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Archive for the ‘Analytics / Big Data’ Category

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Spring Cleaning for Google Analytics

By | March 25, 2014

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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.

SEO

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.

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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.

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Photo courtesy of Brian Metcalfe via Flickr.

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Google Tag Manager: Marketing or IT?

By | March 11, 2014

Image Credit: InfoTrust

Image Credit: InfoTrust

If you  work in marketing or IT, by now you have most likely heard about Google Tag Manager. What is Google Tag Manager and why does it keep coming up? Having past experience as a website developer and working with Analytics daily, I see Google Tag Manager as a solution. You are probably asking yourself, what problem does Tag Manager solve? It solves the classic conflict between your website managers and your marketers. Don’t deny it, marketers and website managers have different priorities and we all know that every now and then a conflict arises.

Marketers want new pages, conversion codes, and click tracking. Website managers want the site to work and maintain server load. Website managers may also serve as an all-around IT department, keeping computers working, maintaining email networks, and asking if someone has rebooted their computer or downloaded the latest update. The question is, where do you want your IT people to spend their time and where do you want your marketers to spend theirs?

IT requires coding, website maintenance, servers, email networks, intranets, security and everyday troubleshooting. Marketing requires a plan, an audience, a solution and most of all tracking and measurement. Enter Google Tag Manager – the bridge between the two worlds. Google Tag Manager can do for a technical marketer what previously would have been added to the already burdened shoulders of the IT department.

Bridging the Gap Between IT & Marketing

Want to see how many times that new whitepaper has been downloaded? Before Tag Manager, the set-up process would involve the marketers asking IT for a whitepaper download link.  Then, a common, follow-up of, “Actually, we also we need event code on the link and for it to be named following these conventions, can you please go update that? Thanks!”

Another new whitepaper added to the site? Wash, rinse and repeat. With Google Tag Manager, you add the whitepaper link and done. Event tracking is already in Tag Manager for all download types with the proper naming convention, no new code needed.

Obviously, there is more to it than the above scenario, but you get the idea; tracking simplified. Google Tag Manager is a small JavaScript code added to the website on all pages. The potential it adds for tracking and updating tracking codes like Google Analytics, conversion codes for paid advertising, event tracking of downloads, link clicks, video views and many more makes the initial installation more than worth it. One installation and you can add or remove tracking at will, update the Google Analytics code when it inevitably changes, drop in new conversion code for paid marketing within minutes and remove the need to route all requests to the IT department or trying to add them into a CMS that abhors JavaScript and removes your code every time you save the page.

Google Tag Manager allows marketers to track, measure and make quick changes to their marketing efforts; all without bothering the IT department who is busy rescuing your laptop or keeping your email server from crashing after someone clicked that suspicious link.

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Fight Dirty Healthcare Data Like You Fight MRSA

By | February 27, 2014

Just as hospital clinicians are aggressively fighting accidental infections at every turn, so too must hospital marketers diligently battle the numerous dangers threatening their online data. We all know that MRSA – methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus - is a serious problem in healthcare; what not enough healthcare executives understand is that inaccurate Google Analytics tracking is causing “garbage in, garbage out” at hospitals nationwide. Service line managers should be reviewing, analyzing, and cleaning their data meticulously, so they can not only optimize their online conversions, but also trust their data and advocate for additional financial resources.

Why should you care about your data?

In a recent Analytics audit we did for a major national healthcare system, we found that almost every major metric was inaccurate:

Summary

Unfortunately, dirty data lurks at every turn and can creep up when you least expect it. Like a doctor diligently washes her hands to protect her patients, you can protect your marketing efforts from infection by implementing these preventative measures below.

Dive deeper into your referral traffic.

In a recent audit we did for a major national healthcare system, we found over 78% of the “referral” traffic was actually internal, guest wi-fi access hitting the main homepage. Because of this inaccurately-categorized internal traffic, the hospital was overestimating its homepage visits by 23%.

Implement subdomain-friendly code across all online domains.

This same hospital didn’t realize that they needed to implement subdomain-friendly code across its five different online domains; its .edu site, blog, and internal search, were all incorrectly tallied as referral traffic. All of this can be easily fixed with Google Analytics code that properly tracks the user’s cookie. As a result, here’s what the hospital’s Analytics was showing versus the reality:

Referral Data

Don’t miss out on the latest updates to Google Analytics.

You installed Analytics a long time ago, so you’re golden, right? Wrong! Analytics has been through several upgrades recently, and hospital marketers need to take the unfortunate step of having to upgrade their Analytics code. Especially exciting is the new Demographics reporting capability: this reporting will give you not just a look into your overall traffic, but also who your leads and new patients actually are. Check out the slide below – do your hospital’s service line marketers understand their leads at this level of detail?

What We Know About Your Leads

In the future, to keep up with the ever-changing world of online marketing, hospitals should implement Google Tag Manager, which allows for far more flexibility and adaptability than previous versions of Analytics.

Attribute traffic back to the appropriate campaign.

With every email or online campaign, hospital marketers must also be conscientious about tracking every link through Google’s URL builder. Because of this hospital’s campaign misattribution, the hospital’s email traffic lacked any campaign attribution – robbing the hospital’s hard-working email specialist of her well-deserved credit. Again, here’s a look at the what the hospital’s Analytics were reporting, versus the stark reality:

Reality Metrics

Establish Analytics Goals to satisfy long-term objectives.

Many hospitals face the dual problems of both heavy turnover within their marketing departments, and shifting priorities amongst senior leadership. To combat this, set up Analytics Goals that meet the hospital’s long-term objectives – rather than just the senior management’s “flavor of the month,” which can be easily tracked as Events.

These more permanent goals tend to revolve around online conversions and user engagement, both of which can be tracked accurately; in addition, a savvy marketing department tracks its PDF downloads, virtual tours, online quizzes, and incoming calls.

Just as MRSA is no laughing matter, neither is bad data that causes wasted spend, inaccurate reporting, and strategic mistakes. If this article has you wanting to wash your data – and your hands – here are three concrete next steps to ensure your next report is an accurate one:

  1. Enlist an unbiased third party Analytics expert to conduct an in-depth audit and clean-up.
  2. Just as you distribute an employee handbook to orient new staff members, create and disseminate an online marketing handbook that ensures that team members keep your data clean in the long term.
  3. Don’t be satisfied with numerous disconnected data sources. Implementing technologies like Tableau allows you for the first time to gain clear tracking from your call center to your patient database to your analytics.

You wouldn’t want your doctor examining you without taking the appropriate sanitary measures, so don’t send out your next mailer or e-blast without ensuring your data is clean, transparent and accurate.
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Check out our white paper about physician-inspired healthcare ISV market(ing) opportunities.

Health IT Market(ing) Opportunities

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