Halloween Logos From The Search Engines

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Happy Halloween! For the special day, most of the search engines and portals have special logos or themes on their home pages.

In fact, Google’s logo was carved and filmed at Google and that made up what you see as the Google Logo for Halloween in 2011. Note, one of the pumpkins was 1,298 pounds!

Plus, Google’s dressed up the Google Webmaster Help forums and AdSense Forums.

Google’s Video Halloween Logo:

Google also has a static logo:

Google Halloween Logo

Bing Halloween Theme (video step 1):

Bing Halloween Theme

Bing Halloween Theme (video step 2):

Bing Halloween Theme

Yahoo Animated:


Ask.com Halloween 2011


Dogpile Halloween

AdSense Forum Halloween Treat:

AdSense Halloween

Google Webmaster Help Forum Halloween Treat:

Google Webmaster Help Forum Halloween

Our theme here at the Search Engine Roundtable:

SER Halloween

For the past year’s special Halloween logos see the 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2004 Halloween logos.

Forum discussion at Google Blogoscoped Forums and Google Webmaster Help.

October 31st 2011 Uncategorized

Google Drops Plus Sign from Search Operators

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Up until last week, searchers could use the plus sign on Google to tell the search engine that particular terms must be on the page for which they’re searching. For example, if I wanted to search for craft magazines that mention crochet, I could put [magazine +crochet], without the brackets, into the search box. I can’t use that strategy anymore. Since this is still a useful function, Google co-opted quotation marks to take it over. You may recall that quotation marks in Google indicate that an exact phrase must be present; you can now use them for a single word. So my search would now be in …

October 31st 2011 Uncategorized

Costumes From Yahoo Halloween

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October 31st 2011 Uncategorized

The Business of SEO: Perception vs. Reality

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Posted by Matthew C. Egan

As SEOs we often live in a bubble, sometimes it’s a social media bubble where we only tweet amongst our peers, sometimes it’s a literal bubble that we don’t explore outside our comfort zone, but that bubble can easily keep us from seeing things that to consultants in other fields is painfully obvious. At the end of the day, an SEO consultant isn’t any more special than a CPA or a Financial Planner, we’re all consultants and ultimately our job is to give our clients what they want.

The question then is, what do our clients want?

Our clients want value, our clients want progress, and they’re willing to invest in consultants to get what they want, but it falls to us to prove not just the value that we know exists in SEO and other Inbound Marketing tactics, but to also deliver the perception of value. Not only to our primary contact, but to their superiors and anyone else who might be reading the documents you leave behind.

I was talking with Tom Critchlow about this and he said something to me that I asked his permission to share here and I couldn’t agree with him more. Tom said, "There’s no good nailing value, if you don’t nail perceived value."

He’s absolutely right. Starting out as an SEO consultant, my every focus was on the value of SEO and I believed with all my heart that White Hat SEO was valuable, that our tactics would increase our client’s revenue, that we had the answers to the recession’s tough questions.

I set out, a one man operation at the time, to educate my local business community about SEO. I spoke at luncheons, attended more networking events than I did actual client work, and just "hustled" to steal the term from Gary Vaynerchuck.

Our company grew, we gained clients, Image Freedom as a brand started to develop, we were providing SEO but my salesmanship abilities were primarily responsible for creating that perceived value. Value that was not shown in my documentation or my reports. My documents sucked, our logo sucked, our analytics reports changed every other month. We were a mess, all strategy, no presentation.

Image Freedom completely lacked consistency, and while we were growing, we were hindered by our emphasis on SEO’s ACTUAL value, which you and I know intimately as readers of SEOmoz and members of this community, but I wasn’t doing a good enough job on the perceived value component.

In 2010 we hired Prologue Branding, a consulting duo who helped us develop a consistent brand message throughout all of our documents, a great new logo, conducted past and present client interviews, the works. They stripped us down to our core.

It wasn’t an easy experience to embark upon. Client interviews, especially the interviews with clients we’d let down, or who I’d failed to help maintain that perception of value with. It was a painful but humbling experience that I recommend every entrepreneur experiences on at least an annual basis.

Through pain comes growth and I lost many nights of sleep re-developing documentation, research, reports, guides, and whatever I could to help me bring the perception of SEO that my clients took away from our meetings closer in line with the reality that SEO really was a fantastic tool for growing their business.

We used to provide PDF’s of our research, our audits, print outs from Google Analytics (don’t lie, you know you’ve done this) and basically weak leave behinds that were far from inspiring to our clients. They perceived disorganization, inconsistent brand messaging, and that just wasn’t the message I wanted them to take away, but I was stuck in my craft, I was the SEO, I knew what they needed and if they could just accept that it all lived in my head and not on paper then we can get on with the work of creating this value.

