5 Top Analytics Trick & Tips From Around The Web

 

I’ve been looking up a host of analytics questions this month – from APIs and integration to dashboards and segments. One minute I’ve just got a quick practical question to double check and the next I’m 2 hours immersed in a world of analytics tidbits that I hadn’t realised.

Then SEO Chick Anna posted some great new tricks and tips on using Google Analytics quickly and effectively - some great keyboard shortcuts in there! It occurred to me that we haven’t really had a roundup of useful analytics posts in some time. And boy are there are a lot out there. So here, to make your lives easier and save you the time I spent getting caught up in a Googling cycle, here are some of the top tips I thought should be shared more. NB. I’m not taking credit for these great posts, I just felt it was about time somebody pulled them together in once place.

1. Analytics PR Dashboard (or why making your own dashboards is a must)

This popped up in my Google Reader the other day and it’s a really great, simple tool that saves us just that little bit of time. I’m a big advocate of building dashboards for clients/bosses. I’ve found that allowing them that immediate access any time they like gets them off my back more and helps them to understand my tasks a lot more. The dashboards should never be in-depth but should provide an ‘at-a-glance’ insight into the site’s performance. (more…)

Why Messing Up Might Make you a Better Manager

I’ve been managing people for about 2 years at Distilled, and prior to that, I managed people in the various professions I dabbled in prior to finding myself in SEO.  All in all I think I have something approaching 10 years management experience.

As you might expect my approach to management has changed quite a bit over the years. Similarly my thinking on what makes a ‘good’ manager has also changed.

With this mind, I wanted to share something with you…

 

It was Steve and Tim‘s very first day at Distilled. They’d be reporting in to me. They’d been through the usual initial induction stuff and were busily trying to install and set up the various tools and apps we use, in addition to battling with Windows 8.

keep-calm-and-carry-on

They started at Distilled on Monday 4th March. On the Thursday of that week  (7th) I was due to be flying out to speak at a conference in Italy and wouldn’t be returning to the office until Tuesday (12th). The following Friday (15th) I was down to speak at Distilled’s own conference, LinkLove.

I needed to prep 3 decks (I was speaking twice in Italy), practice said decks, and of course make sure both Steve and Tim were settling in ok, had work to do etc. I also needed to make sure Phil who also reports to me was ok with his client work, not to mention delivering work for my own clients too.

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Using Google Analytics Quickly and Effectively

We all lead busy lives and have a lot to do every day, we don’t have time to be keeping an eye on our website activity on a very regular basis. So I’m going to take you through my recommendations for keeping on top of your Google Analytics data when you have limited time available.

The post includes tips for setting up and using shortcuts, custom reports, dashboards, alerts and keyboard shortcuts – and nifty ways to combine and speed these up further.

As today’s post is all about speed I’ll dive straight in!

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Avoiding Footprints

My husband refers to me, lovingly I AM SURE, as Dr. No. That’s because I am a bit like Tard, the Grumpy Cat, not Joseph Wiseman. I’m not Canadian, for God’s sake. For the record, if there’s one thing that does not make me go all negative? It’s Tard. I love Tard. Tard makes me happy.

No

“No.” “That won’t work, here’s a list of all the bad things that will happen, there’s no way you won’t get screwed doing that.” If I wore tshirts with slogans and not just bands with dead members on them, I’d get some made with these emblazoned but of course the company would only muck it up.

So link footprints are always in my head when people either tell me the old methods they used (wow, some of you, just wow) or tell me their great ideas about what to do this month. Link footprints are much less likely to happen if you do just about nothing to build links, but if you do nothing, you’ll never get many links unless you’re an amazing big brand. There’s also not much of a distinction between how we all pursue links, as we have the same goal right? Links. Getting links. Building links. EARNING links. Building relationships, targeting our “pitches”…it’s still the same damn thing in the end.

I’m worried by people who don’t see that they will leave footprints and I’m worried by people who don’t care. Algorithms do change in response to patterns you know, especially patterns of abuse. So what if you’re not buying links and you’re only sending carefully researched bloggers a pitch to write about your product? If the only people writing about your product are stay at home moms who enjoy your specially-designed and patterned origami paper (is there such a thing? Surely the patterns would be bad for ori..oh never mind) then isn’t that a footprint? COULD that hurt you? Eventually I think it could, and it will.

We can use footprints in order to piggyback someone else’s strategy of course, and that is still a very common way to build links, especially for newer sites, or sites who really want to jump up in the rankings. My biggest problem with this is that you’re taking a huge chance by following someone’s else’s potentially problematic pattern that could get slapped in a future update. If some site is ranking highly right now and you copy them by either going after links on the same sites where they have links or you realize that they’re doing 25 guest posts a month, all on the same type of site, and you start doing that, you’re not creating anything unique. We talk about the need for unique content, but what about unique footprints?

