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Ten Years Later

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The year was 2004, and I was unemployed.

So I networked, networked, networked, and then I wanted to thank all those people who took time out to have coffee with me. Often, I heard myself saying, “Why don’t you let me evaluate your web analytics?” Most of those companies had some crummy server-side analytics, and somehow I found insight in all those metrics.

Gradually, I found a business for myself and landed a few gigs. I was an early user of Google Analytics, and I kept trying to figure out how to make this interesting tool more powerful. What is that setVar thing, I kept wondering, and what is so regular about those expressions?

Even though I really didn’t understand why _udn should be equal to none, I still knew more about analytics than I did about SEO. So I hired my first search employee, Taylor Pratt, in 2006. By March 2007, I had written enough about Regular Expressions that Google asked our company – all two of us – to become a Google Analytics Certified Partner. I found out that we had been listed on the Google Analytics Partner page when Sirius/XM called us for GA consulting.


3 Ways to Build a Trust-centered Consulting Practice

pieTwo cops walk into a diner and sit down for a piece of pie and a cuppa coffee. “How’s the strawberry rhubarb tonight?” the first cop asks the waitress. “Hmmmmm ” she says. “We’ll, I think you would be better off with the apple pie, ” she finally answers.  “Is there anything else you’d recommend?” asks the second cop. “Well, the ice cream always makes the pie taste even better — I recommend the cinnamon — and I can heat up the pie to be sure it really is awesome. Instead of the same old joe, you might consider our latte. Expensive, I know, but so much better than the house brew.” They bought everything she recommended and left a nice tip. And they came back after their shift the next week and made sure to sit in her section of the diner.

This kind of thing happens because the waitress created trust and credibility from the moment she answered their first question. She could so easily have taken their order — after all, not many people say no to the sale. Instead, she gave them an honest answer, and it was obvious that it was her own opinion. When she suggested the expensive latte, they didn’t blanche — she had already proven that she wasn’t going to steer them in the wrong direction. (more…)

Congratulations Semphonic!!

semphonicI don’t blog much anymore (and aren’t you all lucky that I don’t, I would be taking up a “blog slot” from all the people at Luna who have real talent.) But I cut the line so that I could congratulate our friends at Semphonic, with special call outs to Gary Angel, Joel Hadary and Phil Kemelor.  As many readers probably know already, they were purchased by Ernst & Young on Friday.

Semphonic isn’t the first analytics firm to be purchased.  Certainly, EpicOne did it a few years ago when they sold themselves to a company, local to their market, who specializes in automotive sites. There are probably quite a few others that I don’t even know about. But Semphonic did something really special .  This was a strategic sale of a boutique consultancy to an international accounting and consulting firm, and it was enormously important for our industry.

The sales we’ve been seeing in our industry almost always carry strong intellectual property with them. Adobe purchased Omniture and its software suite, Sitecatalyst/Test&Target/Discover. IBM purchased Coremetrics, as well as companies like Pittsburgh-based Vivisimo. We consulting companies bring different opportunities to the table. Sure, we have great branding and awesome links/rankings and a kick-ass client roster. But mostly, we bring know-how.

And it’s so clear that the rest of the world has sat up and noticed. If you read Gary Angel’s blogpost, you’ll see that Semphonic had “two handfuls” of offers (so I suppose that means in the neighborhood of ten?) They were in the enviable position of being able to choose their acquirer.

Best of luck to the Semphonic team on its new journey!


Attribution Modeling Without Google Analytics Premium

Until recently, most analysts were giving all the credit for a conversion to the last interaction – because we had no other way to do it. In the picture below, Organic Search would get all the credit for the conversion, yet the visitor used Paid Search to find our site:


Now, with Google Analytics Premium, we have the ability to credit different and/or multiple interactions for conversions.  In the example above, paid search could get all the credit with a First Interaction model, or split the credit with the last medium (organic), and there are other models to choose from. But, if you don’t have Google Analytics Premium, how do you even approach this problem?


