analytics, you can ask yourself "What should I do next?". Well, it's good that you asked.

The Real-Time Factor in Web Analytics

If you search Google search engine for the phrase "Web analytics tools" or "Web Analytics platforms", I am sure that you will come across many solutions. Some of the are free and some of them are paid, some software and some SaaS. There are even open-source hosted web analytics platform if that what you wish for. In fact, there are many products out there, some of them are niche products, which are suited for specific needs like: A/B testing (e.g., Optimizely) and Landing page optimization (e.g., traffiliate). Other solutions are more like All-in-One solutions that are a collection of many tools all together (e.g., Personyze web analytics).

In recent years we have seen a drastic change where web analytics platforms are receiving and displaying website traffic statistics data in real-time. If you are asking, Google Analytics doesn't provide real-time statistics, although it offers a partial implementation on their Blogger.com blogging platform.

Having a real-time web analytics solutions have some great advantages over the non-realtime solutions, like:
  • Acting fast when a pitfall encountered
  • Engage trends as they occur
  • Get up-to-the-minute insight
  • and more..
Real time as by itself does provide some benefits, but a real-time web analytics product really becomes a killer product when combines with advanced segmentation tools and Pro-active engagement / Site personalization features. In fact, those were intended to perfectly compliment each other. This is a natural evolution of the web analytics software and many people start to adopt and take advantage of those wonderful new features.

Just a few years ago, the "Real time" features was not even an option. The problem was that hardware and bandwidth were very expensive and many entrepreneurs ditched their dream to develop a real-time web analytics platform. Few years past and today cloud computing hardware became cheap. Many entrepreneurs have started their own startup companies, basing their product on the "Real time" trend. GetClicky and Woopra are one of those real-time web analytics software that merged from this trend.

Bloggers really love GetClicky for the ease of operation, simplicity and real-time live stats. Woopra was the first real-time web analytics that has managed to amaze with its beautiful user interface and online map visitors traffic presentation. I have used Woopra before and really enjoyed viewing the data in real-time on one of my high-traffic websites.

Behavioral Targeting (Marketing) and Site Personalization (Personas)

fingerprint with binary code
When real-time software implementation features became cheap to deploy, we could see new type of web analytics solution merging out. One of those solutions is behavioral targeting and site personalization (Personas) tools. Before we go any further, you probably want to know what Pro-active software solution can do to your website and what are the advantages of having a pro-active product for your online business?

Pro-active web analytics solutions have been here for quite some time. We weren't aware of it because it was only offered for large companies that could offer paying for those tools/services. Webtrends, Coremetrics and Omniture are three of the top players in the Pro-active web analytics platforms in the world. They are much more expensive, but include a set of tools that are, by far, the most advanced out there. Those companies also offer a range of paid services to manage any aspect of your company's traffic site, including: traffic analysis, Multivariate testing, design optimization, campaign optimization, etc. Professional web analytics expert's services are being offered to those companies that paid for those unique services.

Getting started started with behavioral targeting:





Many of us just can't afford ourselves paying thousands or ten thousands of dollars each month, it just doesn't make sense. Our website has to stay profitable, isn't it? - Well, this is not a really thought through answer, isn't it? - OK, let me be clear on this. It's worth paying for an "expensive" web analytics solution if it helps increasing your website revenue. Some people will even pay thousands of dollars on a Site Personalization product if it allows them to achieve their company's goal, and hopefully much faster than without that product.

Site personalization is a method that proven to work for many websites. Take Amazon.com and eBay.com. Both are using in-house site personalization solutions to increase profit. It works amazingly good, but they are using their own server-side solutions, rather than an existing Pro-active web analytics product (e.g., Omniture, Webtrends, etc.). The reason they are doing it is that they are gigantic companies that develop all their intelligent algorithms and tools in-house. These are probably their most secret marketing weapons, and they exist beyond their company's firewall and under their control and development knowledge.

