23 03, 2020

Don’t Panic. Leverage Digital Marketing During the Coronavirus Outbreak.

By | 2020-03-23T08:27:03+00:00 March 23rd, 2020|Categories: Beacon News, Digital Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC|Tags: , , |

Travel bans are in place. Restaurants are closed for dine-in service. Social distancing is the current collective mantra. As the world hermits itself, many brands are assessing what this means for their marketing budgets. With consumer spending pulling back and collective attention turned towards the continual flow of COVID-19 news updates, it may seem logical to spend less on marketing. But, for many companies, this may not be the best approach.

Not Spending is Not a Strategy

Marketing strategy is always about delivering the right message, at the right time, with the right medium, and to the right audience. This truth is consistent and enduring. Put into action, this also means that strategy must pivot anytime there’s a disruption – and the Coronavirus is certainly that disruption.

The knee-jerk reaction is to cut ad spend – and, if you are considering this, take a step back and breathe for a moment. Pulling back on ad spend isn’t a marketing strategy. Less marketing equals less sales and less visibility, which is the exact opposite of your goal and what you ultimately need for your business. And, considering no one knows how long this pandemic will last, ignoring the present climate will certainly make the road to recovery brutally long. After all, you can’t not market forever, can you? What’s your plan?

Our goal as marketers is to break through the noise and reach the customer. Just because this becomes more difficult, or “feels” fruitless, does not mean marketing is turned off. With recent reports stating that web usage is up 20-50%, it’s more important than ever to have a presence online and pivot your marketing plans. Rather than deciding how much to pull back, the focus should be on what medium to invest in and what message to deliver.  Seize the opportunity… wisely.

Even The Coronavirus Can Present Marketing Opportunities

Whether you’re 100% e-commerce, brick and mortar, or a little bit of both, you can still be successful with your digital spend. The key is to find the right mix and define a strategy rather than “click,” turning it off. Consider moving dollars from a direct response (lower funnel approach) to building brand awareness (top of funnel). This is true for the Ford Motor Company, who shelved ads for their new product launches and instead, redirected focus on new spots touting “Built to Lend a Hand” and “Built for Right Now.” The point here is to stay connected with your current audience and create new connections by showcasing your brand to the larger audience that is online because they are at home. Opportunity!

And yes, you may not be Ford, but you have options. Other brands are introducing new, timely calls-to-action. Dunkin Donuts is giving extra points to those in the DD Perks programs for on-the-go ordering. Sling TV is providing free access to news and entertainment. And, One Medical has offered 24/7 virtual care to its members. These are all great examples of marketable offers that pivot digital strategy to respond to today’s climate.  These ads shine to the online audience because they are different, they feel personalized and, consequently, keep conversions and awareness high.  Opportunity!

Pull Back on Ad Spend Only If You Must

Marketing strategies will vary during this period depending on the type of business. Some will choose to stay the course. Some will pull back partially, and yes, some may pull back completely. Before jumping to the latter, consider moving ad spend around to save where you can – but avoid completely disappearing.

Focus on your top awareness drivers. Invest in building your brand and conversions that are relationship builders. Spend where there’s still ROI, even if the benefit to your business takes a little longer. But, you really shouldn’t go dark. 87% of consumers who interact with a brand daily feel more loyal to them – and this number falls drastically as the length of time since last interaction increases.

Remember: out of sight, out of mind. Maintain your connection to some degree, particularly as your competitors dial back and cost goes down. This helps to bridge the gap and helps you get back to full speed when the time comes. Opportunity!

Also keep in mind that the World Advertising Research Center (WARC) projects a 7.1% increase in global media spend based on the expectation that marketers will simply withhold spend until later in the year. The surge in demand later in the year will drive up competition and prices, making acquiring (and reacquiring) customers potentially more expensive than ever before. Staying connected, even somewhat, will reduce the ramp up and deliver a lower blended ROI when compared to a stop-and-go approach.

In Summary: Adjust to the Coronavirus, Not Away From It.

Again, take a very deep breath. Let it out. And, maybe consider taking another one.

