In this blog post, we’re going to examine a nifty way to reduce your marketing expenditure, while getting the same, or better, results than what you’re getting now.
One problem with online booking systems is that they are typically external to your own website, and so you don’t have much control over what information you can collect when website visitors book a session with you.
The result of this is that you can have visitors come to your website and book an appointment through your online booking system, but then you have no ability to identify how the visitor got there, nor which of your marketing channels is resulting in bookings.
If you don’t know the marketing source of your online bookings then you are unable to optimize your marketing strategy because you don’t know what is and is not working. You are more likely then to spend money on a whole range of different marketing options in the hope that some of them work, but overall you could be wasting thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on marketing strategies that do not result in bookings.
Asking a customer at the time of their appointment how they found your business doesn’t really work, because a visitor may have found you through more than one marketing campaign. They might tell you the one that they saw first, the one that they saw last, or the one that was most memorable to them, but didn’t result in their booking. Plus storing this information in the form of a customer survey can’t be linked to your website results, as your website visitors are anonymous. These are both annoying problems.
Unless you set up your Google Analytics to tell you definitively which marketing campaigns brought the visitors to your website, and which visitors booked using your online booking system, you won’t have the accurate picture that is needed to really optimise your marketing.
If you have a health practice or a business that relies on lead generation or appointments booked through a third-party tool from your website then you may well be experiencing an issue with this without even knowing it. This is because the Google Analytics code on your website only tracks what happens on your website, and not what happens on your booking system.
Your marketing efforts drive visits to your website which are then converted into online bookings on the booking system. You can see in your Google Analytics how many visitors come to your website from Organic Search, Adwords, Display, Facebook, Directory Listings etc. You cannot see how many of each of these visitors converted into online bookings, which visitors turned into bookings, or which marketing channels did or did not result in bookings.
Some online booking systems are aware of this problem and have made inroads into enabling Google Analytics tracking through their application. They have been updated to enable the original marketing source of the online booking to be preserved! This will make a big difference to their ultimate success.
What are the biggest benefits to tracking online bookings?
One of the biggest benefits to tracking online bookings is being able to optimise all paid traffic sources by measuring their conversion rate against online bookings, as opposed to visits to the website. Having the ability to see which paid traffic sources actually convert into bookings will spark a re-evaluation of how to best position the paid traffic sources so that they convert, and enables testing of variations to see which performs best.
Another benefit to measuring online bookings through Google Analytics is that we are able to see if some marketing campaigns are assisting other marketing campaigns leading up to the booking being made. For example, you will know if a visitor gets to the website originally through an Adwords ad, but then later converts through Organic Search, or vice versa.
This is important because the overall brand recognition is built up through the different impressions of the brand over time and you don’t want to adjust marketing spend in one channel and then find out that another channel dries up as a result.
An exciting new possibility for this technology is that we can now capture all of the visitors who started to book online, but who abandoned their booking. It was not possible for this data to be collected previously because the visitors were not being tracked on the booking system.
The visitors who abandon their booking can be retargeted through display campaigns such as Facebook and Google Display with personalised offers. Personalised offers such as offering a particular location or service that is relevant to the customer is more likely to convert than a generalised campaign.
Being smart about remarketing also saves money on ad impressions compared to showing your advert to any person who has visited your website, because you can target only the people who have shown buying signals, such as starting the process of making a booking.
Even if your booking software does not work with Google Analytics, you can still track the marketing source of people who click on the “Book Now” button.
How is it done?
You may be able to see the original marketing source of a booking if the hosted booking software allows you to add a Google Analytics or a Google Tag Manager tracking code. The process of enabling data to flow between two different websites is called cross-domain linking, or cross-domain tracking. Your booking system has to be linked to your website with cross-domain linking, otherwise the data stops being collected when the customer clicks on the Book Now button.
Using Google Tag Manager with the Smartsoft booking system (yours may be different), I was able to collect data from any of the selections that the customer made during their booking process. Some of this data, such as the customer’s name and email address, cannot be sent to Google Analytics due to Google’s privacy terms, but non-identifying data can be sent to Google Analytics and this includes whether or not they completed their booking.
Once all this is set up and working for both desktop and mobile websites, you are able to see all of the marketing data come through. You may discover some surprising results, with some marketing channels making up the majority of online bookings, and some leading to no online bookings at all!
So as you can see from these anomalies, it is of vital importance to track online booking from your website appropriately. If you fail to do this then you will ultimately be generating completely misleading data. And, worse still, you won’t even know, and will draw false conclusions from this information, believing that they are sound and well-founded.
If your business uses an online booking system to book appointments with customers, I may be able to set up your Google Analytics so that you can find out where your bookings are coming from. Email Petra at email@example.com to chat about setting this up.