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Explaining Your SEO Job to Your Parents

In a recent global survey of 16,000 parents, LinkedIn found that 35% of them confessed that they are not completely familiar with what their child does for a living.
Now from personal experience, I can vouch for this statistic (and believe that based on ‘confessions’, this 35% figure is probably much higher). When I transitioned from it-does-what-it-says-on-the-tin email marketing, to confusing old SEO (that’s Search Engine Optimisation), I knew there was going to be misunderstanding and potential for arduous questioning about what exactly SEO is. Whilst my parents aren’t complete technophobes, it was evident when I announced my shiny new job with Builtvisible, that SEO was something totally unfamiliar and of the unknown.
The conversation went a little something like this:
Me: I’ve got a job doing SEO for a digital marketing company!
Parent translations…
Mum:  I am the CEO for a digital marketing company.

Dad: SEO usually stands for Senior Executive Officer.

Obviously I’m neither; that’s Richard.
 
From discussing this with fellow SEO-ers, it seems that the done thing is to tell your parents that you “work in marketing”, or as a colleague of mine does, tells people that he designs biscuits. Whilst I don’t doubt that Pete could design a fine biscuit, he is actually our Chief Technology Officer at Builtvisible, and can design much more than a biscuit. However, this is a fine example of how to avoid technical and lengthy explanations which often lead to more questions and further muddle.
If you do tell them your job is actually in SEO, your parents have probably asked you umpteen times what exactly you do for a living because they do actually want to understand, apparently. According to LinkedIn, 59% of parents want to know more about what their child does for work, with 50% of parents believing they could be of benefit to their child if they had a better understand of their career…
Whilst I thought this misunderstanding was mainly down to a generation difference in perhaps, search exposure, I’m quite wrong – considering that 25-34 year olds use the internet more than any other age group, it’s surprising how many people within these age brackets use search engines daily, but don’t know how they work. Working in digital marketing, I think it’s easy to assume that it’s common knowledge.
Either way, if you overhear your parents telling their friends that you work at Google, or that they think you are a CEO, it might be worth explaining your job fully, once and for all.
That stands for bewildered friends too – let’s help them out.
As you can see below, there has been a huge increase in Google searches for the query “what is SEO”, indicating that people really don’t know and are trying to get their head around it.

Let’s prepare for the questions you may be asked:
Some parent questions, with parent-friendly answers:
I don’t understand, what exactly is S.E.O?
Search Engine Optimisation is making sure a website can be found when you are searching, let’s assume Google, for words or phrases to find something you are looking for. Imagine the big people at Google get to choose who is top of the search results based on a kind of quality control.
Why do they need to be number one?
Because you usually click the first result on Google… It’s important for a website to be on the first results page because:

How does Google choose who’s number one?
Firstly, Google will send a search engine ‘spider’ to ‘crawl’ (or have a good look at) your website; it will make a note of all your websites pages and content and add them to an index or database. It will also make a note of all the links that you have on your website, internally (from page to page) and externally (to and from other websites), thus creating a ‘web’ and making sense of your website for future reference.
This is how Google understands websites before they will show in a search results page.
The search engine process SIMPLIFIED:

You type a search query into Google
Google search their index/database for pages that match the query
They pick out the pages that are most relevant to the query

How do they determine which websites are most relevant?
According to Google, relevancy is determined by over 200 factors…
One of those is a measure called PageRank – it determines the importance of a page based on incoming links from other websites to your page. Each link from an external site to your site passes value to your PageRank, and with value comes authority.
However, not all links are equal – a few links from websites with high authoritative value (such as The Independent) are much better than lots of links with low authoritative value. The better your PageRank, the more authoritative your website becomes, increasing the likelihood of a higher position on a Google search results page.
On the other hand, if you have lots of low authority, spammy links pointing to your website, the big people at Google will punish you; either you will drop past that first page of Google’s results, or even potentially be removed from Google search results pages. This is very BAD.
No Google results page = no traffic = no money = unhappy client
This is Google doing its quality control. Imagine it’s like a fancy party and you’ve taken with you some cheap alcopops and a bottle of White Lightning, whilst others bring bottles of Cristal and Dom Perignon. Assuming that the host has outgrown puberty/is rather shallow and a little ungrateful/has a taste for the finer things in life, those bringing the champagne will be the populars at the party, and you get to hang with the noobs. Or if the worst comes to worst, you may get asked to leave.
Google do this to make a better and more effective search experience for their users. When you search, you want to find the most relevant pages – the best results get favoured (in higher ranking), and the less relevant ones get shunned.
So what do you do in all this?
To help our clients achieve top rankings in search results, we optimise both on page and off page.
On Page:
Exactly as it sounds. We optimise the individual pages of the website, making it easier for search engines to understand them and check them against its quality control criteria.
For example, we optimise the structure of the website so that we present the important information effectively to both the user and the search engine. Also, we determine which keywords we would be able to rank high on Google for and which keywords are going to bring in the most conversions (taking into consideration our competitors). These are then used throughout the site.
Off Page:
Exactly as it sounds. We build the popularity of our client’s website to improve its chances of ranking at the top of search results pages. This is where, amongst other things, we try and increase our PageRank value by gaining links from other good quality sites back to our own.
We do this by creating useful, unique and client relevant content, either in the form of articles, infographics or interactive pieces – a bit like PR. It has to be something that people want to publish, people want to read and that gains exposure to the brand as well as gaining a link back to their website. Good quality links back to the client’s site are a signal to Google of authority and quality, and make your site more relevant to the search query, helping you closer to that number one spot.
Comprende?

Other Important People
Hopefully that’s friends and family up to speed, but what impact does this misunderstanding of SEO have on our clients?
In the Moz 2014 industry survey, they found that overall budgets for marketing tools are on the rise.
In 2012, one third of respondents reported monthly budgets of $500 or more. A year later, this rose to 54% spending over $500. It could be fair to assume that many business owners (like your parents, and your friends) also don’t fully understand what SEO is, but willingly outsource it as a business necessity (they were once told).
However, if the man with the money doesn’t understand the services, how can they justify their spending and understand the ongoing value of SEO? Not understanding the benefits or the ROI’s could lead to confusion, mistrust and potentially long-term harm from short term gains.
So help them out too – if the client understands exactly what you’re doing, you’re onto a winner. They will feel more at ease, and will be more inclined to continue using your services.

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Are You The Leader We’re Looking For?

