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There's no denying the utility and effectiveness of Google Analytics as a means to better understanding the way users interact with your website. Among all the features that GA has though, Real-Time Reports are often a bone of contention; it's a matter of dispute as to exactly how useful they are.
I decided to ask some experts for their views on the matter to try and get some answers.
On our Google Analytics Course you'll learn exactly how to make the most of its impressive features to maximise your online efforts, including Real-Time reports.
So let's take a look at what the experts say:
Great for Testing
A key theme that seemed to crop up regularly was how many found real-time reports useful for testing technical aspects of a campaign, whether that's for code, tracking or links.
@AaronCharlie Great for testing code, 'walking the shop floor', and getting non-experts interested in analytics. Underrated reports.
— dan barker (@danbarker) July 26, 2013
very useful for checking new tracking (e.g. events, goals, etc.). Also for testing emails to make sure all tagged links work — Dara Fitzgerald (@darafitzgerald) July 26, 2013
Last month, Danny Sullivan revealed that search marketers were to lose a new source of referrer data - iOS 6 Google searches. This comes off the back of updates to Google and Firefox in the past year that have also resulted in less referrer data. Thanks to a clever Google Analytics dashboard from Dan Barker, we can now see the true impact of the iOS 6 update. The less referrer data there is, the harder it is for search marketers to monitor and refine their strategy based on actual data rather than guesswork.
Something that Brandwatch's Andy Keetch spoke about at the Content Marketing Show we really emphasise on our SEO courses is the importance of data-informed marketing - that's hard to reinforce when that data is disappearing!
So where has all the referrer data gone? And how can we get it back? Let's think like Sherlock and go hunting for answers...
The Great Loss of Referral Data - Background
Just over a year ago in October 2011, Google created SSL search for signed-in users in an effort to improve privacy. This meant that any organic searches were put through to analytics with the keyword (not provided), which immediately created a headache on our Google Analytics courses with everyone wanted to know what was going on!
So in your traffic report you can see how many people arrived on your site via organic search, but for over 30% of searches you just see (not provided) as a keyword. Google originally said this would only affect single figures.
Firefox then did the same earlier this year - switching to Google SSL search by default when using the built in search bar.
Interestingly, while the move to SSL is touted as a 'privacy' measure, if the clicks come from paid ads, you can see the keywords that sent people to your site. This muddies the waters a bit when it comes to privacy and comes close to being a 'pay for data' issue.
However, hiding keyword data was just the start...
During my morning round up of BrightonSEO I asked the question 'Has SEO grown up?' For my afternoon round up I'm going to focus on one tip from each talk and why I liked it.
The afternoon was as varied as the morning with topics from linguistics to affiliate marketing, all from good speakers with something interesting to say and wisdom to impart on the audience.
We were also lucky enough to spot one of our Top SEO Trumps in the flesh! Here's Ralph Tegtmeier enjoying his pack. We left our final packs dotted about at the after party. Did you find one? Let us know!
If you did miss the talks and want to know more about SEO and inbound marketing, we offer a 5 day SEO training package. Pick from a selection of courses including SEO, Social Media, Content Marketing and Google Analytics to create your own custom 5-day course! It's a great way to introduce yourself to the concepts of earned media or as a way to boost the skills of new employees so they can get to work straight away.
It's a busy time for marketers Brighton this week with Brighton Digital Marketing Festival (#BDMF12) running Wednesday & Thursday and BrightonSEO (#brightonseo) running on Friday with some extra workshops the day before! We have tried to cover the lot, with round ups, analysis, photos and videos from the talks we found the most interesting.
We were live tweeting during all 3 days, and you can check out our BDMF Storify at the bottom of the post to see the reaction on Twitter from attendees.
If you missed out (or attended and want to learn more) then don't forget that we offer a wide range of SEO, Social Media, Content Marketing and Email Marketing courses which are a great way to begin or enhance your digital marketing learning.
In this post we've written up a brief summary of each talk, but we have also written individual posts for the most interesting talks. Keep on reading for a round up of the day or scroll straight to the bottom for the Storify! We have also covered BDMF12 Day 2 in another post.
BDMF12 Day 1
Matt Curry, Head of e-Commerce, Lovehoney
The Things We Do for Love (honey)
What a start to the day! Rude words and sex. Matt Curry is a self-professed 'nerdy statistician' who happens to work for an online sex shop, having previously sold hot meals to old people.
