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Marketing Confessions: Numbers Sometimes Lie (Shh, Don’t Tell Anybody!)

By | January 21, 2015

confessionalLet’s talk investing. [Warning: The following is in no way intended to be construed as financial advice. Please consult a licensed financial advisor for your particular needs.]

I’m starting with a premise: Marketing is an investment. We’re all in agreement, right? Great … let’s carry on.

The vocabulary of investing includes terms like appreciation and depreciationassets and liabilities. In reality, marketing, just like exceptional customer service, is a potentially appreciating economic asset upon which investment is often not immediately measurable. Do it right, and its value—along with the value of your company—appreciates over time. Do it wrong, and its value depreciates, just like that of your company. For example, can you truly put a hard numerical value on the re-branding of your company or the refinement of a strategic mission? Probably not.  However, each of these marketing-dependent actions produces a long-term return, and when done right, can make the difference between a company’s growth and obsolescence. Put another way, What’s the cost of going out of business? If your re-branding allowed you to be on the right side of the success in a changing marketplace, then you picked a winner.

Do smart investors waste their money? Of course not, and none of the above is to give marketing a license to be wasteful … far from it. To the contrary, we can and should be mindful of costs, productivity and efficiency, especially when today’s technology allows marketers to be smarter than ever about avoiding wasteful spending. But in all the hype about automation, data, analytics and tracking, it’s easy to forget numbers sometimes don’t mean anything, to paraphrase data scientist Cathy O’Neil of Mathbabe.

If math can be meaningless, today’s data-happy marketer asks, “What do we turn to if the numbers aren’t helping us?” For starters: Creativity, vision, experimentation, old-fashioned “horse sense,” and traditional principles that have stood the test of time (e.g., rules of human-computer interaction, consumer psychology, persuasive language, good storytelling, the creation of emotional connections with customers). I’d argue that the skillful application of the previous by outstanding people is the true factor of marketing investment performance, more than any typical KPI (key performance indicator) like cost-per-click, conversion rate, lead volume, traffic or rankings.

On a related note, organizations that optimize the emotional connection with their customers outperform competitors by 26% in gross margin and 85% in sales growth (via The Gallup Organization). You like numbers? Show those numbers to your corporate accountants. And if nothing else, keep a level head about the potential and context of marketing’s role in the world … and don’t get lost in the numbers.


If you still need data to support investments in marketing, read one of the most popular posts in this blog’s history: Digital Marketing ROI (How Much Does Digital Marketing Cost?).

Photo courtesy of psyberartist via Flickr.

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Consumer Brand Manufacturer Spotlight: Newell Rubbermaid

By | November 5, 2014

Newell Rubbermaid wants to go big on e-commerce. The company has pledged to do anything to spur sales of its products, which means a big e-commerce push. To that end, it will launch a global e-commerce hub in New York City early next year, doubling the size of its existing e-commerce staff by adding 30+ new members.

While some consumer brand manufacturers fear channel conflict, Newell Rubbermaid is embracing its retail partners. Its philosophy is: Consumers will do what they want, so we should ensure their brand experience is excellent whether on one of our websites or on a retailer partner’s. This realistic approach to how consumers actually shop can teach all consumer brand manufacturers an important lesson.


The #1 goal of marketers should be to create an excellent experience for their customers, no matter where the interaction happens. This universal “meet-them-where-they-are” approach is smart because as analytics-savvy people, we know that multiple mobile devices and regular switching between online and offline are all typical of the consumer’s non-linear path to purchase. Making the experience great and consistent across devices AND places (including virtual places, like your website or retail partner’s) is paramount. Newell Rubbermaid appears to understand this, judging by its new investment in analytics and people whose jobs will consist of tapping into e-commerce data of its own retail partners.

So while Newell Rubbermaid throws e-commerce money at Sharpie, Lenox and Paper Mate, ask yourself what you can do now to identify your own brand’s growth opportunities for 2015 in an ever-changing e-commerce environment.


Photo courtesy of wazimu0 via Flickr.

