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analytics Tag

The Advanced Beginner's Guide to Google Analytics by The Evangelist himself   Being book smart is good. The outcome of book smart is rarely better for analytics practitioners then folks trying to learn how to fly an airplane from how-to books.   Hence, I have been obsessed with encouraging you to get actual data to learn from. This is all the way from Aug 2009: Web Analytics Career Advice: Play In The Real World! Or a subsequent post about how to build a successful career: Web Analytics Career Guide: From Zero To Hero In Five Steps. Or compressing my experience into custom reports and advanced segments I've shared. The problem for many new or experienced analysts has been that they either don't have access to any dataset (newbies) or the data they have access to is finite or from an incomplete or incorrect implementation (experienced). For our Market Motive Analytics training course, we provide students with access to one ecommerce and one non-ecommerce site because they simply can't learn well enough from my magnificent videos. The problem of course is that not everyone is enrolling our course! :) All this context is the reason that I am really, really excited the team at Google has decided to make a real-world dataset available to everyone on planet Earth (and to all intelligent life forms in the universe that would like to learn digital analytics). The data belongs to the Google Merchandise Store, where incredibly people buy Google branded stuff for large sums of money (average order value: $115.67, eat your heart out Amazon!). And, happily, it has almost all of the Google Analytics features implemented correctly. This gives Earth's residents almost all the reports we would like to look at, and hence do almost all the analysis you might want to do in your quest to become an Analysis Ninja. (Deepak, would you kindly add Goal Values for the Goals. Merci!) You'll also be able to create your own custom reports, advanced segments, filters, share with the world everything you create, and all kinds of fun stuff. For consultants and opinion makers you no longer have to accept any baloney peddled to you about what analytics tool is the best or better fit for your company/client. Just get access to this data and play with the actual GA account along with Adobe and IBM and WebTrends et. al. and suddenly your voices/words will have 10x more confidence informed by real-world usage. No NDA's to sign, no software to install, no IT resources required. Awesome, right? In this post I'll highlight some of my favourite things you can do, and learn from, in the Store dataset. Along the way I'll share some of my favourite metrics and analytics best practices that should accelerate your path to becoming a true Analysis Ninja. I've broken the post into these sections: How to get Store Dataset Access? Jump-Start Your Learning 1. Play with Enhanced Ecommerce Reports 2. Gain Attribution Modeling Savvy 3. Learn Event Tracking's Immense Value 4. Obsess, Absolutely Obsess, About Content 5. SEO & PPC, Because You Should! 6. Develop a Smarter Understanding of Your Audiences 7. Icing on the Cake: Benchmarking, #omg I'm sure you are as excited as I am to just get going. Let's go! How to get Store Dataset Access? It is brilliantly easy. Go to the Analytics Help Demo Account page. Read the bit in the gray box titled Important. Digest it. Then click on this text: ––>ACCESS DEMO ACCOUNT<–– Looks scary in the all caps, right? That is just how the Google Analytics team rolls. :) You'll see a tab open, urls will flip around, in two seconds you'll see something like this on your Accounts page… Click on 1 Master View and you are in business. If you ever want to remove access to this real-world data, just go back to the page above and follow the five simple steps to self-remove access. Jump-Start Your Learning. You can start with all the standard reports, but perhaps the fastest way for you to start exploring the best features is to download some of the wonderful solutions in the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery. You'll find my Occam's Razor Awesomeness bundle there as well. It is a collection of advanced segments, custom reports, and dashboards. You'll have lots of features incorporated in them. You can customize them to suit your needs, or as you learn more, but you won't have to start with a blank slate. You can also search for other stuff, like custom reports or attribution models. Another tip. If you are a complete newbie (welcome to our world!), you probably want to start your journey by reading about each type of report, and then looking at the Overview report in each section in Google Analytics. At this point you'll be a little confused about some metric or the other. That's ok. Go, read one of the best pages in the Analytics help center: Understanding Dimensions and Metrics. Go back into GA, you'll understand a whole lot more. This is a beginner's advanced guide, so I'm going to do something different. Through my favourite reports, often hard to find in your company's GA dataset, I'm going to push you beyond other beginner's guides. I'll also highlight frameworks, metrics, custom reports, and other elements I feel most Analyst's don't poke around enough. 1. Play with Enhanced Ecommerce Reports. It is a source of great sadness for me that every single site is not taking advantage of Enhanced Ecommerce tracking and analysis . It is a complete rethink of ecommerce analysis. The kind of reports and metrics you'll get straight out of the box are really amazing. Go to the Reporting section of our Store Demo account, click on Conversions in the left nav, then Ecommerce, and now Overview. You'll see in an instant the very cool things you can track and analyze… With a little bit of smart tagging you can track your internal promotions (buy one Make America Great Again hat and get one Stronger Together hat free!), transactions with coupon codes, affiliate sales and more. Very nicely summarized above. Next go to the report with new things that will help you drive smarter merchandizing on your mobile and desktop websites. Go to Shopping Analysis and click on Shopping Behavior… I adore this report. Most of the time when we do funnel analysis we start at the Cart stage (third bar above). We rarely hold people responsible for Traffic Acquisition accountable, we rarely hold people responsible for Site Design and Merchandizing accountable. The former are promoted on silly metrics like Visits or Visitors or (worse) Clicks. The latter are promoted based on silly metrics like PageViews. The first bar to the second shows the number of visits during which people went from general pages on your website to product pages (places were there is stuff to be sold, add to cart buttons). A lame 26%. See what I mean. Insightful. How are you going to make money if 74% of the visits don't even see a product page! The second bar the third is even more heart-breaking, as if that were possible. Of the sessions with pages with product views, how many added something to cart. A lousy 17%. One. Seven. Percent! On a site were you can do nothing except buy things. See what I mean? Question time for your Acquisition, Design and Merchandizing team. Do you know answers like these for your website? That is why you need Enhanced Ecommerce. I won't cover the last two bars, most of you are likely over indexing on funnel analysis. Practice segmentation while you are here. Click on + Add Segment on top of this report, choose Google (or whatever interests you)… And you can analyze acquisition performance with a unique lens (remember you can't segment the funnel that exists in the old ecommerce reports which is still in your GA account!)… A little better. Still. You spend money on SEO and PPC. It should be a lot better than this. If this were your data, start with questioning your PPC landing page strategy and then move to looking at your top SEO landing pages, and then look at bounce rates and next page analysis for those that stay. I can honestly spend hours on just this report digging using segmentation (geo, media, new and loyal customers, all kinds of traffic, product page types and so on). It has been a great way to immediately influence revenue for my ecommerce engagements. While you are here, you can play and learn to use the new funnel report… it is called Checkout Behavior Analysis… Much simpler, so much easier to understand. You can also, FINALLY, segment this report as well. Try it when you are in the Store demo account. Take a break. A couple days later come back and checkout the new Product Performance and Product List Performance reports. The latter is particularly useful as an aggregated view for senior executives. In case of the Store data, the first report has 500 rows of data, the second just 45. Nice. I wanted to flag three metrics to look at in the Product Performance report. Product Refund Amount is $0.00 in this dataset, but for your company this is a great way to track refunds you might have issued and track were more of that is happening. I love Cart-To-Detail Rate (product adds divided by views of product details) and Buy-to-Detail Rate (unique purchases divided by views of product-detail pages). Remember I was so upset above about the poor merchandizing. Using the sorting option on these two columns I identify where the problem is worse and where I can learn lessons from. Very cool, try it. I could keep going on about more lovely things you'll find in the Enhanced Ecommerce reports, but let me stop here and have you bump into those cool things as, and I can say this now, you have access to this data as well! Bonus: If you are a newbie, in your interview you'll be expected to know a lot about Goals (I call the micro-outcomes). Explore that section. Look the Overview, Goal URLs and Smart Goals. Ignore the eminently useless Reverse Goal Path report (I don't even know why this is still in GA after years of uselessness) and Funnel Visualization (almost totally useless in context of almost all Goals). 2. Gain Attribution Modeling Savvy. My profound disdain for last-click reporting/analysis is well known. If you are using last-click anything, you want your company to make bad decisions. See. Strong feelings. Yet, many don't have access to a well set-up account to build attribution modeling savvy and take their company's analytics the year 2013. Now, you can! I am big believer in evolution (hence my marketing and analytics ladders of awesomeness). Hence, start by looking at the Assisted Conversions report (Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels)… Then metric you want to get your company used to first, to get them ready for savvier attribution anything, is the metric Assisted Conversions. The last column. Here's the official definition: A value close to 0 indicates that this channel functioned primarily as the final conversion interaction. A value close to 1 indicates that this channel functioned equally in an assist role and as the final conversion interaction. The more this value exceeds 1, the more this channel functioned in an assist role . Now scroll just a bit back up, stare at that column, what would your strategy be for Organic Search if it is at 0.46? What about Display advertising driving which plays primarily an "upper funnel" introducing your brand to prospects 1.58? The change required based on this data is not just your marketing portfolio re-allocation, that is almost trivial, what' bigger, huger, crazy-harder is changing how your company thinks. It is painful. Largely because it quickly becomes about how people's budgets/egos/bonuses. But, hundreds of conversions are on the line as well on insights you'll get from this data. Learn how to use this metric to drive those two changes: marketing portfolio – people thinking. Couple bonus learnings on this report. On top of the table you'll see text called Primary Dimension. In that row click on Source/Medium. This is such a simple step, yet brings you next layer of actionable insights so quickly. You'll see some surprises there. Second, look at the top of the report, you'll see a graph. On to top right of the graph you'll see three buttons, click on the one called Days before Conversion… I love this report because it helps me understand the distribution of purchase behavior much better. I profoundly dislike averages, they hide insights. This report is the only place you can see distribution of days to purchase for Assisted Conversions. If you've changed the think in your company with Assisted Conversions… You are ready for the thing that gets a lot of press… Attribution Modeling! You'll find the report here: Conversions > Attribution > Model Comparison. You'll see text called Select Model next to Last Interaction. Click on the drop down, ignore all the other models, they are all value deficient, click on the only one with decent-enough value, Time Decay, this is what you'll see… Half of you reading this post are wondering why I don't like your bff First-Interaction (it is likely the worst one on the list btw) or your bff Linear (the laziest one on the list)… worry not, checkout this post: