Not long before I was given an opportunity to present at the 2006 eMetrics conference in DC, I had been promoted to manage the combined web and business intelligence teams at USAC. The reason was simple — management by metrics was the only way to go if this non-for-profit organization responsible for the $8 billion Universal Service Fund was to be efficient. My thinking then was that web analytics and business intelligence were complementary. Today, my thinking is that they should not be viewed as separate disciplines anymore.
The days of the separate tools are numbered. Big data vendors left and right are offering ways to integrate data from disparate sources. The skill sets should not be unique anymore as we are all to analyze the ways for optimizing an organization’s engagement with customers and constituents as well as its operational efficiency.
If Web Analytics is Business Intelligence, as the DA blog claims, why do we still view them as separate disciplines? If eConsultancy is inviting us to break down the silos between Web Analytics and Business Intelligence, why do we still cling to these obsolete boundaries?
True, there is data that originates on websites and data that originates in transaction systems but data is data. Do we need to split mobile analytics from web analytics? What about piping data from the internet of things? It is time this false dichotomy be put to rest.
What we need are skilled data analysts and flexible data analysis tools!
As ubiquitous as it is Google, the powerful search company faces ever competition from different directions which impede its attempt to diversify beyond search. In a blog response to Rupert Murdock of Fox, Google listed some its competitors:
“Within search Google faces a lot of competition: including
Amazon for product search; Kayak and Expedia for flights; and Yelp and TripAdvisor for local information.”
However successful or not these rivals might be, financially Google should be threatened the most by Facebook’s launch of a direct competitor to Google’s advertising subsidiary DoubleClick. Atlas, Facebook’s ad serving platform which it bought from Microsoft in 2013, will enable advertisers to target Facebook users across other websites and mobile apps.
With its troves of demographic information, Facebook is a real threat to Google’s dominance, and a welcome new opportunity for advertisers. What makes Facebook’s Atlas platform so potentially impactful is that is the massive data it has on its users. Of course, what is powerful for businesses, can be creepy for users.
If you don’t want Facebook to sell your personal information and browsing history to third-party companies, Business Insider has specific prescription:
“…visit the Digital Advertising Alliance opt-out, and in the middle of the page, click on “Companies customizing ads for your browser.” Select the boxes next to the names of companies you no longer wish to receive ads from, and then scroll down and click to submit your choices.
Mobile users will need to additionally opt out of advertising through special control settings embedded in iOS and Android. On iOS, visit the “Settings” app and open up the “Privacy” tab, click on “Advertising” and enable “Limit Ad Tracking.” On Android, Facebook may add this setting as a user preference within the “Application Manager” found in “Settings,” but you can also set up and manage a Virtual Private Network (VPN) on the device that should automatically disallow any browser tracking.”
One of the business goals of any online marketing efforts should be to improve the business’ online reputation. Some of my clients are in health-related fields like dentistry and allergy, so it is important to be familiar with the main players in online reputation management for their respective fields. An informative survey by SoftwareAdvice indicates that:
Since Yelp is so important, having a progressively positive collection of Yelp reviews becomes very important. The challenge is when a business has only a few reviews and one of them happens to be negative but written by an established Yelp user. The second challenge is when the positive reviews are by new Yelp accounts and for some mysterious reason are flagged as not trustworthy.
That is exactly the challenge we are dealing with so I wanted to outline some of the steps to address what could potentially damage the business.
1. Move positive reviews out of the Yelp filter:
Our problematic experience with Yelp reviews is not unique to us. This Time article provides a good summary:
The trustworthiness of Yelp, Angie’s List, and other “unbiased” ratings services is called into question in a new study by Consumer Reports. And the consumer advocacy publication is hardly the only one taking issue with user-review sites lately.
Many Yelp customers indicate that legitimate reviews are filtered out by Yelp. Many people suspect it is a way to force business to pay for their listings, making Yelp a nightmare to deal with, yet the reality is the influence of Yelp is too significant to ignore.
Based on them a specific recommendation for the Yelp business account holders is to reach out to the clients whose reviews have been filtered out and:
– Ask them to add a profile picture. Images make a user look more engaged with the site and less likely to get filtered out.
– Ask them to “check in” on their mobile phones from a few local places. Again, this indicates to the Yelp algorithm that they are human beings who engage with the app consistently.
– Ask them to be active. Although your end goal is to get the review for your business out of the filter, it helps if the Yelper is a frequent user. If they write a handful of reviews, it is more likely to get the review of your business up onto the main page.
