Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Making a database usable online with Caspio

Anyone using MS Excel Access on a regular basis will have wondered how easy it might be to move the data online. This might be with a view to enabling a client to view a database, or to allow working from another computer.

I have not tested the latest online offering of MS Office/Access so can't comment on this. I am stuck with the older version of Office which does not easily 'go online'. To solve the problem I recently took a trial with Caspio - a tool to take data online.

The brief - Take Access online

Some background....this was in response to a specific query from a client asking for access to a database I use to create a monthly report. This seemed like a good idea. They can do a bit of slicin'-and-dicin' of their own, gaining some up-to-date added value from it.

And heres the problem. The Access database on which everything sits is not online accessible and even if it were, Access is not the most intuitive platform to run queries on the fly. There is no escaping it; Access is not particularly user friendly. What was needed was a way of creating a GUI or client view which they could use without tuition.

This is the heart of the existing Access database. It kind of makes sense to me if no one else!

Caspio - The Solution?

Caspio is a bit like Access in that it runs on tables and uses queries, forms and reports. It easily deploys to your own website, literally appearing as a box where you put the code. I am using a Weebly website and it was little hassle to install. After loading my latest table of data, the rest of the time was spent configuring what the clients sees and how they manipulate the results.

A number of video tutorial do help getting to grips with Caspio. Although I have explored only a narrow selection of its capabilities it seems logical and well laid out. I would have liked to have seen more of those little pop-up explanation boxes which expand on what an option means, as there are an awful lot of options.

Once some sort of data table has been added to Caspio, the next stage is getting a table online. This can either be used to collect responses (contact form, directory, etc), or adding responses to a form. Alternatively, as in this case, I have all the data and want to allow a client to sort and filter through them.

Anyway, in either instance you need to go to the DataPages, and in this instance select Report and Tabular style. 

From here there are about 8 stages left including selecting what the fields to show, creating what the page which the client will use to select their options. Then specify what the initial and detailed results pages will look like.  

Once the wizard has gone through the various options and stages, the final thing is to deploy the code to a site. Copy the chunk of code at the end of the process and paste it into a webpage. In my experience I then spent quite a few hours refining the look and way a user selects the options. My final(ish) version looks like this:

I would predict you will spend the majority of your time on this specific page of the wizard:

This is where to decide how the fields look and operate. I wanted a Date From and Date To option which was set up as a double criteria on the same field. I was also keen to allow my client a 'Select All' option which required a bit of extra configuring. There is no coding and it is all done by working through the wizard and seeing what the impact is on a preview form.

I would recommend a newbie to look at a few video and read a couple of how-to's. Then try adding a table and creating a deploy to a site. You can't really brake it.

Regrettably this level of functionality is not free, although there is a trial with the 'enterprise' version for a week or so. I did read around to see what the others were offering. While there are cheaper ones, with something like this there needs to be a level of dependability and support, both things which the reviews suggest Caspio excel at.  

Thank you for viewing the article and I very much hope you found it interesting. Please don't hesitate to offer a comment, particularly if I get things wrong!  It would also be great if you wanted to subscribe to future blog updates.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Using Google Analytics to measure outcomes against your PR objectives

Is this relevant to you:

·       Are you interested in knowing more about what people do when they see your proactive PR outreach?

·       Do you have a specific goal in mind when you plan an outreach campaign?

·       Does that goal involve some sort of interaction on your web properties?

If the answer is ‘yes’ to even one of these questions you probably use or have someone using Google Analytics to track your users. Alternatively you might be using Adobe Analytics to track responses, which is good as it is more challenging to use than Google Analytics (GA), and so you probably a very competent PR web data analyst.

Regrettably that does not mean GA is easy. At first glance it yields some results but feels like there lots of duplication and unnecessary complication. Please persevere. If you are the right organisation asking the right questions it will help you, a lot.

I am not going to tell you how to open an account, configure settings and all that kind of thing. Get over to GA tutorial area ( Though to go from a standing start to competent will involve quite a few hours.

My intention is to offer some ideas of what GA can do to help a PR person. In particular around objective setting, and goal and conversion measurement.

A PR manager might be wondering if a single person can handle both Twitter and Facebook. And if one gets better results, should it be allocated more resources. To do that you will need data, likely from GA.

Let’s presume there is a PR plan, campaign objectives and a selection of measurable goals. These might be White Paper downloads, contact form leads, additions to a mailing list at the micro end or e-commerce sales at the macro level.