Footprints don’t just hurt sites that use crap tactics of course but let’s talk about them for a second…there’s nothing we all love more than identifying someone’s bit of sneakery. As nice as I try to be, when something looks odd, I’ll spend ages digging into it and I will go into a state of ecstasy when I realize that the obviously fake pen name for 50 crap posts is a fairly well-respected SEO who’s been very slack in covering his tracks and has loads of co-citations with his real name. Glory be! I have no interest in outing, but I do like the find. Think of all those guys who write about their finds though. Do you want them to find you?

Note: Positive footprints definitely exist too, of course. Think about Google + and having a nice author footprint on great sites. That can only help you because IT’S GOOGLE. However, this is Dr No’s column so back to negative stuff.

What leaves a potentially dangerous footprint?

Advanced queries: yes, I will use them and recommend them but if you’re only going after link prospects because you found them using advanced queries, well, that’s a pattern of sites right there. They ARE useful, and they can help you wade through some murkier SERPs, but they can definitely create footprints that you may be unaware of. <hollering>ESPECIALLY IF THAT’S THE ONLY WAY YOU FIND SITES. </hollering>(As Paul Madden said, this is venturing into tin foil hat territory but I’m in a particularly negative mood after we’ve all been told that there will be big updates coming soon!)

Guest posts: I love guest posts (yes, still) but as with most forms of link building, people aren’t varying what they do. You can find 1000 guest posts that all list the same exact byline about how the guest author, Maxx Power, “enjoys writing about water treatment issues for folks based in coastal North Carolina.” Please believe me when I say that absolutely no one enjoys writing 1000 posts about water treatment issues for folks based in coastal North Carolina. I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who enjoys writing more than one.

Widgets: I hate widgets, and I feel bad saying that because I used to like them. They leave massive footprints though, of course. If you have specific code for people to grab and display on their site, there’s no way you can avoid some ugly footprints. Should Google know how to handle these and not penalize you for them? Yes. Do they? I wouldn’t bet my life on it. In fact, the only cool thing about widgets is that while I was searching for some “truly bad widgets” I found some truly bad widow’s peaks via Google’s amazing “did you mean?” functionality. I’ll spare you but personally speaking I didn’t think they were all that bad, but then I sport a big fat fringe.

Duplicate content: Guest posts and widgets can of course cause duplicate content. So can press releases and sending out 15 variations of the same article. If you’re using 4 pen names for the same bio line for your articles, it’s quite easy to track. Surely Maxx Power, Smiley McCracken, Gladys McCracken, and Jimmy Cricket don’t all enjoy writing about water treatment issues for folks based in coastal North Carolina, whether it’s on content identified as being by a “guest author”, in a press release, or anything else, and no, swapping “folks” for “people” a few times won’t prevent this from being a nasty footprint. It might annoy someone less though.

The same combination of things all over the damn place: co-citations are all the rage right now so remember that if you always mention certain terms in conjunction with your anchors, that’s a footprint too. When every mention of your brand comes with Jimmy Cricket and the phrase “awesome and inexpensive” God cries.

Am I being overly paranoid here? I mean I am a person who researches ways to avoid death by alligator and I don’t think I’ve ever encountered one nor do I plan to, but just in case it’s healthy to know what to do. (And don’t run in a circle as I stupidly and mistakenly told about 20 people once. It’s a ZIG ZAG.)

he gone git you

One big problem is that we don’t think about what we’re doing once some cool new tactic gets put into play. I know several people who heavily abused of advertorials but were quick to fuss about Interflora’s use of them. Are we just blind to what we’re doing but able to see the bad things everyone else does? I have spent loads of time pointing out potential problems to webmasters, whether they’re clients or not, and many times when I caution them against something, they just point to a big brand or a competitor using that same strategy and assume that it’s fine for them too. I’ll happily admit to doing things in risky ways myself (but always with the client’s permission after being warned about the dangers) but hell, even then I try to minimize the potential footprints. Clients don’t always listen though…maybe it’s time to get louder.

 

 

 

 

 

Interflora – When Spammy SEO Goes Bad

***The views in this blog post are those of the author and do not represent those of any of the other SEO Chicks***

The story of the Interflora penalty is not one of link building gone wrong, nor is it one of a sudden and unexpected penalty. The story of Interflora is something experienced SEOs are going to reference for years as one sterling reason why aggressive link building strategies should be designed and executed by experienced search professionals, and how short-lived high profile brand penalties are.

