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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

BEM Joins Google Analytics Authorized Consultant (GAAC) Program

GREENSBORO – BEM, an industry leader in interactive design, development and digital marketing, announces the company is now a Google Analytics™ Authorized Consultant, joining a group of organizations worldwide.

Google Analytics™ Authorized Consultants are organizations that demonstrate sophisticated expertise in Google Analytics™ web services, which report how website visitors search, navigate, and convert. To qualify, potential organizations undergo the application process and meet qualifications, including being able to provide comprehensive and complex Google Analytics™ case studies. BEM's Google Analytics™ consulting services include: implementation, assessment, customization, consultation, training, and ongoing support services.

“BEM is honored to have received this designation from Google,” says Malinda Pengelly, founder and president of BEM. “Becoming a Google Analytics™ Authorized Consultant represents our company’s steadfast commitment to providing exceptional interactive expertise.”

“In today’s online savvy business world, Google Analytics™ is instrumental in helping organizations understand and leverage data about their website visitors rather than simply collecting it,” adds Pengelly. “With the assistance of our Google Analytics™ in-house experts, our clients are seeing real returns, growing their businesses, and maximizing overall web effectiveness.”



About BEM
Founded in 1996 and based in Greensboro, NC, BEM provides award-winning interactive design, development and marketing to more than 350 clients, ranging from small start ups to Fortune 500 companies. Focused on delivering positive, measurable results for clients, BEM is known for innovative designs; reliable web development; comprehensive digital marketing solutions, including search, email, mobile, social marketing, and Google Analytics™ Services. The BEM Education Center, located at the company headquarters, offers seminars on Internet, marketing and technology topics critical to success in today’s increasingly online savvy business world.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Google Analytics Audit - 3 Quick Tips

It's a simple fact of life: like George Lucas's continual "improvements" to the Star Wars trilogy, your perfect, flawlessly executed Google Analytics implementation will suffer at the hands of routine website maintenance and updates. New pages will appear out of the ether, untagged and untracked. Your exquisitely customized tracking code will inexplicably have a link to a dancing hamster gif inserted directly in the middle of it. That guy in IT will somehow gain admin access to the primary GA account and make "creative adjustments" to your custom reports, citing mysterious and illusive "corporate reporting standards". Then he spills a Mountain Dew on your keyboard.

"Revenue? Why are we reporting on THAT?"


Simply put, the more people touching your site, your data, your analytics kingdom, the more watchful you have to be. The best defense is constant, proactive vigilance, but even then, things will slip by you. Designers, programmers, and developers have their jobs to do, and analytics tracking quality is usually an afterthought. A well-developed QA process and management's emphasis on its importance will do wonders here, but in the meantime, here are 3 relatively quick ways to audit your Google Analytics implementation.


1. Are all pages tagged and passing information correctly? Sounds obvious, but lots of questions on missing, incomplete, or "weird" data in Google Analytics can be answered by identifying one or two untagged pages. Without the ability to capture user data set within the GA cookie on every page, you're going to start seeing a lot of odd data in your reports. In fact, I'll go on record as saying that if you haven't tagged every page on your site, you can not produce sound business recommendations from your analytics solution. This seems obvious, but depending on the site, a simple, untagged "About Us" page can throw a wrench into the whole works.

You have a couple different options here.
    • Visual confirmation. View the source code of the page in question (in your browser of choice, right-click and "View Source"). For a basic installation using the current Javascript code, your code should be inserted immediately before the closing tag - hit Ctrl + F and type "ga.js" to quickly find the code. While the presence of this code on the page doesn't necessarily mean its firing and passing data to GA, you'll be able to visually inspect for proper placement and/or random code insertion.

WHAT.
    • Scanning tools. For sites with more than 3 pages, the above option isn't really feasible. A great free tool is EpikOne's SiteScan, which will scan the first 100 pages of your submitted domain, then generate a very helpful CSV file with the results. Premium users get some additional features, but for smaller sites, the free service typically fits the bill. For an in-house solution, WASP (originally developed by Stephane Hamel of immeria) is an extremely robust extension for Firefox that will manually crawl your site and deliver all sorts of information on a wide variety of analytics solutions, not just GA. Extremely helpful is the fact that WASP doesn't simply look at the page's source code for tracking code, but actually tracks if the code fires. The free version is limited to 20 pages per crawl, but this is such a useful tool that you'll probably want to purchase a license if you're serious about tag audits. 
2. Clean your filters! Functioning as a data bottleneck or net for which information gets displayed in your reports, filters in Google Analytics offer a fairly advanced level of customization. However, improperly formatted filters can result in inaccurate statistics populating your reports - or, in fact, block important data from being passed to GA at all. When first setting up a new filter, or if multiple users have access to edit existing filters, make sure to:
    • Always maintain a default, unfiltered profile. Since filters function as a kind of "data net" that prevent certain information from showing up in your reports, it's important to realize that once you apply a filter, that data is gone. If you set up an exclude filter on February 1st to block all internal traffic from appearing in your reports, then realize on the 28th that you've somehow managed to exclude all tracking data on visitors coming from Google, well...that's that. That data is gone, with no way to retroactively find it, and now you've got to explain to your boss why organic search traffic dropped 95% in February (and why you didn't catch it until the last day of the month!). Always maintain an unfiltered profile.
    • Brush up on that RegEx. Regular expressions offer an extremely flexible way to craft your filters, but can be fairly confusing at first. An inadvertent "." can completely change the data set you're capturing, so be sure to take some lessons and make use of another handy EpikOne tool, their RegEx tester. If you're simply trying to exclude internal traffic from a certain IP address, or a range of IPs, you can verify your coding skills with Google's RegEx generator for IP addresses.
3. Verify your incoming link tagging structure. If you have control over an inbound link (say, your specified destination URL for a Bing PPC ad), you can append the URL with some tracking variables to properly categorize that traffic in your reports. For example, my Bing ad, when clicked on, might take visitors to example.com/product.html?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=adcampaign1 - the bolded variables in this URL are captured by Google Analytics and let you know that the visit came from Bing, but was in fact from a CPC (cost-per-click) ad within your "ad campaign #1". Now that this information is tracked, you can analyze these visits in the same CPC reports you use for advertising in Google and do some nifty slicing and dicing.