What are your goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Our US business is looking for a general, operational and administrative manager, someone who’s ready to lead our wonderfully talented (and very lovely) US team. Someone who’s ready to take a brave leap and help grow a company. Someone to lead, organize and inspire to continue to deliver the amazing work we do for our amazing clients.
What would you like to achieve in life?
I’ve been having a discussion with a close friend on precisely this topic on quite a regular basis. My friend isn’t terribly satisfied with his job.
I believe that a job enables the next stage of your life. Because what you’re doing right now is by choice, your goals should be on track to become reality. This is the wonderful truth about freedom.
Frustration comes from being held back from enabling your longer term goals. In a career context, you need to be working in the right place and be on the right career path to feel good about, everything else.
What are you looking for in a career?
Some of us are still learning. We’re fixing, communicating or making things. As developing marketers, this is a good place for us to be.
Some of us, as more seasoned “Senior” consultants, are quite happy to stay on the front lines, managing our teams and creating new strategies.
Some of us have proven our chops on that particular battlefield, and now we yearn for more. If this sounds familiar, this post is for you.
Are you the leader we’ve been looking for?
Job title is negotiable, it could be COO when you’re ready, it could be “Head of US Market” or “US General Manager” while we’re developing you.
Salary and relocation is absolutely negotiable. If you’re the right person, the numbers part will be easy.
The role comes with a generous stock option offer, great vacation entitlement and excellent health insurance. We’re building something big and exciting, and we’ll need you to be in this for the long term.
You might not be sure if you’re ready for that, and you might not be sure if you want to relocate to San Francisco (San Francisco is beautiful – I absolutely implore you to investigate California – it’s such a beautiful and geographically diverse state), so let me outline the crux of what you’ll be doing:

Looking after our growth hiring and retention needs
Recruiting to growth in technical, research, outreach and creative disciplines
Recruiting junior hires to feed our ever growing need for internal promotion
Working with our team to ensure they have the skills and tools needed for the job
Coaching and training / development and regular team meetings and one to ones
Maintaining a competitive salary, relocation and health insurance package for our staff
Collecting and helping prioritize development feedback for our Zorg platform

Working to achieve our 2014 business forecast
Working with the Sales team to keep us on top line target
Planning, implementing and testing marketing initiatives for Builtvisible
Developing our 3rd party partner relationships
Growth through client relationships by maintaining visibility on each account
Ensuring the USA leads the field on daily marketing activity

Managing the weekly to monthly financial operations of:
Approving payroll and other monthly budgeted expenses
Managing our relationship with our accounting firm
Monitoring cash flow, accounts aging, and the monthly P&L
Working with our UK Finance management for administrative support whenever needed
Managing a monthly budget for marketing, IT, travel, and any general expenses

Put simply, this is a great challenge for the right person.
There’s a lot of on-boarding support, including training in the UK after you’ve joined. You’ll be lining directly into me, joining a team of 6 people currently responsible for running our group of companies.
I will develop you and teach you everything I know, and you’ll have support from everyone across our group. In exchange, I’d appreciate it if you’d teach me everything you know!
Skills & Personality
It’s assumed that you’ve mastered the art of SEO or that you have a very detailed understanding of digital marketing strategy, and that therefore you could lead a savvy digital team. You’ve been effective wherever you’ve come from. You’ve almost certainly got a sales and marketing background. You’re a real problem solving people person. What you’ve seen excites you.
In our case, “SEO” means an incredibly broad skillset, from deep dive technical SEO (log file analysis, in depth site audits, site architecture) to research and outreach disciplines. We’ve also got a growing production capability, as our name suggests, we like to make great content for our clients!
On that note, we like very technically savvy people. People who bring a strong desire to execute high quality marketing product: creative marketing campaigns that win our clients coverage, a passion for the best technical work and the will to lead a group of people towards continuous improvement, curiosity while maintaining the terrific energy our US team brings to the family.
If you’d like to know more about our company and our values, take a look at Our Story.
As a great way to understand some of the qualities we look for, take a look at my thoughts on hiring great people.
To get a sense of how we’re different, take a look at how we work.
If this isn’t quite for you, cool. We strive to recruit and promote internally, so if you like what we do but you’re just starting out, or you’re still very much on the front lines, take a look at the roles we think we need to place here: http://builtvisible.com/careers/ (if you don’t see something listed on our careers page but you really think you can add value to our organisation, get in touch!).
If this sounds like something you want to do, drop me an email: richard@builtvisible.com. Thanks for listening, and good luck!

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Everything is Marketing

If my hair had not fallen out due to natural causes I probably would have pulled it out by now.
I set aside a chunk of time every day to read the latest punditry on content marketing, SEO, and other digital topics. Every day I read a statement along the lines of “traditional marketing is dead.” Every day I scream in frustration; silently mind you, because I don’t want to scare the dog.
It never ceases to amaze me that so many writers, claiming quite impressive credentials on their about-me pages, simplistically equate marketing with advertising. This leads them to their conclusion that marketing is therefore a thing of the past. All you need is good content!
photo credit: NOAA’s National Ocean Service via photopin cc
Poppycock!
Marketing is like an iceberg. Non-marketers might see only the 10% that is above the surface, but the truth is most of what really makes up the marketing process happens before you ever see an ad, receive a sales call, or read a piece of content.
Marketing has many definitions but the simplest definition is this:
Marketing creates, communicates, and delivers value to customers.
Anything that touches a customer communicates with them. It directly impacts their perception of value. Therefore, marketing is the effort that every aspect of your business plays in attracting, converting, and keeping customers. Not everyone in your company is in the marketing department, but they all contribute to marketing by doing their day jobs.
Everything is Marketing
Your product, or service, is a function of marketing. It is, after all, designed to meet a customer need. They touch it, or experience it, and a perception of value is created. Products are created, or refined, because of feedback from the market. Obtaining this feedback is called marketing.
Your sales people will not consider themselves marketers but they are because they affect customers’ perceptions as soon as the customer answers the phone or shakes their hand.
Your accounts department almost certainly do not consider themselves marketers but yes they are. They talk directly to customers. They send them collateral in the form of invoices. They are even marketing when they chase overdue payments, because they are acting as a customer touch point.
Your cleaning crew is marketing the company and the value they communicate simply depends on the quality of their work. How many customers return to a dirty restaurant or shop?
This is just the stuff that customers see directly. But I am not finished with you yet. Here is one more:
Bad managers or poor management practices create negative value by demoralizing staff. All of your internal processes create or negate value by the impact they have on your staff to work well and remain motivated.
Where is this leading?
Everything that touches the customer is marketing. This is because everything that happens in your business affects your customers’ perceptions, directly or indirectly.
This does not mean all of your employees suddenly need to go back to school to learn marketing. It means that every activity, procedure, or piece of collateral that the company engages in or produces should run through the filter of what does this mean for our customers?
What can you do?
Encourage your team, regardless of role, to seek the best possible outcome for your customers. Examine your business and think about how each of your team members has an effect on your stakeholders perceptions. Ask yourself whether your management systems, processes, and incentive schemes drive customer satisfaction or encourage behaviour that is at odds with this goal.
Make sure your sales people are rewarded for the retention and satisfaction of customers, not just for getting an account and throwing it over the wall to be someone else’s problem.
Look at your invoices, statements, and form letters. Do they look more like threats of impending legal action rather than statements of account? Are you missing an opportunity to continue to communicate value to your customers?
Your people can become excellent marketers, even if they don’t realise they have.

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Getting a job in SEO: A Candidate’s Perspective

I’ve now been with Builtvisible for a whopping 2 months. I arrived at a time of rather hefty transition, witnessing a complete rebranding of the company followed by a pleasantly emotional move into our swish new offices. Hello Silicon Roundabout!
Before being embraced by the BV family, I had no real exposure to SEO as a line of work and only limited experience of digital marketing in general. In all truthfulness, this time last year, I would not have been able to tell you what an SEO was from an SOE, let alone that an entire industry exists in its name.
On first exploring the concept, I was entertained by the array of posts pitching ‘white hats’ vs ‘black hats’ in a battle to defend (or salvage) the name and honourability of the industry.
 
