Web Analytics Critical to Overall Communications Strategy

Written By: Daniel Cubero on July 28, 2010

One of the truly fascinating tools available for marketers today is web analytics. The effectiveness of a marketing or communications plan can no longer be measured by sales alone. Analytics software allows us to explore many other important, usually deeper, variables such as number of visits, traffic sources, navigation, and popular keywords from which we can construct a meaningful communications plan. Monitoring how people are finding your website using Analytics has several applications with regard to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and web traffic. We think it is even more valuable to take a step back and look at measuring your overall marketing/communications strategy, rather than to view it as one tactic. Here are some tips:

1. Use the Power of Information, Don’t Just Compile It
Having analytics software and using it are two very different things. Similar to a good solid database, the information garnered from this source can be extremely helpful in discovering trends in your target market. These can be opportunities to find people that are or could potentially be using your products or services. But each of these tools is only useful if they are actually being… well, used. All the information in the world isn’t helpful if there’s an overwhelming amount of it, with no way to filter out what’s relevant and what’s not. You also need the capability to interpret trends accurately. Try to avoid using analytics blindly without regard to how your data correlates with your brand and organization.

2. Use Multiple Media to Inform and Integrate Your Messages
It’s important to make sure your communication and marketing messages and efforts are integrated – that the same message is reaching the appropriate audiences across all mediums to avoid conflicting messages and/or confusion – this gives your brand a clear voice. Analytics tools such as navigation tracking and keyword tracking allow an organization to monitor the areas and topics that are most appealing to the user of the site. One of the advantages of the web is that, unlike television advertisements, it is a voluntary journey to find information about a company. For example, not many people are triggered into buying a Big Mac when they have clearly devoted an hour of “not getting up time” to watch their favorite show (probably the Bachelorette)! Using a pressure-free system like an analytics tool allows you to gauge what information users deem as important. That information can then be used to reinforce and enhance traditional marketing practices (print, television, radio) from an informed, research oriented foundation. This turns into a positive feedback loop between the two mediums, thus resulting in a more integrated approach to communications.

3. Don’t Fall Prey to Brand Dissonance
If you monitor the keywords that people use to find your website or blog and find that they don’t align with the brand strategy, you could have a problem. While it’s possible to have found a niche market that sees your products and services as useful, (potentially warranting an opportunity to expand) it is also possible, albeit unfortunate, to find your brand being used in search engines with negative connotations or words and phrases that are irrelevant to your firm’s core competencies. If this is the case, you will likely need to revamp your branding efforts to realign customer perception to your branding goals, or to establish new goals altogether. This could also mean something much worse: that dissonance could be the result of brand terrorism or a badly handled public controversy, in which case you should initiate your crisis communications plan immediately (cough, cough…BP Oil)! Fortunately though, many analytics tool results are recorded in near real-time so you can act quickly if your brand needs rescuing.

4. Spend Wisely – Take Note of Geographical Tendencies
Effectively targeting your audience is paramount to the success of any given campaign. A feature that is both interesting and useful on many analytics tools is a map overlay feature. This type of feature allows the analytics follower to view where web hits are coming from. For one, it’s cool to see that your business may be getting attention from Australia, Egypt and India, but it has practical application as well.

Because advertising expenses are largely determined by the frequency and reach of a medium, it benefits an organization to pay to target its message to those that are most interested in the products and services of a firm, while not paying to advertise to those who are unlikely to buy. One compelling aspect of various analytics tools is to see where much of your web traffic is being generated based on geographical location. Although not perfect, this method allows an organization to understand generally where people are hearing the message and opting to learn more via the internet. Maybe it doesn’t hurt to have international exposure for your brand, but make sure you’re not paying for it if it’s not helpful to your long term goals.

5. Beware of Idle Time
Similar to targeting geographically, ensuring your message hits your target market at a time that empowers a potential customer to use a product or service is an important part of a communications plan. Because many analytics tools provide web-traffic information in near real-time, an analyst can match user traffic with sales and adjust accordingly.

For example, if a restaurant is experiencing low web traffic on Thursday nights after 5 o’clock, and sales during that time period are similarly low, the restaurant owner can use this information to tailor a message about a ‘half off dinner deal’ at that low traffic time, via radio, television, or the web, to drive sales during slow periods.

Analytics is not a cure-all solution. The takeaway from this is that it is but one tool among many for the purposes of powerful marketing and communications. Most analytics tools may be free, but it takes some critical thinking to increase the likelihood of a successful campaign. Sure, there are other ways of gathering information about the effectiveness of an advertising campaign, but with one that has so many capabilities and no cost, using analytics and using them correctly, can inform decisions and drastically improve a communications strategy.

