Tag Archive | "Maximum"

Structuring URLs for Easy Data Gathering and Maximum Efficiency

Posted by Dom-Woodman

Imagine you work for an e-commerce company.

Wouldn’t it be useful to know the total organic sessions and conversions to all of your products? Every week?

If you have access to some analytics for an e-commerce company, try and generate that report now. Give it 5 minutes.

Done?

Or did that quick question turn out to be deceptively complicated? Did you fall into a rabbit hole of scraping and estimations?

Not being able to easily answer that question — and others like it — is costing you thousands every year.

Let’s jump back a step

Every online business, whether it’s a property portal or an e-commerce store, will likely have spent hours and hours agonizing over decisions about how their website should look, feel, and be constructed.

The biggest decision is usually this: What will we build our website with? And from there, there are hundreds of decisions, all the way down to what categories should we have on our blog?

Each of these decisions will generate future costs and opportunities, shaping how the business operates.

Somewhere in this process, a URL structure will be decided on. Hopefully it will be logical, but the context in which it’s created is different from how it ends up being used.

As a business grows, the desire for more information and better analytics grows. We hire data analysts and pay agencies thousands of dollars to go out, gather this data, and wrangle it into a useful format so that smart business decisions can be made.

It’s too late. You’ve already wasted £1000s a year.

It’s already too late; by this point, you’ve already created hours and hours of extra work for the people who have to analyze your data and thousands will be wasted.

All because no one structured the URLs with data gathering in mind.

How about an example?

Let’s go back to the problem we talked about at the start, but go through the whole story. An e-commerce company goes to an agency and asks them to get total organic sessions to all of their product pages. They want to measure performance over time.

Now this company was very diligent when they made their site. They’d read Moz and hired an SEO agency when they designed their website and so they’d read this piece of advice: products need to sit at the root. (E.g. mysite.com/white-t-shirt.)

Apparently a lot of websites read this piece of advice, because with minimal searching you can find plenty of sites whose product pages that rank do sit at the root: Appleyard Flowers, Game, Tesco Direct.

At one level it makes sense: a product might be in multiple categories (LCD & 42” TVs, for example), so you want to avoid duplicate content. Plus, if you changed the categories, you wouldn’t want to have to redirect all the products.

But from a data gathering point of view, this is awful. Why? There is now no way in Google Analytics to select all the products unless we had the foresight to set up something earlier, like a custom dimension or content grouping. There is nothing that separates the product URLs from any other URL we might have at the root.

How could our hypothetical data analyst get the data at this point?

They might have to crawl all the pages on the site so they can pick them out with an HTML footprint (a particular piece of HTML on a page that identifies the template), or get an internal list from whoever owns the data in the organization. Once they’ve got all the product URLs, they’ll then have to match this data to the Google Analytics in Excel, probably with a VLOOKUP or, if the data set is too large, a database.

Shoot. This is starting to sound quite expensive.

And of course, if you want to do this analysis regularly, that list will constantly change. The range of products being sold will change. So it will need to be a scheduled scrape or automated report. If we go the scraping route, we could do this, but crawling regularly isn’t possible with Screaming Frog. Now we’re either spending regular time on Screaming Frog or paying for a cloud crawler that you can schedule. If we go the other route, we could have a dev build us an internal automated report we can go to once we can get the resource internally.

Wow, now this is really expensive: a couple days’ worth of dev time, or a recurring job for your SEO consultant or data analyst each week.

This could’ve been a couple of clicks on a default report.

If we have the foresight to put all the products in a folder called /products/, this entire lengthy process becomes one step:

Load the landing pages report in Google Analytics and filter for URLs beginning with /product/.

Congratulations — you’ve just cut a couple days off your agency fee, saved valuable dev time, or gained the ability to fire your second data analyst because your first is now so damn efficient (sorry, second analysts).

As a data analyst or SEO consultant, you continually bump into these kinds of issues, which suck up time and turn quick tasks into endless chores.

What is unique about a URL?

For most analytics services, it’s the main piece of information you can use to identify the page. Google Analytics, Google Search Console, log files, all of these only have access to the URL most of the time and in some cases that’s all you’ll get — you can never change this.

