Marketing Attribution in Google Analytics: 5 Essential Reports

This is Part IV in a series on Metrics + Measurement for Beginners. Start at the beginning with How to Measure Success of Your Marketing Campaigns.

Orange Bike - I got it!A few years ago, I was on the hunt for a new bike. I looked at bike shops, read blogs, searched for reviews, and asked friends. Then I saw a blog post about really colorful bikes from a brand I hadn’t heard of. I visited their website and noticed the prices were really cheap. A few days later I searched on Google and found the site again. The next week, I asked a local bike shop about the quality. I spent another week looking at pictures and comparing the components to other bikes and looked on Google Shopping. I finally bought the bike and had it assembled at my local bike shop. Yay!

No, this isn’t just a mediocre story about my bike shopping experience. Question>> What channel should get credit for my bike purchase? Previously, in that scenario, Google Shopping would have gotten the credit as it was the last interaction before the sale (conversion). We all know that’s not the full picture, and thankfully in Google Analytics you can use their Attribution tool to see a different perspective.

Attribution in an artistic sense can be mean crediting someone with something. In analytics, it’s the same idea. Readers often visit a site several times before signing up for your newsletter or many times before making a purchase. Marketing attribution is about what channel (search, social etc.) gets credit for that desired action. And how it was helped along the way by other channels.

One of the things that have been plaguing awesome social media and community managers for years now is attribution. Yes, the ones who are intuitively good at their job, but haven’t bridged the gap on metrics, or are just starting out with metrics. Most often there’s not an immediate “return” (monetary) on social media. So while vanity stats (X Amount of Followers), and Engagement Stats (X % of our followers liked or clicked or commented), might look great, when it comes down to the business team – they might report that Social was the lowest revenue generating channel and Content was just slightly better, and that paid advertising was really high. Guess what? This isn’t surprising.

As a social or content manager might know, but not know how to articulate -that’s not the whole picture! A more recent way that makes a lot of sense for companies with an online presence is measuring Attribution. Attribution meaning – who do we attribute this sale too? First touch? Last touch? How does it look from a more holistic perspective (multi-channel)?

Why should you care? If you know the length of your sales funnel, and if you can learn over time what your attribution is from “first touch” (they saw you on Twitter and clicked through to your site), to last touch (they received your email newsletter and then bought something), that’s seeing more of the big picture.

After you’re able to develop some baselines on your attribution, you can start seeing where allocating staffing and resources to different areas of your business makes sense. Maybe you’re small enough still that it doesn’t make sense for you to hire a full-time community manager and a full-time editor; maybe you’re at the point that it makes sense to hire a full-time editor/community manager; or a full-time editor and part-time community manager, or vice versa, or maybe you have a team of editors and social media and email marketers, or maybe you focus more on paid search or SEO. Either way, here are some ideas for ways to get started with Attribution In Google Analytics.

5 Reports in Google Analytics for Getting Started with Attribution:

Attribution is one of the most overlooked reporting areas in Google Analytics. If you don’t have any goals (or Ecommerce tracking) set up in Analytics, you won’t see anything in the reports, so check out how to set up goals in Analytics if you haven’t done that yet.

1. Multi-Channel Funnel – or – Where do repeat visitors come from?

Find it in: Conversions>>Multi-Channel Funnels>>Top Conversion Paths 
Conversion PathsMost people don’t “convert” (signup for your newsletter, buy something etc.) on the first visit to your site. (Pssst, but sometimes visitors do sign up on the first visit – especially if you have a solid signup bonus). You can look at the top conversion paths on a basis of by channel or check out the paths that are 2 or more legs long. For example, organic search followed by direct. This lets you know where people are finding you and then returning. This can be a big win for social and content.

Source Medium AttributionClick on Source Path to see more detail of the source path (google / cpc,  google / organic) and the urls of websites referring (people linking to you, facebook.com, t.co twitter links etc.). This is a great opportunity to see inbound links from outreach activities (like guest posting) that are actually making a difference on your community!

Action Item #1: What are your most popular 2 and 3 leg paths? (My top paths are Organic Search>Direct, Referral>Direct, and Social Network>Direct). And when you click on “Source/Medium Path”, what websites or social networks specifically are generating the most conversions? (my top converting sources are Twitter, Google search, and a few incoming blog mention links). Think about how your communication style varies in different channels and stages of the funnel.

