Making the Web Work for you at C4DI

Another interesting evening at a C4DI meetup.  I don't actually make a website that sells anything (other than the brand of me I suppose) but the session was fascinating even so. Mike Jessop from Strawberry gave a talk on Digital Marketing. Used properly the technology can give web vendors invaluable insights into how their customers tick and what makes them actually go ahead and buy stuff.  Used badly it can give customers the feeling they are being stalked by an oven

The most important single point for me was that Google Analytics is where you need to go and live if you want to this kind of thing properly. I do have it switched on for my site, but I don't really use it as much as I probably should. But then again, I'm not really selling anything.

Analytics is free, and very powerful. I didn't know that you could use it to create dashboards that show real time activity on the site, summary reports of the way your site is being traversed by visitors and even perform a/b comparison of site designs to work out which is the most profitable. 

The other thing that came out was just how much tagging and profiling goes on. Mike recommends the Wasp profiler as a way of finding out how many tags each web page contains. A tag is a link embedded in web page that lets servers behind the scenes track what you are doing and pass the information around so that what you see on the next page reflects where you have been.  This is how my oven managed to follow me from site to site.

Apparently the Holy Grail of web marketeers is a system that can track the way that you move between mobile, tablet and desktop as you move from following a link in an advert through finding out more about the product from your Facebook friends to search for the product on Bing and then buying it. We are not quite there yet apparently, but we are heading that way.

Personally, I'm not sure if this is scary or not. I remember years ago that when you answered an advert in the paper and you put "Department G176" on the top of the address you knew that this was how they were tracking the success of their promotions.  However, nowadays it all takes place in the background. I reckon it is all about making sure that folks are aware that this kind of thing is going on.

Mike was very keen to make it clear that if you get too heavy handed with the technology and start gaming it to swing results your way this will end in tears as the users and the service providers change the way they behave, and his talk provided a really good overview of how to make the best use of what is out there. The best sessions leave you wanting to find out more, and this one did that for me.