Based on an article summarizing these strategies for avoiding the filter review, the most specific recommendation to us as Yelp users is to to make it a habit to:
– Write a bunch of Yelp reviews.
– If possible, link our Yelp accounts with our Facebook accounts.
– Make Yelp friends and like their reviews. Follow Yelpers with positive reviews.
– Turn to friends and families (and that should include friends and families of the staff) and ask them for Yelp (and other online review sites) reviews.
– Turn to loyal patients — in the office with the wifi easily accessible and after the office with emails.
– Reach out to vendors with whom are in already constant interactions and it would be helpful to ask them to consider giving us a good Yelp
While Yelp is the biggest company in online reviews, it is by no means the only one. We should continue working on improving our reviews and rankings on Google +, Facebook, and other sites. PCWorld provides a good list of Yelp alternatives.
For many product categories Google + might turn out to be the top review site.
In conclusion, we need to continue investing time and effort in growing the Google + and Facebook audience in addition to specific review sites like HealthGrades, Vitals, ZocDoc, because of these reviews’ placement on the Google search results pages.
What is your experience with Yelp and how have you dealt with online reputation management challenges?
The basic version breaks down the list of your friends by location, gender, relationship status, and list membership. The advanced version of the app features drop-down menu of filters based on interests such as religion, books, music, and work history.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how broad the geographical spread of my Facebook friends is and decided to further explore their origins. It turns out that the majority of them come from hometowns different from their current cities. Switching back and forth between the home town and current city makes for an interesting graph of Facebook denizens’ migration. See for yourself at http://apps.facebook.com/wheretheynow.
One of my most unusual and inspiring friends, astrophysicist and music producer Kelly Snook, has been working on a fascinating project, the Gloves, with the Grammy-award winning British musician Imogen Heap. The Gloves are a cutting edge experimental gestural music ware originally developed for the purpose of Imogen Heap’s studio and stage work, but now, through a Kickstarter campaign, can be made available to any other experimental musician!
Today I asked Kelly a few questions about her inspiration and work on the Musical Gloves. Enjoy:
Kelly, As I was watching the new Cosmos program with Neil deGrasse Tyson, I kept wondering about the sounds of the outer space and your work while you were at NASA. Could you tell me how that work prepared you for the exciting new Gloves Project you have been working on with Imogen Heap’s team?
Getting a Ph.D., working at NASA, and working with Imogen Heap have a lot in common – one thing they have in common is that they take you to new places and make you comfortable pushing boundaries and not being afraid to experiment. Also, they draw upon a confidence that impossible-seeming challenges are worth pursuing.
I have always admired that you seem to pursue anything with unshakable faith. What gives you that faith? And if experimenting is part of your daily agenda, how do you deal with failure?
Failure is a good sign. It means we’re trying something new or something that will make us grow. Faith comes from first principles.
What first principles, if you do not mind elaborating?
And a hand wrapped in a musical glove is a beautiful symbol of reaching towards the audio truth! Can you explain what the Glove is and what is your role in its creation?
The glove is a wearable musical instrument that lets you control sound (through a computer) with your gestures. My role has been as one of the small team of developers of the hardware, software, and audio systems of the glove. My main focus has been on the software and audio side.
What is the Gloves’ team’s ultimate goal and how can we — musicians and techies — help?
You can help spread the word about our Kickstarter to anyone who might want to try the gloves:
I sure will! Last but not least, going back to the theme of music in space, Bulgarians are very proud that the original golden disk that was sent with the Voyager contained a beautiful Bulgarian folk song. If you were the music curator of such a disk, what additional selections would you include?
Ravel’s piano concerto in G, second movement. That’s the most beautiful thing ever written, in my opinion.
Thank you so much for your time, Kelly! Good luck and happy Nawruz (Baha’i New Year)!
The morning started with a quirk: I had decided to ask the PragmaticWorks presenter the favor of inquiring if any of the attendees could give me a ride to the metro. There was an awkward moment when he said “I cannot do that, sorry” but when I asked the audience a nice pair of techies had mercy on me and my carlessness. To be fair, no one should expect a presenter to be a cab driver as well, of course; the gentleman was clearly knowledgeable making the whole seminar was very informative.
As I was sitting grateful for the assurance of a ride, a thought crossed my mind that I might win the random attendee reward, a Microsoft Surface 2 tablet. Who knew that not only this would happen but that my ride to and on the metro would turn into a fascinating conversation with a hyper intelligent and equally attractive geek with beautiful green eyes.
