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Archive for the ‘Analytics / Big Data’ Category

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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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Using Online Data to Predict Patient Behavior

By | April 16, 2014

wheelchairPredicting the future ain’t what it used to be. In fact, it’s more real than ever. Social media. Big Data. Predictive Analytics.  These are big buzzwords, to be certain, but also keys to helping your healthcare system or hospital to provide better and more efficient patient care.

There are times in our lives that we wish we had that crystal ball. Picking breakout stocks or NCAA upsets is great, but imagine having insight into the future based on real data. And imagine that insight being actionable. That data can impact your healthcare system directly and help you reach more patients efficiently.

No need to imagine any longer.  Your crystal ball is here with healthcare predictive analytics.

Every one of your potential patients leaves a tremendous digital footprint.  They search Crohn’s disease, arthritis treatments or dementia care. They talk on Facebook about living with diabetes. They tweet about migraines and join forums to learn about concussion prevention.

And you, as a healthcare marketer, can use that data to anticipate patient needs, prepare your staff and provide better care.  Here’s how:

A variety of off the shelf tools can gather and analyze online conversations around keywords. Google and third party tools can track search volume. By marrying this data with your own historical data, you can then start predicting patient needs.

Here are a few examples of how online data can help your healthcare system or hospital.

  • Online conversations and searches around concussion injury tend to spike during the fall high school and college football season.  If you know that come November, your patients and prospective patients are hungry for information around concussion prevention, you can offer workshops, clinics and online information around the topic when it is most sought after.
  • Conversations around back and knee injuries often spike over Thanksgiving. As the dads and uncles take the backyard football games against the teenager, injuries are bound to happen. What can you do to anticipate this and offer tips, services or flexible appointment options in the days leading up to, and just after, Thanksgiving?
  • Bariatric conversations grow in volume and intensity during the holiday season and beginning of the new year.

Too obvious for you? How about these examples:

  • First, analyze the historical volume of conversations and searches around consumers talking about or searching on flu like symptoms. Then map that trend line to documented flu cases. It is very likely that the online information is a leading indicator of flu cases.  By monitoring online activity you can then anticipate the next flu outbreak.
  • If a local TV or radio celebrity takes up a cause, say breast cancer awareness, you can track the rise in local interest in mammograms and offer extended hours at your women health centers.
  • Suppose you find that weekend warriors in your area are active online during the first nice days of the year and lamenting how their old knee injuries prevent them from running.  You can make plans to heavily promote your runners’ clinics on social media and PPC advertising platforms during that first nice weekend in spring.

The days of guesswork around understanding patients are behind us. Using real data from real patients and understanding it in real times allows us all to provide better care more efficiently for our communities.


Check out our study of the competition health systems face in paid search.

Health Systems & Paid Search

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Spring Cleaning for Google Analytics

By | March 25, 2014


After a long winter, everyone looks forward to spring and the warm weather it brings. People clean their house, dust off the patio furniture and ready their gardens to grow. For everyone with a website and Google Analytics, it is time to do the same – clean out the old, get rid of the dirty data and get ready to grow.

Clean Out the Old

Goals – are they up to date? Are the goals converting? Do they measure the right metrics for your business? For goals that are not converting, find out why they are not converting. Sometimes, when a goal is no longer converting the answer is simply updating a goal URL that changed. Such as a contact form which has a new thank you page or now there are multiple forms and the old thank you page no longer exists. Update the goal with the new URL or create new goals for the new forms to fix the problem.

Another common issue with goals that are not converting is that the page is no longer easily accessible. For example, a landing page put in place for a paid campaign that is no longer running. If there are unnecessary goals, remove them. Removing old goals, cleaning up the non-converting goals cleans your data so that you get a good view of what is really happening on your site.

Get Rid of Dirty Data

After reviewing the goals, look at some of the basics to make certain they are in place. Link your Analytics to Google Webmaster. Link AdWords and Analytics to gather valuable paid data. Check your campaigns – are you using Google URL Builder to tag external campaign such as emails or non-AdWords paid efforts? When you review your campaigns, is there a consistent naming convention so you can review all email campaigns, all off site ads and any other tracked campaigns you have? If these items are not in place, get rid of the dirty data like referrals from emails or untagged paid campaigns and start tagging!

