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Web Quality Workout Plan

Posted on 4.30.2013

It’s "swimsuit season," a phrase that sends tremors down most people’s spines, because we didn’t use the winter to train like we should have, we didn’t set or follow a plan, weren’t as fully dedicated as we could have been and failed to optimize our time, tools and other available resources to become leaner, faster and better versions of ourselves. We didn’t meet our quality goals and will pay for it with lower engagement (e.g. compliments on the beach).

The same could be said for our digital efforts, but instead of seasonal reminders, there are daily — and even realtime (wsm.co/realtimega13) — cues of how we are meeting (or not meeting) objectives when it comes to streamlining business operations and developing a quality customer experience.

Of course, we’d all like to be the Abby Wambach, Ryan Lochte and Usain Bolts of the world. They’re record-setting Olympic champions who are known for their unparalleled dedication and pure athletic ability. But digitally, there’s a different group that online enterprises should aspire to be — the top digital destinations on the Web, recognized in Website Magazine’s Web 100 Guide for their commitment to and deployment of the Digital Trinity, which is the current guiding principle of what it takes to succeed on the ’Net, the criteria for Web 100 and the groundwork for the Web 100 Quality Workout Plan, so let’s first see how enterprises can measure their deployment of this theory.

Step on the Scale

In order to measure success, it’s imperative to first define what success means, as it relates to a specific business, and measure any deviation from that definition. To do this, Web workers should “weigh” (analyze) their departments, companies and employees by how well they ultimately perform on initiatives in acquisition and retention, optimization and analysis, and infrastructure and reliability (a.k.a. the Digital Trinity).

What internal and external controls are being used right now to measure these elements of ‘Net success?

Since acquisition and retention is our digital lifeblood, as it relates directly to the quality of the audience (users, customers, readers, clients, etc.) acquired and the support subsequently provided, measure those efforts first.

An enterprise should be committed to and critiqued on how it obtains high-quality leads, as defined by volume and those who have genuine interest in one’s products or services. Quality leads help companies maximize their marketing return on investment (ROI), but enterprises also need to have tracking mechanisms in place to determine what “quality” means. For example, if a company is using a mobile app to acquire users, it can use a service like Flurry Analytics to measure the quality of acquired users based on how they engage (swipes, clicks, etc.) with an app, their demographics and whether they eventually spend money. This helps companies address acquisition channels (or strategies or campaigns) that are or are not working and use their marketing dollars more effectively in the future.


REAL-TIME ANALYTICS: Don’t be slowed down, check out these six top analytics platforms



Enterprises can also measure how well their optimization efforts are working to improve the quality of the user experience and business operations through myriad data points, including how relevant its digital properties and campaigns are to a user/customer/ visitor. For example, when Group C received email Campaign A, did the message opens and click throughs increase or decrease? What happens when Group C is further segmented by, say, demographics? This is just one broad case of how analysis and optimization can lead an enterprise to higher-quality interactions, more of which will be discussed in greater detail later. 

Also on the quality agenda is how companies invest in the final element of the Digital Trinity: infrastructure and reliability. For those experiencing lackluster performance, there are plenty of quality assurances given later in this article, which are affordable (and in some cases, free).

The reason why we measure the Digital Trinity as a singular unit, is because all the elements work together to move our enterprises toward the elusive goal of ’Net success. And what fuels these efforts, initially, is acquisition and retention.

Quality Digital Diet

When it comes to fueling our bodies, we should seek the best, highest quality whole foods. Any variance from their natural form can remove nutrition and even add harmful substances, which is similar to how unqualified prospects /leads can pollute our sales pipelines.

As profit-driven enterprises, we need to fill conversion funnels with the most qualified leads available. As discussed earlier, these are the individuals who have taken actions to indicate their genuine interest in a specific offer. The best leads provide a higher lifetime value, because they are engaged from the get-go and through some motivation (known or unknown) have a stake in a brand. These are the only leads the Web 100 Workout Plan is designed to attain (acquire) and retain (nurture and manage), because they are the only ones who will help a company reach its long-term goals. With that in mind, let’s explore the many ways to ensure lead quality and maximize our acquisition efforts.

Qualifying Leads

A popular and practically free approach is simply to ask a user if they are qualified by asking questions that demand specific answers. It’s one of the ways Website Magazine ensures that it obtains the most qualified Web professionals as readers. For example, WM’s subscription form asks if the requesting individual has a website and in what way they are responsible for it. It wouldn’t make sense for anyone not directly involved in their company’s Web (designer, marketer, etc.) to read these pages, not even our editors’ mothers.

