Archive for December, 2009
I hope 2010, the last year of the first decade of the new century and new millennium, will be a healthy and happy year for all our readers.
While it might seem trite, my hope is for progress toward a ‘healthier’ earth, a hope that our children and their children and grandchildren can enjoy a better and safer world than past generations.
We have gone through an industrial revolution and an information revolution. We are at the forefront of an energy revolution. Perhaps humankind is ready to evolve into a species that embraces a planetary consciousness revolution, that is, we become caretakers of the earth rather than just takers. I think we must do so or suffer the consequences.
We can change! [And no, I am not running for an elected office.]
Health and happiness to all,
PS Thank you to all those who have left comments – our goal is to continue to provide value in 2010!
PPS Coming Soon: A Preview of 2010 Postings!
Written by Carey V. Azzara
Of course, depending on what part of the country or the world you live in [Happy Summer to our friends down under!] it may feel like winter has long been with us [the east coast already had a big storm] or not [you lucky San Diego folks]. The point is the seasons are changing, the winter solstice is here and the days will now begin to get longer for most of us living in the northern hemisphere [folks in Alaska etc. are still facing a lot of darkness].
When the seasons change and especially as a new year approaches, we tend to look back as we prepare to look ahead. For many of us 2009 has been a year of nearly unparalleled challenges. The world faces economic conditions, which are unique. More than a few of you have expressed a nostalgic feeling for the previous century especially for the 90’s, which I must admit I sometimes share.
However, time marches on and so must we. If we learn from our mistakes and take on the challenges in front of us with renewed energy we can not only make the best of this era we can find ways to make this a defining moment in our lives.
My message to all of you is to take stock, take heart, and move forward with confidence. Surround yourself with nurturing people and shun those who tend to be toxic [you know who they are]. Bring a nurturing nature to your relationships at home, at work, and with those you meet on your travels. Small kindnesses are contagious and a welcoming smile, tip of the hat, or door held open can be more uplifting than you might imagine.
I’ve been told, “Don’t sweat the small stuff and all or at least a lot of it is small stuff.”
Written by Carey V. Azzara
Two of the five steps of an Analysis Plan (i.e., steps three and four) are repeated for each section of the questionnaire (see blog posted 12-8-09, Analysis Plans: The Underdog of Market Research). Combined, these two steps provide the question-by-question detail of your analysis plan. First, each section of the questionnaire is described in a brief outline format. Next, the analysis requirements are described for all questions in the section. Finally, a ‘justification’ is written for why the questions in this specific section of the questionnaire are needed. This is the “So what” litmus test.
The example below may help to demonstrate how steps two and three are implemented:
Example Analysis Plan Steps 3 and 4
Section E: Accessibility of information and mechanisms to access information (e.g., data).
a. Website features and functions customer depend on and/or like best
b. Perceptions and preferences for push versus pull tactics for receiving information from host firm
E10, E11, and E12 – A focus on the website features and functions customers and prospects value most and the vendors that do the best job of implementing these features and functions.
Conduct a feature/function prioritization analysis – multiple response analysis. To optimize the data, recode open-ended questions (E12) and conduct analysis to classify the best websites.
E13-16. Explore the general frequency of website use and specifically respondents use websites to make purchases. These are primarily descriptive analyses with comparison by the major cross tab groups already outlined. In addition, we are likely to use these data in a segmentation analysis, which we will describe later.
E20-40 capture data on “touch” issues e.g., pushing information to clients, how frequently and in what ways. Basic descriptive analysis [possible segmentation variable] and cross tabs with significance testing will be applied.
The first part of this section provides us with competitive information, but more importantly points us to specific implementations that are considered ”best in class” by clients and prospects – a very powerful tool for prioritizing and implementing features on our current website and any redesign work we decide to undertake.
The second part gives us general frequency of website use and purchasing, which is nice to know info, but may not be as actionable as other data. It tells us the relative importance of the website across our customers (by type perhaps) and if we build-in ecommerce functionality, how much it might be used. However, I doubt we would decide to provide or not provide ecommerce functionality based on the study results (optional information).
The touch information is highly actionable and can help guide our efforts and inform decisions on the level of investment to make in these activities. End of Section E.
As you can see from the example a thoughtful description of the analysis work and the value of the results, provides a roadmap. Time well spent
Written by Charley Spektor
This afternoon, I performed a little analysis that hammered home to me how “user-generated content” on your website can be a powerful optimization tool for a long-tail SEO strategy.
I decided to do a search query for Chinua Achebe’s famous novel Things Fall Apart, combined with the additional string “Charles Darwin” (both subjects were chosen, as far as I can remember, at random.) The combined long-tail search query, then, was “things fall apart charles darwin.”
The first and second results on the Search Engine Results Page were entries from Amazon. If you are not surprised at these results, perhaps you should be: Amazon, the company, had published nothing that would have linked the two queries together, and given them the top two rankings.
Instead, it was thanks to an Amazon book reviewer, Dr. Elijah Chingosho from Nairobi, Kenya, that Amazon received the high positioning. Chingosho wrote, “I read Things Fall Apart in my school days in the then Rhodesia.” And, finished his review with this thought-provoking flourish, “An important lesson from this book is the echoing of Charles Darwin’s conclusion that it is not the strongest of the species, or the most intelligent, that will survive in a changing environment, but those species that can best adapt to change.”
