Life in the fast lane

Making sure you’ve got balanced and optimised traffic coming into your site isn’t just a case of upping conversions – you need a long-term road map to point the way

Life in the fast lane

With the wealth of analytics and metrics available, making the most of the traffic running through your site would now appear to be easier than it has ever been. Enterprises are in possession of more information than ever about users’ passage through their websites and the efficacy of their various marketing streams. But having more data at one’s disposal isn’t necessarily the only resource needed to effectively optimise multi-channel marketing.

Out of the gate it needs to be recognised that, despite what metrics might lead you to believe, healthy traffic isn’t purely about quantity. “I think the number one rule of analysing the performance of any website is to understand which traffic sources you’ve got and what the quality of those traffic sources are,” explains Chloë Thomas, marketing expert, founder of and author of eCommerce Marketing: How to Drive Traffic that Buys to your Website. “It’s really important to understand what traffic you need and therefore optimise your traffic sources.”

However, it is true that analytics should always be the first port of call to begin to understand the health of traffic flow to your site. Thomas feels Google Analytics is an excellent place to start the journey. “If you go to the ‘source medium report’ then you can see how traffic reacts when it gets to your website; you can see what’s driving the most traffic and what it’s doing.”

But even here, it’s important to know what to focus on. For example, low bounce rates are preferable but Thomas is keen to stress that’s not the metric to get hung up on. “In e-commerce, you want to be measuring it against the conversion rate and the value of those sales,” she comments. “If you’re having very high conversion rates but those people are only spending £5, that’s not as good as if your conversion rate is a bit lower and they’re spending £20.” Keeping a close eye on conversions and ascertaining which traffic sources are driving those conversions forms a vital launch point from which to start optimising your spend.

Of course, when trying to draw people to your business online, this is very much the name of the game. “Getting the traffic to the website is all about optimising,” Thomas says. Whether you’re trying to garner new traffic or ensure a healthy volume of previous buyers return to your site, increase your pay per click or boost the effectiveness of free channels, the essential focus should be to ensure you are maximising on your investment. “It’s about optimising your headline marketing mix.”

It is this blend of marketing methods that is so fundamental to a healthy range of traffic sources. In eCommerce Marketing, Thomas identifies nine fundamental marketing methods that companies will utilise to bring in balanced, multi-channel traffic: search marketing, pay per click, email marketing, offline marketing, partnerships, social media, brand awareness, remarketing and content marketing. “With any of the marketing methods, the worst thing you can do is to turn on the tap and then ignore it, because that will cost you money that you don’t need to be spending,” she says. “You’ve got to be optimising all the time.”

For a majority of online businesses and e-commerce sites, there are almost certainly some marketing strategies that they feel more comfortable optimising. These tend to be shorter term methods, on which an entrepreneur can quickly tell if they are getting a reasonable return on investment (ROI). “For most businesses, that short term method is going to be good old Google Adwords, which is pay per click,” comments Thomas. “Thankfully, that now has lots of new methods which enable it to have a better ROI than it did six months ago.”

But just because you can quickly monitor its success, that doesn’t mean focusing solely on pay per click will actually give you the best bang for your buck. “Short term methods tend to be very expensive, compared to the long-term options which will build your business’s growth and stability,” explains Thomas. Methods like content marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO) and social media can actually have a more significant effect on the momentum of your business than pay per click – it’s just not something that will give you nice investor-friendly figures overnight.

“Not all marketing should be about getting the immediate sale,” comments Thomas. “There needs to be a balance between the amount that’s helping build awareness of your business as well as the amount that’s helping bringing the sales directly in. You need to have a mix, otherwise you are not going to have the margins you should at the top level of the business.”

Given the fact we are talking about tracking and optimising your marketing, however, how easy is it to monitor the returns that this longer term marketing is providing? “It’s infinitely complicated,” Thomas laughs. The world of real time tracking has left us with rather skewed expectations of our marketing spends, in which if we can’t see an immediate payoff we incorrectly assume that a method isn’t offering a valuable return. “You’ve got to look at the trends on a quarterly or six-monthly basis, looking at traffic increase, Twitter increase, engagement with the brand and the sorts of reviews you’re getting back into the site.”

Ultimately, the worst thing an enterprise can do is invest time and spend in an area but abandon it because they don’t see an immediate payoff. “You have to take a bit of a longer term view than ‘this month Twitter bought us no sales, Pinterest bought us three and email 100; we’ll spend all our time on our email’,” Thomas explains. The key to any traffic-boosting strategy is having a rounded, multi-channel goal and standing by it for a fixed term. She concludes: “Sticking to your guns and having a plan is probably the most critical part of it, making sure you’re going to give what you’re testing enough time to prove itself.” 

Josh Russell
Josh Russell

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