I’m still rather amused by the amount of effort and creativity black hats allegedly put in to playing the system and spamming their way to the top of searches. Grow some integrity Pantless Weasels! I finally understand why the Internet is full of so much crap.
It dawned on me fairly quickly how little I knew about the way Google Search operates – a service nearly synonymous these days with ‘the Internet’. From link audits and crawl budget to canonicals, link baiting and why penguins and pandas no longer appear on my list of the cute and innocent – I’ve been introduced to a lot over these last couple of months and that iceberg has a hell of an arse to it.

So – especially as I’ve now outed myself as an SEO noob – rather than try to bluff my way through a blog post on why some amazing tool or data set will change your life, or how to make creative content that will blow the internet’s socks off, I thought I’d speak to those out there who are wondering whether or not SEO and digital marketing is something for them, how to get involved and what you might experience by bagging a job in the sector.

Landing the job
“Why, oh why”, sings a mildly bewildered chorus, “would a company hire someone who flat out admits a substantial lack of knowledge and experience in digital marketing?”
Good question! Thankfully, this is the UK, and over here it’s okay not to know precisely how to do a job before you’re employed to do it. Ludicrous, I know.

As with most typical entry-level job candidacies, you need to demonstrate a suitable level of intelligence and enthusiasm and have done your homework on the aims, purpose and requirements of the company (and your potential role in it). You should also be able to give evidence of possessing a transferable skills set. You can be taught everything you need to know once you’re in.
Never underestimate the simple strength of being able to learn in the deep end of the pool. Not only is there a lot to grasp at the outset when starting a role in SEO – this is an industry that, at the behest of Google, transforms more rapidly than HBO can whip out a new season of Game of Thrones. Just ask last year’s guest bloggers.
I would note that you may want to reconsider your interest in this particular career path if you’ve never touched the backend of a website. After all, who would think to work as a chef without first experimenting in their own private kitchen? Same principle… ish.

Other than the standard interview prep, my approach was to drench my mind in a myriad of blog posts from Builtvisible (then ‘SEOgadget’), Moz Blog and HubSpot, to name a few. If there’s one thing there isn’t a shortage of, it’s SEO and digital marketing blogs.
I also made time to play around with Google Analytics in my last role, at least as much as I could get away with, which was sadly not a whole lot, but it got me excited enough to suspect that digital marketing was the place for me to be.
If you’re after more detailed pointers on what you need to know to get a job in SEO, check out Richard’s extremely helpful post on the topic, written from the perspective of the employer – it sorted me right out. Every interviewer has a different style and prioritises different things when looking for new recruits. Many are just checking you have a brain and a personality – two things I’ve heard can get you quite far in the world.
Don’t forget that interviews are also your opportunity to assess the company – ask as many questions as you can about the working environment, the scope of the role and which direction the employer sees the company going in. Find out everything you can and measure how it fits against your responding levels of excitement and interest. If you love where you work it becomes a kind of second home, and if that happens, then you know you’re winning at life.

You’re in! Now what!?
Prepare yourself for a cascade of technical SEO terms likely to confound anyone with a background in, well… pretty much most other things, and look forward to a plethora of tools that will turn the web into your very own data playground. You’ll be dreaming about metrics before you know it.
My biggest adjustment has been changing the way I think about the Internet and its users.  When coming up with content ideas – particularly new interactives – I get swept away with inappropriate levels of excitement over how useful or entertaining a particular idea would be for people interested in x, y or z, before I get stopped in my naive little tracks by the comment: “Well, yes, but how would it generate links?”. Links from external domains to a piece of content on your site quantifies the content’s success and, if the links are good, boost your site’s rankings. Or so I’m told.
Here’s vaguely how I’m picturing all of this: Google’s endgame is to please users, our endgame, as SEOs, is to please Google, which we manage by feeding the elusive, fickle yet all-determining Google Bot (Sorry Bing), and that particular little ‘spider’ loves to chow down on a diet rich in high quality links. Yum.

One of the best things I was presented with when starting my new role was a mentor. If you haven’t got one, ask for one. It helped that mine happened to be a nice enough human being to refrain from any condescending laughter when I let Inner Blondie loose (cheers Darren!). Patience is another of his much-appreciated virtues – one that our entire team, if not the whole company, gracefully seems to share.
Feeling comfortable enough with someone to ask them stupid questions makes a world of difference when settling in. It also means a lot to have someone simply ask if everything’s going okay and whether you’re getting a chance to learn the things you want to. Thanks for that BV!
In my first few weeks Darren introduced me to a very useful tool I think all fellow younglings in the industry (or perhaps everyone generally) should be aware of – a platform called Feedly.

Feedly allows you to create different categories of feeds collating recent posts from selected blogs. The selections available include a good variety of marketing and SEO blogs led by some seasoned pros. The layout of the app makes it easy to scan through recent posts listed in customised categories, helping you to pick out relevant content at a glance. It can suck you in and spit you out hours later if you’re not careful, but a half-hour session a day is time well spent when you’re on a learning curve – which in digital marketing, I have a feeling you always, always are.
Finally, if you’re an all-rounder – the type of person who gets just as excited over discovering trends in data sets as you do polishing off copy then you probably should get involved. By exposing yourself to all the different skills and practices that make up SEO and digital marketing, you can steadily identify what you enjoy the most and carve out a perfect little niche for yourself. I have my ideas already as to what mine will (hopefully) turn out to be.
So, dear reader, before I go… Are you about ready to jump in yet?

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Breaking the Bad Habit of Robotic Emails

I come from a background that consists of customer service, sales, and social media marketing. Needless to say I naturally love talking to people. But when I joined the world of SEO a little over 2 years ago I found myself suddenly forgetting all that I knew about connecting with a human being. So for my first post on the Builtvisble blog I thought what better than to write about the first thing I had to conquer after joining the team.
This may sound like a simple fix but it was not an easy thing to do. I had no idea that my method just plain sucked until I was faced with the task of doing really targeted outreach. It was then that I realized my emails just weren’t going to cut it. So, after a few harsh words to myself, I just wanted to figure out how I got so robotic in the first place in order to fix it.
The Problems:
Templates

It all started at the very beginning of my outreach career. I had one goal and 1000+ contacts. I guess after hitting send over 1000 times and saying the same thing over and over again I started to become the template. Anything I did beyond that even if no template was involved, started to actually sound like it came from one.
I honestly thought it worked. But in reality it was the mirage of line dropping. If you drop a ton of lines, one is bound to bite. But I was sick of catching the yuppies!
Blowing Smoke
I learned early on in my sales role that someone can detect if you’re being insincere even over the phone. Yet one of the most common mistakes in outreach that I was guilty of, was insincerity. I was trying to flatter these people into thinking I was worthy of their time. It’s what people in our industry like to call “ego-bait” and it’s vastly overused.
If someone can tell through the words you use over the phone that you are faking it, then it must be even more obvious in plain text. Moral of the story: Don’t tell someone that they’ve influenced your whole piece when in reality you just discovered their writings 5 minutes before typing up that email.
I Barely Knew Them

