April 13, 2012

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Happy Friday! Here are my favorite reads from around the web this week:

Lastly, on a personal note, if you’d like to help Ex-Boyfriend out with our charitable fundraiser for homeless animals any little bit is appreciated! Read the details here! Fundraiser ends Sunday.

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December 9, 2011

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Happy Friday! While you’re here, check out my newly beefed up resources page. I’ve added links to a ton of products and services I personally use to run my creative business. I’ll be adding more resources in the coming months so that my readers can benefit from my favorite finds. Many of the vendors I recommend are the result of exhaustive searches to find suppliers with the perfect combination of best price and great products. If you need promotional items, web hosting, domains, graphic design, etc. the resources page has great suggestions.

On a personal note, I’m pleased to announce that an Ex-Boyfriend tee (my clothing company) was featured last week on an episode of ABC’s Modern Family. I’m always touting the benefits of publicity and this placement was a result of hard work from my partner and our PR assistant. (If you want to know how my partner and I do our own PR I’ve written an ebook about it.)

Now, on with my favorite reads this week:

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July 1, 2011

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Filed under: Link Love — Tags: , , — Meredith @ 8:47 am

This week’s round up is heavy on the SEO info, but there were so many great SEO articles this week. Have a terrific 3 day weekend, all! See you next week 🙂

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February 4, 2011

Link Love: The Most Valuable Small Biz Articles Posted This Week

Every day I check out the 100s of subscriptions in my RSS feed about marketing, PR, advertising, branding, social media, and a host of other topics of interest to small businesses that sell online. Most of what gets posted isn’t earth shattering but I reserve Fridays for the best reads of the week. So here you have it, the most valuable things I read in the business blogosphere this week:

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January 27, 2011

21 Questions You Should Be Able to Answer About Your Online Retail Business

Filed under: Ecommerce — Tags: , , , — Meredith @ 7:33 am

The key to succeeding in business is being a true expert on your business. You need to know everything there is to know about it. While many creative entrepreneurs are experts at their craft, when it comes to marketing and selling online, they’re still in the dark. Below are 21 questions you should be able to answer about your online retail business.

  1. How many orders do you receive each month?
  2. Where do the orders come from (SEO, ads, PR, branding, etc.)?
  3. What is your average order value?
  4. What referring sites are making you the most money?
  5. What keywords are making you the most money via SEO?
  6. What keywords could make you money via Adwords?
  7. What products are people trying to find on your website today, that you currently don’t offer?
  8. How strong is your brand and what percentage of your sales and site traffic come from people going directly to your site or searching for your brand name?
  9. What percentage of your visitors are return visitors and what percentage are new?
  10. Are you doing a good job of attracting return visits?
  11. Do you have a high bounce rate?
  12. Do people like your website? Is it user-friendly? Attractive? Loaded with great content?
  13. How does your site compare to other sites like it in terms of bouce rate, visits, page views, and return visitors?
  14. What pages on your site get the most views?
  15. What pages on your site get the least views and what should you do about them?
  16. How many people are downloading your PDFs, clicking your Facebook “like” button , Twitter links, etc? Do you know where visitors who take these actions came from (search, banner ads, etc.)?
  17. What percentage of people abandon their shopping cart on your site?
  18. What portion of the checkout process are people abandoning on? Do they bail on view cart or right before entering payment?
  19. How many visits does it take before customers buy?
  20. How many days pass before a customer places an order? Do they buy the first day they visit or come back weeks later to spend money?
  21. How much do you spend to earn $1.00?

So how’d you do? If you don’t know the answers to all of these, don’t worry. I just finished writing an ebook that can get you the answers to every single one of them! “Harnessing Google Analytics to Make More Money, Grow Your Brand and Be a Better Marketer (Even if Technology Scares The Pants Off of You)” was written for small business owners who need answers to these questions and don’t know how to use Google Analytics to get them.

The book was designed to help you market more effectively and make more money! It will help you:

  • Grow your brand.
  • Improve your SEO and Adwords campaigns.
  • Make better ad buying decisions.
  • Get new product ideas.
  • Improve your shopping cart and overall content and site design.
  • Measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts.
  • Track everything that happens on your website.

Other benefits of the book:

  • Breaks down the “techie speak” into easy-to-understand plain English.
  • Helpful screen shots guide you along the way so you always know you’re looking at just the right thing and clicking in just the right place.
  • Real world examples of how to apply what you’re seeing to make more money and grow your brand.
  • The easy-to-digest, skimmable writing format you’ve come to know and love on Smaller Box. Each section of the book is broken out with headlines and bullet points, so making your way through the book is a breeze.
  • Instant delivery via email. Read the book on your computer, ipad, or other mobile device and start taking control of Google Analytics today!

