It can be very worthwhile for an arts organisation to have hundreds of fans on their Facebook page, or thousands of Twitter followers – but is the time and energy spent on these platforms seeing a real return for the organisation?
If you are running a gallery, is your time on Twitter resulting in an increased footfall? If you are looking to sell books, cds, tickets online – is your time spent engaging with your Facebook community converting into sales?
Important questions indeed. Twitter, Facebook, FourSquared etc. – these are powerful tools indeed, however for many organisations, it still remains far more important to get the basics right on the website – particularly if this is where you hope to do business. So, for those looking to generate business on their website, the success of social media platforms is largely measured in the extent to which these tools bring visitors to your site.
Beginning earlier this year, four arts organisations received mentoring from Google Ireland over a number of months. Here, Michelle Dillon Marketing Officer of The Dock in Carrick on Shannon outlines lessons learnt during her mentoring, which she received from Tom Morrison-Bell, Nathalia Niznik and Alan Flanagan in Google.
If you are interested in discussing this work with those involved please visit the Arts Ireland group on LinkedIn – if you’re not already a member, it’s free to join (what’s this? find out more here).
to download a pdf of this Michelle’s report, click on this link: The Dock – Google mentoring report
Using Google Analytics to enhance your web presence
Before the mentoring…
At the time of applying for mentoring The Dock was already engaged in a number of different aspects of online marketing – alongside our website we had a presence on facebook and twitter, we used Constant Contact for e-bulletins and had a stand-alone wordpress blog. We had specific goals we wanted to achieve such as;
- growing our email list to the same size as our postal mailing list (when mentoring started it was only 1/6),
- reassessing if our blog was worth the time that was put into it
- doubling our facebook fans and twitter followers.
Our overall plan was to build a larger and more engaged online audience within our current resources, in particular an audience that would be more receptive to our online booking system that will be introduced later in the year.
Considering our audience demographic, resources available and the size of our organisation we felt we were performing okay, however going into the mentoring scheme we realised that our online activities were being carried out in a very unsystematic manner. We were conscious that we were operating without a coherent online marketing strategy and we were concerned that perhaps we may be covering too many bases, without enough resources, and for not enough return.
The first meeting with Google…
From the outset we learned to focus on thedock.ie as the hub of our online presence – something which we had begun to overlook as we gained more momentum and energy in the other aspects of online marketing. This shaped the outcomes of the mentoring process. While it is important to open new channels of communication with our audience, we still needed to direct them towards the main website as this is where the bulk of our information is to be found. Also, in relation to our primary aim, it is where they can actually purchase tickets. Social media accounts should complement and enhance users experience but should drive customers towards goals set out for the website (financial or not).
The Dock’s digital loop; YouTube, Twitter, Facebook & Blog direct traffic to the website
The team from Google started off the mentoring session by looking at our web analytics account, to see from where people are coming, from where they exit the site, and what are they doing while on the site.
Note – most websites come with some sort of statistics monitoring package installed however if you don’t already have Google Analytics installed you should consider it. It is extremely powerful, free and a small job for your webmaster to add to your website.
Looking at the stats…
The two main areas we looked at were
- Where were our visitors coming from
- What were they doing while on our site
A synopsis of what we discovered was -
Only 10% comes from direct traffic (where the visitor knows the address), while this is declining as a lot of people use search engines even when they know the address, as it is faster. This shows that we need to promote our site more offline. Over 50% comes from search engines and of this 80% comes from a keyword with the word ‘dock’ in it.
This throws up 2 strategies:
- How can you increase traffic coming from words not based around ‘the dock’
- Increase awareness of The Dock to drive more traffic through this word.
Just under 40% comes from referrals (i.e. clicking on a link to thedock.ie from another site). There were some surprises here and certain websites were sending us much more traffic than we had realised. Social Media referrals: Facebook is the 16th highest referral site, twitter is 19th, the blog is 45th. Is it worth reassessing how much time we spend at this?
Our bounce rate (how many people leave the website after visiting only the page they arrive at) of 47 percent was much too high, and a good indication of how good your site is at retaining peoples attention, showing that our website could be working better to encourage more visitors to explore the site. People visited, on average 2.68 pages per visit. We had to ask ourselves were we happy with how much information people can get within this amount of page depth?
Furthermore we had 73% new visitors to the site – while it is great that we are attracting 73% of visits new that does leave the question why are only 27% returning. Ideally we would like to keep these new visitors and encourage them to visit the site more often.
The team at Google showed me how to set up ‘Goals’ in Analytics focused on the main places we wanted our customers to click – such as book now and join our mailing list to monitor how many people actually use these functions (here is a blog post detailing the process http://analytics.blogspot.com/2009/05/how-to-setup-goals-in-google-analytics.html)
Google Analytics can be daunting; there is so much information available it is easy to get swamped. If you haven’t used it before my advice would be to set aside 45 minutes and explore it and make a note of the reports that will be useful to your specific organisations needs. If you are like me and find stats and figures difficult to get your head around without visuals, I recommend the Site Overlay tool – this basically shows your stats over your actual website and makes it easy to visualise the customers’ journey through your website. It very useful to see what is working on your current website and what isn’t. (Site overlay report is located under Content > Overview).
Review of the website…
So after analysing the stats it became clear that our website was not working as well as it should, and rather than concentrating on our social media involvement, it was clearly the website which we needed to review, particularly in light of our aim to encourage people to use our online booking system.
