I had the pleasure of meeting one of the industry’s brightest SEO and analytics consultants, Alan K’necht, at PubCon South when I spoke on a panel with him on Actionable Analytics this past March. Not only is Alan a great speaker, but he is very knowledgeable in both analytics, SEO and online marketing in general. This November Alan will be releasing his first book, The Last Original Idea, this November – just in time for PubCon we hope! I sat down with Alan to pick his brain on SEO, web analytics and to give us a sneak peak of his new book.
Alan K’necht Interview
It always seems as though web analytics are the most underutilized tool at an SEOs disposal. What do you see as the most important insight/metric that gets overlooked by SEOs?
There isn’t one specific metric that gets overlooked or even in the majority of time, but instead it’s the whole concept of analytics. People are generally reporting on what their bosses want to see, not what their bosses should be seeing.
In the early days, the boss heard the word “hits”, and wanted to know the hit count even if it was a meaningless stat. The same goes on today, people are still focused on page views and visit lengths which may be appropriate if you’re an on-line newspaper, but are completely in the wrong direction if you’re an on-line retailer.
One thing I stress during our analytics training sessions is for organizations to properly identify the purpose, objectives and goals of their websites. Once these have been established and signed-off you can then identify the appropriate metrics for reporting on the success of these factors and from there configure your web analytics tool for effective reporting.
Secondly, many marketing teams then focus on what is working and how to get more of it and how to decrease spend on what is not working, instead of trying to figure out why it’s not working and fix it. In many occasions, I discovered that the fix was cheaper and more profitable than an increase in the “working marketing spend”. For example a simple web page redesign that was done in about 1 hour generated a 10 times increase in conversions, but without the proper analytics in place we wouldn’t have known where to look.
Last month you wrote a great post on the Impact of Google SSL Search. For those unfamiliar, would you mind explaining what the feature means for SEOs?
Since the earliest days of web some people have been concerned about privacy and companies knowing that they visited their website etc. This lead to the unwarranted fear of trackable first party cookies (tracking codes that can only be read by the website that set them). With the proliferation of Google Analytics and peoples use of Google accounts such as gMail, people started getting concerned that Google was capable of tracking everything they were doing on the web (especially when Google Analytics sets 3 cookies).
To offset this fear, Google added the ability to conduct searches on its popular search engine under a security shield called SSL (secure socket layer). This is noted by the start of the web address with “https: “instead “http:”. When SSL is implemented, specific information that is normally transferred when a person moves from one website to one another (not using SSL) is not transferred and not recorded by traditional website log files or java script based tracking (i.e. type used by Google Analytics).
From a privacy perspective all the critical information that’s not transferred is related to the previous website you were on and information of what you might have clicked on (a link or a banner ad) including what search terms you used in Google. No personally identifiable information is ever transferred beyond the unique cookie id. This cookie value merely indicates that is the same computer and nothing more.
From a marketing perspective, the information that is now hidden is critical information for companies to optimize their Google advertising campaign (PPC) and evaluate their search engine optimization projects. Without this information, the general public will continue to see irrelevant ads longer and potentially be clicking on search results that also don’t match what they want.
Fortunately for everyone the use of SSL on Google is by choice (you need to manually enter it prior to searching), and from what I’ve been able to see, is having no impact at present on web analytics reporting. That is not to say it won’t one day become the norm.
Should SSL Search become more popular with users, how do you see Internet marketers obtaining that critical keyword data?
In this instance, it will become more critical for every website to implement SSL on all pages (now sites only do this on their ecommerce section).
It will also give Google another product to sell (keyword data) as the terms people search on and which ads/links they click on can still all be gathered and repurposed by Google. Right now, you simply have to log into your Adwords account to see this data even if the user did a secure search.
So ultimately, there is no benefit to general public to conduct secure searches as no personally identifiable information is being hidden. The users IP address will still be transferred and (as I forced to back the year 2000) with the right paper work/court order you can identify that person generally in under an hour.
If people fear Google knowing everything they are doing online, then my suggestion is: stop using gmail and your Google account. Then in Google’s eyes, you’re just a generic user.
In March I spoke with you on a panel about actionable analytics. You had a great presentation on tracking those who visit your website but then decide to convert another way. Can you give us an overview on the process of tracking offline conversions and tying them into specific marketing efforts?