Multi-Channel Attribution Modeling: The Good, Bad and Ugly Models . The column you are of course looking at is % Change in Conversions. The GA team is also helping you out by helping you understand where the results are significant, green and red arrows, and where it is directional, up or down gray arrows. This is the data you'll use to drive discussions about a change in your marketing $$$ allocations. Where you have CPA, it is is an even more valuable signal. And, such a blessing that the Store demo account has that data for you. You'll need all your brain power to understand the report above (make sure you read the models post above), and then some more to drive the change in how your company thinks. Attribution model is not a software or math problem, it is an entrenched human minds problem. And because I'm the author of the quote all data in aggregate is crap I recommend scrolling up a bit in the attribution modeling report and clicking on the down arrow under the word Conversion…. This is admittedly an advanced thing to learn because even understanding marketing dollars plus user behavior overall is hard, this just makes it a bit more complicated because you can actually understand those two things for every goal you have individually or just ecommerce all by itself. It is incredibly awesome to be able to do that because now you are this super-data-intelligent-genius that can move every variable in a complex regression equation very finely to have max impact on your company. If you can master this, and IF you can evolve how your company does marketing portfolio allocation and how it thinks, then you are ready for the max you can do in Google Analytics when it comes to attribution… custom attribution modeling. On top of the table, click on Select Model, then Create New Custom Model. To get you going, here's one of my models for a client… Custom attribution models are called custom because they are custom to every company. It requires an understanding for everything I've requested you to do above, business priorities (what the business values), and business strategy. Creating a couple different custom attribution models, seeing how it affects the data, what decisions GA recommends, helps you have an intelligent argument with all your stake holders. Again, the decisions from this analysis will flow into changes to your marketing portfolio and how people in your company think. Once you get into custom attribution modeling, and you spend serious amount of money on marketing online (a few million dollars at least), you are ready for the thing that actually will drive the best changes: Controlled Experiments (aka media mix modeling). Hence, it is critical that you approach your learnings in the precise steps above, don't jump steps if at one of them you have not changed how your company thinks. Bonus 1: You might think the above is plenty advanced. It is not. For the higher order bits, when you are all grown up, read this post and internalize the implications of it: Multi-Channel Attribution: Definitions, Models and a Reality Check Bonus 2: The Time Lag and Path Length reports in your Multi-Channel Funnels folder are extremely worth learning about. I like Path Length more, more insightful. When you analyze the data, be sure to play with the options under Conversion, Type (click AdWords), Interaction Type and Lookback Window. With each step absorb the patterns that'll emerge in the data. Priceless. 3. Learn Event Tracking's Immense Value I'm very fond of Event Tracking for one simple reason. You have to create it from scratch. When you open GA, there is no data in these reports. It can only get there if you spend time trying to understand what's important to the business (Digital Marketing and Measurement Model FTW!), what is really worth tracking, and then through intelligent thought implementing the tracking. I love the fact that you have to literally create data from scratch. For any beginner who is trying to get to advanced, Event Tracking will teach you a lot not just about Event Tracking but creating smart data. Lucky for us the GA team has created some data for us to play with. Go to Behavior in the left nav, then Events, and then Top Events… This is what you'll see… The Store team is capturing four events, you can drill down into any one of them to get a deeper peek into user behavior. I choose Contact Us to analyze the Event Labels, I get all these strategies that people… It would be valuable if the Event Value had been populated, which would also give us Avg. Value in the table above. Still. Understand that data, how it is collected, what it implies about user behavior is incredibly valuable. You can also create an advanced segment for any of the events above, example Email. Then, you can apply that segment to any of other reports in Google Analytics and really get deep insights. What cities originate people who call is on the phone? What sites did they come from? How many visits have they made to the site before calling? So on and so forth. The event tracking reports have three options on top of the report. Event, Site Usage, Ecommerce. Try the Ecommerce tab… While we did not see any event values, you can tie the sessions where the events were fired with outcomes on the site. Really useful in so many cases where you invest in special content, rich media, interactive elements, outbound links, merchandizing strategies etc. This report, in those cases, will have data you need to make smarter decisions faster. Bonus: While you are in the Behavior section of Analytics, familiarize yourself with the Site Speed report. Start with the scorecard in the overview report. Move on to Page Timings to find the pages that might be having issues. One cool and helpful visual is Map Overlap, click the link on top of the graph on the Page Timings report. Close with the Speed Suggestions report. Your IT team needs this data for getting things fixed. Your SEO team can do the begging, if required. :) 4. Obsess, Absolutely Obsess, About Content It is a source of intense distress for me that there's an extraordinary obsession about traffic acquisition (PPC! Affiliates! Cheat Sheet for Video Ads!), and there is huge obsession with outcomes (Conversion Rate! Revenue!), there is such little attention paid to the thing that sits in the middle of those two things: Content!! Very few people deeply look at content. Yes, there will be a top pages report or top landing pages report. But, that is barely scratching the surface. Look. If you suck at content, the greatest acquisition strategy will deliver no outcomes. Obsess about content dimensions and content metrics. Since you know some of the normal reports already, let me share with you a report that works on many sites (sadly not all), that not many of you are using. The Content Drilldown report uses the natural folder structure you are using on your website (if you are) and then aggregates content on those folders to show you performance. Here is what you'll see in the Store demo account you are using… Nice, right? You are pretty much seeing all of the content consumption behavior in the top ten rows! A pause though. This report is sub-optimally constructed. It shows Pageviews (good), Unique Pageviews (great) and then three metrics that don't quite work as well: Average Time on Page, Bounce Rate, % Exit (worst metric in GA btw if anyone asks in an interview)… At a folder level these really help provide any decent insights, and might not even make any sense. Think about it. Bounce Rate for a folder? Good time for you to learn simple custom reporting. On top of the report, right under the report title, you'll see a button called Customize. Press it. Choose more optimal metrics, and in a few seconds you'll have a report that you like. This is the one I created for my use with valu-added content metrics that work better: Average Session Duration, Cart-to-Detail Rate (as it is an ecommerce site) and Page Value (to capture both ecom and goal values at a page level)… Much better, right? Would you choose a different metric? Please share it via comments below. Ok. Unpause. Even a quick eyeballing of the report above already raises great questions related to overall content consumption (Unique Pageviews), merchandizing (Cart-to-Detail Rate) and of course money. You can now easily drill-down to other more valuable bits of content and user experience. I click on the first one, most content consumption, to reveal the next level of detail. I can see that Apparel is the biggest cluster of content, with pretty decent Cart-to-Detail Rate… Depending on the business priorities I can ask questions like how come the summer olympic games stuff no one seems to want (and we spent $140 mil on an Olympics sponsorship, kidding). At the moment the company has a huge investment in Google Maps branding, so we can look at how various brands are doing… YouTube FTW! Maps is not doing so well. You can see how this data might make you curious if this list is what your business strategy is expecting will happen? Or, is this how we prioritize content creation? I mean, Go! People are interested in something esoteric like Go (programming language in case you are curious) rather than Nest! What a surprise. That is what this type of content analysis is so good at. You can continue to follow the rabbit hole by the way and get down to the individual pages in any folder, like so… Ten percent Cart-to-Detail Rate is pretty poor, compared to some of the others above. Time to rethink if we should even be selling this combo! If not that, definitely time to look at the page and rethink copy, images, design, and other elements to improve this key metric. The above custom report is really easy to create, for Subscribers of my newsletter I'll also email a downloadable link for this and other custom reports below. Bonus: Most people stop at what the reports show in the default view. The GA team does a great job of adding good think and express it all over the standard reports. For example, in context of our discussion here, try the Content Grouping primary dimension. Here you see what happens to the report when I switch to Brands (Content Group)… Even more useful than what was there before, right? So, how does GA get this data? As in the case of Event Tracking above, the Analyst and business decision making combination are thoughtfully manufacturing data. In this case using the immensely valuable Content Groupings feature. Invest in learning how to use it in the Store demo account, learn how to create content groupings to manufacture useful data. When you interview for higher level Analytics role, or for a first time Analyst role, you'll stand out in the interview because this is hard and requires a lot of business savvy (ironic right, you stand out because of your business savvy in a Data Analyst interview!). 5. SEO & PPC, Because You Should! Ok, you've waited long enough, time to talk about the thing you likely spend a ton of time on: Acquisition. Since you likely already know how to report Traffic Source and how to find the Referring URLs and Sessions and… all the normal stuff. Let me focus on two things that are a bit more advanced, and will encourage you to learn things most people likely ignoring. The first one I want you to immerse yourself in when you are in the Store data is Search Engine Optimization. You know that this is hard because when you go to Acquisition > Campaigns (what!) > Organic Keywords you will see that 95% are labeled "(not provided)". This report is completely useless. You do have other options to analyze SEO performance. Here's the advanced, advanced, lesson: Search: Not Provided: What Remains, Keyword Data Options, the Future. But, you also have some ability in Google Analytics itself to do keyword level analysis for Google's organic search traffic. Go to Acquisition > Search Console > Queries. This report shows you the top thousands of keywords (4,974 precisely today in the Store report today). The data is available because the team has configured the Search Console data to connect with GA. Here's what you'll see… I sort the data by Clicks, because Impressions is a lot less valuable, and with Clicks I get something closer to Sessions (though they are very different metrics). I immediately value CTR as a metric in this context, you can see the variations above. This is perfect immediate data for SEO discussions. Average Position is also interesting, perhaps more so for my peers in the SEO team. As a Business Analyst I value Average Position a lot less in a world of hyper-personalized search. My next data analysis step is to take this data out of GA (click Export on top of the report) and play with it to find macro patterns in the data. I'll start with something simple as creating tag clouds, using Clicks or CTR as contextual metrics. I'll classify each keyword by intent or other clusters to look for insights. Try these strategies, can you find weaknesses in the Google Store's SEO strategy? How do your insights compare to what you just discovered in the content analysis in terms of what site visitors actually want? Really valuable stuff. What you cannot do with this data is tie it to the rest of