Get Ready to Grow

Dive a little deeper into Analytics, extend the date range to the past 12 months. Look at your content, what pages are your top content? What pages are at the bottom of the list? Make a plan – use your top content for ideas on new content. Review the top pages of your site for strong calls to action. Make sure the top pages are pages with up to date, relevant information. Now, look at those bottom pages. Are they getting the quality of visitors you want? Are the pages no longer relevant? Are they in need of a refresh or rewriting of the content? Do the pages need a call to action?

Review your site for new goals. As business grows, content on the site grows, as do the goals. Make sure that you are tracking everything on your site that helps you make business decisions. For example, are you tracking your whitepaper downloads? Whitepapers are informational for visitors and build visitors’ trust in a company as a thought leader. Tracking these downloads can help you identify popular whitepapers and present ideas for new content.

Everything you want to know about your website is in Analytics, keeping it clean, reviewing regularly and making sure it is all up to date is vital to using the data to make good decisions and keep moving forward.

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Marketing Buzzword Takedown

By | March 24, 2014

beeAll the cool kids are doin’ it. That’s right, they’re using marketing buzzwords. And every once in a while, I feel compelled to save the English language (or at least my sanity) … and more precisely, the language of my profession. I’m feeling feisty today, so let’s dive right in.

Marketers these days have this knack for using buzzwords to the point of insignificance. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s when good words get destroyed, or when anything is not explained accurately, especially if it relates to my job or what I hope customers will pay for to keep me employed. I want to make sure what we marketers do remains significant—and is communicated clearly to the outside world, especially those who are investing in marketing.

On to some marketing communication essentials. Let’s start with a big, juicy one: Content marketing.

Content marketing

What it is: The use of content to selectively engage an audience–usually to inform, educate and/or entertain–with the ultimate goal (implicit) of creating an affinity for a brand/product/service that may only be tangentially related to the content itself. Yes, it’s a kind of soft-selling, and it’s “Hansel” hot right now.

What it isn’t: The answer to everything in business. It might be close, but let’s not get carried away. Despite what many great publications, minds and trends might indicate, sometimes you still need to use traditional direct methods and explicit sales pitches (or at least calls-to-action that stimulate conversions).

Demand generation

What it is: The cultivation of desire for a product/service.

What it isn’t: Why this phrase is so popular is beyond me. Well, I kind of get it: Creating demand is a fundamental economic principle. But what’s with the word generation? I just think of spontaneous generation and the images of maggots and decaying flesh it suggests. That could just be me, but marketers do tend to go overboard with this word, just like with the word drive, as in “Let’s drive results/revenue/business.” Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently inaccurate with these words, but I don’t think they warrant the usage that they’re getting. For example, instead of drive (depending on the context) you could say generate, create, stimulate, start, kick-start, propel, catalyze, activate or lead. And that’s just off the top of my head. Why not give these other good words a chance?

And don’t get me started on demand generation. The main issue is that people tend to use it in such a vague way … and then it has no meaning. It becomes a lazy fill-in word that says nothing. Oh, you’ll generate demand for my product/service? It’s like saying we’ll create engagement. Well, how exactly will you do that? Silence. Give us some details, and then I might start paying attention. And that’s not just me, that could be your customer talking, so be really careful about using this phrase.


What it is: SEO is a little different … and commonly misunderstood. Search-engine optimization has gone through so many interpretations as search engines (and search behavior) have evolved over the years. I can’t claim to give a one-size-fits-all definition for this, but I think the most PR-friendly (and appropriate) way to describe what I’ll call proper SEO is to say that it’s a collection of practices that make your site easily discover-able by search engines … and the people who use them.  These practices can be abused or they can be done according to commonly accepted ethical or official standards (read: Google/Bing guidelines). The choice is up to every marketer.

What it isn’t: A substitute for great content or great user experiences. You can call me out, too, because it’s also not a buzzword like the rest of these (it’s been around a while).

