Monday, March 15, 2010

It's the end of the road for me and Web metrics

Well folks, this will be my final post for our search engine and Web optimization class at West Virginia University. It certainly has been the long and winding road that I thought it would be.

From Google Analytics and variables to variate testing and key words, the world of search engine optimization and Web metrics certainly is challenging. But, using both within your organization is critical. In the day and age of digital technology, consumers are in the driver's seat and it's up to us, as marketers, to listen to what they want and need. Web metrics allows us to do that. We can establish and create metrics that allow us to evaluate consumer behaviors, see what they are doing while they are on our site and how they are interacting with our site. Through the data we collect, we can make our sites more consumer-friendly, leading to overall success for our organizations.

But, as with any product or service, testing and re-testing is key to developing a Web presence that will give the customers what they want. The use of A/B testing and multivariate testing enables us to "try out" new ideas and designs to see what leads to greatest conversion rate -- the overall goal when bringing people to our site. As noted by many of the authors and presenters in the Google Analytics videos, it's sometimes easy to be so engaged in what you're doing that you assume you have the answer. In reality, what we think is great or what will work well isn't always viewed the same way by our customers.

The most important lesson learned for me is to get the right people in the right place on your team. Analytics and search engine optimization is not an easy subject to comprehend and implement. Bringing together a team of people who can help us "think" about what it is we want to collect, how we can implement it and then evaluate what we learn is absolutely vital to our team's success. While I understand the overall concepts and why we need to have this information, I continue to be fairly clueless about how to set up tests, establish parameters, etc. I need the right people to make that happen. And, we then have to take what we have learned and incorporate those ideas/changes into a platform that leads to our success.

So, this is the end of the SEO/web metrics highway. I appreciate all of the feedback, lessons learned and maps provided to me by the professor and my classmates, but I am certainly ready for another route. Next stop on the digital highway: Viral, Buzz and WOM. I wonder what that's all about?

You Need to Know Your Shoes and Who is Buying Them

As many of my friends and classmates know, I love shoes. Tennis shoes, dress shoes, fun shoes…I love them all. Thanks to the World Wide Web, my obsession with shoes is now bordering the ridiculous stage. I am  now connected to what would seem to be a zillion different sites that offer shoes, including “,” “” and “” So, as I prepare to discuss the last blog topic for my class – analytics a retailer is using, how it’s being used, etc. – it is only appropriate for me to choose a shoe company for this discussion, so I am going to try to talk about Designer Shoe Warehouse (DSW).

In looking at the “Page Source” tab on, it appears that the retailer is using Google Analytics to evaluate the behaviors of shoppers. Now, what they are using it for exactly is where my dilemma once again begins. When I click on the “Page Source” and search for Google, I find the following: var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." : "http://www."); document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost + "' type='text/javascript'%3E%3C/script%3E")); /*Check to be sure Google Analytics Tracker object is loaded and ready.*/ var checkGatLoad;function loadGAT() {if (typeof(_gat) == "object"){window.clearTimeout(checkGatLoad); var pageTracker = gat._getTracker("UA-5520298-1"); pageTracker._trackPageview().

Of course, I have no idea what that means – I’m a public relations person, not a Web developer/researcher and this appears to be written in a language that only a tech person will understand. But, what it does tell me is that the company is tracking what its customers are doing (“Google Analytics Tracker object is loaded and ready” gave me the hint). Where they are going, how they interact with the site, etc., would be my guess on how they are using it. I’m not sure how you are supposed to figure out what’s being tracked. I thought you had to actually log in to an analytical tool to figure that out. Once again, search engine optimization and Web analytics tools are complicated and very challenging for me. This is why I rely on others who know and understand how to use these tools to provide me with the information I want to know.

