Google analytics benchmarking – not so enlightening.

Got the first installment of Google Analytics benchmark email last week. While I love the fact that they’re sending me out info, reading it produced a more of a “why?” than a “wow”.

The information is an amalgamation of all those sites which have opted in to share stats anonymously with Google. It therefor  includes all sorts of sites from retail to b2b, from small blogs to large blue chips.In other words it’s mostly pretty useless for real benchmarking.

By giving us such of an amalgam, the information raises more questions than it answers. This is a tad frustrating when we know that Google has such a lot of data which they could slice and dice and provide some really valuable information. Why this is a better solution than the existing benchmarking tool is unclear, but perhaps this is only the first foray into some wonderful emails.

PPC provides better quality traffic…

An example is the table containing the usual top level measurements that are used to denote quality of traffic; pages/visit, bounce rate and average time on site. Looking at the figures, (snip below) it seems that CPC (Paid search) drives the best quality traffic in terms of page/visit and bounce rate.  Rationalizing that on first pass you think, well that’s not really surprising since we all spend so much time honing campaigns, adgroups and landing pages to squeeze the very last bit of  marketing bang out of our clients buck.  But in truth the figures raise more questions than they answer.

google analytics traffic sources and top level quality measurements

Google Analytics Benchmarking - Traffic Sources

Or does it?

Time on site for instance points to referral traffic as bringing the most engaged traffic at 6:36 minutes with PPC at 3:57 minutes. Is this an indication of the stage in the buying process of different channels?  Is referred traffic more likely to be still searching for information than PPC?  Is PPC used more for retail and in that case how many shops have their analytics properly set up to jump between products and shopping cart?

google analytics benchmarking - operating systems

google analytics benchmarking - operating systems

Operating systems – the rise of mobile

Again information regarding operating systems was disappointing, especially when we know that 2011 is finally the year of the mobile. The +4.3 increase in “other” probably reflect this.

No Insight

Because site traffic varies hugely between sectors, objectives, regions etc, this amalgamation of information doesn’t really provide us with any insights.

The debate this week about whether Google is becoming an agency sparked by the Heineken deal has had some digital agencies thinking that maybe Google wants to position itself to providing more information directly to clients. On the whole that’s to be welcomed and agencies have long relied on the insights of channel owners when creating marketing plans – why should it be different for online, especially when digital measurements leave some marketers feeling a little dizzy.

If Google is to share more of it’s stats as well as providing the analytics platform free, then this first installment is hopefully not an indication of things to come.

Tandem gets great results for leading marketing agency

One of Scotland’s leading agencies commissioned Tandem Digital to work on their site visibility. When we won the business they were nowhere to be seen on Google for their services in the Scottish market or the UK.  In the last few months they have launched their new site based on Tandem’s recommendations and over the last two months they are now hitting first page visibility for some pretty competitive keywords.

Odds a new favourite at Google

Gaming ads are to make a reappearance on Google adwords. No doubt the rush of revenue this will bring as gaming brands, affiliates, gambling aggregators and consultants all rush to get a pieceof the traffic will provide a financial comforter when marketing budgets get cut.

It’s hoped that the more scientific approach to analysis of traffic sources and user behaviour will in some way curb the rush for gold in them thar Google hills… but there’s always going to be the chumps who throw money on the roulette wheel hoping that lady luck will shine on them.

How this will affect cpc rates is anyone’s guess but we’re betting on a big spike in competitive bidding for generics and some rather charred fingers as budgets get burned on injudicous kwyeord research and slack management.

Searcher Behaviour – where is the traffic?

Search behaviour – increasing impatience of search engine users

49% of search users change their keywordphrase before checking out the second page. Does this mean that searchers are growing increasingly impatient with the results served by search engines. Absolutely, there’s no doubt that in the “think-it-get-it” environment of the web, users expect to have the right information at their fingertips.

Additionally if you appear after page 3 in the SERPs for a phrase, you can expect only 2% of users to go that far down the list. A whopping 68% of searchers don’t venture past the first page.

TAKEOUT – Your listing on the search engine returned page(SERP) not only has to be in the top listings on the top page, it needs to be as compelling as possible. Engage the searcher with content which meets their needs.  It goes back to understanding searcher demand and levels of intent. Too many keyword research projects focus solely on looking at volume and search share. This misses out half of the equation and has optimisers placing effort in the wrong keywords – lowering ROI. By understanding how searchers behave, how they communicate their needs and relfecting this in your content and messaging, you balance traffic volume with relevancy.

Search isn’t about throwing as much at the wall and hoping some of it will stick. The search industry is full of people being busy achieving nothing. By applying communication principles to search, commercial and communication objectives have a better chance of being met.

Vertical search vs blended search choices

How are searchers choosing to search?

Blended search, also known as Universal search, has shaken up the search industry over the last year. This is the serving of different types of content in a search engine returned page (SERP).

Vertical search is the ability for searchers to look in content-type channels in a search engine e.g. news or images.

According to a study by Jupiter Research, searchers are still a little shy of vertical search, but when different content types are presented in the SERPs users are much more likely to click on these results.

Searchers still unsure of vertical search

The response for searchers using blended search results differ, perhaps indicating that either users are more comfortable with the main results being served to them than going down a channel which they perceive to offer less choice.

Blended Search responses

TAKEOUT

Blended search offers search marketers additional means of getting traffic. While searchers are still reserved about going down vertical search channels, this may change in the future as users get less patient with search results. (68% of users now don’t search past page 1!!)