2. Time Delay – or- How many days does it take for people to convert?

Find it in: Conversions>>Multi-Channel Funnels>>Time Lag

Time Lag AnalayticsNext, let’s take a look at how long it takes for people to convert, on average. If you have more than one goal set up in Google Analytics, you can select either or all, and then see the time lag in days in the chart. While the total number of conversions is interesting, the Percentage of Total chart on the right might give you a better feel for time. Example: 85% in 0 days (probably immediate), 2% in 3 days, 5% in 2-3 months etc.

Action Item #2: What’s your average? How many days on average does it take for people to convert? Is there a way you could lower the average? Does it feel natural?

3. Path Length – or – How many interactions with you does it take for people to convert?

Find it in: Conversions>>Multi-Channel Funnels>>Path Length

Path Length AnalyticsThe next related view is Path Length. If the majority of your conversions are immediate (0 days), then your path length is probably one or two interactions. Just like the “how many days” item above, this can give you a lot of insight into your user experience. Do people sign up for your newsletter on the first visit, and then not buy for five or six sessions? How can you keep some of this data in mind when you’re crafting copy or your newsletters?

Action Item #3: What’s your average path length? If you have a newsletter and sell things, how do the two differ?

4. First Interaction vs Last Interaction – or – What’s growing awareness and what’s closing the sale?

Find it in: Conversions>>Attribution>>Model Comparison Tool

The Attribution Model Comparison Tool lets you put different models – like First Interaction vs Last Interaction – side by side. Analytics Attribution tool

Think of First Interaction as how you’re growing awareness – what sales people like to call the “top end of the funnel.” Now, if you sort by First Interaction, you’ll see channels that are building awareness, while sorting by Last Interaction will probably shuffle the order, since “closers” will be at the top.

First Touch

This is useful, but what’s even more useful is digging a little deeper to see what specific channels and urls in the “channel grouping” it’s talking about.

Secondary dimensionClick the “Secondary dimension” drop down on the left and then click >Acquisition and select the green “Source / Medium” option. This adds a second column to the table and shows you what specific Source (Direct, Google, Bing, Facebook etc) and Medium (organic, referral etc.) converted on a first or last interaction basis. Wow! Information!

Source Medium

Action Item #4: What channel is your top First Interaction when it comes to conversions? What channel is your top Last Interactions?

5. Assisted Conversions – or – Who are the team players?

Find it in: Conversions>>Multi-Channel Funnels>>Assisted Conversions

assistsAssisted Conversions can go deep pretty quickly. While it’s probably easiest to think about in from a sports perspective (soccer, basketball etc.) of teamwork, let’s try a party approach. Say you are throwing a party with friends – side note: they all have really weird names. One friend (Newsletter) makes the best drinks and another friend knows the best location (Adwords), and another friend (Twitter) has the best music, and another friend (Blogs) always invites a few really randomly interesting people. Now, who made the party awesome? Was it just Blogs – who invited the people to the party in the first place? Or was it Newsletter because they made so many awesome drinks that people ended up staying till way late? Or was it all Adwords doing because they were the last people to tell you thanks for coming as you left? OK, the analogy is over. Did it make sense?

So it goes First Interaction >>> All the Assists along the way >>> Last Interaction

There’s also a ratio on the far right that shows how a specific channel plays a part in conversion. Closer to zero means it does more converting than assisting, closer to 1 means it assists and converts. More than 1, the more it was an assistant.

Action Item #5: What channels play the biggest role in assisting vs First Interaction or Last (converting)?

Note: Some of the limits of attribution are the 90 day Lookback Window (what if they originally visited 120 days first) and cross-device access (first they find you on their iPhone, then they come back on their laptop for the second visit). This isn’t a reason to toss attribution out the window, just something to be aware of as you go.

Happy analyzing! Questions? Ideas? Leave them in the comments!

In the next part of this series, we’ll take a look at choosing metrics and KPIs that matter for your business.

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Marketing metrics

Marketing Metrics: Do Something With Your Data

This is Part III in a series on Metrics + Measurement for Beginners. Start at the beginning with How to Measure Success of Your Marketing Campaigns.

After settling on our goals and making some estimates, the next step of measuring our marketing campaign is all about taking action. Start the campaign, keeping in mind the goals and ideas we talked about in step one and step two. Then, we’ll keep an eye on what’s happening and record our results. If we already have some stats to look at (from a previous campaign or if we’ve been running this one for a few days), we’ll collect that recent data. After entering in our new-found data, our KPI template will help us find out what’s actually happening, why, and what we might want to change going forward. Save yourself some time and buy my template for $20 or build your own with all the data I suggest here and in this tutorial).