Now do what you always do.

Yes, disruption abounds. Resist the urge to throw in the towel. Adjust your strategy to keep your brand alive, visible and relevant to your audience with special messaging and/or new offers. Take advantage of the situation as your competitors panic and ad costs are driven down. Speak to your audience differently, showing that you are still here… and care… and ready when the pandemic clouds dissipate.

We know it’s difficult. Beacon recommends that you calmly assess your particular business’s situation and plan accordingly. Don’t go ALL-IN and don’t FOLD. Stay in the game. Now is the time to collaborate and brainstorm.  Assess the data, as customer visits are probably different. Pay attention to items being put in shopping carts without checking out, more browsing of your products (pageviews), an increase in virtual tours and other low-risk, stay-at-home activities. Opportunity!

And when the world returns to normalcy, and it will, you will be ready. As always, the Beacon Team is here and available if you need guidance.

24 04, 2018

Heat Maps & Site Search

By | 2018-05-01T07:56:42+00:00 April 24th, 2018|Categories: Higher Education|Tags: , , , |

Are You Listening to Your Data?

Your website users can tell you a lot about how your site is performing. Of course, they don’t necessarily make it easy.

In our previous blog post, we discussed how to directly tap into your audience by asking questions via focus groups and surveys. The benefit of engaging with your audience in these ways is the opportunity to hear firsthand what your customer base thinks.

The drawback?

Your focus group and survey participants may not always be so great at assessing their own online behavior. Or, the nice people that they are, they may be tempted to tell you what they think you want to hear.

While direct responses from your website users are an excellent source of insights, you do want to make sure that what your audience tells you is reflected in their actual online behavior. There’s an old Russian proverb, often attributed to a former US President, that offers great advice: “Trust, but verify.”

The best way to do that is by taking a close look at what visitors are actually doing on your site.

Heat Maps: Pretty Data

Beacon homepage heat map

Heat map of Beacon’s homepage

Heat maps provide an extremely user-friendly method for identifying the portions of your website that receive the most attention. Instead of numbers, pie charts, columns or bars, a heat map presents user behavior data as colors on a warm-to-cool spectrum. This provides an intuitive way to interpret the information – lots of clicks equals warmer colors.

Heat maps can be used to represent any kind of data – not just website usage. But, they are particularly useful in showing where on a given webpage users click the most. And that information can be easily turned into an analysis of on-page performance.

Are people using your navigation bar as intended? Is your CTA drawing the engagement you thought it would? Are page features being overlooked or overshadowed by other content?

Combined with a scroll map, you can also see if users are reaching the content at the bottom of the page. These insights make it easy to understand why a page may not be performing up to expectations, and help you come up with a well-targeted re-design plan.

Site Search: Know What They’re Looking For

Another tool that lets you peek inside the mind of your audience is site search analysis. If you haven’t installed a site search feature on your site, you should really consider doing so soon.

Site search makes your site more convenient for many different types of users, while maintaining emphasis on your primary target audience. It allows visitors to drive their own experiences on your site by letting them find exactly the information they want to access.

Through their searches, visitors also leave behind valuable information about their intentions, desires and future behavior. Between five and 10% of all internet users rely on site search – a healthy sample size from which pertinent and actionable insights can be pulled.

Site search analysis can help you identify new, relevant keywords; content that should be added; new product ideas; or unexpected reasons people are visiting your site. It can also highlight usability or navigational issues by specifying the locations from which users initiated their search and how many pages they viewed after completing their query.

We Can Help with That:

Want to know how heat maps and site search can help your website perform better? Give us a call at (866) 708-1467, we’d be glad to talk to you about your challenges. Insights and analysis are what our Digital Marketing Services team excels at.

15 11, 2017

These Digital Marketing Tips Can Jump-Start your School’s Enrollment

By | 2017-11-08T13:43:37+00:00 November 15th, 2017|Categories: Digital Marketing, Higher Education|Tags: , , , |

In a recent survey, 51% of those between the ages of 18 and 29 said they could not imagine living without a smartphone. In a separate survey, 78% or high school students said that websites influence their perception of a school. This accentuates the changing landscape and hints toward the future of marketing in the Higher Ed space.

