Watch out for a Profit! How Google Alerts and Google Analytics alerts improve your sales

Google Alerts
Use Google Alerts to monitor buzz on the internet
Like the soldiers of Saving Private Ryan, know when to send in help to sustain a valuable effort
Saving Private Ryan showed how human intervention makes an alert valuable



The movie Saving Private Ryan is one of those movies that grips you to the point where you have to study the details. It’s been years since its acclaimed release in theaters, yet movie goers remember its opening sequence, the bloody taking of Omaha beach during the Normandy invasion of World War II.

But for this web analytics perspective, I recall one particular scene that makes the point of what you want to do with data.

In Saving Private Ryan, General George Marshall is informed that three of the four Ryan brothers have all died within days of each other. In a scene after the opening battle, one of the notification typists sees a similarity of the planned Ryan death notices. She stops typing, stands ups, and walks the notices to an officer. The notices are then brought to the attention of the general, who then decides that the fourth brother, Private James Ryan should be sent home.

In simple terms, it took human intervention to notice and take action. Your business should strive for a similar intervention to stay on its strategic course. But what kind of alerts make sense? The following alerts and tips can help you decide what is effective and useful for your business.

1. First, decide what online actions may have an important influence on your business

Develop a list that shows what metrics would create an action if it were to change. How would an increase in a number of visits affect your business? Assign one person or small team that manages the marketing as the “General Marshall” of your online properties — that person/team should have some ability to implement changes quickly, such as a comfort with modifying text or a broken referring link in a site.

2. If monitoring your brand or products is important…

…use Google alerts for, well, alerts on online mentions of your brand, product, or other important phrase. Another tool, Nutshell Mail from Constant Contact provides social media alerts, such as for activity on a fanpage or changes in Youtube.

3. Use alerts in your analytics tools to determine changes in website metrics that will affect your business choices.

Google Analytics Alert dashboard
Use a Google Analytics Alert dashboard to see if there is a potential triggering trend over time

Google Analytics, for example, offers an intelligence alert setting for changes in key metrics such as average time on site, CPC, Bounce Rate, goal conversions, or changes in custom segments created in the advanced segmentation wizard. The alerts can be named, and shared across profiles, as well as sent via text to a mobile phone.

4. Set up a repository email for response

The alerts mentioned in 2 and 3 are delivered to an email address, so a deposit email (say should be selected and monitored by the “General Marshall” in your business. Even further, you can add the targeted email to a mobile phone for alerts on the go. Your “General Marshall” should have access to the receiving email alerts and can take appropriate action — respond to a customer query or send a discount.

5. Use Annotation in Google Analytics

Finally, have the Google Analytics administrator use the annotation feature to add notes for events, website updates, and key events which may affect business performance. Doing so can help determine which efforts make a different as well as reveal new traffic trends that result from the effort. Do so once a month to catch all updates and edits as needed. The postings can also be shared to other employees who have profile access.

Alerts can be beneficial for any business, because their presence can order which actions require attention. If set correctly, a performance check is less frequently needed, allowing more time to focus on other matters in the business. For example, if you are receiving an alert triggered on visitor spikes very frequently every month on a page for a product, you can examine if sales are also increasing at the same time as those spike and consider adjusting inventory if the trend has continued over time (and even investigate why the spike are occurring).

Stay alert with alerts…They can be the best way to win the ongoing battle to serve clients and customers better, as well as to keep to sales momentum going strong.

Pentagon shows a lesson in managing social media goals within an organization

Even the Pentagon is learning how to manage social media

The Pentagon may not be the first place to think of social media, but then again innovation or interesting perspectives come from the least likely and most uncorrelated sources.  Wired reported that the Pentagon is no longer operating a separate social media team to run their Twitter and Facebook accounts, opting to instead incorporate its social media department into its PR communication department.

The decision is understandable. After two years of maintaining a singular communication source, the Pentagon has gained enough insight into what kind of communication should be maintained.  After all, not every business has updates that are a clean fit for social media. The government contracting industry, for example, has some struggle with social media only because many of the ideas typically advised can be detrimental.  For example, some contractors can only announce a win of a contract but not the details of ongoing contract performance, for concern that competing bidders can use the information against them.