Qualifying users through a series of informative questions can be applied to nearly any business type, from information publishers to service providers. Let’s take an email signup as our example. Companies can obtain highly relevant contacts (e.g. those with a high chance of converting) by requesting information such as job title and professional responsibility, company vertical (industry), business size and anything marketers can eventually use to deliver relevant, meaningful material/content in the form of email messages to customers. When marketers have access to this information, it is far easier to improve the quality of the users’ brand experience and improve the company’s chances of obtaining lifelong brand advocates, those who willingly take out their credit cards or promote a business for no other reason than that they appreciate the quality of the product/ service and the experience it provides them.

This is just one of the many email marketing tactics companies have used over the years to build their prospect and user lists. Another is co-registration or "co-reg." For the unfamiliar, this list-building strategy works when a consumer fills out a form for one purpose (e.g. signing up for an email newsletter on vegan recipes) and has their information shared (most often sold or rented) with other brands he or she is interested in (e.g. companies that provide natural foods).

However, there is a seedier side of co-reg that can wreak havoc on quality initiatives and that’s the use of pre-checked boxes. This tactic lowers the quality of the experience for the user as they are basically being led unknowingly to sign up for something they may or may not want. The result is a lowquality lead for the receiving enterprise, because the person has not expressed genuine interest in a brand, making them very unlikely to convert and forcing the company to waste time and money marketing to irrelevant leads.

Publishers Clearing House (PCH) was one of the many companies who swore off the co-registration marketing tactic, because they found there was too much risk involved to their overall email marketing efforts. Recently, however, eWayDirect re-opened this acquisition channel for them. Its Certain- Source product is different, says eWay Direct, because it offers a triple- qualification process to identify top prospects, confirm purchase intent and steer companies clear of non-performing dead ends that could damage their online reputation.

“The ability to proceed with co-reg in a very controlled manner, where we can monitor quality and quantity was appealing,” said PCH Assistant Vice President, Digital Operations and Compliance, Sal Tripi. “The ability to monitor and act in real-time at the sub-source level was something that I was not able to do internally.”

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Quality Workout Gear: Automation Software
Sometimes a business’s efforts need to be supplemented with outside sources. Business automation software can help an enterprise complete a number of processes that improve quality in regard to acquisition and retention. iDatix Corporation found one of those to be Marketo. “Marketo tracks and scores all visitor activity,” said Samantha McCollough, marketing manager at iDatix. “When a visitor fills out a form, we are able to easily identify the referring lead source and view a detailed history of the visitor's activity on the website. This is crucial to properly measuring our most valuable lead sources and helping sales prioritize the ‘hottest’ leads.”

Check out Website Magazine’s 5 Marketing Solutions to Remember.


 

Click-Fraud Monitoring

Just like PCH, enterprises rely on outside sources to monitor a variety of internal efforts, including watching for the legitimacy of its pay-per-click results.

PPC has long been a favorite of many companies with budgets big and small, because it is effective, allows for the targeting of many different keywords, is quickly interchangeable, has built-in tracking mechanisms and companies only pay when people click on their ads and visit their websites. There is a glaring problem that pollutes ad spend though and that’s fraud, which is where click-fraud monitoring solutions come in. But how prevalent is the issue?

Well, if a company advertising on the first-tier search engines (Google/Yahoo/Microsoft) pays $0.50-$0.99 per click and spends $500 on pay-per-click advertising across all search engines per month, it could be losing $74 a month to click fraud, according to AdWatcher’s click-fraud calculator. Nearly 15 percent of a company’s PPC budget is a substantial amount of money to throw away.

Luckily, solutions like AdWatcher have fought against this issue for years, with a relatively high degree of success. Mobile click fraud, however, has seen a noticeable increase in the last few years with a recent Trademob study finding that 40 percent of the 10 million mobile ad clicks they monitored across 10 mobile networks were accidental or outright fraudulent. Using a click-fraud solution can identify wasted ad dollars, which means companies can put that money elsewhere, such as in improving customer support initiatives (a.k.a. retention) through elements like gamification, virtual phone offerings or live chat.