Different Content for Different Visitors

apple cut into slices
When I mentioned site personalization, I was referring to a technology that allows you to display relevant content to different segments of your website visitors. It means that you implicitly or explicitly Personalize content on your website, whether it's the design, text or a client-side action that is taken place on the client's browser. The thing is that with site personalization, you are serving different content to different segment of visitors. In many cases, your website will be designed to look the same for all of your visitors, no matter who they are, where they are coming from and what they are looking for. You are serving the same content for all of them.

Here is a video that demonstrate Personyze site personalization advantages (short but straight to the point):




This method is inefficient because different people have different interests, and even those interests are changing from time to time. It depends on many variables that some of them we can track and some of them, we can't. We use segmentation to track the online behavior of our visitors. We segment our visitors for the simple reason I've mentioned above, but there are other reasons. Here are few of them..

Why Do I need to Segment my Website visitors?
  • Understand trends
  • Viewing segments traffic statistics data instead of Global (Sum) data that doesn't really gives us in-depth insight
  • Helps us answer the questions "Who", "What", "When" and "Where" in a way that we can ask real-life questions and express them using the segmentation building blocks, the metrics
  • Easily read and understand our website traffic reports
  • When using site personalization, it allows us to present different content to different segment of visitors
  • Analyze data based on demographic, social, historical, geographical and even their private data and private preferences using social networks public information (by meaning private, I don't mean any data that they don't want to share, but that that is kept private until they want to share it)
  • Identify profitable customers
  • With A/B Split testing and Multivariate testing tools, you can make test only on a specific group of visitors, without interfering the segment of visitors outside the group test. Furthermore, you testing will be more accurate and therefore yield better results
  • and more...
In fact, I just can't understand I used to work without segmentation in the past. Behavioral targeting Segmentation is the base for new advanced web analytics technologies that cam afterward, website content personalization.

By using a site content personalization with segmentation, you can display different site content to different visitors. Site Personalization is based on the fact that human beings are different and have different interests and needs. The same principle works for people when they are visiting a website in order to purchase a product or service. E-commerce websites are the first to enjoy the advantages of site personalization.

Let me help you understand it by giving an example.

Example:
Let's assume that you have an E-commerce website that sells hand-watches. Now let's also assume that you have 10,000 unique visitors each day. At least that's what your web analytics software tells you ;D
Now let's say that two different people are browsing through your website. Your website displays the same content for both. For your server/website, it doesn't matter if it is a woman or man, nor it cares what its age is. It means that if the first visitor (Visitor A) is a 13yo boy and the second visitor (Visitor B) is a 54yo woman, both will see the same content.

I am not saying that it's bad, what I am saying is that you are missing an opportunity to convert here. You can agree with me that if you were presenting visitor A the boy's watches and Visitor B women watches in the top area of your landing page, you would have more chances for conversion. As a website owner, you want higher conversion rates. You have a better chance succeeding when you serve relevant content to different segment of visitors on your website.

For the above example, you could create a segment that groups visitors by their gender and age. You probably ask yourself how it can be done. Well, Personyze, for example, can create such a segment using Facebook connect action. I won't get into details here, but it is possible.

Convert Prospects into Customers

As you can see from the above example, by segmenting your website visitors and target them with relevant content, you will have better chance to convert prospects into customers and increase your website conversion rate. You probably want proves, aren't ya? - Well, I suggest that you read the case studies on Omniture, Webtrends and Coremetrics and find out for yourself. The fact that those methods are widely used in the top Merchant websites, suggests that this method works. There are many articles written on behavioral segmentation and the advantages of market segmentation. Just search Google for "market segmentation" and "site personalization case studies" and I am sure that you will find some excellent articles out there that will tell you the same thing.

Here are some articles about behavioral segmentation that I think that you'll find useful and valuable:

    Actionable Web Analytics - Let the Fun Begin!

    From that point forwards, this is where the Pro-active site personalization features kicks in. The term "Actionable Web Analytics" defines those types of web analytics software/SaaS that enable website operatives to take pro-active measures by defining "Actions" that take place in real-time. Those what called "Actions", can be any new or changed content or JavaScript code that runs on the visitor's browser.

