Optify Measures the Current State of B-to-B Online Marketing

Optify logoEach year Optify, a developer of digital marketing software for business-to-business marketing professionals, analyzes web behaviors to develop a “benchmark” report on B-to-B marketing.

The annual Optify benchmark report is interesting in that the findings are developed not from surveys, but from actual web activity. 

Optify’s most recent report, released in early 2013, was produced using data gleaned from more than 62 million web visits, ~215 million page views and ~350,000 leads from more than 600 small and medium-sized websites of B-to-B firms.

Optify used its proprietary visitor and lead tracking technology to collect and aggregate the data.  U.S.-based B-to-B sites that garnered between 100 to 100,000 monthly visits were included in the research.

There are many interesting findings – enough to chew on so that I will cover them in several blog posts.  In all likelihood, some of the findings will confirm your perceptions … while others may be a tad surprising.

Web Traffic

As in business-to-consumer web marketing, there is cyclicality in web traffic in the B-to-B world.  But according to Optify, it’s almost the polar opposite:

  • Higher traffic:  January through March + September and October
  • Lower traffic:  Summer months + end of year

Source of Web Traffic

Optify found that the overwhelming amount of B-to-B web traffic comes from two main sources — organic search and direct traffic.  Other sources – particularly social media – are a good deal more peripheral:

  • Organic search:  ~41% of web traffic
  • Direct traffic:  ~40%
  • Referral links:  ~12%
  • Paid search:  ~5%
  • Social media:  ~2%

Lead Conversion Rate

Optify defines the “conversion rate” as the percent of web visitors who submitted a query or filled out some other type of form during a single visit.  Using this definition, Optify found that the average conversion rate was around 1.6%. 

But the best sources for lead conversions differ from the most prevalent sources of web traffic:

  • E-mail source:  ~2.9% conversion rate
  • Other referral links:  ~2.0%
  • Paid search:  ~2.0%
  • Direct traffic:  ~1.7%
  • Organic search:  ~1.5%
  • Social media:  ~1.2%

Page Views per Web Visit

Optify found that the average visitor viewed three pages on the website during their visit.

… But Big Variations

Optify found a good deal of variability in web activity.  To illustrate this, it has published findings broken out by medians and for percentile groups as follows:

  • Median visits per month per website:  1,784
  • 75th percentile of websites:  4,477
  • 25th percentile of websites:  339
  • Median page views per website visit (monthly average):  3.03
  • 75th percentile median page views:  4.04
  • 25th percentile media page views:  1.80
  • Median lead conversion rate (monthly average):  1.6%
  • 75th percentile median conversion rate:  3.3%
  • 25th percentile median conversion rate:  0.5%

There’s much more in the Optify report that’s worth reviewing … which I’ll share ina follow-up blog post.

Internet privacy legislation: What are the implications?

Internet privacyThe issue of online privacy – the degree to which publishers are allowed to capture and use information derived from consumer online behavior – has been an undercurrent of concern since the very early days of the Internet. What is the right balance that allows the web to be used for marketing and commerce … but that also allows for an acceptable degree of consumer privacy?

The privacy issue has gathered steam in recent years. Today, proposed legislation affecting EU countries would dictate that web cookies (snippets of computer code) cannot be placed on a user’s computer unless it is strictly necessary for the purposes of enabling the use of a service explicitly requested by the user.

If such legislation is enacted, the implications for web publishers would be far-reaching. After all, cookies are currently used for many purposes, including web analytics, session management, content management, personalization, managing preferences, and calculating advertising revenues.

Cookies are the means by which all of these functions give the web its commercial foundation and functionality. Without them, the web would be little more than another broadcast medium for viewing non-customized information on a computer screen instead of on paper or on a TV screen.

And now those same privacy discussions are beginning to happen among U.S. lawmakers. Legislation is being crafted in Congress that may restrict the use of cookies along with other forms of “personally identifiable” information.

Is this a good development, or not?

It’s certainly true that some unscrupulous web sites and publishers have used cookies as a means to engage in nefarious behavior. But in an attempt to eliminate those exceptions, is it wise for legislation to wipe away all of the very real benefits web users derive from services that utilize cookies as the means to deliver them?

It’s pretty clear that one of the obvious impacts privacy legislation would have is on publishers who earn revenues from advertising. The inability to utilize cookies when serving online ads would affect the way the ads perform. Without cookies, ad servers are unable to perform the most basic functions such as fraud analysis and frequency capping (limiting the number of ads shown to a viewer).

In addition, publishers would lose the ability to measure “conversion” rates – tracking specific actions tied to ad revenue calculation such as downloading a white paper or to make a purchase – that is the foundation for many ad compensation packages. Or to serve a specific ad to someone who has expressed prior interest in a topic or product.

The data that these and other cookie-enabled actions provide is the basis of most online advertising programs. Without cookies, advertisers would have to purchase far more impressions served to swaths of people who may or may not be interested. Web analytics would also become more challenging; third-party services such as Web Trends and Google Analytics tap into cookies as a way to provide information and answers.

The claim that without legislation, people don’t have ways to limit the proliferation of cookies on their computers is just not accurate. Not only do many publishers provide ways for consumers to opt out of targeting techniques, surveys show that a significant proportion of Internet users — perhaps one third — routinely delete cookies from their computers. And ~10% have them permanently blocked.

It’s good for lawmakers to be looking at the privacy implications of the Internet. After all, the web continues to evolve at a quick pace, with new functionalities coming to the fore every day that may have implications on consumer privacy. But at the same time, it’s important to really think through the full ramifications of laws that, while well intentioned, would have negative consequences on everyone if enacted.

Facebook Continues on its Merry Way to Social Media (and Web?) Dominance

Here’s a very interesting finding ripped from today’s social media headlines: The Business Insider and other media outlets are reporting that Facebook now accounts for nearly one in four page views on the Internet in the United States.

So claims database marketing consulting firm Drake Direct, which has studied web traffic in the U.S. and the U.K. by analyzing data collected by Compete, a leading aggregator of web statistics.

Just to give you an idea of how significant Facebook’s results are: by comparison, search engine powerhouse Google accounts for only about one in twelve page views.

And Facebook is now closing in on Google when it comes to site visits – with each currently receiving around 2.5 billion visits per month. In fact, studying the trend lines, Drake Direct anticipates that Facebook site visits will surpass Google any time now.

Another interesting finding is that the length of the average Facebook visit now surpasses that of YouTube (~16 minutes versus ~14 minutes per visit), whereas YouTube had charted longer visits prior to now.

These findings underscore the continued success of Facebook as the most successful social media site, even as it has grown to 350+ million users, including more than 100 million in the U.S. with 5 million added in January alone. No doubt, it’s on a roll.