How Much Are You Investing In Analytics? – acCenter Staff


In the UK last week Brand Republic reported that UK spend on search engine marketing would reach £2.75bn this year.

However, just a tiny fraction of that cash – £330m – was spent on the art of SEO or search engine optimisation. The lion’s share of web site owner’s budget went on paid search solutions like Google AdWords or Microsoft adCenter.

SEO is an essential and vital route to improving usability and search engine visibility of web sites. So with what appears to be a disproportionate amount of time and money being allocated to this fine discipline, it made me wonder how much was being invested in web analytics.

When I say investment, I mean investment in people. Although many web analytics tools cost money to run, some are now free but you still need people to make sense of the data they provide. At Microsoft we have full time analysts pouring over dashboards of data, setting benchmarks and looking out for actionable insight. Some might say that having dedicated resource is a luxury a large company like Microsoft can afford – and they might be right!

But that doesn’t prevent company leaders from coaching their marketing manager or webmaster to spend an hour a day keeping an eye on what traffic trends might be exploited.

Investment doesn’t necessarily mean spending a lot of cash.

A few hundred dollars on a training course at a conference for someone in your company who’s interested in data could result in thousands of dollars made or saved. Paid search is an incredibly valuable lead generator and marketing channel, but in order to build a better web experience for users we need to better understand their behaviour and then act – that means investing a little more time and energy into web analytics and SEO.

How to Seduce the Cash-Strapped Shopper – adCenter Staff

How do you stand out to the ‘credit crunched’ customer? The growth of online sales has slowed down in recent months as a result of the current financial climate. The Creative Services team believes creative ads could be the saving grace for your search campaign.

Online Growth Slows Down

The IMRG Capgemini Index shows that UK shoppers spent just over £4.8 billion online in July. This meant a year-on-year financial growth of about 15.2%. A slowdown compared to the 75.6% year-on-year growth reported in January this year.

Communicate Credit Crunch Defying Deals!

As your online ads and offers are so easy to update at no extra cost, it’s worthwhile ensuring your campaigns are targeted to the current situation.

Creative, smart ad copy will boost your CTR, brand awareness and visibility at any time and will make you stand out from the competition. When growth slows down it is even more important to keep a competitive edge.

One of the reasons why online sales still are still growing in contrast to the high street where sales are down*), is that the internet is the place to be to pick up a bargain. People are looking for discounts and to compare prices to ensure they get the best deals. Shops and online services respond with attractive offers.

A 5-minute spot check on some of our advertiser’s websites shows that great offers are definitely out there: ‘free delivery on everything’, ‘2-day delivery times on electrical goods’, ‘reserve online and pick up in store against online prices’, ‘buy one get one free’ and ‘5 year interest free credit’.

The challenge is to ensure these deals are reflected in your ad copy and that the ads appeal to someone who is likely to be looking for a deal instead of indulgence and luxury.

Here’s how:

· Ensure your deal is mentioned in your ad but be careful not to sacrifice clarity for creativity. Stay clear and to the point as well as being imaginative.

· Describe your product or service in an appealing way. Think about how your product, service or deal could appeal to more shrewd searchers (if appropriate). Think of using words such as ‘affordable’, ‘low-priced’, ‘pre-season-sale’ and ‘early bird bonus’.

· Think how your offer or service may actually help your cash-strapped customer.

Save money, save time (you don’t have to rummage through racks to find a deal) or offer alternatives (self-catering cottages as opposed to opulent hotel rooms).

· Use tempting adjectives.

Here are some powerful examples:


Read adCenter’s previous blog on how to prepare your search campaign for the Christmas holiday period.


*The IMRG Capgemini Index reports high street sales are down by 0.9 % year on year compared to July 2007.

Top 5 Tips for Winning in Retail Over and Beyond the Festive Period

Yes it’s that time already!

Following on from a post about the credit crunch, it’s time to think about the run up to the holiday season. Although this post is written from a UK perspective, most of the tips are applicable to most markets around the world.

The online UK retail landscape this year has seen steady growth with IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) reporting 15.2% year-on-year market growth to July 2008. Despite there being challenges associated with a slowing economy and the credit crunch, UK shoppers spent over £26.5 billion online in the first six months of 2008, up 38% on the £19.2 billion recorded for the first half of 2007. Online sales accounted for around 17% of the total UK retail market during the first half of the year. (Source: The IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index – June 08).

So, challenges aside, early indicators look good for a merry online Christmas, with analysts predicting strong sales as savvy shoppers hit the web instead of the high street and out-of-town shopping centres for Christmas bargains.

1) Be like Red Robin: The Early Bird Catches the Worm

So when do people in the UK start to prepare for the festive season? According to Hitwise, a leading competitive search intelligence company, and Microsoft adCenter’s historical data the first tentative searches for Christmas-related keywords started as early as August! However, the first major rush coincides with when people get paid at the end of October.

The second and final push for the season coincides with when people get paid at the end of November. Searches reach critical mass in the first two weeks of December. Impressions begin to slow and click rates escalate as the postal deadlines for packages and parcels loom between the 17 – 19 December.



2) Christmas Wish Lists: Supply and Demand

Christmas is a time for caring and sharing, and peace to all men on Earth. However, try telling that to the tearful six-year-old on Christmas morning who’s just realised that Santa wasn’t able to bring them the latest High School Musical toy they asked for.

Gather insights into what customers will be demanding this festive season and what you should be stocking. If you sell toys, keep an eye on the Toy Retailers Association website for the release of the 2008 Dream Toys on 15 October which is a comprehensive list of what’s hot and not for kids of all ages this Christmas.

Finally, encourage customers to pre-order and buy early to avoid disappointment through your ad copy.