So, I called my professor, and he was able to explain that one can determine if a company is using a tracking tool by simply looking at the URL. If the URL contains information after the question mark (a special character in the code), then the company is tracking data (the code after the question mark tells us this. He also noted that in addition to Google Analytics, DSW is also using CoreMetrics to collect data (he knew this from the code, although your every day average Joe may not know this). Additionally, the use of keywords and code (utm) alert you to metrics tools. A classmate also alerted me to a Mozilla add-on feature called "Ghostley" that will tell you what metric tool is being used on a particular site. I downloaded it, and as I was maneuvering through the pages, a purple box magically appeared in the upper right-hand corner that said "Google Analytics, CoreMetrics." This is much easier of the average Joe!

I would assume the company has also implemented the use of funnels to evaluate how customers are using the site, particularly when it comes to ordering goods, maneuvering through the check out process. If I were DSW, I would also want to collect information about those who actually make purchases (determine return visitors/shoppers, rewards members, etc.), and it appears they may be tracking that sort of information from this page (the “?” and subsequent code tells me so). This data could help us market special products/offers to those who are returning customers.

During the past year, I have actually “tuned in” to more on-line shopping, news sites, etc., via my BlackBerry. It only took me until the year 2009 to join the mobile world, but I can tell you that I use my phone more than my computer to research information, particularly when I am traveling. And, I have often felt frustration with sites that have not developed mobile versions, making it very difficult for users to get information, order items or maneuver through the on-line site.

And, I am not the only one relying on my BlackBerry to get information and interact with sites. Mobile users are growing at an unbelievable rate. According to a blog from Web Developers Notes, more than 65 percent of mobile users are opting for the iPhone (2010, Web Developers) and others choosing the Android, Blackberry, etc. A 2008 a Nielsen report noted that more than 46 million mobile users searched for data in the third quarter of 2007 (that is the third quarter alone).

As more and more consumers go to their iPhones and other mobile devices to make purchases, I think DSW will also want to gather statistics that will enable them to re-invent its mobile site (and continue to make enhancements) for this ever-growing population. Using Google Analytics, DSW can monitor the number of mobile users and evaluate the conversion rates. DSW may want to consider developing a more user-friendly mobile site that will enhance options for shoppers. Currently, the mobile version is lackluster. You can barely read the DSW header on the site. I would be interested to gain more data from mobile users to determine what steps could be taken to improve the site and to see what parts of the site users are interacting with when visiting the mobile site. The company can also use tools such as Motally ( to collect mobile data for its site. Motally not only tracks mobile data, but can also be used to evaluate mobile applications.

Using one of the analytical tools discussed above, DSW may also want to consider the possibility of developing mobile applications to market its products. The company could implement test pages/test applications and use the data collected to implement such a tool for its site. The iPhone has a good hold on the mobile market, and the availability of an application may enhance the overall experience for consumers.

I like the idea of analytics; I just don’t like trying to decipher all that you need to know to set it up, keep it going, and evaluate the information. Retailers like DSW certainly need to have metrics in place to allow them to better serve their customers and to make themselves more profitable. Happy customers buy more products. Analytical tools provide valuable information that can help companies enhance their site, add applications/tools that will improve the customer experience and convert those behaviors into a sale. Using data collected through its Web metrics tools, DSW can continue to build on its current site, add applications that will improve its mobile presence and continually test/re-test the site to ensure that the needs of the customers are being met.

Chappell, B. (2008, Feb. 6). 23 Top online retailers analytic packages revealed. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from

Nielsen (2008, January). Retrieved March 15, 2010, from

Smith, R. (2010, March 6). Handy tools and tips for e-Commerce Web sites. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from

Web Developers Notes (2010, Feb.) Mobile web browser usage statistics - search engines, devices. Retrieved March 15, 2010, from

Monday, March 8, 2010

Measuring up social media

Blogs can be a powerful tool when selling your brand or simply engaging consumers and making them part of that brand. The invention and constant reinvention of social media has enabled us to reach a much broader (and diverse audience) through outlets such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace. This week (week 7 of our course at WVU), we learned the importance of taking a few (or more, if you can) steps to evaluate how your site is being marketed via social media vehicles.

Chris Lake of Econsultancy provided some basic tips for measuring the success of your marketing campaign on social media sites.

