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4 Steps to Measure Social Media ROI with Google Analytics

, June 16, 2011

Social media ROI has remained elusive for numerous marketers despite their best efforts to develop a calculation that will prove the business value of the allotted social media resources.

Through a new feature in Google Analytics, some customization to your Google Analytics tracking, and diligent work on the part of your social media team, the ROI of your social media efforts can be discovered using Google Analytics. To get to the point where you can calculate social media ROI, there are four steps that need to be taken.

Step 1: Implement Proper Social Media Tracking

Ensure that you’ll have the ability to segment revenue that’s generated through social sources by your internal direct efforts and revenue that resulted through external social means. In other words, revenue that’s generated as a result of links your team placed on social sites and revenue generated through links placed by people outside your company.

In order to measure your direct impact, you need to ensure you’re always using campaign tracking on any links you put out on social media sites that point back to one of your sites. It’s a fairly easy process, but one that can be a bit tedious to manage at the outset. Once you’re in the habit of always adding campaign tracking, it will become second nature and the results will be well worth the effort.

Google offers a simple URL builder tool to help create campaign tracking strings, but you should either build your own tool or creating one in Excel that allows you to manage the names that are used for each parameter. This is very important because you don’t want to cause yourself reporting headaches by using different names for parameters that should be the same.

The last piece is creating an Advanced Segment that allows you to get a breakdown of the last-click transactions that occurred as a result of your direct social media efforts. This would be accomplished by combining parameters that were used in the campaign tracking. For example, if all the links you place have “social media” as part of the medium, then you’d use Medium as the dimension and containing “social media.”

direct-social-media-efforts

You’ll now be able to segment out the visitors who got to your site as a result of your direct efforts, but you’re still missing the segment that came to the site through a non-campaign tracked social source. To key in on this segment, you’ll need to create another Advanced Segment.

The second Advanced Segment should use Source as a dimension and should contain a regular expression that matches all social sites that are relevant to your company. You’ll then want to include an “and” statement that excludes the segment that was included in the first Advanced Segment. For example, if you used “social media” as the Medium in the first Advanced Segment, you’d now exclude it here.

external-social-media

You’ll now have the ability to segment revenue generated through your own internal direct social media efforts and revenue generated through external means.

Step 2: Track Social Media Last Click Transactions

Last-click transactions are typically how all transactional data is reported in web analytics tools. Through this method, each transaction is generally attributed to the source that drove the visitor to the site when the transaction occurred.

When looking at just social media referred visitors, you’ll want to apply the Advanced Segments that was created in the first step to the ecommerce reporting in Google Analytics. By applying each of the Advanced Segments, you’ll be able to see the revenue that’s generated by your direct social media efforts and the social media revenue generated by other external means.

This will get you part of the way to calculating social media ROI, but much of the value from social media likely doesn’t come from last-click transactions. That’s why the next two steps are critical to gaining an understanding of the overall ROI of social media

Step 3: Track Social Media Assisted Transactions

This step is not yet available for the vast majority of Google Analytics users as it involves multi-channel funnels, which are still in limited beta. Once it’s released to the masses, however, it will provide incredibly valuable data on transactions that were assisted by social media sources. An assist means that the referring source wasn’t the last click, but the source did refer the visitor to the site in the 30 days prior to the transaction.

When measuring assists, you’d again make use of the Advanced Segments that you created in step one to breakout your social media efforts from what was referred by means external to your company. Instead of looking at last-click revenue that was generated by each segment, you’d instead be looking at the revenue that each segment assisted in generating.

Once this data is compiled, you’ll now have last-click revenue generated through social media and assisted revenue generated through social media.

So what about transactions that occurred where a social media source wasn’t involved in an assist or the last-click but did influence the buying decision? This is where it gets tricky, but it’s possible to capture that data in Google Analytics as well.

Step 4: Track Off Site Social Media Influence on Transactions

In many cases, social media will lead to transactions without ever referring the visitor to your site. A new customer may become aware of your brand and make their purchase decision through social media, but come through search or another source to make the purchase. When this occurs, there’s no record in Google Analytics of social media having any impact on the transaction.

To begin gaining insights into the influence of off site social media behavior, it’s important to include a couple quick questions in the checkout process that will allow you to find out what factors played into their purchase decision. Simple questions like the following examples where the user selects from a drop down list of possible answers can provide the information you need.

  • How did you hear about us?
  • What had the greatest influence on your purchase decision?

Just having customers fill out these types of questions during the checkout process isn’t enough. In order to provide value in a social media ROI calculation, you need to capture the answers in Google Analytics as part of the transaction information.

Use the Affiliation attribute in the e-commerce tracking to capture the answers instead of using it for its typical purpose. By doing so, you can see the answers that were chosen for each transaction that’s recorded in Google Analytics.