The vast majority of site analyses requires working with templates and generalizing across groups of similar pages. You need to work with templates and you need to be able to do this by URL.

It’s crucial.

There’s a Jeff Bezos saying that’s appropriate here:

“There are two types of decisions. Type 1 decisions are not reversible, and you have to be very careful making them. Type 2 decisions are like walking through a door — if you don’t like the decision, you can always go back.”

Setting URLs is very much a Type 1 decision. As anyone in SEO knows, you really don’t want to be constantly changing URLs; it causes a lot of problems, so when they’re being set up we need to take our time.

How should you set up your URLs?

How do you pick good URL patterns?

First, let’s define a good pattern. A good pattern is something which we can use to easily select a template of URLs, ideally using contains rather than any complicated regex.

This usually means we’re talking about adding folders because they’re easiest to find with just a contains filter, i.e. /products/, /blogs/, etc.

We also want to keep things human-readable when possible, so we need to bear that in mind when choosing our folders.

So where should we add folders to our URLs?

I always ask the following two questions:

  • Will I need to group the pages in this template together?
    • If a set of pages needs grouping I need to put them in the same folder, so we can identify this by URL.
  • Are there crucial sub-groupings for this set of pages? If there are, are they mutually exclusive and how often might they change?
    • If there are common groupings I may want to make, then I should consider putting this in the URL, unless those data groupings are liable to change.

Let’s look at a couple examples.

Firstly, back to our product example: let’s suppose we’re setting up product URLs for a fashion e-commerce store.

Will I need to group the products together? Yes, almost certainly. There clearly needs to be a way of grouping in the URL. We should put them in a /product/ folder.

Within in this template, how might I need to group these URLs together? The most plausible grouping for products is the product category. Let’s take a black midi dress.

What about putting “little black dress” or “midi” as a category? Well, are they mutually exclusive? Our dress could fit in the “little black dress” category and the “midi dress” category, so that’s probably not something we should add as a folder in the URL.

What about moving up a level and using “dress” as a category? Now that is far more suitable, if we could reasonably split all our products into:

  • Dresses
  • Tops
  • Skirts
  • Trousers
  • Jeans

And if we were happy with having jeans and trousers separate then this might indeed be an excellent fit that would allow us to easily measure the performance of each top-level category. These also seem relatively unlikely to change and, as long as we’re happy having this type of hierarchy at the top (as opposed to, say, “season,” for example), it makes a lot of sense.

What are some common URL patterns people should use?

Product pages

We’ve banged on about this enough and gone through the example above. Stick your products in a /products/ folder.

Articles

Applying the same rules we talked about to articles and two things jump out. The first is top-level categorization.

For example, adding in the following folders would allow you to easily measure the top-level performance of articles:

  • Travel
  • Sports
  • News

You should, of course, be keeping them all in a /blog/ or /guides/ etc. folder too, because you won’t want to group just by category.

Here’s an example of all 3:

  • A bad blog article URL: example.com/this-is-an-article-name/
  • A better blog article URL: example.com/blog/this-is-an-article-name/
  • An even better blog article URL: example.com/blog/sports/this-is-an-article-name

The second, which obeys all our rules, is author groupings, which may be well-suited for editorial sites with a large number of authors that they want performance stats on.

Location grouping

Many types of websites often have category pages per location. For example:

  • Cars for sale in Manchester – /for-sale/vehicles/manchester
  • Cars for sale in Birmingham. – /for-sale/vehicles/birmingham

However, there are many different levels of location granularity. For example, here are 4 different URLs, each a more specific location in the one above it (sorry to all our non-UK readers — just run with me here).

