The Measurement Tool I Wish I Never Had to Use

We’ve all had that moment. You know, the one where a friend leans across the table and discreetly whispers “You’ve got something in your teeth.” Instinctively, you cover your mouth and scurry off to the bathroom to fix the problem. A flipbook of social interactions races past and you wonder how many people you talked to while that piece of spinach stole the show and undermined your credibility.

As it turns out, while I’ve been yapping on about paid search and web analytics, there’s been a big, old piece of digital spinach stuck in my blog: malware.

Both Phil Pearce (blog) and Nick Stees contacted me to let me know they got a malware warning when from AVG, a security program, when they tried to read my site. Instead of my mildly entertaining insights, they were greeted by a big, ugly warning sign screaming: Run Away!

wordpress malware

(click to enlarge)

Not exactly the welcome mat, right?

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Removing The Malware

Among his many useful tips, Phil pointed me in the direction of Sucuri. They bill themselves as a “provider of web-based integrity monitoring and malware detection solutions.” Or, more amusingly, “In simple terms, we clean up the mess. If your site got hacked, blacklisted or infected with malware, we fix it for you. If your site is clean, we monitor it to let you know if a problem ever happens.” I can personally back up their claim. My site was cleaned within 30 minutes of submitting my ticket, all for $10.

Until this incident, I never know Sucuri even existed and only had a vague familiarity with site monitoring and maintenance tools. It’s a bit like traveler’s insurance: you only really pay attention after you lose your luggage.

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Lessons Learned

I’ll leave the details of how my site got infected and the potential defenses to the long list of tips Phil generously shared (included below). The larger point here is that when we think of measurement, we usually focus on marketing and site experience. Most of our analysis includes metrics that are easily accessible in our web analytics tool and generally understood. Even qualitative data focuses on site level and page level surveys.

But what happens if someone can’t get to your site? You may notice a dip in traffic, but if the segment isn’t big enough, you may not. That was certainly the case with me. I only learned about the problem, because two kind souls followed me on Twitter and took the time to reach out. How many more had an issue before I discovered it? What was the hit to my credibility? I’ll never know.

I took away two lessons:

  • If you own the site experience, as a marketer or web analyst, you’re also directly or indirectly responsible for site uptime and security. Typically, this belongs to the realm of IT or webmasters. But, we can empower ourselves with our own tools, like Sucuri, to get alerts before issues spread to epidemics.
  • Being easily accessible is valuable. A small number of people would ever both to take the time to track me down and help me with my site. It would have been virtually impossible for them to do that if I wasn’t public (on Twitter as DigitalAlex), participating in the conversation and welcoming of contact (I put my phone number and email address on my profile).

On a final note: My apologies if anyone experienced issues after visiting my site. I’ll try to keep the damage to bad analogies.

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Phil’s Tips and Links
You can also try the malware scanner on this site – it can verify the WordPress install is secure – once you have restored from backup (requires login)

WordPress Malware & Media Temple

WordPress Maintenance

WordPress Invisibile Administrator Hack (aka JohnnyA)

Find the Content Your Readers Love with Analytics

This post originally appeared on SEOMoz.

google-analytics-top-contentReferenceable content is the holy grail of online communities. People talk about it, comment on it, link to it, tweet it and visit it over and over again. In a world full of chatter, it sets you apart as an authoritative voice.

Creating referenceable content is an art. Measuring it, however, can be more of a science.

Using the Google Analytics top content report, I’m going show you how two methods to identify content that your audience loves.

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What Behaviors Matter?

Referenceable content is addictive and it drives audience loyalty. Metrics wise, this means people who:

  • Visit repeatedly
  • Bookmark your content

You can get a quick snapshot of the top content for your returning visitors by visiting the Top Content report in Google Analytics and selecting “Returning Visitors” from the Advanced Segments drop down in the top right:

google-analytics-returning-visitors

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Easier Analysis with Pivot Tables

It’s sometimes useful to compare how much a particular piece of content drives new vs. repeat visitation. You can do this by selecting the New Visitors segment as well, but this creates a difficult to read report.

