Archive for 2009

Oct 14
2009

Second day at the Google Analytics Summit here at Google and I am surrounded by some of the brightest and most intelligent gents and ladies in the industry. Avinash Kaushik, Google Analytics Evangelist, is the keynote. The topic is titled “crime against humanity”! :)

With his usual charisma and humor, Avinash covered a number of areas including the process of making decisions and smart analytics. I’ll summarize a few points in this post. This is not meant to be comprehensive so to get more, buy Avinash’s new book! :) ) .

  • Websites are not the center of the universe anymore and neither is centralized analytics tagging. The model used to be Content Creation  —>  Content Distribution  —>  Content Consumption. This model is changing. The way we create content, the way we consume it is changing (blogs, tweets, etc.); marketers and analysts don’t think about this issue enough. Just looking at your site analytics is not going to be sufficient. The data that we need to make marketing decision effectively is more distributed and not in one centralized place.
  • The challenge is going to be to figure out how to integrate all this data from all different systems automagically :) as Avinash put it; pull the data in, scrape, integrate, and then correlate and compute.
  • Vendors, practitioners, and consultants should start thinking beyond existing (read this as old) metrics: (visits, pageviews, time on site, etc.), and look into things like engagement, reach, velocity, demand, network strength, and activity. As we have moved away for hits (hits = How Idiots Track Success :) ), we need to move to smart metrics.
  • An example of smart analytics for measuring twitter. Move beyond just number of followers, look how my message that I am communicating is amplified. Look for number of retweets per thousand followers. Twitter is not an ad – it’s about conversation and not shouting. Conversion rate is another cool metric. Numbers of replies sent/day and replies received/day indicate you are communicating with people.
  • Another example for measuring a success of a blog. Go beyond pageviews! RSS/feed subscribers is much more important than visits or visitors. Metrics such as conversion rate per post, words in posts, words in comments all are very insightful.
  • And finally think of outcomes and behavior that adds value to business.

Oct 13
2009

I’m at the Googleplex this week participating in a summit. One of the keynotes is Dan Siroker, Former Director of Analytics for the Obama Presidential Campaign and is currently co-founder of CarrotSticks, a website aiming to improve math skills in kids.

Yes the election is over and this might sound like an out of the date post, but actually the message here is that Dan went on to found a start-up with the knowledge and expertise he gained from the Obama campaign. What he accomplished and learned in the political campaign is very applicable to the private sector and hopefully we can all learn a thing or two.

Some interesting facts about Obama is he out-performed McCain in the “new media” category significantly, in terms of Facebook friends, YouTube views, and website unique visitors, as well as the very important aspect of fund raising. The money raised for Obama was $656 million versus $201 millionfor McCain (not counting the Federal funds). Out of the $656 million, a staggering $500 million was raised online.

Analytics Lessons Learned

  1. Define success and also define quantifiable success measures.Metrics, like cost per click, email sign up rate, and revenue per email recipient. In Dan’s startup, he is now measuring: cost per click, cost per playing user (free account), revenue per paying user (paid account). So when the revenue per paying user exceeds the cost per playing user, they make money! :)
  2. Question assumptions.Testing is king, A/B and multivariate testing both play a key role in deciding what call to action, what creative, and other aspects work best!
  3. Divide and conquer.Segment users, for example, those that never signed up, those signed up but never donated, and those that previously donated.
  4. Don’t reinvent the wheel.Use available and free tools like Google Apps, Google Websize Optimizer, and Google Analytics.
  5. Take advanatage of circumstances.Whether it is internal to your business or something external (economy, competitiion, etc), give your visitors current and relevant content.

Sep 24
2009

It’s like the fresh smell of spring in the air. A customer has just installed Web Analytics code on their site. Smiles and stargazed looks fill the room as management and team gawk over the stunning graphs and the endless variety and combination of numbers. Ohhhh those numbers! “What actionable insights can we get from our data?” they ask. As a heavenly peace descends upon the room, all is well in the world. Nothing can go wrong now…it’s all smooth sailing from here on in. All business decisions can now be based on solid data.

As the glow in the room reaches epic proportions, a faint sound begins resonating in the distance. What is that wailing sound? Someone please make it stop! Is that a human voice? As a hush falls over the crowd, the voice now clearly identifying itself as human comes through loud and clear. “Are you sure your data is accurate?” It’s the voice of that most dreaded of all phenomenon’s….the web analyst!

