Client Spotlight: Smith and Donovan

Smith and Donovan have been providing photography and video services for a wide variety of businesses and non profit organizations in northwest Indiana and the Chicago area.  Carly Smith and Thad Donovan has created a number of corporate videos, including a More »

Client Spotlight: Benefit Management Associates @BMA_INC

One of Zimana’s favorite clients is the right company to turn to when it comes to planning the right health care coverage for your company.  Started by Paul Dark, Benefit Management Associates (BMA) provides guidance on health care coverage and insurance More »

Zimana spotlight: broadAngle

This interview with Garrison Atkisson, founder of broadAngle, was conducted via online in 2012.  Portions were used as part of a post for Business Agility.  I met Garrison during my grad school days at Georgia Tech. Later we crossed paths, and More »

First Digital Marketing and Analytics Seminar a Success for #Chicago Incubator @Blue1647 and Zimana

Zimana has partnered with Blue 1647, a Chicago start up and entrepreneurship incubator in the Pilsen neighborhood. Founded by Emile Cambry, and co-managed with Antonio Rowry as Chief Operating Officer, Blue 1647 provides a working space for 32 companies and More »

Zimana Client Spotlight: Scientifically Speaking @business317 merges presentation skills with social media

Eric Anderson has been a driving force with his company Scientifically Speaking (nicknamed SciSpeak).  Based in Indianapolis, Scientifically Speaking provides social media and presentations coaching to technology professionals and small businesses.  The end result for the client is an improved More »

 

Analytics Tips: How to Manage 404s to Reduce Bounce Rates

404 in Google Analytics reports

404.

The dreaded 3-digit number can mean more in analytics reporting than someone not seeing a missing page in a website. The appearance of a 404 error in a browser screen frequently can be a pain in the neck.  But its impact can diminish the effort in maintaining a coherent digital experience, costing visitors and conversions (purchases, downloads, etc.)

Why 404s can hamper a digital marketing campaign

The number of 404 errors can influence bounce rates. Bounce rates are the number of times a visitor arrived at one page and left immediately. The metric reflects that people who landed on a page left without viewing other pages.  While there can be many reasons for a high bounce rate, a singular visit to a 404 page can not help.

Errors are a technical reality of a digital presence – no page, no information – but too many unmanaged 404 errors can negatively impact the visitor experience on a site. Regularly occurring 404 errors indicate that site visitors are consistently being mislead because the page is not really available. Thus reducing 404 errors becomes an important part of a establishing a digital presence.  

What to do: Making 404s a Number 1 Priority 

404 errors are best addressed with an experienced developer who is comfortable with basic code language, and good ol’ fashion follow–up skills.

But if such experience is not immediately available, there are a few ways to manage 404 errors so that bounce rates are reduced and visitors are kept with a website experience. Consider the following  tips:

 

  • The most common solution to eliminating 404 errors is by using 301 redirects for pages permanently removed and 302 redirects for pages temporarily unavailable. 301s are implemented by adding an update in the htaccess file. The htaccess indicates to search engine queries the intended pages of a site, so an update can also help eliminate potential query errors. Use a text editor to add the redirect (see this Zimana post to learn about a few types of text editors available).   The redirects are typically added in the format below:

Redirect /originaldirectory/originalfile.html http://website.com/updateddirectory/updatedfile.html

  • Create unique 404 pages that appear when a page is missing. Even a humorous 404 redirect page can re-engage visitors and reduce exits from the site. The .htaccess file can be modified to indicate a 404 message and to indicate the custom 404 page.  Add the following syntax in the file:

ErrorDocument 404 /errorpage.html  

where “errorpage” is the name of the custom 404 page (Feel free to name this page anything you want, as long as you follow standard HTML protocol)

  • Create an Google Analytics custom report to track when visitors arrive to 404 pages.  Set a filter to highlight the 404 URL; this may mean parsing the “404” in the URL or setting the filter to reflect the custom 404 page.  This report can help track the frequency in which 404s are occurring, and direct resources for monitoring the site function.
  • To better understand a site missing page response, become familiar with other 400 codes.  For example, Search Engine Journal reported a Matt Cutts explanation of the difference between a 404 and 410.

 

If you want to be the first to know when a 404 occurs, consider creating a Google Analytics alert.  The GA alert can indicate when 404s are occurring at an increasing rate or above a certain threshold.
To create an alert, follow these steps:

  • Log into a Google Analytics account and click on the Admin section at the top of a profile.  
  • Once on the admin page, navigate to the Goals menu. At the menu, select the destination goal and insert the 404 page URL as the destination page.
  • Next, navigate to the Custom Alerts section and create the alert, based on the 404 goal. You can set alert to send via email, including the emails of any team who is also managing a website. Set the increases by a percentage or a set value, using previous day. 
  • If you are unsure of what volume of 404 errors to trigger an alert, start with a 10% increase. You can later adjust the volume to a number of your choosing. The key is selecting a general indicator of how frequently 404 errors appear (and to keep development teams alert in eliminating out of date pages within the site).
Google Analytics Alert

Using an alert set to a specific 404 page can keep your team alert to increases in 404 related problems

An variation to the Google Analytics report is to set a custom report that highlights landing pages and sources – doing so can reveal if certain referral sources are consistently viewing a 404 page.