I was dead wrong.

Perception is reality, and through my branding audit, through our rebirth as a team and as a company, we started delivering not just perceived value in presentations and workshops about SEO, our documentation expressed that value, our audits were professionally printed and spiral bound. The documents felt substantial to hold, they escaped the "unicorns and rainbows" theoretical hindrance that effects so many in the Social Media and SEO spaces and became documented plans, strategies, and it was hard to look at what we delivered without knowing that we had a plan and you were in the right hands to get your business to where you want it to be.

I’ve owned an Internet Marketing company for two years now. As a team, we’ve exceeded my every expectation but we’ve made our share of mistakes along the way. If I can pass on one piece of wisdom to my fellow Entrepreneurs, to my fellow SEOs, it’s the need for expressing the perceived value of what you do, and not just your belief in the value of your trade.

You’re on SEOmoz, you’re educated about SEO, you’re reading tips and tactics from the greatest SEOs I’ve had the pleasure to meet and learn from. What you do is valuable, and you can break out and be a success. You can grow your business into a brand to be proud of.

Just don’t forget that perception is reality. As soon as we established the perceived value of what we did, our clients started investing more into SEO, our momentum started to snowball beyond what we had expected and we were able to deliver, without fail, not just the things we knew our clients needed, but also the things our clients wanted.

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October 31st 2011 Uncategorized

Advanced Google Analytics – Tips and Tricks

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SEOgadget’s Fabian Alvares shares some great advanced segments, multiple goal conversion tracking and the secret sauce behind cross domain tracking.

October 31st 2011 Uncategorized

How To Identify Lost Links In Linkscape, Majestic or Webmaster Tools Data

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Are the links in your Linkscape, OpenSiteExplorer, Majestic, or Google Webmaster Tools data still live? A simple tip to keep check on your links, based on Neils Bosma’s SEO Tools for Excel and a little XPath…

October 31st 2011 Uncategorized

How to get a job with a small company

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Most advice about job seeking is oriented around big companies. The notion of a standard resume, of mass mailings, of dealing with the HR department–even the idea of interviews–is all built around the Fortune 500.

Alas, the Fortune 500 has been responsible for a net loss in jobs over the last twenty years. All the growth (and your best chance to get hired) is from companies you’ve probably never heard of. And when the hirer is also the owner, the rules are very different.

1. Learn to sell. Everyone has sold something, some time, even if it’s just selling your mom on the need for a nap when you were three years old. A lot of people have decided that they don’t want to sell, can’t sell, won’t sell, but those same people need to understand that they’re probably not going to get a job doing anything but selling.

Small businesses always need people who can sell, because selling pays for itself. It’s not an expense, it’s a profit center.

2. Learn to write. Writing is a form of selling, one step removed. There’s more writing in business today than ever before, and if you can become a persuasive copywriter, you’re practically a salesperson, and even better, your work scales.

3. Learn to produce extraordinary video and multimedia. This is just like writing, but for people who don’t like to read. Even better, be sure to mix this skill with significant tech skills. Yes, you can learn to code. The fact that you don’t feel like it is one reason it’s a scarce skill.

Now that you’ve mastered these skills (all of which take time and guts but no money), understand the next thing about small businesses–they aren’t hiring to fill a slot. Unlike a big company with an org chart and pay levels, the very small business is an organism, not a grid. The owner is far more likely to bring in a freelancer or someone working on spec than she is to go run a classified help wanted ad.

And many small businesses are extremely bad at taking initiative that feels like risk. They’d rather fill orders than take a chance and go out prospecting for a person who represents a risk. And that’s your opportunity.

When you show up and offer to go prospecting on spec, offer to contribute a website or a sales letter or some sales calls–with no money on the table–many small business people will take you up on it, particularly if they are cash-strapped, profit-oriented and know you by reputation. (Please don’t overlook that last one).

Hint: don’t merely show up and expect a yes. It’s something you earn over time…

The rest is easy. Once you demonstrate that you contribute far more than you cost, now it’s merely a matter of figuring out a payment schedule.

This is probably far more uncertainty and personal branding than most job seekers are comfortable with. Which is precisely why it works.

October 31st 2011 Uncategorized

Data Analysis 101: Seven Simple Mistakes That Limit Your Salary

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inspiration Data analysis is not easy. It takes years to get good at it, and once you get good at it you realize how much more there is to learn. That is part of the joy. You are always learning. You are always growing.