the data in GA for these visitors. You cannot get conversions for example, or Page Depth etc. This is heart-breaking. But, see the not provided post I've linked to above for more strategies and meanwhile you can do some cool things in Google Analytics when it comes to SEO. Bonus: In the Search Console reports, I also find the Landing Pages report is also helpful because you can flip the center of universe, for the same metrics as above, to landing pages rather than keywords. The insights you get will be helpful for your SEO team but more than that it will be critical for your site content team. A quick note on the above… for the current data you'll see the Landing Pages report looks a little weird with no data in the Behavior and Conversion columns. Something weird is going on, on my other accounts there is data. The team can fix this in the very near future. Next, spend a lot of time in the AdWords section. Both because Paid Search if often a very important part of any company's acquisition strategy, and because at the moment there are few digital acquisition channels as sophisticated and complex as AdWords. When you are getting ready for your interviews, being good at this, really good, is a great way to blow your interviewer away because most people will know only superficial stuff about AdWords. As if those reasons were not enough, in Google Analytics AdWords is a great place to get used to the complexity that naturally arises from mixing two data sources. In almost all GA AdWords reports the first cluster of data (pink below) will come from AdWords and the second cluster (green brace) is the normal collection of metrics you see in GA… This will naturally prod you into trying to understand why are Clicks different from Sessions? After-all it is a click that kicks off a session in GA when the person arrives. It is internalizing these subtle nuances that separate a Reporting Squirrel from an Analysis Ninja. Above view is from the Campaigns report. I usually start there as it gives me great insights into the overall PPC strategy for the company. While you are learning from this report, here's a little smart tip… Click on the Clicks link on top of the graph you see (you'll see it along with Summary, Site Usage, Goal Set 1, and Ecommerce), you'll get a different set of metrics you should know intimately as well… The combination of CPC and RPC is very important. It is nice that they are right next to each other in this view. When you look at Store data I also want you to live-see why ROAS not even remotely a useful metric. It looks alluring. Return On Ad Spend. That sounds so awesome, surely it is in some holy books! No. It is not. For now, invest in understanding what is is measuring, what the data shows, is that good or bad, and what's missing. When you already to move to advanced-advanced stage, read this post: Excellent Analytics Tip #24: Obsess About Real Business Profitability Once I've exhausted the value in Campaign reports (drilling-up, drilling-down, drilling-around), it is time to shift into detail. While it might seem that the very next step will be the AdWords Keyword report, it is not. I like going to the Search Query report first. In AdWords context, Keyword is what you buy from Google. Search Query on the other hand is what people are actually typing into Google when your search ad shows up (triggered by the Keyword of course). Here are the two reports from the Store account, you can clearly see why I like starting with the Search Query report…. I would much rather learn to anchor on what people are typing and then go into the Keyword view to see what I can learn there. The Search Query performance report helps me re-think my AdGroups, Match Types, bidding strategies and more. It also helps me optimize the landing pages, both from a content they contain and what ads I recommend send traffic there. You could spend three months in these reports just learning and finessing your PPS savvy, so I'll leave you to that. :) Bonus: Shopping Campaigns are incredibly successful for most ecommerce properties. Spend time in that report in the AdWords section, drilling-down and segmenting, to learn what makes these campaigns distinct and if you were tasked to identify insights how would you go about it. 6. Develop a Smarter Understanding of Your Audiences Having grown up on cookies, we have typically have had a finite understanding of our audiences. This has slowly changed over time, most recently with the awesomeness of User-ID override empowering us to understand a person. Still, most of the time we are not great at digging into Audiences, and their associated behavior. Hence, to assist with your evolution from beginner to advanced, three often hidden areas of Google Analytics for you to explore now that you have access to real data. Go to Audience > Interests > In-Market Segments. Here's the official definition of what you are looking at: Users in these segments are more likely to be ready to purchase products or services in the specified category. These are users lower in the purchase funnel, near the end of the process. I've developed an appreciation of this report as I think of my performance marketing strategies, especially the ones tied to Display advertising. Far too often we rely on just PPC or email and don't use Display in all of the clever ways possible. This repor, leveraging insights from my users, help me understand how to do smarter Display. You can drill down to Age by clicking on the in-market segment you are interested in, and from there for each Age group you can drill-down to gender. Per normal your goal is to identify the most valuable ones using micro and macro-outcomes for your business. After I've mastered in-market segments by adding near term revenue to my company and helping shift the thinking about Display in my company, I move to leverage the data in the Affinity Categories. Also a report in this section. Affinity categories are great for any display or video advertising strategies you have to build audiences around See Intent (See – Think – Do – Care Business Framework). A bit more advanced from a marketing perspective (you would have had to master strategy #2, attribution, above). For the second hidden area, go to Audience > User Explorer. This lovely beast shows something you think you are dying to see. It is also something I really don't want you to obsess about (except if you are a tech support representative). But you want it. So. Here it is… What you are looking at is a report that shows you the behavior of an individual user on your website, as identified by an anonymous Client-ID. You can loosely think of it as a person, though it is more complicated that. If you have implemented User-ID override (congratulations, you deserve a gold star!), then you areas close to a person as you'll ever be. Because this is everyone on your website, there is no wrong place to start and a hundred thousand terrible places to waste time. You can literally watch each person! See, what I mean when I say I don't want you to get obsessed about this? On the rarest of rare occasions I look at this report, my strategy is to understand the behavior of "Whales", people who spend loads of money on our website (why!). I sort the above report by Revenue, and then look over the users who form the first few rows. The data, fi you do it in the Store account for the person who's at the top at the moment, looks like this… The report is sorted from the last hit (08:16 above) to the first hit (which you don't see above, the person browsed a lot!). You can quite literally watch the behavior, over just five minutes, that lead to an order of $2,211.38! You surely want to know what this person purchased (Men's Cotton Shifts FTW!), what pages did they see, where did they come from, how did they go back and forth (this person did) and so on and so forth. Looking at the top few of these Whales might help know something about a product merchandizing strategy, a unique source, or how to change your influence with your acquisition strategy to get a few more of these people. There will always only be handful of folks. The higher order bit is that the best analytical strategy is to analyze micro-segments rather than individuals. Small groups with shared attributes. You can action these, at scale. Nothing in your marketing, site content delivery, servicing at the moment has the capacity to react to an individual's behavior in real time. And if you can, you don't have enough visitors. Hence, obsess about micro-segments. That is a profitable strategy. The spirit above is also the reason why I don't mention real-time reporting in this guide. Simply not worth it. (For more, see #4: A Big Data Imperative: Driving Big Action) For the third hidden area, ok, not so hidden but to expose all your analytical talent, go to Audience > Mobile > Devices. With greater than 50% of your site traffic coming from mobile platforms, this audience report obviously deserves a lot of attention (in addition to segmenting every single report for Mobile, Desktop, Tablet). The problem is that the report actually looks like this… It is poorly constructed with repetitive metrics, and an under-appreciation for mobile user behavior (why the emphasis on Do outcomes when Mobile has primarily a See-Think intent clusters?). It makes for poor decision making. So. Time to practice your custom reporting skills. (Oh, if you as an Analyst only use custom reports, you are closer to being an Analysis Ninja.) Scroll back to the top of the Mobile Devices report and click on the Customize button. On the subsequent page, pick the metrics you best feel will give you insights into Acquisition, Behavior and Outcomes. While you are at it, you'll see just one dimension in this report, Mobile Device Info, you can add other drill-down dimensions you might find to be of value. I added Screen Resolution (matters so much) and then Page (to analyze each Page's performance by resolution). Here's what the report's Summary view looks like for me… Nice, right? Smarter, tighter, more powerful. My obsession is with people on mobile devices and not just the visits. Hence Users come first. Then, paying homage to See and Think intent, my focus is on Pages/Session. For the same reason, my choice for success is goals and Per Session Value (ideally I would use Per Session Goal Value, but as you saw in the opening this account does not have Goal Values). I would delete the Revenue, it is there mostly in case your boss harassed you. Delete it later. Depending on the role, Acquisition, Behavior or Outcomes, I have everything I need to start my mobile analysis journey. As I recommended with AdWords analysis above, the tabs on top of the report hold more analytical insights for you… You will discover that you'll have to go and practice your custom reporting skills on all these tabs as there are sub-optimal elements on all three of them. For example with Site Usage, I added Think intent metrics. For Goals and Ecommerce tabs there are fewer and more focused metrics. Now almost all of the stuff I need to make smarter decisions from my mobile data is in one place. This exercise requires a lot of introspection and understanding business needs as well as what analysis makes sense. That is how we all move from Reporting Squirrels to Analysis Ninjas! :) As with the above custom report, I'll email a downloadable link to the Subscribers of my newsletter The Marketing – analytics Intersect. You can contrast your choices with my choice of metrics and dimensions. Bonus: If you present screenshots from GA to your management team, make sure you take advantage of the option to show two BFF trends. In my case above you can see I choose to pair mobile Sessions with Goal Completions (again to put the stress on See – Think intent). 7. Icing on the Cake: Benchmarking! One final beginner's advanced recommendation. You just finished looking at a whole bunch of mobile metrics. How do you know if the performance of the Google Merchandizing Store is good or bad? Yes, you do see trends of past performance. But, how about with others in your industry? Others who have your type and size of website? I've convinced that most of the time without that competitive / ecosystem context, Analysis Ninjas are making incomplete decisions. The cool thing is, you can get benchmarking data in Google Analytics. Audience > Benchmarking > Devices. And now you have a really strong sense for what is good performance and what is non-good performance… You might have come to one set of conclusions doing the analysis in the mobile section above, and I suspect that now you have very different priorities with the lens pulled back to how the ecosystem is doing. And, that's the beauty. There's a lot more you can do with benchmarking. You can explore the advanced-advanced version here when you are ready: Benchmarking Performance: Your Options, Dos, Don'ts and To-Die-Fors! I hope you have fun. That is it. A beginner's advanced guide that hopefully accelerates your journey to become an Analysis Ninja. As always, it is your turn now. Be sure to visit the blog formerly known as Occam's Razor by Google Analytic's expert Avinash Kaushik....

