Chart of the week - corporate web managers face a growing challenge to engage users

Our web analytics benchmark research suggests corporate web managers face a growing challenge to engage users

Occasional feature highlighting useful data for corporate digital communication.

The chart shows the bounce rate, pages per session and average session duration over the years of the Bowen Craggs web analytics benchmark, 2013-2018  Source: Bowen Craggs web analytics benchmark 2018

The chart shows the bounce rate, pages per session and average session duration over the years of the Bowen Craggs web analytics benchmark, 2013-2018

Source: Bowen Craggs web analytics benchmark 2018

We looked for trends over time in some key engagement analytics metrics and found that, across our sample of corporate websites:

  • Bounce rate has varied a little but is around 50%

  • Pages per session dropped by 0.6 pages from 2.9 in 2014 to just under 2.3 in 2018

  • The average session duration has also been dropping from a peak of 148s (2m28) in 2014 to 120 seconds (2m) in 2017 and 2018.

The composition of the benchmark group has varied over the period, so could account for some variation. And these figures are averages. The picture on your site could be more complex, of course: shorter sessions could be the result of more efficient task completion. So you always need to understand user behaviour on the particular site in question.

But even allowing for these caveats, the general pattern is of declining engagement on corporate websites – and a challenge to managers to do more to attract audiences back to their sites.

* The 2018 benchmark covers 12 months between May 2017 to April 2018, including web analytics data from 29 companies, the largest sample ever. It has data on almost 106 million users and over 153 million sessions, and has been collecting data since 2014 with results from 2013 onwards. The research will be presented at a web meeting [https://www.eventbrite.com/e/web-meeting-web-analytics-benchmarking-research-2018-bowen-craggs-club-members-only-registration-45969889176] for Bowen Craggs Club members on Tuesday 20 November.

 

To discuss our measurement services, including how we can help with visitor surveys and analytics, please contact Dan Drury ddrury@bowencraggs.com or see our website.

For more information on the Bowen Craggs Club, visit our website or contact Lisa Hayward, lhayward@bowencraggs.com.

Chart of the week - our benchmark research shows that the average visitor comes to corporate sites less than twice a year

Our web analytics benchmark research shows that visitors come to corporate websites less than twice a year on average

Occasional feature highlighting useful data for corporate digital communication.

Click to enlarge. Source: Bowen Craggs web analytics benchmark 2018

The chart shows the number of sessions divided by unique users for the 29 companies in our analytics benchmark. This gives an average number of sessions per user per year for each site.

Corporate websites average just 1.51 sessions per user per year – or put another way, an ‘average’ corporate visitor sees a site 1 ½ times a year.

  • Not all visitors will see the site with this (in)frequency: this chart cannot take into account cookie clearing or use of multiple devices per user

  • The chart shows the average number of sessions per user per year. There are some visitors who do return to a corporate website multiple times per year, and many more who only visit once

  • So any site needs to serve one-off and also return visitors, as both will be present

  • But this average – and the fact that the highest average of sessions per user per year is 2 - has important implications for user experience on corporate sites: expecting users, many of whom will visit once or twice per year, to understand complex content structures or your agency’s favourite new navigation technique is not going to serve your audience well

  • There is an opportunity for corporate sites to do much more to attract users back more often: as we have written before, corporate websites are like Brussels sprouts: you really have to prepare them well to make them remotely appetizing.

 

*The 2018 benchmark covers 12 months between May 2017 to April 2018, including web analytics data from 29 companies, the largest sample ever. It has data on almost 106 million users and over 153 million sessions, and has been collecting data since 2014 with results from 2013 onwards. The research will be presented at a web meeting for Bowen Craggs Club members on Tuesday 20 November.

To discuss our measurement services, including how we can help with visitor surveys and analytics, please contact Dan Drury ddrury@bowencraggs.com or see our website.

For more information on the Bowen Craggs Club, visit our website, or contact Lisa Hayward, lhayward@bowencraggs.com.

Intel – Initial confusion

Using abbreviations for job locations risks being lost in translation.

BC tip - Intel jobs.png

The Feature

Tech giant Intel’s global jobs listing page uses initials to identify the country and state where the role is located.