Incorporating e-mail tags is an easy-to-use tool that will help you gauge feedback and response to your blog. By establishing campaign tags in your Google Analytics (URL tracker) feature, you will be able to track who is opening links from your e-mail or blog. Lake further notes that it is important to set up multiple URL trackers is you are trying to garner more information. For example, you may ask for specific feedback via your e-mail/blog, so you will want to track the number of clicks you get from that specific link. In that e-mail/blog, you may also want to track how many people click on another link about another topic. So, you will want to incorporate a metric for that link as well. In addition to Google, there are a number of programs, including Campaign Monitor and MailChimp, that can help you with e-mail tagging, including

Certainly one of the easiest metrics to establish is via an e-mail subscription. If you are using an e-newsletter that is distributed via a subscription, you can easily measure/evaluate how far your reach has been extended. Lake also talks about followers as a form of metrics for social media. This type of evaluation can be used for blogs, Twitter and Facebook (fans).

All of the tips provided are interesting and certainly worth evaluating for your particular social media uses. But, as with most of the metrics and search engine topics we have discussed during the past three months, setting up some of the tools can be challenging, particularly if you are not familiar with the programs or metrics in general. Certainly identifying your blog followers or Facebook fans is easy to determine. When setting up e-mail campaigns, things get trickier, and you may have to enlist the help of someone who understands the ins and outs of Google Analytics.

Social Media Metrics is an “add on” program recommended by Lake which essentially connects to your Google Analytics to help you measure certain social media vehicles. When trying to add this feature to my Analytics page, I was greeted by a warning (publisher could not be verified), and therefore, I was unable to add this feature to my analytical page.

Our lesson also discussed reorganizing your dashboard and requesting information from sites such as Facebook and Digg, but again, I was left a little dazed and confused on just how to do this. I turned to Ben Parr of Mashable to help shed some light onto the subject. In his article, “How to track social media,” Parr provides various options/information that you can incorporate on your site that will help measure the success (or failure) of your campaign (2009, Parr). In addition to requesting tracking information from sites such as Facebook, he suggests using (a program that helps you shorten your URL and then tracks the information based on that particular link). I found this to be very easy to implement, so is now part of my blog on Blogspot. will track traffic, clicks, traffic sources and the time in which the clicks/visits were made.

Social media continues to be an important component of an overall marketing strategy for any organization. In addition to reaching a bigger audience, social media vehicles are cost-effective in helping to build your brand while engaging customers. As Parr notes, right now there is no place that has all of the information/data you need to measure your social media reach. But, by using the tools available and incorporating some of these steps into your strategy will provide you with an easy (and cheap), way to help reach your audience.

Lake, C. (2009). Econsultancy. Retrieved March 6, 2010, from the DMC, SEO, Lesson 7,

Parr, B. (2009, April 19). How to track social media. Retrieved March 7, 2010, from

Testing, testing...Web testing is critical to success

Scott Brinker who writes a blog for Search Engine Land declared in January that optimizing customer conversions is the new SEO. In his blog, he stresses the importance of post-click marketing in reaching a broader audience and enhancing customer relationships. Further reinforcing Brinker’s statement, Chris Golec notes that 98 percent of Web traffice goes unrealized, with the majority of visitors moving from search engine to search engine or site to site, without actually taking any action (Golec, 2010). So the importance of web optimization, site testing and design are more important than ever.

I am a self-proclaimed news junkie, and so you will find me checking CNN two to three times a day (sometimes more, depending on the day). The site receives more than 1.7 billion views per month and 100 million video views (Lardinois, 2009). It is a major news source for fans and visitors. In October of last year, the organization rolled out a newly designed site. Basically the major change was moving the headlines (or breaking news) to the left site, older stories below and a larger photo header with story links. The “other” stories are divided into categories and were moved to the bottom (something I’m not really crazy about…I hate scrolling to find what I’m looking for). Additionally, the organization added a “News Pulse” section that allows users to organize information by correspondent, key word or subject, essentially creating a very personalized site for users.

The main goal of the redesign was to focus on more content to get people moving beyond the home page. To do this, the organization has incorporated more video, added personalized features (like News Pulse and the visitor’s local weather on the right) and enhanced the ad space on the top and sides of the site.