    Here are some of the actions which are available in Personyze web analytics:
    • Popup - A floating DIV which appears on top of the viewable content on the page (using CSS position absolute)
    • HTML - Custom and pre-defined HTML content. Can also be dynamic content, by placing variables within the body of the HTML content in curled brackets
    • Redirect - A JavaScript redirect code that transfers the visitor from one page to another, even before the visitor gets to see the page (Before the HTML renders, because the tracking code is embedded in the <header> section of the page in the case of Personyze)
    • Facebook Connect & Publish - Those two actions work hand-in-hand to request user permission to publish content on his Facebook Wall public section
    • JavaScript - Embed a JavaScript code to be executed
    • Replace Text - Replace text (words/phrases) within a page with new text and even style it with various CSS style properties
    • CSS Style - Apply new CSS style attributes for a specific element by its HTML identification (HTML tag 'ID')
    • Widgets - Inject social bookmarking or YouTube widget/code onto a container on the page
    • And many more..

    Here is a video about Segments and Action using Personyze:




    In the case of Personyze, actions are the key elements for engaging visitors, personalize site content, testing and optimizing site content for higher conversions. Actions are connected to ActionGroups (can hold several actions) and ActionGroups are directly connected to behavioral segments. So when a segment occurs, the actions take place.

    From what I have encountered, Personyze is the most fully reached Actionable Web Analytics Software-as-a-Service out there, especially for its affordable price tag. BTBuckets for example, gives you the option to add your custom HTML + Javascript as action. Although not robust as Personyze, it does offer extremely simple user interface and integration with GA.

    More Traffic = More Conversions?

    I hope that by now you can understand many of the benefits of site personalization and behavioral targeting solutions. You may ask yourself: "Why not invest my time in Search Engine Optimization and online campaigns to bring more traffic to my website - That will certainly help to increase conversions". Well, I think that we need to get some things clear here. Many people asked me this question, and I think I will answer it again in this article.

    Many marketers try to experiment with different marketing channels. Without trying you won't know which marketing channels work best for your website. In fact, for each marketing channel there are many things that can be tested and evaluated.

    Some people think that bringing more traffic for their website will certainly lead to more conversions. In some cases it might, but on which keyword are you going to spend you SEO efforts or bid on paid campaigns? - There are many questions that need to be answered. Furthermore, there are niche websites that already enjoy near the maximum market segment reach, and all they want is to get better conversions on their already existing website members/visitors.

    With the right tools, you will be able to analyze the data and extract KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), which will help you endorse new or modified marketing strategies, which are the most profitable for your business.

    You may find out that a small change of website's design elements can increase sales by a large margin. Of course you won't know it if you don't make A/B or Multivariate tests. As other websites have written: "You should test, test and test", until you find the winning formula. Even after that, you should continue testing.

    Let's Sum Things Up

    I think that by now, you start to understand the advantages of using behavioral targeting and site personalization tools with your own website. You have learned that there are many new useful tools that can help you in extracting KPIs from your reports, analyze, test, optimize and monetize your site content. You know the importance of behavioral segmentation and Pro-active measures for visitor's engagement.

    I recommend that you start with Google Analytics advanced segmentation in order to see how 'Advanced segmentation' works in GA. After that you have mastered it in GA, other platforms will be much easier to learn. I also highly recommend that you try out Personyze (at Personyze.com). It features all the bells and whistles in the Web Analytics industry and allows you to grow with the system as your skills and knowledge get improved. Other recommended products are Optimizely and BTBuckets.

    Don't get me wrong, I am not intended to be a Web Analytics expert, just a guy who have tried using those tools with very good success. I just can't highly recommend enough the usefulness of those tools. In many cases you will have a trial offering and 30-money back guarantee, so you can try them risk-free.

    I wish you good luck in your new journey into behavioral targeting and site Personalization!

    Note: English is not my native spoken language. Sorry for any typo or grammar mistakes that might appear on this post.

    2 comments:

    1. Personyze is really a great tool. We are using it with our own site. Keep up the good work guys!

      ReplyDelete
    2. Love Personyze! :)

      ReplyDelete