The ability to measure digital marketing at a granular level is both a blessing and a curse. As digital touch-points are easy to measure, we can make the mistake of paying too much attention to last click attribution, even though so many other marketing channels have played a role through the sales funnel.

This was the topic of my talk, ‘The journey of an eyeball’, at Marketing Week Live in London (you can see the slides below). By eyeball, of course, I mean ‘user’.

With so much granular data in Google Analytics, we can draw all kinds of conclusions about our users and their behaviour – digging deep into the data to find specific things like bounce rates on mobile, how long new users stay on a page compared with returning visitors, and a great many more. There are so many possibilities.

A common difficulty with data is that, unless you question it properly, it can give you an incorrect picture.

Imagine, for example, our user here – Iris – filling in a form on your website as a result of carrying out a search – Google Analytics would record that as a conversion that came via organic search.

But, how do we know Iris didn’t have other reasons for filling in that form? When it comes to measuring return on investment, it’s important to look at the whole journey of the user.

The journey of an eyeball

Iris - Journey of an EyeballLet’s imagine, for example, that Iris first discovered us via social media and then just ended up using search for the last part of her journey. For this exercise, I created the persona of Iris, a 28-year-old events organiser who is IT-literate, keeps herself informed about marketing and is a regular visitor to trade shows in London. Imagine, also, that you are a business directory for venues.

  • Iris discovers a Twitter chat run by our social media team about a topic she is interested in – finding a good business venue.
  • During the chat, someone posts a link to a page of your website. Iris visits the page and browses the site.
  • Based on a cookie now set on Iris’s computer, you can serve Remarketing adverts to Iris through the Google Display Network, a few weeks later.
  • One day, while looking at a holiday website she sees one of your ads, promoting an ebook guide to business venues. Interested, Iris downloads it, adding herself to your mailing list in the process.
  • She then attends a trade show where she sees your stand, fills in a form to enter a prize draw and is then treated by your sales team as a “trade show lead” – even though she has already been a lead for a while.
  • On another occasion, Iris is away from her computer and an opportunity arises to organise an event. She remembers your website and searches on her phone for it by name as she can’t remember the address. Iris finds the result, clicks through and Google Analytics assigns her subsequent enquiry to organic traffic.

Top conversion paths help us avoid last-click attribution

Thanks to the goal tracking and ecommerce tracking options in Google Analytics, we are able to see not only when a sale happens and where that session started, but also what other sessions led to that end result.

Conversion path and timeline

The top bar shows one user’s journey before they converted. Last click attribution would say the sale happened because of a referral, but their journey started as a PPC click. The second section shows that conversions can happen weeks or months after a user’s first visit.

Take pay-per-click search (PPC), for example. If you look at your AdWords account you may see lots of sessions where users click on your ads and don’t convert, but sometimes the same people visit your site two or three times via a PPC ad. You are paying three times for the same person, who may also re-visit you via an organic (free) search or even via the direct method.

The graphic below shows an example of top conversion paths in Google Analytics. In this example you can clearly see how conversions came from users who first visited the site after clicking on a PPC advert.

Google Analytics top conversion paths chart

As well as buyer personas, think about your seller persona

Most marketers are familiar with buyer personas – if not the term. A buyer persona is about understanding the different personalities, lifestyles and mentalities of the various customers you are trying to reach.

Some companies invest a lot of time and resource into the creation of buyer personas, employing focus groups and research and perhaps consultants to compile the perfect picture of the people for whom your website is created.

Armed with a full understanding of the user, you can design your website and other touch-points for them. But part of that thought process should be a focus on brand recognition. Uniform presentation and messaging is important, so that you are recognisable wherever customers come across you. I call this a seller persona.

Considering the example above, where we can see users have followed a disparate and random journey before finally converting, we need to offer consistent reminders to users. Just because we say our name once, that doesn’t mean they will remember it. Icons, symbols and memorable colour schemes and slogans can all play a part in building a picture in customers’ minds, helping them to recall us when they need what we have to offer.

Famous logos and symbols including Amnesty, CND, Apple, Disney and WWF

Using recognisable symbols is a great way to build recognition for your brand across everything you do. How many of these icons do you recognise?

Penguin Books offers a simple example of this. The company publishes many different products, and its marketing teams are constantly pushing out different brands. But there is a common thread that helps us know they all come from the same company – that recognisable penguin on an orange background.

Penguin Books website

Another example I like is Firebox – the gadget shop. Its seller persona is attitude. The copy for each product is fun and the website itself takes a cheeky approach, using phrases like “new stuff” and “not for everyone”.

Firebox website

This cheeky, irreverent attitude is carried through to the social channels, where Firebox proves it is a fun place to work as well as a fun place to buy from. We get to see behind the scenes, and they are not afraid to share colourful jokey things from other websites that they like.

So, which is the most successful marketing channel?

We live in a multi-channel world. People don’t live their life in isolation on Google or on Facebook – they span anything and everything. At Vertical Leap we believe strongly in specialist teams – experts who only do SEO or PPC or content marketing. They excel in their own areas, but their work overlaps because brands need an integrated strategy that allows all those things to work together.

Apollo dashboard

Being able to measure the whole of your marketing rather than each channel separately is one of the reasons we have developed Apollo Insights as a marketing intelligence platform for our clients.

The key takeaway I would like you to consider from all this is; don’t look at one channel in isolation from all the others. A conversion that happens via Google may have happened because the customer met you at a trade show or followed you on Google+. You may think PPC doesn’t work but it may be driving people to a page where they spot your phone number and you are not tracking those calls back to the source.

Don’t rely too much on granular data if you are not also looking at ALL the data. The bottom line is the most efficient and powerful metric because if you are doing a bit of everything, and linking everything strategically to achieve a force multiplier, it should be stronger as a result.

View the slides here

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