What is Customer Churn: Analyse Why Customers Leave

What is Customer Churn: Analyse Why Customers Leave

Introduction To Customer Churn

“Customers don’t use more than three months with us; what’s happening?”

“Wow … there was a 70% drop in our daily average usage yesterday.”

“95% of visitors on our checkout page yesterday didn’t convert; why?”

“Why do 20% of my new users always cancel after one month?”

If you ask yourself any of these questions, you need to run a customer churn analysis. Call it user churn analysis, churn analytics; it’s all the same.

Customer churn analysis is the process of analyzing why users leave your product, software, or business. Period. Reducing churn by 5% can increase profits by 25-125%.

customer churn
But what causes customer churn?

Or why do customers, users, and subscribers leave? Several things are the culprits. And your business might have unique factors that cause it. You need to find out why customer churn is happening and make it stop.

Here’s how to run unique customer churn analysis for your business and find the reason(s) why customers leave. If you want experts to do the heavy analytics lifting for you, get in touch with us; we can help. At the end of this article, you can apply for a free consultation session.

4 ways to run customer analysis for your specific business

Bad customer experience is the No.1 reason most customers leave; 68% of them leave because they think a company doesn’t care about them.

When they don’t get a good (great, actually) experience with your business, they switch to your competition.

And it’s okay when customers leave, but it becomes bad when too many of them leave too frequently. That’s bad churn, which could cripple any business. So use these four customer analysis methods to show when you have tolerable or intolerable churn:

1. Know the right KPIs to track

First, you need to know which KPIs inform you about churn. This will let you know your churn rate and determine whether it’s tolerable or not. Essentially, you need to monitor these four key KPIs to analyze churn:

i. Gross customer churn rate:

The rate at which customers leave your business daily, monthly, quarterly or yearly.

The formula:
customer churn

You could calculate your churn on a cohort basis, that is, calculating churn based on a group of customers. For example, you can calculate how many of your software trials in January left before February, March or whatever month. Or how many of the customers who booked a one-way ticket the last Christmas booked a return ticket in January, February or some other month.
A tolerable churn rate is generally <12.30%, but a nice sweet spot is anything around 5%.

ii. Net customer churn rate: 

The difference between the rate of customer acquisitions vs the rate of cancellations.

The formula:
customer churn

If the result turns out negative, it means you have more activations than deactivations (cancellations), which is great. But if the result is positive, then you have more cancellations than customer acquisition — which is unhealthy churn.

iii. Daily average usage (DAU): 

The rate at which users engage with your product, website or software every day. It’s a great indicator of customer engagement.

For instance, if your DAU keeps getting lower and lower for seven days, then there’s probably a glitch or bad customer experience you need to fix somewhere to stop such an unhealthy churn rate.

iv. Weekly and monthly average usage (WAU and MAU): 

The rate at which users interact with your product every week (WAU) or every month (MAU). Like DAU, an ascending WAU or MAU means your customer experience is good, and a descending weekly/monthly usage means you’ll need to work on your customer experience before your churn rate gets too bad.

So if your product is one that customers should typically engage with every day, week or month, find why that’s not happening (if, of course, it’s not) and correct it. That’s the first step.

But of course, it’s not that simple. You need to know factors that could cause your average usage rates to drop — and that leads to our next point.

2. Utilize a qualitative analysis tool

If you find your churn rate to be unhealthy (i.e. above 12.3% in a week, month … whatever applies to you), then you need to find the pet peeves causing your customers to leave.

And you’ll need one or more qualitative analysis tools for that. These tools will typically show you how and why customers are taking specific actions on your software.

So, while a quantitative analysis tool like Google Analytics shows you the who, why, where, and how many of things happening on your software, qualitative analytics tools show you how and why those things happen.

For example, a qualitative analysis tool like Opentracker helps you see the entire history of each of your users with your website or app. This means you can trace the journey of people who land on your payment page and optimize it for better engagement.

Simply search “pay” in the tool and you’ll see a list of visitors who landed on your checkout page — from the most recent to the oldest visitors. Learn more about this feature here.

customer churn
Sample of a universal search; locate everyone who landed on the payment page.

This tool gives you an entire story of how visitors land on your site and where they go from there. If someone lands on a page from a referral or ad, for instance, you know exactly where they come from. And if they go from there to your pricing page or about page, you know which page people from specific referrals like to visit.

All that data helps you optimize your product or service for better retention. You know the exact pages to optimize (add video, improve copy, etc.) to increase engagement, which helps you reduce churn.

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3. Arrange customer complaints in order of importance

Bad customer experience precedes churn — that’s the general rule.

But some bad experiences are more toxic than others, and you need to sort them in their order of “toxicity.” If your customers complain about one common problem more than they do about others, that problem could be the reason they’re leaving.

So arrange your customer complaints in the order of importance — that is, in terms of percentages.

For example, if you find that 60% of your customer feedback or complaints is about “poor video sessions,” then that’s what you should tackle first. Once you have the complaint solved, update your users (or the ones who complained) about the development.

As an example, here’s a feature release email you can emulate — from Appcues:

Keep solving customer complaints this way — according to their importance — and your churn rate should start reducing. After you solve each complaint, send them a feature release or product update announcing the problem you just solved for them. The Appcues announcement email got 34% clicks on the plaintext link and 66% on the main CTA button.

4. Personally call, email or visit customers

Sometimes nothing beats talking to customers and understanding your business from their perspective. And it’s easy to think you know every nook and cranny of your business until they burst your bubble with experiences that you never knew a thing about.

They’ll help you uncover details about your product from a customer perspective and most of all, they might be speaking on behalf of other customers.

For example, you’ll learn a lot if you call a customer and she narrates the story of how hard it was for her to access her videos on your platform or how she had to reload a page over and over again to select her favourite feature before it finally worked.

Yes, it worked, but she went through a nightmare before it did. And you probably wouldn’t know this story if you hadn’t gotten on a call with her.

Or you could even visit customers like they do at Drift.

