Search & Measure, San Marco village 24/3/2006 (I. End User perspective)

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For the second year in a row, Christian and Karine held the Search & Measure Congress, this time at the San Marco village, between Antwerp and Brussels. The location was unusual in a positive and quite kitschy way (the ceiling was painted with the sky and clouds) but adapted to the needs of the Congress as such and as usual, the logistics ran like clockwork.

The Search & Measure Congress addresses both novices as more experienced users about search engines and web analytics, on the Belgian market. Well actually, there were some Dutch there as well, as I saw a couple of my native countries' license plates when I parked my little WA.be Smart.
For novice users, the objective was to create awareness and opportunities of these SEO/SEM & WA techniques and experienced users were supposed to learn more about extra opportunities and market trends.

I've been digesting my Friday experience over this week-end and decided to separate my comments by addressing different issues.
I thought I'd start off with the question that arised while doing plantations on the terrace this afternoon. I planted basilicum and radishes by the way as I know René loves radishes and Spring has finally set in Brussels.

So, first question was: if I was to work for a company that needed to choose a WA product, would this day have helped me choose the right product?
Also note that while I was talking to Karine about life as a female entrepreneur – thanks for being a soul mate😉 – someone dropped the question for the debate to come, at the end of the Congress.

I don't remember the exact question but it was somewhere in the lines of "how can I make sure that I choose the right WA product?". So, the question stuck with me during my plantations.
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer and of course it is of the type, it depends.

In pure ROI terms, your choice will be influenced by the budget you'll allocate to the software acquisition (including installation, set-up and ideally business requirements identification and reporting adaptations) but also the human resources available for this project within your company during the course of this project and also in the long run.
Note that both issues are related to management support, on different possible levels: you might start off with a small budget just to show quick-wins and build up from there.
That's on the cost side.
The benefits side, will be dependant upon your online business model and I'm afraid to say the vision and creativity of your management. Bottom line comes inevitably down to how much money or wealth/utility you could create thanks to your WA acquisition (and might I say dedication).

So, what do you need? to start with, the opportunity to identify the benefits. That'll be your starting point to get management involved and some kind of a budget allocated.

If you've got nothing running yet, get a simple but effective tool that accurately counts unique visitors such as Google Analytics. The important thing is to get an accurate view of eyeballs who are seeing your online communication so that you can link to other medias through the use of simple comparative metrics such as cost per contact for example.
If you start discussing about visits, page views or unique visitors, management or your colleagues won't understand what you are actually talking about or won't want to admit it, which is potentially worse.

Once you've a got an accurate view of unique visitors or eyeballs, imagine who these people are what they are supposed to do on your website. I'm basing this on the hypothesis that we are talking about a pubic site but the basic logic can be used for any application creating log files of any kind.
Anyhow, most of my clients talk to me about branding, which is about eyeballs but as Conrad Benett, from WebTrends mentioned during his Friday presentation, we rarely see websites who do not have conversion events. So, you'll have to dig further, trying to answer the following questions

  1. who are these people? (ok, they are technically machine connections but let's not be to puritan here);
  2. why are these people coming to your website? what do they expect from the website?
  3. what do I expect them to do and do they effectively do that?

That's were the notion of scenarios come in, where you imagine how the different targets coming on your website would actually surf and you confront this with the metrics. By the way, don't get discouraged when you'll find out that 99% of your visitors actually do not pass your homepage…

In the same line of thought, you imagine what conversion would be for you: subscribing to a Newsletter, clicking on a set of pages, requesting a quote, filling in a form, using your search and clicking on the results, etc.

Putting these 2 lines of thought together will allow you to start defining KPIs or at least conversion rates. I often suggest to my clients to add even fictive values to these events in order to start building their case.

So that's the starting point in order to determine what kind of money we'd be talking about if WA would be set-up correctly. You add to this a pinch of visitor acquisition (that you'll do only once you're satisfied with your internal conversion rates by the way, not before) and you should end up with an idea about how much you are willing to spend, the first time around.

Then, it's a matter of talking to the vendors. I know, they are a pain. To be quite frank, each of them will assure you that everything is possible. There are, I think today 2 issues that you'll have to be totally sure about:

  1. accurately measuring unique visitors, ideally through 1st party cookies (which already illuminates one Dutch vendor, sorry but I'm still not convinced) and not 3rd party;
  2. the support of the vendor: someone who'll sit down with you, during meetings or for lunch to discuss issues and next steps, on a regular basis and who'll work his but off to give you the reporting you need, accepting the technical challenges or bringing alternative solutions to your reporting needs.

It's funny to see the evolution on the Belgian market and also how Eric Peterson's predictions of 2006 were actually right on the spot. Yes, cookies and 1st party ones are indeed an issue: you need to correctly count your visitors or else, your entire online business model falls apart!

There is also clearly a difference between the technological challenges that lie ahead for vendors such as WebTrends, Omniture, WebSideStory and SAS in order to insure future needs of their respective markets and the needs of the customers, today on the Belgian and Dutch market.
The products are a lot more powerful than is actually needed (or should I say wanted?) today.

I was bewildered when I heard that one company that had already invested quite some money in WA on a European level actually allocated only 30% of 1 resource to the subject. If we took different departments together, it would mount up to let's say maximum 1 total resource. I estimate their current needs at 3 by the way, full-time.

But yes, another issue is the current lack of qualified resources available on the market: WA freaks is a small tribe.
The important thing is to talk to the right person and to know a bit more about the subject before being flabbergasted by some vendor that sings a very sweet tune but will not assure long time success.

Tune up your ears potential customers or be prepared for great disillusionment if you do not do your homework properly.
But I'm not sure that attending the Congress did allow you to explore all that. In terms of WA, it already gave you a glimpse of current vendors on the Belgian market. Note that they were not all there and that some of them are not really present on the Belgian market, unless my information is outdated.
Don't hesitate to contact me so that I can rectify the posted information if needed.

I'll end with a thank you to the guy in the white T-shirt with the WA logo, Siegert, the Distrilogie guys, the WebTrends team and the CMS-Channel perfect match.
And let us, let them know what you thought of it so that next year, the Congress will even be better, for everyone.


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