Most reporting dashboards (AdWords, Mailchimp, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads etc.) have some variation of marketing metrics helping us analyze ROI, but when we’re able to standardize it and keep it in one area that we look at on a frequent basis (like a Marketing KPI spreadsheet), it can be easier to start learning and doing – taking action off these metrics.

Ad Analysis – Collecting Actionable Data:

We’ll continue to use the example of advertising on AdWords for this tutorial.

Step 1. Choose a time period:
First, we’ll start with the time period that we’re measuring. If you’re just starting a campaign, you’ll probably find it useful to collect daily stats at first. Then moving to weekly or as needed over time, and monthly stats can also give you a valuable look at the bigger picture of how your campaign is performing.

For this example, we’ll use a one week time period. For weekly reporting, I have always preferred a Monday – Sunday format as it keeps the weekends tied together in the same reporting week. This can be more helpful for trending and understanding what’s happening.

Step 2. Collect Impressions, Clicks, and Ad Spend:
Marketing ROI time frameCollect from: Google AdWords
Next, we’ll add in the Impressions and Clicks, and how much we spent.

Step 3. Collect Sales Revenue and Orders #s:
Collect from: Google Analytics or your accounting info
Then, we’ll add in how many sales are attributable to this channel (from Google Analytics) and the revenue (Analytics or our accounting software).

Step 4. Analysis: how does ROI, ROAS, and volume look?

After inputting the previous information, we should have some metrics to look at for both Return on Advertising Spent (ROAS) and Return on Investment (ROI). For ROI, anything under 0, means we’re losing money. 1.15, means that for every $1 we spend, we’re bringing home $1.15. At breakeven, we’re just spending money to be busy, which from a branding perspective, is not always a terrible place to be. Remember, it needs to come back to our goals. Part of the reason we articulated our goals in Part 1 of this series was so we knew what a success would look like, versus just deciding that whatever is happening is apparently fine.

Marketing metrics

When it comes to ROI, clearly, we’d like to see it as high as possible, but part of experimenting is playing a bit. Additionally, if we’re on a small campaign budget or in a small niche, the numbers and sales for the first couple of weeks might not be enough to know a for sure “yes, continue”/“No, stop.”

Another thing to analyze is the overall volume of the campaign. Are we seeing sales revenue in the tens? hundreds? thousands? How has our average cost per click, conversion rate, cost per acquisition, and profit changed? Where is the happy point on the spectrum between higher profit and higher volume?

Step 5. What should we change?
After we have a look at what happened (past tense), it can give us ideas for what to change. Where do we go from here? What are some things that we might test along the way? Here are some ideas (both for AdWords and other advertising platforms):

  • change your ad copy
  • increase/decrease bids
  • add negative keywords
  • try time/day parting
  • try more targeted longer tail keywords
  • try less targeted general keywords
  • try re-targeting
  • try different regions/countries/local
  • try a “friends of page likers” only campaign (Facebook)
  • try boosting your social campaign with targeted ads
  • try Twitter cards (for emails, clicks, follows etc)

Measuring non-traditional campaigns (email, social etc.)

What about campaigns that aren’t traditional advertising methods? For an email newsletter, or social media, you can use the same kind of dashboard, Impressions could be followers and clicks or incoming traffic from that network, an engagement rate, expense (if contracting out or estimating your hours), and revenue you could list any that social was a touch point. For an email newsletter, you would add in things like total emails sent, clicks, click-through rate, clicks per user, unsubscribes, desired actions completed, conversion rate % off the desired action, unsubscribe rate etc. Stay tuned, in Part Five of this series we’ll dig into kpis and analyzing trickier campaigns.

How did you do? Questions? Leave them in the comments below!
In the next part of this series, we’ll take a look at marketing attribution – meaning how do you decide what channel or campaign impacted the sale when several channels (social, email, AdWords, search etc.) “touched” it?

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Get your own Fill-in-the-Blank Marketing KPI Dashboard – a spreadsheet download that includes: ROI Calculator, Sample Marketing Campaign Results Generator, Marketing Campaign ROI Tracker, and Monthly/Weekly Metrics Dashboards.

