New test website

Hi all,

Just wanted to share that I’m working on a test website as a follow-up after being inspired from the sessions at WordCamp US.

Geoff Campbell‘s Test WordPress Site” is the working title. It’s just a theme consisting of one page right now but I’m working on it. I’m not sure whether to make a copy of Monsters University (which is basically every university website) or a news/magazine type site that actually uses WordPress like BU Today, which is one of the many custom sites Boston University stages in WordPress.

Extreme tagging for extreme reporting

So now that terrible headline might have grabbed your attention, UTM parameters! Urchin Tracking Module (known as UTM codes/tags/parameters by everyone who didn’t just Google what UTM stands for) are not just for nerds like me but are now being used (consciously or not), by thousands of marketers. Facebook itself has a guide to Tracking Facebook Ads in Google Analytics, and a slimmed down version of Google’s custom campaign URL builder.

These are helpful in connecting traffic from Facebook (and other sources) to actions on your website. As Facebook’s (somewhat) new blueprint “Reporting & Analytics Learning Path” course explain, the company has “moved away from using likes, comments or engagement as metrics of success for businesses.

Doing the basics in terms of tagging ads to appear correctly as part of a campaign (visible and comparable in the Acquisition->Campaigns tab) is important not just for vanity’s sake but also to compare the relative effectiveness of Facebook ads compared to your pages posts and links to your content that other people share.

Understanding your traffic is more complicated than looking at traffic from facebook.com. In the Acquisition>Channels>Social>Facebook report, there are often at least five different Source / Medium combinations for the one social network. This at first may seem like a headache, but as @AFreezee mentioned in a seer interactive post, this is actually is an improvement from last year when Facebook did not share all referrer information, and some traffic from the network was labeled as direct (or, more accurately, dark social).

lm-fb-data

[The above is example data from seer interactive].

Each of the sources is from Facebook, but each may have disparate behavior and (hopefully, in the case of promoted posts,) conversion metrics . What can make this information incredibly valuable (in addition to using conversion/remarketing tags on your side), is to mark each ad with a distinct tag. Google now explicitly notes on their URL builder that’s what utm_content is for. If you have AdWords and Analytics connected (and have some other settings optimized), you’ll have rich information from that source built in.

Using only the required tags (source, medium, and campaign name) will give you the basics, but adding a new content tag will give you all the business outcome information in one place.

It often entails a lot of what some would consider tedious work and it some organizations may not have the staff hours to do it, while others are investing in positions that include detailed analytics tracking in the job description, with bullet points like “Evolve current mechanisms for tracking and attributing prospect and member touch points.” This level of investment in detailed analytics may not be in the cards for every organization, but for those wanting to have detailed understanding of the effectiveness of all the links you control, extensive tagging is required (either manually or with 3rd party services).

I’m now HubSpot Certified

Geoff Campbell HubSpot Certified

So I just wanted to share that after reviewing inbound marketing (and specifically how HubSpot’s inbound methodology informs how you should use their software), I recently became HubSpot Certified. As more and more industries realize the effectiveness of inbound marketing, non-academic credentials like software-specific certifications are growing in number and (sometimes,) in value. HubSpot’s exam and practicum approach to certifications makes it more substantial in my mind, at least. I’m not a guru or rockstar at anything (and feel nauseous when anyone refers to me as one). The FAQ section makes it clear what its certificates are not:

“Does being “Certified” or holding a badge mean someone knows how to do great marketing, be an awesome agency, create great web design, etc.?”

Nope

That’s pretty clear. It’s important to know what these certificates mean and don’t mean.

“When a person becomes HubSpot certified, they’ve passed the test which demonstrates inbound knowledge, along with a practicum which demonstrates their ability to use the HubSpot software to do inbound marketing to see results.” That’s pretty clear. That knowledge and demonstrated ability are necessary but not sufficient prerequisites to a higher level of performance. Does that mean companies should only hire people already certified in a tool for a position that requires it? No. But everything else equal, it could break a tie.