This blogpost is a collection of tips I share with my friends who are just starting out. Each tip is a "simple" mistake that is easily avoided. My hope is that you'll skip them if you are aware of them, and move on to making more important valuable mistakes. 🙂

My plan is to wrap each tip with additional observations, context that will be of value even to those who have been at this game for a very long time.

Ready for a can of concentrated compressed energy?

Let's do this.

1. Never Compare Apples to Watermelons.

There are some things that are quite promising about this graph.

I love that the analyst is segmenting the data rather than showing the aggregate trend ("all data in aggregate is essentially crap" – me). I also like that the analyst is showing a six month trend.

But there is something fundamentally wrong about this analysis. Before you jump to my reveal below this graphic, can you guess what's wrong with this data? Try it?

Found the problem?

traffic graph

Four different segments are being compared (yea!), but they are calibrated wrong (boo!).

On the surface this is hard to detect.

The part that is clean is that there is very little overlap between Search Traffic and Referral Traffic. If you use Omniture's Site Catalyst or Google Analytics or whatever, they do a good job of collecting clean data into those two segments. But Mobile is a platform. That traffic (or conversions in this case) is most likely in both Referrals and Search. So it is unclear what to make of that orange stacked bar. Is that good? Is that bad? Additionally it is showing conversions already included in Search and Referral (double counting) and because you have no idea what it is, it is impossible to know what action to take. [The analyst recommended a higher investment in Mobile based on this graph!]

Ditto for Social Media. It is likely that the Social Media conversions are already included in Referrals and, of course, in Mobile. Making that green graph useless. [The analyst recommended a massive increase in investment in Social Media as well. An imprecise conclusion.]

Ensure that you always calibrate the "altitude" of your segments. Always.

So if you want to analyze Mobile performance then you want to compare Mobile and Desktop segments. Very easy to create. For bonus points you can analyze Mobile Search traffic performance with Mobile Non-Search traffic performance. You can analyze Mobile Search performance with Mobile Referring traffic information. Then compare those two to Desktop Search and Desktop Referring traffic. So on and so forth.

Nice clean segments that will help you find nice clean answers (as good or as stinky as they might turn out to be :).

For Social Media you can compare it to Search (with no other changes to that segment, use the Default in GA/SC/WT/YWA), and for Referring Traffic make sure you create a new segment where you take out Referrers such as Facebook.com, Twitter.com, plus.Google.com, Stumbleupon.com etc., etc. So you'll be comparing clean buckets of Social Media, Search and Referring Traffic with no social referrals included.

Nice clean segments that provide you nice clean answers.

Always pause and ask yourself: "Are my segments all at the right 'altitude?' Are they individually unpolluted by the other?"

Then go analyze and confidently make recommendations based on what you find.

2. Don't Alarm HiPPOs and Sr. Leaders Unnecessarily.

Creating graphs is easy, and I could fill five blog posts with all the nonsense one can accomplish by playing with the axes. Yes it is a pet peeve of mine.

What do you think is wrong with this commonly available graph?

Look at it carefully? Found it?

sub optimal graphs 1

It artificially inflates the importance of a change in the metric might not be all that important. In this case for my data it is not statistically significant (more on that later in this post), but there is no way you would know that (or not know that) just from the data in front of you. Yet the scale used for the y-axis implies that something huge has happened.

I am going to go out on a limb…. unless you are performing surgery and the above graph is showing the heart rate or blood pressure, try and avoid being so melodramatic in your data presentation. It causes people to read things into the performance that they should most likely not read.

You don't always have to have the y-axis at zero. But over-dramatizing this 1.5 point difference is a waste of everyone's time. And you know what happened to the boy who cried wolf one too many times right?

Another important thing.

Label your x axis. Please.

What time period does this graph cover? The last x hours? The last y weeks? The last z months? Depending on what you choose the data is completely ignorable or deserving of insane additional analytical love. (Assuming of course that you fix the y-axis first.)

As the analyst you hold a lot of power in your hands when it comes to visualizing data. Use that power with caution, and great responsibility.

3. Calibrate Your Time Series Optimally.

I am positive that many of you, including my friends who are just getting started, will have taken this screen shot out of Google Analytics and included it in a dashboard or presentation of some kind.

Don't scroll down yet.

Look at it carefully…. what's wrong with it?


It is a chart that shows nine months of performance… by day! The "trend" is completely useless.

But because this is the default view in Google Analytics everyone uses is. [Arrrrrhhh!] The uselessness comes from the fact that when you look at individual days over such a long time period you are effectively hiding insights / important changes.

