What is website visitor tracking and why you need it for B2B success
Do you know who is visiting your website? Or just what is website visitor tracking, and why its so important for your business?
Website visitor tracking allows you to see – often in real time – who is visiting your website and, based on their trackable behaviors:
- Why they’re on your site,
- What their issues, interests, and/or pain points are, and
- Where they are in the buying process.
The ability to “see” what individuals – both known and anonymous visitors – are doing on your website gives you the ability to target them, meaning you can deliver valuable content that’s tailored to their needs and encourages them to take the next step.
Act-On’s Website Visitor Tracking tool helps you find the answers, so you can determine whether they’re potential high-value prospects and pursue engagement. And most visitors will be anonymous, but Act-On tracks and keeps all that activity, too, so when they convert into a sales lead in the future, you’ll have a complete record of their pre-conversion engagement.
In our ongoing conversation about Marketing Automation Fundamentals, we recently interviewed Phil Bosley from Tactical Marketing about website visitor tracking, and the importance of installing the tracking beacon to your website. Phil has consulted with thousands of customers on their marketing automation strategies, and tactics.
This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.
Nathan Isaacs: Welcome back to the Rethink Marketing podcast. I’m here today with Phil Bosley, CEO and founder of Tactical Marketing. Phil, can you tell us a little bit about what Tactical Marketing is?
Phil Bosley: Thanks Nathan, I’m glad to be back. Tactical Marketing is a full service digital marketing agency that has some advantages. Namely I was the lead marketing automation strategist at Act-On, a core part of just analyzing and studying the trends with marketing automation that make customers successful that result in ROI. And we’ve taken all of that data, all of that research, and used it to found a marketing automation-specific agency.
Nathan: Last time we were talking about the Fundamental Three, the three critical objectives Act-On customers should be pursuing to see success with marketing automation. In that call we learned about 90 percent of customers meeting these threshold objectives were thrilled with their Act-On experience. But customers who ignored any of these fundamental three often became frustrated with their lack of ROI. Can you remind us what were the fundamental three?
Phil: Of course. So, they’re really, really simple. The first was you had to be using the Act-On beacon. You had to be tracking website visitors. You had to be either using Act-On forms or integrating to Act-On forms in your asset, your landing pages, your website, so on and so forth. And you had to be consistently sending email. It didn’t have to be a lot of email. Once you hit at least 20 percent of your Act-On subscription, customer satisfaction just skyrocketed and the results of those efforts really proved out. But those were the three, the beacon, web forms, and consistent email volume.
Nathan: One of the things I’ve been thinking about is how do you prioritize them? If you had to, which of the three would you say needs to be the highest priority?
Phil: I hope you’re not saying a have to, Nathan. I don’t like the idea of them being stack ranked. In my mind it really is an all or none package. It has to be those three.
Nathan: But if you had to, I mean in some cases a marketing shop is only one person, so what are they going to do first?
Website Visitor Tracking and the Act-On Beacon
Phil: If you had to prioritize them, if you had to pick one to focus on first, so not to the exclusion of the others, but which one am I focusing on first, I would say that it’s using the Act-On beacon. Based on all the data we looked at, and we looked at tens of thousands of data points, I do recall seeing that customers who were not using the Act-On beacon showed the highest levels of frustration and dissatisfaction at their ability to prove ROI.
Nathan: And why do you think that is?
Phil: Well, I think it’s twofold. From a strategic point of view, if we think about marketing automation strategy, the whole point is to leverage the insight and the visibility into audience behaviors, so you can dynamically adjust and adapt your message. And if you’re taking a strategic approach to marketing automation, you’re creating lead scoring, you’re creating segmentation, you’re creating automation, that’s targeting different stages of your marketing and sales funnel with different types of messaging. And I don’t think I’ve ever talked to anybody about Act-On, about marketing automation, that didn’t want to do that. It’s like the given on the goals list.
But the reality is, I can dream that all day long. I can have that as a vision. But if I don’t have a working beacon, it’s like this fundamental kernel that everything else is going to be built on. If the tracking code isn’t deployed and deployed correctly, then I’m not collecting behaviors, I’m not connecting my segmentation, and my lead scoring, and my automation, to what people are doing. Because without the beacon, I can’t track it. And so without the beacon, I would say that any effective marketing automation strategy is compromised. You just can’t be successful without the Act-On tracking beacon being deployed.
Nathan: This hits close to home with me because as I’m hearing you talk about all this, it reminds me of hitting record when I’m doing a podcast interview. I don’t know, maybe one or two times I’ve not hit record, and we’ve had a great conversation, and I go, oops, all that’s lost. And in a way, not having a beacon, all the good stuff that you’re doing on your website, all that traffic that is coming to it is lost. You just don’t know how to take advantage of it.
Phil: That’s exactly right. That is a great analogy. You aren’t recording the data, so you can’t use it.
How to Deploy the Beacon
Nathan: You said twofold. So, it sounds like there’s a major obstacle to achieving results from a strategic point of view. What would be the other consideration?
Phil: Well, with any marketing technology, you’ve got the strategic application and the technical deployment. What I can guarantee, every single Act-On customer listening, what I can guarantee is that a bunch of you don’t have the beacon deployed today. I can guarantee that every single Act-On customer who has ever gone through Act-On’s onboarding process, that the very first meeting, the very first thing that every customer is asked to do is deploy the tracking beacon. In Act-On’s documentation, when you’re getting started with Act-On, it’s not even called a recommendation. It’s called the technical requirement. But the process, the process of deploying the technology I think often gets in the way, becomes distracting, and marketers just don’t deploy it.