I didn’t know the people on the receiving end of my emails at all and in return they had no idea who I was. Because I didn’t know them, it was really hard to try and write something out of the blue that I thought they might respond to. How is a complete stranger going to feel comfortable responding when I haven’t shown any type of genuine interest?
The Solutions:
I did my research
I started to simply do a little research on who I was contacting. But one thing lead to another and I discovered going beyond basic research really pays off.
So, I started “social stalking”!
You will probably see this term pop up in a lot of my posts. This is a step I used to skip but now it is no longer just a task to me but more of an at work hobby of mine.
My goal is to find out as much as possible about the person and social media allows me to do that. Not only do you learn the basics like their name and location, but you now have a window into their social lives. You can see who they are engaging with, when they are conversing the most, and what gets them to respond to others. Those things alone should give you enough insight into how to approach this person in a way that merits a response.
Tip: Most of your stalking is best done on Twitter. Facebook is more personal whereas Twitter gives even an average day person the chance to interact with some of the biggest names. Rather than wasting time scrolling through tweet after tweet, I use AllMyTweets.net. Just plug in their Twitter handle and it will generate all their tweets including retweets and replies. The goal here is to look at what they are sharing along with who they are talking to. So make sure you filter out the retweets and pay extra attention to the replies.

I would write to someone I know
I started to write up emails with the intentions of sending it to a friend or family member rather than an editor or writer. Why?
I was no longer using a template! Speaking to a friend comes natural, so naturally you are going to sound more casual and comfortable with the person on the other end.
There was no need to blow smoke and I started to trim the unwanted junk. I also noticed I was ditching the awkward self-introduction and didn’t have to explain my motives as much.
I know them! Everyone knows it is easier to talk to someone you know over a complete stranger. And if you have done enough social stalking then even someone you don’t know at all will feel a bit more familiar than before.
You may also find that they give some of the best feedback. Starting out I sent so many emails to family and friends with my request. They would then come back with feedback or questions so I knew what to change or better explain.
I celebrated my success
I’m big on this one and definitely see this as a solution!
A lot of the time, people get stuck in the depths of a bad habit because they aren’t celebrating even the smallest of successes. Whether the response is positive or negative the fact that someone thought you were important enough to respond to, means a foot in the door. For us ex robotic folk a response is a nice way to be recognized as a human again. No matter how big or small, success is success!
Now, do your research, write up that email, hit send, and fist pump!

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The Content Lifecycle

Recently outside of my daily digital marketing role I have been expanding my skills in nature photography and advancing my iPhoneography photography skills, as this is a passion of mine. What I’m learning during this process of advancement, is you can use certain methods of creativity in photography to implement in your daily working content life in digital marketing.
Take these two examples below, they are both flowers that show their lifecycle stages on how they grow and adapt within different timeframes – but how exactly does this relate to content development you might be asking? Here’s how…

A Lifecycle of Changes
A lifecycle is a series of changes and this is exactly what great content should go through. As you can see from the nature lifecycle above, each part of the flower can change through different times of the day – it’s the same content (flower) but adapting to change and circumstances.
For example, nature climates and environments affect the way these flowers change and grow, and in any business environment different types of climates can affect or change the way content exists and develops in its lifecycle process. The types of climates in content range from:

Building the strength of your content (flower) from the root up is the most important thing, and optimising (nurturing) it is critical to extending its presence in the right direction. You do not want to end up with messy content you want to find the gem of your content and make known its presence.
Take my flower examples below, the first image looks like messy flowers (messy content) but the second image zooms in to reveal a beautiful part of the flower (content). With a little effort you can reveal the true beauty of any content.
  
What you should always be aware of is the importance of the content lifecycle, the management and how every stage connects in the following way:

Creativity Is The Real King
Last year, I wrote on how Creativity Is The Real King and I still truly believe it is. When it comes to building your content lifecycle you should be thinking about the connections I just mentioned and the creativity on all these levels. Below are some examples of what you should be thinking about at each stage:
Planning Content Structure
1. What type of content will you be creating and who for?
Size does not matter – you can have a range of “Content Pillars” and the small pillars can often produce more value and outweigh the large pillars through going viral, but the large pillars could maintain search growth in the long term. It all comes down to the purpose of your content and the route you choose to market it that will decide the winner; large or small.
In order to answer who you are creating it for you need to conduct some audience profiling. Analyse your target audience and answer who you are trying to engage with? To conduct audience profiling you can create a campaign flowchart to show who your content may reach and which audience type you may lose along the way. You could even compile a list of who might influence your work and who their connections may be linked to. It is vital to plan in advance who you want to engage with so you know you have a market for your idea.
Check out the recent write-up by Adam of Builtvisible on “Identifying Your Audience: a Data Driven Approach to Content Planning” for further tips and tricks.
2. How will this content connect with its intended environment?
Resources and guides are long and detailed, and they solve problems. This type of content intends to live in its environment forever as it offers guidance and value to the reader in the short term and long term; something that they can refer back to.
For example, if you happen to be new to digital marketing or SEO you may not be familiar with the settings and filters in Google Analytics and it may be frightening to venture into at first. This unknown fear may put users off using this great tracking tool, however creating a user-friendly guide to understand it can help solve a major problem and that is exactly what Kaitlin of Builtvisible did. Kaitlin created a really useful piece of content to solve a problem – “Google Analytics Resource Guide”.
The structure of this content was not only well planned which is why it is epic but it addressed queries that many users are asking. The guide is not only a good learning lesson for those looking to create epic content but is an asset in itself, a pillar that will stand strong amongst other content types and deliver traffic naturally as it is linkable content that will blossom because of the detailed and useful step by step actionable tips it provides.
3. Have you thought about the aesthetics?
What makes a user want to favourite your work? Typical things like bad text, typography, paragraphing, design and poor imagery can all make a user bounce away quickly if your content is not readable, user-friendly or engaging so consider this a the planning stage to avoid this going horribly wrong later in the lifecycle.
4. Where will this content live, on your own site or external site?
When planning where your content will live think about if it will be internal (on your own site) or external (on another site). Think about where your content is best suited.
Developing Content
Before developing your content you need to take a step back and have a think about the following:
1 – Keyword Research: you planned your content type but have you researched the market and search volume for this type of content before developing it, if not then develop a keyword research project and evaluate if this is an idea that people will actually spend time searching for.
2 – Cost: you have planned a new content project but do you have the budget for the development of your content and have you enough aside for any edits or re-design it may require?
Now you have these answered you can begin developing and here are a few tips that will help along the way:
Tip 1: Socially assess what has already worked well for you, your client’s, or competitors work in the past. You can use the following tools:
– Chrome plugin extensions like the “Sharemetric Extension” that will count how many social shares you have on a page
– Topsy for searching and analysing the social web
– Buzzsumo for analysing what content performs best (any topic or competitor)
Tip 2: Develop a design strategy on how to market the content through positioning. For example, you may want to cut up your content into separate parts and use it as individual graphics or you may want to segment each part of an infographic and sell it as a separate story rather than a whole piece. I like to experiment my layout with some colourful post it notes to play around with the layout – this keeps it interesting and organised.