For example, a recent listing for ‘Cloud Hardware Design Intern’ has ‘CN’ for the country, and ‘Shanghai’ for the city. In this case, ‘Shanghai’ is also spelled out as the ‘State’. Most others, however, have abbreviations for ‘state’. For example: ‘Verification Engineer’ – ‘IN’, Bangalore, ‘KA’.

A listing for ‘Open Source Linux 3D Graphics Driver Developer’ based in the UK, showed Swindon as the city and then ‘LIV’ as the ‘state’ (the UK does not have ‘states’, just counties). Other listings for UK, Swindon, leave the ‘state’ field blank.

If visitors click through to the full job listings, the abbreviations are not spelled out there either.

The Takeaway

At the risk of admitting our geography knowledge is not what it should be, it seems likely that many jobseekers will be left guessing by Intel’s location abbreviations.

The system works best for US jobseekers, where the country is a given, cities are spelled out, and state postal codes are mostly common knowledge. For locations outside the US, the labelling is often confusing, and in some cases indecipherable. The problem is compounded by not spelling out locations in the full listings, where there is space to do so.

Intel funnels international jobseekers to a centralised service, which is good practice, but comes across as US-centric, undermining the company’s desire to be seen as global. It is one example of a wider issue about jargon on corporate sites – it is always worth reading with the eyes of an outsider. If people outside the company (or the home country) may have trouble understanding, consider a rewrite.

http://jobs.intel.com/ListJobs/All

Corporate digital managers’ top priorities in 2018

We asked 40 corporate digital teams what is on their to-do lists for the next year. Here, Jason Sumner and Lisa Hayward reveal the biggest concerns: content strategy across channels and countries (and working out who inside the organization manages which channel); setting KPIs and usability testing.
 

Bowen Craggs has now conducted 40 in-depth interviews with digital teams at some of the world’s largest companies in Europe and North America.

These wide-ranging conversations covered digital communications performance across a number of categories, including, broadly: content and channel strategy, stakeholder management, team performance and measurement.

We conducted the interviews in the process of setting up the Bowen Craggs Club, a networking and research group for digital corporate communicators. The interviews were confidential, but we are able to publicise the broader themes about the areas they are most looking to improve in during the next year. (Those whom we’ve quoted below said they were happy for us to share their comments.)

Content, country sites and internal ownership

There is a recognition that proliferating channels and devices means it is no longer adequate to publish across so many global corporate channels without an overarching plan; but recognizing the issue and having the time and resources to tackle it are not the same thing.

Many digital managers are hoping to take action in 2018, however. ‘We are currently working on mobile strategy, to implement in the next 12 months,’ said one interviewee. Said another: ‘Our production process needs refining. This is a priority for the next 12 months.’

Another content-related gap frequently mentioned in the interviews was ‘striking the right balance between global and local content’. The difficulty comes because the ‘right balance’ is usually highly specific to individual companies, depending on their sectors, the extent of their global presence and what they are trying to achieve in different markets.

Some of the comments from the interviews point to the difficulties: ‘Local content is difficult to source currently. It’s extra effort for local teams, on top of other priorities.’ Another said, ‘This is a big challenge due to business structure. Local content owners are busy, dispersed or unengaged. Regional content hubs trained on global content are helping local teams to create interesting content. Hasn’t yet resulted in a big improvement.’

A related issue is managing the ownership of online channels across a global organization.

Roeland van der Heiden, digital director, corporate affairs at AstraZeneca, the pharmaceutical company, said global and local channels, and who has ownership, are priorities for his team this year. For example, they need to work out the right process for giving equal weight to science material on social media channels (of global concern), balanced with the need to comment about UK policy. ‘We are very busy with UK policy but cannot forget the thousands of people in the US, Sweden and China.’

AstraZeneca has had a central editorial planning group for a year, and will be making improvements in 2018 including: creating a central content budget; involving markets more in the planning process; and fully rolling out a new CMS. The CMS will provide more transparency about what is being published globally and allow the company to produce more employee-generated stories.

Setting key performance indicators

Ninety per cent of our interviewees gave themselves a rating of three or below (on a scale of one to five) in setting KPIs for corporate digital comms. Even those with the right tools find that technology is not enough; training and the right processes need to be in place for the technology to work well.

