Oh, when I read this, I knew this would appeal to the history geek in me, while also satisfying the tech comm geek in me as well. When the click bait of this article says, “What do Alexander Hamilton, Harry Potter, and Bayesian Statistics Have in Common?”, you know I went for the bait. And knowing that Alexander Hamilton’s reputation is becoming more relevant thanks to the Broadway musical, “Hamilton”, I thought this would be relevant to share.
Not only did I come away with a cool story about The Federalist Papers and statistics, but the thing that kept coming back to me was how tech comm has become advanced enough that we use many of the same techniques in content strategy now. To be more specific, Mark Lewis and his talks and book about XML metrics instantly popped into my head, and how we use similar statistics to figure out how to economize our content, and provide the best ROI for the content that is created.
Read this article, then go back and read my articles about Mark’s talks about XML Metrics here and here. You’ll see where I was making a connection.
What do you think about this? Do you think that The Federalist Papers project laid the groundwork for XML metrics and other metrics we use today in tech comm? Why or why not? Include your comments below.
Anytime I think of any kind of tech comm analytics, I don’t think of Google Analytics or Web Trends, but my mind races back to the first time I heard Mark Lewis speak and how my mind was blown at the idea that tech writing was measurable in any form. Now, a few years later, I’m looking at this latest module in my online Digital Marketing course at Rutgers about Web Analytics and ROI, as taught by Rob Peterson of the marketing firm, BarnRaisersLLC.
The idea of analytics and ROI (return on investment) sends a shiver down my spine. While I understand the function of analytics and some basics, it makes me think of complicated mathematical formulas, and that in itself makes me anxious. (I was a decent math student in school, but it was not my forté.)
Peterson started his course with a quote that I could swear I’ve heard either Mark Lewis or Joe Gollner repeat (I think it was Joe) by Peter Drucker to frame the objective, in which Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” So, the first question was, what is “it”? “It” could be almost anything. But Peterson feels that “it” is success–that your success (or lack thereof) is what needs to be measured. He also felt that the verbs “measure” and “manage” were the keys to understanding the material for this module.
Peterson broke down these by 6 steps to demystify web analytics:
Know why your site exists
Identify who you want to attract
Find out how they find your site
Know the action(s) you want them to take
Create an actionable scorecard aka figuring out your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)
Listen to your digital ecosystem
You want to do these steps because the buying cycle has changed due to the internet. The buying “funnel” has been replaced by a flatter, more circular course of evaluation and re-evaluation before buying, but there is a subsequent loyalty to a brand after the initial buy that shortens the cycle the second time around.
Petersen then talked about how to make your digital ecosystem thrive, describing it as the intersection of earned (sharing), owned (web properties), and paid (advertising) media. People come before software in analytics, he insisted, stating that there’s a 10/90 rule for analytics, namely 10% of the marketing budget should go towards the analytics software, and 90% towards getting good people to analyze the results. We use measurement to understand our role, which is understanding the customer journey with the goal of optimizing the customer experience and find more customers.
To do this, there are several (he said 12, but I could figure out which were the specific 12) measurements to know.
First, you have to understand how consumers find you. This is primarily done through keywords and links. It was emphasized that page rank (aka “SERP”- Search Engine Rank Page) mattered because the first listed item in the ranking outweighs subsequent 5 ranks combined, usually. The metric that mattered most with paid media? He gave these two equations to show how this worked:
CPC (cost per click) = CTR (Click thru rate–this makes the click relevant)
He noted that a good conversion rate is actually low–2% is considered good!
So, once you’re at the website–now what? To analyze this, you need to look at sessions and users (which were recently renamed by Google, and formerly known as visitors and unique visits, which I understand better). Usually the period of time usually measured is looking at the last 30 days. An important metric in this is looking at the bounce rate, which is a percentage that means the number of people who only viewed one page then left. It’s important because it shows if the site is relevant or not. A good bounce rate depends on your goal or objective. If you wanted people to come to a specific page to sign up for something only on that page, then you achieved your goal, but if not, then you have to figure out why they didn’t stay. Petersen noticed that if you notice that your bounce rate is high for the wrong reasons, it’s not easy to change a bounce rate overnight.
One also has to understand where users people come from and what they do. Traffic resources are organic, direct, or paid searches, but can also be referral and social media sources.