  • Not a cure-all for getting search-engine rankings or traffic, despite an occasionally (shady) reputation for being just that.
  • Not keyword-stuffing. Heck, these days it isn’t even about keywords that much.
  • Finally, it should not be throwing money and time at whatever is going to keep you one step ahead of Google’s long arm for short-term gain at the risk of long-term website reputation destruction. This kind of SEO gives the rest of us practitioners a bad name.

Marketing automation (MA)

What it is: In one sense, it’s simply a software platform that enables sophisticated lead-nurturing and deep reporting on marketing. However, the broadest definition would include 4 components:

  1. A data center (for forms, images, web pages, costs, schedules, templates, etc.)
  2. A reporting platform (analytics on campaign engagement, lead-scoring and financial return)
  3. A trigger-based engine for lead qualification/disqualification that improves sales efficiency
  4. A way to tie marketing activities to a customer relationship management (CRM) system

What it isn’t: Easily defined (as you can see).

  • Just the latest version of email marketing. Email marketing is merely one component of genuine marketing automation. To reduce MA to email is to underserve all the nurturing, efficiency and analytical power it brings to marketing processes.

Big Data

What it is: Reams of data (or quintillions of bytes) from diverse sources. The key here is the multiplicity of sources. It’s not just that you have a whole hulking heap of data, it’s that it’s coming from a bunch of different places.

What it isn’t: Data. You may have a lot of data. Congratulations! But that doesn’t necessarily make it Big Data. I don’t care that 50 million people might be misusing this phrase to capitalize on marketing hype: It’s still wrong. A lot of people don’t know how to use apostrophes either, that doesn’t mean you should go around saying things like, “You’re Big Data is so big and awesome.”

Now that you’ve got this little primer, go out and tighten up that language! Jargon cannot defeat our fair profession. Be the sworn enemy of bloated language and make it fear your precision. As Hoa Loranger puts it, Web users will love you for it.


Photo courtesy of Treesha Duncan via Flickr.

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Balancing Marketing Analytics with Creativity

By | March 17, 2014

creativity contagiousJustifiably, much hype surrounds marketing analytics today with its power to personalize and track buyer behavior in the promise of ultra-targeted (and ultra-efficient) messaging. What validates this hype? Well, for one, perception. In Moz’s 2014 Industry Survey, analytics jumped out as a clear priority for marketers—whether they worked for agencies, in-house or as consultants.

Analytics is all over this Moz survey:

  • Overall “top 5 marketing activities” (#1)
  • “Top 5 marketing activities” for in-house people (#1)
  • “Top 5 marketing activities” for agencies (#1)
  • “Top 5 marketing activities” for consultants (#2)
  • 85% of consultants reported offering analytics as a service (#1 among services)
  • Web analytics professionals had the 4th-highest median salary by role out of 14 (trailing only engineering, user experience and e-commerce)

As the survey itself notes, “Analytics are a way of life across all online marketing fields.” I would assume most people reading this post would agree. With good reason, too: Analytics represent the power of Web tracking technology (especially in an ever-wired world) and are one of the primary differences between today’s marketing and your grandfather’s version.

One phenomenon to be mindful of, however, is the over-emphasis on analytics. What, there’s such a thing as too much analytics? You can never go wrong when you have data to guide every decision, can you?! Well, hear me out. Despite the great utility and business value of analytics, I urge everybody not to forget about the creativity that is at the heart of all marketing … that fundamental spark from which great ideas come. Marketers need to strike a balance between information and creativity, knowing that even the best data is no substitute for an original idea or innovative experiment. Data can guide and clarify, but it should never override what Peter Drucker says is one of your business’s primary purposes: innovation.

Likewise, data might shine a great light on what’s going on in your current and past marketing activities, as well as what your customers are up to, but it won’t necessarily tell you how to create new ones in the future … or how to break new ground and evolve by taking the calculated long-term risks that all the best businesses hazard in order to survive over time.

Bottom line: Use analytics to be smarter, but don’t forget about the power of any marketer’s greatest asset: The right side of the human brain.


Photo courtesy of Brian Metcalfe via Flickr.

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