Twitter Face-off: Brian Honigman vs me

This labs tool from visual.ly is lots of fun. After I created it, Brian (who works here at Luna in social media) and I reviewed the results together. He is such a bigger tweeter than I am that the results were surprising to me. (BTW, the company doesn’t really explain their algorithm, but they do say that the avatars are dressed and have accessories based on tweets. Notice that Brian is a rocker and I am a workaholic, but I think he does pretty well in both categories.) Brian thinks that I must have a higher engagement with my very rare tweets than he does with his many more tweets. Enjoy.

Creative Morality and Web Analytics Wednesday

This past Wednesday, we had WAW here in Pittsburgh. Many thanks to Mike Ross, the head of WA at Dick’s Sporting Goods, who pushed me to do it, and Brian Collery, late of American Eagle and now at Omniture Adobe who convinced me to help with it.

The crowd was just large enough to be fun and just small enough to hear a lot of great stories. For example, one of the people who attended told me that his own sense of morality is ‘creative.’ But, he pointed out, even his creative morality was offended by the practices of his former employer, a company now being sued for fraud. (Drink and learn, it appears.)

Many thanks to Monetate, who sponsored. I listened to the speaker show how he didn’t get any lift from any of his tests, but saved his employer tens of thousands of dollars by showing them that a new home page was not the answer. And how about that awesome food!

So to Pittsburgh web analysts and would-be Pittsburgh analysts — we’ll be doing another WAW in January.


Google+ and Unfair Advantages

The best way to win in business (if not life) is to have what business school teachers call an “unfair advantage.” Although that sounds sleazy,  it is really just an economic principle. Here’s an unfair advantage: “I’m the only one who has a basketball, so if all you guys on the court want to play basketball with my ball, you have to let me play, too.” In fact, the whole net neutrality argument is all about unfair advantage: if your ISP is a big cable company, it has the power to make it much easier for you to watch through cable TV and not so much through Hulu. (Depending on government regulation.)

OK, now that we got that out of the way — what does this all have to do with Google Plus?

1) My invite is through my lunametrics email, but I understand that you can get at it through your gmail. I assume it is just like Gtalk — sitting there on the side of your gmail.  Gmail is the third most popular email service in the US (sorry, international folks, no data), according to Hitwise’s report from last week (July 2, 2011) .  So Google has easy access, or more correctly, you millions of gmail users have amazingly easy access to Google Plus.

2) Google has been rolloing out their black bar on various properties (such as search and maps and you guessed it, Plus.) So in many different Google services, your plus profile is available, as is the red notification at the top, mentally nagging you to do things like assign people to circles.

3) And to take it all round trip, the Google +1 button (not to be confused) is now enabled for every search results when you are signed in to Plus , somewhat annoying on search, but it probably leads to way more +1 than I could have expected.

So — Google has taken advantage of all their unfair advantages, such as their role in your gmail, your search, your maps, to really try to make Google Plus a winner. The fact that the product manager, Surfer Boy, and his amazing team did an amazing job with the product, if not with the product name, helps enormously.  That, however, is “just” great design and engineering, a topic for a different post.

And remember, there is nothing unfair about an unfair advantage.


So,  +1 us on Google Plus.  Really rolls off the tongue, no?  No?

Update: Read this article that Danny Sullivan wrote on Search Engine Land.  He points out that Google, while still not quite getting it right technically, clearly shows how “friending” the few company pages that have been allowed helps those companies in the Google Search. And remember, there is nothing unfair about an unfair competitive advantage. It’s just business.

GA: Create sales territories or MSAs

Last week, someone calcities in paled me and asked how he could use Google Analytics to segment our state into four sales territories. Unfortunately, the GA interface only allows for segmentation by city – region – country etc. But we can use either Advanced Segments or the filter in Custom Reports (in the newest version of GA) to aggregate cities and thereby create a sales territory (or if you like, a Metropolitan Statistical Area, depending on your needs.) In face, the very first step, no surprise, is to figure out your needs.

Figuring out your needs. Let’s say that you’ve decided to segment by corner of the state.  I live in W. Pennsylvania, and would like to create a W. PA segment. I could go into GA and look at all the cities in PA, like the long list on the side here.

