Web Analytics Keeps Rodale in the Loop
When you strive to be the authority on health, fitness and wellness, and the
audience for your stable of magazines, trade books, subscription-based online properties and integrated marketing solutions exceeds 26
million, it’s best you know all you can about those customers. Case in point: Emmaus, Pa.-based Rodale, which maximizes customer data to sell more and make appropriate adjustments to its campaigns and products.
By closely tracking what customers are doing on its assorted Web sites — including how they got there, where they’re going, how long they’re staying and where they go when they leave, according to Daniele Campbell, vice president of Rodale Interactive — the media giant can fine-tune sites and marketing campaigns to engage consumers more effectively; increase user satisfaction; and drive up visitor acquisition, conversion and retention rates.
Bring ’em for more
To understand the channels that drive the most traffic to its sites and the content that generates the most interest, Rodale uses a Web analytics and optimization solution called Coremetrics Analytics. It has been working with analytics provider Coremetrics since 2005.
Because the company runs both premium-content and ad-supported content sites, “increasing page views per session and getting people to come back to our sites on a regular basis are critical for driving advertising revenue,” says Campbell, who oversees the consumer marketing and site operations for all of Rodale’s magazine-branded Web sites, including MensHealth.com, RunnersWorld.com and Prevention.com. “Our Web analytics tools, along with our public relations efforts, are essential in this,” she says. “They help us decide how we shape content and figure out what’s working on the sites and what’s not.”
Rodale has kept customers coming back to its Prevention.com site via a feature added two years ago called "My Health Trackers." Designed to be easy to use, the tool is accessible via Prevention.com’s homepage. It helps visitors reach any health goals they set their minds to. Visitors who sign up are encouraged to log and track their daily health habits and get personalized, in-depth analysis of all their health, weight loss and fitness goals.
Web analytics uncovered that segments of Rodale customers were coming to the Prevention.com site but not returning as frequently. So it created an interactive tool to help increase the frequency, time spent by key visitor segments and repeat visits by customers. “We wanted to come up with a tool that would bring visitors to the site and keep them there for longer periods of time,” Campbell says.
Another way Rodale uses Web analytics is to study which areas of a site people visit. If many visitors are spending time in a certain area of a particular site, for example, Rodale may develop a new or improved product around those findings.
This led to last December’s launch of “The Loop,” an online community adjunct on RunnersWorld.com that allows visitors to leave comments, connect with friends, post photos or even write their own blogs.
Prior to The Loop, RunnersWorld.com had a community area where runners shared stories, but that was more of a message board or chat room than a full-fledged online community.
“Through Web analytics, we learned that there was already a pretty active community on RunnersWorld.com and that visitors were coming to it on a regular basis,” Campbell says. “So
we just decided to improve it and get more visitors to come back more regularly.”
While it’s too soon to tell how the community is doing in terms of ROI, Campbell says Rodale is receiving some great feedback on the site and seeing more repeat customer visits every day.
“Advertisers want to see engaged customers, whom they find to be valuable,” Campbell says. “Having engaged visitors that pay close attention to our sites is a huge opportunity for us and our advertisers.”
Online marketing strategies
Using Web analytics to drive decision making on its search engine optimization strategy, Rodale Interactive’s overall Web strategy also includes natural search, e-mail marketing, online partnerships and brand awareness.
“We continually track how people are coming to our sites from the search engines,” says Campbell, who adds that the company can easily see where it’s ranking on certain terms, then decide if it needs to change strategy based on those findings.
The company may see that it’s ranking ninth for the term “arm exercises,” for instance. So “this may affect how many people are coming to our sites looking for this information,” Campbell says. “We may decide to change our strategies around this term on our content pages.”
Web analytics also help Rodale Interactive decide which new types of e-newsletters it should launch. By tracking how frequently a particular type of customer comes to a site, how many times that customer has viewed pages there, and if there seems to be enough interest, Campbell explains, “we may decide to launch an e-newsletter around this type of customer.”
This is how Prevention.com’s Walk Off Weight monthly e-newsletter was launched. It offers techniques to inspire its subscribers’ walking routines. “We learned that many engaged visitors on Prevention.com were interested in walking and how to lose weight by walking,” Campbell says. “We felt an e-newsletter would increase the frequency on the Web site.”
Rodale’s use of Web analytics will only become more robust in the future. “Our focus this year will be on integrating the user behavior data on our Web sites with our customer purchase data,” Campbell says. “This will help us better understand the overall picture of our customers and maximize our sites accordingly.”
With all of this Web analytic activity going on, could Rodale eventually be thought of as both the authority on health, fitness and wellness, and on Web analytics? For now, its Web analytics activities and programs surely make for healthier, more robust Web sites that are more in sync with customer desires.