Managing Content
Before you can deploy your content you need to manage a number of things. Ask yourself, is this fresh content you are uploading on your site or is it duplicated elsewhere? If it is duplicated then stop immediately and begin creating and managing your unique content, to avoid updates such as Panda that can hit your rankings.
Now, how will you go about managing the outreach of your content? Think about:
– Influencers: Remember the audience profiling you started the lifecycle with and planned for, well now take that list of influencers and get ready to make them aware of your content, and manage the relationship. You could open the communication with a soft and friendly email about the purpose of your content. By doing this you are prompting them to either link to or network what you have built and if the content mentions the influencer themselves then that is some “ego bait”.
– Syndicate: Manage the different forms of content. For example, you can make a transcript of your video content or turn your data graphic into a PDF and upload onto slideshare, this can then be deployed to a wider audience.
– Press Release: If you have developed data graphics that are on issues being reported on in the news then start to offer parts of your content to upcoming press releases to use as visuals for reporter write-ups and source it back to you or your client.
– Webinars: If your content holds a discussion point create a webinar to follow up the content release to get people talking about your content.
Deploying Content
As you move through the lifecycle to deploying your content, look at your content with a strategic lens. Just like photography you can zoom into your content. I personally like to get up close and personal with content by zooming into every angle and analysing it inside and out.
Every angle/data point is potentially a story-seller to a journalist/publisher. Analyse your content from as many angles as possible to really unlock the opportunities to enhance your outreach, and don’t forget to experiment i.e. subject lines, email content like images/screenshots, quotes, key data points etc.
During this process you are deploying a new method of creativity by reorganising the content structure and are able to develop new ideas to sow and grow in the future.
Preserving Content
Preserving content after deployment is important because you want your work to still be seen. However, in the future a site migration may affect where your content moves to.
Think about where your content lived and how it will live in the future, are you preserving it in the right way? Will you nurture your content well by 301 redirecting it to other relevant content or will it end up a 404.
One of the professional tips I can offer you and is also great for link building for your content is this, look for competitor URLs that return a 404 response that have acquired links and then produce better content for this page. Inform the publications linking to the 404 URL of the dead page, and then point them in the direction of your new content. There you go you have a new link.
Evaluating Content
At the end of the lifecycle evaluate how your content has come across in the whole lifecycle process. Did each stage run smoothly or what errors occurred? Note these answers down in a spreadsheet for each creative project, and see where you can learn from for next time round.
Evaluate the strength of the content by analysing how well it performed, how much social love it gained and track if it was linked to.
Just remember that you can make your lifecycle grow into whatever you want. Once you have the seed (content idea) all you need to do is plan it, produce it, nurture it, grow it and reproduce it into a new one of a kind form of content.

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Basic Probability for Marketers: The Almighty P-Value

As someone who spends a lot of time dealing with maths (the joys of data vis development!), I spend a lot of time entrenched in statistics and probability. Whilst that’s great fun, or so I like to think, I’m always aware that there’s a lot of people out there who were never really taught the why behind a lot of maths, and so I’ve decided to write a short series of introductory posts on both and what part they have to play in the life of a modern marketer. However, first, a disclaimer
Disclaimer
Once you actually understand these, you’ll become deeply annoyed by the vast bulk of really bad statistical and probability-based reporting out there. I make no apologies for this.
The Outline
In this fourth post, we’re going to look at the p-value; the foundation of statistics. As always, don’t worry if you’ve not come across these terms before; we’ll break down each one to look at what they do, and why they matter.
p-value: The Root of Probability
In this, our first post on probability, we’re going to look at p-values, what they are, how they’re calculated, and what you can apply them to. So let’s start with a definition:
p-value
The probability of obtaining a real, observed value at least as extreme as one previously seen, assuming the null hypothesis is true
Null Hypothesis
The hypothesis that no relationship exists between the variables being measured
Alternate Hypothesis
The hypothesis that assumes a relationship does exist between the variables
So a p-value should tell us how likely it is that a value should turn up, if the things we’re looking at happen to be unconnected. The beauty of this form of reasoning is that it’s what’s properly known as an argumentum ad absurdum, or argument to absurdity. This form of argument shows something as true, by showing that if it was not the case, something truly bizarre or impossible would happen.
With our hypothesis, all we therefore have to do is show that our null hypothesis is probably false, which we can do by providing data that would seem to be beyond the bounds of acceptability if it were true.
Time for Examples
For our first example, let’s say that we’re rolling a dice. The dice in question has six sides, and our null hypothesis is that it’s not biased. We then roll the dice three times, and observe that we rolled a six every time. The odds of this happening are 1 in 216, or 0.0046. In testing we traditionally look for 95% or 99% confidence, or to put it another way, a score under 0.05 or 0.01. Our value of 0.0046 is below both of these, therefore we declare the dice biased. And here’s the first way we can mess up…
Sample Size
The problem with our first example lies in the design of our experiment. We only rolled the dice three times, and whilst it’s unlikely that we’d see three sixes, I’d be willing to say it’s not so rare an occurrence that we could reject our null hypothesis from just three rolls. If we were to roll the dice say, 15 times, and see a vastly inflated number of sixes, we’d be far more capable of saying that the dice was biased. Let’s say we do roll the dice 15 times. There’s 470,184,984,576 possible combinations we could see of those rolls. We also know that with 15 rolls, we should expect to see the number 6 occur between 2 and 3 times, if it’s a fair dice. In an absurdly perfect world, half the numbers would come up twice, with the other half occurring three times.
So what’s the odds of us seeing, for example, 10 sixes? Well, if you work it out, it’s 0.00001996, or 1 in 50,103. In other words, if you were to roll that dice a total of 15 times, and then do it again and again and again, you’d expect to see your result once for every 50,103 times you repeated it. Needless to say, 0.00001996 is far less than either 0.05 or 0.01, so we can be pretty darn sure that our dice is biased. Again though, we can’t be certain. It could just be a complete fluke.
There are of course other ways we can mess things up with testing, but we’ll be looking at those over the course of this short series. However, here’s a couple of quick warnings, to make sure you’re not likely to mess up so badly straight away (for certain values of likely, of course!)…
Some Words of Warning
Always remember that a p-value tells you nothing about how likely the alternate hypothesis is, only how unlikely the null hypothesis is; that is how likely it is that a relationship exists in your data.
Also, be very careful when looking at multiple factors in your data. The problem that gets observed here is that, by simply increasing the number of factors you look for, it becomes ever more likely that you’ll find one that does appear to be having an effect, not because it actually is, but just becomes of random chance. Relevant XKCD:
More comparisons can lead you to see things that aren’t thereCome back next time, when we’ll look at the basics of Bayes, and start tying probability and statistics together!