To expand my analysis a bit further I did a second long-tail search query “things fall apart edward wilson” (Edward Wilson is a renowned scientist at Harvard). This time, Amazon had the fifth ranked entry, once again, based on a book review, rather than any original company-provided content.
Trying to confirm this point, I then performed a third long-tail search query, “things fall apart george bush.” Unfortunately, for Amazon, no reviewer (or official Amazon content writer) has yet figured out how to pontificate on the connection between these two terms, and Amazon does not even appear in the top 10 SERPs.
If any would-be book reviewer wants to help Amazon out, email me, and I will send you several ideas on how you might be able to make a connection between “things fall apart,” and our 43rd president.
Written by Carey V. Azzara
Often when I recommend that a research team prepare a formal analysis plan the first response I hear is, “Why? The analysis isn’t due for weeks and I have too many other things to do.”
An analysis plan is not extra work; it’s work that makes all the other project tasks flow efficiently. It will help you produce on-time project deliverables. Typically, you develop an analysis plan in parallel with your research instrument (RI). Like the RI the analysis plan is tied back to the goals and objectives of the study. In addition to the obvious purpose of an analysis plan, producing a plan serves to improve the RI and manage project scope, these benefits alone will pay you for the time you devote to creating it.
The RI is referenced in an Analysis Plan (AP) and while there are no hard or fast rules and no one right way to structure an AP we can offer some guidelines. The approach presented here is as good as any and better than most.
The analysis plan approach described briefly here is specific to quantitative studies. The first step of the process will be familiar to those of you who have read other AtHeath publications from the Market Research Resource Center (MRRC).
Research has the greatest chance of success when the objectives are clearly stated and that is where we begin. Use these five (5) straightforward steps.
- State the key study objectives clearly at the beginning of the analysis plan (AP) and refer to them throughout the process.
- Describe the major comparisons for the analysis (e.g., major cross tabulations for the study such as: Customers versus Non-customers, Companies by size, Customers that are Satisfied, Neutral, or Dissatisfied).
- State how each question is used to answer a specific objective of the study either on its own or in combination with other data points. Think through how you expect to present the results from each question. What statistics, if any, will you use in the analysis? Identify the independent and dependent variables.
- Write a clear justification for including the information from the question in the study and perform a section by section “So what” litmus test.
- When the analysis plan is finished, go back and make sure each key study objective has been addressed.
These five steps are the basic approach to the AP template (see it is straightforward). The key is to focus on objectives and think critically about how to execute on the primary goal of the study.
(For a more detailed description of how to develop an Analysis Plan see Analysis Plans Made Easier, an AtHeath publication)
Written by Charley Spektor
During the past two months, I’ve been monitoring website data for two well-respected business firms using Google Analytics . The two firms’ products and services are quite different, yet each is grappling with a similar website registration problem: An extremely high dropoff rate once website visitors reach their registration pages. More than 90% of the visitors are abandoning the registration forms on one of the sites, whose lifeblood is selling completed registrations to outside vendors as sales leads.
Optimizing Your Registration Forms and Pages
During the 10 years I worked as an online product manager, I committed my share of registration page blunders. Here are three key ones that I’ll admit to, and three remedies that have improved performance over the years.
Eliminate extraneous registration form fields
Ask yourself, “Do I really need all of the information I am currently gathering? What are the essential data points I need to capture?” Scratch the rest. One of the above-mentioned sites had at least six form fields that could be eliminated immediately, with no loss of quality, including two “create password” fields and four “never-to-be-used” regular-mail form fields.
Eradicate extraneous non-form-field content from the registration pages
When a website user reaches your registration page, you want to provide just enough non-form information to help facilitate the completion of the form. Get rid of all the non-essential and redundant material that prevents the user from focusing on the task at hand.
For example, at the top of the registration page of one form I reviewed were two text lines that said essentially the same thing. They simply employed a different syntax of words. One line of text read, “You’re requesting information from Vendor X.” Right underneath this line the reader confronted this text: “Vendor X Request Information.” To add a bit more confusion, a third line under these two asked the reader if they are a “member” of the site (less than 1/4 of 1 percent of previous visitors had bothered to become members), But even so, there was a fourth line of text which asked the user to “Log-in to pre-fill” the form. If you’re the typical reader, you’ve already spent five to 15 seconds reviewing (and thinking about the meaning of) these four lines.
Eliminate extraneous website navigational routes that prevent successful registration-form completion
I know, this last tip is a brain-stopper – just like the journey that many sites force you to take to really complete your registration and information request. For example, after users click the “Submit” button on one of the above-mentioned sites, they don’t get the PDF they’re interested in. Instead, a “thank-you” page is triggered, informing users that ‘a confirmation email’ has been sent to their email address. When users click on that email link, they still don’t get the material. The users are sent to the site’s home page, where they have to log in with a password, and then, to rub salt in the wound, they’re left on their own to find the proper navigational path to the PDF they had originally expressed interest in via a search query. Because of the poor navigational links from the home page, most readers were not finding the PDF.
I know what you’re thinking: “It can’t happen here; not on my site; not on my watch.” I’ve said the same thing many times in the past. So just for kicks, take a fresh look at your registration pages, and let us know what you find.
Charley Spektor is a member of AtHeath’s Web Analytics team of experts. You can contact him via email at: Charley.Spektor@atheath.com