We all here (so far as I know :)) have limited capabilities/resources and so must carefully budget areas of greatest return for least relative cost/effort - one after the other. Certainly addressing the differences between 'interested' and 'customer' could well produce significant benefits from both. What is important is to keep working the visitor-site-benefits-conversion connections wherever a bottleneck or opportunity present; change is a given, just sitting back and leaving things on auto will eventually ruin any business because competitors are just that.
All analytics tools are flawed and come with built in irritants/shortcomings but at least Piwik is open source and customisable. As to referrer and user-agent, both are optional includes and even worse easily spoofed. I appreciate but never use them as primary identifiers.
Very true, but the mix is not that straightforward. the "value" of a referrer is The amount of Life Time Value they generate less the Resource involved in maintaining the relationship. Now if you have 10 referrers... I guess you can work out the time and energy and possibly money that you invest in dancing the Google tune, but beyond that it gets chaotic.
Do Google focussed/reliant sites really have that few page traffic referrers? My 'worst connected' page has 90-some different domain external backlinks that have sent traffic in the past year; many have thousands, some hundreds of thousands.
I fully agree with the importance of LTV as a boundary. I began with the goal of the best 1% and have worked up to above 5%. My tests show that somewhere above 10% link instability aka chaotic change begins to be significant so that is my current endpoint target: the top 10% external traffic referrers for each page. Given the number of pages and their links that it is still a serious undertaking. Nor is maintenance/updating trival.
However, as you mentioned, look at the effort that so many put into Google and their marginal bucket sort of search terms. General searchers who are among the worst converting traffic a site (at least mine) can receive. Better to know more about that best identifiable 10% of referrers that already do convert well (5-plus times Google) and provide them a more compelling reason to convert, to return, to recommend; given evidence to date a very nice almost double increase. And that is without factoring in visitor fingerprinting and individual personalisation.
Note: I am working my rear off to get away from general search as a major traffic source; have been for a decade. The more the SEs attempt to answer and hold rather than refer, the more their results go GIGO, the harder I work.
I have always appreciated software/SAAS 30-day trials as an opportunity to get some task(s) done not as a road to purchase; not of course what you like to hear but are no doubt quite familiar with. I would think that if someone is really serious one to three days is sufficient trial for most offerings.
I am confused by:
...it turns out that the critical KPI for me is not ROI, but the time it takes us to decide whether a free user is a "Buyer, Die-er or spammer".
Are the two really that disconnected? I would think that faster differentiation would improve ROI? Or am I missing something?
Contextual delivery is my development route forward (as it appears also to be Google's...) and just as geo-location is a critical mobile consideration (as opposed to important for non-mobile) so too is where the visitor came from. Truly direct is one thing but most came via some other site and knowing about that site-page is a contextually critical input if they are new and still important if they are return.
Of course, every business model, vertical/niche, target market et al somewhat to significantly differs.
Note: which is why cookie cutter sites perform so mediocre to average, they are.
I just find it bemusing that so many put so much into Google and not the far greater elsewhere. This dependance on third parties to do/supply everything is simple, easy, and incredibly limiting.
Breaking free begins with logging and tracking.
Then come analyses, hypotheses, and tests, rinse and repeat.
Then come analyses, plans, and actions, rinse and repeat.