How to build out a SEO strategy that will gain you 141% increase in organic search volume. Hint: Its Very Complicated, must have a Growth Mindset.   What would your business be like with 141% more organic search traffic? Unless your website is a CRO nightmare… You would see hockey stick revenue growth. In this post, I’m going to show you how we grew a client’s organic search traffic by 141%. Let’s jump in.   Brief Background I will give you as much detail as possible without revealing the client’s niche or website. Here are some quick facts about the client: Their business is between 1-5 employees. They already had an active blog and were promoting their content on social media. They hadn’t done any SEO in the past. Our SEO Strategy My SEO agency uses two different strategies with our clients and they are as follows:   1. Content Driven Strategy This is our preferred strategy, but it requires significant resources, time, and effort. Which is usually beyond what the majority of clients can afford. With that said, our content driven strategy is simple: Create content that attract backlinks. Promote the content so that it actually gets backlinks. The goal of this strategy is to increase the authority of the client’s website. The more website authority you have, the easier it is to rank for keywords. This content driven strategy is exactly what we teach in Gotch SEO Academy.   2. Non-Content Driven Strategy This strategy is exactly like it sounds: we don’t create and promote content. Instead, we optimize a page or many pages for target keywords. This approach is best for smaller businesses or local businesses with smaller budgets. For this client, we used this strategy. Here are the tactics involved with this strategy: Find keyword ideas, analyze the competitors, and have the client approve the keywords Optimize the target page(s) for those keywords Perform an SEO audit to identify all on-site technical issues and off-site backlink issues Fix all issues found within the SEO audit Prospect for link opportunities Begin securing “easy” backlinks Start our blogger outreach campaign Continue acquiring relevant backlinks until the client ranks Now I will show you how this process works in practice.   Keyword Research Right off the bat, the client supplied us with great ideas/keywords they wanted to rank for. We took this information and immediately tossed it into the Google Keyword Planner. The purpose of doing so is to verify that there was enough search volume. Through quick research we identified the keywords with the highest search volume. We ended up with a rough list of approximately 15 keyword ideas. We cut this list down to 9 target keywords. Here is the search volume for the keywords we are targeting: We were able to trim the list through our competitor analysis strategy.   Competitor Analysis We break our competitor analysis down into two stages. The first stage takes no more than 30 seconds. Within this 30 second timeframe, we are looking at the following: PA & DA: we compare the client’s PA and DA relative to the ranking websites Big Brand Dominance: we look for big brands such as Wikipedia or Amazon ranking on the first page. This is can be a sign that the niche is competitive. Pages That Signal Low Competition: we look for “weak” pages such as those from Q&A sites, PDFs, article directories, press releases, or even web 2.0s. These types of pages are easy to outrank. This quick process can tell us whether a particular keyword is worth pursuing. If the keyword passes this first test, we then move onto stage two of our competitor analysis. The second stage is more comprehensive because we analyze the each competitor one-by-one. In this analysis, we are looking at a few different factors including: Total Linking Root Domains: the quantity of unique domains linking to a page is a strong ranking factor, so it’s at the top of the priority list for us. Link Quality: we examine the link quality of the competitor’s page. We do this to get a general picture of what link quality is “accepted” for the keyword. Domain Age: I don’t believe domain age plays a huge role, but it’s something we still consider. Strength of Content: we rate the quality of the competitor’s content on a scale of 1-10. This rating is based on the length, the intricacy, the exhaustiveness, and the structure of the content (from a readability and design perspective).   We always measure these factors relative to the client. Example: if a competitor has 100 linking root domains, then we know that our client must get a similar amount. This isn’t an unbreakable rule. Sometimes it takes more, sometimes it takes less. But it’s a good goal/benchmark to keep track of during the campaign. This entire competitor analysis process is in Gotch SEO Academy. Make sure you sign-up to secure your spot for the next launch. The next stage of the process is to select what pages we want to optimize. Then, actually optimize those pages.   Page-Level Optimization We decided it would be most effective to target the client’s homepage for the set of 9 keywords we selected. These keywords are related, so this isn’t a problem. In most cases, I don’t think you should ever exceed 1-3 keyword themes per page on your site. One keyword theme, per page is best. For example, if I’m targeting the keyword “anchor text“, I wouldn’t also try to rank the same page for “St Louis SEO”. Yet, I can target keywords related to “anchor text” such as “what is anchor text”. That’s because those variations are within the same keyword theme. With that said, here’s what we did to optimize the page: Are you ready? It’s complicated so make sure you hang onto your hat… We added the keywords to the title and META description We added our the “big hitter” keyword (the one with the most search volume) to the first H1 tag on the page We sprinkled the big hitter keyword a few more times on the page That’s it. Mind blowing, right? After we optimized the target landing page, we then began our SEO audit.   SEO Audit Procedure I’ve explained our SEO audit in-depth before, but I’ll explain here again. The purpose of our audit is to identify technical issues that could harm user experience. Or, technical issues that could be leaking website authority. Common technical issues that hurt user experience or leak authority include: Slow website loading speed Non-mobile friendly websites Distracting elements Ugly, confusing, or outdated design 404 pages (only bad if they have link equity) Broken links Redirect chains 302 redirects Duplicate content Thin content Ineffective internal linking After performing the audit, we were happy to see that the client did not suffer from these issues. Their website loads around 1 second. They have a mobile friendly website. Their SSL certificate installed right. They have a clean and modern design. They only had a few 404 pages and broken links. The only issues we identified had to do with the client’s internal linking practices. This wasn’t an urgent issue, but something we wanted to jump on right away. Their main internal linking issues were: A) they weren’t using keyword rich anchors and, B) they were linking to the wrong pages with keyword-rich anchors. Point B can be the most problematic because it can create keyword cannibalization issues. We knew that by fixing these two issues, we could flow internal authority back to the homepage. So, that’s exactly what we did. We changed the internal links to target the homepage and used exact match anchor text. That simple. After we finished up the on-site optimization we moved onto link acquisition.   Link Building We decided to focus on the following link types: Blogger outreach links Niche relevant blog comments Business citations Branded properties These are the link types that we use for most national SEO campaigns. Here are the rough totals of links we built: 30 + contextual backlinks on relevant blogs 100 + blog comments on relevant blogs 15 citations on the best directories 50 branded properties The client has 31 linking root domains before we started. Now the client has around 84 according to Ahrefs. They have more than this because Ahrefs doesn’t capture all link data on the Internet. I know you are likely wondering: “what about the anchor text ratios!?” I got you covered. For the contextual backlinks, we used exact match, keyword variations, and branded anchor text. We used a name for the blog comment anchor text and the citations produced naked link anchors. The anchor ratios are in line with what I’ve been preaching for years now: Less than 1% exact match anchor text 1-5% keyword variations High percentage of branded and naked link anchors If you need help with anchor text, read our guide: https://www.gotchseo.com/anchor-text/ Now let me show you the results of this work.   The Results Here is the Google Analytics data over the course of 9 months: When we started the client was getting approximately 1,885 organic search visitors per month. After 9 months of work, we increased their organic search traffic to 4,541 per month. A 141% increase. There are a few conclusions you can draw from this growth pattern: Growing organic search traffic takes a long time If you quit early, you will never see the fruits of your labor SEO agencies and businesses who hire them, must both understand that SEO is a long game. My agency has achieved explosive growth for some clients within 3-4 months, but this is rare. For most campaigns, it takes 6, 8, 12, or even 15 months to see growth. SEO is NOT a quick fix. In my opinion, it is a supplemental marketing channel. Businesses that rely on SEO or an SEO agency for growth, will lead themselves down a path of destruction.   This is true for two reasons: 1. When you rely on an SEO agency to grow your business, you will use the agency as a scapegoat. When you aren’t converting leads on your site, you will call up the SEO agency and ask: “why aren’t we getting leads” or “we haven’t been getting leads since you guys started”… Here’s the truth: It’s easy to blame an SEO agency or any type of outside marketing agency for your problems. It’s HARD to reflect on WHY you actually aren’t getting leads. More often than not, traffic is NOT the problem. In an ideal world, more traffic would solve your revenue problems. In reality it doesn’t. Getting traffic is the FIRST part of the process. You have to actually convince that traffic to contact you or buy your product. That means you have to understand sales, copywriting, and conversion rate optimization. The reason why businesses stagnate when they have MORE traffic is because of a weak sales funnel. Business is just like real life. For example, your life will be a struggle if you are always looking for someone to blame for your problems. The same is true for your business. Stop blaming. Start reflecting. Now let me rant onto the second reason why you shouldn’t rely on SEO. 2. Businesses built on organic search traffic, have no other choice but to blame the SEO agency. This is the reason why my agency doesn’t work with startups or businesses that do not already have reliable marketing channels. That’s not because we can’t get them results… It’s because we know how those campaigns turn out. A bootstrapped startup will question your every move. They will ask questions like: “Why aren’t we getting results yet!?” …after two weeks of starting a new campaign. I’m going to end my rant here, but I will be writing a blog post on “Why Startups Should NOT Hire an SEO Agency” to elaborate on this further. Subscribe to get notified when it’s published.   Conclusion This client had a great foundation for SEO and made our job much easier. It’s not always this easy to grow organic search traffic when working with clients. Sometimes the clients have years of ineffective/spammy SEO tactics that you must battle against. That’s why my agency loves working with clients who have done little or no SEO in the past. Working with a fresh slate makes your life a lot easier. With that said, this SEO campaign still has a lot of room for improvement. Have some questions about this case study? Leave it below because I answer every single blog comment. Filed Under: SEO Case Studies Featured Article: You’re Making at Least One of These On-Page SEO Mistakes ...

THE 7 Pillars of Growth Hacking and why Growth Marketing is the Future Through our own experience helping clients grow, we developed (and are continually improving) a general methodology for achieving exponential growth. We call it the RockBoost Growth Playbook, and it consists of 7 foundational pillars. We’re going to share it with you to give you a taste of our approach.   What Is Growth Hacking, Actually? If you have read anything related to startups or marketing this decade, you will undoubtedly have come across the popular term “Growth Hacking” and wondered what all the fuss was about. People everywhere are writing about it. They’re calling it “Lean Marketing” or even “Marketing 2.0.” Did you miss something important? If you’re feeling a bit behind the times, I’ve got good news for you: this post will explain everything you need to know about growth hacking so you can get back up to speed with the rest of us. It is 2016 after all and the world has changed since you studied marketing at university. The term was actually coined by a guy named Sean Ellis in 2010, to describe the process by which many Silicon Valley companies rapidly transitioned from budding startups to multimillion dollar enterprises using creative and unconventional techniques. These “growth hacks” were highly successful tricks, often employing technical expertise, that traditional marketing professionals would never have come up with, nor have had the necessary skills to implement. “A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.” - Sean Ellis Growth hackers trace their roots back to programming engineers. But they are much more than that. They are creative marketers, product managers and data analysts as well. They are focused on a singular goal: finding the most effective and efficient way to grow a business. This often involves rapid experimentation across marketing channels, constant attention to product (re)development and an unending focus on building and engaging a company’s user base. Most importantly, every decision a growth hacker makes is based on data. A growth hacker knows how and what to measure. They use analytics, landing pages and A/B testing to understand their target customers’ habits and behavior. They test everything, iterating and optimizing until they find the most effective solutions with the most potential for growth. They don’t make assumptions. Instead, they are obsessed with data.     Not yet sure how all these pieces fit together? Let’s have a look at some well-known examples. Growth Hacking Examples   Dropbox One of the most famous examples is Dropbox. Now with more than 500 million users (Statista, 2016), they started small as an invite-only service with a waiting list. By notusing expensive, widespread ads targeting every Joe out there, but by using targeted messages carefully crafted for selected platforms where they knew their potential customers already congregated (e.g. Digg, Reddit), they created a sense of exclusivity. On top of this, they put together a fun homemade video that made the relatively complex cloud service easy for anyone to understand. The video went viral and drove massive amounts of trackable traffic to their landing page. But the real hack was this: They set up a referral system where for each friend invited that subsequently opened an account, the user would be given 250MB of free space. Sign ups jumped from 5k to 75k overnight as users invited their entire contact lists. Spotify Spotify grew enormously by simply allowing its users to automatically post whatever they were listening to on the social media giant, Facebook. How many times do you remember seeing messages about what your friends were listening to on Spotify? Did you ever click on one of these? How many signups do you think this simple automated arrangement led to as people became curious and wanted to show off their own musical tastes to their friends? … Let’s just say quite a few. This hack is a classic example of what we call leveraging other people's platforms or audiences, something many companies have had success with Airbnb Another well-known example is Airbnb. Struggling to scale up, their growth team came up with an ingenious leveraging idea. They wrote a sophisticated API that automatically cross-posted all new Airbnb listings onto Craigslist, who already had a gargantuan user base. By doing this, Airbnb suddenly had distribution access to one of the world’s most popular websites and generated enormous exposure, leading to exponential growth. This is something a traditional marketing team, with all the organizational pressures on them, and with limited technical ability would not have had the capabilities to pull off.     