With an increasingly competitive environment, schools are becoming more and more creative when attempting to lure prospective students. We not only need to use our digital marketing budgets carefully, we need to use them creatively, too.

I’d like to share with you just a few ways in which colleges are leveraging digital marketing and social media to successfully jump-start their school’s enrollment.

3 Proven Ways to Boost Enrollment

Social Media can be a great tool for brand awareness and enhancement. That’s just the half of it. Social media can improve retention throughout the admissions funnel as well as to curb “summer melt” (accepted students who never enroll).

Through Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, prospective students can stay on top of the application process. You can inform them of important deadlines and answer application questions. Since the vast majority of students use these platforms on a daily basis, social media can make a real difference in improving student yield.

Blogs are a great way to get the word out on deadlines, too. More than that, it’s a place to share information with all your target audiences including faculty, alumni, athletic boosters and the surrounding community. The reason a blog is desirable in addition to social media is that your content lives here. It is indexed by Google and matures, improving your position in organic search rankings.

It’s important to be constantly adding new content. Make use of this content on your social media channels as well so as to get the most from any new content you create.

The National Student Clearinghouse. This one is more of an overall tip but has digital marketing implications. Purdue University’s Office of Enrollment Management took a closer look at students who chose to attend elsewhere. Through information made available at the National Student Clearinghouse, the enrollment management team was able to identify where these students eventually enrolled. This enabled them to better understand who their competitors are.

Some students are predisposed to attend college in state. There are various reasons for this. However, by examining the behavior of students who have the means to attend anywhere, a school can hone in on its primary competition.

Break down your data, perhaps by state or region. What patterns emerge? The good folks at Purdue were able to determine that students on the East coast were more likely to attend out of state institutions. This was just one of many insights gained through PU’s research.

It’s Our Niche

Beacon has been recognized as one of the top Higher Ed web design and digital marketing firms in the country. If you’d like the kind of insight into student behavior that 20 years of Higher Ed website design provides, we’re here to help. Feel free to contact me with questions regarding your institution’s admissions goals or call a member of the Beacon digital marketing team at 1.855.851.0109.

 

 

26 10, 2017

Effectively Market Your School with Social Media

By | 2017-10-23T09:46:56+00:00 October 26th, 2017|Categories: Digital Marketing|Tags: , |

There are prospective students in virtually every age group. Each has unique needs and wants. This should be reflected in your social media content strategy and PPC advertising. Your message needs to be specific to be effective.

For the sake of discussion, we’ll break this down into three main groups or demographics. There are those under the age of 18, often referred to as Generation Z. For obvious reasons, this group is very likely your main audience. In the middle, we have millennials, those between the ages of 18 and 32. Finally, we have Generation X, the parents of Gen Z.

Marketing Your School to the Gen Z Student

For most of us, our success will be significantly impacted by how effectively we appeal to this group. Gen Z students are the next crop of up and coming undergraduates. Digital ads are second nature to them. They respond quickly but their attention spans are short, so don’t make them jump through too many hoops or they won’t engage.

Credibility is everything with this group. Twitter and Instagram are very effective marketing tools, particularly when the message comes from a contemporary.

Millennials Are Looking for More

When millennials look to further their schooling, they may be working and attending classes at the same time. They have more debt than their parents and don’t make as much, so cost is a pain point. Flexibility is important. As a result, they are more receptive to night classes or online education.

Facebook is HUGE with this group. In fact, over 30% of Facebook users are millennials. In your Facebook ads, stress flexible class schedules and learn at your own pace models, if you have them.

Targeting Parents with Social Media

Some Gen X’ers will look to attend classes for upward mobility or self-improvement. However, most of this group have significance for a far different reason. They’re footing the bill for the aforementioned Gen Z’s. With the significant cost of tuition, they look at their children’s schooling as an investment.