In an interview with Hotjar, Drift’s founder David Cancel shared how he or some of his colleagues would hop on a plane and go have lunch with some of their users — big and small — so they can chat with them like normal people and get quality product feedback:

And they do this “every week.” Imagine the amount of feedback you get when you meet with customers face-to-face this often. Besides what they actually say, you get feedback from their body language, tone and gestures.

Talk to a churn analysis expert

You might be experiencing a unique churn situation that’s different from everything outlined in this guide. And that’s not new; it’s normal.

Most businesses need customized churn analysis, or an expert to help you do the heavy lifting of setting up a dashboard for churn analysis for the business. Get in touch with us; we can help.

We’ll help you in three key ways:

  1. Measuring what matters

We help you discover objectives and key results (OKRs) that directly impacts your churn and retention rates. And OKRs provide you with 4-key benefits. They help you:

  • focus your organization on what matters
  • measure our progress towards those goals
  • enable large groups to work together in alignment
  • stretch to achieve things you wouldn’t have thought possible
  1. Speed & agile

We’ll help you deliver value faster and with fewer headaches in incremental steps. Instead of betting everything on a “big bang” launch, our agile process delivers work in small, but consumable, increments.

  1. Simplicity & accuracy

We provide a simple framework that eliminates steps in churn analysis and makes things simple for your organization. In the end, we’ll help you achieve set conversion and retention objectives.

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5 Reasons Why Churned Users Leave

Top 5 Reasons Churned Users Leave And Smart Ways To Stop That

Introduction

90% of buyers abandon a business after they experience bad customer service.

Another study reveals 82% of customers have left a company for the same reason.

Paid users won’t leave simply because they experience some problem with your product. Instead, they’ll contact your support. That’s the logical next step after facing a problem as a paid user.

And after contacting your support, they expect a working solution. But it only takes a single bad customer service experience at that point to make them consider churning.

Being aware of the types of bad service that make users leave will put you several steps ahead in helping you avoid more churn.

So here are the top five customer service experiences users have with your product or business that makes them churn:

1. Poor communication during change

When (not if) change happens in your business (say, a price change — for example), the way you communicate it will help customers decide whether or not it’s a favourable change for them.

Ideally, the changes you make in your business should always tilt towards benefiting your customers. And regardless of what the “change” is — even if it’s an increase in your pricing — communicate it in such a way that users feel they’re benefiting more with your higher pricing.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you lie and manipulate customers; it only means you clearly communicate how your change benefits them (assuming it actually does, and if the change does not benefit the customer, do your homework to make the message really resonate with the customer).

For example, Appcues increased revenue by 263% through two well-crafted emails they used to communicate a price increase:

churned usersNotice how they tied in the promise of value to the price increase. That’s what buyers want to see and hear. Honestly communicate the benefits of any changes you’re making at your business and you’ll give consumers a good reason to keep doing business with you.

2. Cluelessness and helplessness

Only a few things are more annoying than a clueless customer support agent.

81% of surveyed consumers who had sought customer service through social media reported frustration because the representative didn’t know their history with the company.

And depending on how serious a complaint is, customers may be good and ready to churn if a customer support agent proves they are clueless. Incompetence, imagined or real, gives them a good reason to leave.

Hire the Right Kind of Support Staff

More often than not, the reason most businesses have clueless customer agents is that they invest so little in the training of their support staff. Even worse, they hire the wrong people for the job.

It’s garbage in, garbage out. Poorly-trained customer agents can get customers angry, and, in turn, your business will suffer churn. But focus on hiring qualified people: hard workers who love interacting with customers and enjoy keeping an eye out for how their business can provide value.

Well-trained support reps — with tools to understand customers and solve problems for them — will make your customers happy and have a good reason to stay with your brand.

Additionally, you can orchestrate the right mix of touch moments with your customer base. Give more attention to high-ticket clients and automate engagement with low-ticket clients — but know when to jump in when automation isn’t doing a good job. And make sure you have the right mix and match of automated emails, valuable calls and personal visits when engaging with your paying customers.

Sending Emails at the Right Moment

On top of that, always make sure customers are happy long before their next subscription renewals. Send emails at the right moment, preferably based on the customer’s online behaviour, and engage with relevant and valuable insights. Tools like Opentracker will help you do this!

Don’t forget that for a subscription-based business, recurring revenue from your current customers far outweighs the sales from your new customers. So your Customer Success is responsible for more revenue than your sales department!

If you are constantly responding to support tickets, you may find yourself on the defensive. Don’t let that happen; it’s an ingredient that invites failure.

Instead orchestrate meetings as part of a broader context where success is defined as an objective. If you share common objectives with the customer at initial contact moments, then you will have a basis for regular engagement. You then have a reason for having a meeting that focuses on success.

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3. Ignoring customer complaints for a week

Ideally, you should respond to customers rapidly. 50% of consumers give you a grace of one week to attend to their complaints before they churn.

So buyers can be very forgiving — depending on how pressing their complaints or needs are — and many of them understand how busy your support team can get. But they loathe being ignored for too long.

A working solution here is to get more hands on deck. If you’re short on budget, have people in other departments help your customer success team.

For example, if you have engineers, marketers or even writers who have some free time during working hours, have them handle some support tickets — as long as they’re knowledgeable enough to do so.

Not only will this help curb having customers wait for as long as a week before receiving proper attention, occasionally working with customer support creates new insights for engineers, marketers and writers, and enhances their performance at their respective roles. In fact, occasionally shifting multidisciplinary roles is a great way to stimulate innovation within the support team.

4. Persistently slow customer service

Customers can, again, forgive when you have slow customer service once in a while. But when resolutions look like they will take an age, customers become tired and may start considering using a competitor with better customer support.

90% of customers expect an “immediate” response when they contact you for an issue related to customer service.

churned users

 

And buyers are impatient for good reason. Like you, they have a life with responsibilities and commitments.

Keeping them waiting for more than a week to get a reply on a complaint they took the effort to contact you about is a bad idea.

Get more hands on your customer support

Getting more hands for your customer support team is, again, a working solution here. You might be responding slowly to customers because there are not enough skilled customer support agents attending to them or the process for engaging customers has not been thought out properly.

