Asif Anwar is a Search, Social, & Internet Marketing Consultant/Specialist working in Bangladesh (In Indian Subcontinent aka South Asia). Professionally consulting and helping small businesses on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) since 2003 and actively learning about Search Marketing trends from 2001. Passionate about SEM (Search Engine Marketing), SMM (Social Media Marketing), and PPC (Pay Per Click).
When you see abnormally high direct traffic in Google Analytics or other web analytics tools, then there is not much you can do, since most direct traffic is only shown as a number of views. With search engine and referral traffic, it is pretty easy to find out what happened. But it becomes quite hard to understand what really happened behind direct traffic.
Referred visitors come through search engines and referring sites. And Web Analytics Solutions like: Statcounter, Google Analytics, Awstat, etc. can provide you good insights in understanding the behavior of your visitors as well as the performance of your online marketing campaigns. However, direct visitors may not be a strange phenomenon. It can also be the karma of your direct marketing effort, online branding, email marketing, and it may also result from returning visitors to your site. If you see any abnormal direct traffic then you should understand that the direct traffic is coming as a result of:
Email clients like: Outlook, Outlook Express, Eudora, Thunderbird, and other POP or IMAP Mail Client Softwares generate Direct Traffic. Some assumptions of abnormal direct traffic from emails can be:
Bookmarks are the simplest type of reference to your site. Just to define it: Bookmarks are stored links in your computer, either in internet browser or files that automatically generate URL for your browser. So, any content that automatically generates URL for your browser will be a bookmark. Most of the Web Analytics tools can’t differentiate the source of the clicks from stored links. However, they should be more valuable to you, since they are mostly returning visitors. The links from bookmarks mean your marketing campaign efforts are maturing into sales. Bookmark visitors can come through the following types of bookmarks:
Most Web Analytics Systems try to load a remote visible or invisible image into your visitors’ computer through the browser. These remote visible or invisible images are customized image that work as your identity. Web Analytics Systems provide some sort of codes (usually as Java Scripts) that generate the command to load these images. It may not always be the case that the codes will come from webpages located your servers aka your website. The visitors can also come from other sources such as stored webpages of your site in their hard disks. Often if the Web Analytics code is in a blank page, it’ll still show the visitor. However, now most Web Analytics Systems show them as referred visitors by showing the exact location from the computer (e.g. C:\Documents%20and%20Settings\You\My%20Documents\My%20Site\index.htm). Often many computer blocks this reference system for external servers. It is then; the visitors are treated as direct visitors. In case, if the Web Analytics Systems can’t recognize or block the reference, the offline stored pages direct visitors can come through various ways, like:
Direct visitors also come from deliberate typing in the address bar of the Internet Browser. If they are doing that, then you have established your site as a brand in the mind of the visitors or your offline marketing campaign is a hit. A lot of people don’t come to Yahoo, Google or Bing through bookmarks or any reference. They really type the site name in the browser and press Enter or Ctrl+Enter. The search engine and referral traffic for these giant sites are rare. Every site actually strives to achieve this. Again, if your are running an offline marketing campaign, then the best way to go to your site after seeing an ad, is by typing the URL in the browser. There are thousands of reasons for this type of visitor typing URL in browser. However, here are some of them:
The possibilities of Direct Visitors are endless. But, Web Analytics tools provide you insight to only a number, not the overall insight on what actually happened. So, it is up to you to investigate what has happened. The abnormal increase in traffic may not always be good news. So, it is always wise to watch out.
Placing an advertisement on a billboard in a high traffic area will surely bring results. Measuring it however, can be a tough job. For each marketing campaign, measuring performance is crucial. Measuring the efficiency of a advertisement depends on 2 things:
For a billboard, Clickthrough Rate refers to the percentage of the desired action from impressions. Unless eye and camera tracking technology improves, it is not possible to monitor the clickthrough rate for a billboard.
However, monitoring the return on marketing investment or ROI from a billboard is very much possible - If you know your traffic sources. But, to ensure the tracking and measuring ROI of a billboard you have to turn it into an internet marketing campaign involving call to action using internet technology.
If you invest in Billboard Advertising, then you can take some initiatives to make your display more interactive while effectively measuring it’s ROI. viz.