It is impossible to find anything of value above.

Let's switch to looking at the exact same time period but by week.


Much better right? No more puke of squiggly lines that mean nothing, show nothing. You can kind of sort of see some kind of trend above, especially towards the end of the graph (even this simple thing was essentially hidden before).

Here's the amazing thing… when looking at long time periods you can do better!

The best practice I recommend in Web Analytics 2.0 is that if you are looking at four weeks of data then you can look at the daily trend and still find interesting insights.

If you look at three months of data (one quarter) then you should switch from the day view to week view. The macro trends won't get masked/hidden in the daily noise.

If you look at time periods long than that then it is optimal to look at the monthly view of the data.

In our case this is what that would look like….


Sweet, right?

You can clearly see the dip from Jan to Feb. You can see the nice consistent dip through July. Then something magical happened (What! What! What!) that has traffic rising to record levels.

All of this was nearly impossible to see in the daily graph, and most of it was hard to see in the weekly graph.

Do remember this really important point: When you look at lots of data, nine months in this case, you are usually not looking for tactical bits, you are trying to find big hairy things… calibrate your time series accordingly.

And if you calibrate your segments optimally you can quickly start doing deep dive analysis looking for some answers. What happened post July? What caused the funk between March and July? Why did x or y or z not happen? All the right good questions that otherwise might have been hidden in plain sight.

Simple best practice. Use it.

4. Always, Always, Always Make Your Point Clearly! (Oh, and Colors Matter.)

Everyone of you will present decks with 95 slides. Or at least 55. : )

When you are doing that data regurgitation it is important to try to make life for the person at the other end (typically your boss, or worse your boss's boss) as easy as possible.

At some point in the data tsunami you unleash eyes glaze over and life becomes boring.

So try to… ok, what do you think the two colors in the below graph represent? Don't look at the legend.

Bonus, what do you think the data is telling you? Don't scroll, think for just five seconds.

graph colors yes no

I my first thought was how come only 29 percent of the organizations have more than one person! That is bad.

Wait. That did not make sense.

I went back to read the question. Then the graph. Then the legend. Then back to the question. Then the legend.

Problem one is that "red" denotes "good" in this case and "green" represents "bad."

Here's something very, very simple you should understand and slavishly follow: Red is bad and Green is good. Always. Don't try to be cute. People will instinctively think that. We have been patterned that way. So show "good" in green and "bad" in red. It will communicate your point faster.

Problem two, much worse, and perhaps only for me, was that it was harder than it should be to understand what this data. First stacked bar above: "Yes 71 percent of the organizations Yes, more than one person." Too many yesses.

And what is the 29 percent? If the question is how many people are directly responsible for improving conversion rates and 71 percent have more than one person, then 29 percent are those that have less than one person or no one? Or just less than one person? Unclear (and frustrating).

[Third bar above] And if 62 percent of the people said "Yes we have no one responsible for improving conversion rates," then what does the 38 percent in green mean? Is it: "No, No we have someone responsible for conversion rate improvement?"

This graph actually comes from a source I deeply respect, an organization with really great analysts. But I'm afraid I completely failed to grasp the point. Do you understand it?

Sometimes you just want to skip the graph.

I don't understand the data above so I'm going to make some numbers up, but would a table like the one below have worked much better to communicate the point?

conversion rate team size

Why do the graph at all?

Okay so sometimes the application of something humorous might not work (I do always try :). But the rest of the table? Effective?

And if you have data for the last two years then perhaps this table is even more valuable…

conversion rate team size trend

Much, much better with context. I love context dearly. Amazingly so does your boss.

Or perhaps if you want to show it to very senior executives then maybe the numbers themselves are less than useful. You could go with something like this…

conversion rate team size delta

Scroll back up.

Look at the graph.

Now look at the table above.

I'm riding a horse! No, not really. What do you think?

I love graphs as much as all of you. But above all, what I crave is simple and effective communication. I want to make the point as fast as I can so that we can begin the politics and hard work of taking action. That is after all what pays our salary right?

5. Statistical Significance is Your BFF.

Okay I gave this one away with the title. We all (novices and experts) make this mistake all the time.

We create a table like the one below. (Mercifully the segments are calibrated right, hurray!) We create a "heat map" in the table highlighting where the conversion rate is good. We declare Organic to be the winner, Direct is close behind. Then the other two. And we recommend doing more SEO.

What's the problem with that?

online marketing conversion rates

None of this data could be significant – as in the fact the numbers seem to be so different might not mean anything. [Looking at July…] It is entirely possible that it is completely immaterial that Direct is 34% and Email is 10%, or that Referral is 7%.