This book will be most effective for people who have their own websites. If you depend entirely on a service like Artfire or Etsy to sell online, many of the cool stuff this book can teach you to do won’t work for you. The reason is that in order to make Google Analytics work to it’s fullest potential, you need access to your website’s source code. If you sell on Artfire, Etsy, etc. you can’t access this so you won’t be able to implement some of Google Analytics’ most useful functionality. I have written many articles here about why you should have your own website; harnessing Google Analytics effectively is just one more reason. If you need others, check out my rants on reputation management, re-marketing, SEO, losing sales, secondary conversions, affiliate programs and my personal reasons for having my own website.

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December 8, 2010

Tracking Conversions With Google Analytics

I am sort of amazed to hear there are people selling online who don’t track their conversions. You can’t have a marketing program that’s informed and effective if you don’t know what your conversion rate is, what your cost per acquisition is or where your conversions come from.

What is a conversion?
Every time a visitor on your website takes a desired action, that is considered a conversion. Most often when we talk about conversions, we are talking about a visitor buying something. This isn’t the only thing considered a conversion though. You can also count activities like joining your mailing list, following you on a social network, etc.

Why Cost Per Acquisition (CPA) Matters
You need a general handle on your CPA so you know what marketing efforts are sustainable and which ones are not. If I run an Adwords campaign and I am paying 10 cents/click and getting a 1% conversion rate on that campaign, I am paying $10.00 per conversion. If my average order value is $5.00 this isn’t sustainable, I’m losing money. If my average order value is $50.00 and my product cost is $20.00 I am making $30.00 on each conversion.

So when you run any kind of marketing campaign, you want to keep an eye on CPA so you know if you want to continue with that form of marketing. Now, to make things more complicated…

Conversions are Tricky to Track
Conversions aren’t always easy to track. Imagine you run a banner ad for $90, you get 500 clicks and 3 sales. You paid an average of $30.00 per conversion there, at least that’s how it seems. Now imagine 10 of the people that clicked got on your mailing list and another 20 of them shared your website on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. A few months later 2 of the people who got onto your mailing list make purchases and a few weeks after that someone finds your site via a Tweet and buys. Now you’ve got 6 conversions so that ad actually cost you $15 per conversion.

My point here is that marketing is a cumulative thing and conversions can be tough to nail down. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bother though. Google Analytics has made it easy and FREE to track conversions. Even if the tracking might not be perfect, it’s better than nothing. So now that we understand the limitations of conversion tracking, here’s how you set it up:

Step 1: Set up Google Analytics

Before you do anything, you need to set up Google Analytics. If you haven’t done that, go here and create an account. Creating an account is super easy! You just fill out the fields as requested and at the end you’ll get some tracking code you can paste into the template of your website. (If you plan to use Google Adwords you can check the box that lets you track Adwords campaigns.)

Once you get that code, paste it into your website’s template below the </head> tag and you’ll be able to start tracking all the activity on your website.

Step 2: Set up Goals
Once you have set up (or logged into) Analytics. You’ll want to click “edit” under the “actions” column. This will take you to “Profile Settings” and this is where you can create goals. Under “goals” click “add goal” (you can just go with goal set 1).

(We are going to set up a goal of selling a product, but you can repeat this process for tracking people who sign up for your mailing list or create a wish list, or take any other action you’d like to track.)

On the goal screen, give the goal a name like “sale” and leave “active goal” set to “on.” Then leave goal position as is. In the final field, select “URL Destination.” This will cause more fields to appear.

For match type, go with exact match. Then in the goal URL field paste the URL that customers see when they complete an order (something like http://www.yoursite.com/thankyou.html). Leave case sensitive as is and leave goal value as is.

Step 3: Create a Goal Funnel
This isn’t required, but it’s useful. The goal funnel is the path a user must take to complete the conversion. You may want this information so you can see what your shopping cart abandonment rate is like, or see where in the process customers are abandoning. In the example I’m doing today, let’s say the person must visit the cart page, the check out page and then they land on the thank you page after payment is taken. That means there are 2 steps to complete this goal. Here’s how we add them:

On the goal set up screen click “Yes create a goal funnel” and some new fields will appear. In the “URL” field we’d want to enter the URL of our cart page so we’d enter something like /shoppingcart.html. In the “name” field we’d call this “add to cart”.

We click “add goal funnel step” and then enter /checkout.html as the URL for our payment page. We name this step “check out” and then we click “save goal.”

That’s it, we’re done. Now we can log into Google Analytics tomorrow and start seeing conversion data!

In case you’re not sure how to see it, you’ll want to:

1. Log into Analytics and click “view report” next to your domain.
2. On the menu on the left click “traffic sources”
3. From here you should see 2 columns, one for keywords and one for referring domains. To see which referring domains are getting you conversions click “view full report” in that column
4. Now you should see a listing of all the sites that sent you traffic and on top you’ll see 3 gray tabs (“Site Usage” “Goal Set 1” and “Ecommerce”). You want to click on “goal set 1”
5. Now click the “sale” column and you’ll see the rate at which each source of traffic delivers conversions.

