Digital Marketers Look a Likes: Russell Crowe and Matt Roberts

This is a new (fun) weekly feature on State of Digital: celebrities that look like Digital Marketers.

Yes, that’s right, it’s the celebrities that look like us, not the other way around! Just because some resemblances we found striking. On Sunday’s, you will find out who looks like a well known digital marketer. And you can even suggest your own! Thank you for the suggestions so far, you will definitely see some off them here!

Russell Crowe and… Matt Roberts!

This week we found the look-a-like of Matt Roberts. Matt is founder of Linkdex, an SEO platform in the UK and just voted UK Search Personality 2015. Matt’s look-a-like is actor Russell Crowe, someone Matt has been mistaken for before.

  • Digital Marketers Look a Likes: Russell Crowe and Matt Roberts
  • Digital Marketers Look a Likes: Tony Hadley and Dave Naylor
  • Digital Marketers Look a Likes: Jake Gyllenhaal and Stephen Pavlovich
  • Digital Marketers Look a Likes: Alan Shearer and Paul Madden

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Targeted Link Building in 2016 – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

SEO has much of its roots in the practice of targeted link building. And while it’s no longer the only core component involved, it’s still a hugely valuable factor when it comes to rank boosting. In this week’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand goes over why targeted link building is still relevant today and how to develop a process you can strategically follow to success.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high resolution version in a new tab!

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about four questions that kind of all go together around targeted link building.

Targeted link building is the practice of reaching out and trying to individually bring links to specific URLs or specific domains — usually individual pages, though — and trying to use those links to boost the rankings of those pages in search engine results. And look, for a long time, this was the core of SEO. This was how SEO was done. It was almost the start and the end.

Obviously, a lot of other practices have come into play in the industry, and I think there’s even been some skepticism from folks about whether targeted link building is still a valid practice. I think we can start with that question and then get on to some of these others.

When does it make sense?

In my opinion, targeted link building does make sense when you fulfill certain conditions. We know from our experimentation, from correlation data, from Google’s own statements, from lots of industry data that links still move the needle when it comes to rankings. If you have a page that’s ranking number 4, you point a bunch of new links to it from important pages and sites around the web, particularly if they contain the anchor text that you’re trying to rank for, and you will move up in the rankings.

It makes sense to do this if your page is already ranking somewhere in the, say, top 10 to 20, maybe even 30 results and/or if the page has measurable high impact on business metrics. That could be sales. It could be leads. It could be conversions. Even if it’s indirect, if you can observe both those things happening, it’s probably worthwhile.

It’s also okay if you say, “Hey, we’re not yet ranking in the top 20, but our paid search page is ranking on page 1. We know that we have high conversions here. We want to move from page 3, page 4 up to page 1, and then hopefully up into the top two, top three results. Then it is worth this targeted link building effort, because when you build up that visibility, when you grow those rankings, you can be assured that you are going to gain more visits, more traffic that will convert and send you these key business metrics and push those things up. So I do think targeted link building still makes sense when those conditions are fulfilled.

Is this form of link building worthwhile?

Is this something that can actually do the job it’s supposed to do? And the answer, yeah. Look, if rank boosting is your goal, links are one of the ways where if you already have a page that’s performing well from a conversion standpoint — from a user experience standpoint, pages per visit, your browse rate, things like time onsite, if you’re not seeing high bounce rate, if you have got a page that’s clearly accessible and well targeted and well optimized on the page itself — then links are going to be the most powerful, if not one of the most powerful, elements to moving your rankings. But you’ve got to have a scalable, repeatable process to build links.

You need the same thing that we look for broadly in our marketing practices, which is that flywheel. Yes, it’s going to be hard to get things started. But once we do, we can find a process that works for us again and again. Each successive link that we get and each successive page whose rankings we’re trying to move gets easier and easier because we’ve been there before, we’ve done it, we know what works and what doesn’t work, and we know the ins and outs of the practice. That’s what we’re searching for.

When it comes to finding that flywheel, there are sort of tactics that fit into three categories that still do work. I’m not going to get into the individual specific tactics themselves, but they fall into these three buckets. What we’ve found is that for each individual niche, for each industry, for each different website and for each link builder, each SEO, each one of you out there, there’s a process or combination of processes that works best. So I’m going to dictate to you which tactics works best, but you’ll generally find them in these three buckets


One: one-to-one outreach. This is you going out and sending usually an e-mail, but it could be a DM or a tweet, an at reply tweet. It could be a phone call. It could be — I literally got one of these today — a letter in the mail addressed to me, hand-addressed to me from someone who’d created a piece of content and wanted to know if I would be willing to cover it. It wasn’t exactly up my alley, so I’m not going to. But I thought that was an interesting form of one-to-one outreach.

It could be broadcast. Broadcast is things like social sharing, where we’re broadcasting out a message like, “Hey, we’ve produced this. It’s finally live. We launched it. Come check it out.” That could go through bulk e-mail. It could go through an e-mail subscription. It could go through a newsletter. It could go through press. It could go through a blog.

Then there’s paid amplification. That’s things like social ads, native ads, retargeting, display, all of these different formats. Typically, what you’re going to find is that one-to-one outreach is most effective when you can build up those relationships and when you have something that is highly targeted at a single site, single individual, single brand, single person.

Broadcast works well if, in your niche, certain types of content or tools or data gets regular coverage and you already reach that audience through one of your broadcast mediums.

Paid amplification tends to work best when you have an audience that you know is likely to pick those things up and potentially link to them, but you don’t already reach them through organic channels, or you need another shot at reaching them from organic and paid, both.

Building a good process for link acquisition

Let’s end here with the process for link acquisition. I think this is kind of the most important element here because it helps us get to that flywheel. When I’ve seen successful link builders do their work, they almost all have a process that looks something like this. It doesn’t have to be exactly this, but it almost always falls into this format. There’s a good tool I can talk about for this too.

But the idea being the first step is opportunity discovery, where we figure out where the link opportunities that we have are. Step 2 is building an acquisition spreadsheet of some kind so that we can prioritize which links we’re going to chase after and what tactics we’re going to use. Step 3 is the execution, learn, and iterate process that we always find with any sort of flywheel or experimentation.

Step 1: Reach out to relevant communities

We might find that it turns out for the links that we’re trying to get relevant communities are a great way to acquire those links. We reach out via forums or Slack chat rooms, or it could be something like a private chat, or it could be IRC. It could be a whole bunch of different things. It could be blog comments.

Maybe we’ve found that competitive links are a good way for us to discover some opportunities. Certainly, for most everyone, competitive links should be on your radar, where you go and you look and you say, “Hey, who’s linking to my competition? Who’s linking to the other people who are ranking for this keyword and ranking for related keywords? How are they getting those links? Why are those people linking to them? Who’s linking to them? What are they saying about them? Where are they coming from?”

It could be press and publications. There are industry publications that cover certain types of data or launches or announcements or progress or what have you. Perhaps that’s an opportunity.