Content has been Dethroned

Dan Cubero September 29, 2010

For years we have been taught that the way to attract people to our products and services — using web, newspaper, magazines, etc. – was to have the best stuff, the coolest STUFF, the primo STUFF, the most original STUFF. “Content is King” has dominated the way we understand media and the way we use media outlets to communicate.

This fundamental assumption — that having the best stuff will inevitably attract the correct demographic and ultimately lead to an engaged audience – is flawed. Sorry to those of you who spent countless hours finding statistics to create in-depth reports on various subjects, to those of you who poured your focused attention into editing paragraph 3, sentence 2 of that press release. We have entered a new age of marketing and public relations. It’s time to ditch our safety net and embrace the fact that “Content Is No Longer King.” A new contender is ready to assume the throne. “Conversation is King.”

Now I first heard about this concept from some guys over at LaunchPad INWAllen Battle and Bill Kalivas and then again from Brian Burrows at aMarCom Breakfast on September 10th. What I found, is that this concept intrigues people – it’s easy to find “heads nods of approval” or “thinking hard” facial expressions when the concept is mentioned. It’s agreeable and it’s catching on fast, largely because it is so intuitive.

The message is not that content is irrelevant, but that it can be. It’s not that content is NEVER important. There is a reason as to why content has made it this far as the driver of many modern media advances, especially in areas like SEOSEM and database marketing. For example, it is obviously important to have content that is recognizable by Google in order to be seen, but as many of us in marketing and public relations fields should know by now, being seen is only half the battle: who cares about the message if it is irrelevant, or worse, boring?

To all those focused on creating great pieces of literature I send a warning: If Twitter has taught us anything about mass customization, with its 140 character limit and personalized news feeds, it is that people have learned to value simplicity and relevance. Maybe most importantly, they just want to participate. Why not let them?

Just as traditional marketing is less acceptable to the modern audience — essentially, presenting your best side and hoping for the best – content be created with this mindset. It’s no longer a secret that online conversations are being held about your brand. Businesses are finally beginning to understand that it is essential to monitor these conversations, even better to participate in them, as appropriate. It is time to take it one step further and start to generate pieces of that discussion. Basically, don’t just create content for conversation, but foster the conversation around it as well.

Companies putting the idea to the test, largely using social media, are Pepsi(the Pepsi Refresh project, on Twitter), Starbucks (MyStarbucksIdea, onTwitter) and Dell (IdeaStorm, on Twitter). These companies no longer provide only information on products and services being offered, they ask customers what problems they are seeing with these products or services and ask for ideas on how to fix them, usually using incentives to drive broader participation.

It’s like this: don’t write your website assuming someone is going to read all of it – they’re probably just skimming. Don’t Tweet that you’re taking out the garbage – no one cares. If you want to be successful in the new era of marketing and public relations, just remember the fundamentals of normal dialogue: don’t make it all about you. Take the time to understand your demographic, their interests and then prove your value by providing the appropriate and relevant questions and information they desire. Only after you have taken these steps, and if you can adequately fill your audience’s hunger for participation, will a feeling of engagement and brand loyalty follow. Not all customers will fit the profile, but certainly your most engaged and involved customers will.

Let’s give a hats off to those smart guys at LaunchPad and others for the slogan “Conversation is King.” After all, content is just something to talk about.

Now hopefully this content wasn’t irrelevant… Help me out! Go talk about it and make it relevant!


SEO is dead. I’ve heard many times over the years. And sure, the core roles and responsibilities of an SEO professional have changed. What were once core functions of an SEO professional (historically speaking) – ensuring a site has page titles, meta descriptions, <h1>, <h2>, <h3>’s and the like – now tend to be well within the scope of a creative and / or design team.

It makes sense to claim SEO has passed its peak: Google’s stated desire to limit the ability an individual or group has to “game the system” seems ominous enough for a profession founded on that very premise. Each algorithm update – such as Hummingbird, Penguin and Panda – sends SEO’ers into a frenzy, each time presenting new barriers to how they will react to the changes and best serve clients.

It seems to me that every update churns out a new set of “complainers” and “disdainers.” [Disclaimer: these are not recognized terms in the industry, just MY gross exaggeration of the way things are … but, ] I have noticed each new algorithm update seems to bring with it more fear than optimism.