The end result is that for every transaction that occurs you can see if social media was responsible for the last click, assisted in the transaction by driving a previous visit, influenced the purchase decision off site, or a combination of the three.

The last piece is to determine an appropriate attribution model for your business. Once that’s been determined, you’ll know the amount of revenue generated from social media and can determine the ROI based on the cost of your social media efforts.

These same steps can also be applied to goal values in Google Analytics, where actual revenue isn’t produced, but value is generated by accomplishing a non-transactional goal. To make this work, you need to ensure that each goal in Google Analytics has a value that’s been established and is defined as part of the goal setup.

Lastly, don’t forget about the value of social media beyond ROI. You may not be measuring it as part of your ROI calculation, but you shouldn’t ignore it, as it likely will have an impact on the long-term health of your brand.

Infographic: The Science of Social Timing | Digital Buzz Blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most Important SocNet? 60% Say LinkedIn – Website Magazine – Website Magazine.

Web users communicate in a variety of ways (email, IM, forums and social networks) but the bulk of activity occurs on a few platforms. So which is the most important for you as a Web professional to participate within?

Performance marketing agency Performics released results from “S-Net (The Impact of Social Media),”and the report provides one possible answer. According to the survey of 2,997 active social networkers, 59 percent of respondents said it is important to have a LinkedIn account – more than any other social network.

“We may not necessarily be in a double-dip recession but, individuals have embraced social networking as a means to actively manage their personal visibility in the global economy.” said Daina Middleton, CEO of Performics. “Factors including LinkedIn’s recent IPO announcement, the May uptick in national unemployment and signs of a slowed market certainly contribute to LinkedIn’s attractiveness among social networkers.”

As Middleton points out, there are obviously quite a few factors as to why LinkedIn may be top of mind, but what a professional network like LinkedIn provides is visibility and it is successfully living up to the expectation.

Of the study respondents with an active LinkedIn account, 50 percent visit the site at least weekly and 20 percent visit the site at least daily. While visits to LinkedIn decreased since the height of the recession in 2010 (67 percent weekly and 22 percent daily visits), the percentage of people who deem LinkedIn the most important social networking site jumped dramatically from 41 percent last year to 59 percent this year.

According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, Twitter usage has climbed to 13 percent of U.S. adults online – up from 8 percent in November. Usage among people ages 25 to 34 and 55 to 64 has more than doubled since late 2010.

These statistics are impressive but they don’t tell the whole story about recent developments with Twitter and the fact that it is on its way to becoming the Web’s next great search engine. For that, you need to optimize. But first, let’s look at how Twitter is getting closer to its goal of becoming a legitimate powerhouse.

Earlier this year, Twitter acquired TweetDeck, the service that helps users organize information on Twitter and eases the burden of constantly streaming updates. They also recently acquired AdGrok, an advertising platform intended to help Twitter monetize the site. Other recent developments include an embeddable button that allows users to more easily follow their favorite accounts on Twitter, and the ability to share photos on Twitter directly (expect video to follow).

One can argue all day that Twitter is used by a small percent of the population and that the number of accounts is inflated, due to users having several accounts at one time. But what cannot be argued is that the amount of information that flows through Twitter is enough to challenge any other source on the Web. Although it might not be a core of Twitter’s current usage, the new acquisitions point to a new phase in the service’s development – a budding real-time, social search engine. It should now be treated as such. Below, are 10 tips for Twitter optimization to make sure that your business is at the forefront of the Web’s next search boom.

Use TweetDeck. Twitter acquired the TweetDeck so that they could centralize Twitter functionality and keep a tight grip on the information flowing through the site. You can be sure that those who use TweetDeck will have an inherent leg-up on the competition.

Use Hashtags. As it stands, hashtags (#web or #sports, for example) are a good way to get your tweets indexed, searchable and noticed by other users. Don’t be afraid to get creative with hasthags, either. Sometimes they can create new streams of content or simply catch the attention of other users who will retweet your message.

Use Keywords. Think like a SEO professional. Research keywords and use them in your updates.

Be Witty. Keywords are necessary. But you must also entertain, from time to time. Clever tweets have a way of being re-tweeted. Also, consider using teasers to encourage clicks on links.

Use Descriptive Short URLs. When possible, edit short URLs to include content keywords. Not only will they stand out from the rest, but users will be inclined to use that URL rather than re-shrinking it on their own – resulting in better, more accurate click and share data.

Vary Content Types and Providers. If users wanted to only read about your company, all the time, they would subscribe to your RSS feed or bookmark your blog. Mix it up with content from other sources and by type (video, audio, photos). Remember that we are focused on search, and multimedia is increasingly important for search engines and users.

