Archive for October, 2010

Visitor Loyalty – Do They Come Back?

Monday, October 18th, 2010

This is the first part of a two-part post about visitor loyalty and recency. Let”s tackle loyalty first. Visitor loyalty is a good metric for most higher education websites (and non-ecommerce websites in general). Loyalty gives us insight into whether visitors have a reason to come back – to engage … again … in what our websites have to offer. Visitor loyalty is simply how many times visitors visit the site within a specified date range.

Do our visitors want to come back for more?

Let’s take an admissions website. The conversion usually doesn’t happen on the first visit. The visitor might research the admissions process and programs offered. They might take the virtual tour. Maybe they read some student stories. The point is, this is rarely linear – come to site, take virtual tour, read student stories, apply – all in one visit.

Ultimately, they usually need to come back.

So what does loyalty look like?

Low Visitor Loyalty

Notice that almost 80% of visitors only visited once.  This website might be great at acquiring new visitors, it needs to work on visitor loyalty.

This looks a bit better:

Better visitor loyalty distribution

There is still a large percentage that only came to the website once, but there is more of a distribution at the bottom.

Take a look at this segment of visitors – obviously a more engaged bunch. A good 48ish% is very loyal.

Visitor Loyalty - Loyal Segment

So, what kind of distribution is good? That’s going to be different for different websites. The more loyal the visitors, the bigger the bottom of the distribution will be. Depending on the website, though, a bottom-heavy distribution might not be realistic or necessary.

To come up with a goal for your website you can take a look at a few things. First, what is your current distribution? Where are the majority of your visitors? Use that as a benchmark. You can also take a look at how many visits it usually takes for someone to convert. Take a look at how many visits it takes for people to do other important things on your website (maybe your micro-conversions). Taking all these into account, come up with a number for your website. Set that goal, then see how the website improves over time.

The type of website is going to matter as well. If the website is for prospects, the distribution will probably be a bit more top-heavy. If the website is, let’s say an intranet or a blog, the distribution might be top *and* bottom heavy – meaning you get a good number of *new* visitors, but you also have a good number of very loyal visitors.

Warning: If your website caters to more than one audience – for instance, if your website is for prospects *and* current students, when looking at the loyalty report, be sure to filter out the audience that you’re not measuring at the moment.

Quick example – if you’re using loyalty as a KPI for your prospects – let’s say your website goal is to increase applications and one of your KPIs for that goal is visitor loyalty (because you know that people don’t usually apply on their first visit), filter out your current students. If you don’t, the numbers will be skewed and misleading.

Using visitor loyalty with campaigns. Another great way to use Loyalty is with campaigns. Hopefully campaigns are tagged correctly. If they are, you can easily build an advanced segment for visitors coming in from specific campaigns (or a group of like campaigns – let’s say brand campaigns).

Then go to the visitor loyalty report showing data from the advanced segment that you just created. Traffic from campaigns is obviously nice, but how many times does the traffic come back? Are they one-hit wonders?

Cookie deletion and visitor loyalty. Does cookie deletion affect visitor loyalty? Yes. That’s why it’s important to set a goal and see your trend over time. No matter what the cookie deletion rate is, if you look at your trend over time, the deletion rate will remain basically the same, so it shouldn’t matter too much.

Obviously if you’re not able to use cookies for policy reasons at your school the visitor loyalty report won’t be useful.

Next up, visitor recency. Loyalty is great when used with visitor recency (when visitors do come back, how much time is there between visits – a day, a week, a month?). If content is updated frequently, let’s say a blog or an intranet or an IT alerts website or any other website that’s updated frequently, visitor recency is really important.

In part 2, we’ll talk about visitor recency. Stay tuned.