Digital Analytics Helps You Measure Your Website Objectives

Anybody who has a small business website should sign up to this fabulous and free online course on digital analytics which will help us all take advantage of the enormous power of Google Analytics.

Digital Analytics tools like Google Analytics Help You Measure Your Website Objectives
Digital Analytics tools like Google Analytics Help You Measure Your Website Objectives

What is Digital Analytics, a.k.a the evolution of Web Analytics

In the definition of the best story teller among web analytics evangelists, Avinash KaushikWeb Analytics 2.0 is:

(1) the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data from your website and the competition,
(2) to drive a continual improvement of the online experience that your customers, and potential customers have,
(3) which translates into your desired outcomes (online and offline).

Addressing the importance of digital analytics, this informative video guides us to address the type of customers we serve and the business goals we can address through the power of digital analytics.

Know Thy Site: What are your website objectives and how can you measure them through digital analytics?

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”
~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca

According to Google’s Digital Analytics Academy, the five common business objectives for websites are:

  1. First, for ecommerce sites, an obvious objective is selling products or services, for ecommerce websites.
  2. Second, for lead generation sites, the goal is to collect user information for sales teams to connect with potential leads.
  3. Third, for content publishers, the goal is to encourage engagement and frequent visitation.
  4. Fourth, for online informational or support siteshelping users find the information they need at the right time is of primary importance.
  5. And finally for branding, the main objective is to drive awareness, engagement and loyalty.

I decided to use the list above and determine the type of business objective for some of the websites I manage either personally as a blogger, collectively  with my colleagues on behalf of my employer, or as a website optimization consultant on behalf of my clients. As it turns out, I have quite a variety of websites with diverse business objectives:

Taking the time to reflect on the type of objective applicable to a website is deeply satisfying — a delight for geeks, I would say — because it sets one on the course of actually managing, rather than just maintaining a website. And there is no better tool for managing through measurement than digital analytics. Peter Drucker would be delighted with the power of the tools we have easily accessible today!

A new site for Farhoumand Dental presents an SEO challenge

A new website for Farhoumand Dental presents an interesting SEO challenge

Two friends of mine, my dentist Foad Farhoumand, DDS and his sister Farah Farhoumand, DDS, hired TNT Dental to design a new website for their  Farhoumand Dental Practice and to rewrite the content for it. They asked me to assist them with implementing a coherent social media strategy and search engine optimization in order to address an interesting SEO challenge made apparent with the launch of their new website.

Farhoumand Dental launches a new website, and a new SEO challenge
Farhoumand Dental launches a new website, and a new SEO challenge

Google’s Hummingbird update presents an SEO challenge for small business

With the recent Hummingbird update of the Google Search Engine algorithm, the challenges for any small business are very real. In the case of Farhoumand Dental, the new changes translate into actual business loss.

Farhoumand Dental local search listing
Farhoumand Dental local search listing

Google generates the information in the right hand box automatically, pulling it from all over the web —  in this case the dental practice’s old website and its old Google + page. The problem is that the phone number listed is old, currently incorrect, and is in fact the phone for the newly minted competitor, Avanti Dentistry, which until recently was part of the original Farhoumand Dental Practice. This presents a real business problem because old and new customers are mislead to call the competitor, leading to actual loss of business. Herewith comes the value of search engine optimization!

SEO experts willingly share their knowledge and expertise

As always, the web is a wonderful source of knowledge. Just as during my early web development days back in the ancient 1995, nowadays there are still generous professionals  willing to share their knowledge and expertise. Among many others on Search Engine Land’s LinkedIn forum and Moz Community, several SEO experts shared practical suggestions, among which I am quoting Randy Tallman‘s:

I believe you are dealing with an issue of identity changes. This can be complex, but can be dealt with by integrating SEO strategy to enable the new site being found. The following are some things to consider. There are more, and hopefully other help will come forward with other strategies.