Resource lists and linkers. So there’s still a ton of places on the web where people link out to. Here’s a good set of resources around customer on-boarding for software as a service companies. Oh, you know what? We have a great post about that. I’m going to reach out to the person who runs this list of resources, and I’m going to see if maybe they’ll cover it. Or we put together a great meteorology map looking at the last 50 winters in the northeast of the United States and showing a visual graphic overlay of that charted against global warming trends, and maybe I should share that with the Royal Meteorological Society of England. I’m going to go pitch their person at it is.

Blog and social influencers. These are folks who tend to run, obviously, popular blogs or popular social accounts on Twitter or on Facebook or on LinkedIn, or what have you, Pinterest. It could be Instagram. Potentially worth reaching out to those kinds of folks.

Feature, focus, or intersection sources. This one’s a little more complex and convoluted, but the idea is to find something where you have an intersection of some element that you’re providing through the content of your page that you seem to get a link from and there is intersection with things that other organizations or people have interest in.

So, for example, on my meteorology example, perhaps you might say, “Lots of universities that run meteorology courses would probably love an animation like this. Let me reach out to professors.” “Or you know what? I know there’s a data graphing startup that often features interesting data graphing stuff, and it turns out we used one of their frameworks. So let’s go reach out to that startup, and we’ll check out the GitHub project, see who the author is, ping that person and see if maybe they would want to cover it or link to it or share it on social.” All those kinds of things. You found the intersections of overlapping interest.

The last one, biz devs and partnerships. This is certainly not a comprehensive list. There could be tons of other potential opportunity to discover mechanisms. This covers a lot of them and a lot of the ones that tend to work for link builders. But you can and should think of many other ways that you could potentially find new opportunities for links.

Step 2: Build a link acquisition spreadsheet

Gotta build that link acquisition spreadsheet. The spreadsheet almost always looks something like this. It’s not that dissimilar to how we do keyword research, except we’re prioritizing things based on: How important is this and how much do I feel like I could get that link? Do I have a process for it? Do I have someone to reach out to?

So what you want is either the URL or the domain from which you’re trying to get the link. The opportunity type — maybe it’s a partnership or a resource list or press. The approach you’re going to take, the contact information that you’ve got. If you don’t have it yet, that’s probably the first thing on your list is to try and go get that. Then the link metrics around this.

There’s a good startup called BuzzStream that does sort of a system, a mechanism like this where you can build those targeted link outreach lists. It can certainly be helpful. I know a lot of folks like using things like Open Site Explorer and Followerwonk, Ahrefs, Majestic to try and find and fill in a bunch of these data points.

Step 3: Execute, learn, and iterate

Once we’ve got our list and we’re going through the process of actually using these approaches and these opportunity types and this contact information to reach out to people, get the links that we’re hoping to get, now we want to execute, learn, and iterate. So we’re going to do some forms of one-to-one outreach where we e-mail folks and we get nothing. It just doesn’t work at all. What we want to do is try and figure out: Why was that? Why didn’t that resonate with those folks?

We’ll do some paid amplification that just reaches tens of thousands of people, low cost per click, no links. Just nothing, we didn’t get anything. Okay, why didn’t we get a response? Why didn’t we get people clicking on that? Why did the people who clicked on it seem to ignore it entirely? Why did we get no amplification from that?

We can have those ideas and hypotheses and use that to improve our processes. We want to learn from our mistakes. But to do that, just like investments in content and investments in social and other types of investments in SEO, we’ve got to give ourselves time. We have to talk to our bosses, our managers, our teams, our clients and say, “Hey, gang, this is an iterative learning process. We’re going to figure out what forms of link building we’re good at, and then we’re going to be able to boost rankings once we do. But if we give up because we don’t give ourselves time to learn, we’re never going to get these results.”

All right, look forward to your thoughts on tactical link building and targeted link building. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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The Adoption of Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSPs)

Gmail Sponsored Promotions (AKA GSPs) came out of BETA at the tail end of 2015 but advertisers haven’t seemed to jump all over these yet and the competition levels appear to still be relatively low in comparison to other PPC channels.

To kick start this post, I want to ask you a couple of questions related to Gmail Ads. I promise I will share the results once I have collated the entries. It will only take you a minute to complete. What I hope to get from this is an understanding of whether or not you have adopted this feature and if so what results you are seeing.

// <![CDATA[
// ]]> Create your own user feedback survey

Google Trends highlights the low adoption rates

If we take two of Googles more recent product launches, one of which is GSP and the other being Product Listing Ads (PLAs) we can see just how much volume PLAs has in terms of searches compared to GSPs. I really expected this to be much higher.

What is Gmails Reach?

The low trends surprise me as I really believe that Gmail Ads have got a real advantage for advertisers if they are used in the correct way and coupled with the right strategy for the brand. The reason I think they offer this advantage is based on the sheer volume of active users Gmail has across the globe. According to a recent study on TechCrunch, as of 28th May 2015, Gmail had more than 900 million users. Comparing 2015 to 2012 the number of users increased by over 111%!

425 Million Users (2012) >>>> 900 Million Users (2015)

What are the costs?

I can only speak from my own experience of accounts that we manage at Koozai, but the average CPCs are ridiculously cheap in comparison to standard search ads. Just taking one of the accounts that we manage as an example, the average CPC on one of the search campaigns last month was £19.02. For one of the GSP campaigns, the average CPC was just £0.30!

Once I have the results back from the survey I will share the data with you to show how other advertisers are finding the cost differentiators between the two channels.

What does a Gmail Ad look like?

Essentially there is only one ad format but it is viewed in two ways.

Collapsed Ads

 Collapsed Ad

These sit at the top of your emails in the Promotions Tab in Gmail. As you can see, I have two ads in view which include an image/logo on the left hand side and then an ad title and description.

Expanded Ads

When I click through on one of the ads, it expands and shows me the entire message which looks like an email from the company advertising.

Expanded Ad
You then have four options of where to go from here. You can either:

  • Click through on the ad and go to the website
  • Forward the email ad to a friend
  • Save the email ad to your main inbox to view later
  • Close the ad

Gmail Sponsored Promotion Strategies?

There are many ways that you can use Gmail Sponsored Promotions but I wanted to share with you my top three that when discussed, have caught the attention of our clients.

Competitor Bidding

My number one favourite strategy that companies are often not aware of is the fact that you can get your ads showing in Gmail when someone receives an email from one of your competitors!

Whether you are a large multi-national brand or a local business, this strategy can work for you. You simply plug in all your competitors domains into the keywords targeting in AdWords and then your ads will start appearing (subject to audience size) if a user gets an email from one of competitors you have listed.

If you are a local business you can aim high with your competitors and try and capture some of their customers by showing adverts that have a clear CTA on why they should be interested in your product or service offering.

For the bigger brands, this could be a real opportunity for you to target very carefully and have ad groups for one big competitor and target the competitor plus product. If you know you can compete on price, you can get adverts that pull people in with a lower price.

Customer Match

When Google announced the arrival of Customer Match I think that has to have been one of my favourite marketing moments of 2015. Sounds OTT but having the ability to market to specific audiences is like a dream come true for any marketer. I have written a post that looks at ways you could be using Customer Match within your overall paid marketing strategy here if you are interested in knowing a little more.

