Those in the executive level want data to back up assumptions. You can't just make decisions on a gut feeling, or what you perceive your competitors are doing, or what you think your customers want. Many times companies have no understanding of their customer, or even their industry, and that spills over to their digital presence.
So to avoid making bad decisions when it comes to digital strategy, use data to back it up. Check the analytics, see what people are doing, and how they got to do what they're doing. That's the great thing about analytics, you can view the behaviors of the end consumer, and be pretty confident that that's what they're doing.
The relationship with analytics, digital marketing, and the call to action.
I will be referring to what I call the analytics onion. Each layer is interrelated, and drives the user to the ultimate call to action. As you can see from figure, it starts at industry level analytics, and as we drive the user closer to our site, their engagement with our site becomes more focused.
So what are industry level analytics and how do you obtain them? At this level of analytics you need to know who your competitors are, and what their digital outlets are.
We talked about building a digital fingerprint of your competition, and you should also have a good idea of your market sector. What people are looking for and who is selling, or providing the services you offer. Knowledge of your industry is vital to come up with a plan to evaluate the right data, and then build a strategy that starts your journey in the digital space.
The Providers of the Data
There are many companies that offer this type of analytics, some are free to some extent, some provide limited services with a premium add-on, some are low cost, and some are higher end and cost more. Below are a couple providers that can get you started exploring the options available. This list is by no means complete, and it isn't considered an endorsement of any of the companies.
These companies use a variety of methods of collecting the data, most use a combination of methods, but all use user based surveys to track activity. Due to the fact they primarily use surveying methods, it doesn't provide a complete sample of all Internet traffic, so the accuracy of the data may be in question. However, they do provide a good tool to do trend analysis.
- Compete.com (http://www.compete.com/)
- Quantcast.com (http://www.quantcast.com/)
- comScore.com (http://www.comscore.com/)
- Nielson (http://www.nielsen.com/us/en/nielsen-solutions/nielsen-measurement/nielsen-online-measurement.html) traditional rating company for movies, TV, and now they survey web
- Alexa (http://www.alexa.com/) - Only mentioning because they're the oldest player in the game.
- Open Site Explorer (http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/) - Provides industry level, keywords, organic, and paid search results. Etc.
- Google Webmaster Tools (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home?hl=en) - Provides trending on what keywords are being searched on in Google. Vital for keyword trends, and site positioning for SEO.
So what are some of things you can find out by using these tools?
Organic vs. Paid Search
Keywords are what people search on to find a resource that is relevant to what they want to know about. Say you're looking for information about some new gadget that came out, you run a search in Google, and the site that is at the top of the search engine results is one you click on to find out information on that gadget. You were referred to by an organic search. This is the page Google indexed, and displayed within the search engine results pages (SERPs), much of this positioning is going to be defined by your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
Typical Google search results page, paid vs. organic.
Now let's look at paid search. So when you do run that keyword search on your favorite gadget, not only does organic search results display from the Google index, but at the top of the page you see ads. Companies will purchase keywords from the search engines, and display ads they create. Some keywords cost more than others, and ad prices vary based on the position within the page.
These two types of keywords are important when you're researching your industry. For one you can find out what folks are searching on to get to your competition, and you can also get an idea of what your competition is paying for when it comes to keywords. What does it matter what they're paying for? Well it gives you some insight into their digital strategy, you can see what they have determined to be important within the industry and to drive traffic to their site.
Who is linking to your competitors, and from what pages within their website are they linking? That's essentially what referrers are. Maybe someone found a blog post you wrote, found it interesting and then linked to it from their blog. As long as they didn't tag the link to tell spiders not to follow it, then that link is going to send some credibility to your content (there are a few rules about this, but we can talk about this later). This credibility can help your site show up higher in the search engine results pages (SERPs). The higher the position on the search results, the more likely folks will click on the link and send traffic your way.
That's a breakdown of some of what you'll see when you're looking at overall industry analytical data. It's up to you to use the information to help build a digital strategy that will drive content creation, ad placement, and the rest of your digital marketing efforts to build a successful customer experience for your site.
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