Measuring Success After The Click

First published April 23, 2009 in Mediapost’s Search Insider

Avinash Kaushik speculates that Bounce Rate might be the sexiest Web metric ever. Scott Brinker has a whole blog dedicated to post-click marketing.  I believe it was Craig MacDonald at Covario who said bad landing pages are where good leads go to die. And I’ve been quoted as saying (categorically, no less) that the single most important thing we can do for the client happens after the search click.

Start Swimming Downstream

It always amazes me that search marketers spend huge amounts of time tweaking everything to do with the search page and very little time worrying about what happens downstream from it. It’s symptomatic of the siloed nature of search, a marketing practice that sits apart from other channels and the online user experience itself. Yet, what’s the point of a good search campaign if we end up dumping all those leads onto a poor Web site?

Perhaps the reason we don’t spend more time worrying about user experience is that it forces us to learn something about the user. You have to take responsibility for connecting the dots between intent and content, reading the user’s mind and trying to deliver what it is he or she is looking for. When it’s all said and done, maybe it’s easier just to worry about maximum costs per click or generating more link love.

But everything that matters starts with the search click rather than ends with it. That’s the first introduction to the prospect, the first opportunity to make a good impression. And from that moment on, the success of that blossoming relationship depends on the success of the user experience.

Post-Click Live at Captiva

 At the Captiva Island Search Insider Summit in a few weeks, we’ll actually be talking about the world of opportunity downstream from the click in a panel I’m very excited about. “After the Search Click” will be a live, clinical look at the success of the onsite experience. Enquiro is even bringing our eye tracking lab down so we can do some on-site testing and share the results with the group. The aforementioned Scott Brinker from Ion Interactive and Lance Loveday from Closed Loop Marketing join me. I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a stage with both of these gentlemen multiple times in the past.

Students of Human Nature

 To me, the immense gray area of the onsite experience has always been infinitely more interesting than the more black and white tactics of search marketing. For me, the latter is simply the means to an end, and the end requires you to be a student of human nature. For example, I’m fascinated by the subtle but distinct differences between how males scan a page and how females scan it.  Or the difference in behavior between those who grew up in the online world versus those who have adopted it and adapted to it as adults.  And if I showed you the heat map of a visitor who went to a Web site with one specific task in mind, as opposed to those who are just there to browse, the difference would astound you. But how often do we stop to think of these things as we put our search campaigns together? All too often, those leads are dumped on a generic home page or an anemic landing page with nary a scrap of relevance to be seen anywhere. Of course, even a good landing page is no guarantee of success. It’s just one more step to the end goal, a journey that could be cut short by poor site search tools, bad navigation or an overly inquisitive form.

I could make a blanket statement saying I see far more bad sites than good sites out there. But really, that’s not for me to say. The success of a site depends on the people using it and what their goals are. It should be a clean, well-lighted, well-labeled path.  I can say, as a frequent online user, it’s very rare that I’m impressed by a web experience. So in that regard, there’s much to be said still about improving the post-click experience. Join us for the discussion in a few weeks in Florida.

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