Bringing it back to Gmail Ads though, if you have a big enough email list that can be segmented to still have more than 1,000 email addresses in each sub-group you can get really creative.

Let’s take an insurance brand as an example. A lot of people will go to a website and get a quote but not convert straight away, people like to shop around. If the insurance brand segmented their email list in the following ways:

  • Existing car insurance customers
  • Existing home insurance customers
  • Car insurance quotes
  • Home insurance quotes

For existing customers for either product, they could show ads promoting the other product to try and cross sell. For non-customers, they could show ads reinforcing their brand message for the product to try and encourage them to come in and convert.

Industry Related Domains

Taking the Competitor bidding model I have mentioned above but applying it to websites that you believe your target audience may be receiving emails from is another clever way of using Gmail Ads.

One good place to start with this is within Google Analytics. As long as you have enabled the demographic data, you will be able to see what categories of sites your website audience frequent. Sorting this by the conversion column, you can see which categories drive the most business for you. If you are an ecommerce site, then I would suggest sorting this information by the revenue column.

Taking this data, you can then do some further research into sites that would fall into the most valuable categories and target those domains in the same way as you would competitor domains.

My main takeaway for today

As the number of advertisers taking advantage of GSPs are still relatively low in comparison to some of the other more well established AdWords channels, it means that the level of competition is low in a lot of cases. With this brings lower CPCs but this will not last forever. Just take into consideration how much average CPCs have risen over the years for the standard search network campaigns. The more the demand for the product increases the more the average CPCs tend to rise.

If you get on board as an early adopter and at least give GSPs a try for your brand, you can reap the benefits of the lower costs.

Google Sponsored Promotions may not be right for your brand or business but the barrier to entry is low so my recommendation would be to give one or more of the strategies listed above a try to see if it works for you. What’s the worst that could happen??!!

There are a few policies that you should be aware of before you get started so I would urge you to have a look at this link and check that your product or service offering sits outside of the prohibited content:

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My Single Best SEO Tip for Improved Web Traffic

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

Howdy Moz Fans,

After more than 5 years — including an 18-month hiatus as a Moz associate — tomorrow marks my last day working as a Mozzer.

Make no mistake — I love this job, company, and community. Moz has taught me to be a better marketer. Both Rand Fishkin and Sarah Bird (and many others) have taught me more about emotional intelligence and how to treat others than I thought possible of myself. Moz has introduced me to amazing coworkers and industry folk around the world. I’m truly grateful for this experience.

Since my first YouMoz post was accepted for publication by Jen Lopez before I even worked here, I’ve done my best to share SEO tips and tactics to help people advance their marketing and improve online visibility. These posts are truly the thing I’m most proud of.

Time for one last SEO tip, so I hope it’s a good one…

SEO white lies

The beauty of SEO is that, instead of pushing a marketing message onto folks who don’t want to hear what you have to say, you can reverse-engineer the process to discover exactly what people are looking for, create the right content for it, and appear before them at exactly the moment they are looking for it. It’s pull vs. push.

Works like magic. Customers come to you.

Let’s begin this process by telling a lie.

“Content is king.”

Bull hockey. The king doesn’t rule jack squat. A truer statement is this: If content is king, then the user is queen, and she rules the universe. Let’s say that again, because this is important.

“The user is queen, and she rules the universe.”

Google only cares about your content inasmuch as it answers the user’s search query. Search results are not a collection of “good” content; they are a ranked list of content that best satisfies what the user is looking for.

Here’s a typical process many SEOs use when building content:

  1. Conduct keyword research to discover what people are searching for relative to your niche.
  2. Pick a series of high-volume, low-competition phrases
  3. Build content around these phrases and topics
  4. Launch and market the page. Build some links.
  5. Watch the traffic roll in. (Or not)
  6. Move on to the next project.

The shortcoming of this approach is that 1–4 are often hit or miss. Google’s Keyword Planner, perhaps the best available keyword tool available, is famous for not surfacing most long-tail keywords. Additionally, creating the exact content and building the right links in order for Google to rank you for precise pages is challenging as well.

Unfortunately, this where most people stop.

My advice: Don’t stop there.

This whole process relies on traditional SEO signals to rank your content higher. Signals like keyword usage and PageRank (yes, it’s a real ranking factor). While these factors remain hugely important, they miss the point of where SEO has already moved.

In our latest Ranking Factors Expert Survey, we asked over 150 top search marketers to rate which factors they see gaining and losing significance in Google’s algorithm. The results showed that while most traditional SEO features were expected to either retain or decrease in influence, we found that user-based features were expected to increase.

In addition to signals like mobile-friendliness, site speed, overall UX, and perceived quality, the factors I want to focus on today include:

  1. Page matches the searcher’s intent: In other words, the page has a high probability of being what the user is actually looking for.
  2. Search engine results clickstream data: This may include measuring the search results that users actually click, as well as the pogo-sticking effect.
  3. Task completion: The user is able to complete the task they set out to do. In other words, their questions have been completely answered.

What I am going to talk about is how to improve all three of these factors for underperforming pages at the same time, using a single technique.

Here’s the tip: Optimize for how users are actually using the page — as opposed to how you optimized the page ahead of time — and you’ll see significantly better traffic.

Once you begin receiving traffic from search engines, you have an incredible amount of data regarding real search visits. If your page receives any traffic at all, Google has already guessed what your content is about — right or wrong — and is sending some traffic to you. In all reality, there is a gap between the traffic you thought you were optimizing for when you created the page, and the traffic you are actually getting.

You want to close that gap. We’ll ask and answer these 3 questions:

  1. Is my content matching the intent of the visitors I’m actually receiving?
  2. Based on this intent, is my search snippet enticing users to click?
  3. Does my page allow users to complete their task?

Here’s how we’re going to do it. I present your SEO homework.

1. Identify your low- to mid-performing pages

This process works best on pages with lower or disappointing traffic levels. The reason you want to stay away from your high-performing pages is the adage: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

That’s not to say that high-performing pages can’t be improved, but whenever you make changes to a page you risk ruining the things that work well, so for now we’re going to focus on our under-performers.

The simplest way is to use analytics to identify pages you believe are high quality — and target good keyword phrases — but receive less traffic than you’d expect based on site averages.

For this example I’ll use Google Search Console for my data, although you could use other platforms such as Bing Webmaster or even features found in Moz Pro.

Here’s a picture of our traffic and search queries for Followerwonk. While it’s a good amount of traffic, something looks off with the second URL: it receives 10x more impressions than any other URL, but only gets a 0.25% click-through rate. We’ll use this URL for our process.

2. Discover mismatches between user intent and content

Next, we want to discover the keyword phrases that surface our URL in search results. Here’s how you do it in Search Console.

After you complete #3 above by clicking on the URL you wish to analyze, you’ll find a page of data isolating that URL, but it will lack keywords. Now hit the “Queries” tab to filter keywords filtered for this specific URL.

For our Followerwonk URL, we discover an interesting result. The phrase “twitter search” generated a million search impressions, but only 724 clicks. Google believes we deserve to rank for this query, but obviously the page doesn’t offer what people are looking for

Or does it?