As our trusty friend, the web analyst points out, it’s equally important to ensure your data is accurate as it is to have the data in the first place. What’s the point of having all that cool data if it’s not accurate? Would you want to make a business decision or drive some marketing effort based off of misleading or inaccurate data?

It’s crucial to invest time and resources in checking and re-checking your data to ensure it’s as accurate as possible. Let me share a recent example to illustrate the importance of data accuracy to the wonderful world of web analytics.

I got a call from “Customer X” recently questioning why traffic to their site was so low in their Google Analytics account. After a couple of minutes of discussing the issue, we came to understand that there was roughly a 30% decline in visits over the last week. The date that the visits dropped coincided with a site outage that required a backup version of the site to be restored. We did our due diligence and made sure the GA code was present, and that the site was functioning properly, but didn’t find any other code related issues.

We asked the standard questions to determine if any offline marketing (or termination of some campaign) would have resulted in a decrease in traffic, but the answer was no.

After poking around on the site, we found that any users going to the non-www version of the domain were seeing a slightly different version of the site. This version of the site had no GA code on it. Apparently there was a DNS problem which was sending visitors to a staging environment instead of the live site. This was resolved quickly but no tangible increase in traffic was found. We still saw roughly 30% decline from previous weeks/months.

So, faced with no obvious conclusions we started diving into GA and found something interesting. It appeared that visitors using IE had reduced by 2/3 from the last week. We thought we had it nailed! Our assumption was that something in IE was preventing the GA code from loading under certain circumstances. We tested IE inside and outside, right side up and upside down, but found no anomalies whatsoever. This led us to believe this issue was just a symptom of a deeper problem.

Finally, after exhausting all normal troubleshooting procedures, a colleague of mine suggested we look at the problem from the reverse angle. Instead of assuming the data was accurate before the restore, let’s assume the data is accurate after the restore, and perhaps it was messed up before. We dove backwards in time through the data, and found a date 4 months prior, where the data had shot up 30%. Hmmmmm!!! After consulting with the customer again, we were informed that another site outage had occurred on the exact date that traffic had shot up 30%, and this outage also required a site restore from backup. The data from before the first site restore and after the second restore was exactly the same. The anomaly was the 4 months between the two site restores. Now the problem data was isolated, but what the heck was causing the data to be so off?

We asked the customer to restore a backup of the site (from the time period in question) to a separate environment for further analysis. Upon doing so, we continued our investigation. On a whim, we started checking some common code files, and to no one’s surprise, we found two versions of the same GA code being loaded. Sure enough, the second version of the GA code was in a design template file that was only being used 30% on the site.

So after hours and hours of troubleshooting, we were able to nail down the problem for this customer. Many high-5′s and manly grunts ensued and we all lived happily ever after…well at least until next time! :)

Data accuracy is the core of Web Analytics. Don’t take it lightly.

Here are some practical suggestions for assessing the accuracy of your web analytics data:

  • Conduct a periodic audit on your web analytics code.
  • Review your Google Analytics account configuration. Check your profiles, filters, segments and goals to make sure they are setup right.
  • Review external tagging.
  • Question the data (especially for sudden ups and downs).
  • Speak with other departments in your organization to confirm/deny what the data is indicating. This will help give your data some context.

Related Posts:

Sep 22
2009

We have made a recent announcement about our upcoming Google Analytics workshop in Palo Alto CA. In case you are still debating whether or not to attend, let’s try to convince you with these top 7 reasons to attend Google Analytics training!

  1. Learn practical steps on how to improve your online business. Whether you have an eCommerce site, a lead generation site, a corporate site or a content site, this workshop will teach you how to use data to optimize your site as well as how to measure and improve the return of your marketing campaigns.

  2. Learn from the experts. Brian has written a book on Google Analytics and both Brian and Feras founded companies that are certified by Google as Authorized Google Analytics consultants (you know, they must know the stuff to be accredited :) ). Jokes aside, Brian and Feras have worked extensively with clients across the globe helping them capture, track, analyze, test and continuously improve online businesses using Google Analytics.

  3. The training caters to both the technical/webmaster as well as the marketing /business folks. As a matter of fact, you can have the marketing person attend the first day and the webmaster attend the second day (split the cost across two departments, might be easier to get approval this way :) )


  4. All workshop material will be made available for you in a digital format. This includes PowerPoint presentations, documents and sample excel spreadsheets.