Even though Craigslist didn’t have an official API for cross-posting, through creative thinking, boundary pushing and some clever programming, Airbnb was able to create their own. Craigslist eventually closed the loophole in their system, but by that time the hack had already been a success that helped Airbnb gain tremendous momentum. This example illustrates a key point: Many of the best growth hacks have a limited lifetime, and the new ones are often closely kept secrets. Because of this, the world of growth hacking is constantly evolving as new hacks are discovered and methodologies are developed. Many larger companies, impressed by the successes of these startups, have begun experimenting with many of the same techniques. Growth hacking is no longer just for startups. The good news for you is,  that many of the principles behind growth hacking are simple, easy to understand and don’t require lots of technical knowledge. We’re going to teach them to you.   So, What Are the 7 Pillars of Growth Hacking? Much of growth hacking comes down to systems and processes. It’s about finding the weakness in a system and exploiting it. It’s about the processes of continual ideation, prioritization, testing and analyzing.     Silver bullets like the Airbnb hack are generally few and far between. Growth hacking is not magic. While the examples above, and many others, are oft quoted sensational examples of growth hacking, one does not typically hear about the time invested, the hard work and the perhaps dozens of failed attempts that preceded the breakthroughs. For a growth hacker, however, failures are progress. They are part of the experimentation and learning process. Through our own experience helping clients grow, we developed (and are continually improving) a general methodology for achieving exponential growth. We call it the RockBoost Growth Playbook, and it consists of 7 foundational pillars. We’re going to share it with you to give you a taste of our approach.   1. Achieving the Growth Mindset Growth hacking starts with your mindset. It involves focusing all your efforts on achieving your One Metric That Matters (OMTM). This is typically an ambitious and specific growth goal, for example “to achieve 10 million in revenue by 2020.” It is very important that it be measurable and achievable. It is also important that it be straightforward so you can always keep it in mind, letting it guide your team’s every move. As the person or team in charge of growth, all of your activities should be geared towards achieving your OMTM. The growth mindset is also about challenging yourself and realizing that you are capable of far more than you give yourself credit for. Growth hackers think big, take risks and constantly ask the question “what if?” Relentlessly pursuing a goal, even when it takes you beyond your zone of comfort, is what makes growth hackers effective. “Impossible” should not be in your vocabulary.   At RockBoost we like to constantly remind each other to hustle. By this we mean to take risks and try things that would normally be outside our comfort zone. You never know if something will work or not until you try. We even encourage each other to do silly things like randomly asking the Starbucks barista for a 10 percent discount… just to keep the mindset primed. It can’t hurt to ask, right? You’ll be surprised by how many doors will open for you. Some of our greatest achievements have resulted from practicing this attitude. Hustling is about having the courage to reach out for what others might think to be unattainable.   2. The Right Team Growth hackers’ skill sets are in a T-shape where the horizontal bar represents breadth of knowledge and the vertical bar represents depth. No single person can be an expert in every area, which is why having a solid team is so important. The typical member of a growth team will have knowledge about a broad range of topics while specializing in one or two key areas.   There are 3 primary areas of expertise that are necessary for every growth hacking team to have: 1) creative marketing, 2) software programming & automation, and 3) data analysis & testing. Building a team with this combination of skills--that also understand each others’ T-shapes and can leverage each other’s strengths--is fundamental.   Standard Operating Procedures At RockBoost we take lots of inspiration from the U.S. Navy SEALS. One of the SEAL principles we practice that gives us a cutting edge are standard operating procedures (SOPs). SOPs enable you to standardize common processes for an entire team, allowing things to get done more quickly, consistently and with less energy. They help to remove the thought process behind common activities. The discipline of developing and using SOPs will free up your team’s time and mental energy. Many people ask, “If you set up systems and processes for everything, can you still be creative?” We actually think it allows you to be more creative. Systems and processes save you energy and time on mundane tasks so that you can focus your cognitive energy elsewhere. This is not only good business practice, but a powerful life tool. “The mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” - David Allen   3. Measurement, How and What? As you and your amazing new growth team pursues your OMTM, everything you do to speed up growth should be measurable. If you’re achieving results, great! If not, stop and move on to the next idea.     There is no room in the world of growth hacking for assumption. As the saying goes, “When you assume, you make…” you know the rest. All decisions should be based on data. And in order to have that data, you need to start measuring. Many traditional marketers or small business owners wouldn’t be able to say what the ROI was on their most recent ad campaign, likely because they don’t know what to measure or they just don’t have the right tools to do so. Knowing what and how to measure can be tricky, but it is so essential. If you succeed in reaching some target, but you didn’t measure everything you did, you don’t know what it was that led to success. Conversely, if you fail at something, without measurement you won’t be able to avoid the same mistake next time. Measurement allows you to know what exactly correlates with success and it gives you a baseline to which to compare your performance as you experiment. Luckily, technology has made it possible to track almost everything you do. Here are just a few of the online measurement tools we use to help business track and improve their performance: - Unbounce - Optimizely - Mixpanel - Qualaroo - CrazyEgg - Sumo.me - Inspectlet - Google Analytics - Google Tag Manager - Kissmetrics - Hotjar - Ghostery These tools will give you rich information about how users interact with your websites and apps. Where do they get stuck? Where are they clicking? What makes them leave? Once you understand your customer’s journey, you can begin to formulate hypotheses and start experimenting.   4. How to Listen to Your Market The #1 reason why startups fail is that they try to sell a product that nobody wants.Here’s a news flash: Just because you think you have an amazing product, doesn’t mean that there is a market for it. Accepting this reality early on will save you lots of trouble.     Entrepreneurs sometimes fall in love with a product they create, and when it fails to sell, they are often unwilling to let go. They fruitlessly spend all their time, money and energy trying to push something for which there is no market. Don’t let this be you. How can you avoid this? By listening carefully to your market and tailoring a product to what your potential customers are already asking for. It seems obvious, right? It’s amazing how often this is neglected. One of the most useful things you can do is to create a customer desire map. Research your potential customers as thoroughly as you can until you know what makes them tick. Here are some of the things to look for:   Hopes and Dreams What does your customer want to attain or achieve above all else? Pains and Fears What are your customers wanting to avoid or get away from? Barriers and Uncertainties What is preventing or getting in the way of what your customers want?   Of course you can use surveys, focus groups, interviews and other traditional market research tactics to find this information, but consider some other options as well. Where does your potential customer segment congregate and how can you tap into what they are saying? Amazon book reviews, for example, often contain a wealth of information about what your customers are thinking and feeling. Try looking at the reviews of some of the best selling books related to your subject or business and see what people are saying. Look at question and answer sites like Quora and Reddit. We call this forum mining. The goal with all of this is to know your customers better than they know themselves.   5. The Elusive P.M.F. Using the results from your market research, you can now determine if you have a product market fit (PMF). This is about finding ways to remove all doubts or hesitations your customers might have about your product or service. It’s about offering them a product they cannot live without.     Take a minute to think about some products that you would be devastated if you could no longer use. In most traditional companies, product development teams are separate from the marketing teams. The product developers build it and the marketer's job is to sell it. One of the reasons growth hackers are so successful at helping companies grow is that they don’t live within these boundaries. When you are working towards your OMTM, all options need to be on the table, including the willingness to take your product back to the drawing board and make adjustments based on your continual process of market research, measurement and testing. Based on experimentation and constant iteration, you should tailor your product to your customers. The rule of thumb is this: When at least 40% of your users report that they would be very disappointed could they no longer use your product or service, you probably have PMF. Sean Ellis found this out after working with more than 100 startups. Those who had more than 40% PMF were able to achieve traction and grow. Those that didn’t constantly struggled to stay afloat. PMF is vital to achieving growth. If you don’t have it, your marketing efforts are going to be wasted as you try to push a product nobody wants. When you have PMF, people will be so satisfied with your product that they will become your sales people as they share it with their friends. Product Market Fit is about building growth into your product or service so that it sells itself.   6. Which Traction Channels? If you are handing over bags of money for ads on Google and Facebook without any idea as to your ROI, it is time to rethink your approach. It’s not that these channels are not useful--on the contrary! But they are not the only channels. And they might not be the best channels for your situation at this point in time. So, how can you best reach and interact with your (potential) customers? There are actually 19 different traction channels you could (and should) exploit to grow your business. You definitely don’t want to use all of them simultaneously. But figure out what the right combination is for your business at this moment in time. Remember, it is not about the size of your reach, it is about its effectiveness. In the end it doesn’t matter how many people have heard of you. What matters is that theright people know about you: the people with the highest potential to become loyal customers. Overview of the channels - Viral marketing - Public relations - Unconventional PR - Search Engine Marketing (SEM) - Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Social and Display ads - Offline ads - Content marketing - Email marketing - Engineering as marketing - Target marketing blogs - Business development - Sales - Affiliate marketing - Existing platforms - Trade Shows - Offline events - Speaking engagements - Community building Each of these deserves its own blog post (we will try to do that in the future). But for now, it is enough that you are at least aware of these channels. One of the biggest pitfalls is that people tend to only utilize what they are familiar with. By doing this, you may be missing out on big opportunities. You can never know exactly what your market is going to do, or what channels are going to work best. But you can experiment, measure and test! In order to find the right channels for you to pursue, spend some time thinking with your team. Divide the list into three categories: 1) Promising, 2) Potential and 3) Long-shots. Find the top 3 options, and start optimizing these. And go through this process regularly because they are likely to change over time. Remember, it is not about the size of your reach, it is about its effectiveness.   7. The Key to Optimization By now you have embraced the growth mindset, put together a stellar team with a broad set of skills, you have understood the importance of measurement, you have begun listening to your market, you have developed a product people can’t live without, and you’ve identified the most promising traction channels. So now what? What do you do to achieve exponential growth? The key to growth hacking is to test, test, and keep testing! Using your research and measurement techniques, you should continually search for ways to optimize. This requires a systematic approach in which you develop hypotheses and then test them. Hypotheses need to be simple, clear, relevant to your goals and based on data. Like this: Because we saw [data/feedback] We expect that [change] will cause [impact] We’ll measure this using [data metric] But where should you start? The Lift Model ® Developed by Chris Goward is one guide you can use to ensure you cover many of the most important aspects of your business. It consists of 6 essential elements that you should constantly monitor, measure, tweak and optimize. Value Proposition: Are you communicating the benefits of what you are offering with crystal clarity? Relevance: Are the design elements on your site motivating and stimulating desired action? Clarity: Is the content on your site as clear as possible? Are users getting lost and confused? Distraction: Are there design elements on your site that are preventing or distracting from desired actions? Anxiety: Are you credible? What is causing uncertainty or doubt on your website? Urgency: How can you add a sense of urgency for people to take action? So these are the 7 pillars of the proven RockBoost growth methodology. Start using them, and we can’t promise you will be the next Airbnb, but we can promise that you will see results quickly. We know because we have helped lots of companies accomplish exponential growth.   The RockBoost Mission RockBoost was the first growth hacking agency in the Netherlands. We were already running our own highly successful digital agency, DotControl--a team of software engineers that could build just about anything. But we noticed that having a stellar new website or app didn’t necessarily translate into traction and growth. And so we began thinking about how we could help clients not only with their platforms, but with setting up a system for growth as well. At the same time, the Silicon Valley growth hacking trend was getting bigger, and we took inspiration from the systems approach they advocated. Chris, our lead growth hacker and co-founder, had developed an appreciation for the power of processes while working as an auditor at KPMG, and so growth hacking appealed to him right away. We had now found the missing piece that could help DotControl clients get a bigger ROI on their new platforms, and RockBoost was born in November 2014 as a partner company to DotControl. Since its founding, less than 2 years ago, we have grown from 3 people to a solid international team of 14 and have helped dozens of clients on their road to exponential growth. The RockBoost mission is now all about growth hacking implementation and education. We do the hard work of implementation for you. But we also believe that training your teams is an essential part of setting up your business for sustainable growth.   Let's start growth hacking! Hopefully you have a pretty clear understanding now of what growth hacking is all about. It is for all types of businesses (and individuals) looking to accelerate their growth--whether it be in terms of revenue, customer base or anything else. It’s about understanding systems and processes, and learning to exploit and craft those systems to do what you want. It is about having a ‘hustle’ mindset in which all of your team’s focus and energy goes into achieving your one metric that matters (OMTM). It’s about constant measurement, testing, experimenting and optimizing. It’s about listening closely to your market, achieving product market fit (PMF), and then finding the channels best suited for your situation. Finally, growth hacking is about creativity. It is about pushing the boundaries of what marketing is and trying things that you might not have learned in the text books. All in the name of growth. ...