GA will allow you to set up each of these as goals and track the results. GA is quite keen on the concept of ‘valuing’ intangible actions on your site. For some this might be where things get a bit controversial. Now I am no fan of AVE’s, and the like. Setting a value on something like a White Paper download could be like trying to value of Twitter follower. And that was an argument which did not end well!

It would not be correct to value these interactions in the first instance. After a number of campaigns you might be able to make some fairly objective assumptions. Over time you may able to estimate how many of a certain type of interaction results for particular organisations in a sale if there is a tangible linkage.

For example, if you are a B2B provider you will probably have an idea that for every 20 service demonstrations you get a sale. You will know the average sale value and so can estimate the value of a demonstration, hence the value of that type of goal. But it does not work for everything so you must discriminate.

There are a selection of other facets you can check alongside you goal conversions including relative new to returning visitors, if they came by search what term did they search under and what it the general level of satisfaction with your site (bounce rate). There are a selection of attribution models you might consider to understand the progression successful buyers take and where others drop out.

My advice is to become familiar with Google Analytics. PR can benefit from access to web analytics if success is getting people onto a web property.  You really need to hold the keys to this stuff and not rely on other departments.

Thank you for viewing the article and I very much hope you found it interesting. Please don't hesitate to offer a comment, particularly if I get things wrong!  It would also be great if you wanted to subscribe to future blog updates.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Using Google Analytics to track PR outreach & outcomes

In my previous blog post I referred to an experiment I was running with Google Analytics for a guest blog post I was writing. This has just been published and many thanks to Stephen Waddington for using the article. It can be found here under the title 'How-to use Google Analytics to track public relations outcomes'. 

Thank you for viewing the article and very much hope you found it interesting. Please don't hesitate to offer a comment, particularly if I get things wrong!  It would also be great if you wanted to subscribe to future blog updates.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Link Tagging & Goal Conversions in Google Analytics

This is a brief post just to record my thanks for clicking on the Twitter link! 

This will record a positive result against a Google Analytics record of activity from Twitter on this blog and will be used in a guest blog I am writing on how to create link tags and goal tracking. I will post a link to this blog post when its up.

Thanks again!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Downloadable Google Analytics Custom Dashboard for PR people

Custom dashboards are such a good aspect of Google Analytics. They compose of up to 12 components, or widgets. They can be placed on a blank page taking highlights from nearly all the various reports presenting them in near enough real-time, with up-to-date data.

I have created a Public Relations Custom Dashboard which will allow you to import the layout and settings (as above) into you own Google Analytics account, minus my data. 

You can create quite a few custom dashboards which would be useful if you wanted to present a slightly different slant to different people. For example your management might want a brief overview of aspects like web popularity, top referral sources, campaign goals and conversions. Where-as, brand analysts might want to know more about what search terms are being used, and marketing might want to find the steps taken before an e-commerce sale. 

All can be catered for via an individual custom dashboard. When you have finished laying out your widgets, choosing the dimensions and metrics, you collect a template link from the drop-down Share button at the top of the page. As long as your user has a Google Analytics account, a connection to the site data, when they click on your link it will automatically add the dashboard to top of the left hand column.

This custom dashboard aims to present to PR people what might be useful to know about from geographical representation of where site visitors are to how they are finding you. Then on to the device they are using and their level of engagement (bounce rate). We have also indicated volume of sessions (visits) and individual users and the most popular landing pages. If you have campaigns we would suggest adding a goals widget and tags to you inbound URL to measure their success and conversions. 

Thank you for viewing the article and very much hope you found it interesting. Please don't hesitate to offer a comment, particularly if I get things wrong!  It would also be great if you wanted to subscribe to future blog updates.  


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Measure Camp - compulsory for anyone serious about analytics?

A few years back I was an advocate of a PR/measurement combine called Measurement Camp. This was in no way connected with Measure Camp. It proved a useful talking shop for PR to understand more about social media metrics. 

Maybe it was too early, but it seemed to miss out on the business end of analytics, dealing with techniques as they were a decade or so ago. Useful, but flip forward a couple of short years and Measure Camp came into being, not by PR people as before, but by the people tasked to quantify online experience, aka 'the geeks'.

The latest Measure Camp took place in London last Saturday. It applies the unconference format with the 260 participants suggesting topics to be dealt with over the following hours in a series of presentation rooms. 