Just as with millennials, their main concern is value (albeit for a slightly different reason). Again, Facebook becomes a valuable tool for marketing to this group. Stress value in your Facebook ads and online marketing.

Targeting Alumni

Since this last group also include alumni, discussion of social media marketing is incomplete without mentioning its application to fundraising. Facebook can effectively supplement direct mail and phone solicitation efforts.

Beacon’s Social Media Experts

Got questions about your digital marketing strategy? At Beacon, our social media experts focus on the Higher Ed space.  Our age diverse team mirrors that of your audiences, giving us a unique insight into what makes them tick. Contact me directly or give a Beacon team member a call at 1.855.851.0109. Or if you prefer, leave a comment and share your thoughts below.

6 09, 2017

PPC Tips and Strategies for Increasing Student Yield

By | 2017-09-01T09:28:27+00:00 September 6th, 2017|Categories: Higher Education, PPC|Tags: , , , |

While one may or may not think of a college or university as a business, there is no arguing that those involved in student enrollment mean business. The playing field is more competitive every day. This is evidenced by the fact that more and more schools use PPC (pay per click) advertising as part of their appeal.

Since many more in your target audience communicate through digital channels than in the days when you and I went to school, it goes without saying that it doesn’t pay to stick with just traditional means of promotion. Besides, at the rate that the enrollment landscape is changing, PPC almost qualifies as traditional.

PPC Strategies for Higher Ed

Unlike large, profit generating entities, most colleges have limited budgets to work with. This means that while one may encourage ones students to experiment, to “find themselves”, you don’t want your marketing people to have to do so, too.

Make sure you have a clearly defined strategy going in. Higher Ed keywords are generally very expensive (again, the Higher Ed space is VERY competitive), so it’s essential that you use your marketing dollars efficiently. That having been said…

Branded Campaigns Don’t Work for Higher Ed

Many businesses use branded campaigns to make sure their competitors don’t pick off shoppers who are looking to pilfer their customers. However, your audience differs from most. With a college website, many students, alumni and faculty use the website as a constant resource.

Since you’re already at the top for a branded search, you don’t want to waste your money paying for those who choose to access your site through a PPC add. That’s a sure way to burn through your ad budget and see minimal return.

Higher Ed Remarketing Ads Do, Though

The enrollment funnel for Higher Ed is protracted when compared to other competitive spaces. That being the case, a conversion rarely happens as part of an early touch. This is true across the board, unless your brand is so big that you don’t need to advertise. That’s a very exclusive club.

Remarketing ads follow visitors from their initial visit to your site (or mobile App). As they visit other competing sites, your ad will pop up, keeping your school fresh in their mind. It’s a great way to maintain a familiarity and nurture the process. These remarketing ads can include periodic offerings such as a limited time discount on an application fee in exchange for contact information.

Get even more granular by using Google’s RLSA’s. You can target users based on their behavior, which page on your site they visited and how long they stayed. So, if they visited the page for your dental school, they’ll receive remarketing ads specific to that discipline.

Higher Ed PPC & Mobile

Make sure the landing pages for your PPC ads are responsive. Recent surveys indicate that roughly 80% of high school seniors and their parents view college websites on their phones. If your site is mobile friendly, you’ll also be able to take advantage of Google’s new Expanded Text.

You’ve spent the money to get your visitors to your website. Don’t blow the experience now.

And that’s Just the Beginning

Want to know more about how you can pull more candidates into your school’s enrollment funnel? Beacon is recognized as one of the top Higher Ed web design firms in the country. We’ve been helping colleges and universities with PPC marketing for over 20 years. Feel free to contact me with questions regarding your institution’s admissions goals or call a member of the Beacon digital marketing team at 1.855.851.0109.

21 08, 2017

Higher Ed: Understanding Digital Marketing’s Role in the Admissions Funnel

By | 2017-08-21T11:10:17+00:00 August 21st, 2017|Categories: Digital Marketing|Tags: , , |

An institution’s mission is to educate students. By extension, its relevance is dependent upon the quality and quantity of enrolled students. Without students, you cease to exist.