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ROI Calculator

How to Calculate ROI: Here’s Why You Need a Fill-in-the-Blank Template

This is Part II in a series on Metrics + Measurement for Beginners. Start at the beginning with How to Measure Success of Your Marketing Campaigns.

We’ve figured out the what and why of our marketing campaign with measuring success (goal, idea, desired action, success, measure). The next step deals more with the “how”  – estimating expected results. Do we have a way to know what our reach and return might be in advance? If we can do a little bit of this work up front, we’ll not only have an idea of which of our ideas to pursue first, but we can also have some estimate of what will happen when we do.

This brings us to the sample Campaign Results Generator. Oh look a spreadsheet! We can use the Sample Campaign Results Generator to calculate Return on Investment (ROI) and track how many Impressions (eyeballs), clicks etc. that we will need to even garner any sales based on our current conversion rates and margins. Accounting 101 deja-vu? Calculating return has a place in marketing.

How many people might we have to show our ad (Impressions) to to get just one sale (revenue)? 200? 2,000? This is our conversion rate. That’s not the end though. Given how much we have to pay to make whatever we’re selling and how much we’re paying for the ads what’s our return then?

ROI Calculator

The regular definition of how to calculate ROI from the finance world is: ROI = (profit – expense) / expense.

ROI Calculator

Return on Investment (ROI) calculations can seem pretty confusing. In the marketing world, a more common acronym is ROAS – Return on Advertising Spent. ROAS = (Sales revenue – advertising cost) / advertising cost. The issue with only looking at ROAS is that it doesn’t take into account our cost of goods (COGS). Even if we’re selling a digital product, we have some cost to create, host, etc that product.

It can get a little complicated when we start figuring out what falls under profit and expense, but it’s a much clearer picture of what’s really happening than ROAS. Here’s an example: Let’s say we sold our artisanal marshmallow pack for $20. We had to spend $5 in order to make that sale. If we were just using ROAS as our guide, we would say our ROAS was 3. But we’re missing a big piece of the picture. What was the cost to make those marshmallows? If it cost us $3 in materials to make the marshmallows, or $17 our ROAS would still be 3. However, our ROI would -.4 if our product cost was $17 and 2.4 if our product cost was $3. That’s a huge difference – the difference of profitable vs unprofitable. If we had simply looked at our ROAS, we would think we were making money either way. That’s bad. If you want to use ROAS for simplicity in Adwords etc., make sure you know at what ROAS you’re hitting breakeven (2, 3 etc. depending on your profit margins).

Fill-in-the-Blank Template – Campaign Results Generator

It’s not complicated if you have a spreadsheet auto-calculating it all for you. With my Sample Campaign Results Generator spreadsheet, you just start plugging in some numbers and it will auto-calculate the rest for you. Buy Now for $20 or spend a few hours creating your own spreadsheet with the following data.
Here’s what info we need:

  • COGS and profit marginYour current conversion rate. A general rule of thumb for e-commerce is 1%, This can vary like crazy. If you don’t have conversion tracking set up on in Google Analytics, here’s how to get started the simple way with Goals.
  • Average order amount. You probably already know this. Just have one product, or a digital product? Done! If not, this is another you can estimate based on Google Analytics or your own accounting records.
  • Cost of goods or profit margin. This helps us identify at what point you’re spinning your wheels. Digital product? It’s probably pretty high. 80-90%. Retail, maybe 20-60%. Again, this is something you probably already know from your accountant, but should be a part of your marketing.

Once we have average conversion rate, order amount, and profit margin, we can generate Return estimates, with all the estimated data from ad platforms likes AdWords or Facebook ads.

Channel data estimates:

  • Impressions: we’ll input a range of examples, so we’ll try 5k, 20k, 50k, 83k
  • Ad Click through Rate % (CTR): our channel might give us some estimates, so enter those here. We’ll try .5%, 1%, 2.5%, 3%, 4.5%
  • Average Cost per Click (CPC): this is another thing our channel gave us some estimates for: $.55, $.2 , $.35 etc.

Based on all that, we can calculate the following:

  • ROAS and ROIClicks = Impressions * CTR = we can find out how many clicks we might get based off their estimates for us.
  • Total Ad Spend = Clicks * Avg CPC = we can find out how much we might spend if we just let it go on auto-pilot.
  • Sales = Clicks * Conversion Rate = we can found out how many orders we might get.
  • Gross Profit = Sales – Cost of Goods = This is how much you’re making.
  • Net Profit = Profit – Ad Spend = This is how much you’re actually making, taking into account advertising spend.
  • BreakEven PPC = Profit / Clicks = This is the average PPC that you’re just getting by on.
  • ROAS = your return on advertising spent = This doesn’t address cost of goods.
  • ROI = your return on investment.