During an entertaining opening talk, Matt focused on the power of love in marketing. Expanding this concept, he claims that people don't want to give us their info, so how do we love people we don't know?
Using Lovehoney as an example, Matt's main point was how important it is to test and to understand demographics. For example, how do they market differently to 'unsatisfied traditionalists', 'tepid explorers' and 'free enlighteneds'. This is important because a product that would appeal to free enlighteneds would frighten off unsatisfied traditionalists.
Matt devised a system that ranked users based on what they are into - we don't even want to think what interest the 5th scale!
Unfortunately, this system was ruined by a rather famous book called '50 Shades of Grey' which completely transformed the 'tepid explorers' group and pushed them to search out more 'extreme' products.
This brought the talk onto testing, something Matt doesn't believe marketers do properly. For example, Lovehoney tested 24 different versions of a front page image. Although it turns out that 'boobs always win.'
Matt then moved onto search, with the great line that 'Marketing is war. Search is out battlefield.' It's a battlefield he obviously hates as he claims he's tired of fighting the algorithm as all the old tricks still work.
Interestingly (and very bravely), Matt said that he's happy to shop competitors to Google if he sees them breaking the rules - something many SEOs ("we're all in this together") will be very unhappy about.
Matt finished with a useful tip for content creation - look at your internal searches and create content to answer customer questions!
We really enjoyed Matt's talk and it was great to hear from somebody from an unusual industry talking about marketing.
Alex Meisl, Chairman, Mobile Marketing Association
Mobile - Making Sense of the Most Pervasive Channel
The second of Day 1's keynote speakers was Alex Meisl with some engaging and useful insight into the mobile industry.
Alex made some bold statements - but then he is the expert:
- Mobile has still not happened, despite what a lot of people say
- Apps are useless, unless done properly
- Mobile first design trumps responsive design
- QR codes are just hype, and won't last long
- Mobile devices are killing brick and mortar shops
These are quite bold statements from someone who makes apps, but all of them have some credibility.
Throughout the talk I got the impression that Alex Meisl isn't very happy with the mobile industry at the moment, and this was backed up with his closing 'Hype vs Substance' lists.
What a lot of people are doing (QR codes, app creation tools, branded apps, gimmicks like being a mayor) he thinks are destined to fail but he champions technologies that have either dying a death or are struggling to get off the ground (NFC, location, image recognition, vouchering, SMS).
The main idea that I picked up from the talk is that what businesses are doing isn't necessarily what customers want and shows that the mobile industry does have a long way to go before it makes that connection. How many businesses built an app just to be first to do so? How many actually tried to build an app for customers?
A bit about cross channel attribution linked nicely with Dara's workshop later in the morning as it explained that just because somebody isn't buying on a mobile doesn't mean that it wasn't instrumental in making the sale.
Marc Munier, Pure360
Deconstructing YOUR Emails for Better Results from Campaigns.
This was easily our favourite of the workshops and really helped us understand what makes a good email marketing campaign. It's something we're always looking to improve so we gained a lot of valuable insight. Our site was even used as an example!
We will be writing a full write up of what we learnt during Marc's workshop on Monday, but the most interesting part for us was mobile integration:
- The number of people accessing email on the go on mobile devices is growing so how we create emails has to change
- You can use CSS to create fully responsive emails that work on both mobiles and desktops, however it can be twice as expensive to build a responsive template
- Most mobile email clients show a snippet of the email, so this has to be good and appeal to people
- One trick for adding a snippet it to place a 1x1px .gif with the alt tag set to a good opening sentence. This way you're not changing the top of your template but you are adding a great snippet
There was also a lot of great info on optimising sign ups, the frequency of emailing, how to properly combine email and social, and how to design for conversions. All top tips that we will cover more on Monday.
Dara Fitzgerald, Fresh Egg
Start Exploring Attribution for Free with Multi-Channel Funnels
Dara Fitzgerald aimed to help answer the age old questions - how to attribute budget. All too often this is done by 'last click' using Google Analytics. You look at the revenue gained from each channel - social, search, PPC etc. and decide how to allocate budget accordingly.
