10 Ways to Be Strategic with Web Analytics – Feb 2011 RootsTech Presentation

10 Ways to Be Strategic with Web Analytics RootsTech Feb 2011 by Jimmy SmithThis is a presentation I made many years ago at one of the first RootsTech conferences put on by the FamilySearch department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February 2011. At the time, I was working as the Web Analytics Product Manager for the Church. They must have been desperate for speakers–not that I am a bad speaker, but because the content really wasn’t related to family history work or genealogy.

Anyway, I recently rediscover this presentation when I was looking through some old files. I was shocked at how relevant the content is all these years later. In fact, I could almost give this exact same presentation at a digital marketing analytics conference today and it would be just as true, relevant, and insightful as it was then. In fact, I may do that.

As I recall, as I was working with the team to put together the slide deck, there was some ruckus about what images could be used, and copyright issues, and so forth. Finally, I just decided to use my own pictures–photos I took so I could have complete control of how they would be used. So I ended up doing a photo shoot with my kids. I told them what poses to strike and it turned out very nicely. I’m glad I did it.

So without further ado, here were my top 10 ways to be strategic with digital analytics:

  • 10. Keep Your Eye on the Prize: Your Web site exists for a purpose, find it, articulate it, and work towards achieving it. Design the site around that goal. Look at metrics that relate back to that goal and continuously work to improve.
  • 9. Not everything that can be counted counts: Web Analytics cannot exist in a vacuum. It exists for no other purpose other than improving site performance. “You can learn many interesting things by analyzing data.  But you should only spend your time looking at info that identifies opportunities for improvement.” (Actionable Web Analytics Page 53)
  • 8. Be Compelling: You might not be a PhD statistician or know how to run a multi-variate test or know how to set intervals with two standard deviations, etc., but you can still be compelling.
  • 7. Data Beats Guesses: The probability of making the right decisions for website design is dramatically improved when you use even the tiniest amount of empirical data.
  • 6. Questions Before Data: We must understand the difference between a business question and a report request. Rather than trying to respond to report requests, ask: What business problem are you trying to solve?
  • 5. Ask “So What?” Three Times: “Ask every web metric you report the question “so what” three times. …If at the third “so what” you don’t get a recommendation for an action you should take, you have the wrong metric.” (Avinash Kaushik)
  • 4. Use a Balanced Scorecard: Any one metric can be manipulated. Instead, try getting multiple metrics to improve simultaneously.
  • 3. Look at trends rather than level: My boss once asked how confident I was in the precision of a web analytics figure. I said “low” but that I had a high degree of confidence in it’s upward trend over time and it’s context relative to other metrics.
  • 2. Align Goals and Tactics: If you have aligned your website content and features with your goals, the metrics on those tactics will be indicators of how well you are performing against your high level goals.
  • 1. Hold People Accountable. Accountability drives adoption and change. If there is no accountability for the performance of metrics, there will be no improvement.

Democratizing Digital Analytics with Google Data Studio

On Dec 3, 2019 I spoke at Digital Summit Dallas about how I was able to better democratize digital analytics with Google Data Studio in my work at Hilti. If you saw the presentation and want the deck, you can download it from Slideshare. If you missed the presentation, feel free to watch the video or read a rough transcript of my speech below. Enjoy.


John Wanamaker (1838 –1922) is considered by some to be one of the pioneers of modern marketing. Wanamaker started the first department store in Philadelphia and he pioneered a radical new policy–that customers could return goods to get their money back. Wanamaker was the first known retailer to place a half-page newspaper ad (in 1874) and the first full-page ad (in 1879). He was innovative and creative in his work, and he was one of the first proponents of the power of advertising. But Wannamaker had challenges regarding marketing data that he was never able to overcome in his lifetime. A popular saying illustrating how difficult it was to quantify the results of marketing in that era is attributed to Wanamaker. He said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wanamaker)

Then: Dearth of Data. Today: Drowning in Data.

