Optimising your SEO campaign using multi-channel funnels & assisted conversions

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  • January 16, 2013
Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft

Director of Strategy

Most people who buy a product online don’t make a purchase on their first visit and this causes problems for sites trying to track sales and allocate them to a particular channel. When you take into consideration different screens (work PC, laptop, iPad, phone etc) and offline conversions as well the problem gets even bigger.

The best quote I’ve seen about this is by Avinash Kaushik where he states:

If you happen to be in a larger company, say you spend more than $10 million on digital marketing per year, you’ll quickly see, having learned to be less wrong over time, that the question you want to answer with multi-channel attribution modeling is not “who gets how much credit” but rather “how can I optimally balance my digital marketing portfolio.”

Knowing who gets credit for each particular sale is largely irrelevant unless you are trying to prove ROI on a channel. The really important thing we need to do as an agency is increase the effectiveness of the overall search marketing campaign and drive more conversions. If SEO plays a role in assisting the conversion rather than driving the last interaction this is still a conversion path that we can optimise for.

The best way to do this is by understanding your customers & their search patterns and implementing a content strategy designed to optimise for secondary & tertiary conversions. Most people just optimise an SEO campaign for last click conversions but this really isn’t the best way of doing things.

For example lets say we operate an ecommerce site with 100 keywords that drive decent traffic, had no conversions in the past 3 months and rank between 3rd and 10th on Google. Usually these non-converting keywords would have low priority in a campaign if you optimise for conversions rather than visits. However if we look at our multi-channel funnel analysis and find all conversions where our selected keyword set played an assisting role (this could be first, second, third click etc) we can find keywords that rarely convert directly but drive lots of conversions as part of a funnel.

Taking this example further we might have a keyword of “sony vaio reviews” which has never converted in 3 months but was at the start of the buying funnel for 40 conversions that were attributed via the traditional “last interaction” analysis to either brand traffic, PPC or direct. If we see that this keyword is actually valuable within the funnel we can work to improve the rankings and therefore increase the overall number of conversions.

Google Analytics has made the process of tracking sales from visitors who access the site via multiple different methods a lot easier in the past year or so and this makes the optimisation & discovery process a lot easier too.

To find the data on keywords & assisted conversions simply follow the path below in your Analytics account:
Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions and then click on “Organic Search” in the channel grouping, change the primary dimension to Other > Traffic Sources > Keyword.

This should give you a report like the one below.Assisted conversions

The Excel table below shows how we would analyse this data to find new keywords to target. Simply export he Analytics data to Excel and if we make the assumption that an assist has an equal weighting to a last interaction conversion we just add the two numbers together to get the total value of a keyword. In reality a last click conversion is probably worth more than an assist but because there is usually no pattern to the keyword types that drive assists vs last click conversions we don’t need to worry about this too much.

As you can see there are a few keywords (highlighted in green) that have far more value than the last interaction analysis would indicate and these are the keywords that we should look at further to see if we can improve their rankings and get more assisted conversions from them.

Can Content Strategy Increase Assisted Conversions?

The important thing to understand is that usually there is no specific pattern to which keywords will drive these assists. We expected that maybe research driven keywords such as those containing “review” would drive more assists than last click conversions but this seems not to be the case. A content strategy needs to make sure you are attracting buyers at all points of the buying cycle in order to capture the maximum amount of assists.

We have carried out some research across our ecommerce clients and found that, in general:

  • 40% of ecommerce transactions are carried out 24 hours or more after users first visit the website
  • SEO is around 40% more valuable than a traditional “last click wins” methodology would show
  • 60% of revenue is attributable to customers who don’t buy on their first visit – they need to find you at least twice to make a purchase

One of the most common visitor types we see is the one that researches a product by searching for either a product specific, long tail or generic keyword and then arrives later to make the purchase via a brand keyword. This typically shows up as a “halo” effect whereby SEO is actually responsible for around 40% more revenue than the traditional “last click” analysis would show.

The best way to drive an increase in overall conversions is via a combined SEO and content strategy that maximises the number of times that a customer can visit your site during their complicated and multi-level buying process. If you miss out any level of the funnel you are going to be missing out on potential assisted conversions.

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