In fact, if you start qualifying support requests and identifying customer requests that slow things down, you will likely develop a process that solves the request through self-servicing. You can engineer things like updating customer details or explaining a goods return policy so that the customer has the tools to solve their own problem.

Get a live chat system

Also, if you haven’t already, get a live chat system. Chatbots have become popular, and many customers now expect brands to have a live chat system ready on their websites.

Get into Social Media 

Social media is another working channel to provide customer support for customers. Let them know they can reach your support team through tweets, Facebook messenger or even Instagram DMs.

To improve your social media customer service results, integrate these channels with a single communications tool so that you offer the customer’s preferred channel of communication. Meanwhile, your success team can still maintain a constant workflow.

This will make it much easier for them to get answers to their customer service questions. And that creates a good opportunity for you to lower churn, improve retention and focus on upselling value! It’s a no-brainer; the better you’re able to attend to and solve customer complaints, the more likely they are going to keep using your product.

5. Unexplained reasons

It’s a given: Regardless of how many support channels you provide, you’ll still have customers leaving without registering a single complaint.

Esteban Kolsky, CEO of ThinkJar and former Gartner analyst, ran a customer experience survey and found that:

“Only 1 out of 26 unhappy customers complain. The rest churn. A lesson here is that companies should not view the absence of feedback as a sign of satisfaction. The true enemy is indifference.”

That is, 96% of customers leave without complaining. They leave without giving any feedback. But here’s a solution: A good option is to orchestrate the process.

Show customers how the leaving process is easier if they provide feedback. Do churned customers need to cancel a subscription, filling out login details and remember passwords long forgotten? For example, at Opentracker, we compensate users who explain why they are leaving by donating to a charity of their choosing. And any feedback is welcome — because we use it to keep improving our product and lowering churn!

Another working solution: 

Even when customers don’t say anything to you, many of them will still vent their disappointment with your product somewhere, somehow — in a Facebook group, on their blog, in a forum or anywhere else online.

Set up alerts for mentions of your brand/product online. There are several tools you can use for this. Keyhole, Mention, Sprout Social and Google Alerts come in handy here. You can set up alerts in these tools to inform you when someone mentions your brand or product on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

This way, you’re able to catch feedback from users who leave without any complaints. Then you can contact them and see how you can solve their issues and make them your customer again.

Conclusion

70% of unhappy customers whose problems are resolved are willing to shop with a business again. That means great customer service produces better customer retention for your business.

But when users leave due to a bad customer service experience, they often cause more damage than just churn; chances are high they’ll take their friends, connections and family along with them. Businesses that focus on their customers’ success not only create happy customers but also increase the experienced value and grow their profits.

And this is why more and more online businesses are increasing their spend on customer service. You should, too.

Want to dig deeper into why your customers churn? We’ll help you run a comprehensive churn analysis, identify why your users are leaving, and proffer working solutions.

Fill out this form to apply for a free consultation session.

 

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Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and campaign management

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and campaign management

Summarized overview

Questions and subjects discussed in this article:

  • definition: PPC campaign
  • definition: impressions
  • PPC market leaders: what and where to buy
  • clickstream analysis and keyword selection
  • cost-per-unit and what you should expect to pay
  • how to evaluate the traffic you purchase
  • the difference between quality and quantity
  • importance of conversion rate metrics

PPC advertising

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and campaigns are the primary way of advertising on the internet. As of May 2009, the three largest players in the market are Google, Yahoo, and Bing.

A PPC campaign lets you determine exactly who comes to your website. You only pay for clicks to your site; if a person clicks on a search engine result, link, or banner and lands on your site (aka PPP pay-for-performance advertising). If the person only sees your link, but does not click through, this is called an impression.
Impressions are “the number of promotional units a person is subjected to” (Cone, S. 2008. Powerlines) You do not have pay for impressions. There are also pricing models based on impressions, which charge per thousand (CPM). Whether or not the purchase of impressions is interesting for you depends on your product and target audience.

Using clickstream analysis, a tracking system will tell you what people do on your site once they arrive through PPC advertising. This information is necessary to manage your advertising, and determine the best ways to:

  • obtain quality traffic
  • convert visitors into customers
  • create action that generates revenue

PPC advertising is based on keyword selection. The entire internet advertising market revolves around choosing the correct search terms and keywords. Well managed PPC advertising will bring traffic that achieves your goal, or ‘desired outcome’, whether it is to publicise an event or sell goods and services.

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Quality is more important than quantity.

‘Quality’ traffic refers to traffic that is well-targeted. This means that the visitors:

  • are looking for what you are advertising
  • enter the site and look around
  • complete a transaction or become a lead (i.e. convert)
  • come from countries and regions that you are interested in
  • return to visit your site again

Quality traffic will bring you a higher percentage of success, in terms of seeing your visitors complete a transaction, or subscribe to the service that you provide. Conversion rate analysis will allow you to determine which traffic sources turn visitors into leads and sales.

Conversion rate is the statistic that tells you what percentage of your visitors are converted from visitors into customers/ leads. High quality traffic will deliver a higher conversion rate. Conversion rate is another way of talking about your return on investment (ROI) and acquisition cost-per-visitor.

How to use tracking to evaluate PPC campaigns

A tracking service will allow you to:

  1. Check how effective clicks are and adjust campaigns accordingly:
  • see which keywords and search terms bring more visitors
  • learn which advertising copy is most effective
  • know which source/ search engine brings the best results:
  • at the right price per click (cost acquisition per customer)
  • determine conversion rate and set goals
  1. Accountability: make sure you are getting what you pay for
  • source of traffic: country, etc
  • how long do they stay, how many pages viewed? Average number of page views from one search engine might be lower than another
Please click here to read our recent article on “how to update PPC campaigns with search term data”.

We cannot stress how important it is to actively manage your PPC campaigns. Update your keywords, campaigns, vendors, and bids as frequently as possible, as your budget allows.

What can a tracking system tell you about the quality of your traffic?

Low quality traffic may overload your server(s), spike your traffic & frustrate you. More importantly it is a waste of time, money, and resources. It will create false expectations. A tracking system will tell you if / why your traffic is low quality.

