How To Use Annotations in Google Analytics

Picture this: you’re checking out your website data in Google Analytics, and decide to look at your monthly traffic year-over-year. You see a huge spike in traffic on a single day last year, but you aren’t quite sure what caused it. Were you running a special that day? Perhaps a new TV commercial aired? Or maybe a direct mail piece dropped? Hmm…you start shuffling through old emails and notes to solve the mystery.

Traffic Spike

Without knowing exactly what could have affected last year’s traffic spike, it’s impossible to measure the impact individual circumstances have on your website. Sure, you can keep an Excel spreadsheet with a long list of dates. But what if I told you there was an easy way to keep all those events organized, in one place, and in context? Yep, you can do it right alongside your website data with Google Analytics annotations.

Annotations allow you to note a particular event that could have an impact on your data right on the date that it occurred.

Here are some of the types of things I like to annotate:

–          Website downtime

–          Sales and special promotions

–          Website development changes

–          Marketing campaigns (direct mail, TV, radio)

–          Content changes

–          Press releases or high profile featured content around the web

–          And any other time-specific event that could possibly affect website visits and user behavior

Making annotations in GA is incredibly easy. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Click the little down arrow under your traffic chart and click “Create New Annotation” on the right.
  2. Enter a date, a note, and choose the annotation’s visibility.
  3. Save.

Annotate

That’s it. No, really. It’s that simple!! Annotations are indicated by the little text bubbles at the bottom of your chart. To see the details simply click the bubble.

To see a comprehensive list of all annotations for your view, go to the Admin panel and click Annotations.

Admin

If I can offer you one final tip for using annotations in GA, it is to be explicit. Trust me when I say, it will save future you a lot of frustration. “Online Sale”…great…but what was on sale? While Google only gives you 160 characters, be as detailed as possible! If your notes are enigmatic, you’re wasting your time creating them to begin with.

How do you use GA annotations to help analyze your website data?

By | 2017-06-16T12:50:19+00:00 August 23rd, 2016|Google Analytics|Comments Off on How To Use Annotations in Google Analytics

Power Up Online Visibility to Your University with SEO

Universities and Colleges are beginning to realize the true value of SEO for Higher Education. Unfortunately, the SEO landscape is volatile and ever changing. However, there are some best practices which have been fairly consistent over the last couple of years. We believe that these best practices will continue to be relevant throughout 2016 and work to improve online visibility.

Keyword Research and Targeting Specific URLs 

Higher education institutions should embrace keyword research and use it to build relevant pages. These pages should be built around their core programs they offer. To get started first conduct keyword research which will drive content creation. You can start with a free keyword research tool from SEObook. This tool pulls data from Google and Bing’s databases. Simply input the term you want to get information on. This tool returns data on monthly search volumes along with related terms.

Keyword Research for Higher Ed

Next, you want to build an appropriate page around a theme of closely related keywords. These keywords should relate to educational programs your University offers.

For example, upon conducting some research I came across a few Universities who had important content within PDFs. Rather than a dedicated landing page, one University had downloadable PDFs of their courses.

landing page example

 

An alternative would be to build a landing page around this content and include some sort of conversion point. In case you do not know what a micro conversion is it is a small step on the path of a visitor towards your website’s primary goal.

Avoid Duplicate Content

Google admits that 25-30% of the internet is duplicated content. However, we can still take measures to avoid this. To get an idea if your site has duplicate content simply use Siteliner to run a quick diagnostic.

Identify duplicate contentI can see this college has around 10% duplicated content but, the free version this tool will only look at 250 pages. A way to fix this is to write unique copy on key pages and block unnecessary pages from being crawled by search engines with a robots.txt file. The robots.txt is a nifty text file you can create to instruct search engine robots on where and where not to crawl your site.

Get a Grip on Local Visibility 

local search visibility

 

Colleges are not immune from the types of competition businesses face online. As you can see competition is fierce. There are a lot of different options for any prospective student deciding on where to further their education. Local visibility or local SEO has risen in prominence over the last several years. But how can Higher Educational Institutions benefit?

