Posts Tagged ‘analytics’

Tumbling in the search for search semantics

January 3, 2013

Thanks to Google Trends, anyone can know what everyone’s searching for. Or even what health news Marylanders were searching for last month. But no one can know why they are searching.

Without knowing users’ intent, observers shouldn’t assume that search trends mean something is or isn’t trendy.

The Atlantic Wire and others surmised that the term “blog” might be outdated, and that “Tumblr” may be becoming the Kleenex to its tissue, now that the latter has passed the former in search term popularity. Especially since a search for “Tumblr” gets processed so fast Google doesn’t even display the time, not so fast my friend.

Since search is one of the most common ways Web users learn about unfamiliar things, one could just as easily spin the data the other way to say it reflects the generic blog’s increased popularity — or at least familiarity.

The average Web user today, I’ll hypothesize, is more likely to know what a blog is than the average Web user in Spring 2009, when “blog” peaked in the Google Trends chart that inspired the Wire’s post. While it’s long been a household term in techie spaces, “Tumblr” is still a new name for many a Internet user. Or, perhaps someone’s heard it a lot, but isn’t exactly sure what it is.

Another factor likely at play is users’ using search as a navigational tool, a habit ReadWriteWeb learned about the hard way in early 2010. Since it was the top news result, and hence atop all search results, users mistook its article that talked about logging into Facebook for the actual Facebook login page!

Mobile, with its cumbersome typing interfaces and narrow address bars, and search being baked into most address bars, further encourage users to use search as a shortcut for typing out the full URL. “Tumblr” surely benefits from these navigational applications, but “blog” — other than a caveman, maybe, who’s trying to go to just “blog”? — not so much.

Bottom line, it’s difficult to compare generic and specific search terms. The Google Trends data certainly document the rise of Tumblr, but not necessarily the fall of “blog.”

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Analytics Grounded in Goals

November 12, 2009

hockeygoalGetting into any business today means getting into the Web business. As an online marketing expert put it in a presentation to my Theory and Audience Analysis class this morning, “It’s sort of weird now if you’re a business and you’re not on the Web.”

Look at or listen to any advertisement. Chances are there’s a url somewhere in there. Companies count on the Web to make them money. Show them how to do it, and you’re likely to make some yourself.

Enter Web analytics, which is what Mark Tosczak, an account supervisor at RLF Communications in Greensboro, N.C., came to talk about. With its acronym-laced jargon, sophisticated-looking charts and rapid pace of change, Web analytics can seem intimidating. Smart business people regularly mix up basic terms, like hit, page view and site visit, Tosczak said.

Those executives know analytics better than they probably realize, however. At analytics’ heart is Business 101. I’m talking about goals. Specific, measurable, verifiable, achievable goals.

Tosczak offered five analytics commandments that revolved around these most fundamental of management fundamentals. He stressed to evaluate results — pay-per-click ad click throughs, for example — not activities — PPC ad views — and added the always helpful reminder to never put all of one’s faith in machines.

Settling upon a goal, Tosczak said, can sometimes be the most difficult part. A manager sees that competitors are on Twitter or reads some press about the microblogging service and decides “My company has to be on Twitter.”

Yes, like Hansel in the 2001 comedy “Zoolander“, Twitter’s “so hot right now.” It is in my world. It seems that whenever I need a generic social media example, I go with Twitter, as I did here. Man, that cute little bird really cast a spell on me. Oh well, Flutter will be along soon enough.

Anyway, point is, Twitter is not necessarily relevant to company X’s world. And, even if it is, it’s not enough to just “be on it.” It’s a medium. Just like a magazine. No business person would in his or her right mind say “We’ve got to get into magazines” without offering specifics, but some business person somewhere every day says this with regard to social media.

After some prodding, a company might decide that it wants to use Twitter to drive traffic to its Web site. OK, that’s a goal, but it’s not specific. How much traffic? What kind of users? What kind of content should users see? What should they do once they get to the site?

Analytics advisers can then tell a company whether the goal can be recorded by current software, whether its accuracy can be tested and whether it’s realistic. If the suits need convincing, the consultants should tie it back to money. That’s something business people never have difficulty understanding.

Learning For A Lifetime

November 5, 2009

Less than seven months from now, if all goes as planned, I’ll receive my second degree from Elon University, this time a Master of Arts in Interactive Media. I expect this to mark the end of my formal education. Of course, that’s what I was leaning toward after undergrad. And here I am, back in school. In any case, in this fast-moving field I’ve chosen, what is certain is that my informal education will never be complete. 

My program, just 10 months long, is designed for this pace. The idea is to keep students from getting too detached from the professional world and to get them back in the field while their skills are still fresh. 

Still, a lot can happen in 10 months. Twitter, for example, has exploded in popularity since January, gaining tens of millions of users. 

To keep up, I’ll continue to read as much media and technology news as I can find time for, seek out opportunities to learn from talented colleagues and probably drop in on the occasional weekend workshop. 

Where these means fall short or are impractical, online training is an attractive option. Structured, up-to-date instruction from experts the globe over when and where I want? I’ll take it. Sure, it’s not as personal as classroom learning, but next-generation video conferencing and virtual reality could help it come close. 

Certification is another benefit of many online training programs, offering professionals a level of authority that saying they know a new skill or even talking about it intelligently just doesn’t. 

One such example is Google’s Conversion University. Since March, the search engine giant has administered an analytics certification program based on its approximately 230-minute online course. Applicants pay $50 to take an online test, and, if they score 75 percent or higher, are registered as Google Analytics qualified. 

I was assigned today to complete the course for one of my classes. Since I’ll be putting in the study time, I figure I might as well aim for the certification. If I get it, thanks to a just-introduced feature, I’ll be able to prove it with an official link. I’ll update my progress and share what I learn in this space. Stay tuned. Or, perhaps I should say, “be a returning visitor.”

Sometimes the Best Tools in Life Are Free

October 23, 2009

My fellow students and I are privledged to have acceess to some of the top software on the market. The latest version of Adobe’s popular Creative Suite — which comprises image editing, Web development and multimedia software — was included with our tuition and professional programs not part of that package, such as video editing client Final Cut Pro, are available on campus.

Still, our school can’t afford to buy us everything we need. And, many of us knee deep in student loans, we certainly can’t. So, quite often, we depend on free tools to get the job done. This is good practice as many of us can expect to be working for startups or nonprofits with relatively small budgets.

Free tools, we learned today, sometimes are preffered even by companies that can afford paid ones.

Elon Unversity alumnus Travis Lusk, who was to particpate in a School of Communications networking panel later in the day, told us this morning that most of the Web sites he oversees for WCBS-FM in New York will soon be produced using WordPress’s open-source content management system.

Lusk, as part of a talk on audience analytics, praised WordPress’s clean interface and its customizability through Cascading Style Sheets and widgets and called it the “most out-of-the-box SEO friendly [CMS] on the market, hands down.”

WordPress, for example, makes tweaking urls to match keywords a snap.

While Lusk depends on paid analytics tools like Clicky Web Analytics and OneStat.com for real-time audience information, Google’s free analytics software is a tool he regularly uses.