  1. Does it come from a country which is not your market? For example a place where most people do not have credit cards or are not interested in buying real estate in Canada, because they live in China.
  2. Do the visitors land on your homepage and leave without clicking any further? Visit duration is an important statistic which tells you if people are interested in your site. How many pages do the visitors look at?
  3. Are the visitors presented with a link to your site when they search for a related keyword or search term? This is called phrase matching. The worst-case scenario is when your link is presented randomly, or as a pop-up.

Where should I buy PPC advertising traffic?

There are many sources to purchase clicks from, we recommend that you try more than one service, and compare results. Many sites use search results originating from a small number of search engines. This type of system is called a “content network”. The major PPC vendors such as Google and Yahoo also place content within their own networks. For example, they place advertisements alongside like content.

The PPC vendors distinguish between ‘Sponsored Search’ results and ‘Content Match’ placements. Sponsored searches place results alongside search engine results. Content match places results near articles, email content, forums, etc. In our experience you will obtain a higher conversion rate with sponsored searches, which also cost more.

Statistics on the subject of where searches are conducted vary widely. Estimates for Google, the leader, are as high as 80%. The leaders after Google are Yahoo, Bing. Many smaller search engines come and go, as they are purchased and incorporated into the larger search engines.

List of companies who sell PPC traffic:

Google, Enhance (ah-ha), Overture, FindWhat, Kanoodle, ePilot, LookSmart, Search123, eSpotting.

NOTE: the list above dates from several years ago and demonstrates some examples of search engines which have disappeared. Do some research to determine the current “hot” markets.

The advantage of paying for your traffic is that most campaigns can be implemented immediately, although it will take several hours to set up your first account. Depending on your budget, you can pay for a high ranking and see your advertising online within an hour. The disadvantage is that you have to pay every time a person clicks on your advertisement.

Therefore we recommend that all PPC campaigns are accompanied by ongoing efforts to improve your Google pagerank and optimise your site for search engines. These results are free and cannot be directly purchased, although you can hire a company to perform search engine optimization (SEO) on your site.

How to start your PPC campaign

The best thing to do is to run a few PPC accounts and run your campaigns for a set period of time and compare results. The standard setup procedure involves:

  1. create account & deposit funds
  2. receive confirmation that your account has been activated
  3. choose your keywords & text
  4. watch your traffic to evaluate your choice of text & words
  5. adjust your bids/ budget accordingly

Most PPC campaigns allow you to bid on your position. This means that you can bid on the number one position in the sponsored listings category. Bidding can be very competitive, with advertisers paying above $5 per click. Consider your price an acquisition cost-per-customer. It is part of the larger picture of website management strategy.

Once your visitor arrives, you must ensure that they find what they are looking for, and in the words of many marketing consultants; that you are able to guide them to complete actions that you desire, for example:

  • placing an order
  • completing a transaction
  • making a reservation
  • becoming a lead
  • signing up for a newsletter

Several studies have demonstrated that once a visitor makes a purchase on a site and effectively becomes a customer they are likely to return again. In this way a high acquisition cost can be justified, when ROI is taken into account.

Creating a PPC advertising campaign may seem daunting at first, however with a little research, you can design your own campaign, and reach a larger percentage of your target audience. Whether you manage your own campaign or hire somebody to do it for you, we are of course interested to hear from you and offer any advice that we can.

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How to write a Privacy Policy for your website

How to write a Privacy Policy For Website

 

Summarised overview

In this article you will find steps and information on:

  • Defining a privacy policy
  • Why you should have one
  • Guidelines for creating a policy
  • A sample privacy policy specific to setting cookies, and a
  • Link to an automated policy generator

Step 1: Explain what the privacy policy is addressing

A privacy policy is a document telling visitors to your site what information you collect and what you do with that information. Very simply: it is a short explanation of what you are doing to observe visitors to your website.

Step 2: Define your Cookie Specific Privacy Policy:

  1. What cookies are?
  2. What info is collected?
  3. What is done with the information?
  4. How to reject / delete / accept cookies?
  5. Explain that there are no harmful technical consequences/ risks

Two good reasons to develop a privacy policy for website

  1. Create a better electronic environment on the internet
  2. Laws / legislation may pertain to your business

By letting people know what info is collected and what is done with that information, you can create a transparent environment in which people / consumers are more confident. You can eliminate stress and concerns about abuse of personal info.

Various legislations and legal guidelines, for example in the US and in the UK, are being developed and may affect your website, depending on what information you collect, how you do it, and what you do with it. The European Union has developed similar guidelines that contain a bit too much legal rhetoric to be completely useful.
See resource list below for reference websites.

Step 3: Formatting an Online Privacy Policy

Your policy should be written in plain readable language. Consider the policy to be a part of your site. Design the policy and publish it like the rest of your site. Design it as if you actually want people to read it. Make it short, friendly & intuitive. It should be easily accessible throughout your site.

A Sample Privacy Policy

www.mysite.com uses www.opentracker.net to collect visitor data and analyze traffic on our site. This information helps us understand customer interests and helps us improve our website. When you visit our site, the pages that you look at, and a short text file called a cookie, are downloaded to your computer. A cookie is used to store small amounts of information. This information is collected for traffic analysis only. The cookie does not contain personal details. Depending on the browser that you use, you can set your preferences to block/ refuse cookies, and/ or notify you before they are placed. Opentracker does not sell, give, or trade the statistics they store to any 3rd parties for data-mining or marketing purposes. Please visit www.opentracker.net for their privacy policy.

Step 4: Design your privacy policy for your website

Tell your visitors why tracking cookies are good, why the information is beneficial, that it is used to improve websites and their content. Give an example. If you are collecting information, tell them what you do with that information. Give people an opportunity not to have their info collected, for example by blocking cookies. Explain how people can block cookies. Also explain that cookies are not harmful and cannot introduce viruses or extract personal contact information.

Why all the fuss?

There is an important distinction to be made here between cookies and spyware. Spyware collects information about your surfing habits across the internet and sends this information out from your computer. Cookies collect information about your surfing habits only on the site of the provider of the cookie, in other words just on one site.