Google has begun to provide more individualized search features. These personalized features are based on a person’s geographic location and search history. You can take advantage of this by:

Local Citation Corrections – Your first job is to make sure your college’s address is easily found on key pages. Then you need to ensure it is listed correctly throughout the web.

local citation reviews

 

Local Content – Once your Higher Ed’s citations are handled it’s time to produce local content. It’s important this content resonates with your audience. Maybe you build a page dedicated to ‘College Life’ and talk about activities around your college’s campus.

Don’t Block Important Resources

Blocking content that is important to searchers within search engines is detrimental. A common way to block important information is with a robots.txt file.

A robots.txt file is a simple file which holds pretty significant power. This file controls how search engines initially crawl a website when they first visit. However as you can imagine it can be pretty easy to block important resources you would otherwise want indexed. To check this simply type your domain name “example.com/robots.txt”. Remember replace “example.com” with your Universities domain name.

robots.txt sample

 

A good rule of thumb is to not block key pages from search engines with a robots.txt file. For example, you would not want to block important categories such as, Admissions, Academics, or Athletics sections.

Keep in mind, if you use Google Site Search as your internal site search, blocking a section with the robots.txt file will also prevent it from showing up properly in your internal search as well.

Higher Educational institutions may not take digital marketing or search engine optimization into consideration. However, no website is immune from the grasps of Google.

Take advantage of digital marketing and SEO to get in front of more prospective students. By conducting keyword research, avoiding duplicate content issues, and gaining more local visibility you can reach a wider more targeted audience.

Jordan Lowry
Jordan is a Digital Marketing Analyst in SEO, PPC and Social Media. He recently graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a strong business background running a start-up.
By | 2017-10-09T09:41:04+00:00 June 17th, 2016|Higher Education|Comments Off on Power Up Online Visibility to Your University with SEO

How to Identify Stolen Content and Take Action!

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!

Jordan Lowry
Jordan is a Digital Marketing Analyst in SEO, PPC and Social Media. He recently graduated from UNC-Greensboro with a strong business background running a start-up.
By | 2017-06-16T12:46:34+00:00 February 9th, 2016|SEO|Comments Off on How to Identify Stolen Content and Take Action!

How To Make The Most Out Of Your Web Design

I spend a lot of time inside and outside of work studying design. I think it gets to a point for everyone where design becomes difficult to ignore, as it influences our every day decisions. It’s important to understand design elements and how they not only affect you on a day to day basis, but your customers as well. You can ask yourself the following questions:

How does my target audience perceive my brand?

Does my website’s design go hand in hand with my content?

What kind of experiences are users having when they land on my website?

Is my design making an emotional connection with my customers?

Because websites are so multi-dimensional, there is no one way to answer these questions. It’s an ever changing industry and with new technology comes updates on how we approach design. Lucky for you, Beacon has been in the industry for 16 years. We love answering these questions because these are the questions you have to ask to get to a successfully designed website.

Since being in the website industry, I’ve had the opportunity to wear many hats. This has helped me approach website design and development from every angle with all considerations in mind. Below I have listed a few elements to consider when designs a website.

 

User Experience

  • A beginners guide to UI design. Read more.
  • How to beat the paradox of choice in UI design. Read more.

Fonts

Colors

  • An introduction to color theory for web designers. Read more.
  • How to get a professional look with color. Read more.
  • Five web design colors that encourage visitors to click that subscribe button. Read more.

Images

  • How to use images effectively in websites. Read more.
  • How to use photography in web design. Read more.

And finally…

 

In today’s world, your website is one of your most vital marketing tools. If you would like to find out more about how redesigning your website can push your business forward, let us know!

