Digital reporting for decision makers

Digital Reporting Part 5 - Creating Reports For Senior Decision Makers


We tend to create reports for people like ourselves - people who understand the intricacies of digital marketing and who care about it.

Actually we want to be creating reports for senior decision makers. These people are:

  • Not technical, at least not in the context of marketing, so it has to be kept simple.
  • Time poor, so it’s got to be concise.
  • Good at seeing through vanity metrics. They care about things that are strategic and add value to the bottom line

So creating reports around these three things is key.

So is how you distribute it. They won’t open pdf’s, so containing the information succinctly within the email body is key. Even better, send it via SMS, and do so every week so you maintain a certain pace and momentum.

By doing this these people will stop viewing marketing as something vague and abstract over in the corner, but something strategic and commercial that’s critical to their future success, and that’s exactly what you want.

See you next time.

Digital reporting - timing

Digital Reporting Part 4 - Timing Is Everything


There’s a common belief that data is something pure that just tells it how it is and can always be trusted, but that’s nonsense. Like words, data can be manipulated and mis-represented in all sorts of ways, and choosing an inappropriate time time within which to present your data is a really common example of how that happens.

All too often I hear people say “Traffic from a particular source has gone up by x%, or conversions have doubled” and then when you ask over what period, you’ll instantly realise that the data doesn’t mean anything. Maybe they’re comparing January to December in a market where December is dead and January is really busy (and the senior DM’s you are reporting to will know that!), or perhaps they’re looking at data from this week compared to last week, when perhaps the website or app doesn’t generate enough traffic for that data to be reliable.

The point is just to really think about the time frame in question. Most commonly I would want to look at medium term trend data, so that might be over six to 12 months, or to be comparing it to the same month the year earlier. That is unless you are dealing with huge data volumes, in which case looking at shorter term metrics will be reliable enough to take meaningful insights from.

See you next time.

Google analytics fundamentals

Digital Reporting Part 3 - Four Google Analytics Metrics That Every Marketer Should Obsess Over


Google analytics should nowadays be considered bread and butter for any marketer, but the truth is that many marketers are unable to take any meaningful value from it as they don’t consider themselves good with numbers and find it all a bit daunting. Instead they focus alll their energy on doing great work, but without a handle on the actual impact it’s having.

I think one of the reasons many marketers and business people hesitate with analytics is that at first glance there just appears to be so much information. It’s immediate analysis paralysis. I therefore think the key is to know exactly what to look for and not be distracted or overwhelmed by the other hundreds of options. And once you are happy with monitoring a small number f things you will naturally start exploring other aspects of analytics.

So to help you establish that starting point, I want to share with you the metrics I look at most frequently:
1. Traffic sources - total traffic to a website or app tells us very little about what’s working. We want to know where these people are coming from and the trends within these traffic sources over time. It can be worth combining this with data from competitor insight tools like similar web to see how your traffic distribution compares to theirs - are they investing in channels you’re neglecting?
2. Website engagement - as a general rule, if your bounce rate is going up then your time on site and average pages views will be going down, and vice versa. Of course it’s possible that higher engagement could be a sign that your website is confusing and it’s taking people longer than it should to find the info they need, but in my experience that’s pretty rare. Higher levels of engagement are almost always a positive sign that people trust your brand, like the UX and are willing to invest their precious time exploring the content on it. This impacts conversion rates, repeat visitor rates and even future search rankings as Google doesn’t want to be rankings sites with lousy experiences.
3. Traffic to key landing pages - the majority of traffic to most websites goes to blog posts, and while that’s fine there is usually a very limited short term correlation between blog traffic and revenue. Instead, your blog is probably there more for driving email sign ups and therefore longer term revenue. In other words, you might find that your website traffic appears to be growing or shrinking, but actually the traffic to the pages that are going to bring in new customers today may be doing the opposite - these pages are typically the product, service or category pages. I therefore suggest creating a segment within analytics that will monitor this landing page traffic so you can see what the trend is specifically for these pages, which will often be very different to the website as a whole.
4. Goal tracking - the very first thing a marketer should do when taking control of a website is establish what the objectives of that website are and how they’re going to be measured. If the objective of the website is to generate enquiries then a goal needs to exist on the website that tracks enquiries. If it’s to maximise page views for advertising revenue then a goal should be set up that is triggered each time a user views a certain number of page views. Ideally, each goal should also have a financial value assigned to it. Sometimes this can be a bit tricky. For example, if you’re an accountancy firm then what is the value of someone submitting an enquiry when you have to take into account the likely lifetime profit value and the conversion rate from enqury to sale? It’s by no means an exact science but I would still encourage you to assign a conservative figure to this as it will give much more meaning to your reports if you’re able to say LinkedIn has brought in £12,000 this month, while instagram has brought in £3.70. You will also then find that the reports start to mean a lot more to senior decision makers within the business, which is key as you want them to be taking this stuff seriously.