Even with all these ideas in place, your bounce rate may not reach 0% or a reasonable rate (Many blogs naturally have a high percentage), but the rate will move closer to that direction with 404 alerts. The end result is retaining engaged visitors on the site.

Why Business Intelligence Is Key for Competitive Advantage – Infographic by Boston University

This infographic by Boston University displays some basic reminders of why analytics is essential. It ultimately supports business intelligence, and provides guidance into what activity is a competitive advantage for a given business.

I like that this infographic opens with a definition of business intelligence.  I also like the highlight of how necessary analytics will be once the internet of things takes off.  2020 is a fair estimate, allowing for variations in how the internet of things will develop.  The sources of data will be massive, and refining business intelligence to account for the data sources will be vital for business survival.

-Pierre


Boston University Online

Blogging Curation and Analytics Tips for Attracting Better Visitor Traffic

Blogs are certainly a key element in establishing an online presence. Blogposts provide one place to write about a small business owner’s professional passion and news on industry changes. Blogging is also a way for people to discover your owned content.

Thus blogposts provides a means to manage news about your business, new product introductions, and share good commentary from customers. Sending posts to the right audiences requires crafting the content to appeal to readers.

Establishing a blog is easy, but creating posts can become consuming, turning your business into a baby-Huffington post instead of operating the model that was originally intended.

Below are some tips that can make managing a blog easier, saving time in creating posts and resources to better manage your business. For some tips to create evergreen content – content that can last and save preparation time in creating, take a look at this Zimana post.

  1. Choose the topic or niche that compliments your passion or business objective. Doing so encourages more quality posts.
  2. Be conscious on selecting short, descriptive domain names for the blog if a blog is a major component of your business model. It will help regular readers to recall it.
  3. Create a regular posting schedule. Casual posting will not be considered a major strike, but sporadic posting will not attract a consistent reader following.
  4. A word about using free blogging platforms for long term strategy; Be wary.They’re great for keeping expenses low for a business – because they are free – but they also lack time-saving features that makes blog curation easier to operate. For example, wordpress.com does not allow modifications of supporting files beyond the content. This means plugins that can add valuable features to a site are not available. WordPress.org – the stand alone version – does permit plugins. Plugins can make certain repetitive operations easier to do and provide opportunity for other features to enhance the reader’s experience on the blog.
  5. Read blogs from experts on your niche. To spice up content, interview industry experts with topics related to the blog’s niche. Doing so shows that your business attracts other professionals who recognizes the value of your business and your site content. Readers will feel that your site is not just another form of advertising. Also, interviewed professionals will share the content, providing another means for readers to discover your site.
  6. Use Pinterest and Instagram to enhance post exposure through images, short videos, and descriptions of related offline events. Doing so can add a new means for people to discover your blog.
  7. Audit outbound links periodically to maintain your blog quality on what sites are associated with curated content. Sites shuts down or deprecate content, leaving your site with broken links.
  8. Reply to your commentators to encourage commentary. Highlighting commentators can share some valuable suggestions that can lead to the next post idea. It will encourage return visits to the site because their commentary and dialogue is cherished.
  9. Highlight new posts in the social media presence to reach readers. Facebook Pages allows a highlighted post, while using a Twitter card with associated images can highlight a post shared in a tweet. Take time to craft unique messages for each platform where possible. Google Plus and Facebook provide more characters for more descriptive text. Take advantage to describe what is new about the post content.
  10. As posts are created, find ways to create internal links on relevant posts. For example, this link here connects to another Zimana blog post on blog content. Using text that describe where the reader will be taken can increase page views and overall engagement
  11. Use attractive and readable text on your posts. Aim for a font size of 14 or larger – remember that readers may be viewing the site through a tablet or mobile device.
  12. Conduct keyword research on Google Trends to discover what people are generally searching for online. Doing so will inspire title ideas that can tie into popular online searches.
  13. Join community forums and groups to meet people who share the blog’s intended niche. Doing so increases the likelihood of discovering new ideas that can be curated.
  14. Although Matt Cutts, Google search evangelist, noted some limitations in guest blogging recently – see this post from his blog at www.mattcutts.com – inviting other bloggers to write guest posts on your blog can provide a lift in identifying new blogpost ideas. A comment from another blogger about healthcare for small businesses can be the catalyst for a blog on healthcare service trends.
  15. Create Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest announcements dedicated to announcing your blog. Tweet a message or create a pinned image containing a subscription link. Encourage followers to join your blog. You can also include a subscription offer in any automated Twitter message for new followers (Keep in mind: Not every Twitter follower likes receiving an automated message. Plan for a personal appeal message requesting subscriptions).
  16. Avoid posts with affiliate links at the very start of a blogging effort. Deploying them too early can alter the “street cred” of the site. If they are used, disclose their presence in the blog and use discreetly, instead of making every link an affiliate link throughout every post.
  17. Use analytics on each social media platform to see how activity is being generated as followers respond to the content.
  18. Track metrics associated with the content reports – you’ll find it in analytic solutions such as Google Analytics or Piwik. These reports list pages as the dimension, so a review will increase your understanding of how your content is accepted. Examine the time spent relative to the visits. In some cases your second, third, fourth posts (or lower down) can experience meaningful engagement, indicating topics to build on as a follow up topic.
  19. Use demographic reports to confirm how well your traffic matches to the intended demographic of the business. Keep a weekly or monthly status of the percent change in demographics – determine the traffic trends as possible.
  20. Use report flow to see if there is a general flow of site traffic to a particular page. Doing so can reveal if visitors are investigating your other posts as well.