Once you have some of these variables estimated, you can start messing with numbers to see how much one change impacts everything else. Maybe getting a lower CPC doesn’t have that much of an impact, maybe the CTR rate does, maybe you need to work on overall conversion on your site, So many different variables. And what’s important about playing with this stuff while estimating is then you know when you are collecting actual data (results = past tense), it helps you to know what happened, and have a more accurate moving projection as time goes on.

When to use the Sample Campaign Results Generator:

  • Paid search advertising campaigns: Google Adwords, Bing etc.
  • Social media advertising: Facebook ads, Twitter ads etc.
  • Email marketing campaigns
  • Advertising partnerships

Want to skip all the manual calculating and just input a few numbers? I’ve released this ROI template as part of my Fill-in-the-Blank Marketing KPI Dashboard – a spreadsheet download that includes: ROI Calculator, Sample Marketing Campaign Results Generator, Marketing Campaign ROI Tracker, and Monthly/Weekly Metrics Dashboards.
Buy Now for $20.

This is Part II in a series on Metrics + Measurement for BeginnersIn the next part of this series, we’ll take a look at collecting actual data from campaigns, analyzing what actually happened, why, and what we might change going forward. Read Part I.

How to Measure Success

How To Measure Success of Your Marketing Campaigns

How much revenue do you need to generate off an Adwords campaign just to break even? What is break even? How many impressions do you need to even make one sale? How do you know whether your latest Facebook campaign “worked”? How do you measure the value of a guest post? While the creative side of a marketing campaign can feel like the essential piece, marketing campaign analysis is something we need to check in with before we even get to the “fun” stage.

You can do anything, but you can’t do everything. –David Allen

Whether launching an app, analyzing a guest post, or starting an Adwords campaign, it’s important to have the ability to estimate the return on our efforts. When we have a process – a structured and repeatable way – of analyzing something, it can help guide us on where the best places to spend our time are.  Since time is one of our most limited resources, we want a process (a checklist if you will) for evaluating opportunities before rushing in.

How to Measure Success

This isn’t to say that we should throw our intuition out the window (intuition and gut is what can give us the initial ideas in the first place, yeah?). We can’t account for the unexpected. But having a process for evaluating, gives us a baseline idea to track against, which we can replace with real data, and continue to improve on down the line.

5 Questions You Need to Ask Before You Begin Any Project

In the following steps, we’ll use a deliciously fictional marshmallow company as an example. Through each step, Idea #1 will cover paid search advertising, and Idea #2 is creating a social media presence.

Step 1: What Is My Goal?
Yes, it always comes back to this. And lets face it, most of our goals are revenue based when you dig deep enough. You want to sell more of X. But let’s come down one step from there. For example: We want to grow sales of our new artisanal marshmallow product line, as we’ve noticed that our cupcakes and macarons product growth are slowing and we think social media or a paid search campaign, or some mix might help us achieve that. In the following steps we’ll look at both of these two deliciously fictional ideas for each step of the process.

Idea #1 – Paid Search: We want to grow sales of our new artisanal marshmallow product line, as we’ve noticed that our cupcakes and macarons product growth are slowing and we think a paid search campaign might help us achieve that.
Idea #2 – Social Media: We want to grow sales of our new artisanal marshmallow product line, as we’ve noticed that our cupcakes and macarons product growth are slowing and we think social media or a mix of paid search and social might help us achieve that.

Step 2: What is the Idea?
In the previous goal we stated that we are considering social media and paid search. The next step is to dig a little deeper into what the idea and channel is, and define the idea of what the campaign might look like. Note: It’s important to try not to get too bogged down yet with creative and logistics of “how” it would work.

Idea #1 – Paid Search: The channel is Adwords Marketing – the idea/campaign is to jumpstart sales in our new mallow product line to our mallow fan base in the US market segment of pregnant women. We’re trying to catch people farther down the “sales funnel” already. (eg. they’re already shopping for mallows!)
Idea #2 – Social Media: The channels are Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest – the idea/campaign is to create a baseline presence for our company so that over the next 6-12 months we can see what impact that has on adding more people into the top end of our funnel.