There are of course lots of others that may be important to your business depending on what it is you’re selling. So if you’re an ecommerce business you’re going to really care about average customer spend and top conversion paths (in other words, the touch points people have in the conversion process) or if your website contains some sort of funnel then you’re going to want to track each stage of that funnel to see where the leaks are, but the above 4 metrics are pretty fundamental to any website, and if you can develop the habit of checking those each week, you’re soon going to start to develop a much more general understanding of GA.

NorthStars and Magic Moments- digital reporting

Digital Reporting Part 2 - Finding Your Guiding Light - North Stars & Magic Moments


Even when you strip back your metrics to just half a dozen, that can still be a lot to process every week, and what happens when two of them appear to conflict? In other words, what happens when the easiest way to grow one will mean reducing another? What should take precedence?

This is why we create north star metics. Your north star is your number one measure of success and should act as a guiding light during all strategic decision making.

It ensures clarity and alignment throughout the organisation and that when compromise has to be made, everybody understands that this is this is the metric that takes priority.

Your north star should ideally do three things:
- It should represent the value the customer is taking from your product or service
- It should be a great indicator of present and future revenue
- It should ideally be aligned to the brand core and mission, or at least not have the capacity to be contradictory.

An example of a northstar metric is Facebook’s monthly active users. This is the number one metric at all times and is never undermined. It is a great reflector of customer value as it people are only active if they are having a good experience, it is highly indicative of current and future revenue, and is closely aligned to their brand mission which is to bring people closer together.

Closely related to a north star is what is known as a magical moment, which is the key driver of your north star. For Facebook this is when a new user gets 10 friends within 14 days - this is the moment at which the user starts to see value from Facebook, and is a great indicator of whether or not they remain part of the Facebook community. For someone looking to sell stuff on eBay, the magical moment is the first time that money lands in their bank account.

The concept of north star metrics along with their magical moments has become huge within technology companies like Facebook, but actually its principles are quite universal and I would encourage any company, even traditional B2B firms to ask these questions and identify their guiding light.

See you next time.

Digital reporting - drive action

Digital Reporting Part 1 - Creating Performance Reports That Drive Action


The typical reporting process will involve a bunch of graphs and statistics being stuffed into a 20 or 30 page PDF and circulated, without any sense of what it is whether it's communicating, what the story is, or any categorisation or prioritisation of the information within it, and in my opinion this this is just a really ineffective way of going about it for several reasons.

First of all, it's not action orientated, so maybe there's a graph that's telling us the user engagement is stagnating or the average customer value is dropping, but so what? What are the actual implications of that and what are we going to do about it?

Secondly, very often we'll find that there's a lot of vanity metrics contained on these reports. By vanity metrics what we mean is those metrics that they might look good and may make us feel good but they don't put money in the bank. An example would be Facebook Likes or Twitter followers.