One reason I think this certification has some merit is that having another human review and ensure you know how to use the tool sets it apart from other test-only certifications. Here’s a list of the practicum requirements. As you can see, passing the test doesn’t make you amazing, it just means you know how the software works because you’ve used it before.

As there have been arguments about the value of measures of ability in new tools (think Klout). As more companies are in need of people with experience with these new tools and the evidence of one’s experience with a tool often being considered proprietary information by another company, independent third parties play an important role in ensuring a baseline knowledge with a tool.

Just as having a driver’s license doesn’t make someone a good driver, passing a test doesn’t ensure you have in-depth knowledge of or extensive experience with a tool. Whether valid or not, software certifications offered by companies are more and more being prefered by those hiring people to use online tools.

As Mark Schaefer, consultant and professor of Marketing at Rutgers, mentioned, being immersed in the social web leads naturally to a higher Klout score. I think as time passeses and more certifications require experience while nothing will replace the proven performance of say, Google Partners, the value of the certificates will increase.

HubSpot Academy Inbound Certification

Geoff Campbell HubSpot Inbound Certified

Hi all,

I’d like to share that I retook the Inbound Certification exam offered by HubSpot, which follows their Inbound Methodology (and passed)!

I also took today to learn all of the features of the HubSpot platform through their HubSpot Academy and passed the HubSpot (platform) Certification test, which is halfway to becoming certified.
Screen shot 2015-08-01 at 5.37.45 PM
I’m impressed with the fact that they require a practicum proving effective use of the platform. Looking forward to learning more and using this new tool effectively.

The difference between SEM and SEO (paid and organic search)

The world of online marketing changes quickly. Over the years, terminology used to discuss both ways in which people market themselves or their organizations to search engines. In an effort not to re-invent the wheel, I think Hubspot’s article is a good starting place.

In practice, SEO (search engine optimization) has been used to describe practices to improve a website’s search rankings (originally primarily using keywords in titles and metadata but more and more having quality content, fast-loading pages, well-formatted URLS, quality links to your site, etc).

SEM (search engine marketing), which has at times been used by businesses and agencies to describe paid search (which includes but is not limited to PPC) exclusively. However, as more and more organizations use paid search, the term has grown to encompass both paid search and SEO strategies. Language evolves over time and there’s always going to be some splitting of hairs, but SEM is generally agreed-upon to be comprised of both paid and unpaid strategies and includes SEO, which only uses unpaid strategies.

The terminology might change over time (for instance, is using Structured Data in your website code SEM or SEO?) but whether you’re working on organic SEO or increasing visibility/traffic via SEM, an important part of your goal is influencing what appears on the SERP (search engine results page).

Both SEO and paid search matter because while the discerning internet user knows which results have been paid for, if one were in a hurry to say, find Chinese food in New York, one might be tempted to click on the groupon.com ad. This is backed up by research that found that “[c]icks on paid search listings beat out organic clicks by nearly a 2:1 margin for keywords with high commercial intent in the US.

Anyways, I hope that helps.

Google Analytics Re-certification

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In an attempt to do right by the really cool grid format made possible by the Minimum theme I use, I want to share more small victories like my re-certification in Google Analytics. For an up-to-date list of qualifications, you can always visit my LinkedIn profile.

Google Analytics 301 Course (LunaMetrics)

At the risk of repeating information I’d like to briefly discuss the value of taking an analytics course in-person. in November, when we were about to launch our new website, I was taking the advanced “GA 301: Technical Implementation” at the SUNY Global Center in NYC.

I was working to ensure

  • that I completely understood not only the difference between Classic Analytics and the now standard Universal Analytics
  • that my cross-domain tracking was implemented in the best possible way
  • I knew the best way for me to remove self-referrals

In addition, although it’s an advanced course, we briefly reviewed some of the basics (which can change from time-to-time and be pretty confusing at first (like the sessions/users change) and, if I’m remembering correctly, a review of ‘exceptions’ to the basics, like when a New Visitor (someone who hasn’t visited your site in the last 2 years) isn’t a new visitor (when they user a different browser, different device, clear their cookies, or use ad-blocking, a Chromebox etc).