  5. FREE book, Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics by Brian Clifton! And it is signed by the author too!

  6. Breakfast and lunch are provided and included in the registration fee.

  7. Meet Brian Clifton in person! Ok, Feras is local, you can meet him any time :)

We look forward to seeing you at the workshop on October 19 & 20!

Sep 02
2009

We are excited to announce a two day Analytics training Oct 19 & 20, 2009 in Palo Alto, CA with Brian Clifton & Feras Alhlou.

Using Google Analytics to Improve Your Online Marketing & Business!

A two-day workshop on web measurement strategy and planning, and Google Analytics implementation. Marketers will greatly benefit from Day 1 and webmasters will find Day 2 full of implementation techniques and best practices. You can sign up for one day only or for both days.

Register before September 30 and receive a signed copy of Brian Clifton’s book, Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics.

Mark your calendar and stay tuned for more details!!

Aug 27
2009

You’re starting a website and you’re excited! You get to choose your own domain name! As the world keeps moving closer to the Internet, the value of your online marketing presence is ever growing and becoming ever necessary. You want to make it as easy as possible for prospects or leads to get to your site, and having a domain name conducive to that is important.

Especially with everyone surfing the net using their tiny mobile devices, you want to make sure your domain is simple to remember and simple to type using those tiny, sometimes virtual keys (which makes it easier to mess up)!

For illustration’s sake, let’s pretend you’re the greatest basketball player of all time – Michael Jordan.  You want to buy a domain that represents your company.

Here are some things to consider:

1) Branding

The number one search engine everyone uses is the search in their brain. If they can pull your url from memory, chances are they’d rather do that before they bookmark it or use a search engine. So we need to make it as easy for them as possible. If you’ve done a good job branding your business name, it’s a good idea to stay consistent and simply have your domain be your business name.  That’ll be your prospect’s first guess.

If that’s the case, let’s go with the most straight forward domain – michaeljordan.[something]

2) “.com” or “not.com” – that is the question…

“.com” has been the url standard since the beginning of the internet and should be your preference. Most people, whether intuitively or through experience, usually understands this and thus “yourbusiness.com” is usually their default guess. However, respectively, .com’s are the most in demand, which means the specific domain.com you’re looking for could be taken.

Challenge: A business savvy geek has bought “www.michaeljordan.com”, and is holding it for ransom! He’s demanding $100 billion for it! MJ is rich, but maybe you’re not. If you want to avoid this hefty fee, you have a couple options explained in my next points to make a unique “.com”.

In this case, if domain.com is taken, “domain.[somethingelse]” like domain.net or domain.org may be  the next best thing, but before we eliminate the “.com” option, let’s see what we can do.

3) Extra Words (watch the length!)

You do have the option of adding simple words related to your brand that hopefully don’t veer your domain name too far away from your company name. It’s best to choose words that are associated with your business or have some other logical association.

Ex. michaeljordanonline.com or michaeljordanbasketball.com.
Ex. thedarkknightmovie.com, where The Dark Knight is a movie.
Ex. theofficenbc.com where the tv show is The Office is on the tv station NBC.

Challenge: As I said in the intro, if adding words ends up making your domain hard to remember or hard to type (consider mobile virtual keyboards), this may not work.

4) Extra Characters (watch the length and the confusion!)

We can add a character to see if that gets a us a unique domain name.  The usual character to add is the hyphen. Ex. www.michael-jordan.com

One hyphen may not hurt, but you’d be surprised how much the human brain hates hyphens. No matter how sure you are or how logical it is, believe me, your mind will play tricks on you. “Wait, is it a dash or an underscore?”, “Wait, is there even a dash or underscore?”, or “Is it between ‘Michael’  and ‘Jordan’?”.   Thus, I’d avoid this and pretend the option of multiple hyphens doesn’t even exist.

What about other characters? Generally, other characters aren’t used in domain names.

What about numbers? Unless you have a number that is heavily branded, like in this case, Michael has been forever associated with “23″, or your company name has #1 or 123 or something, I probably would avoid numbers. Numbers look like an afterthought that got you the email you wanted. If your domain reminds someone of their friend spidermonkey626@mail.com, chances are it wont seem as professional.

5) Symbolic Words Representing Your Branding

If target.com was taken, theredbullseye.com may be a little far-reaching. However, for you MJ, since Nike has worked so hard to brand your symbol the “jumpman”, “jumpman.com” may work.