Step 3: What is the Desired Action (or Call to Action)?
Now that we have a general idea of what’s going on, do we know what we want “them” do? If there was one thing that they did because of this campaign, what do we hope that is?

Idea #1 – Paid Search: Buy Mallows! – obviously it can get more detailed, but yes. The best thing would be that they click through our ad on Google Search, and buy our marshmallows. A secondary win for us would be if they “opted in” to a relationship with us. Yeah, sometimes that’s a reach, (how many people do you follow on Twitter that you don’t even remember or know who they are? Probably more than a few). But if we have a way to reach out to them (via posting on Facebook, or Twitter, or emailing them, that’s better than never seeing them again right?) Again, only if it’s relevant. We don’t want them to “like” us if they don’t like us or know anyone who would like us!
Idea #2 – Social Media: Connect with us – specifically to “opt-in” to hearing from us again, via Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Ultimately to be able to see these channels as touch points on the “trail” to buying. Often called “assists”. We don’t expect them to immediately buy mallows from us after seeing us for the first time on Pinterest.

Step 4: Can I Define “Success”?
How is this different than a goal? Well, let’s start with the opposite pair of success/failure. If it isn’t a failure is at least on the road to success? Let’s define what success (or failure) would be – in broad terms or more detailed if we know what that would look like.

Idea #1 – Paid Search: Let’s define success as any return on investment (ROI) better than ad spend or break-even. (For our mallow product line we’ll define b/e as a success because then it’s essentially free marketing. We’re not losing money, but we’re staying busy and growing our business since it’s a new product line).
Idea #2 – Social Media:  Let’s define success as social media impacting our sales funnel in anyway (whether that’s the first, last or somewhere along the way) 6 and 12 months from now. We can analyze break-even on the invested hours (of setup and management) of these social channels at that point as well.

Step 5: How Will We Measure Success?
After we know what success would look like, it’s important to know how we’ll track that success. Do we have the systems in place to do this? If not, it’s important that we find a way to know this first. Even if there’s a more manual way to track and evaluate – that’s a good place to start. Try not to design new projects/work around measurement, but we do need to know if we’re making any progress, so we can analyze and then iterate.

Idea #1 – Paid Search: We’ll measure success through Adwords and Analytics integrated tracking.
Idea #2 – Social Media: We’ll measure success with Google Analytics Attribution tracking/goals.

If you have some ideas, but aren’t quite sure how to measure success of your marketing campaigns, email me.

And that’s it! Now there are a ton of variables that can impact our marketing campaigns and stats. That doesn’t mean we just shouldn’t track anything though. It means we should track these initial tests as our “baseline.” Then, as we try new things along the way, we’ll have something to measure and compare our new efforts to.

This is Part I in a series on Metrics + Measurement for Beginners. In the next part of this series, we’ll talk about the nitty gritty details of taking the above “goal, idea, desired action, success, measure” and add in how we can estimate return with a sample Campaign Results Generator.

Like saving time?

Get your own Fill-in-the-Blank Marketing KPI Dashboard – a spreadsheet download that includes: ROI Calculator, Sample Marketing Campaign Results Generator, Marketing Campaign ROI Tracker, and Monthly/Weekly Metrics Dashboards.

Buy now

landing page RTW30

Moving ‘Dreamers’ to ‘Do-ers’ with a 30-Day Email Course

This is a Client Story of some of my work for BootsnAll Travel. I was a Product Manager at BootsnAll, meaning that I managed the planning and lifecycle of many of our Round the World travel resources. For this project, I was also responsible for marketing, graphic design, and half of the email content writing.

The Challenge: Too much content + round the world travelers feeling overwhelmed with planning

One of the challenges of being an older online content network was just how much content existed after 15 years of daily publishing. BootsnAll’s round the world travel section had thousands of posts. These ranged from quality in-depth posts (articles covering everything from packing to how to pick an itinerary) to shorter forum-type content (community members asking questions about locations) and independent travel guides on destinations across the world. All of this content was scattered across several different domains and subdomains. Even after a content overhaul and redesign, the Round the World travel section was still so deep that it was difficult to guide users through.

When your sales funnel is months or even a year long, and your purchase price is in the thousands, taking a long-term view of your community and investing in the relationship early is key. Few people jump on Google Search and buy a $4,500 flight on a whim. This campaign was all about helping “Dreamers” move into the “Planners” stage.