However what is clear is the success of blended search – still in it’s infancy but it seems that searchers are liking the choice it provides.

Yahoo and MSN back in talks – Google looks on

MSN and Yahoo! are back in talks.  You’ll remember that MSN approached Yahoo! with a $40 billion evaluation which was later sweetened by $7.5 billion. On refusal Carl ICahn started getting vocal with his 4% of Yahoo! and a threat to depose 10 of Yahoo’s directors.

Google are in the sidelines watching as the number 2 and 3 in the market (leaving Yandex out of European figures for the moment) disuss becoming a possible number 2 with a third of search market share. something not to be sneezed at with the value of search valued at about $40 billion per annum and set to double by 2010.

It’s certainly all to play for. The test of Google adsense being used in a percentage of Yahoo’s paid search ads last month has attracted the anti trust boys so the previous avenue of a commercial agreement which would see Yahoo as inventory for Google sales looks like its being put on the back burner.

Where will it all end? Without Yahoo, MSN will struggle to grow or even to maintain marketshare with their search offering being so limited in comparison to the products offered by the other two goliaths. Will MSN pursue the social media route instead with it’s proposed talks with Facebook.

Exciting stuff.

SEO not Spam – it’s official

Matt Cutts has come out and said it.  Search engine optimisation is not spam. The white hat stuff that is. I’m tempted to download his presentation at the web2.0 conference, “What Google knows about spam” onto my iPod to play to those caught somewhere in 2000 who think that all online marketing is spam.

Nice presentation which covers some of the basics of protecting a site from web spam – worth a look.

GoCompare whopped by Google’s bad link big stick

Really good post on the Hitwise blog following up on GoCompare’s natural search visibility for the term “car insurance” plunge after being hammered by Google’s inward link moral authority. Great graph on the change in proportion on natural “free” traffic to paid traffic from PPC. That’s gotta hurt!

Insurance, as we digital marketers know, is one of the most competitive industries online, (should show you the proportion of insurance spam I get on this blog!) with profits being made generally on the 2nd or 3rd year of a policy, affiliate commissions have been squeezed over the last few years. Can any player in the insurance arena take the risk of getting into Google’s blacklist?

With natural search continuing to be provide the backbone of digital marketing activity, playing fast and loose with the Big G and it’s seriousness about linking is to be avoided.

Agencies and Paid Links

Links from a bad neighbourhood is a sure way to destroy a site’s ranking. Getting paid links (I have no idea if this is what happened to GoCompare) from 3rd party offshore organisations has been used by many SEO agencies. Highly profitable for the agency (i’ve heard of examples of at least 50% pure cream on 6 month campaigns with agency work limited to sending over a few anchor text variations to some link farm sweatshop in Asia.) and in the past it worked with these campaigns getting great results with linking shoring up some pretty pedestrian SEO campaigns.

Allelulia – that’s over!

Now we’re into a much more interesting times. The risks of bad neighbourhood liking is a reality which in-house marketers are picking up on. (Cue epiphany moments, shafts of sunlight and heavenly choruses).

Linking will always remain a challenge but, to state the bleedin’ obvious, the creation of valuable content (not hit and run link baiting) and utlising web2.0, and indeed 3.0, platforms responsibly will sort the men out from the boyos!

Bet Gocompare think so.

Salesforce, Google Apps and the flash drive laptop

Salesforce has joined forces with Google Apps, adding mail, docs and calendar features to Salesforce’s already existing Adwords tool.

So what’s the big deal? Salesforce users are more likely to have their own laptops and commercial applications, e.g. Microsoft’s Office package with it’s Word, Outlook, Powerpoint and Excel etc. From where we are, this move looks like a nice-to-have but not something which will radically change the way commercial professionals work.

But..hold on a second.

Add to the mix, the increasing popularity of the “cloud” for storage, project management, online software etc and this move looks like another “ya boo sucks” move to Microsoft.

And… the increasing excitement regarding non-hard drive, affordable laptops like the EeePc reported in John Naughtons, The Networker column in yesterday’s Observer ( a Sunday must read!) and the picture of the future starts looking very different from the one that the big guys (Microsoft, Apple, Dell..) are showing us; all OS upgrades and bundled packages.

Is the future laptop just an access conduit with everything and anything we need coming over the ether. If this is the case then the Google/Salesforce move is a clarion call for the future.

Provided iPlayer doesn’t eat all the bandwidth that is!

Yahoo!has more than one choice

Times Warner (owners of AOL) and Yahoo! are in discussion regarding a possible deal which would allow Yahoo! to gain more shareholder control while increasing Time Warner’s market penetration. The Wall Street Journal goes into the ins and outs but basically AOL would be rolled into Yahoo! and Time Warner would stump up some cash giving it 20% of the merged entity and allowing Yahoo! to buy back some of its shares. Sopunds like a sweet deal for both. Especiall considering that Yahoo! was the most visited site in the US last month.

News Corp is now also back in the frame but in a triumvirate solution with Microsoft rather than on it’s own as in previous talks.

Google’s AdSense test roll out on 3% of Yahoo!’s US searches is a great way for Google and Yahoo! to measure the potential revenue generation from a Time Warner (AOL) Yahoo merger…

Yahoo! looks like it’s got more choices – wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall in Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer’s office ?

Interestinger and interestinger.