Anyways, while I’m a proponent of using free resources to learn (like I’ve done to review HTML/CSS, review Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager,  learn how to best track campaigns with a team, and keep on top of the ever-changing ways one needs to keep on top of to improve your content in search results and social streams, there’s sometimes no real replacement for talking to experts one-on-one.

Anyways, if you’re ready to get to the next step in understanding Google Analytics, I’d highly recommend LunaMetric’s GA 301 course.

It never gets easier, you just get better

When you’re out in the working world, milestones can seem to get further and further apart. Once all the firsts, and seconds, and thirds are done things can seem old hat. It only occurred to me at the end of the day today how much I had accomplished without thinking too much about any one single event and how just a few years ago doing just one of them would have felt like a feat.

This morning, some of the top decision-makers at my school wanted a review of to what extent our digital and social media efforts had borne fruit and what our plans are for the year ahead. Before I’d had much experience with public speaking I would have been nervous but at this point I didn’t even have to ‘remind’ myself that I know the subject matter very well.

I then coordinated with people across the country what we’re doing at a conference later this month (more on that later).

After work, I made enough progress on a site project I’ve been working on that I’m confident I’ll launch it next week (along with the client).

On my way home I thought “hmm…well how about I see about taking the Google Analytics Individual Qualification to get re-certified (my certification was set to expire in September) without waiting for the weekend and reviewing more for it. I got a 91%. There were a few tricky questions but after using something regularly it becomes pretty natural.

So if there’s anything I could tell my 21-year old self about the professional world is that things don’t get easier. People are going to be just as or more critical of you right now, tests (both figurative and literal) will be objectively the same, you’ll just get better at dealing with them.

Reviewing HTML/CSS

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Just a quick FYI, I just completed Codecademy’s HTML/CSS course. It’s somewhat of a commitment (I’d guess estimate of 7 hours estimate is pretty accurate), but it doesn’t require any previous knowledge and can be immediately helpful in understanding the basic structure and styling of websites, even if you don’t plan on making them anytime soon.

It’s the only course I’ve taken of their’s so far. I might take their Javascript course to understand a bit more how Google Analytics works about the kind of manual edits I’d have to make if I weren’t using Google Tag Manager.

Anyways, if you’re interested you can try it out for free.

 

Retaking “Digital Analytics Fundamentals”

I’m currently at a coffee shop in suburban Philadelphia retaking “Digital Analytics Fundamentals” as part of my review to become re-certified in using Google Analytics before my current certificate expires in September. Even after 7+ years of using Google Analytics (starting with the tracking of what people liked on my blog for Mount Allison University to present day), it’s important to go back to basics to make sure you’re keeping what’s most important in focus. This course starts with Avinash Kaushik’s definition of digital analytics, which 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 of your customers and prospects,

3. which translates into your desired outcomes (online and offline)”

I think it’s very telling that when the instructor discusses the declining relevance of the traditional purchase funnel, I’m reminded of those who have said the traditional admissions funnel is “broken” in light of the rising of “ghost inquires” and other factors. The point is that people now start the purchase/inquiry process at different stages of the process, and businesses/schools need to understand how this impacts them and how to they can adapt and thrive.

Another important point made in the first course video is this:

It’s important to measure both micro and macro-conversions so that you’re equipped with more behavioral data to understand which experiences help drive the right outcomes for your site.

As schools improve upon their current tracking numbers (simple # of pageviews, most popular pages, etc) they may look at what differentiates people who convert (inquire, book a tour, etc) from those who do not by looking at Custom Segments and making their own Dashboards that can be used to look at dashboards that have the information that can be used to make data-informed decisions.