Ben Jefferies, head of global digital publishing at BP, the energy giant, says his team has spent several years adopting technology tools to measure digital corporate comms and are now working out how best to use the data to change the culture and behaviour. ‘We can measure pretty much everything now, but this can be a problem in and of itself – which of the measures matter?’ he says. He adds there is a ‘clickbait versus journalism’ debate – if the goal is many page views, a popular but superficial topic may be covered rather than something more relevant but specialist.

Also, many clicks on a piece will not tell you if the article resonated with people. All views are not equal either – a piece may ‘only’ get 10 page views or clicks, but those 10 people might be influential politicians or academics. His team are also looking at ways to measure how well a piece does offline – eg, a visitor reads something on our website and then tells 70 of their colleagues. ‘We never get to see that impact,’ he says, ‘unless they then talk online about what they saw.’

Overcoming the barriers to usability testing

On e-commerce sites, usability, user experience or ‘UX’ is considered a competitive advantage. This mind set has not yet translated to corporate digital. Many of the digital managers we interviewed use usability testing on an ad hoc basis, but would like to do it more regularly. Budgets are a big barrier; time is another. One interviewee said, ‘I want to spend time and money on testing, but am never able to achieve it. There are too many other priorities.’

In our experience, usability testing for corporate digital needs to be implemented with caution, and with special care for the needs of corporate websites. However, appropriate and targeted usability tests can pay dividends, in that a problem caught at design stage costs exponentially less to fix than fixing a problem after launch.

The Bowen Craggs Club is an exclusive network for the most engaged online corporate communications professionals, aimed at individuals and companies who believe in the need for world-leading corporate web estates. Although most group members work in Fortune 500 corporations, we welcome senior managers from public sector and non-governmental organizations with responsibility for large web presences.

For more information, visit our website, or contact Lisa Hayward, lhayward@bowencraggs.com

The five biggest performance gaps in corporate digital communications

Corporate digital managers at 25 of the world’s largest companies have told us their teams’ top priorities for the next 12 months and where they think they are falling short. Jason Sumner and Lisa Hayward share the five biggest performance gaps across the group.
 

The Bowen Craggs Club, a new networking and research community for corporate digital managers, launched over the summer. As a first step in joining, we asked club members to sit down with us for in-depth conversations about their teams’ priorities, strengths and weaknesses in a number of core performance areas such as content strategy, measurement, relationships with internal stakeholders and managing high-performing digital teams.

We’ve had 25 conversations so far, and it seemed like a good time to share a little of what we have learned (on an anonymous basis of course). We asked members to score their teams on a scale of 1 to 5 across a number of skills and competencies, and then identify which of these skills and competencies they most want to improve on.

As a result, we were able to identify the areas where there were the biggest gaps between desired performance and self-reported outcomes. Here are the top five:

1. Failure to set or consistently use key performance indicators (KPIs)

‘Measurement’ is regularly near the top of digital manager challenges whenever we’ve run short surveys in the past. This time the long-form interviews allowed people to expand on the reasons good intentions so often lead to frustration when it comes to KPIs. Even in otherwise top-performing organizations, we found that the barriers are deep-seated, company-specific, political and even psychological. Three of the most interesting were:

  • In one organization, KPIs are applied in an ad hoc way because, ‘Stakeholders don’t understand how to translate business goals into KPIs and the digital team isn’t pushing them.’

  • Another organization said their ‘standard’ KPIs are not good enough. ‘They need to be more channel specific.’

  • Fear of linking metrics to goals is a factor for one organization, despite the fact that communications leadership is already convinced of the value of measurement. ‘They are scared of setting KPIs and failing. Failure needs to be seen as an opportunity to learn.’

2. Lack of a content strategy for different channels and screen sizes

The proliferation of digital channels and devices over the last few years has also kept ‘content strategy’ (which we define as having a defined process to produce and publish content across differing channels, devices and geographies) at the top of the priority list. Our interviews found digital managers planning to do a lot of work on the device and channel side over the next 12 months – particularly in developing multi-purpose content. Said one, ‘The leading channel is the website. Content published there is repurposed for social media use, and some content is created first for social media. We don’t plan ahead.’ Said another, ‘We have an editorial group managing content across platforms, but can sometimes think offline first. There is room for improvement to help educate employees and agencies to change this mindset.’