1. Purchase the alternate domains that are like the original domain, such as .net or others. Point the .net domain over to the new site. (In the future build a landing page for the .net site though.)

2. Be sure to use the original name in the Title, Description and Content on the page (near the top of content). This will enable you to obtain positioning organically.

3. If you can, blog about the transformation — as search engines love Blogs. If you add the appropriate content which your clients are searching for on a consistent basis, you may be able to move your position to the top in time.

4. Reach out to your prior clients, and ask them to get the message out to others.

5. Connect with Social Media where your clients most likely hang out.

6. You may want to have similar page names to the old site which are optimized as much as possible to bring them to the new site.

I wish you the best in your transformations.

RT

I will be tracking on this blog the adventure of optimizing the new Farhoumand Dental website for the search engine as well as user experience.

Website Optimization When Business Is Closed

Google pulled an ironic prank today by featuring the Yosemite National Park on its Google Doodle the exact day, 123 years after its creation, when the National Park Service is shutting down because of the government’s inability to come to an agreement and keep its basic services running.

Google's irony: As government shuts down, Google marks anniversary of national park you suddenly cannot see
Google’s irony: As government shuts down, Google marks anniversary of national park you suddenly cannot see
[heading]Search Engine Optimization and Web Site Optimization[/heading]

Having your website featured on Google’s front page with a creative Google Doodle is, of course, the ultimate search engine optimization accomplishment. But a website rarely exists as an abstract entity not related to business, organization or a person. When that business is closed but its website is open to the biggest web traffic imaginable, the user-friendly thing is to update the website and clearly indicate of the closing or the limited working hours.

When online does not reflect offline reality

The National Park Service, no doubt hoping for the best, has no indication on its website of the possible closing.

National Park Service - Yosemite

A better alternative

YosemitePark.com run by DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite, Inc., an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service, has put a simple warning indicating the possibility of the park closing.

yosemitepark.com

The value of Website Optimization when business is closed

Thinking holistically about how a website is used improves its usability and solves a number of potential problems particularly when the website represents a physical place of such enormous beauty as Yosemite National Park. I had wonderful time when hiking Yosemite with my cousin’s family 4 years ago and would not want to be among those who have just arrived at the park to only be told they need to leave. Of course, the closings are not the fault of the National Park Service, but whoever operates the websites should have been prepared enough to use the web as communication medium and clearly indicate that, sadly, the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite, will not be celebrated.

Tools for reporting on search engine rankings

Recently I have been working with a couple of small local business and the question of reporting on their search engine rankings came up. I had started my foray into the web design and development back when Netscape was in beta, into web site optimization back when Google was in alpha and then — a decade ago — would participate in search engine optimization knowledge sharing on forums like HighRankings. Today, I see no better place for finding professional advice than LinkedIn. Not unlike during my early days as a web master, I found endearing the openness and willingness by those who were much more experienced than me to share knowledge and experience. I wanted to summarize the responses I got in the hope that others might benefit from them!

Tools for reporting on search engine rankings and other SEO-related activities

Search Engine Ranking, graph courtesy of WrenSoft.
Search Engine Ranking, graph courtesy of WrenSoft.

I asked the experts on the Search Engine Land LinkedIn discussion group: “What tools do you use and recommend for reporting on search engine rankings and other SEO-related activities?” Here is what the participants in this LinkedIn discussion suggested, in alphabetical order:

It is quite interesting to compare this list to a similar one I had put together more than 10 years ago!

Valuable SEO Advise

Tool suggestion aside, I found most intriguing the opinions of a couple of experts: Andrea Berberich shared her whole methodology of ensuring high search engine rankings:

“For keyword discovery and competitive analysis here is what I do:

  1. Use within Keyword Planner “Display Planner” to get a variety of keywords combination
  2. Use Chrome SEO SERP Bench to figure out my competitors rank on the keyword variation
  3. Go back to Keyword Planner and see the search volume of all the keywords that are high on the list with my competitors (best rank)
  4. Work with the SEO Content Strategist and recommend to create the content.
  5. Once content is create with recommended keywords (2 non-branded; 1 branded per page) I get them submitted into BrightEdge for continual monitoring and tracking
  6. I also review the “untracked keywords” that BrightEdge provides
  7. Ones keyword and PLPs (preferred landing pages) are in BrightEdge Web Manager can monitor the page ranking.”

