Six free tools for getting ROI right online

In my previous post I spoke about ROI being the forgotten metric in online marketing, and how the hype around social media has veered digital marketers away from first getting the basics right.

If you are focusing on social without having the fundamentals in place, it’s like putting the proverbial horse, which happens to be a real socialite, before the cart carrying the pot of gold! So for the sake of not putting the horse before the cart ourselves, lets revisit our basics and make sure we get this right before digging deeper into measuring ROI (which will be the next post).

Marketing 101:
I remember this being the 4P’s, now it’s evolved to the 3C’s, could be 4G now… Who knows! The core principles remain the same.

  • Understand the profile of your target market.
  • Understand how your product/service fulfils the needs and wants of your target market:
  • Needs — Does my product satisfy a particular need, does it solve a problem, and does it add additional value to people’s lives?
  • Wants — What is my intrinsic brand value? How does this relate to my consumers aspirations, affiliations and associations?
  • Understand what the interests of your target markets are. By understanding this you can determine where they spend their time, so that you can reach them with the right message, at the right time in the right place.
  • Understand what your competitors are doing so that you can price correctly, as well as position yourself in the market effectively.

So how do you go about learning more about your target audiences? Well this is the beautiful thing about online, aside from all the free music — there is a wealth of information out there that you can use to learn about your audience.

1. The Google Keyword Tool
This tool allows you to identify what people are searching for in relation to your business. What you think people are searching for is often completely different to what is being typed into the search engine. The keyword tool is great for doing keyword research, which will help you with content strategies and any SEO or SEM activity you partake in.

The interesting thing here is that if you have a keen eye, you will be able to identify niche opportunities based on what people are actually searching for. For example, if I was selling ice-creams and wanted to know what ice cream I should stock more of; I could use the keyword tool to discover that people search far more for Magnum ice cream than any other brand. So on a sunny day, I better stock more magnums! You can also filter search data into what people are searching for on their mobile phones. And from a selling point of view, if you have an online business you could start advertising around Magnum ice cream terms to send people to your site to purchase — Yummy!

Click here for more on the keyword tool

2. Insights for Search
Let’s take that ice cream example again, because I really like ice creams! So we have identified through the keyword tool that people are searching more for Magnum ice cream, but this tool only tells us “what”, not “when” or “where”. Insights for Search allows you to identify seasonal patterns that can help you plan your marketing and selling activity, identify where people are searching from as well as what the related and rising search terms are.

In this example we can see that Magnum ice cream and ice cream in general are mostly searched for in December, by people from KwaZulu-Natal, true beach bums, go figure! It also seems that Gautengers are major magnum ice cream fans, while the top rising search term at the moment is chocolate ice cream.

You can also see when people are searching for images of ice cream. Surprisingly, people are mostly searching for images of ice creams in August? Looks like Durbanites start planning their ice cream escapades in winter… Oh, and just in case you didn’t know; you are able to advertise against image searches on Google.

Click here to find out how to use Insights for Search

3. DoubleClick Ad Planner
By now you should have a basic idea of what your target audience looks like, where they are and what they are searching for. Now you can start doing a little more research about where your audience spends their time online. The Ad Planner tool allows you to see individual site stats like number of visitors and page views; what the audience interests are; other similar websites in relation to the one you are researching; keywords used to find the website and ad formats supported by the website.

If you don’t know which websites to start researching, you can research by audience, which allows you to select geography, language, interests, categories, online activity and more. Based on your selections, Ad Planner will dish out a list of websites that relates to your audience. You can now look at putting a media schedule together, and start thinking about advertising on the websites that your audience actually visits!

There is no better tool for online website research than this. What makes things even easier is, if you are advertising through Google AdWords, you can create media schedules and import them directly into your Google AdWords account.

Resources: Ad Planner Support

4. Trends for websites
If you want to take your website research a little further, you can use Google Trends for Websites. This is a great tool when you want to see seasonal patterns on websites, compare websites against each other and from a global perspective of where people from around the world are visiting these sites. In this example you can see news24 has more visitors than, while interestingly enough, more people from the US and the UK visit IOL. You could then assume if you wanted to reach more people in the US, that advertising on IOL would be a good place to start.

5. YouTube targeting tool
Now we all know how big YouTube has become, it is the new window into the world, it’s the second biggest search engine in the world, 48 hours of video content is uploaded every minute! Cats and babies have never seen more fame and if you are going to sing the national anthem make sure you sing it right Ard!

People from the age of 29-35 spend most of their time on YouTube and its fast becoming a great way to reach your audience as we move from a text-based environment to a video based environment. What I mean by this is more and more people are choosing to consume information by watching video, than by reading.

As consumers become more multi-media savvy, they seek heightened levels of gratification, engagement and experience, which video and interaction around video can provide. Understanding what your audience is watching and what type of advertising is available is now possible using the YouTube targeting tool!

YouTube targeting tool explained

6. Social Mention
The Internet has made sharing almost seamless and social sharing is becoming one of the strongest influencers for brands online. Social sharing is just another form of “word of mouth”, which is like the Holy Grail for traditional marketers as it generally carries more weight than advertising. Understanding what people are saying about you and how people are sharing will be important for your social strategy — it helps you identify your influencers or brand ambassadors and manage your online brand reputation.

Other tools that can be useful:

  • Google Hot Trends — See what people are searching for on a daily basis (U.S only).
  • Google Global Market Finder — Describe your business by entering keywords & Identify market opportunities across the board.
  • Google Alerts — Setup alerts to make sure you know when ever your business / brand is mentioned online.
  • Google Site Search — Implement site search, which is a mini search engine your website. This is useful for seeing what people are searching for once they have entered your site.
  • Twitter Search — Follow what people are saying real-time around topics related to your business.
  • Facebook Insights — If you have a fan page, you can see a whole host of metrics and insights through the Insights Dashboard.

Now that you have gone down the road of identifying the “what”, “when” and “where”, the next step will be the inevitable “HOW”. This refers to understanding how your new or returning customers are interacting with your business. Using free analytics software like Google Analytics will allow you to determine customer journeys, how different online channels interact with each other, length of sales cycles, conversion paths, content that is working, what people don’t like, revenues that you are generating now that you have the basics right, and so much more! This is where the devil dwells, he eats sleeps and thrives on un-segmented data!

It is our job as digital crusaders to organise this information so that we can start to understand that much forgotten metric we spoke about in the first place: ROI, as well as a host of other signals that will give use insights into our customers and our business. I will be dedicating an entire series of posts on how to use Google Analytics to get the most out of your business in weeks to come. But for now, let’s just get the basics right!

Image: sea turtle



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