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Understanding the true influence of social networks on leads and sales

Author's avatar By Pritesh Patel 24 Jan, 2012
Essential Essential topic

Using Multi-Channel Funnels to analyse the impact of marketing channels on conversions

Many marketers struggle to identify which sources of traffic are most effective when it comes to converting web visitors. When conversions take place over multiple visits rather than a single visit to a site, it's really important to understand the complete customer journey and not use the standard "last click wins" model of attribution.

This is particularly the case in the area I work in, B2B marketing, since buying cycles can be as long as 18 to 24 months and include multiple campaigns in between.

The new Multi-Channel funnel reports in Google Analytics is a step closer to providing marketers with much more detailed insights into the first and last interactions visitors have with your website before turning into a lead. At the end of the post I show an example of how they can be used to understand the contribution of social media marketing

Setting up Goals in Google Analytics for events such as downloads, registrations, subscriptions or enquiry submissions is the first step in working out which sources of traffic, and which campaigns, are most effective.

A few weeks back I decided to use one of our clients' high volume traffic websites to test the new Assisted Conversion and Conversion Paths reports in Google Analytics V5 for a 4 week period. Assisted conversions in Google Analytics identifies which sources of traffic played a part in converting a visitor into a lead. This is an important report for identifying which sources of traffic are helping in converting visitors and understanding if certain elements such as non-brand SEO is actually working for you. Here is what the Assisted Conversion path report looks like:

Assisted Conversions

Organic search was the most popular assist in a conversion much to the delight of my client as they had already invested so much in SEO and increasing search engine visibility. Following Organic Search is Direct visits, again it was expected as the brand is pretty well established within its sector. The real surprise was Social Networks which showed up 4th and played an assist in 23 conversions over a 4 week period ahead of Paid Advertising. This insight asks the question 'Should we allocate more resource to Social?'. I was surprised to see that the RSS feed was so high up which demonstrated the importance in getting visitors to subscribe to the websites blog feed in order to increase loyalty and returning visitors to the content on your website or blog. The higher these numbers the more important the role of the channel.

Ok, so now that we have identified what the top assists were, let's have a look at the top paths (2 visits or more) which led to a conversion on the website.

conversion paths

Conversion paths for 2 visits or more

The above report shows that two Direct visits (initial interaction and final interaction) was the most popular path leading to 32 conversions (enquiries, downloads, registrations) which reinforces the importance in getting people to familiarise themselves with your website address and brand. It also shows that any brand awareness work which may have been carried out is also working and having an effect in getting people to return to your site via a direct visit. If Direct visits is not top of the list for you then maybe you should think about a brand awareness campaign.

The second most popular conversion path is two visits from non-branded search terms which lead to 22 conversions over a period of 4 weeks. This shows how important it is to be optimising your website for non-brand related search terms (search which does not contain your company name or product names). *Note, I have create my own groupings so that I can see 'brand' and 'non-brand' search terms. The default report will not show you this.

Number 5 on the table above shows two visits or interactions, the first interaction from a non-branded search term followed by a direct interaction which in turn generated 13 conversions over a 4 week period. This indicates that 13 enquirers came to the website not having typed in the company name nor a product name into a search engine but on the second interaction came directly to the site. That is SEO and writing relevant content working its magic!

The influence of social media sites on conversions

Social Media sites such as Twitter or Facebook are great platforms for raising brand awareness and generating that first visit to your website. Once they have made that initial visit you then want them to come back through the same channel or another such as a search engine or a referring website (brand recognition). The below path shows how 2 enquiries were generated from a social network (first interaction) and search engines (second interaction). Who said social and search don't go hand in hand? Ok, so it's only 2 enquiries but what if I told you that those 2 enquiries are potentially worth approximately £500,000 in total order value?

First interaction via a social site and second interaction (converting interaction) via a non-branded search term generated 2 conversions - importance of SEO

The below conversion path is a key path for those who are using social networking sites to increase brand awareness. The first interaction was generated from a social site and same for the second interaction. The third interaction came from a referring site and then the final interaction which led to the enquiry was from a branded search term. So over a period of 4 weeks my client managed to bring someone to the site who had not heard of the company through a social site, the visitor then was referred back to the site via a link on another website which may have been a product directory or a forum and the final interaction was the visitor Googling the company name and submitting an enquiry before converting into a lead. Voila!

social referral to brand search phrase

First interaction via social site through to searching Google for a branded search term (converting interaction)

So the next time your boss says "Well, social sites are having no impact on the enquiries generated from the website" just show them the above report. You may not see an actual deal done over Twitter or Facebook but social sites certainly do play a part in influencing a buyer to work with you or your company by keeping the brand and your products at the fron of their minds. It's important to be visible in as many relevant channels as possible.

B2B buying cycles are long, so increasing the amount of loyal visitors is important

Well let's have a look. As you can see below, the site generated 451 conversions in 4 weeks and the majority of conversions occur on the first visit which is great as most will do anyway, but the next is 12 days or more after the first initial visit. This is why it is absolutely crucial to ensure that your website keeps bringing people back to your site. I cannot stress this point enough! Have a read of this post if you need more info: Increasing Website Loyalty and Reducing One Night Stands.


Nearly 8% of conversions occur 12 days after the first visit

What are the next steps then?

I will be monitoring the most important paths to my client, which at the moment in time is through search engines (First interaction'non-brand search term' to Second Interaction: 'brand search term' and also First Interaction: 'social network' to Second Interaction: 'brand search term'). The rest is not important at the moment but hopefully if one path is increasing in conversions over time I will try to put forward recommendations in optimising those channels to generate more traffic and coversions. Simples!

Author's avatar

By Pritesh Patel

Pritesh is the Digital Marketing Manager for Pauley Creative, a specialist digital marketing agency for the construction industry. Pritesh is responsible for developing and implementing online marketing strategies and measuring the performance of client websites and campaigns to enhance lead generation and brand awareness. Majority of the time Pritesh is blogging about all things Analytics and SEO on the Pauley Creative blog. His experience includes working client side and agency side in the B2B environment. You can follow Pritesh on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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