Well, I didn’t take my own advice and my site was hacked.

Oh, lordy lordy..

There are so many time-wasters online, from hackers to spammers, it makes one utter foul words. And it’s two days I won’t get back in a hurry. So let this be a lesson to all WordPress users out there:

  • Update WordPress and plugins regularly
  • Back up your database and files regularly and download to your PC.

But hey it’s nearly Christmas and at least I now have a fresh look for the site, so watch out for the next blog post.



Ecommerce Best Practice from jocks and socks sellers Manpacks

Manpacks, if you haven’t heard of them, are an ecommerce success story founded by two guys who came up with a great concept for selling undies. The idea is a subscription-based ecommerce business model for mens underwear. They bundle underwear, socks and other manly goods, customers sign up for an order and they get them sent every 3 or 6 months thus replenishing their drawers, so to speak.  Fantastic – even if it does put some Mums out of business.


Andrew Draper kindly shared their story this morning at an IIA eCommerce Breakfast Briefing. The audience was a mix of suits and casuals (spot the techies) spread across the assorted sofas of Engine Yards rather cool, loft style ‘offices’ based in Barrow Street.

So what were his nuggets of ecommerce wisdom informing ecommerce best practice:

User Experience and Testing

Andrew outlined the amount of testing that they did on the design of the site, and continue to do. Initially, traffic levels were too low for effective A/B testing and they carried out what he called ‘pulse testing’. They tested a version for 5 days and carefully segmented the traffic to check conversion rates. Then they iterated. They kept Steve Krug’s usability mantra, and book title, ‘Don’t Make Me Think’ to the forefront of their minds and recognised the importance of reducing the cognitive load at the beginning of the customer journey. Make it easy for them to do what they want to do and what you want them to do. And that’s to shop.

Customer-centric approach

He pointed to the Online Chat option on the site which has been hugely important in establishing relationships with their customers. It’s often his co-founder Ken doing the chatting. In terms of email contact with customers he recommended never using ‘no-reply’ emails. In contrast to many businesses, they positively encourage questions in emails.


  • Social Media:     Twitter was a very strong channel for them, especially in the beginning. But even now, they spend a lot of time talking to customers across different channels. At the time of writing the Facebook page couldn’t be found – he wasn’t aware of what happened there.
  • Press:    Press mentions were a big help in getting the word out.
  • PPC:       They tried Google AdWords but found the conversion rates weren’t strong and now run brand campaigns only. They’ve experienced better conversion rates with Facebook ads. They run ads for 3 days, with perhaps 10 to 20 different ad formats and then analyse results. This just goes to emphasise the importance of testing as many businesses experience fairly low conversion rates on this platform.
  • SEO:       I asked Andrew about their approach to SEO, he said their approach to site design was user experience first and then optimisation. Initially, the organic traffic was only about 2%. Now they have dedicated product landing pages for all products. From a user perspective this isn’t obvious and doesn’t impact on the user journey.
  • Sponsorship:      They undertake activities like sponsoring video games, which is a powerful way to connect with their target audience.

All in all, great insights and a lovely guy and thanks to the IIA for organising. The key takeaway I think to successful selling online is know your customer, be fun and talk to them.

I especially like the mission statement of the Director of Marketing & Social Media:

Awesome all the things!

Unfortunately they don’t ship to Europe so you won’t be able to get a Manpack here. Not yet anyhow.

If you’re running an ecommerce site and are looking for a payments solution I’d best mention IIA member WorldNet TPS for a great service.


How to Pass the Google Analytics Exam

Well, it’s September and back to school time around here.

If you’re working in online marketing and planning to up-skill, or simply want to have certification to go with your skills, the Google Analytics Individual Qualification is a great place to start.

Google Analytics screenshot

For those of you unclear about what Google Analytics is, it’s a free web analytics tool hosted by Google which is installed on over 10 million websites worldwide.

So it’s quite the cookie monster!

The purpose of using an analytics tool to gather data on how visitors use your site is to gain actionable insights, which inform website or business improvements. While Google provide the data, interpreting it and using it to make useful changes for the purpose of increasing conversions is at the crux of it.

Google provides a certification for individuals working with the package and this is a fantastic way of validating your knowledge. It also adds a layer of confidence for prospective clients and employers alike.

Certification Details

  • It costs $50 (around €39) – if you don’t get the exam first time you can retake after 14 days but you do have to pay again
  • The certification lasts 18 months.
  • You can add your name to a publicly searchable directory of certified individuals which you can see here by selecting ‘Search for Qualified Individuals’.
  • 70 multiple choice questions – some with more than 1 answer
  • Duration is 90 minutes
  • Pass mark is 80%
  • Open book exam – you can have an analytics account and the notes open while you do the exam
  • Pause test option – unlike the AdWords exams you can pause the test and come back to finish it within 5 days
  • When you’re finished you’re given your score straight away. So you can tell how many questions you got wrong – if any. But they don’t tell you which ones. (I got 2 wrong – grrh..)
  • You take the test at http://google.starttest.com

Format of IQ Exam

  • 70 multiple choice questions – some with more than 1 answer
  • 90 minutes
  • Pass mark is 80%
  • Open book exam – you can have an analytics account and the notes open while you do the exam
  • Pause test option – unlike the AdWords exams you can pause the test and come back to finish it within 5 days

When you’re finished you’re given your score straight away. So you can tell how many questions you got wrong – if any. But they don’t tell you which ones. (I got 2 wrong – grrh..)

Exam content

The best place to start to study for the exam is at Google Analytics Conversion University. This is a series of presentations provided free by Google which covers pretty much all the content in the exam.