While I like the site, there are features that I am not 100 percent sold on. As one blogger noted, the organization seems to have moved toward more feature stories and user-generated content vs. an actual news site. Yes, there is still the basic news and breaking news, but it definitely has changed the scope of the site, but in the new age of digital media, this was probably a necessary transition.

In looking at the site, there are areas I would certainly run tests on. As part of the redesign, I would have included the A/B testing with two different home pages to determine which page seemed to garner the most visitors. CNN may have determined that they had created a page that works, but by incorporating a simple A/B test, they would have real data would help them evaluate the site and ensure they were going down the right path with their design (and maybe they did incorporate such tests).

Additionally, I would look at incorporating multivariate testing on the home page to gauge how the combination of the links/parts of the page get users to different sources of the page. This testing could also provide information on the “News Pulse” site, particularly if data shows that visitors are taking an interest in this particular segment of the site. I also think using the test on the home page to organize the various pieces of information in different ways (moving the news segments/ads around, using different headers, and incorporating various designs) would provide the organization with very specific data. Through the use of the multivariate test, CNN can determine if the layout/design is encouraging users to visit the site and move to other parts of the site, or determine if a certain combination of elements encourages the visitor to react in a certain way or if the combination enhances conversion rates. Additionally, as organizations continue to take steps to encourage and promote social networking and user generated content, the concept of this type of testing on CNN’s site will also help to improve the interaction among visitors/users. I think using multivariate testing on a regular basis can really help organizations improve site performance by gaining a better understanding of how to “mix” certain elements to elicit a response.

Testing and retesting your site is extremely important. As those who are close to our Web sites, we sometimes think we have it all right, when in reality, we may be missing the target entirely. It is easy to rely on our “experts” in and around the organization to direct the path of our site, but relying on that information isn’t always going to get the job done. By using tests such as the A/B test and multivariate testing, we can really feel out our visitors to determine what is working and what is not. As Booth noted in his presentation on Google’s Website Optimizer, it is extremely important for organizations to test and re-test their sites to continually enhance and improve our sites (Booth). By incorporating the right testing and the right team, organizations can gain valuable information that will build better site and enhance the overall experience for customers.


Booth, D. Planning and running your first successful experiment using Google Website Opitmizer. Retrieved March 6, 2010, from

Brinker, S. (2010, Jan. 27). Search Engine Land. Conversion optimization is the new SEO. Retrieved March 6, 2010, from

Golec, C. (2008, Dec. 31). Retrieved March 6, 2010, from

Lardinois, F. (2009, Oct. 29). gets radical redesign. ReadWriteWeb. Retrieved March 7, 2010, from

Monday, February 22, 2010

Google Analytics is giving me gray hair

During the past few weeks, we have been peeling back the many layers of analytical data available via Google Analytics. The layers are complex, but if you thrive on establishing these layers and defining how/what the various components will achieve, Web analytics is for you.

I’ve decided it certainly isn’t for me. I liken Google Web Analytics to the crazy directions you get when you buy something and you have no idea how to put it together. You know what I’m talking about, the product that has about a hundred parts and thousand bits, screws, and bolts needed to actually get it together. The Google directions for adding filters, custom filters, event tracking, etc. is just as complex (I’m pretty sure you need a PHD in it). So, leave those directions for the developers and engineers who understand what they’ve written, because you certainly haven’t written it for an ordinary girl like me. Note to Google and others: if you want someone who isn’t a developer to actually understand what you’re touting and spouting, get a girl like me to write them for you.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that if we want to provide our customers with extraordinary service (we know they expect it), and we want our business to be successful, analytical data is critical. But, you have to have someone on your team who can a: build the data site for you (or maybe have directions that Joe off the street can decipher) and b: help you sort through this data.

Okay, so enough about my struggles with getting my arms around the analytics mess. This week, we got deep into the layers of metrics and studied how e-commerce, customer filters, event tracking and other characteristics can provide much-needed information for businesses.