Scott Stouffer blankly stated that “Rank Trackers are dead — they are based on the query stack of a search engine, which has become incredibly noisy from the personalization (filters like social,local,etc…).” Lastly, Geoffrey Hoesch confirmed “… you’re better off focusing on organic traffic and conversions than keyword rankings, as few keyword rank tools track keyword rankings based on location, which makes regional/local tracking very difficult. In the end, Moz linked up with Google Analytics can help you create the best reports.”

Tough day for spelling at WashPost

Indeed, this is old news – it took place on July 30, 2013 and was fixed relatively quickly. Sadly, the cause is there to stay:

Because they’ve laid off half the editors!

Tough day for spelling at WashPost
Tough day for spelling at WashPost

Questions for Big Data in Government Summit

Big Data and Analytics in Government

Big Data and Analytics in Government SummitI will be speaking with my colleague Stephan Mitchev on Big Data and its application at a presentation titled “Unity in Diversity: Towards Unified Data Future” at the Big Data & Analytics in Government Summit.

As the title suggests, we will focus not on the size aspect of “big data” but on its diversity — the fact that we work at an organization that deals with data of varied systems and formats and yet we need to put it to good use.

The Era of “Datafication”

Starting with the notion that, as Kenneth Cukier eloquently explains, we have arrived at the era of “datafication”, we need to consider what we do with the massive volumes of data we collect.

Unless we make use of data, should we collect it?

Is there value to data that is collected but not used? Shouldn’t we it a rule that:

– If we collect data, we need to analyze it

– Unless we analyze data, we should not collect it

Establishing these basic principles, we can then approach the architectural challenges of processing and analyzing massive volumes of data in order to gain insight from it.

What challenges do you face? How do you approach and resolve them?

Bulletproofing your WordPress site against a brute force attack

Bulletproofing your WordPress site against a brute force attacBlogs throughout the world are reporting that there is an on-going and highly-distributed, global attack on WordPress installations across virtually every web host in existence.

HostGator and LunarPages hosting both posted on what to do to protect your WordPress-based site:

DELETE THE ‘ADMIN’ USER FOR YOUR WP SITE

Before you do that, make sure to create a new administrator account, log out from the original admin account, log into the new account and only then attempt to delete the old admin account.

CHANGE YOUR PASSWORDS REGULARLY

That should be a no-brainer but it is surprising how many sites get hacked because of simple passwords being used. The Geek Stuff offers some ideas for creating strong passwords but if your WordPress is updated, it will tell you if the new password is strong enough.

INSTALL SECURITY PLUGINS ON YOUR WP SITE

A terrific WordPress plugin, Limit Login Attempts is a good start.

PASSWORD PROTECT YOUR WP-LOGIN PAGE

Your hosting company should offer this and if not, you should perhaps change your web hosting company. I can highly recommend LunarPages! Use code “aff15off” for 15% off of a new shared hosting account if you sign up today!

Stay safe!

Data Visualization of the Food Commute

Food Access Research Atlas

Just after yesterdays data visualization of the average commute time in the U.S., now we get another powerful data visualization tool courtesy of USDA, this one mapping the food deserts and average time we commute to get to our food.

Food and Commute

Food Access Research AtlasI am grateful to have grown up in a family which continues to produce quite a bit of its own fruits and vegetables in addition to my dad’s beekeeping, back in the Bulgarian village where my parents live and where I spent every weekeend and vacation as a child. Here, in the U.S. it is a very different story for the majority of people.