The focus then turns on the key content (aka the webpages) by determining how many take the actions that you want. Conversion, here, is an important metric. There is the macro conversion, which is revenue generating, such as person to person, B2B, B2C, WebEx to WebEx, and the like, versus micro conversion, in which users would subscribe to the blog or a newsletter or participate by making a comment on a blog, and so on. This can also be done through word of mouth, more specifically “likes”, comments, shares, people talking about the site, followers, retweets, reviews and rating, sentiment, text analytics, and email open rate. The conversion rate is determine with this equation:
Conversion rate=(Desired outcomes/total visits) X 100
There are several online tools to help you listen that are generally free tools and work better on bigger sites, but easily available to use, according to Petersen:
Google Trends – This tool uses keywords. It can compare two different topics to see where they’ve been and where they are predicted to go. The example given was the buzz between Justin Bieber and the anticipated Samsung Galaxy 4 among teenagers as potential buyers. Fortunately for Samsung, the Galaxy 4 was trending more than Bieber!
Compete.com – This is a paid tool focused on doing competitive intelligence. It lets you see how you compare to your competitors so you can figure out your strategy.
Alexa.com – This is another tool that looks at the competition, powered by Amazon. It can use to compare your competition by providing ranking and metric information.
Marketing.Grader.com – This is a HubSpot tool that grades your website on several levels from social media marketing, blog posts, SEO, lead generation and mobile. I tried this tool and this blog got an 82/100, mostly because I’m not really trying to generate leads, and the mobile aspect of using WP needs help, so I considered that pretty good. I like this tool because it was really easy to use and understand. At the time of the recording of the lesson, Petersen’s business website had an 81! And I had an 82? Hah! I must be doing something right!
The course continued by using a case study using Google Analytics. The objective of this part of the lesson was to learn what to look for and how to use it. It was pointed out that it only will look up your own company due to admin rights, and to make it work optimally, you need to get specific code and embed it in all of your page (perhaps in the header, for example) so that Google Analytics can track it correctly by the correct administrators.
The main focus in using Google Analytics is looking at the audience figures. Look at the Engagement section to see who is really spending time on your pages. It helps you to understand the bounce rate. Petersen pointed out that on average, 95% of the audience never views more than 5 pages, and 95% don’t spend anymore than 5 minutes on a website. You can also look at location for geographic data, drilling down from national to town level. The section labeled “Mobile” can let you see how the site is being accessed.
This information helps to frame the marketing “funnel” that is often talked about, which is where marketers start with the action of acquisition, narrowing the focus to engagement, which further narrows to conversion. If it circles back to the engagement, this signals that there is loyalty to the brand, and this cycle begins again.
Google Analytics can also identify how your audience finds you, which is mainly through acquisition, behavior, and e-commerce. Behavior metrics can show what pages they are going to. Channels section knows keywords even if analytics don’t tell, as it shows keywords that people are using to access the site. You can find out about keywords from the Site Search section. All this information helps us understand the conversion rate by allowing us to see what’s been bought and look at average order value if you offer goods on your site.
For better information on keywords, Google Webmaster Tools is a better choice. It can tell you if your website is set up correctly so that the webcrawlers can find you, and helps correct errors on your site, providing rich depth of information on keywords.
So, you have all this information–what do you do with it? You do a lot of testing, because it’s an activity and a philosophy in which you build and test and repeat the cycle, using lots of small steps continually. Surveys are one way to do this, as they are essentially a tool that acts as the “voice of the customer”. Surveys use simple questions regularly executed such as, “Why did you come to this website?”, “Did you find what you were looking for?”, “Would you come back?”, and “What would make your next visit better?” There is also what is known as A/B Testing, in which you show two different versions of an ad or webpage to customer groups, and then seeing which people went to the goal page based on the two different models. A third way to find out some of this data directly from customers is looking at reviews, as they help searches and sales for other customers.
This is when the talk steered towards the ROI part of the discussion. Petersen started by letting us know how much a “like” on a site was worth. Research showed that among 150 brands researched, it was worth $71.84. Fans of a brand are 28% more likely than non-fans to continue using the brand, while fans are 41% more likely than non-fans to recommend a fanned product to their friends.