How to start a blog and get Google to send you over 100,000 visitors a month.   When you first think about starting a blog you kind of don’t imagine you’ll ever get more than a trickle of traffic. And then you have your first 100-visitor day. Then your first 1,000-visitor day. After a while even 5,000 or 10,000 visitors a day seems like just part of the plan. What I want to do today is show you that detailed plan and take away some of the mystery. Let’s look at all the ins and outs of how to get over 100,000 visitors a month from natural organic Google search. Things are so much nicer when you have a plan.   Why is Google traffic still the best? If you’ve been reading Blog Tyrant for a while you’ll know that I occasionally warn against relying on Google too much. And I stand by that. Organic traffic from Google search is still the most valuable traffic you can get because it grows, it’s free (sort of), and people who are using search engines are usually in a buy-ready frame of mind. A screen shot of my Clicky Analytics account showing one of my first 28 day periods where I had 100,000+ unique visitors hitting my blog from Google searches.However, if your begin to rely solely on that traffic you run the risk of getting yourself into a bit of trouble in the longterm. Every time Google updates its algorithm there is a chance your blog is going to be less relevant. And that means your traffic vanishes. My own little story with this issue I’ve told this story before but when I first got into blogging I had a few fitness blogs which made money pretty exclusively through Google Adsense. One day I woke up and all my traffic (and revenue!) had gone – I’d received a pretty significant Google penalty for some unknown reason. Lucky for me, the traffic came back. But it was a very scary experience and it taught me that I need to ensure that I have diversified traffic sources that act as a back up in case one of them gets accidentally or deliberately turned off.   How long does it take to get 100,000 visitors a month from Google? Something I want to stress in this post is that my approach to Google traffic is one that is very clean, natural and safe. And “safe” isn’t always a word that sits well with entrepreneurs. Because it usually means slow. If you’re after some short term SEO tricks to help you get an inferior website ranked in two weeks then this isn’t the post for you. This is all about a high-value approach to blogging that you can use on a site that you love and don’t want to take unnecessary risks with. But saying it will take 6 months or a year is kind of irresponsible of me because every blog and niche is different. It will depend a lot on how prolific you can be, and how willing you are to learn a new approach.   How to get 100,000 visitors a month from Google Okay, now we can get into the real tofu and potatoes of the post. And, as always, if you get to the end and think I’ve missed something important or have any questions please leave a comment and let me know. 1. Choose a topic, keywords and target market that has the depth   The very first thing you need to do if you want to have a good SEO strategy is know what keywords you are going after and what target market you are trying to tap into. Too often I see blogs that have a very generalised topic which leads to a lot of fragmented content, an unresponsive mailing list and not a lot of success. When researching your topic, please make sure you know what you want to talk about and how your blog is going to be different to all the others out there. It is very important that you think about deliberate ways that your topic is going to stand out. When researching keywords, it’s a good idea to know who your competition is and how saturated the market is. There are some niches that are very, very hard to compete in. The main worry, however, is a niche with not enough traffic. One simple place to start is by logging into Google Adwords and using their suite of Tools. One of them will estimate search volume and show you the Adwords bidding competition. This will give you a pretty good idea about whether your market is worth the effort. Make sure you try a lot of variations of your keywords here. Even small changes like plurals or alternative words that seem similar can have a massive effect on traffic numbers. At this stage you’ll also want to look at your competition using a service likeMajestic to see what keywords are going around, who is working on what, etc. You can then go and spend some time manually searching and clicking through to websites to see if there is anything that you can do better than what is already out there. At this point I’d like to just mention that passion really is the most important thing here. It’s something I’ve heard successful bloggers like Glen from ViperChill say again and again. Even if you find a profitable niche to work in, you’ll soon lose interest at all the hard (and boring tasks) if you don’t love it and sincerely want to help your readership. That is very important. 2. Get your own domain name and self-hosted WordPress setup   How many times have you seen a free blog like Tumblr or Blogger in the first position on Google? Not often is the answer. Google gives a much higher weighting to websites and blogs that have their own domain name and host because it is a pretty basic signal that that website is going to be taking itself more seriously – hence better quality. Here’s a quick video explaining my preferred setup. So how do you choose a good domain name? Well, there are several options: Exact match keywords A few years ago if you could get an exact match phrase you’d be more likely to rank at the top. Now this isn’t so popular and can look a bit spammy. However, for local search, things like ArchitectMelbourne.com.au still rank extremely well if you can get them. Keyword + noun Another popular method is to take the keyword that you are targeting and add a noun or adjective to it. Blog Tyrant could be an example of this approach if I was targeting the keyword “blog”. Distinctive domains This is actually now the best option given that all the good keyword domains are taken. Being distinctive is important. Look at a site like ViperChill where the domain name has nothing to do with anything but you’ll never forget it. Once you’ve decided on your domain name you can register it and do all your WordPress set up through BlueHost. This is a good idea because then everything is in the one place. Here is a tutorial on how to start a WordPress blog and bit more about blog hosting in general if you’re interested.   3. Change your general WordPress settings for better SEO performance   For the most part, WordPress is a pretty SEO-friendly platform. That being said, there are a few little default things that we want to change from the get go. The first is your default permalinks structure which is often set to some combo of the date and name. I like to set this to just post name as we will want the keywords that we are targeting to show up in the post. Just go Settings > Permalinks > Post Name. Remember, if you already have your blog up and running you don’t want to change any existing permalinks as that will result in any links pointing to that old structure to throw an error. We only want it for future things. The next thing you want to make sure is that your post titles are set to h1 tags and not anything else. Often you find that WordPress themes have the site name as the first header and then the post title is h2 which is a mistake. You can change this by going Appearance > Editor > Single Post and then changing your post title to the right tag. The last basic WordPress thing we want to change is your sidebar. Get rid of everything in there except for an email subscriber opt-in form and maybe some links to your most popular posts. You don’t need all that Meta stuff in there, and you especially don’t want any blogroll links.   4. Install an SEO-specific plugin like WordPress SEO by Yoast I personally use "All in One SEO" by the great guys at SemperPlugins for WordPress over Yoast, I found Yoast useful when I started blogging but certain aspects just irked me the wrong way. So I simply searched "SEO" on the plugin page and found "All in One SEO", saw the number of downloads read the reviews and was sold...

How to successfully Growth Hack on WordPress   With WordPress anyone can build a website — quite literally. The platform is beginner-friendly, powerful and makes the process really easy. However, building a website and building a successful website are very different things. While anyone can now do the first part, not everyone is up for part two. What is a successful website? Simply put, a website that achieves it’s goal, be it generating traffic, profits, newsletter sign ups or awareness. Yet, the more important question is how do you arrive there? How do you grow from simple website to online success? One discipline that is obsessed with this question is growth hacking. Growth hacking has allowed a number of well-known companies and startups to reach high levels of success, among them Twitter, Dropbox and Airbnb. If it works for them, why not for you and your website? That’s exactly what this blog post is about. Below you will learn what growth hacking is, how growth hacking tactics can be applied to websites and the tools that WordPress puts at our disposal to do so. Ready to dive in? Then let’s go.   What Exactly is Growth Hacking? On the most basic level growth hacking describes a marketing approach that uses innovative techniques in order to achieve sustainable and scalable growth, mostly for web entities. The term growth hacker was first coined by Sean Ellis in 2010. By then, he had already achieved incredible growth results for a number of Internet companies, among them Dropbox. In the very same article Ellis also describes the characteristics and skills that make someone a growth hacker.   Growth Hackers Are Focused on Growth (Surprise!) A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth. Everything they do is scrutinized by its potential impact on scalable growth. – Sean Ellis Growth hacking has only one success metric: growth. All it cares about is moving the needle forward, be it in terms of users, revenue or whatever your metric might be. Every decision, strategy, tactic, method and tool only is chosen only with this objective in mind — to create scalable and repeatable growth. What’s interesting, however, is that growth hacking has no constraints on how this goal is achieved. Business development and number crunching are just as much part of the growth hacking toolbox as viral videos and guerilla marketing. All that matters is whether the numbers are moving in the right direction. In that, growth hacking differs from classic marketing which has a limited set of tools and communication channels.   Growth Hacking is Often User and Product Driven Another characteristic of this discipline is that there is no distinct line between product and marketing. In fact, the product is the first step of marketing. Without something worthwhile to sell, growth hacking essentially falls flat. The discipline is all about distribution and getting things into the hands of users. To do so, the product often becomes part of the marketing machine. Instead of relying on buying ad space and the likes, growth hackers try to help the merchandise market itself and be part of its own distribution. Great examples for this are Dropbox’ offer of free additional space for user who successfully invite others to join or Airbnb’s offer to post ads on Craigslist with the click of a button. The latter allowed the company to mine Craiglist’s user base (which was much larger than their own at the time) and helped their own users get more exposure for their ads. Win win. Growth Hackers Have a Diverse Set of Skills Because methods for growing are so non-linear, growth hackers need to have a wide skill set and diverse range of knowledge. Their job involves working across multiple disciplines such as data analysis, product development and marketing. For that reason, many people involved in this discipline are hybrids between coder and marketer. They use creativity, analytical thinking, social metrics and technology alike, run A/B tests and use landing pages and other non-traditional marketing tools to achieve their goal. For that reason, growth hacking is also not a cookie cutter recipe but a process that will be different for every product.   Hackers by Nature The more attentive among you will have noticed the word “hacking” in growth hacking. It originates from the fact that growth hackers are not concerned with following norms or an established process but instead try to figure out how to “hack the system” and short circuit modern communication channels. Since this profession is coming from the world of startups, much of their work is also concentrated on low cost and innovation. Plus, many growth hackers are also coders, though this isn’t strictly necessary.   