From our research it appears that most people are concerned that their personal information may be passed on. In this case, there is an important distinction to make between Two Types of Information which are collected:

  1. Personally identifiable info/ personal contact info
  2. Clickstream/ navigation info

Specific to concerns about cookies, the information being collected does not contain personally identifiable information. Clickstreams are used to see if people return to the same sites, and identify patterns.

When databases are combined, for example a membership & login base, with a clickstream tracking system, it is possible to combine personal information, such as an email address, with clickstreams. This is where the main cause for concern seems to lie.

The companies that do this; with the resources to combine clickstreams, past purchases, and personal information, are household names, such as amazon.com, ebay, bbc, yahoo, etc.

Further Reading

We also recommend taking a look at the privacy policy of a company or website that you like or respect to see what information they consider to be important.

Here is a privacy policy generator where you can also find information about legislation:

https://privacypolicygenerator.info/

Legislation in the UK:

https://www.cookielaw.org/the-cookie-law/

Obviously there is a very real concern for a lot of people that their privacy is being abused. We would like to respond to these concerns, primarily through education, but also by opening up a dialogue on any related questions or ideas. Please feel free to write us, or post feedback on our support center.

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How To Improve your Google Rankings

Improve Google ranking and PageRank

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Summarized overview

In this article, you will find information about:

  • Google PageRank
  • Search engines & keyword significance
  • Google bots and fresh bots
  • Optimizing your pages
  • Content updates: ‘a page a day will send Google your way’

Google is your friend

At the moment, Google is by far the most popular internet search engine in the world. At the time of writing, Yahoo is the second largest, it takes over a majority of remaining smaller engines (Inktomi.com, Altavista.com, fastsearch.com, alltheweb.com, etc.) through its acquisition of Overture. Bing is the 3rd player, and is currently developing their own search engine that will produce independent results.

Numerous big players like Yahoo, Hotbot, AOL, and Netscape use Google engine and indexes.image for google page rank

Google has a unique way of determining where to place sites in result listings, from top to bottom. They use a technology called PageRank:

Most services offer the bare minimum, a counter, for free. If you wish to learn about your traffic in any detail, an upgrade and payment is necessary.

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PageRank

The word “PageRank” means a system for ranking web pages.

“PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B.”

Backlinks and how they affect your pageRank

Links from any page (internal or external) to your site (primarily your homepage) are called backlinks.

Additionally, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or backlinks, a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Pages that are themselves ‘important’ weigh more heavily cast votes and help to make other pages ‘important’.

Thus, “important, high-quality sites have a higher PageRank, which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Of course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don’t match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important, and relevant to your search.”

“Google goes far beyond the number of times a search term appears on a page and examines numerous aspects of the page’s content (and the content of the pages linking to it), to determine if it’s a good match for your query. “

To find out what your site’s PageRank is, you can download a tool . To check your backlinks, try typing ‘link:www.yoursite.com’ (without the ‘ marks) in the search box.

The above excerpts are taken from an article that was posted by Google, which provides additional background information on PageRank.

Meanwhile the page has been removed, so here are some other links to relevant info:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PageRank
http://www.google.com/competition/howgooglesearchworks.html#section1

How to improve your site listings in Google

Getting Started

Check if your site is in the Google database.

If your site is new or you are still building the site, add your site as soon as possible. It can take up to a month to see your site turn up in Google. This is a rough estimate, as the time period is steadily diminishing. You will turn up much quicker if you are linked to a site which is frequently ‘spidered’ by Googlebots; little robot-scripts that index the internet page-by-page. These robots, which search engines send out, are variously called ‘spiders’, ‘bots’, ‘crawlers’, etc.

 

Googlebots

Google spiders in particular are called Googlebots. There are different types of bots. A freshbot, for example, visits you on a regular basis if you make frequent updates. The advantage of being visited by freshbots is that your updates can appear in Google on a daily basis: something of a positive version of catch-22. The more content you add, the more often you are visited. This leads to the importance of adding content. This is discussed in detail below.

If you have a link from a site that is often visited by a googlebot, then you can appear in Google within 24 hours.

Feshbots

To determine if your site has recently been visited by a freshbot, do a search on Google for your site URL. Freshtags, which indicate the recent passage of a freshbot, will appear in the search results as a recent date (shown just below the single line of site description). They are not rare, however, like clouds, on some days there are none in the sky.

Find link-exchange partners and check their PageRank, a link from a site with a high PageRank is better than one with an low PageRank. The case has been made that linking to a site that has no PageRank will keep your rank down. This is called linking to a ‘bad neighborhood’.

Optimizing your pages for Google

Your site will be visited by Googlebots if you establish one or more links from other indexed sites to yours.

Googlebots scan the content of your pages mainly by looking at the following items:

  • Page title
  • Meta description
  • All text on your page(s)
  • Links to other pages

All these items are of great importance because they should contain your important search keywords.

This is an important conceptual hurdle. The entire internet revolves around the choice of individual words. This process is constantly being refined. It is essential that you are Spartan and accurate whenever choosing your descriptive terminology: words. Try and put yourself in the minds of the people who will be looking for your site. What are the one or two words that they will focus on?

Page title

Make sure your title contains your most important search keywords. Do not make your titles longer than 80 characters (more can be considered as spamming).

Meta description

Google does not index your meta ‘keywords’ tag but it does index your meta ‘description’ tag. Make sure your description contains your most important search keywords.

All text on your page(s)

Make sure your text contains your most important search keywords. More importantly, the pages should focus on your subject, service, product, or area of interest. Put your most important keywords once in your headers, a couple of times in your paragraphs, once in bold once in italic, in your image alt tags, your image names, your url’s, etc.

Links to your other pages

Make sure the Googlebot can find its way through your site. One thing Googlebots find hard to follow is framesets. 

or hidden section where your text and links are located. Adding a sitemap can do wonders for letting Google index your entire site.

Tip: if you have a button on your website that takes you back to the homepage, link it to your domain name (www.yoursite.com) instead of a page called home.html or index.html. Google doesn’t recognize the difference between outbound or inbound backlinks.

Content: update your content as frequently as possible.