If you’re charged with marketing your college or university, you carry a position of great responsibility. You’ve been asked to be a caretaker of sorts. Your mission is to steward your school into a position of added prestige and reputation. You can affect both enrollment and endowment.

Education is a business. Without treating it as such, one risks becoming a footnote in the annals of Higher Ed history. Understanding the admissions funnel is step one in ensuring you’re remembered as having been a worthy steward for your school.

Understanding the Higher Ed Admissions Funnel

While the admissions funnel shares certain similarities to a typical sales funnel, there are distinct differences. Understanding those differences can be key to your success.

The admissions funnel is deeper and more involved than the normal sales funnel. More levels require a longer time duration and greater deliberation. It could be a year or two from the moment your candidate enters the admissions funnel until they eventually enroll. A protracted process means more opportunity to abandon the process.

The better you understand the admissions funnel, the easier it is to use it to your advantage.

The Opening: Attracting Prospective Students

When marketing to the prospective student, content and the delivery of said content is of paramount importance. Methods include the more traditional (education fairs and school visits) as well as digital advertising (PPC, Social Media, etc.). And one cannot emphasize enough the importance of sound SEO practices for Higher Ed.

Prospective students break down into two sub-sets, those who already have a familiarity with your institution as well as those who may not have previously known who you are. The approach is similar for targeting both.

Use videos, photos and interesting copy. Prospective students respect and trust content provided by their peers. Emphasize content provided by your current students. Your goal is to get a prospective student to request more information. That’s the next step in the sales funnel.

The Inquiry

When we discuss those who inquire into additional information, the numbers drop precipitously. But that’s OK. The good news is, the remaining prospects represent significant opportunity. They’re still considering a few schools and their pain point tends to be simple. Generally, they want to know at which school they best fit in.

Appeal to this group through both traditional means (personal calls from students, events and printed materials) as well as through social media and PPC campaigns.

PPC remarketing campaigns can be a great way to keep your brand in the minds of prospective students. In short, remarketing ads are the google ads that follow you after you visit a website. It targets those who have expressed some level of interest already.

The objective here is to steer the student into the application process.

Getting the Application

Anyone who starts the application process is already highly engaged. At this juncture, the personal touch can be most effective. Events are great. There is nothing more effective than a face to face meeting.

It’s also a good time for email marketing campaigns. Emphasize personalized emails from admissions counselors or administrators.

Some will recommend personalized phone calls. Personal experience tells me otherwise.  When my children were looking for a school to attend, they never answered the phone. Texting is the preferred method of communication for this generation. They avoid the phone like the plague.

Attention & Intention Mean Retention

The final group you need to appeal to are those who have been accepted and/or have confirmed their intention to attend. This group may include individuals who have been accepted at several schools. They may be still deciding or waiting to find out which school will provide the most financial aid.

While not all will eventually enroll, this is the time to welcome them into the “family”. The more personal your communication, the better. If this student interacts with other accepted students through social media, odds of retention increase considerably.

Consider sending branded items such as tee shirts or coffee mugs.

Avoiding Summer Melt

While it may seem unethical, some students will place deposits down with more than one institution. Others will lose interest while awaiting financial aid. Some will simply be overwhelmed with the process of finishing paperwork and buying books.

In fact, a recent study suggests that between 10% and 40% of students will “melt away” between the time of their acceptance and the first day of classes.

Engagement from here must be genuine and personal. Consider holding webinars with instructors who can help individuals get to the finish line. Administrators can send personalized emails offering assistance and answering frequent questions. Bottom line: Keep it as personal as possible.

How Beacon Can Help

Recently recognized as one of the top Higher Ed web design firms in the country, Beacon has been helping colleges and universities with admissions marketing for more than 20 years. Together we can develop and implement a digital marketing plan to address your specific objectives. Feel free to contact me with questions regarding your institution’s admissions goals or call a member of the Beacon digital marketing team at 1.855.851.0109.

