I’m not a testing guru. I love testing and think it’s a vital part of the web analytics process, but I’m still learning about the ins and outs. One thing that I have learned is that there is more to testing than changing the color of a button or the format of an email. It is equally important to test the offer that you’re making to the customer. Which works better, ‘20% Off’ or ‘Free Shipping’? Unless you test both you’ll never know.
This week I was reminded how important it is to test the offer when I received an email from Northwest Airlines. I don’t fly NWA much, but I have in the past. Anyway, what really caught my attention was, you guessed it, the offer.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll do almost anything for frequent flier miles. What a great deal, I can get 1,000 miles AND reduce my postal mail. Sign me up! The offer was perfect for me. Would I have taken to the time to subscribe to their email if they did not offer the frequent flier miles? Probably not.
There are so many things that NWA could have tested. First, they probably tested the offer. Then I bet they tested how many miles they needed to offer before someone would convert. Would I have enrolled for 500 miles? Probably not. I wonder if they tested the subject line of the email? I think more people would respond to the message if the offer was in the email subject line, but I could be wrong… Another benefit of testing the offer: understanding the financial impact, i.e. ROI, of the offer.
The bottom line is testing the message is just as important as testing your formats and layouts.
Tracking Email Conversions with Google Analytics
This post would feel naked if I didn’t mention something about GA. :)
The key to measuring the effectiveness of an email offer is identifying how many conversions occur. Measuring email conversions is pretty easy with Google Analytics. It all starts with link tagging. If you’re unfamiliar with link tagging then you may want to take a moment and review how it’s done. Testing emails with GA starts with creating different variations. Once the variations have been created you need to tag the emails so GA can identify each one.
Add a utm_campaign, utm_medium, utm_source and utm_content parameter to each link in each email. While the campaign, medium and source parameters can have the same values, each variation should have a unique content parameter. The following table lists the query string parameters for a simple A/B test.
|Email Variation 1||Email Variation 2|
After you’ve sent out the email, use the Traffic Sources > Ad Versions Report to measure the traffic volume and conversions generated by the message. The Ad Versions report shows a line item for each utm_content variable. Note: you should know that this report, by default, contains information from AdWords. If you’re using auto-tagging then GA will automatically pull in the title of the ad that the visitor clicked on. Just keep that in mind when you open the Ad Versions report and see more data than you expected. :)
You can also get creative with your link tagging. I like to add a lot of information in the utm_content variable. In the example above I added the offer that was different in each email. I could also add information that identifies which link in the email that the visitor clicked on. Here’s an example:
|Email Variation 1||Email Variation 2|
Adding additional information to utm_content creates a lot of data and sometimes it is not useful. Plus, many email distribution tools will also report which link visitors click on, so this technique can create duplicate data. But the option is there if you want to try it.
So there you have it. Don’t forget to test different offers in your email marketing. And there is no better way to measure email conversions than with Google Analytics.
Jeremy Hutton says
Nice post! I like the way you breakdown your email campaign tracking – specifically the second table. Normally I over-use the utm_content by putting in link location, campaign, and sometimes even medium. I know its overkill but I figure there’s no way to re-tag once the page goes live and you can always just filter.
It was also great to meet you this past week. See you in DC at EMetrics
Thanks for another informative article – have added you to my favourites list! Do you know if there is any way of distinguishing between email campaigns in a graph using Analytics? At the moment I can only display data from all email campaigns aggregated in to a single line graph.
Unfortunately GA will only show a graph or aggregate data. If you want to see a trend line for each email campaign you would need to export each into Excel and then create the graph.
Great feedback. Thanks for sharing your experience. Great to see you in CA and at EMetrics.
Marketing CD says
One thing I have found helpful when tagging email links for our Electronic Business Cards/CDs is to begin each link that I want grouped together in Google Analytics with the same word. This way, they will appear alphabetically together in GA reports.