The more often you update your content, the more often freshbots will visit your site. Try to add a page a day if possible. The content you generate should be of high quality. Try to find every angle from which you can discuss or describe the subject your site is about. The point is not to generate poor quality or duplicate material. Duplicate pages will lead to penalization. The point is that Google, for example, loves content. It is a question of scale. Think of the old adage ‘an apple a day will keep the doctor away’. In this case it can be revised: ‘a page a day will send Google your way’. More content, more spider visits, more human visitors, more readers, more pages, etc.

All this will contribute towards strengthening your PageRank and realising a higher position in Google search results. This will lead to more traffic.

Please keep in mind that the above tips, suggestions, and ideas are based on our experiences managing Opentracker. This information is subject to change on a daily basis.

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Third-Party Cookies Vs First-Party Cookies

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Third-Party Cookies vs First-Party Cookies

Executive Summary and Article Navigation

Discussion and definitions of:

Who wants a cookie?

What are cookies? Here are a few over-lapping definitions;
  1. A small data file placed on your computer by a website that you visit.
  2. A piece of code placed in your browser by a website server.
  3. A text file placed on a hard drive to store and transmit information to the server of websites (re)visited from that browser / computer.
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What is a (third-party) cookie?

A cookie is a small bit of text placed on the hard drive of  your computer by the server of a website that you visit. The cookie is placed there for the purpose of recognizing your specific browser or remembering information specific to your browser, were you to return to the same site.

All cookies have an owner which tells you who the cookie belongs to. The owner is the domain specified in the cookie.

In “third-party cookie”, the word “party” refers to the domain as specified in the cookie; the website that is placing the cookie. So, for example, if you visit widgets.com and the domain of the cookie placed on your computer is widgets.com, then this is a first-party cookie. If, however, you visit widgets.com and the cookie placed on your computer says stats-for-free.com, then this is a third-party cookie.

Opentracker provides services that allow the companies and websites to track their visitors with first-party cookies.

Growth of third party cookie rejection

Reports and research on the subject of website tracking tell us that the rejection of third-party cookies is growing. Increasing numbers of people are either manually blocking third-party cookies, or deleting them regularly.

That is why Opentracker utilizes 1st party cookie technology.

The cookies being deleted / blocked are third-party party cookies, as opposed to less problematic first-party cookies.

How many people or software tools delete third party cookies? The numbers given can be as high as 40%. If you count that many anti-spyware applications and default privacy settings also block 3rd party cookies, then it is possible that a high percentage of cookies are being blocked.

Blocking and deleting cookies

Why do far fewer people block first-party cookies? It is estimated that a very low percentage of people block first party cookies, less than 5%. The reason for this is primarily that it is very difficult to surf the internet without accepting these cookies. First party cookies are necessary in order for you to be recognised as an individual. Any site that you login to as an individual requires a way of identifying you as “you”. Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail, online banking, ebay, Amazon, etc.

Additionally, anti-spyware software and privacy settings do not target first-party cookies.

visitors onlineWe use cookies to keep track of long-term visitors. These visitors remain anonymous, the point is to be able to see who returns, if and when, for example, for conversion analysis.

We use first party cookies as our first line of analysis, and ip number with user agent as the secondary line. AOL users are identified more specifically because their ip number changes with every click.

What actually happens when cookies are blocked / rejected?

1st party cookies: it is very hard to login anywhere

3rd party cookies: no adverse effects to surfing

Q: How does this affect tracking systems, when people block / delete cookies?

A: All visits will still be recorded, but a person who has deleted the cookies will not be recognised as the same (returning) visitor.

When cookies are in place, and not blocked or deleted, total visitor counts will remain comparatively low. If a person constantly deletes cookies, they will be counted as a new “unique” visitor with every subsequent visit.

Conclusion

In response to these trends, the first step is to find out if the statistics that you collect utilise first-party or third-party cookies. Ask your statistics or tracking company. Asking questions usually leads to more questions, always a good thing when it comes to gathering and analysing data.

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Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization

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Article navigation

In this article you will find information about:

Search engine optimization (Ŏp’tě-mĭ-zā’shěn) n.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of making your website easy to find on the internet. This is done by optimizing your site for the search engines that people use to surf the internet. A well optimized site can draw thousands of (free) referrals per day from major search engines. Properly optimizing your site will mean a gradual shift away from Pay-Per-Click campaigns to cost-free referrals.

In this article we outline several techniques you can use to undertake a simple search engine optimization of your site.

The goal: improve your position in search engine results

The goal of search engine optimization is to place your website as high as possible in search engine listings. Most surfers do not scroll down through search engine results, which is why you need to be as high up as possible.

For example, if you sell widgets, you do not want to come up number 68 in search engine listings. If you do, chances are very few visitors will make it to your site, unless you use paid or sponsored listings. Not only can paid listings be expensive, but a surprisingly low percentage of surfers actually click through sponsored results. By our estimates, made through studying Google Ad campaigns, the clickthrough rate on sponsored listings often hovers around or below 1.0% of all impressions made. That means that less than one percent of all visitors click on paid listings in Google.

Some search engines, for example Dogpile, Teoma, and InfoSpace, present a higher percentage of sponsored listings. Others such as AOL, Netscape, Ask Jeeves, and Hotbot feature sponsored results more prominently, and subsequently have a higher click-thru rate on paid listings than Google. Keep in mind that ownership and management of many search engines and portals changes on an almost daily basis. Perhaps the most important point is to be aware of where search engines get their results from.

Ultimately, you want to have your site listed in the top 10 or top 20 search engine results. This counts for all search engines, and especially for search engines that you would not be able sponsor your way into, even if you had the budget.

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How SEO works

The goal of SEO is to increase the amount of traffic that is led to your site. One way to do this is by optimizing the content of your website page by page. Below we describe a few of the steps that you can take yourself to optimize your pages.

Parts of the optimizing process are fairly straight forward. The most important focus is the choice of keywords/search terms that you build into your site. The keywords you use are the road signs that lead traffic to your site. Therefore, your content should be purpose-built, by carefully choosing the words with which you create the content of your site. This means both your page titles, and the actual content of your pages.

