Accountability Method Of Boosting Online ROI

    April 12, 2004

The reality of online marketing is getting harsher every day. Ad prices are up, conversion is down. Visitors don’t buy. Pay per click bids are insane but only the top ten advertisers in each category care. The rest get barely any traffic at all.

It is time to go back to the business basics. You need to focus on accountability and improving the return on your marketing investment (ROI). What’s needed is a system to help you spend less money on traffic and consistently convert more clicks into sales. Enter the ESA/T marketing system.

ESA/T, which stands for Enhance, Select, Analyze, and Test, has been used with great success for several years by a select group of online marketers.

The four-step ESA/T cycle works like this:

1. Enhance the visitor’s experience of your web site. This will ensure the traffic being driven to the site can be converted into sales and actions.

2. Select traffic sources and marketing strategies wisely.

3. Analyze your website statistics and ROI tracking data using metrics appropriate for your business.

4. Test and tweak to improve performance. Using your metrics, find what isn’t working and fix it.

These four steps can be repeated over and over in a dialectic spiral towards optimum marketing performance.

Step 1. Enhance

Before spending another dime on driving traffic to your website, you need to make sure that your visitors will land in the environment that is professional, relaxing and does not make them think twice about doing business with you.

Good website usability is a process, not a state. Never stop improving yours. If you can’t afford an industrial strength usability makeover, use baby steps. Asking your grandmother to buy something on your website and watching her do it is an excellent budget alternative. You just need to put your mind to it.

The Neilson Norman Group studied the effects of usability on e-commerce conversions. They found that web sites that went from paying no attention to usability issues to making significant usability improvements doubled their sales or more.

Step 2. Select

The next step in ESA/T cycle is “S” – Select your advertising sources.

Let’s look at the possible marketing and advertising strategies. These may include: Pay Per Click (PPC), pay per action, paid search inclusion, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), link exchanges, email newsletter ads, sponsorships, article writing, press releases, affiliate programs, forum postings, and offline promotions.

Your goal is to develop the marketing mix that’s just right for you. The blend that brings you the right amount of sales for the right price.

Be creative and methodical. Try an advanced search on Google to find the sites linking to your competitors. This will seed your list of possible places to advertise.

Next, develop a list of your company’s internal resources – advertising budget, human resources, and time. Based on that, create a plan for working with the traffic sources from your list.

Step 3. Analyze

The next phase of the ESA/T cycle, Analyze, is about tracking and analyzing the visitor activity that’s relevant to your bottom line.

There are plenty of metrics to choose from. Be sure to avoid the “information glut” and use only the metrics that will help you improve your website usability and traffic quality. Some of such metrics may include: The number of orders placed, average dollar value per order, average revenue earned per visitor, number of registrations, number of specific page views like product detail pages, time elapsed between first visit and first order, visitors’ paths through the site, and so on.

Cumulative statistics for all visitors on your site are extremely important, but in order to be truly of value, stats should be tallied for individual traffic sources so you can compare and contrast their performance.

Step 4. Test

Remember the last time you wanted to buy something online and gave up? Remember the reason why? It was likely because the checkout process was confusing, didn’t answer your questions, or just took too long.

If that website’s marketing manager used ESA/T, especially Test, you likely would have completed your purchase and would be enjoying it today. Instead, that business not only lost a sale, but likely lost you as a customer forever.

Plot a bar chart showing the number of unique visitors and page reloads at each step of your checkout process. Suppose you observe a sharp drop in the number of visitors who moved from the second to third step of the checkout. At the same time, you note a high number of page reloads at the second step. This information could mean, among other things, that there is a consistent problem with the form validation algorithm — the system keeps on throwing visitors back to the previous step in the process.

The testing and tweaking you wind up doing to improve your site, your marketing campaigns, and ultimately your ROI, will be just as individual as your business and the metrics you choose to apply to it.

Even though we presented the four stages of ESA/T in sequence, you should return often to recheck and tweak any areas that need it. Your e-business will continue to evolve so constant monitoring of its vital signs is imperative.

As you can see, improving your ROI isn’t rocket science. It’s a simple matter of understanding these four steps and applying them to your daily marketing efforts. Those already using this system are reaping the rewards.

At Clicklab we provide subscriptions-based ROI tracking service for web
marketers. We can start tracking ROI for all of your advertising campaigns
immediately, and within a matter of weeks, show you the campaigns that are
working and those that are a waste of money and time.