By | 2017-08-15T15:50:26+00:00 April 11th, 2014|Cascade CMS|1 Comment

9 Basic Google Analytic Terms You Should Know

After a few client meetings, I realized that some of our clients don’t know the basic “GA lingo” that we use in our reports. It seemed like I was having to explain certain terms over and over, which to me seemed odd but then again I do this for a living so I’m supposed to know them. I realize that people who don’t study web analytics won’t know what each term is and that my reports probably looks/sounds like a foreign language. So to help clear up some common questions, I’ve listed below the Top 9 Common Google Analytic terms and their definitions.
  1. Conversions – This is the completion of a goal on the website. Ex: Filling out an online form, Signing up for a newsletter, Contacting someone by email, etc.
  2. Website Traffic – The number of visits to your site and how they got there.
    • Organic Traffic – Visits that came from someone who found us in the search engine results. (Google, Yahoo, Bing, Aol, etc.)
    • Referral Traffic – These are visitors that originated on another site but clicked on a link that brought them to our site. It could be a link in the content, a banner image, blogroll, etc. However, referral traffic can also be search engine traffic if it’s a small engine. The way GA filters our search from referral is from a list google specifies.
    • Direct Traffic – These are visitors who typed your domains url into the address bar and came directly to the site. It also includes visits that come via a bookmark.
  3. Time on Site – This is the AVERAGE time visitors spend on your site. On a sidenote, I read a report from CBS news that the average time spent on a page is 33 seconds.
  4. Bounce Rate – This is the percent of people that come to a page and don’t visit any other page on the site.
  5. Unique Visitors – This is number of people who came to the site.
  6. Visits – This refers to the number of times the site was visited. This number is always higher than the number of unique visitors because a visitor can visit the site more than once. Does that make sense?

So there you have it. I hope those help to clear up any questions you have about terms we use when talking about web analytics. Feel free to leave us any other questions you have in the comment section and we’ll be sure to answer those as well!

Ashley Agee
Ashley has a BS in Business with a concentration in Marketing from UNCG. She considers herself a marketing maniac during the day and marvelous mom at night. When not working she enjoys spending time with her family and training horses.

Connect with Ashley on Google+

By | 2016-04-29T14:41:56+00:00 June 8th, 2012|Google Analytics|Comments Off on 9 Basic Google Analytic Terms You Should Know

My Christmas Present to You: Dynamic Phone Tracking Script

I am going to preface this post with something that I really should not have to say:  You need to be tracking your web-based inbound phone calls.  If you are not aware of how many calls/leads your website is generating for you, then you have no idea of the true ROI of your website.  Phone tracking is best done by creating a unique number that is available only on the website – this way you know that any calls to that specific number were generated by users who viewed the website.  You do not need a call center or a huge phone plan to do this.  You can get these unique numbers (along with increased tracking features like volume, caller length, and even caller ID) from great companies like IfByPhone that offer these services for very affordable rates.

For most of my clients, it is also critical to track not just volume, but volume by source.  That is, how many calls came from organic, PPC, specific referrals, etc?  The best way to do this is by using dynamic phone tracking.  With dynamic phone tracking, different numbers are displayed to different web visitors depending on the source of each user.  Some companies, like IfByPhone, offer this code as part of their services (others do not), but most have limitations as to how many numbers you can dynamically track on a page at one time.  This does not work for me, as I often need to track local & 1-800 numbers for every page.

No worries, I have written a bit of JavaScript that solves this problem.

First, a few caveats:

1) You must have at least one trackable phone number available to you.

2) This script only works with tagged links.  That means you have to put your parameter on the inbound link to your site.

3) This script is session based.  This means that user will only see this number the first time they come the source (i.e. PPC) you want to track.  If they come from a different source the next time (i.e. direct or organic), they will not see the same dynamically generated number that they did the first time.

4) This script will not work if the user goes to a page through a redirect.