But let’s get back to the topic of…
Not surprisingly, the presenter started with a sample of the old / new questions businesses are asking:
Referring to the #iatethebones social campaign during which KFC pulled data through Hadoop and stayed ahead of the million of submissions by using the social media response to predict their sales.
An interesting, and unexpected illustration of the use of predictive analytics to identify top items purchased before hurricane hits was shared. Whether it is an illustration of the power of big data or of the unpredictable nature of humans, you be the judge, but the top of the list is surely surprising:
Then we moved to the claim that 75% of CIO desire to worry less about systems and more about innovation. I can only imagine the question being asked: “What would you like to worry about more?…” But let’s continue
Microsoft aims to make SQL Server the fastest and most affordable database for customers of all sizes. The goal is to offer a simplified data warehouse management through:
Introducing Parallel Data Warehousing
Of course, at the center of anything Microsoft offers is SQL Server 2012 and its enterprise stack of data management technologies (SQL Server, SSRS, SSIS, SSAS):
Where things got interesting is when the talk turned to the notion of a data warehousing appliance built upon Microsoft technology as a relatively affordable implementation of a parallel data warehouse.
Why Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW):
Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP)
Massively Parallel Processing (MPP)
What intelligence driven organizations are focusing on:
Seamlessly add capacity:
Designed for parallel processing
Data loads in parallel into multiple instances of SQL Server.
Data loading options
Hadoop ecosystem with its capability of handling vast unstructured data sets, creates a challenge of integrating the noSQL data into a SQL Server-based data warehousing solution. Microsoft’s answer is a very intriguing and is called Polybase but is, sadly, not available yet.
What is Polybase and what are its goals?
Having attended a number of conferences (TDWI, Strata) and seminars, I take a very pragmatic approach to the choice of IT architecture, familiar as I am with the technical preferences and overall reality of my work place. I tend to gravitate towards Microsoft’s BI solution because so far it has proven very successful and relatively affordable answer to my team’s challenges.
Thus I was delighted to hear the fellow who would give me a ride, Jonathan, ask directly the most relevant question: on the approximate cost of the PDW solution. The answer — more of a informed guess was: a quarter rack would apparently priced around $250,000 not including discounts and excluding the data loading services.Let’s just say that while this is not pocket money, it is not Exadata either.
Having a previous Microsoft agreement would be helpful, of course. The maintenance agreement offered has two levels, and two providers — with Microsoft for the software, and with HP or Dell, correspondingly, on the appliance (the Dell solution is packaged and architected a bit differently than the one from HP but is available nevertheless.)
All I can say so far is that to spend this type of money on a Parallel Data Warehousing appliance at the non-profit where I manage the Web & Data Services team, I would need executive support. When we get there though, it would be a move in the right direction — architecturally and technologically — for my team!
In the definition of the best story teller among web analytics evangelists, Avinash Kaushik, Web Analytics 2.0 is:
(1) the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data from your website and the competition,
(2) to drive a continual improvement of the online experience that your customers, and potential customers have,
(3) which translates into your desired outcomes (online and offline).
Addressing the importance of digital analytics, this informative video guides us to address the type of customers we serve and the business goals we can address through the power of digital analytics.
“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.”
~ Lucius Annaeus Seneca
According to Google’s Digital Analytics Academy, the five common business objectives for websites are:
I decided to use the list above and determine the type of business objective for some of the websites I manage either personally as a blogger, collectively with my colleagues on behalf of my employer, or as a website optimization consultant on behalf of my clients. As it turns out, I have quite a variety of websites with diverse business objectives:
Taking the time to reflect on the type of objective applicable to a website is deeply satisfying — a delight for geeks, I would say — because it sets one on the course of actually managing, rather than just maintaining a website. And there is no better tool for managing through measurement than digital analytics. Peter Drucker would be delighted with the power of the tools we have easily accessible today!
Two friends of mine, my dentist Foad Farhoumand, DDS and his sister Farah Farhoumand, DDS, hired TNT Dental to design a new website for their Farhoumand Dental Practice and to rewrite the content for it. They asked me to assist them with implementing a coherent social media strategy and search engine optimization in order to address an interesting SEO challenge made apparent with the launch of their new website.
With the recent Hummingbird update of the Google Search Engine algorithm, the challenges for any small business are very real. In the case of Farhoumand Dental, the new changes translate into actual business loss.