The problem John Wanamaker had in improving and making the most of his marketing efforts was a lack of data. The problem we have today is, in some regards, the complete opposite—we are drowning in data. We are operating in a business environment today where we can know where every dollar is spent and exactly which tactics drive business results, down to specific ad placement and copy. We have data from Google Ads, website analytics data, SEO data, and social media data. We have customer sales data, competitor data, and the list goes on and on. Yet just because there is a flood of data available to us, doesn’t mean marketers are using it to drive performance improvements in our marketing campaigns.

Most Companies Leverage Little or No Marketing Data

A 2017 study on the analytical maturity of marketing organizations was published by DataFloq that reported that 42% of companies can only run rudimentary reports on past marketing performance, and 13% of companies don’t even know where to find their marketing data and thus don’t utilize it at all. That combines to 55% of companies that leverage relatively little or no marketing data to improve performance (https://datafloq.com/read/data-driven-marketing-2017-marketers-data-critical/2859).

companies leverage little or no marketing data

De·moc·ra·tize (verb), to make accessible

Again, the problem isn’t the lack of data, but the lack of data democratization. And by democratize, I do not mean the first dictionary definition of the word, the common connotation of the democratic form of government with voting rights and so forth. I mean the second definition of democratize which is “to make (something) accessible to everyone.”

What is Google Data Studio?

And while I am defining things, I should probably also define Data Studio. It is a relatively new product from Google that was introduced in 2016 and only came out of beta in 2018. It is a data visualization tool similar to Tableau or PowerBI. It can be used to create dashboards and reports, and like many tools from Google, it is free to use.  You can bring data into Data Studio from a variety of sources such as:

  • Google Marketing Platforms (Google Ads, Analytics, Display & Video 360)
  • Google consumer products (Sheets, YouTube, and Search Console)
  • Databases (BigQuery, MySQL, and PostgreSQL)
  • Flat files via CSV file upload and Google Cloud Storage
  • Social media (Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter)

What this Talk is and is Not

Before I go further, I want to be clear that this is not a paid commercial for Google or their Data Studio product. I have no affiliation with Google, other than as a customer and user of their products like most of you. Nor is this talk designed to be a step by step demonstration of how to build reports in Data Studio or how to use all the features. There is plenty of online documentation if you are looking for that kind of help. What this talk is, is a story of how Data Studio has helped me democratize digital analytics data for increase usage by the marketing team, thus making us a more data-driven organization. And hopefully in the process of telling that story, you will get some ideas for how you can use this tool in your work.

Data-Driven Quest

I am a believer in the power of data and I have been on somewhat of a quest throughout my career to make the marketing world more data driven. I had the privilege to start my career in a very data-driven company—FedEx. There I learned many best practices about how to use data in marketing tests to determine what is most effective, but not all companies are as data-driven as FedEx. In fact, a few years later I found myself working for a large, non-profit organization where I oversaw web analytics. The cultural difference between FedEx and the non-profit was dramatic, particularly with regard to being data-driven. To be fair, it wasn’t that the non-profit organization didn’t want to utilize data, it was just hard to quantify the output of many of the activities they were engaged in.

Employees’ Use of Web Analytics Tool

I was frustrated that though my colleagues had access to vast data and reports that could have been used to inform decisions about marketing and the website, it went largely unused. For example, the company had installed Omniture SiteCatalyst, now Adobe Analytics, to track the analytics of the website, yet very few people logged in, looked at the data, or used the reports. Well, I set out to see if I could help change that.

I went on an internal awareness and training campaign to try to get those involved with the organization’s website and digital marketing efforts to utilize the wealth of analytics data at our disposal. Great strides were made, and much improvement was gained, yet at the end of the day, login data showed that only 40% of people with access to the analytics had logged into look at it over a six month period. Only 11%, logged into the web analytics platform on a monthly basis to look at data regarding the website performance. I’m sure, if you were to look at the usage data in your company, many of you would see similarly low rates of people logging into your digital analytics platforms.

Employees' Use of Web Analytics Tool

Hilti Digital Marketing Team

A few years later, I landed at my present company, Hilti. For Hilti’s US website, our digital marketing team produces an average of more than 50 landing pages a month for a variety of purposes, including education, awareness, technical documentation, and marketing activities. As I dug into the data for these pages, I became aware of opportunities for improve of the engagement metrics, particularly with regard to the conversion rates and bounce rates.