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[New Guide] Avoiding Lumps of Coal: Marketing Strategy for Profitable Retail Holidays

By | September 30, 2014

Holiday Shopping Guide 2014Much like 2013, planning in 2014 is more critical than usual because the holiday shopping season is shorter. With Thanksgiving falling at the end of November, this season has relatively few shopping days, making each single one more valuable. By knowing and preparing ahead of time, retailer marketers can set realistic expectations with their bosses and budget accordingly.

Start by downloading our free 20-pg. guide for tips on how to survive the season, including an in-depth look at 5 winning approaches in Santa’s holiday marketing bag. You will learn about:

  • Using SEO to sell more.
  • Incorporating mobile, automating PPC ads, boosting Google Shopping.
  • Adding important dates/tasks to your email and conversion testing calendars.
  • Enhancing email subscriptions, loyalty and sales with holiday-specific approaches.
  • Increasing overall conversions with testing and clean data.

Holiday marketing need not be madness. Marketers who plan all the way to the end are sure to enjoy the power of strategic foresight and emerge victorious by the new year.

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Using Google Site Search Analytics to Develop Quality Content Topics

By | August 19, 2014

Content is the very fabric that makes a website useful, drives visitors, and ideally results in conversions. According to Dr. Pete Meyers in the 2014 Moz Industry Survey, content marketing had the highest year-over-year demand increase in 2014, with 71% of respondents reporting increased demand. Given how important content is towards generating traffic, growing links, and providing a positive user experience, it’s no wonder organizations are more focused on content marketing than ever.

Choosing the Right Content Topics

Creating high quality content is only half of the battle when it comes to driving inbound traffic via content. You can spend countless hours creating the perfect piece of content, but if the topic isn’t right, it may be more trouble than it’s worth.

There are two primary factors to consider when researching content topics.GA Site Search 1

  • Is there a high demand for this content?
  • How high is the competition for this content niche?

For most content marketers and SEO’s, performing competitive keyword research is the primary way to learn which topics are optimal when it comes to content curation. Ideally, content that has a high demand and low level of competition is preferred as it provides the easiest route towards conversions.

While keyword research will likely remain the most relevant way to determine what to write about, there are other tools content marketers have at their fingertips that can be extremely useful when it comes to determining new topics.

Using Google Site Search to Find Content Gaps on Your Website

GA Site Search 2Google Analytics offers an extremely useful tool for websites that feature a site-search bar. This feature can be found in the behavior section of your Google Analytics dashboard (see image to the right).

Site search provides all the terms that visitors have searched for once they’ve arrived to your website. These search terms are extremely useful since they provide direct insight into what your site visitors are looking for. For the most part, a site search term represents:

  • Content that users can’t find on your website
  • Content that does not exist on your website.

For both of these instances, any term showing up provides an opportunity to improve your website. If content related to a popular site search term is already available, this may signify a need to improve the overall visibility of said content. Excessive site searches for important keywords can be a symptom of a poor website navigation structure, or a poor link structure.

For instances where relevant content doesn’t exist on your website, this is a direct opportunity to curate new content. The best thing about finding high volume content gaps based off Google Analytics site search terms is that the new content is almost guaranteed to be successful since site visitors are already looking for that content on your website.

Using Search Terms to Find Valuable Long-Tail Keyword Terms

An additional benefit of using Google site search terms is that you often will see an extremely diverse array of search keywords, which will include a variety of valuable long-tail search terms that you may not otherwise find. This is especially true for healthcare websites, where there are hundreds of niche terms and keywords that receive zero attention.

As an example, one of Fathom’s healthcare clients revealed a relatively high volume of site searches (81 searches) during a one month period for the term “Otolaryngology”. If you’re like most people, you’ve probably never heard of Otalaryngology, but that means that the competition for a term that has a high possibility to convert is extremely low. Finding content opportunities like these are the crux of a sustainable, long term content plan that aims for steady traffic growth.

Setting up Site Search in Google Analytics

In order to make use of site search, you need to set up your analytics profile properly.

  1. Click on “admin” on the top bar.
  2. From the admin section, click on “view settings” in the upper right corner.
  3. Once in the settings page, scroll down until you see the site search settings section.
  4. Click “on” Site search Tracking.

GA Site Search 3

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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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