Finally, it's really confusing. Even for an experienced marketer, if you're presented with just a PDF with all this information, without, as I say, that kind of overarching narrative explaining what it all means, it's a really daunting prospect to actually digest that information, so just imagine what it's like for someone who's removed from that world, such as senior decision makers, who don't have that marketing expertise. Just imagine how confusing it is for them and ultimately these are the people that we want to understand it the most. So this is why I always encourage companies to boil down these reports to no more than 8-10 headline metrics, and the nice way of categorising it is as follows - so pick a couple of KPI’s that represent the performance of the brand, a couple that represent the performance from an engagement and nurturing perspective, a couple that represent the conversion stage and finally a couple that represent the ongoing customer retention process. Not only does that make it far far easier for the people receiving that information to make sense of it all, but it also gives you far more time back to really focus on what it actually means because after all, that’s what the reporting process is there for - to drive action.

SEO performance tracking

SEO part 8 - defining and measuring success


As with any marketing campaign, establishing clarity on your KPIs is one of the most important things you can do within your SEO strategy so I just want to run through some of the most common KPIs that the SEO strategies will include and also introduce a couple of alternative perspectives.

Now the most common KPI that people will look at is naturally rankings - so what are those top trophy phrases and how are we performing? In the past we would we would track potentially hundreds of different specific rankings because we used to build authority around particular key phrases. That's no longer the case. Now we build authority around the brand as a whole which means that if the top five or ten priority key phrases are performing well then we can almost certainly assume that all the other key phrases are also performing well, so it's a slightly different perspective and and I I would therefore encourage you not to waste hours and hours tracking hundreds of different key phrases.

The second thing to look at of course is the organic traffic that comes through the search engines. Now very often this will actually provide a clearer and more comprehensive perspective on your site’s search engine performance, particularly if you operate in a market that has a significantly long tail, which means it's not dominated by a small number of key of short key phrases but rather it's it's it's full of of quite unpredictable, quite varied, often lengthy phrases and therefore following specific short tail ranking performances doesn't necessarily give you that much insight. You need to look at the picture as a whole.

This, however, still has a significant shortcoming which is that when you look at that traffic you might see the graph appearing to go up but actually it might be that 99% of that traffic is arriving on pages that are never going to drive your headline objective and this is particularly true when you have a large blog or a large resources section, so what I'd encourage you to do is to create a segment within analytics that isolates the traffic that's going to the pages that are going to drive that headline objective. Now if this is a service based business then they're going to be the service pages. If it's a product website then it's going to be the product pages or perhaps certain category pages, but isolating that traffic is going to give you a far clearer indication in terms of the the SEO performance from a commercial point of view and what you'll find is that it probably represents a tiny proportion the tiny fraction of the overall traffic volume, but it's that number even if it's just 2% of the overall traffic, that is going to really determine whether or not this thing is a success.

That's not to say that the other traffic is worthless, it's just that it's driving a different kind of KPI so it might be that actually on those pages it's more about email capture so you want a separate segment that captures what the traffic that's going to the blog for example, and you'll just measure that in a slightly different way and assign a far smaller monetary value to each conversion made within analytics.

So that's how I would encourage you to look at this. Far too often people, particularly within the SEO community, are guilty of focusing on vanity metrics or metrics that don't really determine commercial success, so yes look at rankings ,yes look at social or total organic traffic, but primarily you want to be focusing on that headline objective and how effectively your SEO strategy is delivering it.

Brand SEO

SEO Part 7 - Building Your Brand


In simple terms there have always been two elements to SEO. Number one is ensuring that the search engines can understand the content on the website and the kind of keyword that you're trying to target and number two that the search engines view your brand, your website domain, as being more authoritative and more trustworthy than that of the competition. They have always been the two aspects of SEO and that continues to be the case today.