Evolution of Digital Analytics Reports at Hilti

Still on my journey to make the marketing world more data-driven, I once again set about to democratize the web analytics data at Hilti. It was a winding road before I finally arrive at the Data Studio solution, but this is how it happened.

  • SharePoint. One of the first things I tried was putting the digital analytics reports on Microsoft SharePoint. Hilti had a robust intranet built on SharePoint, so I gave it a shot, posting monthly reports and other supplemental reports on SharePoint. Despite my efforts, it never took hold. It was too difficult to find and access, and the layout options and features were restrictive. I stopped doing it after a year or so.
  • Google Analytics. Next, I started to try to get the team to use Google Analytics reports more. I began doing training classes and sending out reports for Google Analytics. We saw modest improvements from this effort, but ultimately is was not as successful as I had hoped. We ran into access issues as well as issues with the flexibility, or lack thereof, in GA reports.
  • PowerPoint. Then I migrated into reporting through PowerPoint slide decks. This was more effective in our organization, but it was mainly high-level performance metrics. The reports were primarily shared via email and they were was not scalable for reporting on metrics for individual campaigns. While it had it limitations, these PowerPoint reports saw some success and I continue to use them today. But it wasn’t the kind of huge success I was hoping for, so I kept looking.
  • Power BI. Next I tried using Microsoft’s Power BI tool to create and democratize the digital analytics data. I liked a lot of things about Power BI, but ultimately, we had too many access issues. Licenses were limited and usage of the reports was also severely limited. I haven’t given up yet on Power BI, there are more and more people in our organization using it, so it may yet catch on. But it wasn’t the success I was hoping for to democratize the digital data.
  • Data Studio. Then one day in 2018 I decided to give Data Studio a try. It was still a beta product from Google at the time, but I had heard good things about it. When I tried Data Studio, I found it was easy to learn, and I had lots of flexibility in designing reports. The dashboards were easy to share, and scalable so I could build one report that could be used on many pages or campaigns. And you know what, this amazing thing happened, when I shared the Data Studio reports, my colleagues actually started using them. They voluntarily told me how much they appreciated the reports and they began asking questions about the data and asking for enhancement, which I made and will detail later. I would walk by colleague’s desks and see them using the Data Studio reports I had created and this gave me great satisfaction. From my experience, this type of high usage of digital marketing reports was rare and I knew I was on to something great.

What Makes Data Studio Superior to Other Solutions

Even if you are using Data Studio to only report on Google Analytics data, I have found it to be a superior medium of getting the data into the hands of marketing decision makers. The benefits of Data Studio can be summarized into these three areas:

  • Flexibility in Design and Layout: Google Analytics dashboards have many limitations such as a max of 12 widgets and they force you to use a three column grid and there are other look and feel constraints. With Data Studio, you have much more flexibility in how to arrange charts and graphs however you like. You can add brand themed colors and images, and overall you’ll run into fewer design and layout limitations. For me, I love the flexibility to put all the essential data, charts, and graphs on a single page report that I can give to my marketing partners and Data Studio gives me that ability.
  • Interactive Elements and Filter Controls: One of the things I really like about Data Studio is the ability to add filter controls and other end-user customization elements. Filter controls let me build a single report that can be used for reporting on countless pages and campaigns. Filter controls give end users of the report the ability to select a specific page or campaign that they are interest in and the report refreshes to be based on that selection.
  • Sharing and Ease of Access: The ease of sharing and granting access to other is a major reason why I think Data Studio has taken hold with our marketing team. I can have complete control of permissions and who can access the report, yet sharing it is as easy as copying the URL and sending the link to a colleague. Most people are already logged into their Google Account, with Data Studio reports, there is no separate login and no requirement to navigate around a menu system trying to find the right report. The link takes them straight to the report.