Please note that items #2 thru #4 are not impossible to alter, just a little more complicated than the script I am giving you here.  Feel free to contact Beacon or myself with any questions if you would like to delve deeper.  If you doNow, without further ado…

Begin by placing the following JavaScript in either as a script in your HTML head or as a referenced external .js file.

var current_page = document.URL; var sourceConfirm = current_page.indexOf(“?source-track”);

var phone_num=”XXX-XXX-XXXX”; if (paidConfirm != -1) { document.cookie = “Track this Source”; } else { }

var cookieCheck=document.cookie.indexOf(“Track this Source”);

if (cookieCheck != -1) { phone_num=”YYY-YYY-YYYY”; } else { }

Replace “?source-track” with whatever parameter you are using to tag the inbound link with.  Replace XXX-XXX-XXXX with your default number.   Replace YYY-YYY-YYYY with the variable number that you would like tracked.

Next, where you want the number to display, place:

<script>phone_num</script>

And that is it.  Your default number will display for all users except for those who come to the site via the tagged link.

Merry Christmas!

– EW, follow me on twitter @ejwestksu

By | 2016-11-18T15:00:49+00:00 December 22nd, 2011|Digital Marketing|3 Comments

Mobile is Booming

UPDATE: The information in this post was updated on August 2, 2017. Please read the updated version HERE.

After working in web development for several years, things have changed quite a bit. A majority of people now look to their smartphones or tablets (including me, after work). They are simple to navigate and everything is at our fingertips. Granted, we will always use desktop computers for work and complex tasks.

With all that in mind, it gives us the chance to create great things with new experiences and keep people interested at home or on the go.

Mobile stats are pretty astounding as you can see here:

Courtesy of: Microsoft Tag

Not only is this a great way to provide content for users, but also provides new ways for clients to engage with their customers.

Zedric Myers
Zedric Myers is a Web Designer for Beacon Technologies. After earning his degree in Advertising and Graphic Design, he spent 11 years with an advertising agency in Greensboro, NC where he was initially hired as a designer and transitioned to being a Web Developer.
By | 2017-08-02T14:04:46+00:00 August 11th, 2011|Web Development|Comments Off on Mobile is Booming

Linking out for Quality, Credibility, and Salience

Linking out sometimes gets the short shrift to conserve PageRank to internal links. But linking out can give your web page something that is important to the search engines. The appearance of a page’s quality, credibility and salience.

Two quotes that back up this claim:

In the same way that Google trusts sites less when they link to spammy sites or bad neighborhoods, parts of our system encourage links to good sites.”  – Matt Cutts

Writing descriptive anchor text, the clickable words in a link, is a useful signal to help search engines and users alike to better understand your content.” – Maile Ohye

So, in much the same way that the PageRank algorithm found it useful to score target pages from anchor text, the text in the  anchor text quite frequently relates to the description of the page content and is used to gather information about that page. More specifically, the anchor text is used in improving page categorization or classification of a page.

Is linking out a ranking factor? Some seo’s suggest it does not influence rankings. Others say yes.

But it appears that Google is giving the anchor text more credence than just the regular text in the content and not just for the pages that they link to.

In my opinion, web-page classification has become more sophisticated and faster since Panda.  Panda has improved the accuracy of  classifiers that use both anchor text and content on the page.

This applies to both internal and external links and influences the  co-training algorithm.

As a result, you may want to follow a few do’s and dont’s:

Do’s:

  • Do create descriptive text links that are related to the page category
  • Do link to pages of high authority on related topics with your keyphrases in the anchor text
  • Do surround the text link with normal language

Don’ts:

  • Don’t link out using a large number of unrelated links
  • Don’t repeat the exact same keywords in the text links (use Google Sets instead)
  • Don’t link out to a page that looks spammy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By | 2016-11-18T14:46:52+00:00 August 1st, 2011|SEO|1 Comment

Beacon Technologies Through the Eyes of an Intern – Week 10

Well sadly, this is my last blog post at Beacon.  It’s been a great 10 weeks.  I really have enjoyed my time here.  Looking back, I can’t think of anything negative to say about my experience.  I want to take the chance to kind of do a recap of my time here.