Instead, try this:

  1. Go to Top Content
  2. Select the Pivot Table view (the last one on the right)
  3. Pivot by Visitor Type
  4. Pick “Unique Pageviews” from the “Showing” menu
  5. Sort by Unique Pageviews in the Returning Visitor Column

The result will look like this (click to enlarge):

analytics-top-content

You can now clearly see the overall top content for Repeat Visitors next to New Visitors.

Segmenting Content by Source

You can further pivot the data by traffic source or medium (use the drop down next to Page), but I find the result difficult to interpret.

Instead, I think it’s easier to drill down into Top Content reports for individual mediums, in particular Direct Traffic and Organic Search.

Let’s take Direct Traffic to start:

  1. Open Traffic Sources
  2. Click on Direct Traffic
  3. Select Landing Page from the drop down below the Site Usage tab
  4. Choose the Pivot View
  5. Pivot by Visitor Type

The report will look like this (click to enlarge):

direct-traffic-landing-pages

You can follow the same steps to see the landing pages the drive repeat traffic from Organic Search. I recommend you also add the organic keyword into the mix. Pick the “Keyword” from the second drop down above the list of pages:

organic-search-top-content

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Promote The Content People Love!

Now that you have a list of content that drives repeat visitors, promote this “best of” content across your site, Facebook pages, Twitter, etc. Raise the profile of your most important content to increase loyalty and attract links.

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A Note on Bookmark Tracking Google Analytics

Bookmarks are a common way for users to access your most useful content. Most people (myself included) think that Google Analytics tracks bookmark visits with Direct Traffic.

As Justin Cutroni points out in this video and companion post, they’re actually attributed to whatever traffic source is in the Google Analytics cookie (which I believe is always the last source).

Predictive Analytics 101: An Interview with Eric Siegel, PhD

predictive analytics worldActionable analysis is hot topic in the web analytics community. But how much analysis looks forward instead of backward?

That’s the realm of predictive analytics, a little covered topic in the measurement community. I interviewed Dr. Eric Siegel, President of Prediction Impact, to introduce the topic, explain its role in search marketing and talk about the upcoming Predictive Analytics World conference (PS: use the exclusive discount code ALEXCODC09 to get 15% off a 2 day pass))

Can You Briefly Define Predictive Analytics?

Predictive analytics is business intelligence technology that produces a predictive score for each customer or prospect. Assigning these predictive scores is the job of a predictive model which has, in turn, been trained over your data, learning from the experience of your organization.

Predictive analytics optimizes marketing campaigns and website behavior to increase customer responses, conversions and clicks, and to decrease churn. Each customer’s predictive score informs actions to be taken with that customer. Business intelligence just doesn’t get more actionable than that.

Who is Using Predictive Analytics in Search Marketing Today? How?

Yahoo! was reported as using predictive analytics to select website content most suited (personalized) to each user — i.e., most likely to elicit a response, although I am not certain if this applies within their search product specifically.

Google is in the game, as covered in this Predictive Analytics World case study last February:
Predicting Bounce Rates in Sponsored Search Advertisements [PDF]

Social networking giants are targeting ads analytically: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/18/technology/18myspace.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

One “killer application” of predictive analytics for search is to dynamically select the landing page most likely to lead to conversion, based on what is known about the visitor the moment they first come (cookies, search string, time of day, geographical location, etc.). More generally, the business applications surveyed in the article I link to below will provide value for most business conducting search optimization.

What Tools Can Help Search Marketers Use Predictive Analytics?

Applying predictive analytics always starts with expertise. If your organization has not yet established internal competency, a good place to start is a training program, plus enlisting professional services to get you started.

The choice of tool can be made at a later stage in the process; there are a large number of options, and the choice often depends on many factors determined only the project has begun. That is to say, this is a hard question to answer – let’s hear how the vendors would address this (readily accessible at PAW’s expo).