But, despite living here for a long time, I still don’t know which ones are in my corner of the state. So a better way might be to decide which geographic area I am interested in using the geographic Map Overlay.  When you do this, be sure to set your GA calendar for the entire length of time that GA has been installed on your site, so that you get a lot of data, and then decide upon your area(s) of interest.  Notice how I highlighted the area of Pennsylvania that I am interested in (so that I could point it out to you.)


PA and SW PA

Then mouse over the names of the cities, like this:

citynames in PA

See how Irwin shows up with its one little visit, and now I know to include it in the SW sales territory for PA?

Then create the Advanced Segment. Now, I thought a lot about the advanced segment. I really wanted it to use the words “contains” or “begins with” or some other easy way to do this. But the more times I reviewed the post, the more I realized that it had to be a regular expression unless you wanted to really work hard at this (more on this at the end of the post):

Then go through and repeat for other sales regions. A little tedious, but you only have to do it once.

Problem: what about other cities that “appear?” Despite all my work above, other cities in my W. PA sales area will crop up over time, because they were too small to have any visits when the work was first done, even if I did  use all the data that I had. So how do we know that visits came from a “new” city?

Of course, we could start by using an atlas, but that might be mind numbing, and we’ll never know if the atlas spells things exactly the way that GA does. Alternatively, we could just keep everything in a spreadsheet, export and compare spreadsheets (“hmm, where did that city come from?”)

And that’s when I realized that if we created the Advanced Segment using Regular Expressions, the way I did above, everything would be easier. We could visit our sales territories segments every quarter, and for each one, change the first field from “Include” to “Exclude.”  Apply those segments.  After all, if we create a segment for North, East, West and South, then exclude them all from a state, then look at that state — there should be no cities in that state. If there are, we have found the few stragglers we were looking for.

Any other ideas on how to do this kind of sales territory or MSA work?

Recent problems with Google Analytics

Just wanted everyone to know that the team at Google who works on GA understands that some of you are experiencing difficulties.  From the GA Blog:

“Late last night we discovered an issue in Google Analytics that caused reports with data from April 2011 using custom reports, advanced segments, or secondary dimensions to return 0 visits. Our team has been hard at work since then, and have found the cause and are taking steps to resolve the issue.”

Hope that helps everyone (for now.)


I Hate When You Tweet about Yourself (and pretend not to)

Lots of digital ink has been spilled over Twitter sins. Tweeting what you ate for breakfast today, etc.  But that doesn’t compare to these three sins:

Making social plans in plain view of all your followers. Yes, I know, you want to show off that you are friends with important people. Yes, some will look up to you.  But ultimately — it is rude. Or as my mother used to say decades ago, if you aren’t going to invite everyone in the class, don’t discuss your birthday party in school.

Retweeting the nice things that people say about you. Isn’t it wonderful that they say nice things about you? Do you really have to tarnish it by retweeting it and horror of horrors, blushing? When people retweet and write “blush,” they are really saying, yes I know, what I am doing is obnoxious, so I will pretend to be embarrassed. Even if your list of followers is so much bigger than theirs is — you diminish the value of their fine work.

Publicly thanking important people for calling out your name/blog/site in their tweets/blog/video etc. Of course, it is lovely to thank them. A nice little email works. A direct message might be possible.  For that matter, “@bigshot, thanks” does the trick.  You can even use the bread and butter note that my mother taught me about so many years ago. But when you publicly thank a big name for a shout out, you are really saying, “Look who thought I was important enough to talk about me in his/her tweets/blog/video!!  Aren’t I important?”

Here’s what I don’t hate: People who say, “Read my post. Come to my webinar. Check out my new tool.”  While too much of that isn’t great, I really see that in a different class than the above three categories, i.e.not so awful.  So why are they different? First, they don’t say, “Read my post, the most excellent in the world.”  (Or at least, not that I’ve seen.) Second, they don’t wrap their self-promotion in the guise of humility, in the guise of just politely thanking bigshot for the shoutout, in the guise of just making plans. Those who tweet, “Read my post” are honest about it.