Google generates the information in the right hand box automatically, pulling it from all over the web — in this case the dental practice’s old website and its old Google + page. The problem is that the phone number listed is old, currently incorrect, and is in fact the phone for the newly minted competitor, Avanti Dentistry, which until recently was part of the original Farhoumand Dental Practice. This presents a real business problem because old and new customers are mislead to call the competitor, leading to actual loss of business. Herewith comes the value of search engine optimization!
As always, the web is a wonderful source of knowledge. Just as during my early web development days back in the ancient 1995, nowadays there are still generous professionals willing to share their knowledge and expertise. Among many others on Search Engine Land’s LinkedIn forum and Moz Community, several SEO experts shared practical suggestions, among which I am quoting Randy Tallman‘s:
I believe you are dealing with an issue of identity changes. This can be complex, but can be dealt with by integrating SEO strategy to enable the new site being found. The following are some things to consider. There are more, and hopefully other help will come forward with other strategies.
1. Purchase the alternate domains that are like the original domain, such as .net or others. Point the .net domain over to the new site. (In the future build a landing page for the .net site though.)
2. Be sure to use the original name in the Title, Description and Content on the page (near the top of content). This will enable you to obtain positioning organically.
3. If you can, blog about the transformation — as search engines love Blogs. If you add the appropriate content which your clients are searching for on a consistent basis, you may be able to move your position to the top in time.
4. Reach out to your prior clients, and ask them to get the message out to others.
5. Connect with Social Media where your clients most likely hang out.
6. You may want to have similar page names to the old site which are optimized as much as possible to bring them to the new site.
I wish you the best in your transformations.
I will be tracking on this blog the adventure of optimizing the new Farhoumand Dental website for the search engine as well as user experience.
Google pulled an ironic prank today by featuring the Yosemite National Park on its Google Doodle the exact day, 123 years after its creation, when the National Park Service is shutting down because of the government’s inability to come to an agreement and keep its basic services running.
Having your website featured on Google’s front page with a creative Google Doodle is, of course, the ultimate search engine optimization accomplishment. But a website rarely exists as an abstract entity not related to business, organization or a person. When that business is closed but its website is open to the biggest web traffic imaginable, the user-friendly thing is to update the website and clearly indicate of the closing or the limited working hours.
When online does not reflect offline reality
The National Park Service, no doubt hoping for the best, has no indication on its website of the possible closing.
A better alternative
YosemitePark.com run by DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite, Inc., an authorized concessioner of the National Park Service, has put a simple warning indicating the possibility of the park closing.
The value of Website Optimization when business is closed
Thinking holistically about how a website is used improves its usability and solves a number of potential problems particularly when the website represents a physical place of such enormous beauty as Yosemite National Park. I had wonderful time when hiking Yosemite with my cousin’s family 4 years ago and would not want to be among those who have just arrived at the park to only be told they need to leave. Of course, the closings are not the fault of the National Park Service, but whoever operates the websites should have been prepared enough to use the web as communication medium and clearly indicate that, sadly, the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite, will not be celebrated.
Recently I have been working with a couple of small local business and the question of reporting on their search engine rankings came up. I had started my foray into the web design and development back when Netscape was in beta, into web site optimization back when Google was in alpha and then — a decade ago — would participate in search engine optimization knowledge sharing on forums like HighRankings. Today, I see no better place for finding professional advice than LinkedIn. Not unlike during my early days as a web master, I found endearing the openness and willingness by those who were much more experienced than me to share knowledge and experience. I wanted to summarize the responses I got in the hope that others might benefit from them!
I asked the experts on the Search Engine Land LinkedIn discussion group: “What tools do you use and recommend for reporting on search engine rankings and other SEO-related activities?” Here is what the participants in this LinkedIn discussion suggested, in alphabetical order:
It is quite interesting to compare this list to a similar one I had put together more than 10 years ago!
Tool suggestion aside, I found most intriguing the opinions of a couple of experts: Andrea Berberich shared her whole methodology of ensuring high search engine rankings:
“For keyword discovery and competitive analysis here is what I do:
Scott Stouffer blankly stated that “Rank Trackers are dead — they are based on the query stack of a search engine, which has become incredibly noisy from the personalization (filters like social,local,etc…).” Lastly, Geoffrey Hoesch confirmed “… you’re better off focusing on organic traffic and conversions than keyword rankings, as few keyword rank tools track keyword rankings based on location, which makes regional/local tracking very difficult. In the end, Moz linked up with Google Analytics can help you create the best reports.”