Topics were diverse, addressing advanced pointers on using Google Analytics, j script and R; thru to philosophical discussions on what they would do differently if they could turn back time, or how you break downs the barriers to analytics (thanks to Measure Camp founder Peter O'Neill).

There seemed to be only a single presentation related to PR analytics. It was a really interesting discussion by Ed Hammerton comparing how they used to measure, with how they do it now. What made it better was it was all about the regulation-infested health sector and featured how they report on their PR activity. 

Just as PR missed out on search engine optimisation (ref. Stephen Waddington at a recent Future PR event), there seems to be every likelihood that serious analytics is now slipping away from PR. 

Particularly when considering the recent CIPR state of the industry findings that senior PR people are failing to recognise the importance of online media and measurement.

I don't want to paint too depressing a picture for PR. But if they don't want to be marginalised by advertising/marketing analysts they need to be prepared to give up the occasional Saturday. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Does Google Analytics offer PR a way of connecting their efforts with organisational outcomes?

- Put simply, yes(ish). 

Though it comes with lots of caveats, this is a possible way of tracking cross social media impact. Google Analytics (GA), as has been said before, is not easy. The interface is often confusing, often inconsistent and often failing the 'so what?' test.

But if your goal is for people to do certain things on your site, it might just prove to be the assist that puts the ball in the back of the net - not that I do football analogies.

Before I go any further I have a quick rant about GA. 

I do a lot of competitor comparison/analysis of media coverage. I hoped GA could help me with this, but it can't. While Google Search is the master at finding influential news topics and comment, GA does not integrate search results, unless (..and how great this would be) you can correct me.

Back on-topic; and the starting point is nowhere near Google Analytics. You need to think about what success might look like. Think carefully about the goals to achieve. If you run an e-commerce site and have a new product, its likely it involve sales. If you are B2B you might want sign up on your site, white paper downloads or contact forms. 

To appreciate the many processes involved, and you are a newbie to GA you would be best reviewing these tutorials: 

Firstly there is a series on GA Fundamentals. Then, if you run e-commerce (a shopping cart, but not etsy!) on your site you will need to enable that element and also review these additional tutorials.

I know this all seem ponderous, but there are concepts, terminology and bolt-on you need to know about if you are going to manage this this well. I promise you, if you really want to find the answers, this will not be a waste of your time.

However this is a gist of what's involved. Get a Google Analytics account or update an existing account (it changed quite a lot about 2 years ago, latest version known as 'Universal Analytics'). Prepare a list of your target social media networks. What you will probably want to know is which of these networks gets the most sales or conversions. 

Once you have prepared your post or tweet for sending out, you will want to add a link to the best landing page on your site. This is the magic bit...GA can add a bit of extra code to track lots of extra things to work out what works best.     

So you need to add a bit to your inbound link address and that's done in GA by using the Link Builder (put Link Builder into the Analytics Help bar). You will need to add 3 pieces of information, the Source or referrer, the Medium (banner, email, etc), and Campaign name. If that's not enough to isolate which of your efforts it is there are 2 other optional field you can use.

The link builder will create a unique link which you can then use as your link for that network and campaign, etc. Once installed the code will start returning activites to your GA account telling you things like what network and promotion was most successful in getting people to your site, making conversions and hitting your preset goals. It will also give you other useful information like what was the bounce rate (only visited 1 page), what type of device and browser was used. 

It will also tell you about what people do once on your site, like where did they go, for how long and if they were new or returning visitors. If its an e-commerce site, as long as you have enabled the right GA settings you can also see how people progress through the buying process and if there is an aspect making buyers drop out, or loop-back in the process. 

When you connect the initial tagging process with the other trackable things like product groups and categories, it is easy to image how easy it is to link the initial outreach with an end result.

This outcome connection is something PR has been striving to achieve. 

GA as a tool, has the feeling of being an instrument for the use of advertisers. It will quite easily integrate Adwords data, letting advertisers see how well different ads work. 

The worry I have is that too many PR's are discounting it for this very reason. Any sensible organisation will be using GA, or the even more confusing Abobe analytics package. 

PR's should fight to get and keep their GA logins; and study very carefully what they can do with it, as it has many PR applications. If I might be so bold, I might suggest it is one of the few ways you might genuinely connect PR input with organisational outcome.   

I hope you found this of interest and if you have a view please post a comment. It would also be great if you wanted to subscribe to future blog updates.