This is old school marketing, yet something that was forgotten in realms of web marketing. That is to say, not everyone buys right away nor will they make the purchase on your website. The trick is to record and relate these alternative conversion methods to the original source of traffic.
For example, offering an on-line coupon for in store redemption (ideally a small gift) that is of a big enough value to encourage the download of the coupon but not overly valuable as to prevent someone who wants to buy online from not completing their purchase. By assigning a unique code to coupon once it’s been redeemed it can be attributed back to the original source.
Another popular method is tracking telephone calls and attributing them back to the originating marketing source. To help this along companies like Mongoose Metrics, ClickPath and others provide specific tools for this effort. The tools all work on the same principal where a dynamic phone number appears on you website (this number can be assigned to the user for just their visit or for several hours afterwards) and when they call that number, a conversion is recorded. Depending on which tool provider you use, it may be even possible to associate the value (i.e. they purchased something vs. asking directions) or integrate the call information into the corporate CRM system. This later step is critical when purchases have long sales cycles.
What makes this area even more exciting is some recent product enhancements from Mongoose where they’ve added an optional voice recognition component. You can now automatically assess the type of call by keywords spoken during the conversation automatically.
You’ve been part of the online marketing world since 1995, what one or two things have you noticed have stayed consistent? Specifically when it comes to online marketing success.
That’s an easy question and the answer is what my book is about. Web marketing and development groups keep making the same mistakes that their predecessors have since the early days of the web or others since the dawn of time. They keep thinking that everything new is a must do and implement things without thought, purpose or the ability to correctly measure the improvement.
I remember the heyday of the Flash intro page when during a keynote a VP at Macromedia (the company that invented Flash) had to say, “stop doing it that’s not what it’s for.” I would say the fact that many ad agencies still insist on their clients having Flash intro pages is a testament to these facts.
When it comes to marketing success, it’s the basics of marketing that always work. That is developing a great product at a good price, tell a few people and then let them tell the world. Perhaps that’s why so many companies are jumping on the Social Media marketing bandwagon even without know how manage it.
You have a new book that is due out this year titled, “The Last Original Idea“. What can we expect to learn?
The book is a humorous look at everything Internet marketing related and how most of us did it wrong and why. Our perspective in the book is that we are repeating the mistakes of our forefathers because we didn’t learn our history. We believe everything Internet and web related is something new that has never existed before. This is an incorrect assumption, and all that has changed/evolved is the technology.
We cover the origins of Internet marketing methods, from some their earliest historical reference (be it biblical or even prehistoric) to where we are today. We document why it worked or didn’t work in the past and how we got to where we are today. Along the way we point out companies that did wrong and ones that did right.
So I need to position the book as not a “how to” book on Internet marketing but rather a “what not to” book.
When do you expect the book to be released?
The book is tentatively due out in November of this year. I’m hoping to time it, so I can have the book launch at the PubCon web marketing conference.
If you could give one piece of advice to our readers regarding web analytics, what would it be?
Know why you need to measure something before you decide what to measure. And once you start measuring it follow the old carpenter adage “measure twice and cut once”.
Thanks so much for your time, Alan. How can our readers stay connected with you?
About Alan K’necht
Alan is founder and president of K’nechtology Inc., one of Toronto, Canada’s Leading SEO, SEM and Web analytics consulting firms since 2000. K’necht has personally been implementing web analytic solutions since 1996. During this period he has provided both Search Engine Optimization, PPC and web analytics guidance to organizations across North America including: Canada’s Federal Government, the US Navy, Inter-American Development Bank, Toyota Canada, media organizations, several e-commerce companies and a wide array of other businesses. Through web analytics K’necht has helped clients maximize Return on Investment (ROI) for their web site marketing initiatives.
K’necht, an internationally published columnist has been interviewed by numerous publications including: Cnet, The Wall Street Journal, Globe & Mail, National Post and CBC radio. K’necht maintains his web analytics and search engine optimization focused blog K’necht-it (www.knecht-it.com) and has spoken at conferences throughout North America, Australia and England. He has recently completed his first book “The Last Original Idea” and hopes to have it published by mid in 2010.