Traffic is Traffic ... Or Not.By Amy Hatfield
I initially named this column "Traffic is Traffic: Build Where It's Busy." I wanted to set up the premise that whether you're watching traffic on the highway or traffic on the digital highway, you must build and sell in high-traffic areas.
Then there's the photo at right. Here we have legit, nobody-is-moving traffic. But the audience - a herd of goats - makes my title idea, "Traffic is Traffic," seem dumb. Traffic is indeed not traffic.
Reaching your audience can be complicated or intuitive, and the difference usually rests in the information available. Audience income levels, education, geography, age, sex, interests and behaviors are good examples of useful information. But maybe you don't have access to this kind of intel: your archery shop isn't a CIA satellite office and you can't invest in a survey. Maybe you must first improve the roadside signage or fix the big mudhole in the parking lot. Practical stuff.
That's OK. There's analytics.
The cool thing about analytics? The clues hidden in data are like those wonderful little pepperonis in a greasy pizza roll (No, I don't actually eat those. OK, fine, yes I do). You can learn a lot about an audience from virtually any information you pull. Let's say I go to Google Analytics and pull the top 10 ATA newsletter stories for 2012. Bear in mind, the ATA's newsletter - like most newsletters - links to stories that live on archerytrade.org, so our Web site's analytics are an effective way to gauge newsletter readership.
Here's our top 10:
First, by scanning the article titles, it's clear that readers gravitate toward information specific to the Trade Show. They're also drawn to practical, useful Trade Show information rather than promotional hype. A third quick notable, revealed only if you view the entire newsletter template, is the weight of position. All but two stories in the top 10 also occupied the newsletter's most visible real estate: the Featured Stories section. Only two stories in the top 10 occupied the less visible Sidebar area.
With these clues in mind, I ask myself a number of things. Among them, how can ATA communications be more strategic with newsletter story placement? What ATA initiatives and information can I bring to light through article position? Our work with community archery comes to mind. The strategy and projects associated with this initiative are as important as the Trade Show and are critical to the industry's effort to find and create new archery and bowhunting participants.
But then I have to wonder, "What if I move critical information - like when the ATA's hotel block opens - away from prime positions, will our readers find it?" Yet, the breadcrumb trail left by newsletter readers offers another clue. The story, "Cover Girl: Maria Lewis, Trade Show Manager," ranked No. 3 despite the fact it was a humble sidebar piece placed in the shadows of the featured articles.
That's telling on two fronts: 1) If it's information readers want, they'll find it regardless of where it's placed. 2) An overarching ATA strategy is to provide vintage-like customer service. The industry and its trade association are small enough that relationships and rapport can be emphasized successfully. The fact there was no practical information in "Cover Girl: Maria Lewis, Trade Show Manager," suggests the newsletter's readers know Maria on some level, and are thereby interested in a short article about her. (Granted, the title wasn't half-bad, either. It's not often the ATA writes about cover girls.)
These few items are just a small sampling of what can be found with a limited amount of data, but there's so much more. In keeping with what we know of reader preferences - thanks to good clues - it's likely this column is already too long to hold everyone's interest. So I'll close with this: Analytics like this newsletter sample can and should be coupled with other data and reader trends. One breadcrumb trail doesn't do it. You need to be sure the trail is common and traveled often by many. Then you have your traffic mapped and the real estate you need to start delivering your message with strategy.
Did You Know?
The ATA estimates that in 2004, 80 percent of dealers had average sales of less than $20,000 per year.