One simple fix (covered in more detail in this post: 4 Not Useful KPI Measurement Techniques ) is to share the raw numbers to see if the percentage is meaningful at all. For example all the data in the Direct row could represent conversions out of 10 visits and all the Referral data could be representing conversions from 1,000,000 visits each month.

The better, much, much better thing to do would be to compute statistical significance to identify which comparison sets we can be confident are different, and in which cases we simply don't have enough confidence.

I have something special for you. I've just uploaded a brand spanking new Statistical Significance Calculator to my old post on that topic. It does 1-tail and 2-tail tests and the even more beloved chi-square test. Download it. Adapt it for your use. Ecstasy will follow.

One of the most common complaints of our Sr. Leaders is that we engage in massive data puking (true!) and never help them identify with any degree of certainty if an action you are recommending will produce results. Well, this is our chance. If you check to see if the results you are seeing are statistically significant, then make recommendations of action knowing that that will produce results you want (all other things held constant).

Remember ecstasy awaits!

Update: Bonus: If you use Google Analytics the always wonderful Michael Whitaker has created something delightful (triggered by our discussion in comments below). A Z-Test calculation that you can embed directly into Google Analytics!

Here is a mini-tutorial on how to use this delightful feature:

1. Visit Michael's blog and drag the bookmarklet into your browser's bookmarks bar. Stats calculator for Google Analytics.

z test calculator google analytics 1

2. Go to any report in Google Analytics and switch to a Goal tab or the Ecommerce tab.

google analytics report tabs

3. Click Z-Test bookmarklet in your bookmarks bar.

z test bookmarket button

4. At the bottom of your GA report table you'll see a new button called Z-test.

z test reports button

5. Check the box next to two dimensions for whom you would like to check statistical significance (apply the Z-test).

compare rows google analytics

6. Press the button at the bottom of the table, Z-test, and boom (!) you have your answer. Green is good, red (lower then 95%) means you need to collect more data before you decide.

The conversion rate between our two main PPC keywords is 1.33% and 1.94%. Is that data statistically significant? Should we go ahead and invest more in Calico Critters (if we are using fixed budgets or there is more inventory)? Let's check…

computing statistical significance google analytics 1

Why yes of course we can!

Twitter sends 5,546 Visits and has (on a non-ecommerce website) a Goal Conversion Rate of 5.27%. Facebook sadly only sends a fraction of traffic and has a lower conversion rate 4.71%. Stop spending money/time in Facebook based on this data? Deprioritize it at least? Let's check….

computing statistical significance google analytics 2

No! See how that saved your goat, you were just about to plunk down a million dollars into Twitter! 🙂

7. Celebrate your new found awesomeness!

This only, currently works for Ecommerce Conversion Rate and Goal Conversion Rate key performance indicators.

For computing significance ("are the two conversion rates different enough that you can confidently take action") on Ecommerce Conversion Rates you can use this with no thought. (Ok always apply some thought!) But for using it to compute significance for Goal Conversion Rate you should be a little more careful. Unlike Ecommerce Conversion Rate, it is possible for a person to have more than one unique Goal Conversion during a visit in Google Analytics. So when you apply the Z-test you'll be comparing "rotten apples to rotten apples," i.e. measuring the same way for all dimensions. In the most ideal scenario you would apply the Z-test to each goal by itself. I still believe it is of value to use the Z-test for Goal Conversion Rates, but be aware of the nuances.

One more important caveat. Z-test / statistical computations are most optimally applied to results of controlled experiments and not to observational data because in the latter there could be other, uncontrolled, variables at play. So this is not "pure" in some sense. But (as I mention below in comments) we are better off being aware of this purity and still using this test because the insight delivered is better than just "eyeballing" the number to figure out when to take action.

Many thanks to Michael for doing this. No more going to excel (at least for GA), we can be a little smarter quicker directly in our web analytics tools. Makes me wonder why web analytics vendors are so enamored with data puking and can't build all this stuff natively to make more of us Analysis Ninjas!

6. There is Such a Thing as Too Little Data!

A variation on the above "simple" mistake.

I know we all get excited about having data, especially if we are new at this. And we get our tables and charts together and we start reporting data and having a lot of fun.

This, dear reader, is very dangerous. You see there is such a thing as too little data. too little data

You don't want to wait until you've collected millions of rows of data to make any decision, but the table on the left is nearly useless. Recommending doubling down on Facebook (as the Analyst did) this early in your evolution would be a profound mistake.