Growth Hacking For Websites Now that we know more about the nature of growth hacking and what growth hackers do, how can we apply this to our websites? If you’ve been paying attention, you will have noticed that growth hacking comes down to a few principles: Focus on Data — Knowing what works, tracking results to uncover relationships and causation in order to make informed decisions, make success repeatable and allow predictions about the future. Emphasis on Creativity and Experimentation — Pushing the envelope and trying out new things, being curious and thinking outside the box. Product Driven — Concentrating on building something valuable first before getting it into the hands of people, making the product (i.e. website) part of the distribution process. Interdisciplinary Thinking — Not being constrained by one communication channel, having a multi-faceted approach to marketing, being a jack of many trades (like many website owners already are). Concentrated on Low Cost — Using innovation and creativity to make up for budget, employing existing tools in non-standard ways to create traction. To apply these principles to our websites, we have a number of tools at our disposal including (but not limited to): Content management systems Web design Content marketing SEO Social media Email marketing A/B testing Viral marketing As you can see, these are things that bloggers and website owners already make use of on a regular basis. It’s also the reason why WordPress is the perfect tool for aspiring growth hackers.   Why WordPress is the Perfect Growth Hacking Tool The WordPress platform is a great choice for those wanting to growth hack their way to the top. First of all, it offers lots of control and flexibility. In fact, one of the main reasons for the success of WordPress is that it enables you to build basically any website you want, be it a blog, forum, online shop or something else. In addition to that, WordPress provides plenty of opportunities for experimentation and hacking. You can run different marketing campaigns, A/B test the crap out of every site element and modify almost anything you want to increase conversions, improve the user experience and more. Plus, WordPress is very search engine friendly out of the box and has lots of additional options in that area. No wonder Google loves WordPress. That extends to mobile search, which has surpassed that of desktop machines in many places of the world. Masses of available responsive themes allow you to take advantage of this traffic source. Last but not least, thousands of plugins let you optimize and tweak your site in many different ways, making growth hacking and WordPress a match made in heaven. To make it easier to start hacking your own site, from here on out I will list a number of WordPress plugins that are especially suitable for doing so.   WordPress Growth Hacking Plugins Below you will find some concrete plugin ideas that will help you integrate growth hacking principles into your WordPress website. All-in-One Solutions While all plugins on this list are helpful, one of them deserves special mention as an almost complete growth hacking solution. The plugin suite SumoMe contains tools for lead generation, sharing, analytics and more all rolled into one attractive package. While its basic functionality is free, you will need to purchase a premium license for more advanced things like A/B testing. Still, highly recommended! You can find a detailed article on SumoMe here.   Analytics As mentioned earlier, growth hacking relies heavily on data. Therefore, the first order of the day is to make sure you collect relevant information. Plugin options for that include: Google Analytics by MonsterInsights  — I don’t know any other plugin that makes setting up Google Analytics as easy as this one. It literally takes seconds to connect your site to Google’s service. Plus, the plugin displays your most important data in the dashboard so you don’t have to sign in to your account to get an overview of where you are standing. Jetpack Analytics — Similar to SumoMe, Jetpack is a collection of different plugins rolled into one. While it’s overall worth a look, one of the plugin highlights are the real-time analytics for your WordPress dashboard. While not as sophisticated as Google, they are definitely enough to keep track of your traffic and the direction of your site. Clicky — Very neat plugin for those using Clicky analytics as it helps you connect your site with the service. The plugin is a bit dated but still rated well so it’s worth trying out. Hotspots Analytics — Heat maps help you understand how users interact with your site. See what they are interested in and which actions they take. This stuff is great info for A/B testing site elements. Feelback Reactions — Feedback doesn’t always have to be in the form of numbers, you can also collect it directly from your users. Feelback allows your visitors to express their feelings about your content via Facebook-style emoticons. If it works for Facebook…   Social Media Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and other platforms have millions of users, making social media an important piece of your growth hacking strategy, especially if you plan on producing viral content. The following plugins will help you make that happen: Jetpack Sharing — I already mentioned Jetpack further above and Sharing is another one of its modules. The plugin enables you to easily add social sharing buttons for many platforms to your site. You can also add your own networks as well as customize button location and style. Ultimate Social Media Icons — Another solution for adding sharing buttons that comes with 16 different designs and loads of options. Customize button function, turn them sticky so they stay on screen, use pop-ups and more. Image Sharer — Part of the aforementioned SumoMe plugin suite. Image Sharer is specially made for sharing visuals on different platforms. When activated, share buttons will appear on images when visitors hover over them. Good stuff!   A/B Testing While analytics can give you data on the status quo, they can not provide you with alternatives that might work better. That’s where A/B testing comes in. By trying different variants of website elements you can improve conversions and other growth markers. WordPress has several solutions to offer for this. Nelio A/B Testing — One of the most well-known conversion optimization plugins. Test anything on your site from headlines to widgets. Includes heatmaps and is compatible with WooCommerce. What more do you want? Simple Page Tester — If you just want to try out different page versions, this plugin has got your back. Run split tests for pages without changing any code and quickly figure out which one is performing better. WordPress Calls to Action — This plugin lets you add and test calls to action on your web pages, including as popups. Great for lead generations and building your email list. Title Experiments Free — Finally, if all you want to optimize are your post titles, this is the plugin for you. Put in multiple titles for the same post, see which one gets the most clicks, pick the winner and rest easy knowing you went with the best possible option. List Building You have probably heard the saying “the money is in the list”. That’s because email remains one of the most important online marketing channels and list building is one of the best ways to grow your website. These plugins will help you do so: OptinMonster — In my opinion, OptinMonster is the list-building plugin par excellence. While it’s a premium solution, the plugin is worth every penny. Together with SumoMe it forms the pinnacle of lead generation plugins for WordPress. For a comparison between the two, read this article. OptinForms — However, there are also free alternatives for collecting email subscribers and MailChimp is the favorite of many. This plugin makes the integration of MailChimp forms on your site easy as pie. Alternatives: MC4WP, MailChimp Forms by MailMunch, and Easy Forms for MailChimp. Those are my personal picks but you can find more list building plugins right here on WPKube.   Content Promotion In our day and age, content creation one of the most important factors for marketing success. Few growth hackers will be able to do without it. However, content promotion just as important and these plugins make it a little easier: Related posts by Jetpack — Showing related posts at the bottom of your content is a great way to keep visitors on your site. While there are many other solutions out there (like this one and this one) these types of plugins are infamous for being performance hogs. Jetpack addresses this problem by outsourcing related post to the WordPress.com servers instead of the WordPress database. Popular posts — Talking about keeping people on your site: Showing off your most popular content is another good way to do so (besides highlighting your latest posts, which is built into WordPress). The plugin mentioned here is highly customizable and should cover all your needs in this area. Revive old posts — Older but still relevant content is an excellent promotion tool and should not be forgotten. This aptly named plugin does exactly what the name suggests and gives your dated content another go-around in social networks to keep it visible. OnePress Social Locker — Finally, this plugin increases your visibility on social networks by locking popular content until your visitors share or like it. An easy way to get more social presence. SEO As I said before, WordPress is very search engine friendly from the get-go. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement and the following plugins will help your site play nice with Google: Yoast SEO — The SEO solution by team Yoast is probably the plugin I recommend most often. For good reason. Not only does it automatically optimize many aspects of your site for search engines, it also offers a lot of help for creating optimized content. Also check the alternative and IMO the BEST All-in-One SEO Pack. I perfer this plugin to Yoast any day of the week but for some reason people are stuck on Yoast so go for it. Broken Link Checker — Having dead links on your site is bad for your bounce rate and user experience. This plugin helps you find them. Be careful though, some people complain about performance problems so maybe only activate the plugin once in a while and not continuously. Caching — Caching is important for site speed and thus user experience and search rankings. The most popular free solutions in this area are W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache. Both have their pros and cons so you need to decide which one is right for you. A popular premium solution is WP Rocket. User Engagement Site growth is all about users and keeping them engaged to keep them around. Here are the tools to do so: Postmatic — One of my favorite plugins of the last year. It sends blog comments directly to your email inbox and lets you answer from there, too. That makes staying on top of the discussion much easier and eliminates many signup steps. Subiz Live Chat — Live chat is especially suitable for websites that sell something. It enables you to talk to website visitors in real time in order find out what they need and how you can make them happy. If that’s something you might be interested in, this plugin is for you. Contact Form 7 — Of course, giving visitors a way to get in contact with you directly is one of the most important ways to engage with them. Luckily, Contact Form 7 makes creating contact forms a breeze and is free, too. E-Commerce Your website itself does not have to be your main product. Sometimes it might just be a vehicle to sling your actual merchandise. In order to growth hack your profits, the following e-commerce solutions will be your best friends: WooCommerce — The most popular WordPress solution for building online shops and for good reason. Stable, sophisticated, and free! At least for the basic functionality. Some functions require paid addons. WooCommerce is also highly supported by other plugins. Easy Digital Downloads — If you are selling virtual products only, this is the plugin for you. The people behind it are known for their quality and the solution comes with multiple payment gateways out of the box. Again, the basic version is free with premium addons available. Ready to Growth Hack Your WordPress Website? Growth hacking is an established discipline for growing companies and startups. Its sole purpose is to move the needle forward and it is characterized by a certain mindset, creativity, the use of many disciplines and a focus on both product and users. For site owners, the principles of growth hacking are also applicable for building successful websites and WordPress is the perfect companion platform to do so. Its flexibility, the ability to modify any aspect of the website and the abundance of available tools make it a prime candidate for growth hacking traffic and users. The plugins listed in this article are only the beginning and there are more tools out there. If you have any others to add, please feel free to do so in the comments below. Aside from that, I wish you all the best in growing your site....

