7 steps to smarter digital marketing: Insights from a Google ‘Evangelist’

imgresWARC notes: At the SES Conference, Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist Avinash Kaushik offered up seven steps to smarter digital marketing. Focus on the user experience to reduce abandonment rates (over 80% of people on most ecommerce sites give up after clicking the checkout button). Look at a brand’s share of search and how well it captures the convinced and unconvinced consumer. Pick useful metrics to measure success, not “super-lame” ones such as followers and likes. Improve use of analytic tools. Use visualisation tools to see the interplay between multiple channels. Consider the whole audience, not just the small percentage who have found you. Measure engagement on social media through conversation and amplification rates and value per visitor.

“If your brand doesn’t show up and engage with the audience, somebody else will.” That was the message from Google’s Digital Marketing Evangelist Avinash Kaushik at a keynote session of the SES Conference in Singapore.

As brands move from the world of swaying consumers (“In the past if you wanted to find people and influence them, it was very easy. You bought advertisements in newspapers.”) to the digital world, they need to rethink their strategy in terms of capturing consumers.

1. User experience: lower abandonment rates

Kaushik warned brands to steer clear of the exasperating lapses in user experience he had encountered online, such as over-designed clutter on websites; unnecessary clicks that open new tabs or windows (“What is this thing about Singapore? Do you like torture?”); web prompts for using coupons that are invalid at the checkout stage; and having too many ads bundled with too little content. These ultimately expose the brand as not having had a clear vision of what consumers want.

“It doesn’t matter how much influence you have, if you suck at this [experience], you’re not going to win.” He said “north of 80%” is the abandonment rate experienced by most e-commerce websites.

“Eight out of ten people who click the checkout button actually abandon the process. Would you tolerate that in a shopping mall? People pick up the stuff they want, they actually line up at the cashier and take out their wallet, and then they walk away. That’s exactly what’s happening here. I’m obsessed about measuring abandonment… if I’ve found the person who’s found the product he wants and he wants to check out, take the money. Don’t suck at it.”

Brands that expect consumers to put up patiently with websites that take their time to load are also doing so at the risk of making their customers a discontented bunch. “We should measure brand destruction, because every time we go through this process, your brand dies a little.”

“Every second delayed of page response reduces conversion by 7%. Every second delayed reduces customer satisfaction by 16%,” he said, adding that one mere second can cost an e-commerce site $100,000 in turnover a day, and as much as $2.5 million in lost sales every year.

2. Search: capturing the convinced and unconvinced

Kaushik singled out share of search as an area on which marketers should focus. This can be looked at in two ways: how well the brand fared in searches for the brand, and in searches for the relevant categories. With the latter, these categories can be defined as specific segments that directly address the brand, and extended categories that somewhat address the brand.

“What I want you to start thinking about is capturing the convinced. The second thing is capturing the unconvinced – people you can steal from another brand. And then just do this again and again across all new categories, and try to understand how good your company is at capturing the convinced and capturing the unconvinced. There’s many powerful ways to rethink your success.”

When developing a keyword and search strategy for, say, laundry detergent brand Tide, marketers could use keywords in the form of the brand name (such as ‘Tide’) and ‘laundry detergent’, to take care of capturing the convinced and capturing the unconvinced respectively.

Qualitative analysis can also help brands to understand what consumers think about the brand, as well as its existence in the digital landscape. Fittingly, another area that Kaushik advocates monitoring is the voice of the customer. Surveying site visitors with a few pointed questions (steering clear of lengthy forms that will only encourage people to skip ahead merrily) is one way to do this.

“It’s a fabulous way to get into the heads of your consumers and discover what they really want,” he said.

“When people come to your website you should ask them three questions, that’s it. The first question is, ‘Why are you here?’ You may be surprised at the answer. The second one is, ‘Were you able to complete your task?’ The third one is, ‘If you were not able to complete the task, why not?’ If you come to my blog, and if you read three pages and more, that’s my trigger. If you spend more than 30 seconds on the third page, that’s my second trigger. The questions pop up on the right hand side. If you do nothing, it goes away in seven seconds.”