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A Finishing Touch to Effective Outreach

So you’ve spent a significant amount of time and/or money creating something that both you and your company are proud of. You have ready the name and email of the person you want to reach out to. One carefully crafted email later, you now with a hint of anticipation and excitement hit send…and then.
Nothing.
No reply.
You leave it for a few days, a week even, but it’s little is going to come from email you sent. So what are you going to do? Send another email? Move on?
That creative idea/piece of content/sales proposal, etc. that you painstakingly put together has now amounted to nothing more than you checking your inbox every 5 minutes.
I am sure you go through this painful cycle of events if not on a daily, then likely a weekly basis. But it does not have to be this way. Yes another email to follow up may nudge the person you are contacting into replying, but it if it doesn’t? Well there are things we can do to dramatically increase the chances of getting into a conversation with our contact.
Your Emails Are Being Ignored
There is one thing I want to mention before I press on. Track your emails. When I first started doing outreach I became increasingly frustrated with a lack of response from people I was contacting. How do I even know they are receiving my email? Did they even click through to the resources I included? Email tracking will answer both of these questions for you and more.
I personally use bananatag, it is not 100% accurate but it does give me a good indication on how things are going with the emails I send. Please do not feel you must also use this, there are many similar services out there and this is simply one I chose and have stuck with it out of convenience.

The results from tracking my emails shocked me. Looking at 8 weeks results I found that at times nearly half of my emails were not even opened! With this discovery I decided to change the way I did things.
Getting In Touch
The goal is always to get an initial conversation going, in sales every time you contact a prospect this can be regarded as a ping or a ‘touch’. With this in mind there are three things that can significantly increase your likelihood of getting the conversation started, and if all three are followed then you will have a powerful system for completing this goal.
Make at least 6 touches
Use a variety of methods
Apply within a 14 day timeframe
Although this setup is for sales this can and does marry well with any outreach you do as well.
The challenge we face is that we are all being bombarded daily by emails, phone calls, advertising, etc. and when contacting a journalist, editor or prospect it is the same for them (perhaps even more so). Therefore our job is to shout above the noise around them and be noticed.
A problem that arises is the more important the person you are trying to contact, the less they are available. These decision makers and influencers have learnt to set up their own systems that deflect unwanted approaches to protect their limited time, persistence with a variety of methods will bring success.
The idea of contacting and following up with someone at least 6 times may make you feel slightly uncomfortable. Initially you may feel that this will annoy them but I can assure most of your messages are quickly forgotten with these busy individuals so persist.
Different Methods of Contact
In an analysis of over 15 million sales leads, Leads360 now Velocify found that you have a 39% chance of contacting a lead on the first call attempt which rises to 72% on the second attempt. Simply by making two calls instead of one increased the chances of contacting a lead by 87%. By the 6th attempt you will now have a 93% chance of contacting your lead.
Pick Up the Phone
For many, receiving an email is a brief unwanted distraction. It is easy to receive an email, read it and not take any action on it as your already too busy doing something else. It’s even easier to just ignore it. By the end of the day that one email is now one of many, and no doubt lost in your inbox.
In contrast, when the phone rings in an office it is for the most part very difficult to ignore, and even more difficult to leave ringing. There is an urgency to answer a phone call that is missed when receiving an email. For this reason I have found that calling people gets great “open rates”. If you have the direct number for the person you wish to call then you will have, assuming they answer, instant contact and feedback from that person. Better yet, if you call and there is no answer, you can decide not to leave a message theoretically giving you a fresh first chance when you do decide to call again.
I personally have had great success in picking up the phone and calling people whether it is gaining research, content placements or simply to follow up with things. In my opinion a phone call can help you get what you want both quicker and easier than an email and works incredibly well when combined. I like using one of the two approaches below when initiating contact with someone new.

Two approaches for initiating contact
Note that if you initiate contact with an email, I am not suggesting you have to follow up with a phone call. This is just a great way to build the relationship.
You will notice there is no mention of cold calling only a warm call. Cold calling has a very negative connotation that suggests you’ll receive a cold response to everyone you call. I have never what I would call a bad response. Many positive and many neutral but the truth is we are not selling double-glazing but producing great work that we are proud of, and we know is of high value to those we are calling. We would not be calling unless we were sure this would be a great fit for them and this is why I do not believe in cold calling with the work I do – they should want what I have to offer.
When you visit our work on the Builtvisible site you will see the Classic Car Faults interactive which was an exercise in “really targeted outreach” to authoritative contributors. I carried out the majority of the really targeted outreach for this project and all of my outreach was initiated by phone and followed up by email.
Another example of using multiple ‘touches’ can be found in the telegraph course finder (also found in our work) which was featured in Cosmopolitan. Email was the only form of contact until things went somewhat quiet and then we had to carefully pick our next step. Email seemed to of lost its effectiveness so I called our contact. This got the momentum back with things progressing well, that is until things went quiet again.
I then adopted a third ‘touch’.

A creative way of sending chocolates
This was in the form of a box of chocolates delivered to our contact in their office. What made this particularly creative and fun is I took a screenshot on the telegraph course finder online, sent this to a local printing shop, and then used the now blown up sheet to wrap the box of chocolates. Lastly a compliment card was printed with the same screenshot of the telegraph course finder which was placed inside the box.
The interactive went live later that week.
Choose Your Environment
If you work in a busy office you may not like the distractions of other people on the phone around you or if you work in a quiet environment with others around you then you may feel a little conscious that others can hear you.

My ideal place for making phone calls
Find somewhere that you feel comfortable with. I personally like my own quiet space where I can have my notepad and pen at hand and focus on the call. In the old builtvisible office I would sit inside a window for all my calls.
If the person you are contacting is worth your time, keep following up using a variety of methods. If you are wondering when to stop, below is an actual email I received recently.

This is when you stop following up.
I like this reply for two reasons. First, they took the time to reply which means I achieved my goal of initiating a conversation, and second, they made it clear where I stand. One last email back to thank them for taking the time to reply and I can now focus my time and energy elsewhere.
Knowing What to Say
You might agree with the theory and see its effectiveness but now your thinking that’s all very good but what should I say?
I recommend writing everything down word for word for the first few calls. I know this may not sound natural and somewhat robotic but it builds confidence and will prevent you mumbling away. Also by writing things down you can check your message is coming across the right away. You will then be able to sit back and relax knowing what you want to say is covered. I have shared below a few key rules for using the phone for outreach or sales that I always follow.
Know what you want to achieve from the call.
Speak slowly. This may sound obvious but you will be surprised how fast you will start talking.
Use the pause. Allow yourself to stop talking after every few points, this will give your voice a break and buy you some thinking time. More importantly, it will also help the person on the other end of the call to digest what you are saying.
Make notes. As the conversation develops make sure you are making notes of details you feel are important. Maybe it’s just me, but I am sure there is a link between me ending a call which then ends my memory of the call!
Conversation Blueprint
Rather than give you an exact script I have below a blueprint which allows you to see the structure of the conversation. This structure is also similar to that used by copywriters when writing sales pages. It works!
Who are you?
What have you got?
Why do they need it?
How can they get it?
I recommend getting a pen and paper and writing out each of the questions in the blueprint and then fill out suitable answers for each. After a few revisions you will have something you will feel confident discussing over the phone. By using this blueprint you can adapt it to any project you are working on.
Have you had much success using more than just email? Leave a comment below and share your experience and any advice you may have, your welcome to tweet me @2point0danny.

