Digging in the Data Mine for Fun and Profit | TravelResearchOnline

Digging in the Data Mine for Fun and Profit

Today even small home based agencies have a web presence and send out emailed newsletters. This means every agency – regardless of size – probably has access to one humongous mountain of data just begging to be mined…for fun and profit.

Recent efforts to make sense of the data associated with our website and email campaigns have left me in a state of wonder, salivating over the possibilities.

There are several online services – most free or very inexpensive – to assist in gathering and evaluating visitor data associated with websites. The most popular is Google Analytics (free). Another is Hubspot (fees). For purposes of this article, we’ll focus on Google’s service.

If you haven’t already, install Google Analytics on all pertinent pages of your agency site. It is a free service – with simple, step by step instructions for the non-programmer – and involves just cutting and pasting a few lines of code (generated by Google) into the foot of each page. This is much easier to do that one would first think, especially for WordPress sites. (WordPress has plugins to assist with this process.)

Once in place, Google Analytics will reveal –

  • Number of site visits – broken down any way you like – by day, week, month, etc.
  • Where visitors are coming from – search engines (what key words were searched), a link, a referral, an email, etc.
  • Average time spent on site
  • Which pages are visited and for how long
  • Unique vs repeat visits
  • Breakdown on types of devices and browsers visitors are utilizing to access your site
  • Correlation between ad campaigns, newsletter mailings, etc. and spikes in site visits
  • Conversion rate (if correlated with actual sales)
  • And much more…including how to improve advertising performance

Recently a friend – one who is on much friendlier terms with numbers and statistics than I am – took an in depth look at the Google Analytics relative to our website.

Two very surprising bits of information emerged.

First, visitors are spending much more time reading featured articles than originally thought. The average time spent on the site per visit was over five minutes…an eternity in internet time.

Secondly, there exists a group of about 200 visitors – my friend referred to them as “core fans” – who have each visited the site over 100 times in a recent 90 day period. Sure, some of these repeat visits are ‘spam-bots’ looking to promote their own agenda by leaving automated messages – maybe as many as 20% – but the majority are real, live human beings with whom we would like to connect.

So who are these people? We were not aware they existed. Why are they not leaving comments? Why are they not raising their hands and saying “Hey, we’re here. We love lurking about your site!” What keeps bringing these ‘core fans’ back? (I know what you are thinking, but no…there’s no porn, gambling or inflammatory political rhetoric on the site. It’s all about travel.)

Now the challenge is how to incent these people to identify themselves so we can start a ‘getting-to-know-you-and-your-travel-interests’ dialog.

Another eye opening ‘data based’ experience –

When our newsletter address list amounted to only a few hundred, they were sent directly from a desktop PC – utilizing Photoshop & Outlook. Since those days, the list has grown significantly and a commercial service has been engaged (Campaign Monitor – $30 to $40 per month).

There are more advantages to using a commercial service – such as Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact or Mail Chimp, etc. – than just the depth and detail of delivery / response data generated. Convenience looms large. For example, if your newsletter template is in place, you can create and send newsletters and track results from any location with internet access.

Here’s a brief review of a few of the benefits of using a commercial email service such as Campaign Monitor –

· List segmentation – by criteria such as interest, geographic location, past purchases, etc.

· Inclusion of a simple, automated, one click “unsubscribe” link in each email

· Direct posting of each newsletter on Facebook and Twitter pages (if posted direct from Campaign Monitor the links within the newsletter remain active and each click through counted).

Some surprising insights gained from the stats provided by Campaign Monitor-

· Fully 25% of the emailed newsletters are being opened on smart phones, mostly iPhones – a very useful thing to know when designing and formatting subsequent email campaigns!

· 20% to 25% of emails sent are actually opened (good by industry standards)

· 5% to 6% of recipients will click through on a link in the newsletter

· 0.5% of newsletters are shared

Unsubscribe rate, bounce rate, number of recipients classifying the email as spam, the total number of times the email was opened are also captured.

Bottom line – Almost every mailing results in an immediate sale or two – but strangely enough, the type of sale rarely correlates to the content of the newsletter. (The message coming through is simple. It’s not so much about sales as about relationships and staying in communication and building a fan base.)

In addition to featured articles and direct links to preferred suppliers, our site has an automated booking engine that caters to do-it-yourself customers for basic air, car and hotel. This feature is contracted out. All custom branded or white label booking engine providers – such as Travelocity, Expedia, Priceline Partner Network, etc. – provide some level of back office sales stats – often including the email addresses of these use-automation-to-avoid-service-fees type buyers. This information can be a marketing goldmine if the data is integrated with site visitor and email campaign stats. But that is gist for another article.

With this data mining stuff, we’ve just scratched the surface, campers. The insights are proving invaluable – and profitable! There’s more to come on this subject.

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