The Followerwonk Bio Search page offers advanced Twitter bio search, complete with lots of advanced options you can’t find on Twitter. It’s reasonable that tons of people searching for “twitter search” would find enormous value in this page. So why the disconnect?

A quick screenshot reveals the heart of the problem.

That’s it — the entire page. Very little explanatory text makes it difficult to quickly grasp what this page is about. While this is an awesome page, it fails in one key aspect for its highest volume search query.

The page fails to satisfy user intent. (At least in a quick, intuitive way.)

So how can we fix this? Let’s move on to the next steps.

3. Optimizing for user intent

Now that we understand how users are actually finding our page, we want to make it obvious that our page is exactly what they are looking for to solve their problem. There are 5 primary areas this can be accomplished.

  1. Title tag
  2. Meta description
  3. Page title and headers
  4. Body text
  5. Call to action

Rewriting the title tags and descriptions of underperforming pages to include the keyword queries users perform to find your URL can lead to a quick increase in clicks and visits.

Additionally, after you get these clicks, there’s a growing body of inconclusive evidence that higher click-through rates may lead to higher rankings. In the end, it really doesn’t matter. The whole point is that you get more traffic, one way or another.

The key is to take this data to optimize your search snippet in a way that entices more and better traffic.

Earning the click is only half the battle. After we get the visitor on our site, now we have to convince them (almost immediately) that we can actually solve the problem they came here to find. Which leads to…

4. Improving task completion

Consider this: A user searches for “best restaurants in Seattle.” You want your pizza parlor to rank #1 for this query, but will this satisfy the user?

Likely not, as the user is probably looking for a list of top restaurants, complete with reviews, hours, maps, and menus. If you can offer all — like TripAdvisor, Opentable, and Yelp — then you’ve helped the user complete their task.

The key to task completion is to make solving the user’s problem both clear and immediate. On our Followerwonk page, this could be accomplished by making it immediately clear that they could perform an advanced Twitter search, for free, along with an expectation of what the results would look like.

A standard for task completion can be found by answering the following question: After the user visits this page, will they have completely found what they are looking for, or will they need to return to Google for help?

When the query is satisfied by your website, then you’ve achieved task completion, and likely deserve to rank very highly for the targeted search query.

5. Submit for reindexing

The beauty of this process is that you can see results very quickly. The easiest thing to do is to submit the page for reindexing in Google, which can help your changes appear in search results much faster.

You may see changes submitted this way reflected in search results within minutes or hours. Usually it’s not more than a day or two.

6–7. Measure results, tweak, and repeat

Now that your results are live, you want to measure present performance against past. After a few days or weeks (whenever you have enough data to make statistically significant decisions) you want to specifically look at:

  • Rankings, or overall impressions
  • Clicks and click-through rate
  • Engagement metrics, including bounce rate, time on site, and conversions

Warning: You may not get it right the first time. That’s okay. It’s fine to iterate and improve (as long as you don’t destroy your page in the process). In fact, that’s the whole point!

If you follow this process, you may see not only increases in traffic, but improved traffic coming to your site that better aligns what you offer with what the visitor is searching for.

The best content that aligns with user intent is what search engines want to deliver to its users. This is what you want to broadcast to search engines. The results can be rewarding.


What’s next for me? In the near term, I’m starting a boutique online publishing/media company, tentatively named Fazillion. (Our aim is to produce content with heart, as we ourselves are inspired by sites like Mr. Money Mustache, Wait but Why, and Data is Beautiful.)

I can’t express enough how much this company and this community means to me. Moving on to the next adventure is the right thing to do at this time, but it makes me sad nonetheless.

Coincidentally, my departure from Moz creates a unique job opening for a talented SEO and Content Architect. It should make a wonderful opportunity for the right person. If you’re interested in applying, you can check it out here: SEO Content Marketer at Moz

Happy SEO, everybody! If you see me walking down the street, be sure to say hi.

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Getting the most out of speaking opportunities for you and your company

As anyone that’s spoken at a conference before will know, the preparation that goes into creating your presentation can be very time consuming. Therefore you want to make sure you’re maximising the opportunity and getting as much benefit as much as possible. So here’s my tips for making sure you’re getting the most out of the energy you put into your presentation, not all may work for everyone but hopefully some will.

Social promotion schedule

Make sure you start promoting the fact that you’re speaking early across all your relevant social channels. If you use tools like Tweetdeck or Buffer you can schedule all your posts at once so that you don’t even have to think about it again.

Also think about how you promote it on social, obviously posts that include imagery are much more attention-grabbing and tend to perform better so consider including an image in your promotion. Moz do a great job of promoting all of their events using a simple image template, why not do this when you’re speaking too:

Get your whole agency/company involved in promotion

If you work agency-side then it’s a no-brainer that your agency will want to promote your talk form its social channels and in other communications, but make sure you get the rest of the people that work at the agency (or company) that you work for sharing the fact that you’re speaking to. This can massively increase the reach of your talk.

Invite clients/prospects

Again if you’re agency side, speaking at a conference can be the perfect opportunity to improve relationships with current clients and start new ones with prospects. What better way to build their trust in you than demonstrating that you’re regarded as expert enough to be speaking on the subject? Even if they can’t attend at least you’ve reaffirmed in their mind that you are a thought leader in your industry.

Find the networking opportunities

Make sure you do your research into what opportunities there are for networking, most events will have a pre or post party (my favourite are the ones that have both of course). If there isn’t an official one the best way to find out where people will be is to get involved in the conversation on Twitter, nine times out of ten you’ll find someone tweeting which pub everyone is gathering in.

Give yourself time to stick around

Make sure you allow yourself plenty of time after your talk to stay at the event so that anyone who has questions and generally wants to discuss your talk further has the opportunity to. If you rush off you may well miss out on lead opportunities or just meeting more interesting people.

Include contact details/twitter account on your slides

If you want your talk to spread further than just the people in the room then Twitter is certainly your biggest friend. Make it easy for people to tweet your sound-bites by including your Twitter handle and the event hashtag on all of your slides. There’s nothing worse than wanting to tweet what someone has said but not being able to find them on Twitter then when you finally do forgetting what they’d said in the first place.

Get someone to live-tweet the sound-bites you want people to remember

If you really want to make sure your talk’s getting attention on Twitter then why not get a colleague to come along to the talk and either prep them with the key sound-bites beforehand or ask them to pick their own while you’re talking. Make sure this is being amplified by your agency/company’s social accounts as well.

Upload slides during conference to capitalise on buzz

If you’re able to, then make sure you upload you slides to Slideshare and share them during the conference to capitalise on people that will be viewing the hashtag. This all means you’re likely to get included in the many round-up posts that are often published meaning even more exposure to people who weren’t at the event.

Long-form write-up

Depending on the content of the presentation you might also be able to turn it into a more long-form piece of content or event just a blog post. This again just allows more reach from the content that you’ve spent time carefully creating.

Internal knowledge-sharing

All of the above has been focussed more around driving people external to your business to your content, but it’s important not to forget about people internally as well. Why not set some time aside (dependant on the length of your talk) and invite anyone internally that’s also interested or could benefit and present it to them as well. You could choose to do this before the event instead as a rehearsal for yourself as well and to prep yourself for any questions they think might be asked afterwards.

