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Archive for the ‘Analytics / Big Data’ Category

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Google Analytics Launches Bot and Spider Filtering

By | August 1, 2014

It has been a long-established (yet misunderstood) given that Google Analytics filters out all of the bot and spider traffic from tracking into our precious reports. In fact, there’s a “Traffic from search engine robots” page in the GA help section that flat out says “robot traffic is not counted in Analytics when using a JavaScript tracking method”. So most users have gone on convinced that GA was excluding all bot and spider traffic, despite the fact that very page features text that states “If the search engine that crawls your site does activate JavaScript… you will receive search engine robot data in your reports.”

As of yesterday, Google is introducing a new option to enable bot and spider filtering more in line with what users already thought was happening!

For the longest time, since very little noticeable bot traffic was getting tracked, it went unnoticed by the majority of GA users. But over the last year or so, it seems like we’ve been catching unexpected bot traffic spikes in our clients’ accounts more and more often. And when those spikes occur, it’s often multiple client sites that are getting hit at the same time.

Those of us obsessed with data cleanliness have been fighting an endless filter-driven battle with bot tracking, digging through reports to find traffic spikes with 100% bounce rates from single browser versions in specific locations, so we could add them to our epic bot filtering list. But many Google Analytics users wouldn’t even know where to go to find the signs of bot traffic in their reports, and finding a trustworthy, comprehensive, up-to-date filter list online isn’t easy.

Luckily for all of us, Google is rolling out a new feature that will handle much of this problem. The new “Bot and Spider Filtering,” announced June 30th on Google Analytics’ Google+ page, promises to “exclude all hits that come from bots and spiders on the IAB know[n] bots and spiders list.” According to Google, the filtering feature will detect all hits that match the User Agents named in the list in the same way a profile filter would. The new feature will help users keep their traffic reporting nice and clean by only including the real number of visits to your site.

Google Analytics Bot Filtering SettingsThe best part about this new feature is how easy it is to implement. In the Admin section under “View Settings” for your current view, just scroll down and look for the “Bot Filtering” section and check the box next to “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders”. That’s it! You can see the new option in the fascinating and exciting screenshot below.

It’s worth noting that the filtering isn’t retroactive. It won’t change any of your old data. But once you check that box, your data will be bot- and spider-free from here on out.

More than likely this option is already available in your account, as Google has promised the rollout will be complete by the end of the day on 7/31.

It’s not entirely clear exactly what kind of impact bots are having on tracked traffic for most sites, so I’m going to be stress-testing the new feature across a sample of our clients and comparing the numbers so we can get a sense of the average change across the accounts. Stay tuned for the results of those tests in a future blog post.

Happy reporting, everyone!

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Marketing: The Best Inside Salesperson You’ll Ever Hire

By | August 1, 2014

As my career before Fathom was that of a B2B salesperson, I’d like to share the biggest marketing lessons I’ve learned so far from working here as they relate to industrial sales.

Marketing always had a bit of a stigma tied to it in my previous job selling industrial equipment.  This is something I noticed in my own business as well as the customers and vendors I called on.  Sales was in charge of bringing in revenue, and marketing was less a department than it was a budget for the salespeople to dip into for print collateral and trade shows.  Here are just a few things that I didn’t know marketing could do:

  • Generate targeted, focused inbound leads.
  • Create reconnaissance information for sales as to what buyers are reading, clicking and commenting about online.
  • Engage leads with relevant information automatically and scoring it so that sales can know exactly where a prospect is at in the buying cycle.
  • Assist post-salesperson engagement with content to help close the deal.
  • Work with post sale customers to monitor online behavior and provide nurturing collateral to stoke future referral business.

The best part about all of this is that everything is measurable.  Every dollar of digital marketing spend can be tracked from first engagement all the way to the close of the sale, and compared to other forms of traditional spend.  If your business has an e-commerce platform, it can sometimes even take a customer all the way to the close.

In short, marketing is the best inside salesperson I’ve ever had.  Don’t ignore the potential of this discipline or group of people.  Make it part of your sales team.

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3 Tips for Hospitals To Fuel Content Marketing with SEM Data

By | June 23, 2014

As many of us know, SEM/PPC is an established source of patient acquisition for health systems and hospitals. Fathom has certainly seen great results with structured campaigns promoting specific service lines that send users to relevant landing pages with prominent calls-to-action.