The kind of people who “sell everything” and take round the world trips, are not the most conventional folks. There’s not a one-stop way to plan or even learn about doing a round the world (RTW) trip. Having planned and traveled on a RTW myself, I knew just what our community meant when they emailed or commented expressing “overwhelm” or not knowing where to start.

BootsnAll’s community could find what they were looking for from search and would spend hours browsing sections and learning about RTW travel. But when a trip like this takes weeks to sometimes years for some people to plan, there needed to be a better way  – beyond a “Table of Contents” or people bookmarking where they last read – to showcase the very best. A way to cover everything you need to know about planning a RTW trip from idea to reality – beyond a checklist.

The Plan: a “Plan Your Round the World Trip in 30 Days” Automated Email Course

rtw email

We had kicked around the idea of some kind of lesson plan “Codecademy” style course on how to plan a “round the world” trip, for a couple years. However, the programming team was already deeply involved in BootsnAll’s trip planning tool, at that time, so there weren’t extra resources for an experimental concept with unknown ROI or lead gen.

This project ended up being a test and trial of a different style of content and inbound marketing. I needed a way to build this product without developers. So I had the idea to create a 30 day automated email course for planning a round the world trip, with implementation through our email marketing service, Mailchimp. Using their autoresponder feature, I created 30 individual autoresponders – to send “1 day after”, “2 days after” etc.

The course was managed in our current list through custom segments and settings. This also gave us the functionality to cross-reference the course in regular email campaigns (without annoying people who had already signed up), since our daily and bi-monthly newsletters were already managed through Mailchimp.

The idea was that by the end of the 30 days we would have covered everything that you needed to know to get you from thinking about a trip like this to actually on the road. This included support materials like a downloadable trip planning and budget spreadsheet for Day 3 and an epic RTW checklist for Day 29.

Each email consisted of a letter talking about that day’s topic, a link to a more in-depth article that was either edited and republished or newly written for this campaign, a daily action step, a quote and travel profile from someone who had done an RTW trip, and a question for the community component. One of the big challenges for this initiative was getting all of the content ready.

The Result: Moving “Dreamers” to “Planners”

Plan Your Round the World Trip in 30 Days was launched in February 2013. Through pre-event promotion of the landing page via social, content cross-promotion, and existing email list, RTW30 was launched to a wait-list of 1,000 subscribers.

The campaign was measured via a Metrics spreadsheet in Google Drive. We tracked landing page signups and conversion weekly, signup conversion via channel (our own content, social media etc) on an adhoc/monthly basis, and daily attrition of open and click-through rates as the month went on.

After the first “30 days” signups funneled through we closed signups to track and refine for a relaunch. By really analyzing what was happening on an email-by-email basis, we were able to refine both the in-content emails themselves and swap some things around.

daily email

At the end of the campaign, we sent the participants a quick 2 question survey: by those that read and opened all the days, those that did some, and those that quickly dropped off. We first asked how likely they would recommend the program to a friend or fellow traveler – 0-10 scale – to collect a Net Promotor Score (NPS). The second question was for more qualitative feedback, asking what improvements would make their answer closer to a 10. This feedback was collected using Mailchimp’s Survey Monkey integration.

In the year after initial launch, a second course option for Families was added, and a 3rd customization for career breakers followed. While BootsnAll could have charged for this course, it fell in-line as a lead generator for other revenue generating products like the multi-stop flight engine/trip planner – Indie.

landing page RTW30

Key Metrics & Learnings:

  • 4,500 travelers took the course in the first 8 months.
  • Net Promoter Score of 71% (NPS = Promoters [9-10 ratings] – Detractors [0-6 ratings], while Passives [7-8 ratings] are left out). More than double the highest rated in the company’s history from a customer feedback perspective. This means our “promoters” vastly outweigh our “detractors”, on par with brands like Trader Joes and Apple, vs the detractor-heavy Yahoo Travel and United Airlines.
  • 52% of the course participants signed up to use Indie (BootsnAll’s trip planning tool), and for 61% of those users the RTW30 campaign was their first experience with BootsnAll.
  • Readers are comfortable with content-heavy emails with a lot of depth when it’s something that: adds a lot of value, was requested, and that you can’t get anywhere else.
  • You can’t track everything. Some users that appeared to be less active (not viewable in open rates) came through to express happy feedback – nice reminder of  the importance of qualitative feedback.
  • The next sales funnel step after Planning was “Going”/purchase. Although it wasn’t the goal of this campaign, we did see some sales attribution within the first 8 months.

User feedback:

User Feedback

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