At the time of writing the presentations don’t include the new features of Google Analytics such as:

  • Content Experiments (Website Optimizer is to be deprecated)
  • Social
  • Mult-Channel Funnels

My exam didn’t have questions relating to these, but it did have a question on Real-time Reporting which isn’t covered in the presentations. So, best practice is to cover all aspects and functionality. In order to be a practitioner you need to be able to use all these reports anyhow.

Google Analytics Study Tips

While going through the presentations it’s a good idea to:

  • have an analytics account open to practice and make sure you know where to find things
  • take a copy of the text notes for later revision

Practice questions are available on the community site http://www.googleanalyticstest.com. This is a great resource (and free) for going through similar questions and has a built-in scoring system. You may find the answers need to be clarified or corrected though. I corrected one and they responded really quickly. But it’s fantastic for testing your knowledge. In my experience, the questions are more difficult than those in the actual exam and are sometimes more ambiguous than those in the exam.

Another useful resource is the Google Analytics Test Guide provided by Slingshot SEO.

For further Google Analytics study subscribe to the Google Analytics blog and also to Avinash (middle name Ninja!) Kaushik’s blog Occams Razor. His tagline is ‘data driven decision making uncomplexified’.

Google Analytics Exam Tips

Keep the following open while you do the test:

Some of the questions have more than 1 correct answer and for some they tell you how many options to tick, but for others they don’t. For some it’s a case of choosing the ‘best’ or most sensible answer. In Google Analytics there are often different ways to do things.

Good luck!

If you’d like to set up a one-on-one Google Analytics training session using your own website/s do give me a call.


Breaking croissants with Facebook in Dublin

I squelched my way through the rain last week to the June Digital Marketing Institute breakfast event to break croissants with Facebook. But it was worth it.

Facebook Like graphicAndrew Weld-Moore and Neasa Costin were the presenters and the capable pair took us through the new timeline features for pages and went on to discuss advertising options. All along the way they threw out some impressive statistics – though once you get into millions and gazillions it’s all a bit like bank borrowings isn’t it?

But to give credit where it’s due, there are 901m people on Facebook and 526m users log in every day.

Facebook didn’t mention whether they were taking over the former Bank of Ireland head offices on Baggot Street, but with over 2m active users in Ireland the immensely bankable bunch certainly dominate the social landscape. And apparently us Irish are more sociable than other nations – the average number of friends per user generally is 130, but here we have more like 240. Angela Merkel thinks we’re at work once again. Interestingly, half of these users are logging in on mobile devices. But that’s no surprise to anyone who’s been on the DART.

Some of the newer features they discussed included:

  • Timeline – a whole new look which does offer a better interface and presents posts chronologically.
  • Messages – this one is particularly useful when you want to take an issue offline with a fan. It’s not always useful or appropriate to reply on the wall to certain issues that are raised.
  • Pinned post – I like this one. It means you can raise the profile of a really good post to the top of the timeline. It lasts for 7 days.
  • Milestones – these are key events that you can mark on the timeline. This can give a bit of structure to the content on the timeline and be more informative to new fans.
  • Offers – these are vouchers that will be emailed to recipients and they can print off or show on their mobile at a store to get a reduction. They cited the example of Lifestyle Sports who used this quite effectively when they reached 100k fans. I went in to have a look at the page and couldn’t find it – I do wish Facebook would improve their search. I went to Google to find the page.

The presentation focused on how businesses could measure the effectiveness of budget spent on social. This has been a bit difficult for marketers, though in terms of Google Analytics the attribution of conversion visits is now more comprehensive with the recently launched social analytics report. (They didn’t mention Google however – perhaps they’re not friends..) Using the DMI page as an example, they analysed data using an internal tool and showed that 1 share on Facebook resulted in 13 clicks to the website.

General Tips for using Pages to create engagement

Both Andrew and Neasa emphasised keeping the business objectives in mind when deciding on marketing activities on pages:

  1. Focus on target market and who you want to engage with instead of numbers of likes.
  2. Photos and videos are the best for sharing.
  3. Post once a day as a guide and only when you have relevant content or conversation.
  4. Create a posting schedule to align with other marketing activities.

Advertising Options

For businesses the question is not whether your target market is on Facebook, because in most cases they are, but the challenge is in reaching them. And for most businesses right now it’s about reaching them on a limited budget.

In a nutshell, the Facebook team recommend using Ads to target new fans and the targeting options work really well for many businesses. Then use sponsored Stories to reach fans and friends of fans.

This new sponsored stories feature allows businesses pay to push posts out to the newsfeeds of friends of fans. For example, if someone likes a Page, their friends may see it in their news feed. This is the way to get over edgerank and make sure your posts are getting into the newsfeeds of fans. When a business pays to promote this action as a sponsored story, the person’s friends are more likely to see it and engage. You need to have 200+ fans to run with this.

Personally, I’m not sure how well this will be received as placed in the newsfeed it feels like interruptive advertising.

But I suppose for Facebook it’s a case of test, gauge reaction and iterate. It should be noted that Facebook will be paying $10m in a settlement over privacy issues with sponsored stories.

Products coming down the line

They closed the presentation with a look at the new logout experience, LOX. This soon to be launched feature is advertising shown on the screen when a user logs out, as many users on shared devices do regularly. It is untargeted advertising and they compared it to a billboard campaign. It’s more relevant for bigger brands, but for Facebook it represents a way to monetise millions of monthly pageviews.

And one month after a troublesome IPO, I guess revenue generating features are what shareholders want to experience.

Facebook logout experience LOX

Note: This article first appeared on the Digital Marketing Institute Blog.