A website on your billboard is good for marketing and branding but does not allow you to properly measure ROI from multiple campaigns that direct on your domain. The best way to measure ROI, is referring to an alternate URL, one that does not disturb your expected web traffic. For the URL, you can:
The URL visits can be easily tracked with Google Analytics or any other Web Analytics application. This gives the campaign transparency and allows for high ROI visibility. The URL you refer on the billboard should be easily readable. Long URLs won’t typically generate action. Often, most conversions happen after the fact, so it is wise to help the readers remember your URL.
QR Codes have been around for long time, but the use of these 2-dimensional codes for Interactive Marketing is a new trend. It helps you to download information or generate a specific action on your mobile phone using widely available bar-code scanners. For the iPhone (Semacode), Android Phones (QuickMark), Blackberry (ScanLife), Symbian Phones or Nokia (UpCode) are among several competing apps that can read QR Codes from any printed media or digital screen. QR Codes are now being used for Internet Marketing, Mobile Marketing, and even Word of Mouth Marketing. With QR Codes, any camera-enabled smartphone users can:
The interaction with QR Codes are increasing day by day and steadily becoming the bridge between the real and virtual worlds. Determine the type of interaction that will deliver the best visibility of your ROI. There are many sites that allows you to generate QR codes (e.g. Zxing Projects QR Generator). A major service currently in use is the Google Chart API. Here is an article on how you can generate QR Codes in bulk with Google Chart API.
Bluetooth Adverts are the newest trend in mobile marketing. If your billboard is in convenient location, then you can send more interactive information and coupons to your billboard Bluetooth users. You can easily transmit richer content to your viewers. Moreover you can also digitally track the Bluetooth downloads.
Email is one of the most convenient ways of communication, even on mobile devices. Make sure you have a different email address on the billboard than the one you use in other media campaigns. This will allow you to verify the emails you get on the allocated address are coming from billboard advert. If you incentivize people sending emails to that address e.g. with coupon, then you can also trigger the behavior of the billboard audience to send emails to the custom address rather than other addresses or web contact forms.
HostedNumbers.com, AdInsight.eu, and Mongoose Metrics have call tracking services that you can be monitored from Google Analytics. However, there are several other call tracking and analytics softwares that your can use. They generate a unique phone number (even toll-free) that you can use on the billboard. When someone calls, you can see how much traffic came from your billboard advertisement and then use Google Analyitcs to see how long they were on the call. Again, it is imperative that this phone number is not made available elsewhere. There will always be a risk that word of mouth marketing will ruin your direct analytics. This information being shared is beyond your control.
Coupons are one of the best ways to track where a customer has come from. You can mention an easily readable coupon code for all (e.g. gimme20%less) or generate a custom coupon code from any specific URL mentioned on the billboard. The URL can be a purchased domain, a landing page on your site, or a easily readable shortened link. This enables you to distinguish between regular web traffic and traffic from your billboard. Numerous softwares and online services will allow you to easily generate custom coupons through the URL. If you are sending the billboard reader to a URL with a custom coupon, it is recommended to have them visit a custom landing that is blocked from search engines. Once people use their coupons, you are able to retreive information on traffic sources using the database. It is imperative that you make sure that the coupon codes can be tracked. To get a true ROI on that particular segment of your campaign, ensure that it is not made available in other forms of media (e.g. search engine, word of mouth, etc).
SEO or Organic Search Marketing and PPC or Paid Search Marketing/Advertisement, both have same goal to get your site found through keyword search in varios search engines. So, is the goal so common that they should get married? Or should SEO and PPC date, or just stay single?
Let’s define marriage first:
Marriage is about mutual understanding and about the economy of utilizing the limited combined resources in an efficient way for better life, if not, better future.
Well, that’s not a perfect one, but in Economics, it should sound like that. If I translate that for corporate language than it would be this:
If SEO and PPC are operating differently, then they are learning in different ways. This can mean doing the same homework over and over again. Not doing the homework separately is very healthy for the economy. That’s why we see the giant companies acquiring (or marrying) the small companies. So that, the homework is not done again in the same economy. Even though, the giants have the setup to do it all over again. But, that’s bad for the industry. You are increasing the competition without adding any value to the economy.
