Best New Google Analytics Features

For the unititated, Google Analytics contains a series of the most powerful web analytics tools on the market – and the best part is: it’s free! Whether you are tracking website traffic, conversions, site speed, or audience demographics; Google Analytics is for you.

As a content and website manager myself, I can say that I use Google Analytics frequently. Combined with marketing software like Hubspot, there is very little you cannot find out about your online audience. I could go on forever about its usefulness but for the purpose of this post I will be focusing on the best new Google Analytics features.

In-page Analytics (Content > In-Page Analytics)

Google Analytics - In-page Analytics

In-Page Analytics allows you to see which elements of your website are most appealling to users and generate the most clicks – essentially a heat map for click activity. Above you can see the screenshot of the website I manage (exciting stuff, Inventory and Accounting Software). The tool isn’t perfect – many of the results do not match the colour properly or reference the correct element, perhaps because of positioning issues, but hovering over each section will reveal the data for the correct element. Colours range from blue (low click rate) to red (high click rate).

With In-Page Analytics, you can navigate from page to page and determine which elements are most interesting to your audience and which are not so that you can make changes accordingly. Like the rest of the Google Analytics interface, you can change the time frame to see click data for different periods.

Included with In-Page Analytics is the ability to “see what your audience can see”. This feature is simply labelled “browser size” and allows you to determine how much of your page is visible to the average user of your website. This is particularly important as Google leans more and more towards content located above-the-fold. The tool is also useful for designing mobile sites and ensuring content is visible as well.

Motion Chart (Available Throughout Interface)

Motion Chart - Google Analytics

The next best Google Analytics feature is the Motion Chart. Found throughout the system, Motion Charts allow you to visualize data over time. You can enable Motion Chart by clicking on the icon indicated on the screenshot above. Not every screen has the option for motion charts but many do. This feature can make presentations on data over time a breeze. You can choose 2 criteria to evaluate, one for each axis, and then scroll through time to see how the data has changed for each element selected. The flexibility and power of this tool was surprising.

Visitors Flow (Audience > Visitors Flow)

Visitors Flow - Best Google Analytics Features

The last Google Analytics feature I want to talk about is Visitors Flow. Visitors Flow visiualizes, well, the flow of visitors throughout your site. You can quickly pin-point the most popular pages and the pages that have the most significant drop-off or bounce rates. You can also highlight “traffic routes” to see how which pages users are most likely to visit based on a given entrance page, for example. This can be powerful insight and allow you to make decisions to improve a visitors pathway to maximize conversions.

I feel bad for any company trying to sell website analytics – Google offers a ton of functionality for free. All marketers and webmasters, should become very familiar with Google Analytics.

Is Social Media Viable for Niche B2B Companies?

Many companies have found great success via social media such as the Old Spice campaign “The man your man could smell like”. There is no question that big brands can benefit from social media – it has given them the most direct channel to speak with individual consumers ever. But the question remains: does social media pan-out for B2B businesses?

I invite responses down below because, well, I do not know the answer! Working in the B2B space I have realized that there is substantial opportunity for success in social media. HubSpot, for example, does a great job leveraging their content through social media. However, HubSpot does not serve a niche marketing; their software could be beneficial to just about any marketer out there (despite perhaps being out of their price range). How does a niche B2B company go about utilizing social media?

Let us explore a number of options:

  1. Use social media to keep in touch with customers – this is effective so long as the customers in your vertical use social media (which isn’t often the case).
  2. Use social media to network – this is perhaps the most effective use of social media for niche B2B businesses. You can find all sorts of potential business partners, trade associations and business services via social media.
  3. Use social media to acquire leads – this one can be tough. Marketers, please do your thing and share your insight below.

Consider B2B inventory and accounting software available exclusively for small wholesalers and distributors. How do you target the owners of such businesses, that are not tech-savvy and do not use social media? Is this a dead-end, or is there something I am missing? Industry forums are a good option but what about Twitter and Facebook? How do you avoid posting updates in a vacuum?