Things can change so much in just a few days (and they will for you!).

So you can't do anything with data like this?

Pretty close.

But what you can do is look at this report to see if places you've invested time in earning links from are sending you traffic (or not). Look for surprises, places you did not invest money, and see why they linked to you. You can get a tiny bit of understanding of your initial marketing strategy.

Do other useful things.

Look at your search keyword reports. Do you see a few people coming on keywords you SEOed the site for? Better still, go into Webmaster Tools and look to see if your site is well indexed. Look at the keywords for which your site is showing up in Google search results. Are they the ones you were expecting?

Even better… spend time with competitive intelligence tools like Compete / Trends for Websites, Insights for Search, Ad Planner and others to seek clues from your competitors and your industry ecosystem. At this stage you can learn a lot more from their data than your data!

We all tend to read too much into data sometimes. A good analyst knows when there's just not much there and volunteers her/his time on helping run a Task Completion Rate survey or creating new/better Inbound Marketing programs. Go get traffic!

7. Pie Charts Are Evil.

Okay maybe not evil. They are useful on rare occasions. See "Enchanting Analysis: Rule 2: Establish Macro Importance" in this post: Mate Custom Reports With Advanced Segments!

But most of the time they are an active hindrance to communicating anything of value.

Examples of horrible pie charts abound. But let me share this really simple one that I am sure you've seen or perhaps created yourself. 🙂

Take a moment to breathe it into your brain. What do you think?

pies are evil

The 3D effect does not help. Trust me on that.

This set of charts very cleverly hides any available insights because it makes your executive do these operations for every segment of understanding: Look left, find the interesting slice. Commit the color and number to memory. Go right. Find the color and segment and commit the new number to memory. Now subtract the first number from the second. Decide if the result is good or bad.

Repeat five more times.

Remember to remember only the interesting bits.

When the chart was created did you think you were going to torture your executive today? Would it be surprising then that everyone atom in this universe thinks "omg, numbers are so haaaarrrrd!"?

Why torture people who are so critical to your financial well being?

Just use a table (as we did in #4 above).

pie to table

Much easier, right?

At the very least, you don't have to dart your eyes from left to right all the time and commit numbers to memory to understand what's happening.

And since you the Ninja-in-making are not being paid to just data puke, why even show things that might not be material?

Just go with this…

pie to table smaller

Would the discussion with your management team be much more focused now? And faster?

Oh and… you've already put so much effort into collecting and analyzing the data. Why not use your intelligence (and the statistical significance calculator) to filter data and just show what's most relevant?

It is easy to make things hard to understand. Working hard to make them easy to understand is what brings glory. Sustained glory.

So do that.

Okay it is your turn now.

What are the simple mistakes that you've learned to avoid? Would you recommend a different strategy to follow for one of the mistakes above? Got a better picture to submit? The mistake that most sets you off in the field of web analytics? How did you learn not to make these mistakes?

Please share your feedback, pictures, complaints, mistakes via comments.


Data Analysis 101: Seven Simple Mistakes That Limit Your Salary is a post from: Occam's Razor by Avinash Kaushik

October 31st 2011 Uncategorized

Liveblogging Tips from #BlogChat

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Audience SES San Jose 2009 I’ve been liveblogging conferences since about 2005 ranging from ad:tech Chicago thanks to Steve Hall to a brief time working with Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Roundtable covering search marketing conferences. Since then TopRank has liveblogged nearly 100 events from SES Hong Kong to Intel’s first Social Media Summit.

When Mack Collier asked me to join #BlogChat to talk about liveblogging in anticipation of the upcoming BlogWorld Los Angeles conference, I had no hesitation. Liveblogging has helped TopRank Online Marketing and myself personally achieve numerous business and marketing goals at a fraction of the cost and far more effectively than many traditional marketing, advertising and content creation tactics.

Despite the practice being around for quite a long time, many people have no idea what liveblogging is. In fact, technology and tools have evolved to change much of what it means to liveblog events. It used to be that you’d sit in on a session, write notes into an article and file the story/blog post within 1/2 hours or so after the presentation ended. Now, liveblogging can take the form of live tweeting and then taking those tweets and compiling them into a post later or curating tweets through tools like Storify.

During the #BlogChat focused on Liveblogging on Sunday night, Mack wanted to focus on two key questions. I’ve taken a stab at listing insights, advice, processes and suggestions for each.

What are the Top 2-3 things you should know before you attempt to live-blog an event?