A defining characteristic of content curation is analyzing traffic sources and estimate how visitors react to the content . Constantly monitor the curated and shared content to learn how to make it effective.

Development Spotlight: Asynchronous Javascript and Promises via Chicago Javascript

The Chicago Javascript Meetup group hosted a….well, a meetup on two Javascript subjects.  This post focuses on the first, asynchronous Javascript. Users of Google Analytics certainly have heard the term “async” – asynchronous code was introduced in 2009. But what does “async” mean in general?  Here’s a brief run down:

JavaScript is a single-threaded language. The phrase “single-threaded” means that invoking a long-running process – a function – blocks execution of other processes until that process completes. Think of this as a moving up and down a ladder – you can’t really skip a rung to go down or up. Imagine that, and you have an idea of how JavaScript works with each function – one at a time.  It also draws imagery of what challenges can occur: single UI elements are unresponsive, animations pause, and no other code in the app can run.

The solution to these challenges is to minimize synchronous execution where possible. One way of deploying asynchronous JavaScript is to have a JavaScript function execute at a later time, as with event handlers, which are invoked after another call has raised an event. Callback functions are another kind of asynchronous processing, because they call back into the code that initiated the process.

Getting back to the presentation, Alex Castrounis, a JavaScript enthusiast who runs a Javascript site, Innoarchitech, asked the audience if they thought Javascript is asynchronous? They answer was no, it is not. He goes on to note how async and promises play hand in hand in improving JavaScript functionality.

Alex then goes through the Javascript engines that help set up the definition of promises. Promises are the result of an asynchronous results, allowing for executing multiple async calls without blocking event loops.  Alex explains in detail how they are used, when to use them, and their benefits in the slideshow below.

A note on JavaScript engines – Spidermonkey, chromenode.js and V8 are mentioned.  These are essential because their components – interpreter, heap (where objects and variable reside) , and call stack – play into the Message queue and Event Loop which are part of the promise function flow.

The Chicago Javascript group was formed in 2008.  You can see past talks and other information posted on the js.chi() site (http://javascriptchicago.com/).

Analytics Tips: Using Filters in Analytics Reporting

Ever strain water from a boiling pot of spaghetti? Well, you just have the basics for filters in web analytics.

Filters are a screening featuring within web analytics tools. They are meant screen certain aspect of the traffic that arrives to your site. Imagine filters as a strainer for draining water away from cooked pasta, and you have a good idea of how a filter should work.

In a website environment, filters include or exclude specific text information such as specific subdomains or directory in a URL, as well as a range of IP addresses.  Filters can also be programmed to rename URLs to make them more easily recognizable to the analyst.

To set them within Google Analytics, go to the admin page, then select the profile and view to which the filter will be applied.

To make sure the filter is recording the right data correctly, it is always a great idea to keep an unfiltered version of the data – data can not be recalculated once the filter is applied. Plus maintaining an unaltered version can be a diagnostic tool. Baseline trends from a profile without filters can be compared to reports with a filter to ensue the filter works as expected. This is especially important when Javascript expressions are applied as a filtering mechanism. Javascript expressions can become a bit complex depending on the amount of data being filtered.

For filters with regular expressions, text characters are used, such as  a slash / or brackets [ ]. The characters are designed to tell the analytics code what to included and exclude from the data.   For more details on regular expressions, view this Zimana blog post on what regular expressions are available.

Note that filters differ from the automatic segments available in analytic solutions, such as referral traffic or new vs returning visitors.  The idea behind a filter is to view a traffic segment based on technical aspects of the site.

Google Analytics Filters

Google Analytics Filter Selector