Carefully chosen keywords, that reflect the search terms that surfers use, will also have the advantage of improving your Google ranking.

Here are a few steps that you can take yourself:

  1. Find out what your keyword density is. This number tells you the number of times specific keywords appear in each page. Between 5% and 15% is a good range to aim for. It is up to you to find a good balance between being informative and repetitive.
  2. Build links into your site. Both visitors and search engine spiders navigate by way of links. It is necessary to have numerous links, both from external sites (called backlinks) and links within your site (called crosslinks). When creating links, use words in place of logos or graphics. This is called anchor-text placement.
    Links will make your site easy to navigate for the bots and spiders that some search engines send out to index all the websites on the internet. Note: not all search engines send out bots. MSN, for example, use advertising, paid listings, and existing directories. You make your site easy to navigate with either a site map, extensive crosslinks, or both.
  3. Examine your page titles. Make sure they are succinct and relevant.
  4. Describe your service or product in as many ways as possible. For example, if you sell widgets, post articles and content which talk about the many wonderful applications of widgets. You could have a piece about manufacturing widgets, a piece about widgets as the perfect gift. You might want to include descriptions of both the numerous types of widgets available, and descriptions of all the numerous widgets, and widget-related products that you carry. A piece on the historical development of the widget would not hurt.
    The reason for including so much widget-related content is to try and cover all the possible word combinations that refer to widgets. You also want to be as informative as possible.
  5. Equally important is the steady addition of content. ‘Content, content, content’ is fast becoming a mantra on the internet.

Professional SEO services

SEO is a very wide subject. Optimization work is carried out both on sites under construction, and established sites. A professional SEO strategist will look at an existing site, and see what improvements can be made. This is done by looking at the competition, for example, their keywords, and also by looking for places to create backlinks. It involves a lot of research, content change, and subsequent search engine results. After each composition change, it is necessary to wait for the results to show up, before the effects of the changes can be measured. It is a slow process which can easily take months.

Numerous alternatives to conducting your own SEO exist. There is a vast and growing market for SEO. There are many companies competing for your business. There is a difference between getting a high listing position, and keeping it. A tricky aspect of SEO is that it is an ongoing process. Therefore choose carefully, when you choose an SEO company, as they are likely to be a long-term partner in your growth. SEO companies that guarantee you a first, second, or third place listing should make you suspicious. There is too much variability to make such promises.

What can a new site expect?

Ideally, a new site will start out with a fair number of traffic generating strategies before rising to prominence in search engine listings. So, a new site might buy traffic, register with search engines and portals, submit their URL to paid and free listings, and possibly buy backlinks. As a site grows in popularity, and the frequency of spider visits increases, the percentage of traffic driven from listings will increase. Thereafter economic resources can be moved away from paid advertisements. It can be very satisfying to watch these percentages change.

How can Opentracker help?

Opentracker can:

  1. Give you accurate statistics and visitor behavior, customizable to any given time frame you are interested in.
  2. Tell you which words to build into your site through extensive search term tracking. For example, we provide you with chronological ranked listings of all the terms used to find your site. We also provide you with the clickstreams of the users who surfed in with those terms.
  3. Measure the percentages for you, and tell you which of your traffic is from standard results and what percentage is from sponsored listings. This will allow you to achieve an overall understanding of what your paid listings are bringing you.
  4. Tell you how effective your campaigns, paid listings or paid inclusion are.
  5. Show you which entry pages are the most popular on your site. You can see how many people come in to specific pages. This, in turn will tell you how well each page has been optimized, which changes to pursue, and which ones to drop.

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Drop in traffic conversion

Drop in traffic conversion

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Executive Summary and Article Navigation

Case Study in Usability: What to do when website traffic conversion drops.

This article presents a case study in website usability. The goal of the article is to develop strategy for responding to a (sudden) drop in website conversion activity. A conversion is defined as a visitor to your website converting into a lead, client, or subscriber. In this case a conversion is when a person signs up for a free trial account.

In the example presented here a website was rebuilt, updated, and placed online. The result in terms of conversion was a decrease. From between 20-30 conversions per day, the number fell to less than 10.

Please click here to read our article Website traffic conversion and measuring ROI

Traffic did not change but visitor behavior changed

We responded by looking at the traffic itself. The number of visitors had not changed, and the number of first-time visitors had increased.
The number of single event visits, or bounces, had increased.

Two variables to study if you see a drop in traffic conversion:
1. Number of pageviews per visitor
2. Clickstreams leading to conversion activity

Professional real-time visitor analytics
Accuracy enhanced by first-party cookies

Number of pageviews per visitor and single-click events

A decrease in the average number of pageviews per visitor was observed. An increase in the number of single event visits was also observed. All of our traffic referrers were sending us the same amount of traffic. The drop in conversion had to do with our site redesign.

Clickstream activity most likely to create conversion

Important question: what are the most typical paths taken to conversion. What are the pages on our website through which visitors had been most likely to convert in the past.
We focused our energy on the top 5 pages where people had converted in the past 6 months.

The problem was defined in two parts: a) people making it to the site and clicking away after a few seconds and b) fewer people were making it to the trial signup page.

Please click here to visit our blog dedicated to creating website traffic conversion

Our conclusion was that our new site design was not optimized for navigation. We needed to improve our internal navigation with banners and links to better display the options.
Specifically we wanted to improve clicks and navigation between:

1. articles on our site
2. signing up for a trial
3. looking at the demo

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We started by “advertising” on our own site in a PPC style. We placed small text ads on the site to let our visitors know that we offer tracking and event analytics as well as publishing white papers & articles.
We are monitoring the internal links for performance and will select for the best-performing text.

What to do when conversion drops

1. Start with your top 5 incoming landing pages and search terms. What are your top performers? Is anything different about those pages.
2. Check for single-click events. Are visitors clicking away after one pageview?
3. Double-check the technical steps of the conversion process. Check all browsers. We found that some people were unable to signup because of browser issues.

Creating conversion through clickstream analysis

1. Study clickstreams of visitors who have converted in the past
2. Locate current visitors coming from same source / into the same landing page(s)
3. Identify the difference in behavior

In this case the difference was explained by a change in site navigation. We addressed the navigation issues, created more internal links, and saw an increase in conversions as a result.