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Manufacturing Serendipity: How to Create Content that Captivates Your Audience

Posted by Isla_McKetta

Fifteen minutes into my first ever flight with my newborn son — a flight that had been delayed for an hour and a half, during which we’d held off feeding him so he could eat on the way up to make sure his little ears wouldn’t pop from the pressure and he wouldn’t start the flight screeching — fifteen minutes in, we were still ascending and even with his little head concealed beneath a nursing scarf, I could tell he was starting to get full.

I was terrified.

If he started screaming I had no idea how we would survive the four hours left in the flight. My husband and I were not the cool couple who had brought earplugs and coffee cards for all the passengers around us. I was certain everyone would hate us and, even worse, we’d never, ever fly again. I was the worst mother in the history of mothers.

As I was readjusting my son and trying to keep him calm, I noticed this phrase on the back of the nursing scarf’s label:

“You’re doing a great job!” Were there any words I needed more to hear in that moment? Would anything less perfect have incited me to expose this very personal, vulnerable moment to the vast readership of the Moz Blog? If the makers of the Itzy Ritzy nursing scarf hadn’t reached deep into my soul and sent me a message across the universe, would you have ever heard of their product?

You, too, can grab your audience by the heartstrings and build a lasting connection that gets them to come back to you time and again while also evangelizing your business to all their friends. Because while the designers of the Itzy Ritzy nursing scarf did not know specifically when or how this new mom was going to need encouragement and, yes, the kindness of strangers, it was an easy guess to say that every one of their customers would at some point. And with a cheap, but creative, insertion of content on the back side of their label, they won my heart and loyalty.

This is called manufacturing serendipity and here’s how you do it.

Understand your audience’s needs

We talk a lot about empathy at Moz, and that’s because the value of empathy cannot be overstated — in marketing or in life. Empathy is a super power. Dr. Brené Brown describes that super power as “feeling with people,” and it creates a spark of connection for the person being empathized with. That spark can be fanned into the burning passion of a long-lasting relationship — in business and in life.

To understand how to empathize with your customer, first create personas. Find out where your audience is emotionally. Figure out what they’re insecure about, what scares them, what they most need in the moment that they’re visiting your site. It’s not rocket science to understand that a new mom might be feeling insecure about nursing her child in public, and if that’s what your product is designed to help her with… go that extra mile to connect.

Ways to reach into your customer’s soul and speak to their needs include:

  • A car insurance company that caters to the accident prone starting their rate page with copy that assures the customer the company will be there no matter what happens.
  • Creating an ROI calculator after uncovering that your customer needs your software to generate client reports, sure, but she also needs to be able to show her boss the value she’s adding to the company with her daily work.
  • Understanding that everyone’s time is limited, ask the most essential survey question first and then give your customer the chance to expound if he wants to. Like Sears does at the bottom of their two-question satisfaction survey:

Put content in the right places

Are you using all the content opportunities available to you? Reeling from the sniffles, fussiness, and, yes, boogies, that came with my son’s first cold, I opened up the lid on a package of Boogie Wipes to find this:

The wise marketers at Boogie Wipes know that many parents will buy almost anything to make their child feel better. So they seized the opportunity to let me know that they have even more products to help me. Serendipity? It sure felt like it. And you can bet someone (not it!) dashed off to the drug store to buy some saline spray.

You don’t have to turn your site into the Times Square of the Internet to put content in the right places. Instead:

  • Include a call to action at the end of product-related blog posts for a free trial or other promo.
  • Send a reminder email to a customer who’s filled their cart and then left your site. Bonus points if you can pinpoint and speak to why they might not have finished the transaction. Comparison shopping? Offer a discount. Too busy to finish? Suggest a recurring delivery option.
  • Use the mobile version of your site or app to direct customers to your nearest storefront.
  • Make sure the link to your next webinar or event is on your homepage so no one has to dig for it.
  • Or, like clothing retailer Boden, put an order widget at the bottom of all those reviews so it’s super easy to order the item after doing your due diligence:

It doesn’t always take a large change to connect your customer with the content they need.

Surprise, delight, inform

Serendipity is the feeling of happy coincidence. If your content sparks surprise, incites delight, and manages to inform along the way, you’re more likely to get the response you’re looking for from a potential customer. According to Dr. Read Montague, a neuroscientist at Baylor, surprise lights up the brain’s reward pathways. And, unfortunately, delight in marketing is still surprising to most people, so by delighting your customer, you’re creating a positive association with your brand in two ways.

Some favorite examples of content that’s surprised, delighted, and informed me are:

  • The way The Land of Nod positions a website error is both amusing and perfectly tailored to their audience:
  • A “Moments” announcement email from Twitter. Instead of telling me about their new feature, they clued into what I use this account for (live-tweeting The Bachelor) and surfaced content that’s specific to my interests:
  • The image on AirBNB’s 503 error page captures that feeling we have when something gets between us and that sweet treat (or vacation reservation) we’ve been dreaming about:
  • And, finally, because not all content is online, I love the way yogurt maker Brown Cow uses the lids of their yogurt to playfully highlight the many ways a customer could eat the yogurt’s cream top. This both signals to me that the yogurt has a cream top (not everyone’s favorite) and shows me new ways to experience it:

Serendipity isn’t new. Rand’s been talking about it for a long time. But it’s important to remember that serendipity sometimes needs a little help

Now that you understand your customer’s needs, are looking at creative content placement, and understand how important it is to surprise, delight, and inform your audience, you have the tools you need to help serendipity along.

So if you’re ready to build a lasting connection with your customers, go manufacture some serendipity already. You might just soothe the nerves of a new mom so well that she’ll start evangelizing your products the minute she safely steps off the plane with her calm, jet-setting son.

The title for this post may have subconsciously been inspired by an earlier (but much different) post by Rand. Serendipity? You decide.

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The Inbounder: From Dream to Reality; Building a Global Conference in a Year

In May of this year in Valencia the conference The Inbounder takes place. This conference came out of nowhere and now has an incredible line up. Together with organiser Gianluca Fiorelli we try to figure out what is the secret to organising an event like that.

Personally I speak at a lot of conferences world wide (as some of you may have noticed ;-)). A lot of the times I’ve been asked “When is State of Digital going to do a conference?”. There are a few reasons why we haven’t yet, but the two main reasons are: 1) it’s a hell of a lot of work and 2) there are already so many great conferences out there. One of those is The Inbounder in Valencia, which sees its second conference this year. The first official big ‘global’ one.

Starting a new conference isn’t easy. Yet one of our team members, Gianluca Fiorelli, decided to go for it anyway. Last year he organised the first version of “The Inbounder” in Valencia. An instant success with speakers like Rand Fishkin, Lisa Myers, Aleyda Solis, Fernando Macia and yours truly showing up. It was truly a great conference to speak at and attend.

This May, Gianluca goes for version 2 of the conference. And wow, has he pulled of a speaker line up to be proud of. Next to the speakers from last year there are big names like Joanna Lord, Marcus Tandler, Sam Noble, Will Critchlow, Will Reynolds, Nathalie Nahai and many others on the list of speakers. Over a 1,000 attendees will be listening. Gianluca has built one of the major conferences in Europe, within a year (and a half). Time to see what we can learn from that. We spoke to Gianluca and gathered some valuable lessons.

