April 3, 2008, 12:00 AM

Retailers digging deeper with search marketing analytics, expert says

With new analytics tools for search marketing campaigns, e-retailers are beginning to dig more deeply into the clickstreams between search ads and online purchases and finding ways to improve conversion rates, Omniture consultant Christopher Knoch says.

With new sets of analytics tools designed for search marketing campaigns, online retailers are beginning to dig more deeply into the clickstreams between search ads and purchases and finding new ways to improve conversion rates, says Christopher Knoch, principal consultant for Omniture Consulting, the professional services arm of web analytics provider Omniture Inc.

Many retailers have traditionally judged the effectiveness of a search marketing campaign by directly correlating purchases or order confirmations with clicks on search ads, without considering the multiple steps in-between such as viewing product pages, adding products to a shopping cart, and the initial stages of checkout, Knoch says. “After a search campaign hands a visitor off to a retail site, there’s a lot of information about what the visitor does that most marketers don’t have,” he says.

That lack of information about the clickstreams of search-driven visitors can lead to costly mistakes in adjusting campaigns, he adds. When visitor-to-sales conversion rates tied to search campaigns are underperforming, for example, a search keyword bid management tool that considers only ad click-rates and confirmed orders might recommend increasing the price on keywords, or the number of keywords, to produce better rankings in search results in an effort to attract more buyers.

But if the retailer could see that many visitors were failing to click beyond a particular product page to add items to a shopping cart, it could take steps to improve that product page-with better images or more attractive prices, for example-and see if that would increase conversion rates without having to spend more on keywords, Knoch says. “A retailer may be able to inject new life in a search campaign without adjusting keyword bids, changing ad copy or buying more keywords,” he says.

Omniture’s SearchCenter search marketing management tool, which is integrated with the company’s SiteCatalyst web analytics application, he adds, is designed to produce the full clickstream data between clicks on search ads and order confirmations; it also lets marketers produce ad hoc reports of segmented information, such as whether visitors from paid-search ads about personal computers purchased a computer along with a printer.

Although the technology is still new, retailers are beginning to use it produce more effective search campaigns, Knoch says. “The early adopters are seeing pumps in their conversion rates,” he says.

The Omniture software suite now includes Omniture Test&Target;, the result of Omniture’s recent acquisitions of site optimization technology providers TouchClarity and Offermatica, which integrate with SearchCenter for testing and devising optimized web pages and increasing conversions.

Omniture is also continuing to build out its keyword bid management technology to connect with additional search engines. With the capability of managing entire portfolios of keywords, which can be adjusted as a group to reach an expected return on ad spending, SearchCenter integrates now with about a dozen search engines, including Google, Ask, Yahoo and MSN. A revised version available later this year will be able to integrate with virtually all search engines, Knoch adds.

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