My father is a lawyer and he once told me a great many years ago “pigs get fatter – hogs get slaughtered”. I think it was in relation to something else I’m sure since SEO didn’t exist (ya, I’m that old) but it seemed an excellent life lesson and fits many situations. It also fits the situation with Interflora and why they got penalised.

This is *not* a penalty related to the blogger outreach they did which delivered a lot of links of varied anchor text (mostly brand), but advertorials (if one thing is to be blamed). I mean, the link farm, footer links, sidebar links, and other garbage weren’t helping but the blogger links certainly didn’t cause the penalty. In fact removing the only thing that could have helped recovery removed and creating bad blood among bloggers was a terrible decision in my opinion.

I’m quite cross with whoever is the SEO at Interflora or whomever is responsible for their digital marketing. I’m thinking papercuts and lemon juice. I’m talking about the individual who thought buying 150+ advertorials using computer-generated text all in the same month was a good idea. Also, who didn’t talk them out of it? Surely this kind of link building doesn’t happen in isolation – you need to buy *from* someone. Who didn’t check the text? Who didn’t care about the timings? Who the heck allowed this insanity to happen?

There was a lot more than advertorial links going on – there were low quality links as well. There are a lot of links lost recently as well. There are a lot of reasons, including article sites and directories losing their PR and therefore value. Jackie Hole suggests what I think many SEOs agree with – low quality links are likely discounted algorithmically and are not passing any value. I’ve experimented with them to differing effect on different sites for different reasons :-)

Nichola Stott though has a different spin on things. She, like me, believes that Google is relying more on human ‘grasses’.  She says “Since Panda, each significant update has relied on human feedback (be it quality raters, or industry professed “grassing up” via webmaster tools) which has informed the machine-learning algorithm. So I’d completely support your theory that the crap is devalued, reason being aspects of Panguin helped identify the hallmarks of that crap.”

There have been a lot of conversations on forums, groups and at conferences about Google basically scaring the crap out of webmasters and using FUD to force people into giving up any and all activity they had done for any reason. I think that the scared panic removal of the Interflora blogger links smacks of this panic fear. It also will encourage the “grassing up” Nichola talks about and I think is starting to happen a lot more often.

Nichola feels that, based on her experience at Yahoo that Google is likely on its third phase of working on algorithmically penalising or removing value from links. I feel that as a core part of the algorithm from its early days, the value of links will never be fully reduced and so link building will continue. The key is strategic approaches to link building and going back to the old reasons for it – traffic driving.

As part of my job, I’ve been working on planning and part of planning is stepping back from the scene and understanding the higher level business goals. Link building is to push up rank. Pushing up rank is related to getting more traffic. Getting more traffic is about increasing sales or leads. So stepping back we want more leads or sales so instead of mindlessly building links, build relationships with relevant communities, relevant bloggers and journalists for on-going coverage (with or without a link) and improving the on-site conversions and bringing together all different departments of sales, advertising and marketing and ensuring they are all working together.

Link building will never die and SEO will never die but what needs to get stronger is strategy, thoughtfulness and taking a step backwards to see the big picture. I’ve always said: don’t be a dick – buy links wisely.

5 Ways to make a Marketing Video on a Budget

I thought long and hard about what I could write for my very first SEO Chicks Post, but this week I have a challenge that needs a solution so thought I would share.

The Scenario

nyan-cat-videoMy client wants to ‘have a go’ at video as they’ve heard all about how ‘video sells more’. However, the management don’t want to commit to a budget unless they know it’s going to work (sounds an awful lot like SEO to me!). My mission should I choose to accept it, is to create a marketing video and put together a video marketing strategy with little or no budget.

I have little or no film-making skills, but I have created videos in the past and I did share an office with a video production company for 6 years so I know how much work goes in to making a something that you’d actually want to share (and how much it can cost). I also saw the reels on the cutting floor where various MD’s had insisted on writing the script and appearing in the video.

The result? An expensive looking 16 minute long video set in the lobby of the corporate headquarters with a truly awful speaker telling you things that make you want to go to sleep #moneywellspent.

The challenges I face:

  • No one at the client company is comfortable behind the camera
  • Currently, there is no camera at the location
  • No one can write a script for toffee
  • I do not have an army of interns or teenagers at home to help win the internet with cat videos

So what am I going to do?

After a few days with my head in my hands, a mind map, and a bottle of gin – I toyed with the idea of re-purposing Nyan Cat with a corporate logo or creating a Lego Gangnam Style (yes I too was devastated to find it had already been done). So with my best ideas out of the running, I set to task looking for ideas for quick wins or software that might help me out.

I was actually pretty impressed with what you can do for free or with a small monthly fee. If you have the ability to also make your own images, the confidence to be the star of your own video and the time to learn some software skills, you really can compete with the pro’s on a small budget. (more…)