Pictures from last years Inbounder event

Why oh why?

Why oh why would someone want to set up a conference? It’s hard work, there is a lot of competition and money wise it isn’t the big pot of gold coming in right away. So why even think about it? For Gianluca it wasn’t really that big of decision. It turns out he had dreamt of it for years.

During the years of traveling himself to conferences to speak or attend, his dream started shaping up.

Gianluca says:

“I started fantasizing about creating an event in Valencia, which could become a pole of attraction for web marketers from all over Europe, and to set itself as a reference. I know, an ambitious dream, but if you don’t dream cheap dreams, do you?”

The dream was triggered because on his travels he noticed a couple of things. First of all he realised that meeting the people in the industry was extremely valuable. However, he had the opportunity to fly around, not everyone has that opportunity. Secondly, he realised he was missing something at conferences.

“One of the things that I was missing (and still am missing), even in the best organized events, is variety. In fact, conferences in our field tends to be very strongly USA/UK focused when it comes to speakers.”

And so his dream shaped up.

“My dream event was a conference where professionals from “Northern Europe/USA” and Southern Europe could share their experience, both as speakers and attendees. This way – hopefully – incepting each other with renewed ideas and perspectives about how to do web marketing.”

What we can learn from Gianluca on the “Why”

So what can we learn from this? If you want to organise an event there are a few things you need to have:

1. You need to have a passion for it
2. You need to see a ‘gap’ in the market: what makes your conference different from another?

Organising an event can have it’s benefits:

1. An event can create awareness and trust for your brand;
2. An event can create serendipity, which is the unmeasurable secret metric of things like new partnerships, new clients, new growth opportunities.
3. An event creates content and ideas for future use
4. An event can create great connections.

The What

Next up is the “What”. What is important in a conference, what is easy and what is difficult. And what makes you stand out?

The easy part

When asked what was easy, Gianluca is very straight forward:

“Once I made the first step last year, and organized the first experimental edition of The Inbounder, finding a partner for organizing its first official international edition was easier than I thought it would be. I think this is something other people, who maybe have a dream similar to mine, should take notice of.”

The difficult part

The difficulties are in the area you would expect them to be: logistics and money. Logistics are especially difficult when you’ve never organised an event before, after all, everything is new. So Gianluca welcomed help from the outside:

“Luckily, we found a great partner in the conference venue itself, which modularity will help us organizing the event in the same place even if the attendees are less or more than the previewed ones. “

Another thing that was difficult was sponsorships. To pull off an event like this you need sponsors. It’s not easy. Most digital marketing conferences will look at tools and software brands here. That makes that your in competition with other events for the money of the happy few. Even if you are not after making money.

Gianluca says:

“If you are the event sponsorship manager for a SAAS in the web marketing industry, and you are looking for a great event to be part of, contact me!”

What we can learn from Gianluca on the “What”

1. It’s important to ‘test out’ your conference. Start small, learn from it and go from there.
2. Find people to work with. Doing it alone is more difficult.
3. Difficulties will lie in logistics and money

The How

And then the real work starts…

Getting speakers

The biggest thing about organising a conference without a doubt is getting speakers. Without speakers there is no conference. What’s important here is connections. Knowing people in the industry will make it a lot easier to get speakers.

Gianluca says: “I did get them thanks to all the connections I was able to create along the years. If I did have those, I would have probably had bigger difficulties for convincing them to choose to speak at The Inbounder instead of any other conference.”

Gianluca says it’s important to start early when trying to get speakers. “Many of them have their full agenda with six months or more anticipation.”

It’s also important to learn how to say “no”, Gianluca says. This because as a conference organiser you will get a lot of people trying to be part of the conference, especially when they see big names on there. This includes people you may know:

“You have to be able to say respectfully no, especially if you are contacted by people you know personally. If not you will find yourself in big difficulties about how to design a consistent agenda. Personally, if I would have said yes or invited all the people I esteem in our industry, I could have to create a one-week event.”

Creating the program

When you have the speakers, you need to build up a great program. Gianluca explains:

“First of all I made clear to myself what I wanted The Inbounder to be about. Once I decided that the main topic was ‘How to do marketing using the Inbound channels’, I started thinking about who were the best speakers for those topics over the base of having personally seen them talking.

This is important to consider, because unfortunately it is not always true that a magnificent blogger is also a great speaker. Another facet I had to consider was to find a balance between UK/USA speakers and “European” ones, because my intention is also to offer high visibility to great professionals from not so known countries.

Also, I wanted to create a men/female balanced presence to the event, and not because of some sort of politically correctness, but because I truly believe that some of the best marketers must be found between the “digital females”, as our own Sam Noble calls them.”

Selling the tickets

After the line up comes the marketing. You have to sell tickets, so people will have to know about the existence of the conference. A marketing mix approach is best here. Use all the channels you can find. Depending on the audience you are targeting, use those channels wisely:

“The SEO and Social Media public is targeted mainly via influencers marketing actions (the same speakers) and social media activities both on Twitter and Facebook.

Next to that, we are also organizing smaller events during these week. These are the ‘Roadshows’. They target a different kind of audience mostly composed by digital marketing directors and CMOs. With those for free smaller events we aim to present a sort of preview of what The Inbounder will be, hence nudging the public to attend it.

What we can learn from Gianluca on the “How”

1. Knowing people in the industry is important to get speakers
2. Start early
3. Learn how to say no
4. Determine the main topics of the event
5. Look for balance in the line up of your event
6. Use a variety of marketing channels
7. Market depending on your audience
8. Do things outside of the main event to create awareness

The secret of success

So what is the secret of success when organising an event? Gianluca is very clear:

“To strongly believe in your idea, and fight for it and defend it, while being able to accept the critics and implement corrections to it.”

Basically he says: “Go for it!”

But when asked for his secret ingredient, he is modest:

“Sincerely I don’t know… but I would say that my secret was/is the serendipity I was able to create along the years. All those things you do, as forcing yourself to know someone despite of your introversion, your helping attitude, you’re being available… all of this at the pays with dividends.”

And I think Gianluca is spot on: his secret to success hasn’t been the last year (and a half) setting up this event, it’s the years prior to that. They years in which he made a big effort to get to know people and help people. People who are now willing to help him.

About the Inbounder

Finally we asked Gianluca to describe the event in his own words:

What is the event about?

logo-inbounder“The Inbounder, as the team and I like to define it, is a conference about how to do marketing using the inbound channels.

In other words, it is thought of as an event where speakers (but attendees too) shares actionable insights about Search, Social and Content Marketing, as well as about CRO, Analytics and Digital Strategies.

Personally I would consider a success seeing people saying that they could not share the event as much as they desired, because they were too much occupied taking notes.”

What makes your event different from any other event?

“I think that The Inbounder has many distinctive peculiarities.

The most important one is that The Inbounder really is the only event where marketers from North/Central Europe and from the Mediterranean Europe can get to know each other and learn from each other.