19 07, 2017

How to Export your Google Data Studio Report to PDF

By | 2017-07-19T12:10:28+00:00 July 19th, 2017|Categories: Digital Marketing|Tags: , , , , |

Google Data Studio is a great tool for those who need frequent, consistent and timely reporting, but there is an important feature currently unavailable in Data Studio — “PDF exporting.”  But do not fret, my fellow Google Data Studio users. There is a way to take that multi-page Data Studio report and export it as a single PDF file!

Google Data Studio PDF Export

If you have Google Chrome, you can export all of your Google Data Studio Report’s pages into a single PDF by downloading the free Google Chrome Extension ‘Google Data Studio PDF Export’ by Mito Studio.

How to Export a Multiple-Page Data Studio Report to PDF

Step 1.  Click the link below to be redirected to the Google Chrome web store installation page for the Google Chrome Extension ‘Google Data Studio PDF Export’ by Mito Studio. ~ if the link is not working, copy and paste the link at the end of this post into your chrome browser. 

Click here to go to the extension

Step 2.  Reload (or open) the Data Studio Report you wish to Export to PDF and there will be a new option in the report header.  The picture below is a comparison of the task bar without the chrome extension (top image) and the task bar with the chrome extension (bottom image). ~ Note: you must be in the ‘view mode’ in order for the option to appear.

Export to PDF option in Google Data Studio

Step 3.  Click on the ‘Export to PDF’ option to begin exporting your report, wait a few seconds per page as each page downloads. The time it takes to begin exporting varies, but  if the report does not begin to export, click on the thumbnail icon in the chrome extensions area of the toolbar but instead of selecting ‘Export to PDF’,  select ‘Clear Cache’ the option (pictured below), then try exporting it again.

GDS Export to PDF solution

Step 4.  After the document has been downloaded, a pop-up window will appear with a black and white version of the report—the report’s color will be restored after changing the destination. In the window, change the ‘Destination’ of the file to ‘Save as PDF’ (pictured below). Save Data Studio Report as PDF

Step 5.  Click Print to save the report to a location of your choice.

Chrome Extension Link: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/google-data-studio-pdf-ex/cmbgpgjhibpioljmaaocdommnggpecje

15 06, 2017

Going Into a Redesign: How Google Analytics Reports Can Help

By | 2020-01-29T16:18:35+00:00 June 15th, 2017|Categories: Google Analytics|Tags: , |

Would you read The Two Towers before The Fellowship of the Ring? Watch Godfather III before The Godfather? Of course not. You need context to get the most out of any sequel.

The same is true with a website redesign.

With a new redesign, you may hope to accomplish a number of important objectives including:

  • Improving compatibility with mobile devices
  • Updating styling strategy
  • Implementing a new content strategy
  • Providing more nimble page template capabilities

One things is for certain. Your website needs to accomplish its underlying goals at a more successful rate after the re-launch. You need to leverage all the information currently at your disposal including your website’s past performance. Your website’s analytics is a great source for this information. For websites undergoing a redesign, Google Analytics should be required reading.

Google Analytics offers a wealth of data related to website visitor activity. Tracking features beyond GA’s out-of-the-box solution takes that dataset to even greater heights. So, when considering analytics for a redesign, which Google Analytics reports can have the greatest impact?

Here are just a few of the options available:

Audience Device Category

Mobile browsing is quickly increasing its slice of the pie as a large user set compared to desktop and tablet categories. This report gives an indication of the device category trends and the current breakdown of each device category’s session total. While a responsive redesign is most likely already a known part of the strategy, there is more to it. Which device category is (or will soon be) the largest user set? Which device category delivers the best-converting visitors? Answers to questions like those can help determine which device category is favored in the overall design.

Audience Technology

Every website’s software has compatibility parameters, especially with different browsers and browser versions. From this report, the software development team can learn of the most popular browsers and browser versions.

We have had instances where this report greatly influenced technology decisions when designing client websites. For example, in the higher education arena, some institutions use certain browsers and browser versions in their computer labs. Updating those browsers may not be an option, due to various factors with other software. This report is flexible enough to also give an indication of most popular screen resolutions. Knowing this information can help with break point decisions for a responsive design.