Complainers –  “Hey Google, this is NOT fair!” [you can’t change your FREE service on us like this!]

Disdainers – “Serves you SEO guys right – get a real job [in content creation, social media, or design work … like me!]


As an example, let’s take a look at how Google changed its algorithm to promote its users’ privacy.

This paragraph, courtesy of Mindgruve, illustrates a change in the SEO profession and why some are calling out the death of SEO as a profession:

“In 2011, Google announced that they decided to move toward secure search to improve their users’ privacies, which meant that search queries made on a secure Google page would no longer be passed on to the destination website. As a result, the keyword data available in Google Analytics started to quickly disappear and be replaced by the phrase, “(not provided).” As of today, the share of “(not provided)” keywords in GA has reached 82% in America and 75% globally, making keyword level analysis more and more irrelevant for SEO.” [full article – Google (not provided) and the Future Of SEO]


I cite this example not only because I assume it destroyed the internal processes for numerous agencies performing SEO who rely on keyword data to optimize pages as a way to show value in the work they perform, but also because it is an easy way to highlight exactly how many SEO agencies are clinging to these updates rather than focusing on content creation from a holistic view, for the audience rather than the search engines that read through it.

The disadvantages that stem from this change:

PROBLEM 1: No Keywords

The solution – CREATE firsthand keyword data. The old way was just a crutch. The reality is that this feature in Google Analytics was great for reporting, but a reactive way to approach keyword research. Instead …

A. organize at the page level.

If you think about it, this makes sense … a strategic competitive advantage for your business’ web visibility really shouldn’t rely so heavily on a couple of keywords or phrases you, as a brand, decided would be beneficial to rank for. In fact, it misses the point – that’s not really how google works. The Hummingbird update changed the way search will be forever, conjuring search results for not only the words entered as a search query, but also for synonyms, “did you mean’s”, contextual cultural / geographic / historical references, etc. – honestly, this gives SEO professionals prime footing to get into the strategy game. Last I checked, influencing the final decisions is sort of a promotion.

B. experiment using AdWords SEM campaigns

AdWords Pitch – Not only does it present an opportunity to pitch additional agency services (and an added agency fee for work performed), but will give a more complete perspective into the makeup of the competitive landscape your business / client’s business. This perspective provides the foundation for informed, intelligent decision-making for other parts of your business, particularly recycling that firsthand data into the traditional marketing arena.

(plus, what a great way to collaborate and share ideas in-house to create creative solutions)

 PROBLEM 2: No search queries

The solution – all the more reason to know your audience and drive the conversation back to branding.

A. Use first-hand customer data to drive a conversation on strategy rather than simply report what is already happening.

I suggesting checking out the “Searched Terms” report in your available in your Google AdWords campaigns. The added benefit here is that it will include pricing information on those keywords and will reflect how your keywords / phrases change in price with the time of the day and day of the week (read: competitive analysis). Used correctly, this will be infinitely more valuable than what you might get from a “Top Keywords” report in Google Analytics.

B. Think “things not strings– build for meaning

No longer are we in the days where you can boost your visitor traffic by stuffing pages with fluff keywords. Modern SEO professionals need to instead shift their focus away from the old one-dimensional “keyword” approach to SEO, adjusting for semantics and intent.

  • Rethink and redefine what SEO means to you – SEO is a STRATEGIC function.
  • Build pages around themes, not keywords or specific phrases (as long as it is content providing value, something worth sharing!)
  • Change mentality and focus from standing for ONE thing, instead capture a category.
  • Search engines do not define things in ONE way

it is a combination of synonyms, “did you mean’s” and other contextual variables to provide search results. If there are 100 ways of describing how to find you, expect there will also be 100 adequate phrases and methods for stumbling upon your content and understand that your web visitors are likely approaching your site in the very same way search engines are attempting evaluate your worth. That said, I challenge any SEO professional reading this to direct the conversation back to building sites with the appropriate structure and format to accommodate both types of readers: web visitors and the bots that crawl your site.


SEO as we knew it 10 years ago may very well be dead, but the profession is alive and kicking…it just had to evolve in the same way that the web landscape has. So remember one thing above all else …



Blog written by Dan Cubero, Search Engine Marketing Specialist at Bodybuilding.com.

Day Trending: Understanding WHEN Your “Best” Customers Are

Written by Daniel Cubero on May 16, 2012

Most of the marketing classes I took in college attempted to help me understand the most important thing in marketing: understand WHERE your customers are located. And yeah, that’s important, especially given the importance that Google and other search engines have put on local listings, local maps and location-based mobile advertising over the past 2 years. But once you have taken those steps, it still leaves one important question unanswered: what is the next step in the process?