  • Cars for sale in Suffolk – /for-sale/vehicles/suffolk
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich – /for-sale/vehicles/ipswich
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich center – /for-sale/vehicles/ipswich-center
  • Cars for sale on Lancaster road – /for-sale/vehicles/lancaster-road

Obviously every site will have different levels of location granularity, but a grouping often missing here is providing the level of location granularity in the URL. For example:

  • Cars for sale in Suffolk – /for-sale/cars/county/suffolk
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich – /for-sale/vehicles/town/ipswich
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich center – /for-sale/vehicles/area/ipswich-center
  • Cars for sale on Lancaster road – /for-sale/vehicles/street/lancaster-road

This could even just be numbers (although this is less ideal because it breaks our second rule):

  • Cars for sale in Suffolk – /for-sale/vehicles/04/suffolk
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich – /for-sale/vehicles/03/ipswich
  • Cars for sale in Ipswich center – /for-sale/vehicles/02/ipswich-center
  • Cars for sale on Lancaster road – /for-sale/vehicles/01/lancaster-road

This makes it very easy to assess and measure the performance of each layer so you can understand if it’s necessary, or if perhaps you’ve aggregated too much.

What other good (or bad) examples of this has the community come across? Let’s here it!

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For Maximum Productivity People Would Rather Work Alone but Not at Home

332483_office_and_working_place_pics_7I sat down to write this post two hours ago. Then I got distracted. I took a phone call, that led to a couple of follow-up tasks, and then two emails came in that I could deal with in under ten minutes, so I took care of those, too. Then I had to deal with the coffee pot someone left brewing on the stove. . . (burning coffee. . and I don’t even drink the stuff.) Now, here I am, trying to get back on task while part of my brain freaks out about how late it is.

Imagine how much we could get done if we worked in a distraction free environment? Since that’s not going to happen, Ask.com distracted office workers all over America by asking them what could be done to help them achieve maximum productivity.

An overwhelming number of respondents (86%) simply want to be left alone. Almost half complained about the number of impromptu meetings that occur when co-workers stop by their desk. Six out of ten said that noisy co-workers were a distraction even when they stayed on their own side of the fuzzy, grey divider.

24% of people said they could get more work done if people would just stop holding meetings to talk about the work that wasn’t getting done.

Unfortunately, eliminating actual vocal chatter doesn’t guarantee a distraction-free workplace because 46% of people said they use email, IM and phones to talk to co-workers who sit within a few feet of them.

The best solution would appear to be working from home but only 29% of respondents said they’d prefer it. I guess the world has finally come to realize that working from home doesn’t mean lounging around in your PJs all day. It comes with its own set of issues and distractions (kids, pets, dirty dishes call you from the sink. . . . )

Traditional vs Newsroom

If you’re part of a tech start-up company, you probably work in an open room with long tables and lots of people pounding away on their laptops. A lot of creative firms such as ad agencies like to work this way, too. It’s suppose to foster idea sharing and it forces a level of energy that you don’t see in a traditional setting.

But how can you concentrate with all that visual and auditory input? Here’s what Ask.com found out:

  • Despite noisy co-workers cited as a top distraction, over one quarter (27 percent) prefer an “open room” or “newsroom” setting
  • Younger adults are more likely to prefer to work in a newsroom setting than their older counterpart
  • Men (42%) are much more likely to want to work in a cubicle with other coworkers than women (28%)
  • Those who are single/never married (43%) are more likely to prefer to work in a cubicle with other co-workers than those who are married (30%)
  • More than a third of those who have a boss have little desire to work alongside their higher-ups. The findings indicate that 38% would rather do unpleasant activities than sit next to their boss, such as opt for more work on their plates, sit next to someone who eats loudly, and take on a longer commute.

Even though we have a ton of technology to help us do things faster and more efficiently, it seems like there are less hours in a work day than ever before. Maybe it’s because companies are hiring 5 people to do the work of 10. Or perhaps its because we’ve been taught that we have to do it all, all the time. Or maybe its the technology itself that’s keeping us from getting our work done (Facebook. . . I’m talking to you.) Whatever the reason, distractions cost us all time and money and they leave you more stressed at the end of the day.

What we all need, is a little breathing room. Ten minutes to clear our minds and focus our thoughts. After that it’s back to blog post, video creation, Twitter, Facebook, Skype meeting, PowerPoint presentation. . . you know. . . business as usual.

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Which News Media Should You Use To Gain Maximum Exposure?

Not every piece of news you come up with will be suitable for every news medium, and in many cases, the success of your pitch to media will be dependent on whether the story suits the type of outlet you are pitching it to.