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The Hidden Web Analytics Data You Should Look At

Photo by photomequickbooth - http://www.flickr.com/photos/22897538@N04/

Photo by photomequickbooth - http://www.flickr.com/photos/22897538@N04/

You could be losing visitors and business due to site issues that never register in your web analytics tool.

If you’re anything like me, you tend to look at your site’s performance mostly through web analytics data (maybe with some voice of the customer/survey data included). The problem is that web analytics tools don’t have all of the information you need.

Error Logs: Hidden Data You Need

This hidden data can be found in your website’s error log (aka apache error log). An error log is a simple file that lists all the errors your visitors encountered when trying to access your site. Errors are logged by IP address, date and time.

You can get them from your webmaster. If that’s you, the location varies but log into your host and look for the “logs” section.  Mine were at /logs/error_log.

After I got a “status 500 internal server error” screen when I tried to get to my own blog, I knew it was time to dig a little.

I found three common errors in my log:

  1. Directory index forbidden by rule
  2. WordPress database error Lost connection to MySQL server during query
  3. Premature end of script headers: php4

One of my blog’s plugins was the source of many of the issues.  That was an easy enough solution — I just deactivated and uninstalled it.  The MySQL connection was lost.  It’s a relatively simple fix for WordPress users, detailed right here.

If you’ve never seen a server log (I hadn’t, is that terrible?) , I pasted a portion of my own error log after the jump.

You can see how the error messages I listed show up repeatedly.  You may know that site speed is an issue, but you could  still be surprised how many people are encountering errors when they try to get to your site..  I was also shocked to see how much one WordPress plugin was an issue (if you’re using WordPress, I’d steer clear of Redirection)

I’m going to report back on how much (or how little) my site traffic increased/errors decreased.  Take a look at yours and comment so we can all see if you found anything interesting.

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The Secret To A Web Analytics Career: Stop Learning Web Analytics!

This post originally appeared on Corry Prohen’s blog.  You might also enjoy my 10 tips on learning web analytics article and my advice about writing an analytics resume.

Eventually, your web analytics career is going to hit a wall.  Learning interactive marketing as a web analyst, you start with the numbers and then seek context.  When you stop to think about it, it’s really an inside out view, isn’t it?

You can master tags, logs and the many intricacies of implementation and that will get you so far.  If you want to go from good to great, then you’re going to have to stop learning analytics.

Advance Your Career with Action

Measurement craves action.  That’s why site testing (a/b and multivariate) has been such a huge hit.  Your success as a web analyst is defined by the impact of the changes your work inspires: more leads, higher revenue, greater customer satisfaction.

Start your search for by following the money.  In most companies, the budget is often biggest in one of these 4 channels:
1. Paid Search
2. Email Marketing
3. Organic Search / SEO
4. Landing Pages

1. Paid Search

eMarketer predicts that paid search spend will hit $10 Billion by 2010.  Each year, more money migrates from offline advertising to online buys, often starting with paid search (aka pay-per-click or PPC advertising).

Who’s to blame them?  PPC advertising, most often on AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing, is among the most measurable marketing investments you can make.  That’s exactly why web analysts need to get up to speed… fast.

The basic structure of paid search advertising is simple: you select words, bid on them, write a text ad and send them to a landing page.  The reality is far more complex.  To get started, I recommend you start with a simple 5 point PPC questionnaire:
1. How are we performing against our yearly and monthly goals?
2. Which campaigns are driving 50% of our cost?  Which ones are driving 50% of our revenue (or similar KPI, such as leads)?
3. What are our ad groups and how are they performing?
4. What is our impression share for the top campaigns?
5. How is competition affecting our brand campaigns?

This is a mix of simple questions, but you’d be amazed how eye opening they can be for a web analyst.  I threw in “impression share”, because it’s a metric that few outside of paid search understand.  It once again highlights the need to move outside of just one tool.

You can get a good overview of paid search with this guide.  For free advice on measuring and optimizing paid search, check out the ClickEquations blog.