Thanks Mack! Appreciate the opportunity & really looking forward to this. I have a lot more than 2 or 3 (fortunately and unfortunately) I’d like to split my 2-3 things answer into suggestions relevant to pre, during & post even liveblogging. This is by no means a comprehensive post about liveblogging – but a summary and elaboration of what came up during the #blogchat about it.

Let’s get a handy link out there right away: 12 Live Blogging Tips for Better Event Content Creation

Pre Event Live Blogging:

  • Answer why, who, what, when, where – Plan for specifics but be open to spontaneity. It’s really useful to have firm ideas about the purpose of liveblogging. For some it’s just a way to capture content for personal use. For others, it’s a way to create content for a blog or even repurpose into a compiled guide of tips for conference attendees. Or it might serve multiple purposes as in my case where I needed to build my writing skills, attend events on a budget and create content. Also, liveblogging can create connections with speakers.There’s an expression I’ve used many times – If you want to get into the media, become the media. Liveblogging was the proxy for me to do that here with Online Marketing Blog.
  • Create suspense – Write a pre-event post, reach out to session speakers for tips, crowd source sessions to cover. I learned this from Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable. Create a grid of sessions you (and/or your team) will be covering during an event.  Pre-event posts will inform your readers and subscribers what’s coming. This can be important if your blog posting frequency goes way up. It also gives you the opportunity to mention the speakers in the post. Their Google Alerts for their names will put you on their radar.I’ve had success with reaching out to speakers beforehand, advising that I’ll be liveblogging their session and to see if they have any tactical tips to share for a pre-event blog post that will promote their session.  A small number of tips from each speaker is easy for them to do, and results in a great compilation.  Here’s an example of where I’ve done that: 37 Tips for Optimizing Blogs and Feeds – SES New York. Obviously it helps if you a c0-speaker or moderator, or if you know at least one of the presenters.
  • Be a media sponsor. TopRankBlog was the 1st Blog Media Sponsor for SES, Pubcon, SMX, eMetrics. Although, we are currently only sponsoring SES and OMS. Being a media sponsor is more than a press pass. It’s mutual exposure for the blogger and the event: online, offline and through email. Advertisers pay huge $$ for sponsorships and media sponsorships used to be reserved to print magazines and large email lists.Not just any blog can become a media sponsor. You really need to be a credible blog in the category with a pre-existing audience. Size and quality of other social networks come in to play besides blog subscribers as well as a healthy email subscriber list. However, getting started liveblogging events that you’re already attending is a great start.
  • Duplicate yourself. There’s only so much you can cover on your own, so recruit other people to liveblog with/for you and you’ll provide mutual exposure as well as another source of great content. Find out if other people are already going to attend the conference or if you have secured a media sponsorship, see if you can give away a free pass as part of your event promotion. Then require the winner to liveblog with you.
  • Be open minded about what “event” means for live blogging. “Real world” conferences, workshops, press events and training sessions are common situations for liveblogging, but also consider virtual conferences, webinars, tele classes (where allowed). There’s a ton of archived content that’s never been blogged. In fact, if you can’t afford to attend conferences, get started with free webinars.  Video archives of conference presentations are also a great opportunity to practice liveblogging skills with the added benefit of being able to replay the video as often as you want.  With webinars, be sure to mention speakers, the event and link to the brand site that hosted the webinar in your blog post. That can get you on their radar.As a speaker in webinars, I’ve suggested to participants that there’s nothing wrong with liveblogging the presentation I’m giving and that has turned into blog posts (and links).
  • Identify specific sessions, topics, approach and a “hook”. Think about style: transcription, running commentary, pure reaction, real time article. There are a variety of formats for liveblogging, so pick a format and even an angle to the session beforehand if you can. This will provide structure to fill in the blanks, providing you know about the topic and the speakers.
  • Live tweeting running commentary can be used as liveblogging. It was suggested during the #blogchat that maybe live tweeting has replaced live blogging. That is true to some extent. As you’ll see from the links at the bottom of this post, curating those live tweets has also replaced roundups and liveblogging to some degree.  It’s easier to do, but not quite as valuable as summarizing highlights and takeaways.  There’s no reason you cannot mix a little of both live tweeting and blogging together.
  • Pre-write portions of the post such as intro, speakers and other language that is fairly predictable.  Having static information pre-written can save time and also adds to the format you’ve decided to follow for liveblogging.
  • Use Evernote then post to WordPress or your blogging platform of choice. Evernote is awesome because you won’t lose your work as can happen with a WordPress glitch or bad internet connection – an inevitability at most conferences. Plus Evernote synchs between devices, which can be handy.
  • Have the right equipment – charged laptop, camera or phone, backup internet source and a power strip. A computer that runs out of battery power just as the keynote speaker finally says something interesting can ruin your entire morning. Same for internet access if posting in a timely manner is important to your liveblogging goals.