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Google Analytics Resource Guide of Epic Proportions

This is meant to educate and be a resource for people on a range of GA topics from types of tracking to what exactly is being calculated to even cover some common issues seen recently. So either start at the top and read the whole post or click on a specific topic and just read that section if you prefer. Enjoy! Google Analytics is a digital analytics solution that collects data about your digital presence. How does it do this? Well at a high level you need to add the small snippet of code that contains your Unique ID pertaining to your specific GA property (UA-XXXXXX-X) on all your pages. This code collects information and sends it to the Analytics servers by attaching parameters to a single-pixel GIF image request.Mobile apps are not built with the same technology as websites. For this reason mobile app tracking collects data differently than website tracking. Website tracking uses JavaScript to collect data and sends it to Google’s servers as a hit. Mobile apps do not use JavaScript, instead they use an SDK (Software Development Kit) dependant on the specific operating system (different SDKs for Android vs iOS).Mobile app data is also sent in a different manner to Google’s servers than website tracking. The process in which mobile app data is sent is called Dispatching. This means that the hits are stored locally on the device using the mobile app and then sent to the servers later. Why you ask? Because, mobile devices are prone to losing their network connections and if it was sent in real time Google mentions it can reduce a device’s battery life. So when does dispatching occur? For Android devices it is every 30 minutes and for iOS devices it is every 2 minutes.I rarely see Traditional Analytics on the web any more, BUT it still exists on some sites. This tracking code would collect data after the content for a page had finished loading, not good for when a user comes to your site and leaves before the page loads.After Traditional came Asynchronous Analytics. This allowed for the code snippet to load the tracking code in parallel with other scripts on the page. This update made for faster tracking code load times, enhanced data collection and eliminated the amount of tracking errors when JavaScript hadn’t fully loaded.This is the most recent tracking code and Google’s new standard. All users will eventually be migrated to Universal Analytics whether they want to or not.Universal Analytics is different from Asynchronous in that it is moving from being visit-centric to being user-centric analytics. Universal Analytics has also simplified changing server configurations (Organic Search Sources, Session and Campaign Timeout Handling, Referral Exclusions and Search Term Exclusions) by providing easy controls in the account Admin panel which doesn’t require you to edit any of the existing tracking code on every page of your website. In addition, Custom Variables are now Custom Dimensions within Universal and the cookie tracking has been updated.Google Analytics uses first-party cookies.Asynchronous Analytics used up to 4 cookies to collect visitors usage data.Remember cookie Expiration Times are updated every time a hit is sent to GA.Universal Analytics only uses ONE cookie and the expiration is refreshed every time a hit is sent.Account
How you log into GA or if you are an agency and have multiple Accounts it is the topmost level.

Property
The site, mobile application, etc

View (Previously called Profiles)
View of data and access point for reports
TIP: Have a Raw /Master View that contains no filters, otherwise you will only have Views that exclude or alter your data in some way.

Users
Who can login to view/edit either at the Account, Property and/or View levels. You can grant 4 types of User permission: Manage Users, Edit, Collaborate and Read & Analyze. User permission can be adjusted by going to Admin>>User Management.

Standard Reports

Google Analytics is all about speed and they want to make sure you get your data as fast as possible. GA collects data, calculates it and stores this data in aggregated tables. These tables are what make up your Standard Reports and retrieve your data request without sampling. The Standard Reports in GA are:
Dashboards – Customized overviews. You can create up to 20 dashboards each with up to 12 widgets. Each Dashboard is only available in the View it was created in unless shared.
Shortcuts – Remembers your settings and configurations for a report. These are visible only to the User that creates it unless shared.
Intelligence Events – Automatic & Custom Alerts
Real-Time – Monitor activity in real-time or last 30 minutes. TIP: Real-Time reports don’t display widened dimensions
Audience – What visitors came to your site
Acquisition – How visitors came to your site
Behavior – What visitors viewed & did on your site
Conversions – Goal and eCommerce information
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What Are We Tracking?
Dimensions vs Metrics
Dimensions: Describe Data
Thinking the “what” (what keyword did they use, what city is the visitor from)
Ex: Source/Medium, Browser, Exit Page, Session Duration
Metrics: Measure Data
Think of it as answering “how many” or “how long” (how many sessions)
Ex: Sessions, Screenviews, Bounce Rate, New Users
Google’s Dimensions & Metrics Reference Page

Sessions
Group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame.
What ends a session?
30 minutes of inactivity
At midnight
Campaign change: a user arrives via 1 campaign, leaves and then comes back via a different campaign.
Average Sessions Duration
Total duration of all sessions (in seconds) / # of sessions
*Does not include time on last page of visit unless there is an additional engagement hit
Here is an example from Google on what this looks like:

Events vs Pages
Pageviews
Triggered by URL (or Virtual Pageview)
Events
Triggered by interaction
Difference between events and conversion goals is that events are typically tied to website elements and not reaching certain pages (or URL destinations). Events can be used to track things like buttons, PDF downloads, clicking the play button in a video, etc.

Exit Rate vs Bounce Rate
Bounce Rate
% of sessions in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page.
Exit Rate (%Exit)
# of Exits / # of Pageviews
For all pageviews to the page, the exit rate is the percentage that were the last in the session.
For all sessions that start with the page, bounce rate is the percentage that were the only one of the session.
The bounce rate calculation for a page is based only on sessions that start with that page.
Google provides a great example of this:

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Improving GA
Event Tracking Structure
Do you have a process set in place for your Event Tracking? A lot of sites don’t and also don’t realize how this can be hurting their analysis. If you go to Behavior>>Events>>Top Events you will be able to see a list of Event Categories(if you have implemented Event Tracking). Event Tracking with Asynchronous Analytics (ga.js or dc.js) has 5 fields:
Category (required)
Action (required)
Label (optional)
Value (optional)
Non-interaction (optional)
Event tracking with Universal Analytics (analytics.js) has 4 fields:
Category (required)
Action (required)
Label (optional)
Value (optional)
Issues occur when no structure is in place for your Event Tracking. Common issues I see are non-descriptive fields, duplication errors, Category and Label named the same. Here is an example of what Event Tracking can look like if you have no structure:

Notice how capitalization is a huge issue above? There is a category for “download, Download and Downloads”. This means that we are not getting a holistic view of how all Downloads are actually performing. My recommendation is to create some type of structure for your Event Tracking. Create an excel document like the one below:

Also keep in mind that when you use an underscore to combine words GA sees that as 1 word vs using a – which GA sees as individual words. For example, lets say you define a Category as ‘Download_link_here’ and another Category as ‘Download-link-here’. If you use the search feature in the GA interface and search for ‘here’ only ‘Download-link-here’ would show up as GA sees ‘Download_link_here’ as 1 word.

Goals & Goal Values
If you can identify an expected path to your Destination goal, you should create a funnel for that goal.
Benefits of Funnels: it demonstrates drop-off in the Funnel Goals and Funnels Visualization report, and it allows Google Analytics to calculate an Abandonment Rate (and a specific Funnel Conversion Rate).
Even for non-monetized goals, specifying an arbitrary goal value such as $1 allows Google Analytics to calculate the Page Value metric (goal value + Ecommerce revenue generated after the page was viewed unique pageviews).
TIP: Goals are not retroactive.