Tweet Regularly and Promptly. You don’t want to be a nuisance but be sure to post quality updates on a regular basis. It ensures you stay top-of-mind with consumers and provides more content available to index and search. Tweet every piece of content you produce. Twitter is used by many to find breaking news. Provide it.

Post Contests, Giveaways and Promotions. People love a good deal and Twitter users are no exception. Running promotions will attract followers. And the number of followers is undoubtedly part of the search formula at Twitter and on standard search engines, where tweets are increasingly displayed.

Re-tweet and Follow. By re-tweeting others and following other accounts, you will earn more followers and encourage interaction – another factor that Twitter will take into account when assigning “status” to information providers.

Listen. Many people use Twitter to contact businesses, air grievances and seek support. Listen up, and reply promptly and fairly. It shows that you respect your followers, can foster any number of opportunities for cross-promotion and branding, and can prevent a bad experience from “going viral.” Solicit feedback, too. People like to feel that they are making a difference.

SEO Strategy – Keyword Density Revisited – Website Magazine – Website Magazine.

There has always been something intriguing about the concept of keyword density. Many years ago, search engine optimization professionals relied on keyword and phrase density (also called keyword prominence) as one of the core strategies behind top rankings. What made keyword density so appealing is that it was straightforward and simple. The downside is that it was misused if not outright abused. While keyword density remains a bit dated as an SEO tactic in general, there is still plenty of value in revisiting the practice as a means to improve rankings — if you know how to use it. 

There are far more accurate (better) ways for search engines to determine true relevance than keyword density, and each search engine has its own means and methods to rank sites for a particular keyword or phrase. Search engines consider usage data, anchor text of inbound links, site/domain age, and general authority (all of which have been discussed here at WM), but each one of these criteria also has its own way of relating/associating keywords and key phrases. This is called natural language processing and is something you, as someone responsible for high site rankings, have an immense amount of control over and should spend time on improving. 

The issue is not that keyword density is a bad means to determine relevance; it’s just that search engine algorithms have evolved while many SEOs and the search engine optimization software tools they use, have not. Where keyword density tools fall short is their ability to provide meaningful assessment and objective insights into ranking improvements. But keyword density tools are meaningful when used in conjunction with the right tactic. The “right” tactic in this case is to reduce on-page irrelevance and to boost relevance. 

The semantic algorithms of popular search engines typically look at supporting vocabulary when determining the relevancy of a page. The question to ask yourself is simple: If you removed the keyword phrase being targeted from your page, would it be very easy to rank for that term? If search engines can still determine what your page is about with the remaining/supporting text, then the answer is a definitive Yes. Let’s look at a few popular keyword density analyzer tools to see this in action. 

Dave Naylor’s Keyword Density Tool provides metrics about the content and even some technical information about a website. The tool provides several data points which are useful when trying to get a big-picture view of why competitors are outranking your site. For example, you might notice that a website with which you are competing has a higher keyword density in its title or page headings than you do. Naylor’s tool provides a quick overview of this very important information. 

Should you want to dig deeper into the relevancy of keywords and pages on your own site (or that of your competitors), then check out Ranks.nl’s Keyword Density and Prominence Analyzer. The tool provides a “Ranks Wizard” metric that is helpful in identifying the non-primary keywords on a page to support the search engines in their quest to relate/associate keywords and phrases and as you optimize for the long tail. 

These tools and many others are useful in determining how relevant a page is to a specific keyword and in gaining the perspective of a search engine crawler, but they are also useful in finding and minimizing irrelevance. As search engines continue to evolve their algorithms, rest assured that keyword density remains a good initial measure of future performance (but only if you know how to use it). Does keyword density carry as much “weight” as it did before? Not by a long shot, but when you know how to use it correctly and to your advantage, your site’s ranking will be that much better. Instead of chasing some specific keyword density percentage, use density as a measuring stick to reassuring yourself that you are doing all you can to convey to search engines that the page you are optimizing is indeed relevant.

Online Ad Revenues Jump 23 Percent – Website Magazine – Website Magazine.

Online advertising revenues in the U.S. hit $7.3 billion for the first quarter of 2011, representing a 23-percent increase over the same period in 2010, according to figures released by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

This marks the highest first-quarter revenue level ever for the industry and a significant increase over last year’s first-quarter revenue level, which had been the highest on record to date.

“The consistent and considerable year-over-year growth we’re seeing demonstrates that digital media is an increasingly popular destination for ad dollars, and for good reason,” said Randall Rothenberg, President and CEO of the IAB. “As Americans spend more time online for information and entertainment purposes, digital advertising and marketing has emerged as one of the most effective tools businesses have to attract and retain customers.”

Search made up for 46 percent of the ad revenues, followed by display advertising with 24 percent. Sponshorships (3 percent of the share) have grown 88 percent since 2009, and classifieds (10 percent) are up 15 percent.