Obviously, it goes without saying that your story needs to be relevant to the journalist, publication or section you pitch it to. This goes for location and for area of interest.

For example, a news story about a new store opening in Chicago won’t be immediately relevant to a newspaper in California. And it makes sense that you would not pitch it to a Californian newspaper anyway, because the target audience (ie, potential customers for the store) will be local to it, and not living in California, therefore it makes sense you would pitch it to a local newspaper.

Similarly, if your beauty business has found a new revolutionary anti-aging solution, the motoring reporter for your local newspaper is not likely to find this story relevant and neither will its readers.

The Exception To The Rule

With most things in life, there is always going to be an exception to the rule. It may be important that you appeal to an audience interstate for your new store in Chicago, for example, to demonstrate the expanse of your brand across the country, or because you plan to open in California shortly. Here are some tips to help offer some relevance to mediums that are outside of the immediate geographical or topical area of relevance. /> id="more-7805">

  • If the issue is geographical, firstly examine your reasons for pitching the story to a news outlet that is a physical distance away from you or your business. You must be convinced that you have a genuine audience in these locations (and you have done some research into this – not just pulled that locality out of a hat).
  • In order to pitch successfully, you must come up with an angle that is directly relevant to that locality. Perhaps you were born or grew up there, or maybe a key member in your team did? Maybe your business is going to directly solve a problem that is key to that locality and it is easily accessible to them? Do you already have a presence in that location or do you have concrete plans to set up one in the future?
  • If the issue is not directly relevant from a topical basis, you will need to find a way to convert your story to the outlet’s style and/or areas of interest.For example, you would create a story around your business success (maybe make it relevant to surviving the GFC) for a business-oriented outlet or section. If the section is more human interest, you might use a case study of a happy client to pitch the story – how your product or service changed their life. If the section or outlet is information based, then create a how-to list that will be directly relevant to the audience.
  • Again, make sure you have a reason for pitching to an outlet or section that is outside of your direct relevancy. Just because it is there and people access it is not a good enough reason. If the audience is not likely to buy from you or be interested, you are simply wasting your time, and that of the journalist, who has to sift through reams of useless information sent to him/her on a daily basis.

The Visual and Audio Mediums

There is nothing more exhilarating than href="http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/4031/how-to-get-free-publicity-on-tv-and-radio/">seeing yourself on TV or achieving an interview on radio. Imagine being offered a spot on a morning TV show or talk-back radio! While seemingly obvious, it’s amazing how many people are tripped up by this next fact: TV requires visuals and radio is going to require audio.

Unless you are a well known personality already, it is very seldom you will be able to get away with a mention by the presenter without making some sort of appearance yourself, either directly or indirectly. If you are determined you do not want to appear on TV or speak on radio (and there is no other relevant senior member of your business who can), then you are wasting your time pitching to these sort of outlets.

Before approaching radio and TV, consider what news you have to share very carefully. The relevancy rules above still apply, but because we have the added audio/visual components, other factors come into play.

For TV:

  • Does your story have a visual aspect, or could you create one? An event or demonstration is perfect, as is an interesting interview with yourself or someone else relevant to the story that you could offer as talent.
  • Are you within reasonable proximity to the program/station or a supplier to them so that they can capture footage? Can you attend an interview in a studio at the other side of the country on a specified day and time?

For radio:

  • Does your story translate to radio? If it is very visual, for example, a physical demonstration, it may not be appropriate, or you may need to be creative to allow it to be.
  • Are you going to be available to be interviewed in a quiet place over the phone on the subject? Bear in mind that breakfast radio and news will require a very early morning wake-up call that you need to be ready for at the specified time.
  • If required, are you able to attend a radio studio for the interview, with any other talent as required?

If you are serious about obtaining exposure via any news medium, the reality is that you are going to need to comply to their terms and conditions.

You will need to make yourself available at the time and location the journalist specifies, for photos and interviews, and be prepared to talk on any topic around the news angle (be prepared for curve balls!). If they ask for photos and/or additional information, provide it without hesitation or do your best to obtain it. Remember, they are working to tight deadlines and will need your full co-operation. But the rewards can be very handsome, so it’s all definitely worth the effort!

Kerry McDuling

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