Please share your experience in the comments down below.

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Social Media = Social Justice

Social media easily one of the biggest technological advancements to-date, especially (and obviously) in regards to socializing.

What is so great about it? Plenty:Twitter Social Media Justice

  • It allows you to keep easily message and keep up with hundreds of friends (even if we actually only keep in touch with a subset)
  • You can connect with people you would otherwise not be able to connect with (e.g. celebrities on Twitter or people around the world)
  • It enables business to connect with new customers
  • It is a great way of interacting with others (starting conversations around a status)
  • It enables true global social justice

Each aspect combines to make social media a far reaching technological advancement with tremendous implications for everyone. Perhaps my favourite aspect of social media is the fact that everyone is held accountable.

Social media holds everyone accountable.

Social media gives everyone a voice – true universal justice. No matter how “small” you are, if you have been truly wronged, you can find justice via social media. This social justice is usually most effective when leveraged against businesses, organizations and government, however it can also be used to directly help the individuals that have been wronged.

Social media makes everyone accountable for their actions. Take, for example, a rude Twitter user behind the Kansas City Chiefs. The story in short: an angry fan tweeted about a poor management decision and was shot back at rudely by the person in charge of the NFL team’s Twitter account. The story gets tossed around via social media soon the story goes viral – a ton of bad press for the Chiefs.

Perhaps the biggest story to emerge recently was the pizza shop owner bear hugging Obama. As a result of giving a spontaneous bear hug to the President, Scott Van Duzer found his pizza shop receiving a lot of attention. At first, the attention was extremely negative with right win nuts pouring in leaving horrible reviews on Yelp, trying to ruin his business. The good news is, however, that eventually other people caught on and came in to save the day. His shop then began to receive thousands of positive reviews, more than counteracting the negative reviews.

Over the last several years, I can think of several instances where someone was left victimized and social media allowed people to give donations and help them in their time of need. The ability to tap into  the hearts of millions of strangers is truly an incredible phenomenon.

Whether it is people correcting for wrong doing caused by others or simply holding the jerks of the world accountable, social media allows for the first ever form of global social justice for the individual.

Multi-Page Articles: Hurting the User Experience (UX)

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Do multiple-page articles annoy you as much as they annoy me? It can be extremely frustrating clicking from page to page when all you normally have to do is scroll for more content. Of course, being a marketer and getting the inside scoop, I know exactly why they do it. They do it to inflate their page views to sell more advertising or make themselves seem more popular than they are. Each time you click to the next page, it counts as another page view. Whereas a normal website would only get one page view for a single article, these sites can collect several.

The problem with this is that multipage articles hamper the user experience (or UX, in silicon valley terms). Is hurting the user experience really worth artificially inflated page views? I hope they are laughing all the way to the bank.

The only other reason that has been brought up is making the site load faster on mobile devices. This is ridiculous, of course. First, most devices are now fast enough to download an article in no time – afterall, most articles are are quite small with few images and are primarily just plain text. Secondly, having to load another page actually takes longer than simply having to load more of a single page. Sure, it may reduce the initial load time but there are loading tricks to help reduce that time and it is certainly not worth it load a bunch of pages instead of one.

What is particularly frustrating is that these sites implement multi page articles for their non-mobile site as well. Surely they cannot think that their articles are big enough to slow down the average PC browser . . .

I have gone so far as to boycott these sites. If it has multiple pages, I leave. The only middle-ground I have found are the sites that have a “view as single page” option. Not an optimal solution because it is an unnecessary page load but better than nothing.

Join me in my boycotting and leave a comment below with your take on these sites.
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Google+ Hangouts are Great for Business (and Hilarious)

Not too long ago I ran into a problem at work: I wanted to have a meeting with someone that I couldn’t meet with in person. Of course, given today’s business environment, there are a number of options to meet with people remotely. Many of these options are rather cumbersome and costly.