6) .net, .org or dot.[something else]

MJ, you’ve exausted all your “.com” options. In that case, you may want to consider having a very easy straightforward “.net”, i.e. www.michaeljordan.net.

Repeat steps 1-5 above for “.net”, and chances are you’ll find something. If in the off chance that none of the “.net’s” work for you, you have the option of choose other suffixes, such as “.org” (if you an organization), “.us”, “.info”, or international suffixes, such as “.uk” (England) and “.ca” (Canada). In my opinion though, with the exception of the international urls, “.net” is your next priority after “.com”.

In conclision, like everything else in marketing, there’s no right answer.  You have to do your best to understand your business, your market, and outweigh the above points to hopefully get you a great domain that’ll even itself be tool for conversion.

Jul 27
2009

A new Urchin Software release is out. It is a point release and is called version 6.601. Here is a list of the fixes:

Roll-up Reporting

  • In Urchin 6.600, attempting to log in to an account with a large amount of data often resulted in the following error: Session Error – unable to call default routine. (2002) Please login again.This error occurred due to slow performance in calculating roll-up reports. In Urchin 6.601, the performance of the Urchin roll-up report data extraction has been significantly improved.
  • The default view has been changed from ‘Month’ to ‘Day’. This was done to improve the performance on installations with a large number of data-heavy profiles.
  • The “Completed Goals” calculation logic has been corrected to report the total number of goal conversions. (Previously only one conversion per defined goal was reported, so Completed Goals would only show values from 0 through 4.)

User access to AdWords Tools

  • A new ‘Access to CPC Sources’ setting has been introduced on a per-user basis. By default, only Super Admin has AdWords tools enabled. For all other users, this access must be explicitly granted via this new setting.

Copy Campaign Tool

  • The Copy Campaign Tool has been disabled due to legal issues. It may be reintroduced at a later date.

Support for Bing.com

  • Support for the new bing.com search engine has been added.

Master tracking codes with CPC sources

  • Profile filters are now applied to CPC sources.

Special characters in CPC source passwords

  • Certain special characters were not allowed in CPC source passwords. This has been fixed and certain special characters are now allowed.

Licensing

  • Regular license re-set and reactivation were required after upgrade to 6.600 on Linux and FreeBSD. This has been fixed and reactivation is no longer required.

Migration

  • In certain cases, when migration of the reporting databases from Urchin 5 to Urchin 6 crashed or was interrupted, subsequent attempts to resume failed with “WARNING: (8010-577-1192) Database file is the wrong size – run sanitizer”. This issue has been fixed.

Enable all Regions

  • All regions have been enabled.
  • IMPORTANT: If urchin 6.601 is used to upgrade from the international version (Urchin 6.501 or 6.402), the language settings for all users will be switched to English, while preserving other regional settings.

The geo database has been updated.

Here is a link to download Urchin. If you have any questions on Urchin and you need any technical support for Urchin, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Jul 24
2009

If you are in Silicon Valley, there is almost always a worthwhile event to attend and this past week was no exception. We had the opportunity to socialize, chat with, and listen to Avinash about testing (you know, the A/B and multivariate testing stuff :) ). The event I am referring to was “Thursday Testing” coordinated by Lily Chiu.  Thanks a bunch Lily, and thanks to the Omniture folks for sponsoring the event!

It’s always a pleasure to speak with Avinash. You’ll hear about analytics, online marketing, and also about what is going on in some of the world’s top brands.

I was able to take some notes that I wanted to share. OK, the notes are brief as I was typing on my iPhone and I think Avinash thought I was playing Sudoku too :) . Here you go:

Why aren’t more people testing and why is testing a rarity. Avinash mentioned a couple of things that made a lot of sense:

  • Vendors and consultants are sometimes at fault. In their effort to highlight the capabilities of their products and services, they inadvertently set a high barrier to entry. All they talk about is multivariate testing and the gazillion variations you can have.  While impressive, it might be overwhelming or intimidating to marketing managers and site owners. Simplifying what to test, starting with a couple of ideas, and setting realistic expectations might get the decision makers to grant you the go-ahead and get your testing effort off the ground.
  • The second point is that while it is easy to simplify things, it’s hard to come up with two good ideas to test (not just “let’s change the button color”). It does take creativity, knowledge of your audience, among other factors to come up with two very good ideas to test.