So, whoever the husband between SEO or PPC is, both of their understanding can help each other greatly. PPC can use the learning from SEO and vice versa to reduce marketing cost and increase ROI. Isn’t that what the companies and advertisers are looking for? With mutual understanding, they can mutually reduce their homework and add value to the economy.
Before marriage, you probably have been using a small blender for milk shake that served your single user need. But, after marriage you can afford a better blender, which costs less than 2 blenders alone. i.e. you can also cut the capital investment and cost if you have SEO and PPC together. Moreover, they also can interchange their duties to perform other important tasks for the growth of your business.
You definitely have a budget for your marketing, from which you can’t go beyond. So, you should economize on getting more sales with less money. Since you are in fixed budget for SEO, you can cutout the variable budget for PPC, when you have competitive advantage in organic results for a specific keyword. So, for PPC you can only explore the markets, where you don’t have competitive advantage on. That’s should make the great use of your limited budget. So, managing these in separate units would mean extra cost for you, since there wouldn’t be any synchronization between these two units.
When you have total understanding of your Search Marketing, you can have the flexibility to implement your strategy and set the players in the field. Thereby, you can play a good and strategic game utilizing every resource efficiently. Moreover, you can also reduce waste or spillover, which is a major factor in reducing cost and maximizing profit.
Companies can gain greater ROI from the marriage and the management can also get all the information for their strategy from one source. So, that’ll make life easier and comfortable. It is obvious that combined SEO and PPC saves money for you. In return, you get greater ROI.
In harsh situations, when comfortable life can’t be ensured, marriages are made in the intention to have better future. Investments are also like marriages craving for better future. Getting the reward right away isn’t possible. Combined investment in SEO and PPC can mean quicker break even. Moreover, as resources are utilized efficiently, the chance of having better life is quicker than having them separated.
Now, if it happens that SEO and PPC can’t marry, then they can go out on dates from time to time to share things together. Even if they are separate, they should share each other’s learning from time to time by synchronizing each other and go toward a mutual understanding.
That way, some cost for advertising and marketing can be reduced by removing ad spending away from PPC, when SEO has organically reached its goal for a specific keyword. However, it can be more time consuming if you are to synchronize learning within these units.
If they don’t synchronize, then the best way to learn from each other is by staying in the same premises and experiencing social and corporate activities together. That also can expand their learning. This can also mean hiring same internet marketing agency with separate units running campaigns with separate PMs.
SEO and PPC in the isolated island may mean loss in terms of the many benefits I mentioned above. But, not always their marriage is necessary. Their marriage can encourage cost reduction. But sometimes for the sake of online branding and converting visitors into sales takes more than just strict control of organic search marketing and paid search advertisement.
In the sales funnel, from visitors to sales, the communication and information feeding should be made several times before the purchase. So, limiting your doorways for the visitors to your business can harm you, if you are planning to sale big.
In case of online sales funnel, remember that:
So, in all stages of the sales funnel, there should be multiple ways for the visitor to get information about your company or product. If you have done SEO and simultaneously running PPC for content network (AdWords for AdSense), the chances are, when the visitor is reading something related, s/he might come back to your site.
Otherwise, after going a long way, the visitor might buy from the last good outlet s/he could remember, even though you were in top of the search (SEO efficient) when s/he found you earlier.
This happens to us always, when we go to a special product mall. Everyone visits the front stalls, but you happen to buy from a stall inside the mall. There is almost no extra competitive advantage for being the front stall (SEO effecient), when you have product that visitors always move around to find a good bargain. Getting these temporarily lost customers back to your site for sale is called retargeting. So, for retargeting, you need to be more liberal on SEO and PPC.
Another fact is, the objectives of SEO and PPC is not same. Most of the time PPC concetrates on Conversion and SEO on Branding & Reputation Building. I said “most of the time”, not “always”. e.g. Most popular keywords may not convert well and will mean unnecessary PPC spending on visitors that are not in action mode to purchase. But, popular keywords are good for Branding and Branding is one of the major targets for SEO. This difference in objectives is a good reason to stay in separate units.
Well, if you have a product that visitors doesn’t care much about going for a good burgain (usually for cheaper products), having SEO and minor PPC dating is sufficient. If you are a small company, then having SEO and PPC get married would be a right choice. If you want to sell big, then SEO and PPC should stay single.
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