Obviously in the current economic climate we were concerned about allocating scarce budgets to redesigning our website, however the team at Google showed us that it didn’t take a drastic overhaul of our website to make it work better for us. We worked with our existing web designers to “revamp” our website and make some simple changes rather than a completely new and potentially costly redesign.
When thinking about changing your website keep in mind what currently works well and of course who your audience is. As an arts organisation it is often more important that it is aesthetically pleasing but don’t add a feature just because it looks cool – ask yourself, ‘what’s its purpose?’ Does it keep people on your website? Does it convert goals? As an example, even though Flash looks great, we had to keep in mind that much of our audience are accessing our website using lower broadband speeds so a quick loading website is more important.
A quick synopsis of changes we made
1. Highlighting our “calls to action”
- “Book Now” buttons were made prominent and ready to link to online booking facility when it becomes available shortly.
- Also “join our mailing list” was made more noticeable, placed in a more prominent position and simplified which will be discussed further below.
2. We utilised space on the site by widening the site on the page and changing positions to reflect where people look when they view a website . (Tool to view how your website looks in browers http://browsersize.googlelabs.com/)
3. We brought The Dock’s blog over to thedock.ie domain – this will be discussed further below.
4. Due to low broadband speeds in our area we were conscious to stick to our original decision to avoid Flash and have a quick loading page so we focused more on how images were displayed on the home page.
5. Adding the share button and moving the links to blog and social media to their own section to distinguish them from links to other pages on the website.
6. As well as making the front page look fresher and more up to date we gave all of our pages (website/twitter/youtube/emails) a similar colour scheme, emphasising continuation of our brand.
Review of Blog…
From the outset of the mentoring we were concerned about the amount of time The Dock’s blog took up and what our return was on it. From looking at the WordPress statistics package we already knew views were consistently low and after analysing the statistics we discovered that the blog was only 45th highest referrer to the website. While this seemed to speak for itself, the return on investment in the blog was low. We had a dilemma as the blog was the only place for our customers to access certain pieces of information, so as a result we decided to bring the blog over to thedock.ie domain. By hosting the blog on the main site we are cutting off a fall off point and not splitting our audience between blog and site. The blog would now be incorporated as a news section. Head lines of latest articles will be displayed on the home page so as to attract new viewers to the blog but as it is hosted on the website.
Review of Email…
As mentioned above we wanted to grow our email mailing list to the same size as our current postal one. We discovered through Google Analytics our click through rate to our “sign up to our mailing list” page was very low. A general rule of thumb is that the more hurdles there are for a customer to overcome the less likely they are to complete it. Whilst located on the front page it didn’t stand out enough and once you enter the page itself it is detailed and requires somewhat of a time commitment to fill out – particularly as we hadn’t specified which fields were required, thus making it seem that they all were. Our main priority was to get people to sign up to the monthly bulletin. To make it as simple as possible we put a form in a prominent position on the right hand side of the home page where the customer can enter their email address and click submit. This is linked to our constant contact database, and eliminates the need for us to process additions to the database.
A useful tool for analysing the movements of readers of the newsletter to the site I was introduced to was analytics tagging (see http://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=55578 and for how to use it http://google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?answer=55518) which creates links that can be tracked through Google Analytics.
Review of Social Media…
This was one of the more surprising aspects to our mentoring. Is it worth dedicating the amount of time you spend for the results you get? Despite having consistently more followers on twitter than facebook (we created a twitter account first and put slightly more time into keeping it updated) by checking through the stats we found that facebook actually channelled more people to our website. The google team suggested that while the energy of the twitter account was good perhaps there was too much information on twitter and it was drowning out some of the more important information. We have now actually maintained our time spent on facebook and halved our time spent on twitter while still attract followers.
It is extremely important to cross link URLs to build a comprehensive communication structure on every channel (as illustrated at beginning of report).
Using Google Analytics to shape a strategy…
While the website revamp was being completed I was busy fusing the information gleaned from Google Analytics with the overall goals of our organisation and strategy to draft an overall online strategy. This was not a complicated document, a few pages long, to be used largely as a reference for making decisions on resources. You can use Google Analytics to help plan your time.
For example, by using google analytics to break down where your customers are coming from and what they are doing on your site you can decide where to focus on link building. We get a lot of referrals from google images however these have a high bounce rate and rarely click beyond the landing page so there is little point in putting a lot of effort into developing this. But if you look at referrals from hotel websites, you can see that the time spent on the website is much longer and with higher page visits so it is worth putting effort into working with the hotels to develop this further.
Remember the importance of monitoring and evaluation. Google Anayltics can help argue for funding for marketing or show you what is not worth the effort put into it. Don’t forget about sales in house and the drip drip effect of marketing – a customer may find out about a show online but may still come into the building to book a ticket or pick up the phone and call. Our front of house team asks customers where they heard about the show. Only one of the options set up on Databox was online (website) – when we changed this to reflect our online presence (website and blog, twitter, facebook, other) we were surprised at the level of bookings from facebook in particular.
This mentoring project has helped us refocus our time spent on online marketing and rethink what is important to us. Using Google Analytics to find out more about our audience online and combining it with our goals as an organisation has helped us shape an online strategy.
Focus on our website – this should be the hub and all social media should link back to the website, particularly considering the fact that sales online are driven through the website. Remember to monitor. Are you doing too much? If you are unsure if something is working keep an eye on stats and it will be come evident what you need to change.
Remember statistics are not the be all and end all. It’s easy to get bogged down in stats so always keep in mind what is interesting and useful and what is merely interesting. Also what is useful information for another organisation may not be necessary for you to monitor.