Obviously there's a big problem with this - what if they first found the site through Facebook, then later searched for the company and bought something? That sale is attributed to SEO, but really the first point of contact was social. Social is very, very rarely the last click before sale so it can be hard assigning budget there. But then usually it is the widest point at the top of the attribution funnel. As Dara pointed out - if you squeeze the top of funnel, there will be a knock on effect at the bottom.
The bulk of Dara's talk explained how to use Multi Channel Funnels & Assisted Conversions in Google Analytics. If you haven't checked them out before then we recommend you do so.
Make sure you customise them to your business, and be sensible in how you use it. For example, there's not much point looking at an Assisted Conversion path that only one person follows.
Nikki Rae, Future Insight
Painful Pitfalls and Tracking Trauma using Google Analytics
Nikki runs both our Beginners Google Analytics and Advanced Analytics courses. In the workshop she covered a lot of the common pitfalls that make Google Analytics a nightmare for users and how to fix them. Most of the material is actually covered on our courses so if you want to learn more we recommend coming along to one of our workshops. A lot of people said the talk went a bit over their heads so our beginners course might be perfect for finding out how to find and fix the common mistakes.
Harry Champion, Dynmark
Mobile Marketing - Explore the Future
The final talk of the day for our group was from Harry Champion of Dynmark, he was supposed to be doing it with a colleague but bravely went alone. There was a lot of meat in this talk and it definitely deserves a post on its own as it drew the most conversation on Twitter. Thing is, most of that conversation was negative.
The subject of the talk? SMS marketing.
Personally, this immediately made me groan with dismay - I don't want companies texting me, especially if I've not explicitly agreed to it.
Harry wavered between 'everything we do is above board' and 'we don't do anything that could ruin customer relations' and support of texting people after grabbing their number at tillpoint and collecting data that exploits a loophole in the law.
In the latter case, this is by monitoring behaviour of numbers (loophole) rather than people (illegal).
There were some great statistics to back up the value of SMS marketing (people view their phone 150x a day) but everyone on Twitter (myself included) still connect any form of SMS advertising with spam.
Harry was very vocal in his hate of the PPI cold-call style marketing texts and blames these for the general mistrust of SMS marketing. However, I believe it's something different to that. For most people, texting is something you do with people and not with companies - it's a private interaction. Marketing texts feel like an invasion of that privacy and is unwelcome.
As Harry pointed out you check your phone all the time - in bed, in the morning, in meetings etc. and you're much more likely to read a text than an email. You choose a time to read and respond to emails but texts are a lot more instant. Obviously many people see this as a great incentive. However, if everyone was receiving SMS messages from businesses, that would change very quickly. We check texts instantly because we expect them to be from friends and relatives - not the shop you just bought a pair of shoes from!
I feel bad for dismissing Harry's talk so much, so here are some of the most compelling points in favour of SMS:
- People look at their phone 150 times a day
- 98% of SMS messages are read
- SMS reaches customers in seconds
- 90% of text messages are read in seconds
- In 2011 people spent more time on mobile devices than desktops
- Dynmark has seen a 300% ROI from SMS marketing
We also filmed the whole thing, we'll put it up next week so you can decide for yourselves. SMS Marketing - okay or spam?
In the past week, Google released a video called ‘SEO for start-ups in under 10 minutes’ in which Developer Programs Tech Lead Maile Ohye runs through everything a start up should and shouldn’t do to help gain organic traffic from Google.
As it’s only in 10 minutes the tips are very succinct, but they’re also very Googlecentric to the point of assuming Google is the only search engine worth caring about.
Interestingly, the next day Glenn Gabe published a very detailed post about how most startups get SEO wrong. It’s interesting to get the two viewpoints within days of each other – what the search engines recommend you do and what a professional SEO thinks you should do. They’re not always the same!
So, as a startup, what should you do to ensure that your new site is visible in search?
Well, the first thing we would recommend is to come to Brighton for an SEO workshop. In 1 day you will get to grips with all the SEO basics and you’ll be able to ask questions directly to an SEO expert about your startup!
However, for those who have already been on the course or don’t like in the UK I’m going to run through Google’s SEO tips for startups, without being so Google centric! Many of these tips are also useful for existing businesses who may have been doing things wrong for a while!
Here are my first 6 tips - keep an eye out for part 2 on Wednesday with 6 more!