Customer Support

Investment in customer retention is crucial. In a world of instant gratification, consumers expect their customer service interactions to be equally as fast. UserVoice has found one hour to be the optimal time frame to respond to a customer service ticket. There are several ways to speed up customer support without sacrificing quality. One popular method is adding gamification elements. When Eloqua used Bunchball’s game mechanics to create a more engaged social community, the marketing application saw a 55 percent increase in customer engagement, and support agents reduced field calls by 40 percent, which is a significant ROI. In retention efforts, Eloqua sees gamification as a key contributor to increasing subscription renewals.

Another way to improve the quality of customer support is through additional support channels. LivePerson’s 2013 study of the online customer experience tells us, unsurprisingly, 83 percent of shoppers admit they need some form of support during their online journey, and telephone communication is still the favorite.

Services like MightyCall's ClickConnect, a virtual phone offering that is embedded into a website as a widget or application, bridge the gap between online shoppers and customer support. The solution essentially offers a direct communication channel that puts users in contact with a business representative instantly, with a click of a button.

“In our experience, companies using click-to-call on their e-commerce websites have experienced upward of a 20 percent increase in conversion rates while companies who implement click-to-call for instant support have seen dramatic increases in customer satisfaction and net promoter score ratings,” said MightyCall CEO Bryan Goode.


Live Chat in Focus: Live chat is a proven, personal way to earn shoppers' trust, loyalty and improve the quality of a buying experience. Check out Website Magazine’s article, 5 ‘Net Tactics to Master Live Chat.



Live chat is also a viable offering and connects customers with support if they cannot or don’t want to use the telephone, because of language barriers, they are at work or simply don’t want to use the phone. One company that saw success with live chat is Absolute Automation, which uses Provide Support to make it easier for consumers to connect directly with its sales staff. 

“The live chat feature has been a direct instigator of many of our online sales,” said Absolute Automation’s Nathan McBride. “With the software we can actually track the customers as they navigate our site and watch them purchase post conversation.”

Seek Out a Qualified Trainer

Now that we’ve fueled our bodies and our sales funnels with qualified leads and adopted proven ways to retain them, let’s ask for help addressing the many valuable and exciting ways to improve the quality of experiences through analysis and optimization.

Surveys

Remember earlier, when it was stated that the best way to qualify users is to ask them questions? That statement rings true for analyzing the quality of the customer experience, too. There are numerous survey solutions out there to receive any desired feedback, such as SurveyMonkey, QuestionPro, LimeSurvey and others, which can be used for testing logo concepts or page layouts, service satisfaction or understanding general industry trends. Surveys are also an amazing instrument for auditing the customer experience.

JPMorgan Chase, a Web 100 company in the financial sector, offers a telling example of how listening to customers and making changes based on what they heard. A clearer, simpler Chase.com arrived in 2012 and was the multiyear product of incorporating feedback from customers on what they want to see from the most visited banking website.

There are a variety of other feedback solutions options to consider. FiveSecondTest, for example, helps companies fine tune their landing pages and calls-to-action by analyzing what users recall after viewing the page for just five seconds. Usertest.com is another viable choice, as it provides a business with a video of a visitor speaking their thoughts as they use the site. See more digital/website survey solutions.

Auditing and analyzing the customer experience — and taking action based on it — is a surefire technique to improve the quality of a company’s digital properties.

Analytics Platforms

Today, marketers want to be able to predict activity and take the next optimal action. Just like customers want things better, faster and cheaper, marketers do too. They know the smaller the segment (and the better quality of the data), the better positioned they are to sell to someone (and get more impressive numbers to show their bosses). But they need a reliable and efficient platform to work from at the outset, because platforms that take hours to run basic customer segmentation can slow down the speed at which a company can respond to customer behavior and, in turn, lose a way to effectively market to them.

For example, ParAccel, an analytics platform, says its client ran a query on their old platform for what people buy together, which took them 46 hours. When it switched to ParAccel, the query was completed in 30 seconds. Based on this type of information, companies can test if changing the product placement or paths to these items and offering suggestions to consumers based on their peers’ buying history can increase conversions and order values.

Experiment

Testing is truly the name of the digital game, but there are also ways to test reaching consumers in the “real world” with hopes of bringing them back online. For instance, imagine testing the effectiveness of sending a bouquet of roses to a brand’s most loyal customers who are slipping away to get them to engage with the company again? The predictive analytics platform, Custora, helps brands set up experiments (like this one) and offers appropriate controls to measure campaign results. So, once the company knows how certain customers react to this loyalty experiment, Custora can automate (and optimize) this campaign for every customer that meets the specific criteria.


