Homepage traffic has been the gold standard for measuring digital marketing success for almost two decades. Marketers have optimized organic and paid search strategies to drive consumers to a brand’s homepage, which digital directors structured to move visitors into an on-site experience that ended in a transaction — a purchase, a webinar registration, a job application, a newsletter sign-up, an in-store visit, or another type of conversion. But organic click-through rates are falling and ‘no-click searches’, where the user finds the information they need in a rich search result or knowledge card, are rising — meaning fewer and fewer users are clicking through to a business’s homepage. So, what does this mean for marketers heading into 2019?
Far from being a bad sign, this change points to new ways consumers are interacting with brands online off of the brand website. Since these crucial brand interactions don’t show up as homepage traffic, marketers are getting an incomplete picture of their success in reaching customers.
How to measure digital success in 2019?
In 2019, marketers should adopt a new metric: brand interactions.
Brand interactions include impressions and engagement metrics from the first-party website. But more importantly, they capture consumer engagement everywhere else business information appears online — in search, voice assistants, maps, apps, directories, and AI-powered discovery services.
Companies experiencing declining homepage traffic while driving increased brand interactions can outperform companies with flat homepage traffic and unmanaged brand interactions. Without the ability to track and measure performance data across unowned digital properties, marketers will have an inaccurate picture of their performance — and have a hard time making the case for increased budgets and career opportunities.
Changing consumer behaviors
As search engines and AI-powered discovery services grow more intelligent and more personalized to a user’s preferences, consumers aren’t just taking new paths to the website — they may never even reach the website of the business they’re researching at all. Or if they do, they may go right to a transactional landing page from a third-party site like a search engine without ever hitting the homepage. The variety of ways consumers can engage with a brand without ever visiting the brand’s website are ever-increasing: phone calls, appointments, reservations, orders, driving directions, chatbots, and other actions are all available in places off of the brand website. These interactions are often as valuable or more valuable to a business that traditionally measured brand interactions on owned channels.
Detailed information and calls to action appear within third-party apps and sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, or Eventbrite. Consumers can book reservations at a local restaurant directly from Google Maps. They can ask voice assistants like Alexa or Siri for the operating hours of the nearest store that sells Legos.
Marketers who recognize this shift in consumer behavior are already optimizing for it. By delivering consistent digital knowledge about their business and compelling brand experiences throughout the digital ecosystem, marketers can drive growth in search visibility and conversion rate even as homepage traffic sinks.
Embracing brand interactions as the new metric for success will be essential for CMOs to understand how their initiatives are performing in an AI-based world.
To see Yext speak further on this topic, register to attend The Drum's US Predicitions event on 23 January 2019 in New York.
Marc Ferrentino, chief strategy officer, Yext