The struggle to integrate social media into a large corporation certainly is not  new.  The book Empowered by Groundswell author Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler addresses the concerns and struggles to integrate employee social media usage into company strategy (I wrote a book review for Small Business Trends here). The major concern for the Pentagon mirrors the book’s most overarching topic — establishing a social media policy for its ranks.   The lack of a policy has not created a significant problem yet, but its mention in the article shows that the military has a way to go to ensuring that no information leak damages its intended image.

Having a dedicated social media team has advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few:


  • Dedicated listening that can aid response to online audience concerns
  • Dedicated search of customer comments that can aid new product or service generation
  • Augments a highly centralized organization
  • Can establish an polished image if managed by experience social media or marketing professional
  • Can prevent sharing proprietary information — allows for a coordinated disclosure of information


  • Creates silo — shared knowledge and insights across organization is limited to too few folks
  • Limits account response creativity that can draw followers and interest
  • Can be difficult to establish a social media objective when tool usage is disconnected from organizational objectives
  • Can create a “too polished” inauthentic image among followers if manager lacks marketing savvy

Read the Wired article for more details and interesting perspective on social media from a highly centralized organization.

How to expand your analytics knowledge: Three books that show managers how

Web Analytics 2.0
Avinash Kaushik's excellent guide for analytics in management

Yahoo Web Analytics
Dennis Mortensen has written a great guide on analytic dashboards as well as his analytics solution, sold to Yahoo in 2008

Need a little more information on using analytics within your organization?  There are three great books that I have had the pleasure of reviewing at Small Business Trends, an award winning small business blog started by editor Anita Campbell.  Written by the leading experts in web analytics and business intelligence, these can help develop an organization around the timely use of analytics tools.

  • Analytics At Work (Thomas Davenport, Jeanne Harris) — focuses on analytics within an organization.  Differing from their first book, Competing on Analytics, Analytics at Work is for medium sized organizations that want to incorporate business intelligence tools for operational efficiency but not as a leading advantage in a given industry.
  • Yahoo Web Analytics (Dennis Mortensen) — this book is more than a how-to regarding Yahoo! Web Analytics.  It’s perfect for online merchants who are interested in Yahoo Web Analytics, but also advanced analytics practitioners who need additional ideas for Javascript code and segmentation analysis.

I have also reviewed other business books with Ivana Taylor, founder of DIY Marketers and the book editor for SBT.  We try to review business books we genuinely like and that have great use for small business owners.   A great one Ivana did  is called Success Made Simple which featured perspective from Amish small businesses

Small Business Trends covers a number of great small business subjects and tips.  Definitely a must follow for any small business owner.

What other business books have been a great aid to your business or outlook?

Think Analytics is for auditing SEO? Use it for its true intent, to guide your online presence

There are many small businesses that believe that web analytics is linked entirely to PPC and keyword campaigns.  It can be. But analytics solutions can do so much more by inferring your customers wants and desires from a number of marketing channels.  Small businesses are bombarded with new means to market themselves, so as a business adds a new marketing tool — both online and offline — the new tools increases the attention needed.  Remember your business can market itself through:

  • Powerpoint presentations uploaded online
  • Video uploaded and advertised through YouTube, Vimeo, AdMogul, etc.
  • Magazine and Billboard ads with URLs to a landing page
  • Twitter
  • e-Mail (like MailChimps site analytics)
  • Facebook (which requires a different approach to a keyword search….more later!)
  • Profiles on sites such as Linked In, OPEN Forum, Biznik
  • Local or specialty associations like the Web Analytics Association and the New York Entrepreneurship
  • Customer responses via Yelp and Mr Tweet.
  • Blogs

Plus, there are additional analytics for some of these, sources such as MailChimp’s Site Analytics (see a previous post on the subject here).

So the point is to use your analytics solutions as an anchor for understanding your marketing and managing your costs.

Bookmark and Share