2. Email Marketing

Email is a rather unsexy channel.  Most people think of it as outdated at best or spam at worst.  The truth is that email is very much a part of online marketing in a basic way (support email, order confirmation) and more advanced uses (personalized offers, abandoned cart recovery).

As an analyst, you can lead the charge to maximize email ROI by asking:
• How does email stack up against other channels?
• What’s the most effective way to grow our subscriber list?
• What have we learned from past tests?  How can we structure future tests to boost results?
• Which segments of our list are most valuable?
• What kind of from and subject lines boost open rates?

I usually turn to the Email Experience Council to find resources for email marketing.  Their Email Stat Center is a really great collection of research and some stats for comparison.  The Email Benchmark Guide is a good starting point.  For more in-depth training, there is an Email Marketing Summit coming up shortly.

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Learning Web Analytics – The Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started

On the topic of web analytics careers, this is a reprint of an article about web analytics training that originally appeared at the WAA.  If you could start your career over, what would you do?

1. You are Not the First Web Analyst – You do not need to invent web analytics. Somebody has encountered the problem you have. Establish a great base of knowledge by buying books like Web Analytics: An Hour A Day, joining the Yahoo Web Analytics Forum and subscribing to every measurement blog you can find

2. Go to Emetrics NOW – Your world view is likely to be very myopic: all about your tool, your website, your business. You need perspective. The eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit will open your eyes, especially if you’re just starting.

3. Your Tool Can Do More Than You Think – Most people assume that what you get out of the box is the limit of your tool. This is usually wrong 99% of the time. You must not be afraid to ask your vendor about what else it can do.

4. Start a Blog or Business – If you don’t really, really own the numbers you’re responsible for, you’ll never really, really learn the data. Pick some side project, start a blog or a business, and measure the hell out of it. Trust me, you will learn a ton.

5. Automate Your Life – I’m repeating June here, but you simply must automate as much as possible. You will be stuck in Excel hell unless you can use technology better.

6. Test! Survey!
– Repeat after me: not everything you need to know is inside of your conventional web analytics tool. Say it again. Now, do it. There is NO excuse not to start gaining experience. If you listened to #4, then you don’t need anyone’s permission.

7. Learn Other Disciplines (like SEO and Paid Search) – You will be better at your job if you understand what you’re measuring. Start dabbling in paid search, SEO, affiliates, email, WHATEVER. Just stop focusing on measuring and start focusing on doing the things you measure.

8. Communication is the #1 Skill You Need – Measurement without action is failure. If you cannot communicate your findings and persuade people to act, you will not be effective. Learn to present. Master the executive summary. Be one with PowerPoint.

9. Be Not Afraid of Technological Terms – I’m not a technically oriented person. But, the very nature of internet marketing requires that you at least grasp the basics. The nature of web measurement requires that you grasp a step above the basics. Like it or not, you need to tackle this sooner rather than later.

10. Teach Early and Often – It is very easy for people to start relying on you to measure. Unfortunately, this can quickly become limiting to your career growth. Measure for manager and he’ll optimize for a day, teach him to measure and he’ll optimize for life!

PS: If you want to learn paid search, check out the ClickEquations Blog.  If you manage large paid search campaigns, check out ClickEquations.

Mulling Over Attribution in Analytics

I’ve been thinking about attribution recently — how your software decides which channel gets credit for conversion (see my article on campaign analytics).  Attribution is really a question of credit and influence.  Which promotion contributed to that sale?

I believe that previous ad clicks contribute to brand awareness and can drive future searches and response.  But, they place a lesser degree in future sales. Yes, I’m more likely to come back and convert if I previously found your site another way.  They deserve a some assistance credit, but it diminishes over time and with each subsequent click and channel.

Direct traffic is the biggest attribution hole.  All of that traffic originated somewhere, we just can’t directly trace it back and it’s deflating other channel’s performance.

I think this is a religious argument.  There is no obvious and easy answer.  The best answer is the model that ultimately leads a business to invest in the channels that produce more profit, etc.  That said, we are very far off from that state. That’s why I think that software should give people a choice, thus circumventing any nits they could pick with whatever one we forced them into.