Site Content – All Pages

Are you gearing up for a new site hierarchy? This is the type of report that will help inform your decisions. If your website caters to audience subcategories, such as college and university websites, then you will need to incorporate advanced segments and/or secondary dimensions with this report. Ultimately, you want to know which pages are most popular, and with which audiences. From there, you can begin to build recommendations for the website’s header, footer, sidebar(s), call-outs, etc. Site Search

No matter how much the website is updated, some users will always navigate via site search, rather than a hierarchy of links. This report indicates the searched topics that are most common. Perhaps your team has overlooked a few obvious pages that should be accentuated more in the website’s navigation. A review of site search data can prevent these oversights.

Goals / Ecommerce

Using this report combined with the goal data from the above reports will help paint a clear picture of the effectiveness of the current website. Normally, the goal and/or eCommerce analysis will not necessarily result in a perfect conversion strategy for the newly redesigned site. However, you will come away with changes that should be made to the conversion funnel and new ideas on how to make certain goal conversion opportunities more visible for your users. From there, you can determine a set of A/B tests that you wish to conduct once the new site is launched.

Make Your Website Redesign One for the Books

As one of the country’s longest standing Google Analytics partners, Beacon has been providing Google Analytics support for organizations of all kinds large and small. Additionally, our software development team has redesigned hundreds of websites, ranging from online storefronts to Higher Ed. We invite questions or comments regarding your redesign goals. Feel free to contact me or call one of our team members at 1.855.467.5447.

21 04, 2017

WFU Selects Beacon to Teach Graduate Level Analytics Course

By | 2017-08-15T16:00:39+00:00 April 21st, 2017|Categories: Beacon News, Digital Marketing, Google Analytics|Tags: , , |

Last year, when I discovered that Wake Forest’s Business School was starting a Master’s Program in Business Analytics (MSBA), I had to see how I could help. After all, it’s my alma mater AND analytics – two of my favorite things! So I was thrilled when our many discussions and planning sessions led to Wake selecting Beacon to teach its graduate level course in Digital Marketing Analytics this Spring.

Farrell Hall at WFU Analytics has been a critical component of Beacon’s offering since almost the day the company started back in 1998. It’s why Beacon is one of the longest active Google Analytics Certified Partners in the country.  The entire Beacon Digital Marketing Team is involved with this class, led by Gus Kroustalis, Beacon’s Lead Analytics Strategist and Andrea Cole, Beacon’s Director of Digital Marketing.  The team meets regularly internally to carefully plan each class around important topics, crafting in-class and homework assignments that expose the students to real world tools and thinking.  For most companies nowadays, their website is the centerpiece of their marketing strategy.  So this course emphasizes Google Analytics and walks the students through 7 intense weeks that includes

  • Key Metrics for the Web
  • Consumer Targeting
  • Engagement Analysis
  • Channel Analysis (SEO & Paid Search)
  • Attribution Models
  • Conversion Testing

The demand for critical thinking skills with respect to analytics data is enormous in today’s business world. Students that have tangible experience will hit the ground running and be able to provide immediate value to their employers.  Certainly, technology and the widespread availability of data are drivers, but it’s also about “brain-power”, the ability to analyze data with all the available tools to gain insights, formulate strategy and communicate well-founded recommendations that will improve ROI and/or decision-making.

Companies are clamoring for critical and creative thinkers. Graduates of Wake Forest’s MSBA program will certainly fill this demand.  The students will experience a rigorous, hands-on course that exposes them to actual live data from several of Beacon’s clients that have graciously agreed to participate.  Although they will learn many different tools, the emphasis will be on stimulating their business minds to develop intelligent insights, drive creative ideas and improve business.

It’s exciting that Wake’s MSBA students have the opportunity to work alongside Beacon’s recognized experts in Digital Marketing to get first-hand experience and knowledge. It will certainly make their resumes stand out.  Likewise, my DMS Team is equally excited to collaborate with, and learn from, the high-caliber students for which Wake Forest University is known.

