On-site optimisation - the missing slice of the marketing budget pie?

07---Onsite-optimisation_1x1.jpg
Colin McMillan

Colin McMillan
Head of Technology

Date:
14 September 2015

Office:
Glasgow

You spend a lot of money driving traffic to your site, but what happens then? The technology and complexity behind PPC campaigns, paid ads and remarketing is now well accepted as a core part of digital marketing strategy, but don't forget to optimise how those visitors land on your site.

There has been a lot of talk for some years now about digital engagement.  It's not a new concept, and the myriad of software platforms now competing to be the go-to solution for your customer engagement needs is testiment to this.  Whether this is engagement automation, personalisation platforms or in-depth analytics packages, there are plenty of "things" out there to help organisations take on the challenge of increasing their digital KPIs.

The problem as we often see it, is that little or no budget has been made available to move forward in this area.  Sure, businesses are making changes to their sites - adding functionality or new templates, however little is being invested in understanding insights from data and investing in ongoing on-site optimisation. Many businesses today are no different to businesses eight years ago in terms of how they are allocating their marketing spend, particularly in relation to digital.

Let's wind the clock back.  It's 2007, and we haven't really encountered digital transformation yet.  Major brands have embraced the fact they need a strong web presence and have commissioned a nice shiney website to replace their dated, corporate offering that doesn't quite work for customers, or for that matter in IE6.  Marketing Directors are getting their heads around a need to compete in search rankings, and are starting to spend money on SEO.  At about the same time, they're being recommended to start providing PPC budgets as those search rankings are damned elusive and their site isn't guaranteed to make it up where they want it.  These two elements on their own have disrupted the marketing budget itself and have required a paradigm shift for the CMO.

But hey, it worked!  Traffic is up - web stats say so anyway.  Sales are up too, and we think that's because of the website, so we have justification for our hard work and the money invested in our early digital marketing endeavours.  The thing is, we don't really know whether these new stats are as good as they could be, they're just a new baseline.

Move on a few years and in comes social networking.  At first it's fairly innocuous and doesn't factor as a new marketing channel, but before too long businesses are being recommended by companies like Dog to harness "the power of social" and once more boost their KPIs.  This time it's not so simple.  Maybe your company doesn't fit well with Facebook, or you don't have the resource to build up a Twitter presence.  You can still do paid ads though, and this fits nicely into the PPC slice of budget pie.

A little later and it becomes apparent that you need to do social (in the posting, following and trying to get likes sense).  Your competitors are doing it, and if you don't you might lose out. So justification needs to be made to the CFO for new budget for something that is, frankly, quite hard to quantify a return on.  It's the threat of losing out that reluctantly squeezes a new slice from the pie.  It's probably just a tiny slice, like the kind my wife might ask for, before going back for seconds.

So, by my count the CMO has now accepted to manage maybe five slices of the marketing budget pie.  Offline, display ads, PPC, SEO and social.  And all this after he or she has spent a pretty penny on their shiney new site.

Now fast forward to today.  There's likely been another website launched fairly recently to replace the again, outdated, 2007 site that ran its course.  Websites after all have a half-life, and the last site probably stopped performing some time in 2011, once half the country had smartphones and the site didn't respond, or the IE6 stylesheet didn't work with IE7, or 8 for that matter.

So how do we prevent repeating mistakes from the past?  We don't want our latest site to lose its edge so quickly, and just to underline this - the "launch and leave" strategy will undoubtedly result in your site underperforming faster than you want it to.  We need to be thinking about continuous improvement, optimising your site to make perform better, rather than letting it decay over time.

Given a well built site, with a flexible architecture, on a capable marketing platform such as Sitecore, the task of understanding insights, user journeys and content optimisation should be well within your grasp.  Dog approach all our sites with this in mind.  We want to share your success with a class-leading website, and shed a small tear when opportunities are missed.

Cost implications are undoubtedly a barrier to moving ahead with an optimisation strategy, and the fear of complexity is certainly a factor, but these concerns we feel are unjustified. Maybe it's just the fear of the unknown. The key here is to break it down into manageable stages, and we can help with this.  Start small, focus on quick wins, actionable insights, and simple content amends. Prove your concept and build from there. These things can make a big difference and once the results are seen, the business case for further changes is easier to make.

One thing we know for sure, is that without an optimisation strategy - a long(ish) term plan - your site might not keep up.  We might find ourselves having another conversation about rebuilding your site in a few years, without the benefit of all those year-on-year learnings we might have had.  

You may not feel that budget exists to move ahead with a strategy like this, however the opportunity presented by technology like Sitecore is clear.  You have the chance to invest and capitalise on capabilities not available before, harnessing tangible data to draw insights about your audience and engage with your customers in new and exciting ways.  If you were a CMO in 2007 or 2011 I'd bet that you wish you'd had this at your fingertips back then, and were now sitting comfortably streets ahead of your competitors.

So, have a think about that marketing budget pie.  There's surely room for another slice, isn't there?