You can now click on keywords (under traffic sources) from the left menu and click the “goal set 1” column again and see which keywords are giving you conversions. You can tinker around with other areas of Analytics like the “goals” area. You can see things like conversion rate and cart abandonment rate (if you set up your goal funnel).

Note: Goals do not go backwards, so if you got 100 sales yesterday that won’t shop up in your conversion tracking on Google Analytics if you didn’t set up the goals until today. Also keep in mind that there is a 24 hour delay in updating Google Analytics data so you’re not getting real time information.

Lastly, there are more sophisticated ways to track conversions. I wrote software for my website that uses a combination of cookies and IP addresses to gather my visitors’ data. This helps me get more detailed information about my conversions. I can tell how many times a customer came to my site before buying and all the different things they did to get to my site. (For example, I can tell that a customer first found my site from a blog post, then googled my site name a month later and then made a purchase.)

I like having this information because it gives me a more complete picture of how we get sales. That said, having a solution like this isn’t something that comes out of the box with Google Analytics. You’d need to pay for a more advanced analytics program or hire a programmer that can write code to do this. This system isn’t perfect. It doesn’t account for people who have changing IP addresses, change devices or delete cookies. I don’t get 100% of the information I want, but I get a lot of information and it helps me get a more complete picture of how our marketing efforts are going.

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May 6, 2010

How Do I Track the Value of My Marketing Efforts

Yesterday I wrote an article about the cumulative effects of marketing and a reader asked how I track my results. First and foremost, if you missed my article yesterday, let me repeat YOU CANNOT PERFECTLY TRACK EVERYTHING. You just can’t. Things happen indirectly as a result of your marketing, that’s where some of that cumulative magic comes in. (Read my article from yesterday for examples of this.)

Now that we’re clear on that, let’s talk about what you can track using Google Analytics (because it’s free and pretty easy to use):

1. Bounce Rates
When you find a way of promoting your site be it advertising, guest blogging, cross-promoting, etc. You’ll want to pay attention to what the incoming traffic from these sources does. If your traffic has a high bounce rate from a source (meaning the vast majority of visitors leave after viewing one page) that source might not be very well-targeted for you and you may want to turn your attention elsewhere.

Important: View the bounce rate in the context of your site’s bounce rate. If your entire site has a high bounce rate, the problem may be your site, not your marketing venues.

2. CPC
CPC, or cost-per-click, is what you pay to get a person to come to your site. It’s easy calculate a CPC for an ad. If I pay $100 for an ad and I get 500 clicks then I paid 20 cents per click. The tricky thing is everything has a CPC, even “free” stuff. (Side rant: There is no such thing is as FREE marketing. I am so sick of hearing about FREE marketing. All marketing costs money unless you don’t subscribe to the thought that time is money. And if you don’t you should. Your time is valuable. If your FREE marketing costs 20 hours it is 20 hours x  your hourly rate. Sometimes FREE can be expensive.)

To calculate CPC on stuff you don’t pay for, such as blogging, SEO, etc. keep track of the hours you spend on those things. Then decide what you think your time is worth hourly. If you spend 2 hours per week blogging and you think your time is worth $25 per hour, you spend $50/week blogging. Now go into your site stats and see how much traffic your blog generates. If your blog gets 100 visitors per week you are paying 50 cents per click.

What is a good cost per click?
There is no general answer. Lower is better, but good depends very much on your business. It should be based on the average value of your orders and your conversion rate.

3. Conversions
This is the metric we look at most often. How much did a traffic source result in direct sales? I recommend that, if possible, you track other things than sales, such as Facebook fanning, Twitter following, newsletter sign ups, etc.

Tracking that stuff can be difficult because you either need to be pretty tech savvy or spend money on fancy technology. Google Analytics is free and it will track sales and newsletter sign ups (assuming you can install Google tracking code on your thank you pages for newsletter and sales). It won’t track your Facebook and Twitter sign ups at this time but it’s better than nothing.  (I am sure eventually you will be able to track that stuff with Google Analytics, but not today.)

Tech savvy types can use cookies or track IP addresses of their visitors and use that to track visitor activity in a database. They can use AJAX to track clicks on their Facebook and Twitter links. This technology allows the business owner to see a complete profile of a customer’s activity on their site.

4. Overall Traffic
You should be seeing an overall increase in traffic as you spend more time and money on your marketing efforts.  I know that as we increased our advertising expenditures on our ecommerce website we saw a drastic increase in site traffic from all over the place. It’s because more people were coming to our site, sharing our links with friends, spreading our site around via word of mouth, etc.

If I get 1,000 people coming to my site each day and just 1% of them are sharing my site with others that means I have 10 people promoting for my brand EVERY SINGLE DAY! Now multiply that over the course of a year and I end up with thousands of people promoting my brand.
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