Please click here for a guide to technical definitions and discussion of clickpath analysis.

Glossary:
Conversion

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Building Online Community

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Building Online Community

A How-to Guide: Using webstats to build online community

Build and measure community: Strategies to attract visitors
‘Customer loyalty’ – getting visitors to return
Target audience behavior: Understand your clients and community
Visualize your website as a store
Learn from traffic patterns
Content management based on traffic statistics

Building (and measuring) a community of visitors to your site

One secret of sites like Facebook, Amazon, ebay, Twitter, and Yahoo is ‘customer loyalty’, which means a community of returning visitors. These sites have generated trust.

To begin replicating this process for your own site, benchmark your traffic community based on the variables outlined below.

This is the point of tracking: evaluate your marketing strategy (i.e. site content) based on performance in terms of what your visitors do on your most important pages. What do they do just before they convert from visitors to clients?

Click here for an in-depth analysis of how to Use Statistics for Decision-making.

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Customer loyalty and returning visitors

Some sites we measure have a very good returning visitor ratio of 30-40%. This group of visitors is their customer client-base, the community. So, if a community has 100,000 members, over a given period of time, two months for example, then you have the population of a small city coming to your site and returning. This means that people are actively using the info in some way. The useful aspect of this information could not be deduced from ‘pageviews’ alone, but is only interesting when the pageviews are correlated to unique visitors. This will tell you, for example, how many pages the average visitor views.

Understand target audience behavior

There are road signs to tell you how a community is behaving. A community comprised of first-time visitors has few variables. All you know at this stage is that your campaign generates first-time visitors. The best investment is to try and build a community of returning visitors and study their behavior. We have a community at opentracker that returns on a regular basis. If this community starts to visit our site less frequently and for shorter periods of time, using less information, we will take a look at the indicators and evaluate why such changes are taking place.

Visualize your website as a store with real people coming in & out

Visualizing a store and actual humans is a good way to measure the performance of your site, and to try & visualize what people are actually doing in your store. The trick here is to remember that the numbers are generated by people. Are these people doing what your site is designed for? What is the ultimate conversion goal that you have set for your site? From which page on your site do the most people ‘convert’ as you want them to? Is there a banner or link that is most frequently clicked on? This single piece of information is tremendously valuable. Click here to read more about Website Visitor Conversion Activity.

Learn from traffic patterns

One statistic that can give you an idea of what people are doing is the list that tells you which pages are being looked at most. This tells you which part of your store is most popular. Imagine pages as shelves or sections of your store. Do you have ‘staff’ or help resources to help people make decisions? The pages that are heavily trafficked should receive the most of your attention when you manage your content. Keep in mind, also, that while certain pages do have a lot of pageviews, they are perhaps viewed by a minority of people. It is therefore not smart to focus on these pages, simply because they have a lot of pageviews. For instance we measure numerous sites with forums & chat pages that continually refresh, thus generating many pageviews from relatively few people. These pages do not need attention in the way of marketing optimisation.

Content management based on statistics

The most interesting statistics tell what is happening on your pages: how long people stay. Average viewing time above 20 seconds is very good. Most people click away in less that 10 seconds. Therefore, if people are reading & returning, then you know that the site is being used, people are continually coming back to check for information or research / make purchases. You know which information is the most important, generating more interest. A newspaper has no way of knowing how much time its readers spend on a page, this is a wonderful comparative advantage for a website. The goal is to take your stats & use them to improve your marketing strategies.
  1. Identify important pages.
  2. Evaluate their performance based on statistics.
Further reading: Here is an article we wrote on How to Make Statistics Work for you.

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Traffic Conversion: Return on Investment (ROI)

Traffic Conversion: Return on Investment (ROI)

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Summary overview

In this article, you will find information about:

  • What is a conversion rate?
  • How to improve your conversion rate
  • Conversion rates for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
  • Conversion as a measurement of ROI
  • ‘Desired actions’ and ‘shortened paths to actions’
  • Drop-off points and leaks

Return on Investment (ROI)

Just like a brick-and-mortar business, a website needs careful management to ensure commercial success. Content management decisions should be based on web metrics, not guesswork. Setting measurable business goals and monitoring progress will help you to build a website that generates revenue.

Your website conversion rate tells you how many of your visitors are being ‘converted’ from visitors into clients, customers, leads, or subscribers.

If you purchase your traffic through a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertisingcampaign, or invest money into website management, then a visitor who has been converted into a client, or completed a purchase (an action known as a ‘desired outcome’) is a return on your investment.

A well built PPC advertising campaign with optimized search terms can bring you visitors at an acquisition cost of pennies-per-click.

Once visitors are on your site, optimized navigability is necessary to ensure that the traffic you worked so hard to drive to your website also finds what they want (provided that you have it).

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An important feature of Opentracker that will assist you in this process is clickstream analysis. How many clicks stand between your visitors and the outcome that you desire? Are there obvious drop-off points between ‘add-to-cart’ events and checkout? A drop-off point, or a leak, is a place where visitors leave your site, but are not intended to do so. In some cases eliminating a click, leak, or drop-off place will lead to a substantial increase in conversion rate.

The idea is to identify bottlenecks and shorten the path to desired actions.

Steps to Improve Conversion Rate:

  • Reduce the number of clicks to your desired action
  • Identify drop-off points and eliminate them
  • Identify bottlenecks and improve traffic flow

Learn about your Conversion Rate:

  • What percentage of your visitors are converted?
  • What is your best source of converted visitors?

Learn about Visitors who Converted:

  • Study the visitors who complete specified actions and become clients
  • Do they come from a specific advertisement or search engine
  • Do they return?
  • Learn what your ‘model visitor’ looks like

Making informed business and content management decisions can make your webiste a profitable enterprise. In essence, conversion metrics are about finding out what works and putting your advertising dollars there. Use your statistics to track your progress over time. Measure a campaign from start to finish, evaluate, update your site, and measure again.

Glossary:
ROI
Goal
Conversion
Source

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