What kind of attribution are you using today?  Which kind would you like to be using?

Miracle Website Diet! 8 Web Analytics Resolutions

It’s a New Year which means… resolutions!  I’m trying to skip the meaningless, aspirational goals that I usually dream up.  Instead, I’m digging down into the things that I can really commit to.  I’m making 8 resolutions for Digital Alex and ClickEquations.com (which I’m responsible for).

  1. I will integrate my data.  People come to my site.  Then, they become leads, customers and retained customers.  I really want to make decisions about where to spend my money based on who is the most valuable.  That means I have to connect the clicks to the customers with extra site and campaign tagging.
  2. I will QA my data at least once a month.  I’m going to totally level with you here.  I’m guilty of some web analytics sloth.  Sometimes I’ll QA data once, make the fixes and only deal with spot issues.  We all know data is dirty and I just can’t assume it’s right.  Bad data happens!  This is especially true on B2B sites (see above).  I resolve to do a more thorough review at least monthly and act swiftly.
  3. I won’t have an ego about my website. In the face of mounting evidence to the contrary, I concede that I do not know everything.  That’s why it’s probably better for me to rely on what customers care about what the data says.  Multivariate testing and voice of customer, here I come!
  4. I will prioritize speed over perfection.  I’ve been accused of a “shoot first, aim later” style and, frankly, I’ll embrace the label.  In my opinion, it’s better to ask forgiveness instead of permission.  To me, it’s all about speed.  The same is true in online marketing, design and analytics.  It’s easy to obsess to the point of inaction.  I’m not saying to be sloppy, but I am say that something launched at 80% is better than nothing launched at 95%.  Speed has a tremendous value.  I will analyze until the answers are good enough and then correct. Continue reading

Track iPhone Visitors to Your Site in Google Analytics

Ever since Apple released the iPhone, mobile internet browsing has never been the same. With the release of the 3G version, which sold over 1

Track iPhone visitors to your site in Google Analytics.

Track iPhone visitors to your site in Google Analytics.

 million units in 3 days, it’s only going to grow faster.

I was a total geek and took off half a day just to buy iPhone 3G the day it came out. 2 stores and 4 hours later, I got it and I’ve been obsessed since. That got me thinking–how many people visit my blog on an iPhone?

How Many iPhone Visitors Do You Have?

Answering this question delves into an infrequently used area of analytics–technographics. Technographics are the nitty-gritty about your visitors:

  • What kind of browsers do they use?
  • What is their screen resolution?
  • What operating systems do they use?

It’s actually a great source of information for your designers and developers. They can make more informed design and code decisions.

To find out how many visits you had from iPhone geeks, you need to look at the operating systems.

  1. Open Google Analytics, pick the profile you want and time period
  2. Click on “Visitors” in the left nav
  3. Choose “Browser Setting”
  4. Click “Operating Systems”

You’ll then get a report like this:

 

iphone analytics

iphone analytics

 

 

Voila, now you know how many iPhone visits you got. But, what did those people do?

Track iPhone Visits to Your Site with Google Analytics

One of the biggest (and most annoying) issues with Google Analytics is that you can’t easily slice all* the data by different segments of your audience–paid search visitors, email campaign respondents, iPhone visits, etc. Instead, you have to setup a separate profile.

Setting up your iPhone profile in GA takes 3 steps:

  1. Add Website Profile and Setup Your Basic Administrative Options
  2. Copy Your Goals
  3. Setup Filters to Capture only iPhone Visits

1. Add Website Profile and Setup Your Basic Administrative Options

  • First, click “Add Website Profiles” under the Website Profiles box (to the left of User Manager)
  • Click, “
    Add a Profile for an existing domain”
  • Pick your domain and give the profile a name like “iPhone Visits”. Hit finish.

Okay, now you have to setup the usual administrative options like any profile. Click the “Edit” link in the Website Profiles box. Fill out the following fields:

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