iTunes entered the market in 2003 with the idea that people will actually pay for music after getting it for free through Napster and Kazaa. As many remember, a flood of free downloadable music poured into our computers, safe or not, and it turned into an early gold rush of pirated content before people really even thought there was something wrong with it. iTunes came in that aftermath of that stampede and surprisingly it worked and people trusted it more than streaming from an unknown computer, and they paid for it.
Anyone over 18 at the publishing of this post has probably used iTunes before, and even more so knows how to use it to meet their needs. But how many of those users have ever studied the program or could claim to know almost all there is to know about it power and capability? Probably less than 10%.
Google Analytics is deceptively similar. It came onto the scene as a high powered, reliable, free, and deeply integrated tool to measure more than just the basics of website traffic and other search metrics. You can use it without reading and in depth manual and there are valuable results that pop out immediately, making a tutorial seemingly pointless. The problem is the easy to find stats can be distracting you from deeper stats and analysis. The unfortunate consequence of this is that there are probably tons of people out there using the program yet are operating nowhere near its potential.
The misconception then is that all because a person has used it, even for years, it doesn’t mean that they could pass a test measuring proficiency in the tool. You used iTunes for years to do what you needed it to do. This is the usual approach to technology. It’s almost like 20-50% of a program’s capabilities will be ignored. This is fine if the user wants to keep it casual or has just one use for a program, and if that’s how you use GA, then I don’t suggest studying or taking the test. It’s not worth your time.
This leads me to the first point about this test: know if it’s worth your time and the effort required.
If you use GA for only measuring traffic, such as counting one or two metrics, then you don’t need to take the test. Setting up campaigns and events is not on your radar and that’s fine. You don’t need to dig much deeper and take the test.
This leads me to my first bit of advice which will seem obvious:
Install Google Analytics and use it. I say this to rule out the possibility of never really using the program and pulling answers from a tutorial to pass. For one thing, I don’t think you’ll pass and for another, why do you really want to get certified in the first place? If it’s to get the certification to make yourself or your company more marketable and competitive, then your problem isn’t your lack of certification, it’s that you’re selling Website Analysis without ever using one of the most popular tools on the market. You’ve been warned. Don’t give SEOs a bad name by pulling this stunt. Take the time to learn the basics of our trade, you’ll benefit more in the long run and you’ll definitely give a better service to your clients.
How much experience do you need before you could be comfortable with it? I’d say multiple uses with varying purposes using a diverse set of tasks on GA would be a solid base. If you don’t have clients yet, then try it on your own site and give yourself small goals and tasks to complete.
Don’t learn only the dashboard, get to know the engine. See what I did there? A deep knowledge of how Google works, how it crawls, when it crawls, and how Google Analytics integrates with the search engine and how it works on your site is necessary to passing the test. Put it this way, if you don’t know the difference between first party and third party cookies and which category GA falls into then you need to develop this area of knowledge.
You need a developed website you’re tracking. This is somehwhat easy but what’s really needed is a good set of data dating back at least three months and with campaigns and event tracking enabled. I’m talking the works.
Study tutorials about Google Analytics. Luckily, they exist and in high quality. Here’s a quick scan of necessary places you need to visit to study outside of Google Analytics:
Those three will do. Cover each as many times as you need to get a grasp on what GA is about. The presentations Google provides are obviously a must-see, but personally I rate them as the least interesting out of that list. The presentations seem awkward and rushed. You’ll have to stop at certain slides and definitely take notes. The disadvantage of that one over the others is that they’re hard to search once you’re in them. The Slingshot questions as well as the Jens Sorensen tutorial is searchable.
*Note. Avoid going to this website as a resource: http://www.googleanalyticstest.com. I found the test to be long, exhausting, boring, out of date, and buggy. If you want to cover a lot of ground and practice your skills, you’ll spend 5 hours going through all the questions that are way more difficult than the test itself. I only experienced a hit in my morale when I took it and it broke halfway through.
You don’t have to know the information, just know where it is….mostly. One advantage of the GAIQ test is that you can pause the test at any time. Use this to your advantage. And by that I mean know where to find answers that you’re unclear on. The test is open book so play into that. However, do not lean too much on this aspect of the test. You’re more likely to pass it if you have a more intrinsic understanding of GA rather than merely knowing information about it.
What tabs should you quick reference? Here are a few must haves for the occasion:
Once you have all of that in place, you should be ready to go.
I want to reiterate at the end of this post the need for both experience with GA and intensive study to pass. If you’re green with GA and have studied the tutorials a lot, I would highly encourage you to spend more time with it and play around with aspects of it to give you an idea of what it can do. If you’ve been using GA for a while but haven’t studied, don’t think you can go in there an wing it without expanding your knowledge. The test will pull from areas you haven’t used before.
Also some minor points to keep in mind about the test itself:
- 90 minutes. You can pause at any time though you have to complete the test in 72 hours.
- 70 questions. Multiple choice and true/false.
- Must score an 80% or higher to pass.
- Open book test.
- It must be completed within 72 hours of beginning it.
- You can go back to certain questions at the end that you marked for review while taking the test.
- Certification lasts 18 months.
- You are knighted by Google and can move on to getting your company to the status of certified partner, among other things. That’s for another post later on.
- $50 per test taking session.