What does it tell us about “Like”-ability? It tells us how we can learn from social media audiences, which can be achieved through Facebook surveys and provides sentiment analysis.
KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)are crucially important as they are the “scorecard” needed to keep a strategy on track. Petersen defined KPIs using a quote by Avinash Khaushik of Google, saying that KPIs are “Measurements that help you understand how you are doing against your objectives.” Petersen also used the quote by Laurence Peter, saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” This, Petersen decreed, is where you define the “success” using metrics to measure.
There is a difference between KPIs and metrics, namely that a KPI is a metric, but a metric is not a KPI. More specifically, KPIs:
Relate to a business objective
Are chosen by the people accountable
Provide context by being tracked over time
Are based on legitimate data
Are easy to understand
Create meaning that gives control
The role of KPIs, per Petersen, is that “KPIs are an actionable scorecard that keeps your strategy on track. They enable you to manage, control, and achieve desired business results.”
How do you choose the best digital marketing measurements? Start with a KPI scorecard that compares raw numbers against progress against the percentage of change.
# of new customers
22% increase in sales
From there, you create a dashboard for the scorecard that should include both web and offline metrics that looks something like this:
Sales Metric #1
Sales Metric #2
Website Metric #1
Website Metric #2
Social Media Metric #1
Social Media Metric #1
The KPI dashboard shows key areas and results from metrics, and can help you to figure out what the key points are to create a KPI report for management.
During: visitors, segmentation, bounce rate, traffic sources, key pages, conversion rate, average value
After: reviews, surveys, A/B tests, social promotions
Starting from KPIs to deriving ROI is about the “Show me the money!” You need to look at the results from latent effects to direct effects. Direct online effects usually make up 16%, latent online effects makes up 21%, while latent offline effects makes up 63% of the results.
What is ROI (Return on Investment)? The equation given for this was:
(gain from investment-cost of investment)/cost of investment ($)=ROI
ex. ($500,000-$100,000)/$100,000=400% or 4-to-1 ROI
ROI is important because it reflects the idea of good management of money. Examples of gains and investments include:
Gains: sales increase, shorter purchase cycle, more leads, higher close rate, lower internal operating costs
Investments: marketing, advertising, promotion, PR, customer service, staff, overhead, time and energy
Metrics we use to create both annual and lifetime customer value and help us be better marketers include:
Mass Marketing (Mass media, like TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, billboards — create awareness, interest, trial, sales)
Direct marketing (leads, conversions, retention, sales)
Digital marketing (unique visitors, downloads, register, redeem, convert, buy)
What ROI calculation can and can’t do:
Can: identify direct effect, provide relationships between direct and latent effects, give insights how to drive ROI higher, define consumer value
Can’t: define ROI goals and expectations, establish a baseline, identify a timeframe
What’s in store for the future? More data (aka BIG data) is growing exponentially coming in. “Big Data” is large amounts of data from web-browser trails, social network communications, sensor and surveillance data that form unstructured data stored in computer clouds, not servers.
The course was concluded with the statement, “It’s not the data, it’s what you do with it.”
Overall, this module was pretty good. I feel less anxious about web analytics and how to analyze the information provided, and I now have some more robust tools to use as well. The only thing I didn’t like about this module was that while Mr. Petersen was obviously knowledgeable about the topic, the structure of the module wasn’t completely clear. At the top of the course, he said from the beginning that there would be a top 12 things, but they really weren’t defined as “this is #1, this is #2, this is #3,” and so on. While there was a good progression, part of this came off as scattered because I felt like I didn’t understand how he was going from Point A to Point B and why, and no clear outline on how he planned to cover the lesson. Call it the content strategist in me, but that structure was something I just needed. Other than that, it was a module that I definitely needed for a better understanding of the topic, and the information was sound.
The last module is coming up, which looks like it will tie all the previous modules together! Until then…
Almost exactly a year ago, I returned from a conference that changed a lot about the way I think about content. It was the 2014 Intelligent Content Conference (ICC2014). My brain soaked in a lot of information, and new friends and networking connections were made during that trip. (Good times!)