During Event Live Blogging:

  • Get yourself in the right frame of mind and bring the skills. Focus on what you’ll be doing and type FAST. If you don’t type very quickly, then learn. Or you’ll be miserable. Same goes for multi-tasking. Taking photos (and resizing them), live tweeting and writing a 800 word liveblog post within 45 minutes is very doable, but only with lots of practice.
  • Sit in front, take photos, (video is usually a no no at conferences). Smart speakers love livebloggers and may even call you out during their presentation, which helps when you network with others. I’ve never left a conference thinking I’ve taken too many photos or networked with too many new contacts.  I have however, regretted not sitting closer to the front to get a decent photo.  Most people are afraid to sit up front and those are the best seats. Do what others are unwilling or unable to do and you’ll create a competitive advantage from the start.
  • Follow a format. Trying to capture everything that’s said can be boring & impossible, especially if speakers don’t follow any kind of structure. To get a good liveblog post from a session with speakers that ramble, or a topic you’re not super familiar with, just listen for the best quotes, stats and highlights for a “10 tips about topic XYZ post”.
    You can also use some of those nuggets to live tweet with the conference hashtag during the session.

Post Event Live Blogging:

  • Share your post via social channels & use the event hashtag in the title tag and the body copy. Great content isn’t great until it gets consumed and shared. Over and over again. Help that along by promoting your liveblogging efforts and of course, make it easy to share.
  • Do a roundup post of all that you covered each day or at least at the end of the conference including images, video interviews and tweets. Link to other livebloggers that are covering the same event.
  • Add a post-session video of yourself giving commentary. Do an interview with speakers or with attendees.  Adding multiple media formats can really spice up your liveblogging efforts.

What are the advantages to live-blogging an event versus simply doing a recap post once you get home?

Real time isn’t a luxury, it’s expected at events. People are going to get the information from somewhere, why not from you? If you can consistently provide quality live blogging coverage, you’ll win many new friends: speakers, event, media, subscribers and maybe even prospective clients and employees.

Live coverage meets a need for event attendees, speakers/brands (they view as news coverage) & those not attending However, there’s no rule that you can’t do some kind of real time coverage AND do a recap post once you get home.

Liveblog coverage is treated as media coverage by many Public Relations departments and that means a link from company newsrooms.

Live blogging events can take many forms and there are so many ways to gain value from it that there’s really no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. Like anything, if you set goals, make a plan to reach those goals, execute and evaluate the results to refine future efforts, you’ll undoubtedly discover what flavor of live blogging is right for you.

More about press passes: Since 2005 I’ve been able to attend numerous events due to liveblogging. Initially, I was able to get “sponsored” to liveblog on a press pass. Once basic credentials were established, I was able to secure a press pass for several other events in exchange for pre-show promotion and liveblogging during the event. Then Matt McGowan agreed to have TopRank’s Online Marketing blog as the first blog-based media sponsor of the SES conference and we’ve been working with SES in this regard longer than any other blog. Media sponsorship agreements allow me to bring 1 -4 of my staff to each event to liveblog.  These passes are not a given and must be earned through quality work. The agreements must be renewed each year.

Today, I rarely ask for (or get) press passes because I speak at nearly all conferences I attend.  However, we do still send staff to liveblog events as part of our media sponsorship agreements.  Over nearly 6 years of liveblogging events, my team and I have benefitted from about 54 press passes. This was not a steady number over each year, as it has fluctuated like a bell curve. 2007 through 2009 were highlight years and the number of staff we send has decreased since. We do plan to increase again in 2012.  I wanted to clarify this from the #blogchat thread, since the 50-60 press passes mentioned includes my team and I.

Thanks again to Mack Collier for having me on #blogchat and also for everyone that participated. I was great to see friends like @copyblogger, @heidicohen@ed & @rochelleveturis stop by :)

Here are links to a few creative curation and recaps of the Live Blogging #blogchat:

  • Mack Collier Tweet stats, contributors & transcript via Hashtracking
  • Socialscraps curated and organized tweets from the #blogchat via Storify
  • Kristof Top links shared via Tweetreports
  • SmartCollegeVisit collection of tweets from the #blogchat via Storify

Are you a conference live blogger and what are some of your live blogging tips?

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© Online Marketing Blog, 2011. |
Liveblogging Tips from #BlogChat | http://www.toprankblog.com

October 31st 2011 blogging, Online Marketing

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