Why You Need Content, Search, AND Social Marketing in 2013
The landscape of online marketing has changed over the last year thanks to algorithm changes by Google, updates to social networks like Facebook, and consumer demand for information direct from businesses. Hence your brand needs a combination of all three – content, search, and social – to compete online. In this post, you will learn about how each of these three marketing strategies aid each other and benefit your business by increasing your brand’s overall online exposure.
The major benefits of a solid content marketing strategy cannot be denied for any business, both large and small. Great content is not limited to just text. In 2013, great content can include a mixture of written content (blog posts and articles), audio content (podcasts), image content (infographics), and video content (YouTube videos and webinars). Creating a variety of content can help your business in the following ways.
Establish Your Brand as a Knowledge Leader
One of the best benefits of creating quality content – both onsite and offsite – is getting to establish yourself as a knowledge leader in your industry. With your content, you will be able to showcase the expertise that your customers come to you for.
Some businesses worry that if they give away too much for free, their customers will not need them anymore. But just the opposite is true. If you create valuable content, your customers will buy from to gain access to your expert skillset or the products you have created. It’s a win-win situation.
Need some examples of great brands with content? See the Content Marketeer’s 50 Brands to Watch. Although it’s for 2012, these brands are still producing great content today.
Increase Your Ability to Gain Backlinks
Content can play a key role in your search marketing strategy. Specifically, it gives people a reason to link back to your website. If your blog is on your domain (domain.com/blog instead of blog.domain.com or blog.com), then any links built towards your blog content will count towards the overall authority of your domain in search.
Your blog is not your only source of content. You can create guides, free ebooks, infographics, videos, and free online tools that will attract backlinks naturally. And if they are not attracting links naturally, you can use them to request links from other webmasters who have linked to similar types of content.
Offsite content placement can also help bring backlinks back to your website. Guest blogging, for example, is a great way to spread your content to a larger audience – helping establish your business as a knowledge leader. Most guest blogging opportunities allow for you to have an author bio at the end of the post in which you can link back to your website.
Give You Something to Share on Social Media
Some audiences are not as receptive towards advertisements on social media as they are to valuable content. Hence, if you want to get your social media fans and followers back to your website, you will want to share more links to content you have created vs. sharing links to sales or promotional pages.
Most importantly, content is is more likely to be interacted with and shared by your audience over sales and advertising promotions. This means that you will receive more engagement on social media thanks to your great content. And as more of your audience shares your content, you will also gain more fans and followers.
If your business is actively involved in a search marketing campaign, then here are some ways your search marketing efforts can help your business along with your content and social media marketing strategy.
Determine Searchable Content Topics
Want to rank for more keywords? Then utilize the same keyword research strategy you used for your main search marketing campaign when coming up with new content topics. For example, if your business targets CRM software, you can create content to rank for longer keyword phrases such as what is CRM software, sales CRM software, and CRM software for small business.
Finding these longer keyword phrases is easy. You can use the free Google AdWords Keyword Tool to enter your main keyword phrases and discover new ones. Then apply the best long phrases in the titles of your content.
Increase Web Traffic to Your Website
Once you have created you content around longer keyword phrases, you are likely to increase the traffic to your website for those terms. This is simply because you’ll have more content in search results, and the more content you have in the search index, the more content you have for visitors to discover.
You can find out what keywords and phrases bring the most traffic to your website in Google Analytics under Organic Search Traffic Sources. This can help you determine what keywords to target for your content, link building, and on-site optimization.
Create Discoverable Social Profiles
Don’t forget your keywords when you are creating your social profiles. If you keyword optimize your social profiles, then people looking for a new source of great content about a particular topic can find your business.
Keywords also come in handy for your status updates. Your keyword research and on-site optimization should be applied especially to your Facebook page and updates since Facebook Graph Search will make it easier for people to find businesses on Facebook through their new search system.
Social Media Marketing
Last, but not least in your overall online marketing strategy is social media. Here’s how social media can be incorporated into your content and search marketing.
Find Out What Your Audience Needs
Ever wanted to get inside the minds of your potential and current customers? Social media can help. Since most people publicly use social networks like Twitter, question networks like Quora, and forum communities, it is easy to find out exactly what your customers want to know.
Simply search for topics related to your industry on social networks, and you are bound to discover people asking great questions. Take those questions, link them up to searchable keyword phrases, and start creating content that will not only rank well in search but will also inform your target audience. This is what will help build your reputation as a knowledge leader in your industry.
Aside from the most important relationships you want to build with social media – the relationships between your business and your customers – there are many other relationships you can work on that can help with your online marketing. The relationships you build on social networks can help you connect with the right people for blogger outreach, link building, and many other opportunities for your content and search marketing.
Using tools like Commun.it can help you identify your biggest social media supporters. With this tool, you can browser through your supporters to see if they are blog owners, SEO consultants, and even potential customers. Then you can see your engagements with them and keep the line of communication open so they will be there when you need them.
Reach a Specific Audience Through Advertising
If you can’t reach your target audience through search marketing because you haven’t gained your rankings yet or through regular social media updates, you can reach them through targeted advertising on social networks including Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
You can use social advertising to promote your content to the specific demographics you target as your ideal customer base. This way you can lead that audience back to your website, and if your content has a great call to action at the end, you can encourage them to submit a lead form or purchase a product or service.
By utilizing content, search, and social media marketing, you can build your business’s authority in your industry which will lead to increased traffic, trust, and conversions. If you need any help with these areas, we’re here to help!
What other ways do content, search, and social work together to bring results to your online marketing strategy? Please share in the comments!