Case Study: How we made a 237% ROI on one Authority Site (via Spartan Traveler) Why building an authority site is one of the best investments I’ve made.   How does one go about making money online? Or alternatively, what are the best investments one can make in online businesses? I was recently surprised by my own answers to these questions. As one of the most basic ways to make money online, it didn’t occur to me until I saw the numbers that I was getting a 237% return on money invested (ROI) in building an authority site. In other words, for ever $1 we spent on content in 2015 we made $3.37 back.You can get an idea of what this growth looks like from our internal dashboard above. The rest of this post is about how this is possible, and how you can learn how to do the same. — One of the most common questions I get is: ‘how do you make money online’ and ‘how can I do that too?’ I’ve been purposefully vague on this site about the specifics, not necessarily to hide what I’m doing but more because it’s been a fluid progression from thing to thing and for a long-time was hard to pin down into one classification. So here’s a partial answer: it all started with writing content and building websites. When total beginners ask me “how can I get started working online” I usually answer: Get an account on Upwork. Start writing. I’ll never forget the look on my girlfriend’s face when, in the midst of looking for a job locally (in Hungary), I told her to think about expanding her job search globally. Why would you restrict yourself to some pretty horrible options in your local area when you could land a job as a copywriter or virtual assistant for some busy executive in the USA? Fast forward a few months and she was cranking out content and receiving payments at a pace to exceed a salaried job here. Content is still king on the internet, and many great business have been built on a solid content strategy. Step 1 is learning how to write content. Step 2 is learning how to turn that content into an asset you own.   What Exactly is an Authority Website? An authority website is just a high-quality, well-respected site on a topic, one that doesn’t cut corners and provides some real value. And there’s a really important distinction here: there are two paths if you go down the road of building websites, which both have to do with Google (the primary, lowest maintenance, highest converting, long-term traffic source): White hat, meaning avoiding breaking Google’s terms of service, and Grey/Black Hat which means trying to game the system. And in case you aren’t in the loop yet, here is the simple rule: any time you game a system you will eventually get caught. I know a number of people who have lost large 6 figures in a single Google algorithm update. I’ve also personally been smacked in my early days for cheating, and I’ve watched a couple of my websites completely crash and burn. With that in mind, I have no interest in doing any work that doesn’t build a long-term asset that will either make me money for a long time to come or can be sold later on. It’s ditch-digging where I know the ditch is going to be around for the foreseeable future. And it means we’re only talking about building high-quality, completely white-hat websites. It’s potentially slower and more difficult, but not necessarily when you factor in the cost of doing it wrong. Want to learn how to build Authority Websites? Authority Hacker Pro Closes on Thursday, September 29th! => Click Here to Learn More And the the hilarious punchline to many SEO discussions ends up being: “Well, you could always just try to create something of actual value…”. Make something great and people will link to it, and in the long run this is a lot easier than trying to game things (this applies to a lot more than online business).   Authority Sites vs Niche Sites vs Amazon Affiliate Sites Many of you may be familiar with niche websites or Amazon Affiliate sites, which are often hyperfocused sites intended to dominate a specific keyword or product category. No doubt people are making big money off these and have for a long time. As I’ve mentioned before this is one of the first things I played around with online via Pat Flynn’s original niche site challenge. The advantages of going niche can be increasing the chances of winning ranking on the keywords you’re after and the likelihood that site visitors will be willing to buy something, simply because it’s so focused on the topic. The disadvantage of going too niche though the difficulty in getting white-hat links (especially if your site is pretty hollow on the content front) and pigeonholing yourself into a place where you have limited products or content options. So here’s my litmus test for an authority site: can I get onto the front page of Reddit or get written about by a major newspaper with this site? There are many layers in between but that’s where I want to go. Here are some details on what this kind of site can look like.   The Case Study: 237% Return With a Content Site I was blown away when I finally did my 2015 taxes to see that every $1 we spent on content in 2015 we made a little over $3.37 back. Here is what the actual numbers look like in 2015: Writer Cost: $5,255.09 Revenue: $17,742.34 Net: $12,487.25 That’s technically a 237% return, which is quite frankly insane. While I’ve commonly seen a 100% growth on overall business year to year the margins are much smaller, and it’s not quite as discreet, simple, and tangible as a standalone website like this. Ok, fantastic numbers, but as usual this isn’t the whole story. I haven’t counted my time invested on the site, nor have I included staff and operating expenses like technology (e.g. hosting) either. I actually spent very little time working directly on this project since it was managed by one of our full-time staff. Her time was split on this and other projects, so to fudge my personal investment in managing her we’ll just say she spent 100% of her time there. Here’s what the complete numbers look like: Revenue: $17,742.34 Writer Cost: $5,255.09 Staff Cost (site manager): $6,769.38 Other Costs (e.g. hosting): $720.00 Total Costs: $12,744.47 Net: $4,997.87 Return: 39.2% Even with all the costs added back in it still beats the hell out of any other investment I’ve made. For reference, the S&P 500 returned an estimated 1.19% in 2015. The beauty of running an authority site like this–as opposed to a typical staff-heavy business that forever requires a workforce to run-is how easily we can reduce costs and still make money. Once the posts and rankings are in place we could cut writer and staff costs by 80% or more and still earn a similar amount. The original niche site I built back in 2012 still makes $500+ a month and I haven’t looked at it in years. How we built our Authority Site Since we hadn’t really written much content as of early 2015 (the site was started in very late 2014 with just a few posts to get it going) it’s easy to attribute the growth and revenue to the added content. Over the course of 2015 we wrote about 127 posts. This means our average cost / post was about $41.38. Here’s what the organic traffic looked like in 2015: This isn’t mind-blowing traffic, but the key is building traffic that has some potential to convert later. More on that in a second. Also note it looks like it stalls out at the end but that’s just because Thanksgiving-December sucks in our market. So how much link-building did we do: Exactly zero, from my memory. All of our focus was writing the most detailed, highest quality content we could afford, and making sure we had a good monetization strategy in place. It also involved some basic keyword research and a rough content plan, but this was honestly pretty loose.   How did we make so much on so little traffic? Ok, so here is the catch that I can’t easily gloss-over. The site was monetized very effectively, primarily by lead-generation, which is both a business I run (with a partner) and was in place ahead of time. I need to underscore the point here: we had a damn good way to monetize this site before we ever thought about building it. In other words, we were thinking about and working on the end game before we implemented a thing. Here are some numbers on what the monetization looks like: Pageviews (2015): 110,678 Revenue (2015): $17,172.34 Estimated RPM: $155 That means we made $155 for every 1000 page loads on the site. Back when I ran a blog network we were lucky to hit $10 for the same amount. We also ran one 300×250 Adsense ad unit on the page (which is factored in here), and played around with some lead magnets to collect email addresses. So is this is a non-typical case? In the sense that it will be hard to monetize a website this effectively from the beginning? Absolutely. But can you build out a monetization strategy like this later on? Yes, I’ve seen others do it with spectacular results. And obviously this underscores the point that if you already have the product to sell, a content strategy makes a lot of business sense. The key though is planning, thinking, and understanding how you’ll go about selling things on the site later on. The industry term for this is basically ‘keyword research’, which means finding out just how much the words people type into Google are worth, and how likely you are to rank well for them. But I know websites that did not have the endgame in place before getting started, and now make 10s or even 100s of thousands of dollars a year. Because they chose the right category and kept plugging away. My first website came at is from this direction too: building first and monetizing later. After building my first niche website back in 2012 and seeing $3-$5 clicks on Adsense on the site my thinking went along the lines of ‘there must be a lot more money here than I’m getting’, and a lead-generation business was born.   How things are progressing in 2016 We’re having similar results in 2016 so far, with about 151% return for money invested in content on the site. If you add up all costs we’re running at about 17.2% overall return. Here are the numbers through August 2016: Revenue: $19,812.29 Writer Cost: $7,895.77 Staff Cost: $7,827.31 Other Costs: $1,181.00 Total Costs: $16,904.08 Net: $2,908.21 Return %: 17.2% On initial glance it seems like we’re doing a little worse this year, but looking more closely: We’re on pace to do over $30,000+ in revenue on the site this year, which is a solid bump from $17,742 last year. Our monthly goal by the end of the year is actually to hit about $9,000 a month. We’ve invested much more heavily in content, and our writer costs have increased (we’re always trying to increase quality). We’ve paid for some fancier tools and training, which you can find at the bottom of this post. We’ve invested more staff time in building out the site, which adds overhead.   Some Downsides to Authority Site Building If you’re thinking ‘wait, this doesn’t look like that great of an investment’, I understand. First of all, this is pretty gnarly, grinding work. What I mean by that is there is no instant gratification here of the kind you might get with doing PPC (like ‘well, I made $500 on my first day!’). I’d liken it more to going to the gym: set a time horizon of at least 6 months before you expect real results. Anything before that is a bonus. In reality, it took us about a year of work to get things moving on the website in this case study. Think about that for a minute if you’re just starting out: you need to be able to cover a year’s worth of content, hosting, and all other expenses associated with the site before you make any real money. Obviously, results vary, but since most people (myself included) f#ck up their first site or two it make sense to be really conservative when planning. A lot of people also can’t live in $3000-$5000 a year either (unless you’re a westerner really scraping by in Chiang Mai or Bali). One thing to keep in mind about the numbers above though is we were paying a full-time employee to work on the site, so if you were bootstrapping you could cut a lot of those costs out. But this major lag-time in revenue earning is part of the reason I got out of the site building business a while back and got into something that scaled a bit faster (lead-generation). It’s interesting to see how, once day-to-day cashflow needs were covered, I’ve circled back to websites as an obvious long-term investment and asset building activity. In terms of grinding it out, if you proceed down this path you’ll probably do most of the work in the beginning. This is one reason Spartan Traveler has not grown sequentially, since I write 100% of the posts (not advisable) they come out in fits and starts between projects. But as a business, building an authority website is very simple without too many moving parts. And I like that.   Alright, so if you’ve read this far you’re probably in one of a few buckets: You already build sites like this and this is the equivalent of stats pr0n / procrastination. You’re new, and want to figure out how to get started. You’re sitting in an office somewhere trying to figure out how to get out of it. I think the following resources will be useful no matter what stage you’re in:   Resources for Building Authority Sites You don’t need that much gear to build authority sites, so choose wisely and upgrade only as needed. Authority Hacker Training – (Free and Paid) – This is the most thorough, well-organized, and high-quality training I’ve seen for building websites. I originally bought this for my staff member who is in charge of building the site and it’s been instrumental in taking her from a basic to advanced level of capability. Hosting by Digital Ocean – A little bit more technical than the entry level stuff but fast as hell and super scalable. You’ll regret other crappy shared hosting providers later. WordPress Theme by Thrive Themes – I use Thrive for everything now, including recently moving SpartanTraveler to it. More on that later. Thrive Content Builder (for Landing Pages) – Tools of choice for building custom pages in WordPress. Thrive Leads (for email capture) – This is a plugin by the same people that built Thrive Themes and you can see some of the results on this site (e.g. any optin box here). I’ll publish results here but needless to say it massively increases the number of emails you’ll get from a website. Active Campaign – This is what all online marketers I know personally use. It’s really powerful and really cheap to start (as low as $9). Ahrefs – For more advanced content and keyword research and tracking, this is hard to beat. And a few other sites you may want to check out: Niche Pursuits Smart Passive Income Cloud Living Fatstacks ...

17 things you NEED to do before starting a Niche Site but probably won't because your lazy, don't be lazy.     1. Who is your target audience?   Just because you're the most passionate person in the world when it comes to scuba diving gear doesn't mean the rest of the internet shares your enthusiasm for that particular sport. Or that enough people are looking to buy wetsuits and tanks to sustain yourself on Amazon affiliate sales. (Check out how to make your own coupon website) So think creatively beyond "people who are passionate about scuba diving every weekend" and think more in terms of people who have broader interests that might include scuba diving as well. People who are passionate about marine life, for example. Or tourists visiting the coast. Or beach bums who like to explore the ocean's depths every once in a while. Decide the range of who you will target so you know who to write your blog posts and on-site content for, and where to focus your marketing efforts. 2. Where will your traffic come from?   Because honestly, you can optimize your pages for keyword-based SEO all day long and twice on Sunday and still not get the kind of traffic you need to make your niche site sustainable. No, you’ll need another strategy beyond writing keyword-based content to get interested readers on your site. To give yourself a boost, go ahead and stand on someone else’s shoulders for a while… there’s bound to be groups of people that avidly share their interest in your niche on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook. Why not interact with them and find ways to benefit them within the space they're already hanging out in so they'll be naturally interested in coming to your site?   3. What are some other popular niche sites adjacent to yours?   A big part of online success—especially in getting your first swarms of traffic—comes from networking and recommendations from other influential people online. We’re not talking about your competitors here, but people who do still share some of your same target audience that would happily visit your site. For example, if you run a blog that’s all about cooking and sharing your at-home gourmet recipes, you might want to check out some family life and parenting blogs. Brainstorm a handful of these sites and start commenting on the posts there and interacting with the blogger herself on social media.   4. How will you make money?   Though your number one purpose in setting up this site is to make money, a little thought into exactly how that money will be generated and added to your bank account will be helpful...