One major point–which is also a big focus of this year’s 2015 Intelligent Content Conference–was that content marketing was the next big focus item. Joe Pulizzi of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) gave a keynote that compelled content strategists at the ICC2014 for us to consider embracing marketers and work together toward tearing down the silos so that we could share skillsets to create better content to promote goods and services. In other words, we should all be shifting towards being content marketers. It made sense, but it was overwhelming for me.
Fast forward to a year later, and here I am now, taking my digital marketing coursework, and this week’s module was about content marketing. Ooh boy. Here we go. The very reason that I’m taking this coursework in the first place–to have a deeper understanding of digital marketing, what content marketing is, and how I can try to fit into it my skill set going forward.
The instructor for this module was Greg Jarboe, a well-known YouTube guru and president of SEO-PR, a content marketing agency which has worked with several well-known brands. While I hadn’t seen Mr. Jarboe present before, his name rings a bell, and I don’t know why. Hmm.
Anyway, Mr. Jarboe’s lecture was enlightening, enjoyable, and took some of my anxieties away. While content marketing is still a little overwhelming because of the scale of all of it, I came away with six main points that I’d heard before in content strategy, but hit home for me for content marketing.
1) Content needs to be relevant and have value for the end user. This seems obvious, but it’s generally overlooked.
2) Storytelling works. People are drawn in by stories, not jingles or catch-phrases. This is how blogging for a company actually can have some big benefits. (Yay!)
3) Tear down the silos by working with other departments, such as marketing, IT, public relations, etc. Gee, I’ve definitely heard that multiple times in last two years on the content strategy side!
4) A structured, documented content strategy is necessary to build for success. Like we content strategists didn’t already know this one!
5) Measurable metrics for ROI based on outcomes, like website traffic is up, sales, sales leads, customer retention, higher conversion rates, etc. The first thing that came to my mind was good ol’ Mark Lewis with XML Metrics as a start. Mr. Jarboe took this a step further from a marketing perspective. An easy way to do this is to track what you do! Measure URL hits against results using special URLs from the Google URL generator. For example, create a special URL for a promotion, and measure number of clicks to that special URL against sales results during that time period. (Makes sense!)
6) Brand recognition is not the goal anymore; generating leads and sales is. This makes sense too. I’ve learned from marketing this blog that once you knew my “brand” of TechCommGeekMom, then it’s been up to me to keep you coming back. While my “product” at this point it sharing information that I think is relevant in the tech comm world at large, I want you to keep coming back and sharing your experiences and interests with me as well.
So there you have it. I think from a content strategist’s point of view, these are easy to understand and remember. The trick is, going back to point #3, is that it’s good to have more than one perspective working on content marketing. By combining the different “superpowers” from various groups, a great content marketing strategy can result. I think if I can keep these basics in mind, I might just have a chance at finding a content marketing position if the opportunity arises.
Do you think I’m leaving any basics out? Let me know in the comments.
Next module up is called, “Personalized Digital Experiences”. Again, this is another topic that I know I’ve heard before several times in content strategy, so it’ll be interesting to hear how digital marketing approaches the same topic.
The second module of my online course in digital marketing is about Search Marketing and how SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing) works. The module is taught by Mike Moran, who crams a lot of information in 3-4 hours of video.
My initial reaction is similar to when I heard Mark Lewis talk about using XML and DITA to determine ROI metrics on tech content, namely that I understand it on a broad level, but ouch, it hurts my brain! Mark is awesome*, don’t get me wrong, and what he figured out with his XML analytics is genius to me, but about 95% of it is over my head. That’s how I feel about Mr. Moran’s talk on SEO Marketing. I understand the concepts without any problem, but I supposed that since I have little practical marketing experience, much like my XML/DITA experience (which is even narrower), it’s hard for me to make the full connection to the information without feeling overwhelmed.
I just took my quiz, and got a 70% on it. Ugh. Not good. I can take the quiz over again many times until I get a better score, but that’s not a good starting point.
I think much of it feels overwhelming not only because it’s taken from a marketing perspective which I don’t originally come from, but also because I’m listening to the information, and the content strategist/writer in me is trying to think, “Okay, now with the content I write, it has to be clear and concise, and written in as much plain English as possible, using consistent terminology and word choices to be able to be reused and translated easily, as well as written in a way that can be globally understood in context, AND now I have to start thinking about keywords in relation to organic and paid searches to my website so that I can have as high a ranking in web searches as possible.” (And I’m sure I’m forgetting a few other things, too.)