Looking at the second element of that there's the trust, the authority. The way in which that's established has now become far more complex than it used to be so for a long time it essentially just came down to the sheer quantity of links you could get pointing to your website and consequently people engaging all sorts of sketchy and unethical tactics in order to acquire those sheer numbers. Now the nature of SEO has changed significantly but while it has become vastly more complex, link acquisition in my opinion continues to be the number one factor in determining
website Authority so it's absolutely not gone away, it's just that the way in which it has to happen has evolved. It's grown up somewhat so now it's it's absolutely imperative that any link that you solicit is done so in a legitimate fashion which just means that the way in which we have to go about it is very different, so legitimate press releases talking about real things with really interesting stats and thinking in a in more of a traditional journalistic fashion - that's become a really powerful link acquisition mechanism. Likewise engaging with influencers and using those relationships to acquire links from websites blogs within your target market again is really powerful.

So link acquisition hasn't gone away, it’s still super important it’s just that it has to be thought about far more strategically and in a far more brand orientated way now other elements that have played started to play an increasing role in recent years including engagement on the website which is quite difficult to define in a really clear way because what constitutes good engagement in one market could be quite different in another, so for example in some markets you don't necessarily want people spending hours on your website - you want them to come in perform a particular action and if they go again that's absolutely fine where as in other markets the time on site, the pageviews, the bounce rate - these things are really really important, so when you think about engagement stats I'd encourage you to think about it within the context of your industry. I’s quite similar with social media so there's been a debate over the role of social media for a long time in the SEO community and while a lot of people would contest the direct causal link between social media and rankings I think most people generally see now the strong correlation between the two, particularly if you operate in a market where community is important and really building engagement between your audience and your brand is important, in which case if you're not active, if you don’t have a clear social media strategy then that's a huge huge hole in that overall SEO strategy.

The final thing I want to talk about is the broader brand signals and for me this is the most important thing to take away from this. If you think about it from Google's perspective, if their goal is to determine the most trust trustworthy, incredible brands then if it were me I don't think there would be anything more important than the sheer number of people going to a website. Not by the search engines but just going directly, or going to the search engines and making brand related search queries. For example, if 10,000 people a day search for John Lewis TVs well then I think you can probably assume that John Lewis is a trusted source for televisions. So it's difficult in one sense to directly impact and probably doesn't sound like SEO but SEO in isolation just isn't really a thing anymore. It has to be part of a broader brand strategy. You have to be doing real things and adding real value to your audience, and building an ever-larger presence amongst that audience, and if you do that there to some extent that SEO will take care of itself.

Getting under the bonnet - technical SEO

SEO part 6 - getting under the bonnet with technical optimisation


Now I'm not technical so this is going to be more about what to do as opposed to how to do it but I just want to run through some of the essential elements of your SEO plan from a technical perspective.

So the first is speed. Speed is absolutely everything - it's been important for a long time from an SEO point of view but it's something that Google has repeatedly spoken about more than ever in the last few years since mobile usage has just grown and grown, so if people can’t access that webpage quickly then Google is never going to prioritise it in the listings. So that’s the first thing.

The second is having SSL certification. Google said a couple of years ago that if a website doesn’t have SSL certification then they wouldn’t know if they could trust it and rankings might suffer, but I would add to that that without SSL certification, very often people will be entirely blocked out of websites so it’s a disaster from a user experience and brand point of view.

The third thing is structured data. So you may have heard of something called schema which is a form of structured data that enables Google to make sense of what a piece of content is - so is it a recipe or a cinema time or a review, etc - and can therefore give you the credit you deserve for your beautifully designed and richly packed landing pages. Whereas if you create all this great content but you don’t have the appropriate structured data in place then Google won’t necessarily be able to understand what each thing means. It will also have an impact on click through rate from the search engine results page because a lot of that structured data can get pulled through to the SERPs, so you might see cinema times or event information or review details often pulled through directly to the search engine results page, which can have a really significant impact on click through rate.