For example, here at Blue Link we use GoToMeeting for our remote meetings. It’s a great piece of software that certainly serves this purpose but it is really not as simple to get started with as it should be. You need to install software on your computer before you are up and running and when you want to have a meeting right then you don’t want to be bothered with installations.

That is when I decided to try Google+ Hangouts. Needless to say I was very impressed with Hangouts. There is a plugin to be installed, if I remember correctly, but it does not take long to get started. Of course, the major problem with Hangouts is that you need Google+, but I’m not sure. You can access Hangouts from within Gmail but it is unclear if you have to have a Google+ account first.

Hangouts are really intuitive and surprisingly reliable with great audio and video connections. A neat feature is how the main video section changes to show the person speaking at the moment which encourages people to take turns and give the speaker the floor. Hangouts are great for businesses, not just for fun, as you can share your screen and easily show off documents to the group as well.

Screen Shot 2012-07-31 at 4.06.38 PMGoogle didn’t take Hangouts too seriously though – they included some hilarious features, like the ability to add funny video masks that follow your face. These masks can help lighten the mood and keep things upbeat during what might otherwise be another boring business meeting.

If you haven’t tried  Hangouts yet, give it a try and let me know what you think of it below.

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Apple’s Product Obsolescence: Unfixable Macbook Pro

Apple products are high quality. They offer polished hardware and software at a hefty price. Apple products have been touted as long-lasting – so perhaps they are worth the investment. Now what if those same expensive products are slapped with an expiry date? Welcome to Apple’s newly introduced product obsolescence.

I like many Apple products, but it is no secret that many of Apple’s business practices really tick me off. So needless to say I was very . . . disappointed . . . to learn that Apple has decided to make their new MacBook Pro’s unfixable or upgradeable. This means costly Apple-only servicing. If your battery dies, you are out of luck. After all, Apple Care only covers manufacturer’s defects and the battery only lasts 300 cycles on average. So no more assuming your investment will last for many years without additional expenditure.apple-obsolescence-macbook-repair

To make things worse, because the entire notebook is sealed together tighter than Alcatraz, recycling is difficult. This is likely one of many reasons why Apple initially backed out of the EPEAT environmental standard. The aluminum used in the MacBook Pro is supposed to be highly recyclable, but sources indicate that because the glass is glued to the aluminum, recycling is particularly difficult.

Apple’s recent decisions certainly fit with its “buy it from us or die in a hole” mentality, but it is decisions like this that could cause consumers to wake up to the increasing long-term costs of owning Apple (on top of the very high initial cost of owning Apple). Good thing Apple has an untarnishable reputation – fanboys can’t even see the words I’m writing.

See the Wired article “The New MacBook Pro: Unfixable, Unhackable, Untenable” for more information.

 

P.s. no, I won’t stop hating on Apple – they have too much money to be allowed to make a single move that doesn’t benefit the end consumer.

The Future is Square: Credit Payments, Anywhere!

Square has been around for a long time, but if you don’t live in San Francisco you may have missed it. Square is a device that allows anyone with a smartphone, or device such as a tablet, to accept credit cards. The device (pictured below) plugs into the audio jack of your iPhone or iPad and after a simple approval process, you can begin processing credit cards!

What is particularly amazing about the device is that it uses the audio jack to transmit data to the device. This allows for the charging port to remain open so as not to limit device operation. All you have to do is apply for a merchant account in a much simpler way than with the big guys, buy the device, install the app and swipe away! It’s a seamless process that is now allowing even the smallest merchants to offer credit card payments.

Square is a big deal. Not just because it opens up all kinds of opportunities for small businesses, but also because it allows them to operate from virtually anywhere. No longer are are businesses tied to their brick and mortar locations – you can now find merchants walking along the street processing transactions as they go.square-credit-card-payment-future

I am particularly excited about Square because, as I mentioned previously, cash is horrible and credit is king. Although it will be interesting to see how Square pans out because mobile phone payment systems like Google Wallet are gaining steam and will soon begin to take hold. Both mobile phone payments and systems like Square will dramatically change the way we buy things and I cannot wait!