When I came in the first day, I will admit that I was pretty nervous.  I hadn’t really had a lot of exposure to the kind of work that Beacon does so well.  I knew what most of the terms were from talking to a friend of mine who has been doing similar work.  However, the WMS team here helped me learn the skills I needed.  Everyone took time to show me how to do certain tasks and helped me with understanding the clients I worked on as well as what needed to be done for each client.  As the weeks have gone by, I have grown more confident in doing SEO work, managing social media campaigns, and working with PPC campaigns.  I know that I still have a lot to learn in these areas, but Beacon has given me a strong foundation on which to build.

I know that people traditionally think of internships as being filled with a lot of grunt work.  Getting coffee, running errands, doing tasks that no one else wants to do themselves.  That is far from the case here at Beacon.  As you can tell if you have been following my blog posts thus far, I have been an equal member of the WMS team.  I have shared the same responsibilities as everyone else.  I’ve done the same tasks for my clients as they did for their clients.  Often times, interns don’t get to offer advice and feedback during meetings as it is intended that they learn by watching.  Again, this is not the case at Beacon.  The WMS team meets weekly to brainstorm ideas for clients as well as share interesting articles or other helpful information and tools.  The leading of the meetings rotates each week and regardless of the fact that I am an intern, I led the meeting twice during my time here.  I also contributed equally with the team as much as possible.  I will admit that I often did sit back and listen during meetings.  I know that I do not have nearly the amount of knowledge or experience in this field, and as such I wanted to try to learn as much as possible when everyone was together sharing ideas.

Looking back, I have gained a lot of valuable experience.  There are several tasks and projects that I was able to work on and contribute to during the 10 weeks.  I can honestly say that anyone who is looking for an internship should consider Beacon.  The atmosphere, company culture, and employees all lend themselves to a great work environment.

Thank you to everyone here!  It’s been a great experience and I have learned a lot from you all.

By | 2017-08-11T16:07:39+00:00 July 22nd, 2011|Beacon News|Comments Off on Beacon Technologies Through the Eyes of an Intern – Week 10

Time Saving Features in Adwords Editor: The Copy and Paste

I remember back in the day, stumbling upon a neat little tool called “Adwords Editor“.  And it was like the sky broke open, angels sang, and the gods smiled down on me. Once I used it, all I could say was: WHAT. A. FIND. Unfortunately I made this find after having a co-worker do a tremendous and tedious account overhaul manually is Adwords, but let’s not talk about that.

Anyway… we all know how Adwords Editor saves us time creating, managing, and editing PPC accounts. But there are even more features once you get into the nitty-gritty of Editor that are worth being aware of. And today I’d like to talk about the most simple of these: copy & paste.

The Copy and Paste in Adwords Editor

Yup. Good ol’ copy and paste. So, we all know you can export all or parts of an account using the “Export” feature under “File”. But what if you want to manipulate something super specific, like ad copy and keyword destination URLs? Exporting this is difficult and even impossible in some circumstances. Well,  copy and paste to the rescue!

How to Use Copy and Paste in Adwords Editor

Simply Control + C or Shift + C (depending on whether you’re selecting choice data or all data in a group) and Control + V into Excel. All data, including headings, will be pasted. Now do your thing with edits. Save as CSV, making sure your headings match, and import into Editor. Review and approve edits. Done! Now wasn’t that easy?

 

This method has served me particularly well in making large, sweeping changes to ad copy. Give it a try and check back again for more tips on our beloved Adwords Editor!

 

~Andrea

 

 

 

Andrea Cole
Andrea Cole is Beacon’s Director of Digital Marketing and not only provides strategic consultation for Beacon’s top clients, but also drives the overarching strategy across the organization, including tools, processes and direction for SEO, PPC, Social, Email and Analytics. She joined the team in 2010 as an SEO/Analytics expert. Andrea is also the author of The SEOptimist blog which provides useful tips and informative articles on SEO, PPC and Web Marketing. Andrea brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our top level clients.

Connect with Andrea on Google+

By | 2017-08-08T08:35:44+00:00 June 17th, 2011|PPC|Comments Off on Time Saving Features in Adwords Editor: The Copy and Paste
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