Goal Abandonment Rate
Abandonment Rate strictly refers to the percentage of visits during which the visitor entered your funnel (at the first step, if you specified this as required, or otherwise at any step) but did not reach the goal destination.
*You cannot apply advanced segments to the Funnel Visualization report. To generate a funnel for different audience segments, you can create separate views with filters that match to your advanced segment definitions.

Custom Campaign Tagging
As we have mentioned throughout this post Google does not know everything and needs a little bit of help from us, this is especially true when it comes to campaign tagging. Google Analytics can’t always determine which medium drove traffic or what you want it to be.
What does tagging look like?

What it can look like when you don’t utilize custom tagging properly:

Google provides a URL builder to help customize your campaign URLs. There is also the URL builder extension I mention in the Tools section. TIP: (none) is different than (not set). (none) indicates the url was not tagged at all. (not set) indicates an issue with the tagging or loading the parameters.

Default Channel Groupings
Under Acquisition>>Channels you will notice the primary dimension is set to Default Channel Grouping. This is Google defining your channels by default with their own set of rules. Here is the list of how Google defines each channel.
Default Channel Groupings may not accurately define your data and you may need to Define a new channel like ‘Affiliate’ or you may need to add to some of the Default channel settings. If you go to Admin>>Channel Grouping you will see a list of the Channel Definitions for your site. You are able to add to the System defined definitions to ensure this data is accurately attributing your channels appropriately.TIP: The order of your rules matters.

Content Groupings
Content Groupings allow you to group and categorize content together based on rules you define. There are 3 methods for how you can assign content:
Group by Tracking Code (modify the tracking code on each web page:

Add a single line of code that identifies the content index number and the Content Group to which that content belongs.Group Using Extraction (extract content based on URL or page title)

Use a regular expression to identify a full or partial URL, page title, or screen name.Group Using Rule Definitions:

Use the rules editor to create simple rules to identify content.
Justin Cutroni has a nice post that goes in to these methods in even greater detail.
TIP: Content Groupings are not retroactive and can be created at the View level in Admin>>>>Content Grouping. You can create up to 5 Content Groupings.
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Frequent Issues with Google Analytics
Missing Tracking Code
Check for is if the tracking code is on the actual page. You would be surprised how many times websites are only partially coded. You can easily check your website for specific pieces of the GA or GTM tracking code by running a custom filter configuration with Screaming Frog.

Duplicate Reporting
These do not FIX duplication related to SEO, these are simply ways to consolidate these issues from a reporting standpoint only.
Use Exclude URL Query Parameters to further consolidate URLs
Ex: you have the userid parameter in URLs that doesn’t determine significantly different page content then you should probably include userid in Exclude URL Query Parameters. This way Google Analytics won’t record a separate URL for each user who accesses the account page. This consolidates the URL variations rather than excluding them. Enter as a comma-separated list for multiple parameters.
/ & /index.html
Define the Default page in Admin >> View Settings. For example, if www.example.com loads your index.html web page, enter index.html in this field.
Uppercase and Lowercase
Create a Filter to Lowercase the Request URI. Otherwise you may have traffic come in as separate URLs when casing is not specified (ie: /home.html and /HOME.html will render as 2 different pages).

Mixing dc.js & ga.js
Installing multiple instances of the Asynchronous Google Analytics Tracking code on a single web page, especially different versions of the code, is not a supported implementation. You should not have part of your site tagged with dc.js and the rest with ga.js.

Incorrect Search & Replace Filters
I have many clients come to me asking me why GA is bringing in traffic for pages that do not exist nor did they ever exist on their site. If this is happening to you the first place I would check is Admin>>Filters and look for something that looks like this:
The Search and Replace filter finds whatever Search String you define (regular expressions are a good way to do this) and replaces that string with the Replace String you define. I have seen this trip up many people, especially when a sub-domain has Search and Replace applied and that sub-domain now shows up as a different hostname. (ie: you have zzz.site.com and create a Search and Replace filter with Filter Field: Request URL, Search String: /http://zzz.site.com and Replace String: /zzz-site-com/. This means that traffic from zzz.site.com will come in to GA as www.site.com/zzz-site-com/.)

Understanding the Direct Attribution
Reason “last interaction” reports may be reporting less revenue than what is attributed under “All Traffic”:
MCF reports show assisted conversions and last click or direct conversions (which is where the Social>>Conversions>>Assisted vs. Last Interaction Analysis comes from).
MCF Report: Direct Traffic that converts is attributed to the “direct” channel.
Other GA Reports: The Direct Traffic conversion is attributed to the previous non-direct campaign or source.
For example, in the other Google Analytics reports, if a user enters your site via a referral, then returns ‘direct’ to convert, the ‘direct’ source is ignored. Instead, the referral gets credit for the conversion. In MCFs, the ‘direct’ source is not ignored. ‘Direct’ gets credit as the last interaction before the conversion, and the referral is counted as an assist interaction.
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Help Yourself
Annotations
Want to make your life easier? Use annotations! I annotate like crazy, there is no way I am going to remember the exact day a robots.txt file was updated for every client, or possibly when a new interactive launched (my memory is not THAT good). This is such an easy way to look at your data and attribute what may have been the cause of a spike or decline.
TIP: If you create an annotation in one view it will not show up in another so be consistent and know which view you are placing your annotations in.

Custom Alerts
To get custom alerts about your account simply go to Admin>>Personal Tools & Assets>>Custom Alerts and click “+NEW ALERT”. You can have these custom alerts sent to you via email or you can receive a text message notification.
Sample Custom Alerts:
Bounce Rate – is greater than x%
Sessions – is less than 1
Goal Conversions – Increase or Decrease [x% or x] from previous day/week
Sessions from [Medium, Source,etc] – Increase or Decrease [x% or x] from previous day/week
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Resources

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Tools
Analytics Helper – This extension detects if Google Analytics script is installed on whatever page you are on, the type of tracking used and if the code is before the closing head tag.
TIP: This will not detect the code if you are using Google Tag Manager(GTM) use Tag Assistant I mention below for that.

Google Tag Assistant – This extension troubleshoots the various tags implemented on a page. This extends outside of just GA and includes GTM, Adwords Conversion Tracking and more. It also provides you with a multitude of information about Google Analytics Errors that might be present on your page, a list of some of these errors is provided by Google.

GA Debugger – This extension inspects the information in the GIF request that gets sent to GA and displays it in your JavaScript console in a readable and easy to digest manner vs looking at the entire _utm.gif request. I use this ALL the time, whether it is to see how my cookies are being transferred and sessions reset or not or to see how specific event tracking is firing. Once installed on a PC hit CTRL+SHIFT+J to bring up the console (on a MAC hit COMMAND+OPTION+J).

EditThisCookie – This extension is a simple cookie manager. I use it when I want to easily analyze how cookies are rendering across a site, it is also a much easier way to delete your cookies quickly.
TIP: Edit This Cookie is beta testing their DevTools panel only accessible in Chrome.

Some additional tools for y’all:
I would love to hear what everyone else is using, let me know what you use in the comments! Also feel free to let me know on twitter @ziesslerk.
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