These were the two points that Avinash emphasized and I find very helpful. Then there was an interesting discussion about some experiments with 19 PhD’s (I’ll pass on this for now), and another discussion about embarrassing the highest level manager you can (this way they listen to you), but this one needs another post altogether, and Avinash talks about it on his blog, so you can read his comments on the topic and apply it at your own risk! :)

I would also add that looking for some easy wins, taking some risks, and finding a sponsor that will support your effort, will pay off big time in getting more out of your site, and also in setting/starting a testing program within your organization.

So to summarize:

  • If you/your organization is new to testing, start with A/B Testing
  • Be creative, take some risk, look for low hanging fruits and get some early results to get your testing program supported within your organization

For more information on testing, check out Google Website Optimizer, make sure you get a copy of Always Be Testing, and feel free to contact one of E-Nor’s consultants.

Jul 21
2009

If you are planning to attend the Search Engine Strategies conference in San Jose, August 10-14, you don’t want to miss this really really cool session called Creating a Web Analytics Culture. I guess I am a bit biased because i am speaking at this session :) , but seriously, you have a solid line up of speakers that will leave you with practical tips and methods to take your analytics program to the next level.

Who’s on the panel?

  • Matthew Bailey, SES Advisory Board & President, Site Logic Marketing
  • Ron Belanger, SES Advisory Board & Vice President of Worldwide Agency Sales, Omniture
  • John Marshall, SES Advisory Board & CTO, Market Motive
  • Richard Zwicky, Founder & CEO, Enquisite
  • Feras Alhlou, President, E-Nor, Inc.

You have vendors and consultants sharing their experiences and how to enable data-driven decision making in your organization.

For my presentation, I intend on sharing real life examples and case studies and to “show” more than to “tell”. And definitely no sales pitches (learned not to do that long time ago :) ).

I hope to see you all at SES. Drop me a comment or email me directly for any specific questions on the session.

Feras_Alhlou_SES_SJ09_HearMrSpeak

Jun 09
2009

Web 2.0, THE popular style and standard for contemporary web design, utilizes the use of clean, bright colors, and gradients. A key visual indicator of Web 2.0 design is the use of large, 3D buttons that grab the user’s attention. Buttons can be used to promote a sale, contact, and/or have a slogan such as “Lose Weight!”, while at the same time, tempt the user into clicking and going where you want them to go. You know you couldn’t resist pressing the red button when your mom told you not to!

The impact of having a button is far greater than just having a link on your site. For example, if your site said “Contact Us” at the bottom within the content, the viewer would most likely have to read through the content until they get to the “Contact Us” to even know its there since its buried in text. But a button that clearly states “Contact Us” is more likely to visually attract their attention.

In this post, I’m going to go through how to make web 2.0 buttons that “pop”, even if you’re not that Photoshop savvy.

I just learned how to create web 2.0 buttons a couple months ago. It usually takes me a couple hours to get the right effect and gradient exactly the way I want it to look. Luckily, I stumbled upon an awesome resource for gradients and styles that made making buttons much easier than I could’ve imagined. I was searching around various blogs trying to find a post that was interesting and useful and found this BIG TIME TIME SAVER!!!

After downloading these photoshop styles/button templates, all you really need to do is minor tweaks, and your button is ready to go.

Here’s how:

  1. First thing you have to do is download the zip file from dezinerfolio.com, who shared their styles on their blog.
  2. After you download the zip file on this page, upload it into your Photoshop,
  3. Open up a new Photoshop file and go to Window > Styles to bring “Styles” into your toolbox (shown below).


    Now that you have uploaded the style, you’re ready to create a web 2.0 button in little to no time!

  4. Open a New Layer on your file and find a style you like best.
  5. Once you’ve found a style you like, simply click on the style and the settings of that particular style will automatically be implemented onto the layer.
  6. As you can see in the images below, the image on the left shows the styles in the toolbox and the one on the right shows how the styles effects automatically updated into the layer.

  7. Next, choose a shape for your button; I like using the rounded rectangle tool for a button.
  8. After you’ve chosen a button shape, click and drag the mouse to make the rectangle as big as you want. As you can see in the image below the color of the style/gradient I chose fills in the rectangle.

  9. After you have the button, color, and style you want all that’s left is adding text and layer effects. Below I have an example of the button with text. I have put some layer effects on the text to make it pop out of the button.

  10. After you have stylized the button how you want it, you can trim the white space around the button.

  11. And there you have it, a button! That didn’t take long at all! :)