For a vast country as the U.S., it is not surprising that there are massive areas where getting to food requires long commute. The problem I am sure is multi-dimensional and is partially rooted in the way cities in this country are built but also in the frontier culture which pushes many people to sacrifice the convenient proximity to food and work for the independence of living on your own piece of land.

I am personally lucky to live within walking distance from Giant, Harris Teeter and, most importantly, Trader Joe’s groceries stores. Occasionally  I would drive to Costco for some big purchases but as a whole if I needed to, I could walk or bite for my groceries every day — just like I did early this morning when I needed yogurt and bananas.

Just as the Slow Food movement and Michael Pollan’s call to know where our food comes from, there are more and more people who demand to know the origin of their food and the way it travels to their tables. Thus the emergence of search engines like BuyLocal.com.

The new Food Access Research Atlas should help with this noble endeavor as well!

Data Is Contextual, Powerful and Beautiful

When Kate Crawford of Microsoft Research presented at the 2013 Strata Conference, she gave powerful examples of how big data analysis and visualization can be skewed unless coupled with depth and context.

As NPR reported about the Food Access Research Atlas:

The atlas, which is a big upgrade from the USDA’s two-year-old Food Desert Locator, is intended as a tool for state policymakers, local planners, and nonprofit groups concerned about food access.

The team working on the Atlas have made this powerful data visualization tool doubly more useful by mashing data on the distance to food sources with data about car ownership. They admit regretting not being able to add information about public transportation which would have made the tool even greater by providing contextual depth but such data is apparently not available on a national level.

Accessible Data is Usable Data

Just as many of the presenters at the Strata Conference illustrated, when data is beautiful, we are more willing and able to consume it — not unlike healthy, organic food: if it is accessible and affordable, we will gladly opt to take advantage of it.

I wish the Atlas were not Flash-based. I wish it were built on a more open, flexible platform — Google Maps perhaps? I would have loved to be able to move from address to address quicker. But these are minimal complains. The Food Access Research Atlas is a welcome and powerful tool and its authors should be proud!

Stunning Data Visualization of the Average Commute Time

Stunning Data Visualization of the Average Commute TimeThe DataNews team at WNYC has put together a stunning data visualization of the average commute time in this great country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, whose data the talented data scientists and data artist up in New York used:

About 8.1 percent of U.S. workers have commutes of 60 minutes or longer, 4.3 percent work from home, and nearly 600,000 full-time workers had “megacommutes” of at least 90 minutes and 50 miles. The average one-way daily commute for workers across the country is 25.5 minutes, and one in four commuters leave their county to work.

This makes me appreciate the fact that most days I bike to work which is a good 30 min workout downhill and another 35-40 min really good workout uphill.

So much food for thought but nothing beats a beautiful picture:

Strata Conference – Data Journalism and Coding

Code“The programmers of tomorrow are the wizards of the future. You’re going to look like you have magic powers compared to everybody else.” – Gabe Newell

A friend today raised the valid question of why should everybody be able to learn to code. It is a matter of competitiveness, I think. I sat today at a fascinating presentation with the Guardian Data team at the Strata Conference and it is clear that the immense data and data analysis and visualization tools available today are enabling the type of journalism that a few years ago would have been impossible, ignored, or in the best scenario stumbled upon by luck. Moreover, as my professor of global business used to joke: nowadays only your local barbershop is truly local, and even this might be disputed (the ladies who cut my hair are all Vietnamese). So, put globalization and data overflow together, and you arrive at a world that is inherently more complex than the one inhabited by our grandparents. For that reason, the basic skills of pattern recognition (which my daughters study in elementary school) should be augmented by the equally basic skill of algorithm building and programming – logical process, as my friend rightly noted. I see it also in the context of consuming vs. co-creating. A few years ago not many people would consider having computer skills as essential – now it is the norm. But we should not stop at using the computers to consume only — once the kids learn how to co-create using computers, many of the current challenges will meet their, undoubtedly unexpected, solutions.