Nathan: So, with people not deploying, what’s the next step? What do they do?
Phil: Well, the first thing they have to realize is it’s not deployed. Let’s think about the way this starts. If I’m an Act-On marketer, an Act-On customer, I’m getting ready to use this really awesome marketing automation software, I come into that first onboarding meeting, and the onboarding manager says, OK, we got to get the beacon on your website. Well, this is something I as a marketer depend on my IT team for. So, I create that ticket, I swing by the IT desk, and I give them the technical requirements.
And the first thing I need to deploy the beacon is what we call a vanity URL, a CNAME that points to – it’s just a technical configuration on the backend of the website. And so often marketing asks IT to configure this CNAME, and inevitably IT configures an A record. Now if you don’t know the difference between those two things, it’s not important to the conversation. Let’s just go with the fact that those are similar, but not the same. And it’s a really common mistake. IT sends back to the marketer, ‘Hey, it’s all set, you’re ready to go, you’re ready to deploy.’ And then marketing goes to configure that in Act-On. And it doesn’t work.
And as a marketer, I have a priority on migrating my assets into Act-On. I have a priority on creating new content, on managing the blog, on managing social, on routing leads within my organization. I have a priority on running email campaigns or my next event. As a marketer I have so many priorities. And I get this note from IT that says it’s done. And I go to do it and it doesn’t work. What do you do? You write it on a sticky note, you stick on your monitor, and that’s just where it stays. And I think that because people don’t properly understand the priority, the value, the importance of the beacon, it just gets lost in that onboarding shuffle.
So how do we fix this? My opinion, the very first thing we have to do as marketers is realize this is a priority, I need to go check this, I need to check this right now, and then walk through that simple three step process to get it deployed.
Nathan: We’re saying IT department. What does that mean? What does an IT department mean in today’s landscape? Is it your website developer? Is it somebody else?
Phil: Absolutely. Ultimately, the person you need to be in connection with is your webmaster, the person who’s in charge of the domains and hosting of your website. Because a CNAME is a type of domain. It’s what we call a subdomain. So, they’re going to need to create the CNAME for you that points to an Act-On address. And then they’re going to give you confirmation when that’s done. And then you’re going to give them back a little snippet of code that Act-On generates for you, that they need to deploy into the footer of your website. The person that manages your domains and the person that can make changes to your website is who you need to be partnering with in this process.
Other troubleshooting tips
Nathan: And once it’s deployed, are you all set?
Phil: For the most part. If nothing ever changes in your website environment, in your domain environment, then, yeah, you’re all set. The beacon is up, it’s deployed, it’s going to keep working for you forever.
There are a couple of things that sometimes IT does that can cause problems down the road.
The first is many companies, especially with the changes to the way Google index webpages, many companies have deployed SSLs that didn’t have an SSL before. If you think about what that means, it means when you go to your website, it either says HTTP:// or HTTPS:// and then your domain. So, a company that has deployed an SSL since they implemented the beacon, they’ve added a layer of security that needs to be mirrored on the Act-On side. That’s an easy fix. You just have to register an SSL with Act-On.
And the other thing that commonly happens is either through maintenance or website updates, your web team is either monitoring and maintaining, taking out what they see as unnecessary code or scripts from the site, or they’re making updates and changes to your website. And sometimes in that process the IT group will inadvertently remove the Act-On beacon.
And those two changes to the web environment are something that we have to be deliberate about monitoring.
Ongoing website visitor tracking
Nathan: And so how do you just prevent any of those mix-ups from happening once you get the beacon installed?
Phil: Well, if we think about it, the beacon is the foundation of every key strategy or key initiative we’re going to do with Act-On marketing automation. I think it was Peter Drucker who said that if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. As a marketer, I need to have a priority on my marketing metrics. It’s common sense we’re tracking our email sends, opens, clicks, opt outs, spam rate. We track webpage visits, the number of visitors that come to the website.
With the beacon there’s new strategies introduced. I recommend tracking how many visitors came to your website that are tracked by Act-On. It should roughly correlate to what your Google Analytics is telling you.
But now also how many of those visitors are known to Act-On. And there’s a whole strategy course about how to leverage that insight in the Act-On University.
But how many known visitors are. And what’s your conversion from anonymous to known is this month. And if you’ll add that metric as a priority to the things you as a marketer are reporting on, A, if anything suddenly drops off, you’ll have identified there’s a problem with the beacon.
But the other thing that I can absolutely guarantee is if you’ll start tracking that metric and prioritizing improvement in that metric, the success that you see with Act-On measured in ROI, measured in new deals booked, measured in new business that is attributed to the marketing team’s efforts, your success in that area will skyrocket.
Nathan: Excellent. Phil, how do we learn more about you and Tactical Marketing?
Phil: Visit tacticalma.com. You can learn about me, you can learn about my company, you can learn how we can help. We’re developing a library of resources specifically designed to help the Act-On customer. You can find us in the Act-On community.
And if you want to get to know me a little bit better, there’s a number of recordings and videos of me floating around in the Act-On University you can look up. There’s a lot of ways to get in touch and a lot of ways to get to know us better.
Nathan: Excellent, sir. I appreciate your time today. And until our next call, I hope you have a good one.
Phil: Thanks, Nathan.