The only detractor to both of these new technologies is that they are rolling out slower than I expected. Square has been around for over 2 years and I was hoping it would have made in-roads into Toronto but it seems to be slow going for the technology. Mobile phone payments, on the other hand, are extremely new so I don’t expect full-market adoption at this stage.

What do you think? Are you as excited about these new technologies as I am?

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Optimism: Forget What You Hear, Remember What You Have

Optimism is something we could each use just about everyday. Unfortunately, the media is always pressing us to think negative with their onslaught of depressing and negative news stories. If the news is your only source of information, you probably think that the world is going to end any day now.

I thought I would take a moment to share a great quote from a recent article in Wired that lends an optimistic perspective on the world today.

Greenwald: How do you maintain your optimism amid the deadening barrage of bad news from around the globe?

Diamandis: Our brains are wired to look for negative information. The amygdala is the danger center. Our senses are routed through it before they get to the cortex. When we heard a rustle in the branches, we thought tiger, not wind. That’s why, in the news, if it bleeds it leads. But the facts are absolutely clear. The world is getting better at an extraordinary rate. The technologies available for solving problems are becoming more powerful and empowering more people. optimism-closeWill there be problems? Disasters? Pandemics? Terrorist attacks? Of course. But humanity picks up and keeps moving. In this country, lifespans nearly doubled in the last century. Per capita income more than tripled, and the cost of food, energy, transportation, and communications have dropped exponentially. That’s my source of optimism. That and a realization I made early on that if there’s a problem, I’m going to solve it. Once you see the world that way, it’s a different place.

The more of the story being, of course, that we are at an all time innovative high around the globe and that, even though things may seem tough, ultimately we have more tools today to help ourselves than that in the sum of all history.

Happy Canada day! Let’s celebrate the best country in the world!

The Google Display Network Is The Devil: How to Opt Out

photoMost online marketers already know this but it is worth repeating: do not, under any circumstances, use the Google Display Network. It has long been known that the quality of the network is extremely questionable, but lately I have been finding many examples of blatant abuse of the network and advertisers.

Take a look at this image. Does anything stand out to you? It was taken from a quiz on ChaCha.com, a site that abuses the Google Display Network. Notice that embedded within the content itself is an ad – located directly above actionable content. What this does is increase the likelihood that a user will accidentally click on an ad. This came to my attention when I had visited the site through someone’s Twitter post and ended up accidentally clicking on the ad. Ads are displayed directly above the “next” button on the mobile site. The button for the quiz is very small and located directly beneath an ad making it very likely that you will click on the ad instead of the button.

Unless you work for a company that likes to waste money, you should avoid situations like these by opting out of the Google Display Network. I will walk you through the steps below:

  1. When you create a new campaign, look for the “Networks and Devices” section and click “Let me choose”.
  2. Uncheck “Display Network”.
  3. Also, consider unchecking “Search Partners” as well if you want to further improve ROI.

opt-out-of-google-display-network

To play devil’s advocate for myself, I was trying to think of reasons why someone might find the Display Network useful:

  1. You are a spammer or phisher that wants to drive unsuspecting victims to your site (so you don’t care where they are coming from or if they are clicking accidentally).
  2. You want more visits to your page even if everyone is immediately clicking away because they didn’t mean to click the ad.
  3. Your favourite thing is wasting money.

The Display Network is an interesting concept that would work in a perfect world where your ads are displayed on only highly relevant sites and enthralled customers come clicking to your door. Unfortunately, the reality is that many sites like Chacha.com abuse the network. Google does not police the network as closely as it should because they stand to benefit from sites like ChaCha that generate a lot of money for them. Meanwhile, advertisers are left wondering why they are spending tons of money with no return.

 

Hint: you can choose which sites your ads display on so you have the option of choosing a select few sites or blocking select sites (the Display Network’s only saving grace).

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Cash is Horrible — Credit is King!