Secondly, the format, which see all the speakers as keynotes.

Third, its multidisciplinary nature. I was very looking forward to create an event where professionals of different disciplines could have the opportunity to break the walls, which still are very strong between the different areas of web marketing.

Fourth, the agenda. I am personally curating it and how a speaker follow another is not casual, but reflect a very precise narrative idea.

Finally, the city (Valencia).

Europe is beautiful and I love to attend conferences in places like London, Dublin, Berlin et al… but what is better than a warm place on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea? And the venue, the Principe Felipe Museum of Science, in the City of Arts and Sciences complex by Calatrava. We choose it for the strong symbolism (web marketing as both Science and Art), apart that for the great services it provides.”

Are you tempted to go? Go to the event page and sign up now. We will be there!

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Moz Announces $10 Million Financing Round to Build on Momentum of New Products

Posted by SarahBird

Greetings, Moz Community!

We’ve been very busy at Moz. In keeping with my tradition, I’ll tell you what we’ve been up to in excruciating detail in my upcoming 2015 Year in Review post (next week).

But first, some big news! Moz closed a $10 million Series C round of financing yesterday. We’ve got great VC partners in Foundry Group and they are ponying up the entire round.

Unlike Jack Donaghy, my leadership mentor, I’m buzzing with excitement. I have ambitious goals for Moz and it feels fantastic to get more support on our journey.

[The Aspiration]

The fundamental relationship between organizations and their current and potential customers is changing. New marketing disciplines are emerging to take advantage of exciting changes in how we learn, communicate, make friends, and conduct business. Moz was founded to help marketers capitalize on these shifts.

We are helping people understand and grow their digital influence, and using ours to spread TAGFEE. We’re helping organizations transform how they market to be more Transparent, Authentic, Generous, Fun, Empathetic, and Exceptional. People have higher expectations about how businesses will interact with them, and less patience for dated and inauthentic approaches.

follow your heart Jack Donaghy 30 rock.gif

My dream is that Moz will be a force for good in marketing and in our communities. I’m passionate not just about what we do, but about how we do it. And I’ve got great investors, like Foundry, who feel the same.

We want to build beautiful software that customers love and that consistently delivers value. We want to be an inclusive place that helps you learn and build something greater than you can build alone. We also want to share what we have with the communities around us. After all, we’re all in this together, one way or another.

[The Struggle]

We’ve soared and stumbled along the way. Sometimes within the same day. It’s exhausting and exhilarating simultaneously. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart.

Late 2013 and early 2014, in particular, tested our mettle. We struggled through a brutal product launch and a bunch of scaling challenges. We made mistakes large and small, a few of which we’re still working to resolve.

In the immortal words of Jack Donaghy, management legend, “Business doesn’t get me down; Business gets me off.” We tortured ourselves for lessons, questioned and gave up old dogmas, and began transforming ourselves into an even greater company.

Business Doesn't Get Me Down Jack Donaghy.jpg

[The Transformation]

At the time of our Series B, we had a single SAAS product and an API. We ended 2015 with a portfolio of FIVE products and another big project on the way. In 2015, we invested in building new products, new engineering platforms, and retiring tech debt. We’re not slowing down in 2016. We’re building on our momentum.

Analyze Strategize Succeed ASS Jack Donaghy 30 rock.gif

Moz Local growth is burning up!

Moz Local makes it fun and painless for brick-and-mortar businesses in the US and UK to grow their digital influence. After a mere 21 months, Moz Local has already generated an impressive $5.7 million USD in its lifetime (cash, not revenue). Moz Local revenue grew over 400% last year alone! We’re currently helping over 60,000 business locations manage their information across the web.

In November 2015, we released a major update to Moz Local that shows how a business location is performing over time and compared to its competitors. We’re also making it easier for businesses to manage their Google My Business profiles. The new features are in beta now and will be available for purchase in February.

If you haven’t played with Moz Local yet, start by checking to see if your business’s information is accurate.

Introducing our newest addition: Moz Content

We’re hoping to replicate Moz Local’s success by launching more standalone tools.

For example, our recently launched Moz Content helps marketers understand and improve their content marketing efforts. This product is powered by a proprietary Moz API to identify keywords and topics interesting to their audience. We’re still very early in this newborn product lifecycle and we’re shipping updates regularly. Since December, over 28,500 marketers have performed ~22,000 content audits and 44,000+ content searches. Usage continues to climb as we add features and polish to our brand-new product.

If you haven’t yet, give Moz Content a whirl.

[The Money]jack 30 rock whisky.gif

This round of financing allows us to build on the momentum we’ve started by growing our new product lines, and kicking Moz Pro and Moz Local up a notch.

In the year ahead, we’ll use the money for growth initiatives, like marketing, experimenting our way to product/market fit, and adding sales and account management folks.

If you’re really into the funding details…

Our pre-money valuation was $120 million. We did about $38 million in revenue for 2015. For reference, our 2012 Series B pre-money was $75 million. We’ve carried forward the same basic terms from the last round (1x liquidation and non-participating preferred). Foundry is contributing the entire $10 million. (Thanks, Foundry!)

Brad Feld, whom we love, is stepping off of the board, and Seth Levine (also from Foundry) is stepping on. I’m getting to know Seth and I’ve enjoyed all my interactions with him. He’s TAGFEE, deeply experienced, and passionate about Moz. He’ll be a great addition to the board. I like to think of this as gaining Seth, rather than losing Brad; they are both still on Team Moz.

this is boring jack donaghy 30 rock.jpg

Thanks for your support!

I want Moz to be a company that customers and employees love. I want to create something lasting and meaningful.

We have an ambitious mission. We help organizations transform the way they market to match how people want to engage, learn, and shop. Although I’ve been working on it since 2007, we’ve still got a long way to go, because the target is always moving. Happily, we’re invigorated by big challenges.

We’ve got strong momentum heading into 2016, and I appreciate Foundry’s continued support. Moz is an exceptional company, and we plan on keeping it that way.

grateful jack donaghy 30 rock.gif

I’m also grateful for this TAGFEE team. Mozzers are optimistic, courageous, creative, and committed. We’ve been accused of being cult-like, and I’m proud of that. And thank you to everyone in the Moz community for cheering us on. We endeavor to serve you.

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Boost your productivity by using Google Analytics custom alerts

There are times in life where being lazy is a virtue. In some cases, laziness can be a desirable trait in a co-worker. Why? Because you can be sure that lazy person will find ways of accomplishing something that’s either hard or time-consuming by developing methods or tools that will effectively maximize productivity while providing the least effort possible.

Sometimes, laziness translates into genius or pure art.

After all (and bear with me), mankind has evolved and survived up until now mostly because we developed tools to make things easier: from the silex knife to the wheel to the lightbulb all the way to the device you are using to read this article right now.

All these tools and inventions are focused on simplifying, enhancing or automating tasks we would accomplish manually. Because our bodies and minds have limits. Because the outside world is dangerous. Because… meh. Don’t feel like it. I’d’ rather be doing something exciting.

I’m pretty sure that if laziness had to be translated to a math equation, it would involve parameters such as motivation, effort and return on investment.