3) Stand and Deliver: Money or Your Brand Reputation

Delivery is everything to Internet customers, and it’s even more important to get it right during the festive time of year. Undelivered gifts can spoil Christmas day, which could impact brand equity and even lose customers.

Ensure delivery is a priority in your Christmas copy. Be transparent about delivery costs and delivery deadlines. If you use a third party courier service mention these because they can usually deliver beyond the Royal Mail postal deadlines. If your website offers free delivery on shopping baskets over a certain spend then use this unique selling point to entice buyers.

4) Security Matters: Santa Claus is Coming to Town (And So Are The Credit Card Hackers!)

Christmas is also the time when people are likely to take to shopping online for the first time. However with recurring stories in the media that Internet fraud and identity theft are on the increase, how do you get a nervous first-time Internet customer to shop with you? If your website is accredited by ISIS (Internet Shopping Is Safe) or you use a secure, encrypted payment system such as PayPal or World Pay, mention this in your copy to reassure buyers that you take their security and custom seriously. For more advice on e-commerce security messaging visit:



5) Snowballing not Snowball Fights: Forget Christmas Past and look to the New Year Sales

Christmas past: before the web was a mere twinkle in the eye of Tim Berners-Lee, shopping was a 9 – 5 affair and Sunday opening hours a veritable sin. Christmas was the highlight of the shopping year. Small and medium size retailers went into hibernation between the Christmas and New Year lull as the high street giants did a roaring trade.

Christmas present: 24/7 shopping with no real geographic, calendar or time constraints. If you’re a customer, there are always a number of shops open and willing to do business. Christmas is still the highlight of the year, but so are the post-Christmas sales!

So why do a number of retailers still hark back to the methods of Christmas Past by shutting up shop and turning off their PPC ad campaigns? In Jan 2008, IMRG and Hitwise reported that the largest shopping days online were actually post-Christmas dates with 26 December (Boxing Day) and New Year’s Day setting new online traffic records.

See the example below of what happened when an adCenter account was turned off between Christmas and New Year last year versus one of their competitors who remained active for the same period. (Source: Microsoft adCenter Jan 08)





So how do you make your accounts snowball and avoid the fights?

  • Optimise your accounts well in advance of Christmas and New Year. This is so that a strong history of data can be accumulated to give campaigns a competitive and robust footing in the auction environment in preparation for the peak shopping days.
  • Swop seasonal and Christmas copy for new sales copy when the postal dates have expired around the 2nd week of December.
  • Most importantly: Refrain from turning off whole PPC campaigns. Downtime equals loss of position and profits as rivals fill their boots at your expense by poaching customers and position.


Season’s greetings and may your cash registers ring like Christmas bells!

adCenter Analytics Beta Refresh – New Features Added!


If you’ve logged into your adCenter Analytics account this morning you’ll be pleased to see a number of new features have been added by our product teams over the past few days.

I’ll take you through each one but do expect deeper dives here on the blog over the next couple of weeks!




This functionality lets you choose which information is most important to you. It gives you an up-to-date snapshot of your website’s traffic activity. It’s fully customizable so you can tailor it to your needs.
We added this to make it easy for users to take a quick peek at their data without having to run any reports. This way, soon after logging in you can immediately spot any traffic spikes or potential problems with your site that might need deeper investigation.


The default view includes:

  • Traffic summary
  • Page views
  • Visits
  • Top pages
  • Top keywords
  • Top referring websites


You can use the Gadget Library to add any other snapshots you wish to view quickly and easily.


Path Reports



This report helps you understand the path that users are taking in order to get to a particular page on your website, or where they go after they access that page. This might include scenarios such as from landing pages or to specific points like account sign up or conversion pages.

You can use this kind of information to optimise their navigation experience so they convert quicker or find what they might be looking for more efficiently.


Top Entry & Exit Pages



Knowing on which page people land when they find your website is crucial, because it may not always be your homepage. This information tells you which pages your users entered via most often, the average page views per visit they browsed, and how long they spent on the site.

Having an idea of which pages visitors leave your site the most is equally important.

If they’re going elsewhere from pages they “shouldn’t” and hence are not converting, you can do some analysis and maybe try to ferry them through a different path or change/add some text to help them navigate a little better.


Media Campaign Timeline



We’ve made improvements to the Campaign Timeline Report which allows an overview of referrals and conversions that were generated by your tracked marketing campaigns over the past year. You can compare individual campaigns within a group, and compare groups of the same campaign type or across campaign types, and spot trends in campaign performance over the last year in conversion rates and ROI.


Treemap Improvements



Back in April we talked about the Treemap Report and how it could be used to help optimise your site. In this release we’ve added enhanced navigation and enabled you to see demographic segmentation of page views and referrals. This is an awesome feature, as you can now see who is interacting with your website from an age and gender point of view, right down to which pages they see and how they arrive at those pages.

We also made some changes in the back end of the system to improve the performance, reliability and data quality in response to your comments and suggestions here on our web analytics blog, via email, and in person.

We’re very excited about this release and would love to get your feedback here on the blog, or on the analytics forum.

If you’ve not signed up and want to give adCenter Analytics a try, check out our analytics information page on the Microsoft Advertising site.

Do check out the blog later this week for more info on the tools and features in this major release.

Cheers Mel

Find your adCenter ad on Live Search: “Where is my ad?” Flash tutorial

Here on the blog I've been writing about a new section of the Microsoft Advertising website that can help you find your ad in Live Search results. The Find Your Ad pages include tips for what to do when you don't see your ad in Live Search results. Last month in Finding your ad on Live Search , I spotlighted the "Where's My Ad?" Checklist . This month I want to call your attention to the Where Is My Ad? Flash tutorial . During the research the team conducted earlier this year…(read more)