I think my brain just exploded. Hopefully there’s something left, because it feels like a mess inside my cranium. In the end, what’s happened to the actual content? Is there anything left worth looking at after that? How creative can I be to make ALL of that happen?
To put it in context, I’m trying to think about how to apply this information I’m learning about search towards either this blog or towards websites I’m thinking of building for my potential tech comm consulting business I might start this summer. Part of me wants to give up before I even start! How can I compete when it all boils down to keywords in my content, figuring out differentiators (which I can’t figure out in the first place), and other factors that would help drive my listings towards the top of a search? For example, how do I even start to promote myself as a tech comm consultant? I have to figure out what makes me a great choice. Part of that is on me, because I have to figure out what my strengths are, and I still don’t feel as strong as other technical communicators who have been doing this much longer than me. Sure, I understand content strategy, but I’m no Scott Abel, or Rahel Bailie, or Ann Rockley, or Val Swisher, or Noz Urbina, or Sarah O’Keefe…(and the list goes on and on…) But once I figure that out, what’s the one thing that will help draw me to the top of the list, or at least the first page of a search, other than geography?
(Ow, ow, ow…hurting brain….)
I think I need to review the slides again for this module, and start re-analyzing the terminology and conditions of all the topics. From a high level, I understand this. From a more granular level–not even that far down–I get lost. I’m feeling a bit defeated already. Mr. Moran said at the end of the lecture that a lot of this information is overwhelming, and that we should focus on what we can do rather than what we can’t do, and work on one aspect, and hopefully you can grow as you learn and practice. He even wrote a compelling article that digital marketing is a matter of bravery, not necessarily matter of knowledge. While I take this to heart, and will keep pursuing this, it will be difficult since I have no or little practical application for this right now. Fear is my primary motivator in all of this. I’m not a content marketer…yet. I don’t even know if I’ll be any good at content marketing until I have a chance to actually try. All I know is that this is the direction I have to go to better my chances in finding work. I really need to master this better, because I don’t have practical experience to use.
I didn’t go to business school for a reason–I’m not good at it, or at least I know others who are a lot better at it than I am. If I can survive this digital marketing course, it’ll be a miracle, at this rate. 😦
One more review of module 2, then it’s on to Module 3– social media marketing. Okay, that might not be too bad. After all, I have a little bit of practical experience with that topic from promoting this blog and other stuff I’ve produced on other blogs…**fingers crossed**
* Since I wrote the two articles about Mark Lewis linked above, I did meet him a year ago, and that’s why I know he’s awesome beyond just watching his presentations. 😀
Adobe Day at the 2013 STC Summit was really great. It took me a while to digest all my own notes and relive the moments promoting the rock stars of tech comm. But like all good music festivals, the “Coachella” of tech comm had to end, but with great memories of fantastic information that will stay with me for a long time. Hopefully you enjoyed this “magical mystery tour” as well!
There were several people from Adobe that were truly instrumental in making this event a success, but I have to “give it up” for the two Masters of Ceremony of the event, Saibal Bhatacharjee and Maxwell Hoffmann.
So many people know them from the Adobe TCS webinars, blogs, and other social media outlets. I know they’ve been two of my greatest supporters, so I want to thank them for inviting me to the event, and as always, making me feel welcome both during Adobe Day, as well as during the STC Summit.
If you missed my series for this Adobe Day event, here’s a recap, so you can relive the day yourself:
I hope you’ve enjoyed all the articles. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below!
The next time there is an Adobe Day near you, or if you have the opportunity to go to one, I strongly encourage you to go! I’ve now been to two of them, and both were different. It’s amazing to see how perspectives change on the “hot” issues of tech comm in a mere few months! I was glad to hear from leading experts on the pressing topics of the day. And I have to say, I’ve learned so much from both visits. I can honestly say, as well, that both provided information that were applicable to my job, even as a new technical communicator. Keeping up with current trends in technical communication is important, because technology is changing fast, and technical communicators need to keep up with not only the technology itself, but the needs that new technology presents. Adobe does a nice job of bringing the best thought leadership from around the globe to talk about these issues for free. How can you pass that up?
Thanks again, Adobe, for an amazing opportunity to attend this free event!