Then there is the general technical maintenance of a website. I think sometimes we can be guilty of approach SEO as a set and forget scenario, but there needs to be a company policy for how you’re going to monitor this on an ongoing basis. For some websites that might need to be daily while for others that could be monthly or quarterly, but there needs to be some kind of policy in place that says that every x period you will use whatever diagnostics tools you have at your disposal, which to begin with may just be search console, to assess the health and performance of the site and create a list of new tasks required to fix any of the inevitable issues that arise with any site that is constantly growing and evolving.

See you next time.

On, page optimisation essentials, SEO

SEO part 5 - On-page optimisation essentials in 2 minutes


The days of obsessing over keyword density and trying to stuff keywords and phrases into every last sentence and header are thankfully long gone, however we do still need to help the search engines and ensure that they can actually understand what it is that we want each page to be targeting so things like title tags and image alt tags are still really really important.

So, starting with the with title tag which is the first thing that Google will see when it arrives on that page - typically you'll just you'll have one or two key phrases at the start followed by the brand and you want to be containing it to about 70 characters or so. Then with the image alt tags if we can include keywords within these fantastic. They don't immediately appear to the user so we don’t have to worry too much about that so it’s another really great opportunity to build that relevance to the search engines. And the final thing is the URL structure so as long as we're not making the URL too too long, including some keywords is really sensible because as much as anything else then if people link to that page using that URL then it's a really nice natural way of including some keywords within that anchor text.

Those are where we can be quite pushy with the keywords. We we need to rein it in somewhat is with the content that's actually visible to the user, so with headers and with the body copy I'm definitely not saying don't include keywords. In fact more often than not some level of keyword inclusion is quite important to the user because it reassures the user that they're on the right page and that this page is going to cater to that search query that they just made the brought them there. However, we must ensure we don't step over that line and start to provide a spammy user experience. It’s very similar with the Meta Description. The Meta Description doesn't directly affect rankings but it does of course hugely impact likely click through rates which arguably in turn affect rankings so it is very important from a search engine perspective and once again it's really important that we are including keywords because that's going to reassure the searcher that this page is relevant and the search engines will often bold that text so it really draws the users attention to that Meta Description so really worth doing but just so important that we're always prioritising the key messages of the brand.

SEO Landing Page

SEO Part 4 - Creating Killer Landing Pages


There was a time with SEO when we wouldn't worry too much about the content of landing pages from a user's point of view. As long as the page ticked certain technical boxes and provided all the right keywords then that was fine, but those days are long gone. Now one of the most important things we can do is put ourselves in the shoes of the user and consider the almost infinite array of expectations and intents they might have whenever they make a given search query.

So, for example, let's imagine that we run an accountancy firm and we want to construct the perfect landing page targeting tax advisory services in London. Now what we what we have to do, as I say, is put ourselves in the in the place of that audience and think about all those different things that might be going through their minds when they make that search query. Sp for example are they hoping to find technical information, are they hoping to find case studies and testimonials from people or businesses just like them who have purchased those services and to see what sort of experience they had. Are they hoping to find local address information and a London telephone number, and perhaps they are hoping to see links to relevant resources so that they can research the subject matter first before before making that enquiry.

We have to try and tick as many of these boxes as we possibly can and by doing so not only are we going to achieve far better rankings but we're also going to provide a much better user experience that inevitably leads to a higher conversion rate, so this could not be more important.

The only other additional suggestion I'd make is to avoid any excessive duplication of content. Now some duplication is inevitable because from a brand perspective consistency is key, so if you imagine that with each of these pages they could be the first encounter that your brand has with this individual so there are certain messages that you're always going to want to communicate which means that some duplication is fine, but if you find that this page has in excess of 20-30 % duplicate content then you've got a problem, and if you have enough of those pages that have
that level of duplication then at some point the entire website is going to get penalized so that's the other really important consideration to make.

So I'd really encourage you to really invest significant time researching the competition to see the different types of content that they're providing within those key landing pages and ensure that you are ticking as many of those boxes in the richest and most unique way that you possibly can.