I have almost completely eliminated cash from my life and I want to share my experience with you. First of all, it is amazing! The number of benefits associated with doing away with cash should not be underestimated  — as I will get into shortly. Contrary to popular believe, it is very easy to eliminate cash from your everyday life. There are still some situations where you will still need cash, but with careful planning you can keep those situations to a bare minimum.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of not using cash (and I’m just scratching the surface):

1. Transaction Speed

Many people consider cash the fastest payment method, but I strongly disagree. Modern alternative payment methods (such as credit cards) are often just as fast as using cash and emerging technologies such as tap-to-pay technology are much faster. People often spend a lot of time counting change and reaching for coins when a single swipe or tap is all that is necessary. One of the most obvious examples of the speed difference is at gas stations. Esso, and other leading edge gas stations, have implemented quick pay technology that allows you to pay for gas with a tap of a key-fob or swipe of a card. This eliminates the need to enter the gas station to pay the clerk, leading to significant time savings (it takes 5 seconds to tap the device as opposed to several minutes to walk into the station and pay the clerk. Add even more time if there is a line-up).

2. Physical Convenience

Cash is cumbersome. It takes up an excessive amount of space. To carry the cash-equivalent of the spending limit on a single credit card, you would have to bring 10 extra wallets and a couple extra pairs of pants. Okay, so normal people don’t carry around thousands of dollars of cash, I get that. However, cash users should ask themselves how many times they have gone to the bank in the last month. I go to the bank less than once a month and it’s fantastically convenient. Also, coins. ‘Nuff said.

3. Cash Doesn’t Pay

Sounds weird, right? It should be obvious where I’m going with this. When you use cash, you get nothing. Okay, sometimes businesses will give you a break because they don’t want to pay taxes but legally-speaking there are no benefits. Credit cards, on the other hand, pay rewards and have many other benefits. For example, with my current credit card I get 1% cash-back on all purchases as well as roadside assistance and various travel perks. Sure there are downsides to using credit cards, but if you are of above average intelligence, have reasonable self-restraint and pay off your cards in time, you will be laughing all the way to the bank. Like me: muwahahaha!

4. Cash Leaves No Trail

Cash is very hard to track. For criminals this is fantastic but for the rest of us it is inconvenient. Unless you keep a cumbersome personal log of where you have spent your cash on a daily basis, it will be very difficult to budget and look back at your purchases. Modern technology allows you to automatically keep track of transactions with very little thought or effort on your part. Mint.com, the website I use to manage all my budgeting and transaction history, has the ability to import debit and credit transactions automatically from your bank. It may sounds sketchy, but just like everything else you have to embrace technology to benefit from it (cars were scary back in the day too. Imagine if everyone had insisted on still riding in carriages . . . Yup, I went there). Mint allows you to set budgets, view your account balances and even set financial goals for yourself, all in one convenient location. It even automatically tags transactions and categorizes them for you. Oh, and did I mention it is completely free? It can also record cash transactions, but it requires manual entry of that information (obviously) and defeats the purpose of the site.

5. Cash Can Be Lost — Never to Return

You drop a bill in a gutter. It’s gone forever. Someone steals your cash that you had lying around. It’s gone forever. Your cash gets irreparably damaged. Say it with me now: It’s gone forever. None of these circumstances are any worry with a credit card. Drop your card in a gutter? Get a new one – no loss! Someone steals your card and makes obscene purchases on it – call your bank and declare the fraud purchases to get a new one with no out-of-pocket expense! Your credit card gets damaged. Get a new one – no loss! You get the point. (I wonder how many incomplete sentences I just wrote . . .)

Needless to say, this is an issue I am very passionate about. I am now in my 4th successful year limiting my cash use and I will never go back. I cannot wait for further advancements in technology like Near Field Communication (NFC) to further reduce societies reliance on cash. I discussed this new technology (as well as my wicked auto-card wallet) in a previous post for those that would like to make their lives that much easier: Mobile Wallet, Google Wallet – Finally!

Insert inflammatory comment here: anyone still living in the stone-age using cash? Let us have a discussion in the comments below.

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