Event tracking was added to Google in June 2009 (Google, 2009). The addition of this tool is important because it helps provide data on actions that aren’t considered page views. For example, event tracking can include the downloading of a video or an Adobe file, or the interaction with a Flash presentation. As more and more companies use these types of files/programs on their sites, including YouTube, having this information is important in developing marketing strategies.

After reading the instructions on how to set up event tracking, I was once again left a little miffed. The instructions note that you should insert the appropriate tracking code, but I can’t figure out where you find that and how you know if you have the correct code in place. So, after fiddling with it and searching for articles that might help me “dumb it down” I was once again left frustrated, so I moved on to adding filters.

I decided I would go in and establish a filter to exclude visits from my own computer because I don’t want that information to be included on my analytical report. So, I followed the initial instructions which eventually got me to the filter location. However, once there, the “Greek” language once again reared its ugly head and I was lost. When it started referring to “ISP” and “IP” addresses, I was gone. I know techies will find it hard to believe, but those who don’t know the ins and outs of computers have no idea what these are. But, I trudged on, searching for it via Google Analytics and guess what? It defined it, but didn’t tell me where I might find one. So, I did a complete Google search and from an organization called I finally found it, well, the site automatically gives it to me. I’m still not sure how you find it on your computer, but I finally got the filter set up. Now hopefully my blog will not count visits from my computer, which will help give me a better idea of how many “real” visits are occurring on my site.

I also added a couple of custom filters to the site. This process I found somewhat easier, although there are filters listed that I’m not sure how they are used/why. I chose to include the visitor city and whether or not the visitor is a new or returning customer. As I went back to my report, it appears that the custom filters available are already on my report, including the ones I thought I just set up. I don’t know if Analytics holds a spot for the filters on the report, and only includes the actual data after you have set up the filters.

I wanted to add a custom filter and keyword ranking system to my analytical tool. I spent much of Sunday afternoon trying to figure those out. After some help from the professor, I was able to get my hands on an article from Internet Marketing Insights, which walked me through the process. I was very excited to actually be getting somewhere with these analytical tools and then, “bam,” I hit another wall. After following the directions, I was able to set up a new Web site profile and go in and edit according to the directions. It’s when I get to the “add the three keyword filters” that I begin to have another meltdown. I did that, however, no report is showing up on my site. And, how is it tracking keywords used by others to get to my site when it never asks me which words I want to track?

As part of the learning process during the past two weeks, we have been using Conversion University. These videos are a little more helpful than just reading the articles/information, but they are obviously developed for those who work in the Web/data analytics field (lots of jargon). And, I also found it funny that nearly all of the people participating in these videos – either those teaching or those sitting in the class – are all men. Maybe this is the problem? Sorry guys, just kidding, sort of…

As noted earlier, I really do understand why this is important. And, I believe the information can provide intriguing data that will help us build better Web sites, add programs/services that will give them what they want, and help our bottom line. But, trying to teach a simple public relations practitioner all of this jargon, technical directions, etc., is like telling a cat it has to love to be in the water. More than likely that’s not going to happen. So, my advice to those like me is to work with your Web experts to help you identify the data you want to collect, ask them for their suggestions, and then work together to gather/review the data. A team approach with the right players is your best bet.


Google (2009, June 4). Google Analytics. Retrieved February 20, 2010, from

Radhakrishnan (2009, November 22). Search Engine Ranking - Track keyword rankings in Google using Google Analytics. Internet Marketing Insights. Retrieved February 22, 2010, from

Monday, February 8, 2010

Using analytical data to learn more about your consumers

Our blogs for class are fairly straightforward. There aren’t many bells and whistles on the blogs, so our Google Analytics reports will be fairly simple. We can get information on how many people visited our site, how long they stayed, and even from where they viewed the page(s).

Although I’m not sure the funnel would have much function on my site, I guess directing visitors to another site or perhaps a particular Web site, Twitter or Facebook page could be mapped out through a funnel. For example, if I am writing on particular topic, let’s say the latest shoes for spring in this case, and I want to get people to visit my latest line of spring footwear on my Web site or Facebook page, then I might want to have a funnel in place to get people to those sites via my blog or vice versa. And, I want the path clearly defined so that people do indeed get directed to that information and actually go there.