I've covered link tagging in Google Analytics in more detail before, so here I'll just say - make sure your variables are logical and consistent. Don't tag paid Bing traffic as "ppc" when Google AdWords is grouped under "cpc". Remember that these tags are case-sensitive - "keyword" and "Keyword" will show up as two different items in GA. If you're doing banner advertising and paying for bundles of impressions, not clicks, don't throw that in with your pay-per-click campaigns! Doing so will only make analysis more difficult on your part - a well organized hierarchy of link variables can make the difference between spotting a staggeringly awesome opportunity and blowing past it with a "Traffic Sources" report that runs for 3 pages.

A lot of issues with Google Analytics revolve around these 3 items, or a combination thereof, so it's important to audit regularly and intelligently. A corporate push for data quality and a rock-solid QA process are incredibly helpful, but a weekly rundown of these 3 areas (using some of the tools above) can dramatically reduce lost data, identify potentially inaccurate statistics, and hopefully pinpoint some opportunities or areas for improvement!

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Monday, January 18, 2010

SEO Tip in Google Analytics - Spotting Broken Inbound Links

Much of the challenge in SEO (search engine optimization) lies in link prospecting and maintenance - that is, tracking down high ranking, relevant, and/or authoritative sites and encouraging them to link to your site. This in itself is no easy feat - and nothing is more frustrating than discovering that great link from AwesomeSiteThatRules.com is now pointing to a broken or now-nonexistent page on your website.

Link monitoring is a time-consuming and fairly tedious process, but there IS an easier way to find referring sites that are linking to inaccurate URLs. If you use Google Analytics on your site, here's a quick snippet of code you can add to your 404 page to capture those sites.

Every page on your site should have the default, standard tracking code installed. To view this within Google Analytics, find the profile for the site in question and click "EDIT" from the account overview screen, then "Check Status". It should look something like this (click to enlarge):




That circled bit of "X"s will actually be your unique GA account number. Now to see what sites have broken links pointing to your website, you'll want to add the following segment of code to the standard tracking code on only your 404 page. In the call to trackPageview, you'll add ...

"/404.html?page=" + document.location.pathname +
document.location.search + "&from=" + document.referrer

And you should end up with (click picture to enlarge):



Once this is set up, you should be able to track your 404 page from GA's "Content" reports, including referring sites. Now it's up to you - start bugging those people to update their links!

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Top 5 Signs You Picked The WRONG Web Design Company

Top 5 Signs You Picked the WRONG Web Design Company

5. The Company’s portfolio is on cocktail napkins – Seriously, when choosing a web designer, be it an individual or company, make sure you see their portfolio. Look for a portfolio that has a wide variety of designs. If the designs look the same, so will your site. Look for fresh examples. Have the sites been built lately as well as over time?

4. The Company ‘also’ does web sites – Graphic design, as it applies to the internet is a unique animal. The elements that make for good graphic print design may or may not apply to your website design. Web design needs to allow for the dynamic nature of Internet viewing across multiple browser types, versions and screen resolutions. Make sure you have chosen someone who is a specialist in graphic design for the web.

3. The Company doesn’t need your creative input – Certainly we need to allow the people we employ to do a specific job – do their job, yet NOBODY knows your business better than you do. A quality web design experience must include input from you throughout the process to ensure creative direction accomplishes your marketing goals. Pick a company that invites you to share in the process from start to finish.

2. The Company doesn’t DO Deadlines – Creative work needs time to develop, true enough. However, the best designer has a process and timeline in place to help you meet your deadlines. The only thing worse than getting handed a website design you didn’t approve (see #3), is getting handed that website a year after it was scheduled to be completed. You deserve to be kept informed on the process and timeline throughout your project. Who needs more surprises?

1. The Company gives family members and friends as references – While it is good to have good working relationships with your kin, having verifiable business references that demonstrate the company’s ability to serve people over time is a must. Look for a variety of industry types and company sizes among the references – which, by the way, you shouldn’t have to ask for.

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