Beacon's Gus Kroustalis Teaching

9 02, 2016

How to Identify Stolen Content and Take Action!

By | 2017-06-16T12:46:34+00:00 February 9th, 2016|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Imagine that you and your staff have spent countless hours creating engaging content for your website, only to discover that much of it has been stolen and repurposed by others – without your consent.

The appearance of duplicate content could adversely affect your website search rankings, making it more difficult for prospective students, alumni and the community to find you. And as we all know, good content rules. So, why let others break them (the rules, that is)?

At Beacon, we’ve seen what unethical practices such as copy scraping can do. Having personally experienced the theft of our content fairly recently, I thought I’d share the steps I took to alert Google to this offense and protect our company from the negative fallout that can follow.

Here are six easy steps for getting back at the thieves who steal copy.

Step 1 – Verify that your suspicions are correct.

Perform a quick Google search to determine where your copy is showing up across the internet. You can randomly select copy from a webpage (copy and paste a few sentences in a Google search box) to run a query. The search results will indicate if your copy appears on another site on the web other than your own.

For example, here are the results from my search.

Scraped Content

The search results will provide you with a list of webpages where that content appears (including your own, of course). As you can see in this example, there is another website using content I wrote without my consent (see the red arrow above).

Step 2– Investigate the extent of the theft

Stolen ContentScraped Content

When investigating the extent of plagiarism, check to see if your content was been copied verbatim. Also, you’ll want to check if this is an isolated event or if the website in question has copied multiple pieces of content. In our example above, you will notice multiple instances of stolen content. It’s time to take action.

Step 3 – Reach out to the website’s administrator

Reach out to the webmaster of the website that stole the copy. If the webmaster’s email contact isn’t readily displayed, check the about or policy sections of their website. The webmaster’s address is often hidden within these pages.

Once you’ve found an email address, notify him that you are aware of the offending activity and request that he remove the stolen content within a defined period of time. A week to ten days is more than enough.

Should the webmaster voluntarily remove the stolen content, your job is done. Have a latte. However, most nefarious webmasters will ignore such warnings and hide behind a perceived veil of anonymity.

Now, the fun begins.

Step 4 – Contact the hosting provider

It’s time to perform a who-is-lookup. This online tool provides you with the webmaster’s identity and more importantly, their website hosting provider. Armed with this new information, I reached out to the hosting provider and let them know that a website they host had blatantly infringed on my intellectual copyrights. I respectfully requested that they take down the website in question.

Step 5 – File a DMCA request

If the hosting provider fails to respond, then it’s time to file a dirty DMCA request. Only take this step once you have exhausted the other options. Also, keep in mind that you need to have the authority to act on behalf of your organization prior to filing this request.

You have the option of drafting your own DMCA takedown request or downloading this DMCA Take Down Notice Template to customize and send to the offending website owner. After you have sent the DMCA notice, give the website a week to ten days to respond. If you don’t hear back within the time you designate in your notice, it’s time to elevate the complaint to Google and get some sort of resolution.

Step 6 – Request Google remove the stolen content

Log into Google Search Console: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/dmca-notice. This will take you to the copyright removal section within Google (see below). Simply follow the instructions and be sure to describe the nature of the work being copied and include URLs where the copyrighted work can be viewed. Also, include the link to the infringing material.

Scraping Site

The DMCA request tends to work pretty quickly so you want to keep an eye on how many pages are currently indexed and compare it over the next few days or weeks. You can double check this by running another search query containing a snippet of your stolen copy. If you were successful in your attempt at protecting your content, you will see that Google has removed pages from its search engine that were infringing upon your copyrights once they complete their investigation.

Monitoring tip: If you would like to check the progress of your request, perform a site search if the offending site and make a note of the number of pages Google has indexed (see below). Compare this number to future searches and you may find the Google now indexes fewer of the website’s pages than before your request. This is a sign that Google may be taking action.

stolen content before after

You’ll know you’ve reached a final resolution when you run a search query and see the following highlighted message displayed:

stolen content example

Good luck and happy hunting!

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