Year End Review: Cutting through the cobwebs

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[Updated, December, 2014]

In our previous posts, we’ve talked about organizing a year end review of your bookings and about the information that will help you identify guest booking trends and stronger or weaker performing rooms, providing an outline of the information you can track (or should start tracking) to prepare you for next year’s review. In this concluding post we’ll talk about a year end review of web analytics, specifically emphasizing paid listings.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll assume you have Google Analytics (or something similar – but we’ll use GA for our examples and terminology) installed on your website. If not, you’ll certainly want to have it installed soon, so you can track information for next year.

Our Key Performance Indicators are Referrals and Bookings over time.

The primary things we want to look at (our Key Performance Indicators, or KPI’s, if you will) are referral sources and bookings over time, and specifically bookings and participation in bookings from our paid listings. In plain English, how is our website doing at attracting traffic and converting it to bookings, and how are paid listings doing at getting us bookings.

Referral Sources over Time

For this piece of information, there are two things we want to examine. The first is quite simple – it is how did we do this past year, compared to the year before.

To see this, in the Reporting section (top), we’ll go to the left side menu, Acquisition -> All Referrals. Then go to the top right column where the date range is located, and put in the entire previous year (for 2014, that would be Jan 1, 2014 through Dec 31, 2014). Below that tick the box for Compare to Previous Period (or Previous Year) and click Apply. If you want to see more than 10 rows, go the bottom of the chart and select a higher number, or export the entire thing to a spreadsheet.

You’ll have a nice graph showing the past year’s traffic with a blue line, and the previous year’s traffic with an orange line. Are there differences? Are they what you expect (for example, if you had a good year, was the traffic higher for that year?)?

Scroll through the list below the chart and see if any referral sources seem out of line. For example, if most are showing an increase in traffic in the range of 10-20%, any decreases should be troubling. Click on the referral source name to see if you can figure out what is causing the drop, so you can act on the information.

Bookings over Time

This will only be helpful if you have Ecommerce Tracking enabled and working on your website. If so, using the same report as above, under the word “Explorer” above the graph, you’ll see the link “Ecommerce” – click it. Next click the column heading “Revenue” to sort by the amount of revenue reported. Assuming Ecommerce is properly configured on your site, you’ll see the number of transactions (usually bookings), revenue, and related statistics for each referral source. Once again, if there is a significant change from the prior year, it may be worth exploring the cause.

Directories may be sending business that is not shown here.

There are three things to keep in mind about the Ecommerce report, though:

  1. This report only shows revenue for bookings through your booking engine. If you have bookings made through other sources (directly through a directory, bookings by phone, through OTA’s, etc.), these figures will not include them, so this should not be used as the sole piece of information to evaluate a directory’s performance.
  2. Throughout the industry it is well-recognized that the guest who books online has visited many sources, including your website, before booking. These figures do not give credit to any site that sent the visitor to you except the last site. Other sites do not get credit, so directories may be sending you business that is not revealed here. See the discussion of Multi-Channel Funnels, below.
  3. Some directories add value by promoting B&B’s, both generally, and also specific properties, to the media. This will rarely show up in analytics reports, yet provides very significant value.

Evaluating Paid Listings

One option here would be to create an Advanced Segment for your paid listings and apply it to the above reports. That is useful, but will not really expand the information available to us.

Instead, we want to dig much deeper and see how our paid listings are influencing bookings, whether or not they get credit for the last link to our site before booking. To do that, we’ll use Multi-Channel Funnels. This will require that your site have at least one Goal properly set up, or, ideally, Ecommerce Tracking.

Keeping our dates as we’ve previously set them (the entire last year, compared to the previous year), scroll down the left side navigation to Conversions -> Multi-Channel Funnels, and select Assisted Conversions. Near the top of the page there is a drop-down under the word “Conversion” that is set by default to “All”. Change that to Ecommerce and click Apply (if you have Goals, but not Ecommerce, select the Goal that represents a booking instead).

Scroll down to the chart below the graph and click on the word “Referral” (it will be color-coded to match some other areas). This will show you how each Referral Source participated in bookings and compare it to the prior year.

The Assisted Conversions column shows how many conversions the referral source participated in (currently limited to those 30 days or less before the booking). The Assisted Conversion Value shows the total value of those assisted conversions.

Similarly, the Last Interaction Conversions and Last Interaction Value shows the number and value for which the referral source was the last of several interactions. Finally, the Assisted/Last Interaction Conversions column is a ratio of Assisted to Last Interactions. A number close to zero indicates that the referral source is primarily sending guests who book. A value more than 1 indicates that the referral source is primarily one who assists in getting visitors to you, but others help them decide to book. A value close to 1 shows a source that performs both roles.

Bear in mind that if you tag the links from paid listings with Google Analytics’ tags (such as utm_source=xyz), these referral sources will show up under Other instead of under Referral.

Some Observations

Analytics provides a huge amount of information. However, it can never provide a complete picture of the data, The things that happen away from your website can never be captured by an analytics program. Calls for bookings, attention by the media, bookings through third-party sources, are all examples of this.

With that in mind, our discussion of analytics in this post can show us who is performing well. We can see who is sending more traffic, who is sending more bookings, and who is participating in getting us bookings, even if the booking doesn’t come directly following a link from that site.

When you combine this information with the information from your guest reports, showing where guests say they come from, performance of rooms, and compare this data with prior years, we begin to get a more complete picture of our year’s performance. Isn’t that why we do a year end review?

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