6 Super Click-Fraud Monitoring Solutions: Stop wasting ad dollars!



“Customers are overwhelmed right now with emails that miss the mark — ‘batch and blast’ that retailers send to their entire customer list,” said Corey Pierson, Custora CEO. “The ‘signal to noise’ ratio is very low. Customers stop opening emails, customers aren't aware of products they might really enjoy and everyone loses.” 

"Sending relevant material is easier said than done for a retail marketing team, and that's where experimentation comes in,” Pierson continued. “Marketers can experiment with a variety of different approaches with different customer groups to learn what resonates most effectively.” While experimentation is particularly useful for analysis and optimization, it takes on a whole new meaning when applied to the final portion of our Web 100 Quality Workout Plan: infrastructure and reliability.

Hit the Web Weights

Companies of all sizes worry about downtime, security and performance; but website owners and operators typically find out their infrastructure is unreliable the hard way. Just like in any workout regimen, preventative training (strength and condition exercises) is required to reduce potential for injury, such is the case in our digital efforts.

Reliability

Downtime can significantly damage a website’s rank on search engine result pages (SERPs), its reputation with users and its ROI. For example, if a website takes 10 seconds to load (or worse doesn’t load at all), a savvy user will likely abandon the site for a faster, higher quality experience elsewhere. (See sidebar for a list of reliability exercises.)

Security

Consumers will also seek out more secure (actual or perceived) websites, because they worry about the security quality every time they enter their personal data online, according to recent research from 1&1. The report revealed that 70 percent of Americans are likely to spend more with a company that shows it is taking steps to enhance website security, such as displaying trust seals.

Hosting companies like 1&1 recognize that security is directly related to the quality of the user experience. Late last year, 1&1 teamed up with SiteLock so its customers can scan their website for vulnerabilities and stay informed about their online security levels.

TRUSTe also offers a similar service with its platform. Although best known for its privacy certifications (one of the most common and traditional ways to convey quality and trust), which give consumers a testament that the website they are visiting meets a certain set of standards, TRUSTe has also moved into monitoring tools, which complement its initial offering.

TRUSTe’s monitoring tools essentially work as a website tracker. This gives companies the ability to scan their site for any third-party tracking technologies (known to them or not) used on their website (e.g. cookies, flash cookies, Web beacons, pixel tags and scripts). From a performance standpoint, it allows companies to make sure the site’s performance is high and that they keep customer details private. So how common is that there are third-party trackers on a site that a website owner is unaware of?

More common than most people would be willing to admit, according to TRUSTe VP of Marketing, Dave Deasy, who helps us explore the different ways this can happen.

The larger a company gets, the greater the likelihood of it having multiple geographies and operating divisions, and acquiring other companies and websites also increases. Therefore, there are many instances where third parties are on a site that the company didn’t know about. The types can run the full gamut, they can be analytics packages, video serving and others, according to Deasy who says to some degree it’s all about risk management — the more you have, the more risk there is.

The more common type of quality concerns, as it pertains to companies being unaware of third-party tracking on its site, is when a third party once had permission to be on the site, but through lack of internal communication, it was never removed when the business stopped using its services. This is more of an internal quality issue, because these third parties can compromise the integrity of the website’s audience profiles. Additionally, the ad ecosystem can introduce multiple players that are simply unknown to the website.

Do Your Last-Chance Workout

Clearly, there are external and internal quality items a business must monitor, and when one quality assurance item is introduced, there’s a domino effect of everything that task touches. This can get us out of touch with the basics. So remember the quality basics: provide rich product descriptions, an easy-to-navigate website, and testimonials or reviews (to name a few). A brand should also surf over to their competition and see what quality indicators it can locate and decide whether they make sense for its company. Even with all the companies and tools ready to assist, the most fundamental exercises are what keeps us fit, fast and the envy of everyone on the virtual beach.


Reliability Exercises, Experts Speak:


Raghu Bala, CTO/CIO of Source Interlink Media suggests to use the following:
■ Selenium to do automated testing of sites
■ Firebug to determine the load times of various elements of a page
■ Keynote to test load times of a site from various physical locations


Mark Herschberg, CTO of Madison Logic suggests:
■ AirBrake to log production errors, get data, and set which errors can be ignored until a company has the time (and resources)
■ Nagios to monitor servers for crashes, CPU load, disk space, etc. It can alert you by email, phone and text


 

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