To brands out there reading this: do you know which part of the day your prospective customers are doing the most searches for your products/services? Or do you know when your website is receiving the most traffic? How about this one: do you know which parts of the day are costing your PPC campaigns the most? What I am getting at here is that there are certain correlations and inverse relationships for when the most active searches are performed as it relates to the competitive landscape. This competition stems from other brands in your industry, brands in complimentary product categories, or seemingly separate, isolated competitors coming after your customers’ wallet share altogether.

Our experiment looked something like this:

Green = High Performance Metric | Red = Low Performance Metric

As you can see, when fewer searches are being performed (read: less impressions), but with the same number of competitors vying for an ad space, there is an increase in the cost-per-click, and as a consequence, an increase in the cost-per-conversion. That said, there is a clear benefit, especially when working within a limited or set budget, to advertising the greatest amount when these two metrics, cost-per-click and cost-per-conversion, are at their lowest prices of the day as it will allow you to compete more times. Rather than compete at all hours of the day, the bulk of a budget can be allocated to these relatively cheaper hours of the day for lower overall campaign costs, not to mention, when most prospective customers are searching for you anyway! Additionally, lower conversion costs will likely translate into a greater number of overall conversions as well!

Now this is just one example, as this can be replicated for days of the week, months of the year, etc. However, the point is this: don’t forget about the other metrics – “location, location, location” may be a hot-button phrase and filled with a ton of truth, but make sure that once you find where your customers are located, you know how to use your marketing dollars appropriately for the best results and greatest number of conversions!

Now please, critique and comment away!

Originally posted while working as a Digital Marketing Specialist at Balihoo on May 16, 2002


Written by Daniel Cubero on May 22, 2012


A unique disadvantage a national brand faces when making creative and marketing messages is that it is, more often than not, one step removed from the final customer. PPC provides a solution to this information chasm. Each time a customer or prospective customer enters a search query, it is recorded into the keyword database associated with your company’s PPC campaign. Without this information, a brand is typically forced to guess what words or phrases come to mind, or must conduct costly market research such as polls, surveys, trials, test markets, etc. to find out what feelings are aroused by its products/services – this is not the case in the digital world.

With a wealth of information at its disposal, a brand has the ability to understand more; first of all, what words are costing them the most in the online media space. This can provide the platform for a basic cost/benefit analysis to see if bidding on the most competitive words (read: expensive) is justified or within their budget. If not, they can be eliminated, still allowing for cheaper long-tail keywords. Or, just as importantly, perhaps it compels additional ad spend, funds willing, to capture the most relevant keywords, customers and leads.

To find the database of terms that online searchers are using to find your site or brand, follow these simple steps (picture below instructions):

  1. Log into your Google AdWords account;
  2. Click on the relevant Campaign;
  3. Navigate to the Keywords Tab;
  4. Click “See Search Terms” menu (middle of the page, just below the campaign timeline);
  5. Click “All.”
Your dedicated keywords will drive traffic to your site, but the “Search Terms” page will show you the EXACT queries that browsers entered into a search engine to find your page.


Listed will be all the keywords that searchers used to find your site, via your Paid Ads during the time frame you have selected (below).

Quickly add keywords, negative keywords, see the terms most searched and view trends over time or within a specific time frame.


But what’s potentially even more valuable is that a brand can use this database to identify whether the words it uses in its traditional media lines up with the same words that its current and potential customers are using in their searches, acting as a sort of cost-efficient media audit. It goes like this: if there is dissonance between the verbiage in the two types of mediums, it is likely that either the brands’ keywords are costing more for using only semi-relevant keywords to attract clicks (as a result of a low quality score) or that they are receiving less impressions and traffic overall because their ads are not deemed relevant by various search engines to appear on the SERP.

NOW FOR THE TIP: A digital campaign is essential because it allows brands to see what its market is actually searching for, at a fraction of the cost of more traditional market research. Furthermore, it allows this information to be leveraged immediately back into the digital campaign for better results or to be reverse integrated into the creation of future traditional media campaigns. Summarily, a brand using this strategy will gain the benefit of using words and phrases that have already proven to capture the attention of its intended audience historically, maximizing relevance, and as a likely result, increasing conversions and leads.


Originally posted while working as a Digital Marketing Specialist at Balihoo on May 22, 2002