Rounding out the top five: Roles and responsibilities, agency relationships and usability testing

There was a three-way tie rounding out the top five performance gaps:

  • Who owns the channel? Given the above work on content strategy, it is not surprising that digital teams are still working out the right relationship with internal stakeholders and local teams over who publishes what, and when. ‘A grey area exists in the mind of the content owner about who owns the page. Internal stakeholders think the digital team. A roadshow is planned to educate and keep reinforcing.’ Another interviewee said, ‘We are trying to create combined and shared content plans rather than work in silos.’

  • Getting the most out of agencies: The difficulties mentioned included a lack of corporate and industry expertise, and an assumption that corporates don’t want to be seen as creative. Another organization does not use agencies currently but wants to bring in fresh thinking from outside.

  • Finally, usability testing was seen as a priority by many of our interviewees, but it is not widely used at the moment. Several companies are taking first steps and sounding out experts. ‘We are testing new designs, a team member is doing a master’s degree in user experience and we plan to focus on it in the next 12 months.’

- Jason Sumner and Lisa Hayward

The Bowen Craggs Club is an exclusive network for the most engaged online corporate communications professionals, aimed at individuals and companies who believe in the need for world-leading corporate web estates. Although most group members work in Fortune 500 corporations, we welcome senior managers from public sector and non-governmental organizations with responsibility for large web presences.

For more information, visit our website or contact Lisa Hayward, lhayward@bowencraggs.com

Chart of the week - Facebook outpaces LinkedIn as the biggest source of social media traffic to corporate sites

Facebook outpaces LinkedIn as the biggest source of social media traffic to corporate websites, Twitter referrals stall by comparison
 

Occasional feature highlighting useful data for corporate digital communication.

(Click to enlarge)
Source: Bowen Craggs Google Analytics Benchmark 2017*

By 2016 Facebook had overtaken LinkedIn as the most significant source of social media referrals to corporate websites, and both channels have grown to account for more than 1 per cent of all visits; while Twitter growth has stalled. Referrals from YouTube have declined to nearly zero, which is why the channel is not shown on the chart.

  • Looking at the wider picture, in 2014, fewer than one in 100 corporate website visits were referred from social media. That was compared with one in five visits referred from all other recognised sources.

  • By 2017, one in 40 visits came from social media (2.5 per cent of all traffic). This is still a very small proportion of overall traffic, but an increase from 1.5 per cent recorded in 2016.

  • In 2012, mobile traffic to corporate websites was also low but grew to become a major source of visitors. We think it is unlikely that social referrals will see the same level of growth.

  • However, it is useful to think in terms of absolute numbers of visits, which can be more significant than the percentages imply. For example, while the percentages may be low, for one company in our benchmark group, out of a total of 36 million visits, there were 783,000 visits referred from LinkedIn and 236,000 from Facebook.

  • The usefulness of different channels depends on the company and there are wide differences between individual companies in the benchmark. We have found, for example, that Facebook is less useful for B2B companies, except in some regions, such as South America, where it can be an important customer channel.

*The 2017 benchmark covers the period between May 2016 and April 2017, collecting Google Analytics data from 24 corporate websites from a variety of sectors, and representing a range of activity. The busiest site had 37 million visits per year; the quietist 530,000, and an average of 7 million.

Chart of the week - Accessing corporate websites: the convergence of desktop and mobile

Accessing corporate websites – the convergence of desktop and mobile

Occasional feature highlighting useful data for corporate digital communication

(Click to Enlarge)
Changes in device usage 2013-2017
Source: Device by year, Bowen Craggs Google Analytics Benchark 2017*

Bowen Craggs has tracked device usage on corporate websites since 2013, through its Google Analytics Benchmark. Desktop access has fallen steadily through that five-year period, from 93 per cent to 71 per cent; while mobile access has grown, from 4 per cent to 25 per cent. During the same period, tablet access has stalled at under 5 per cent.

It will be interesting to see if the convergence of desktop and mobile continues. Corporate sites are easier to use on a big screen, so we think it is unlikely to converge completely. However, if mobile navigation continues to improve, and desktop navigation fails to, all bets could off. The screen size of smartphones is a factor too. Some are as big as a small tablet, and even a standard iPhone screen is so big it is fairly easy to read a non-responsive site on it.

*The 2017 benchmark covers the period between May 2016 and April 2017, collecting Google Analytics data from 24 corporate websites from a variety of sectors, and representing a range of activity. The busiest site had 37 million visits per year; the quietist 530,000, and an average of 7 million.