3. Metrics: the best and the worst

“You can actually measure a lot of amazing things when it comes to the web. For me, picking a metric [means] figuring out what the purpose is in very clear ways.”

A basic measure of success in every marketing campaign, he thinks, should be the bounce rate. “You should measure this every day because it helps you understand where you suck and what you have to fix.”

Some of the worst, or “super-lame”, metrics that brands commonly measure are:

  • Clicks
  • Visits
  • Emails sent
  • Page views
    (“I hate page views… And because most [online publishers] are paid on a CPM basis, it’s very important for them just to generate a lot of page views. But these websites won’t actually survive based on page views. They will survive if they convince you to come back again.”)
  • Video views
  • Engagement
  • Followers, likes and +1s on social media

Kaushik was especially harsh about the last two on the list: “We bring these pathetic expectations when it comes to the web… when I see the metric ‘engagement’ on the dashboard, I know that person needs to get fired.”

As for the “flavour of the month”, measuring ‘likes’ on Facebook: “It’s a dumb, stupid thing to measure. ‘Likes’ is like me walking on Orchard Road and people are coming past me and some of them smile at me. And I take out a book and mark them as ‘lover’, ‘lover’, ‘lover’.”

He stated the following as “super-awesome” metrics that brands should measure:

  • Loyalty, recency
  • Conversation rate
  • Days and visits to a site
  • Unaided brand recall
  • Share of global shelf
  • Economic value
  • Task completion rate

Visitor loyalty was rated highly for the obvious reason of helping brands to get a grip on how well they are doing in terms of engaging consumers and getting return traffic from them. It is a standard metric found across multiple analytics tools such as SiteCatalyst, WebTrends and Google Analytics.

4. Analytics: three ways to improve

Kaushik shared some tips for making sense of analytics:

  1. Use custom reports
    Analytics tools can seem confusing, no thanks to default reports that contain a lot of irrelevant information. “It just captures all this stuff and pukes it all out.” Instead, brands can create custom reports to help them focus their analysis on answering specific business questions by zooming in on precise information.”Be very deliberate and thoughtful about what you want to do. I measure metrics that I need. I create dropdown dimensions that I need. I know the people who are tweeting, I know which cities they’re coming from – this is the powerful outcome of it.”
  2. Have an end-to-end view
    Measuring acquisition, behaviour and outcomes can be a powerful way for brands to keep a tight watch on their competence. “You can start from the beginning and go all the way to the end and try to figure out why these numbers are so different… you begin to understand and value content in a way you never thought of before,” said Kaushik.For example, to find out content efficiency and how well pages perform as landing pages, metrics for acquisition can include entrances and unique visitors, while metrics for behaviour can include average time spent on the page and metrics for outcomes can include goal completions.
  3. Analyse owned, earned and paid media
    Getting a good overview of how the brand ecosystem functions digitally in terms of owned, earned and paid media is also essential.By tracking sources of traffic to a website, and analysing them as owned, earned and paid media, brands can get a good idea of how effective their media strategy is. Owned media might include RSS feeds and the website itself, earned media might include Twitter referral results, while paid media might include cost-per-click Google ads.”Sometimes there’s too much owned media, which means that they’re leaving too much money on the table. They rely on their own channels to find people. Sometimes I’ll see lots and lots of paid media. That means you’re simply renting traffic. And if you only have earned channels, you’re at the mercy of other people. What you want is to have an optimal portfolio. An optimal portfolio might look different for you than it might for me. But using too much of one thing means you’re not making as much money as you possibly could. It’s a great way to incentivise your agencies, your analysts, and your marketers to deliver complete success for your business.”

5. Economic value: consider the whole audience

The danger with using analytics is that they never show the full picture. “Analytics only show the people who have found you,” Kaushik said.