So many hats

It comes as no surprise that this is true also when using a web/digital analytics platform. Most of the time, and unless you’re a full-time digital analytics professional like me, looking at analytics reports is neither your top priority nor an activity to which you can devote considerable amounts of time.

In the case of small/medium businesses, you are very likely wearing many hats: CEO, salesman, stock management, shipping, marketer, customer support – and the list goes on. Long story short: you’ll be lucky if you can set aside an hour per week to look at your performance reports and hopefully conjure meaningful insights that will move your company along towards a brighter tomorrow (and more online revenue).

So you don’t have time to use analytics? It’s OK, we’ll just tell analytics to send you information about your site’s performance when you need it. We will not quite reach the point where we can click and forget but we’re getting close.

Google Analytics custom alerts to the rescue

For the purposes of this article, we’ll be focusing on Google Analytics since that’s the analytics solution most people use on a daily basis / have the most exposure to. Of course, the methods I describe in this post can apply to other solutions such as Adobe, Webtrends, AT Internet and sundry. Let’s not start a vendor war quite yet.

Let’s get right to it, shall we? Open Google Analytics and head to the left hand side menu and click Intelligence Events and then Overview.

The interface will show you a list of the alerts that are detected by Google Analytics automatically, heuristically, based on past data. For instance, if your usual weekly traffic is at 1000 visits, a quick jump to 2000 will tell analytics that your site’s performance goes outside of the usual value brackets and therefore will register as an automatic alert. These alerts are broken down by a variety of factors such as acquisition data or geolocation.

Intelligence Events overview

Clicking on details to the right will bring up a popup contextual view of the alert:

Intelligence Alert

Then you can click Go to report to see a more detailed view.

Unfortunately that kind of data-driven alert is neatly hidden within the GA interface and does not warn you when any such alerts being triggered. You have to manually and deliberately log onto the reporting interface and go to Intelligence Alerts. So very low on the lazy scale. Don’t get me wrong, they can be very useful; they’re just not as interactive as the other type of alerts, which we’re going to introduce next.

Let’s go back to the Intelligence Alerts > Overview screen and now let’s click the Custom Alerts tab that is sitting above the list of alerts. You can now see (surprise!) Custom Alerts which you have defined for your current view and that were triggered over the reporting period.

Intelligence Events - custom alerts

But let’s create a custom alert in order for you to get a better idea.

Popping your alert cherry

Start by clicking the Manage Custom Alerts button. Yes, you are taken to the Admin section momentarily but fear not, we’ll be out of there soon.

Create a new alert

In this example, I only have 2 custom alerts defined for the current view – but you should see the alerts I have defined for some customer accounts 😉

But let’s go ahead and create your first Google Analytics custom alert. As I click the red “New Alert” button, I can now define how my custom alert gets triggered.

In my case, I’m going to focus on my contact form conversion rate and I want to be alerted whenever the conversion rate for Goal #2 drops by more than 10%

Configure intelligence alert

So at this point I just need to give the alert a name such as “Sharp drop in contact form conversion rate” then define on which view the alert applies. If you need the alert to apply to more than one account or property, you’ll have to define the alert again. You can also select other views for which the alert applies.

Next, select the alert interval – in my case, weekly. If you need the alert to happen daily that’s fine too. Note that if you select a daily or monthly interval, you can trigger the alert either based on the data from the previous day or month or based on the same month the year before.

Check the box that sends you an email alert otherwise there is not much point in calling it an alert, especially since the mobile phone option next to the checkbox only works for United States cell phone numbers. Don’t forget you can add alert recipients at this stage. It can be a good idea to add a distribution list alias for instance, such as

Great, now that we’ve defined the alert’s format, we can focus on the alert traffic type criteria.

As seen below, you can select a traffic category from the green box: All Traffic, Country = UK, Browser = Firefox, etc.

In this example below I’m only considering my alert in the context of “visitor country set to either UK or France” (using a regular expression).

Country condition

The best part about this green box is that you can select an advanced segment, either out of the box “system” segments or custom advanced segments.

Finally, I need to select which metric is going to trigger the alert. Clicking in the blue box, I can select just about any metric available in Google Analytics, with the exception of Universal Analytics Custom Metrics and Calculated Metrics – but let’s wager this is going to be fixed soon 😉

In my example, I’m expecting an alert message whenever my conversion rate for my contact form drops by more than 10%.

Alert set up

There you have it! Click Save alert and when the alert triggers, you will receive e-mail saying that… your alert triggered 😉

Go to your trusty e-mail solution and open the Google Analytics Intelligence Alert e-mail and voilà:

Alert email message

I can click on the alert title in the e-mail to be taken to my Google Analytics to examine the alert and – hopefully – take action.

The whole process of setting up the alert should literally take you under one minute and save you countless hours which you can spend being productive. Make sure the criteria you select matches your goals and you’ll be golden.

Best practices are other people’s practices

Now that I’ve shown you the basics of creating a custom alert, you can go crazy and create your own alerts with criteria that matter to you. Here are some of the super useful alerts that I use on a regular basis:

  • Alerts for newsletter or campaign traffic > 0 sessions
    Ideal to debug a campaign launch and be alerted without staying stuck on the real-time report 😀
  • Alert when hostname starts registering sessions
    Also great for site launches and to indicate the switch between testing and production/live environments
  • Alerts for conversion rate drops. Self-explanatory.
  • Alerts for when e-commerce revenue drops
  • Alerts for sharp increase in bounce rate / decrease in pages/session or time spent on site
    Denotes drop in website engagement.

And I could add a lot more! Again, these work for me and quite a few of my analytics clients but don’t take it from me: try your own alerts and see which help you the most. Of course your mileage will vary and with experience you will adjust the criticality cursor and your metrics increase/drop percentages will reflect your comfort zone.

TL;DR and conclusions

Great, you’ve made it this far. Setting up alerts sounded pretty easy, right? As mentioned before and because your job does not necessarily allow you to spend too much time in front of the Google Analytics console, set up alerts to save time and be alerted as soon as something goes well/wrong.

At least, get notifications when your alert metric reaches acceptable levels of negative performance for you to take corrective action.

Just remember that there is no such thing as real-time corrections. You will always lose/waste some time before you realize something is wrong and the moment when you can fix things.

Other avenues for alerting include using the Google Analytics Real Time reports or its API to get to-the-second metrics. Be warned that those reports will keep you mesmerized (“Ooooh shiny…”) for the best part of an hour if you’re not careful – without yielding any valuable insights as to how to fix your website.

Don’t get me wrong, I work in analytics full time and I too need to be pinged every now and then when things are going well or not so well. Too often the value of the insights is a direct factor of how much time you spend analyzing data – but it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t have that much time available, at least equip yourself with useful tools such as Google Analytics custom alerts that will save you a lot of time and effort while nurturing your lazy bone. And yes, it’s that much extra time you can spend doing stuff that matters more :-)

In my next piece, I’ll talk more about other productivity features in Google Analytics, but first let me hear about you.

How do you use your alerts? What had you been using until now? Do you have questions or feedback? Let me know in the comments!

Post from Julien Coquet

Mike Deets - Living




Have an incredible day!



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