For this specific post, however, I want to focus on how paid search can help address common online challenges health systems face:

  • SEO keyword strategy without access to organic keyword data
  • Writing engaging and compelling content that your audience wants (AKA, content marketing)
  • Dealing with negative PR (AKA, reputation management)

Specifically, I want to discuss 3 ways to use PPC search queries to help support these common marketing challenges.

1. Share PPC Keyword Data to Guide SEO

It’s not news to any of us that Google Analytics no longer shows organic search keyword data. This change was a major one that makes the lives of SEOs a bit more difficult.

We encourage the sharing of data between SEO and PPC analytics, especially because the keyword performance visibility exists within AdWords.

From the PPC side, sharing keyword data with the SEO team enables it to see which keywords are not only driving traffic, but also converting most frequently.

lap band 

2. Use Search Queries to Identify Topics for SEO and Content Marketing

In addition, looking at the search query reports shows what users are searching for in relation to the keywords we’re bidding on. For example, let’s say the content team is looking for a new blog idea for the maternity service line. You can quickly go into the women’s health maternity campaign to identify search queries that have a lot of interest.

pregnancy calculator

You can then suggest to the content team writing a blog post around calculating a pregnancy due date or even adding a new page to the hospital website to provide relevant and helpful information.

Also, in order to prove the validity of the suggestion or find additional ideas, check Google Trends to see if the search query is a ‘rising search’ (and in this case, it is).

stroke symptoms

Another example of using search queries to help fuel a content marketing strategy is to consider how users are searching. Users often look for information specific to gender or age; it’s important you write content geared toward these users, especially if you are seeing significant search via the search query report:

stroke symptoms II

3. Use PPC Search Queries/Google Suggest to Identify PR Challenges

One very important threat that health systems and hospitals face consistently is reputation damage. Fathom uses search queries of brand keywords to inform clients of negative PR that can potentially be addressed by driving traffic to a positive page—either via PPC or organic/SEO. Challenges come in the form of nurse strikes, hospital acquisitions/mergers (see our guide to hospital rebranding), and even hospital closings. The best stance is to be proactive when dealing with these challenges.

hospital closing

hospital closing II

Bottom line: SEM is much more valuable to health systems than simply being a vehicle for generating appointments, guide downloads, and phone calls. You are already investing part of your marketing budget in paid advertising (and if you are not, you should), so you might as well make full use of the data you already have to create a more integrated marketing strategy for your organization.


Check out the marketer’s guide to hospital acquisition to take the headache out of rebranding:

The Art of Rebranding

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How Do You Measure the Success of Digital Marketing?

By | May 16, 2014

Digital marketing certainly has changed from the early days of link building for organic SEO rankings and PPC strategies that ultimately depended on spend to get to 1st position.  Every action taken online has the potential to be tracked and measured, and the sophistication of search- engine ranking algorithms has risen to the task of using that information to improve the results you see when you look for something online. They are measuring their success and optimizing based on the ever increasing volume of digital information available.  And in digital marketing, we are asking the same questions—how are the current digital strategies performing, and how can they be improved?

Step 1: Capture the Right Digital Data

The question is simple, but with the quagmire of metrics available in any analytics tool, it’s difficult to determine which metrics are going to supply that answer.  Even more confusing is the fact that having a website doesn’t mean that data is going to be automatically captured for later analysis.  Capturing digital data around each action being taken online—whether it’s a click through to a page, a button-click on your site, or a purchase made through a shopping cart—has to be deliberately tracked and cataloged to be useful for digital marketing analytics.  Just think of a filing cabinet.  If one-third of the folders are marked by last name, another third are by company name, and the last third are by the year the folder was created … how would you ever find anything?

Step 2: Determine the Marketing KPIs to Monitor

So if the first step is making sure to capture the information to measure, the second step is picking some KPIs to monitor, right?  Well, sort of.