“If you’re in the US, and you’re in the top 50 websites in America, the conversion rate is 2%. We’re so obsessed with this 2% that we forget about all these other people… You actually spend a lot of time and energy in getting all these people to come to your site. Do they deliver any value?”

Kaushik urged brands to measure the full 100% of people who can add value to the business. The first step, he said, was to watch for the macro outcome.

“Let’s figure out how much money we’re making there. Are there other things that people can do on our sites from which we can create value? We call them micro-conversions. In the end I want you to shift away from just thinking about revenues, to thinking about this idea of economic value, because you can move away from obsessing about the 2%, to 100% of web visitors.”

By mapping out micro-conversion efforts to drive revenue – such as apps and mobile downloads – and distinguishing them according to whether they work for the near term, medium term and long term, marketers can identify what metrics to track to monitor the efficiency of their near-term, medium-term and long-term strategy. In short, marketers can stand to generate a lot more revenue when they deliver both value and relevance to customers with acquisition strategies that include both branding and direct-response marketing.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of brand you have, what kind of company you have,” said Kaushik. “If you don’t have it in the now, next and long strategy, the cluster of outcomes for our business, it’s very hard for you to monetise the entirety of the traffic you get.”

6. Digital insight: optimisation through visualisation

It may sound counter-productive, but Kaushik recommended that brands do away with looking at analytics when it comes to optimising multiple channels. The reason? Too much information (“These 100,000 conversions came from 30,000 rows of data. It’s really hard to understand what to optimise”).

What he did recommend, however, was to use a friendly visualisation tool that can display, at a glance, the complicated interplay between channels and show clusters of consumers who take similar paths of conversions across multiple channels. This can let brands plan their multi-channel strategy to optimise the consumer journey as they understand how effective each channel is at different points of this journey, as well as their impact on the economic value of the brand.

“Don’t let the limitations of analytics stop you from understanding what the consumer journey looks like and how you should go back and optimise your portfolio,” he said. “Once you have that, you can do these three things: hypothesise what a portfolio should look like, go and test your hypothesis, and then slowly over time, just be less wrong every day. It’s important to leave aside the legacy challenge and manage it in a very different way.”

7. Social media: four ways to measure

Why brands often don’t ‘get’ social media, he said, is because it is unlike traditional media, such as TV, where they have to “shout louder and more frequently, hoping that people are not in the bathroom when your ads come on and that they have a baby who needs a diaper.”

He continued: “If you go on social media and look at what [marketers] are doing, [you’ll see] basically, they are pimping themselves. They are begging for likes. Is this what you want your friends to say? ‘Look at my nose’? ‘Look at my ears’? ‘Look at my eyes’? ‘Look at my body’? How irritating would it be? But that’s what we do everyday.”

What brands should think about is to focus on creating relationships with their customers, so that “maybe some of them will come and buy from you”.

Kaushik recommended measuring four ways to optimise engagement on social media:

    1. Conversation rate
      This refers to the number of audience comments or replies per post. “On the greatest platform created for conversations, are you actually having any? It’s very easy to measure. It’s a very lean metric. If you’re on Facebook and no one talks to you, you know what the problem is: you.”


    1. Amplification rate
      This refers to the ‘second-level’ audience and number of shares or retweets per post. “The size of my second-level network is people who follow the people who follow me on Twitter. There are five million people. If I say something that is of incredible value, I have the ability to break through these unofficial limits. Do the kinds of things that get amplified, that allow you to get to an audience that you would otherwise not be able to reach.”


    1. Applause rate
      This refers to the number of likes or favourites per post.


  1. Economic value
    Even if social media isn’t exactly the place for hard-selling, quantifying this value is important as a percentage of people – however small – will be of economic value (“In spite of what you do, you will make some money. Measure that.”) Kaushik advised measuring the value per visitor by looking at macro- and micro-conversions driven by social media, such as e-commerce and mailing list signups.

He concluded: “Don’t be shouting when you’re having a conversation. For me, it’s all about convincing people to consider and not simply convert. If you do this, you will really do well.”

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