Goals in the analytical tool appeared to be more complicated to me. I understand the point of it, but how to set those goals up were unclear to me. I think on the blog it would be nice to add a thank you feature when someone comments on your blog. This could be done by establishing a new goal, although I am not sure how to do this via the directions. I think it would be beneficial to learn more about html and how to write code if you are indeed going to be adding these features into your Google Analytics tool.

As I discussed in the previous blog, understanding how much time people spend on your site is important in determining what you are doing right. The time spent can be found in your report for Google, and I have asked the report to let me know who visits the site and spends more than five minutes on the site. If I am posting information and people are only skimming over it, I may not be doing a very good job presenting the information (or I’ve not selected a very interesting topic). I have often visited a site and because the site wasn’t very organized, I immediately exit if I am unable to find what I’m looking for, so you definitely want to avoid that when you can and work to develop a site that people feel is useful.

In looking at a particular company’s Web site (let’s use Allstate in this case), establishing filters would also be beneficial. If I am understanding this correctly, I can exclude visitors from a specific domain (in this case so that my data is more accurate. If employees are using the site daily (even making it their home page), then including those visits would skew my data. In my own work, I do use our Web page daily and have it as my home page. When we are collecting data, we certainly wouldn’t want to include anyone in our office who is doing this or using it daily because that really makes a difference in our number of visits.

The whole concept of Google Analytics is pretty complicated, but certainly critical in developing your various marketing tools for your business/organization. For those who don’t work with this type of information often, it is probably a good idea to consult with an expert or your Web team to ensure that you are establishing the right parameters, goals and tracking information to get the most out of your reports.


Google Analytics (2010). Conversion University. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Google Analytics can provide important data, if you can decipher the directions

As noted in the Conversion University overview, obtaining and reviewing data can help businesses and organizations gain valuable information from their consumers (Conversion University, 2010). This information can help us determine if our site is designed in such a way that visitors actually come to the site, how long they stay there, what they look at while they are they and how they interact with our site pages.

This week we began using Google Analytics on our blogs (i.e., Getting your arms around social media). As with much of the search engine information I have experienced so far, I found the assignment to once again be challenging. I think the biggest challenge, and the one that affects me the most, is the use of very technical terminology in the directions/instructions on how to use/set up Google Analytics tools in your profile. The information as it is presented is not done in “easy to understand” terms, unless you are someone who works with this type of data on a regular basis. Even when going to the “help” section, I didn’t get my questions answered.

So, after some help from the professor, I was finally able to get a link into the code to get the tracking set up. Once that was done, I returned to the tool to start adding some parameters/goals as part of the tracking process. Because our blogs are fairly simple, the number of pages and opportunities to actually set up parameters for information is slim. One of the areas I that I would like to get more information about is which links/articles the visitors go to when visiting the site. From the report, it doesn't appear that this information is included; it only reports the pageviews and is not specific to which pages are viewed. I think this information will help to see what information they are viewing and how long visitors spend on certain topics.

Additionally, I would also be interested in knowing which links users click on when reading through the articles. This will help me determine if people are finding the links useful when reading through the material.
I think determining what you want to track and how to set it up through the analytical tool is fairly complicated. When I edited my profile, I came to the area where it asks “track site search.” I thought that I probably should add that as part of my profile, but once I clicked “yes,” I was asked to set query parameters. Unfortunately, I had no idea what that meant, and the help section was of no help, so I decided that I guess I wouldn’t/couldn’t track the site. But when reading the report from the blog, it appears that information is already in the content information. It is not clear to me what the goals are and why/how to set those up.

For me, trying to grasp the technical terms/information has been the biggest challenge in setting up the Google Analytics tool. This again goes back to the fact that I am a novice at looking at/using this information and the information is not presented for a novice. But, I’ll continue plugging along, hoping that a light bulb will eventually go off in my head!


Google (2010). Retrieved February 7, 2010, from

Google Analytics (2010). Conversion University. Retrieved February 7, 2010, from