Choosing the right KPIs actually happens long before a campaign ever launches.  What to measure is directly related to the purpose and scope of the business objective that is identified during planning.  These need to be carefully crafted, or measuring the success of the campaign is impossible.  Success cannot be measured if there was never a declaration of intent for the project.   How do you know if you’ve crafted it correctly?  Here are some tips to be sure to answer before starting any digital marketing effort:

  1. Are we trying to attract new customers or improve retention/brand evangelism/repeat orders with current customers?
  2. What is the desired outcome of the visitors interaction?  Website visit? Lead? Review? Survey? Purchase?
  3. Why do we think our message with resonate with the target audience?

Ironing out these details is the key to measuring the success of the campaign.  For specific optimization efforts, such as testing one landing page version against another in order to improve the conversion rate, metrics such as time on page, bounce rate, and conversion rate will be the most important. 

For more general visibility into measuring the performance of a brand’s digital footprint, the following aggregate buckets can provide regular insights into the overall trending of a digital presence effort:

  1. Reach – Measures the expanse of the brand’s digital footprint.  KPI’s include metrics around how often the brand is seen, such as impressions and views of ads, visibility in social news feeds, and the volume of non-bounce email receipts.
  2. Engagement – This measures people interacting with your brand.  KPI’s include metrics around people taking an action to know more about your product or brand, such as traffic to your site, interactions with content on the site like PDF downloads or video views, subscriptions to the newsletter and more.
  3. Conversions – This tracks the volume of conversions.  Some examples of tracked conversions include e-commerce transactions, lead form completions, newsletter signups, and more.   Typically, a dollar value can be associated with conversion action.
  4. ROI – This metric shows how the effort was worth the return.  Here, the value of the conversion will be weighed against the cost of maintaining the program infrastructure, and will provide insight into opportunities for optimization or expansion.

So now it’s time to take a look at your strategies.  Review your campaigns and determine what each one is intended to achieve.  Make sure the traffic sources, page elements, and goal completions are being tracked properly in your analytics tools and begin building the dashboards that will show how your campaign is performing.

But you probably won’t be able to stop yourself at just measuring your success – there’s a trove of insights contained in the data, and you just drew the treasure map.

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Google Analytics Attribution for the Assist

By | April 16, 2014

If you have read any of my past blog posts, you might notice that I can’t help but use a sports reference every once in a while.  My previous posts Google for the Assist and Turning Your Paid Search Campaigns into a Slam Dunk both look at the world of online marketing through the eyes of a sports fanatic. So, last week when I watched NBA Player Steve Nash take the spot for the third most assists in NBA history, I couldn’t help but relate it to this post about attribution I had planned.

Steve Nash is currently 40 years old, and in the NBA you won’t find many players that age still holding their own on the court. Although Nash’s points per season have been on the decline since the 2006-07 basketball season, his contracts keep getting renewed, and he’s still seen as a competitive threat on the court. The number one reason for this is his ability to assist.

The importance of the word “assist” is often overlooked in the world of digital marketing. Many people think that if a tactic is not how the user converted then it’s alright to give 100% of the value to the source with the last interaction, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Starting the attribution conversation is the first step in accurately measuring your ROI [Tweet this] and getting better insights into which channels actually work for you. Getting some initial insights into the value of attribution is as easy as looking at your Google Analytics data and comparing how the pre-set attribution models stack up for your site.

Find the Best Attribution Model

In the following chart we compare the Last Interaction, First Interaction, and Position Based attribution models. While many companies still use Last Interaction and Last Click conversion models, it’s extremely important to set up models that best fit your needs.  As you can see, Paid Search has nearly 10,000 less conversions in the Last Interaction model compared to the First Interaction model, while Direct is the opposite.


So what insights can we gain by looking at this data?  Paid Search is capturing a significant amount of “upper funnel” traffic that comes back later and converts through another channel. And even though Paid Search was a major part of capturing that traffic, the last click models give Paid Search no credit for thousands of users.

Set Goals Carefully

The type of model you use could significantly change the way you set your goals and/or look at performance. If a client’s cost-per-lead goal was $30, then in the example below, we are not hitting that goal using a last interaction or 40-20-40 Position-based model. Based on the results you see using whichever model you are using, it is important that you truly analyze and understand the data so you can make the most informed budget allocation and planning decisions.


In addition to the three models compared today there are several more preset models in Google Analytics and customizations that fit your needs and goals the best.  However, before you rush and choose an attribution model, take time to talk your team, department, and other departments to create a model that best fits everyone’s goals – for now and the future.

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