First Data Studio Report Landing Page PerformanceFirst Data Studio Report—Landing Page Performance

Above is a screen shot of the first report I made for Hilti in Data Studio. I wanted to put all the most important metrics about how a landing page was performing on a single, one-page report and this is what I came up with. Please excuse the lack of aesthetic beauty—that’s not my forte. I’m more of a function over form kind of guy. And this was a first iteration design anyway.  At least I did incorporate the Hilti Red color scheme. Let me point out the features of this report:

  • Filter Control for the Page URL: In the top left, you have the filter control for the page URL. When the report end user clicks this filter control, a drop down menu appears listing all the pages on the website. The user can select one or multiple pages, but the report was designed to show the data on only one single page. When the user selects the page for which they want to view data, the report refreshes and presents only the data for that page.
  • Date Range Widget: In the top left you also have the date range widget. Data Studio allows you to put a fixed data range on the report, or you can use a control like this to allow the end user to set whatever date they want. Even if the date selector is on the report, you will still have a default date range, which is 28 days unless you change it.
  • Pageviews, Users, Logged In Users, CTA Events: On the top right of the report, I have four important metrics–pageviews, unique users, logged in users, and call-to-action events, which is generally the measurement to track page conversions.
  • Pageviews Trend: Next I have a line chart on the left side of the report showing pageviews over the date range of the report.
  • Traffic Sources: To the right of that, we have the default traffic channels and then more specific traffic sources.
  • Time on Page, Exits, Bounce Rate, and Page Value: The next chart has the page title associated with that URL and as you can see I leave room for more than one page title. Ideally, there would only be one page title for a URL, but the ideal often doesn’t happen. In this chart I list the pageviews, time on page, exits, bounce rate, and page value for each page title.
  • Previous Page Path: Next is a chart with the previous page the visitor was on before getting to the page in question. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t have an automated way to dynamically pull the next page path or I would have put that on the report as well.
  • Calls-to-Action: Then we have the precise name of the call-to-action that the visitors of the page click. Most of our landing pages have one primary call to action, and several secondary or tertiary calls to action.
  • Devices: Then on the bottom left, we have the device type pie chart to let us know if visitors come on desktop, tablet, or mobile devices.
  • Geo-Location: On the bottom right is a simple geo-location report to tell us where people are from who visit the page.
  • SEO Keyword Data: The two bottom middle charts contain SEO data pulled from Google Search Console (GSC). I wanted the landing page report to be as comprehensive as possible, and so since Data Studio lets you blend the GSC and Google Analytics data sources, I thought I’d give it a try.

Landing Page Report Quickly Gains Popularity

The landing page report quickly gained popularity. It was a concise one-page summary of the webpage performance, and it also allowed the end user to drill down into more detail. It was easy to access and easy to share. It allowed our digital marketing specialists, who build the pages on our site, to quickly find how a page is performing and glean insights into how the page could be improved.

In the months that followed I received feedback and made several changes to the Data Studio dashboard. The nice thing about this reporting process with Data Studio is that I could make these improvements without changing the URL of the report, so all my marketing colleagues could get the updates without me having to send out a new link. Let me review some of the enhancements I have made to the report.

Second Data Studio Report Landing Page Performance

  • Removed Google Search Console Data: One major draw back of the original version of the report was that it was super slow to load. The processing required to blend the GA and GSC data sources was the cause of the slowness, so I ended up removing the GSC data points for SEO keywords. Later, I ended up making a separate Data Studio report for SEO that exclusively uses GSC data.
  • Data Control for Other Hilti Country Websites: When our eBusiness team started using the landing page report, one of the first enhancements they requested was if there was a way to share the report with our European colleagues so they could check on the performance of pages on their country websites. This, as it turns out, was easy to do with the data control filter. I simply put this drop down menu in the top left corner of the report where the end user could select to view data from the Google Analytics of a different country website. Hilti has each country website set up in a different property in GA, so if the end user of the report had access to that GA data, they could select their country website data. Then, in the drop down menu for selecting a page, they will only see the pages from that country site as options. With this data control filter, I was able to share the report with colleagues in England, France, Germany, and elsewhere.
  • Page Scroll Depth Data Added: With the GSC SEO data removed from the landing page report, I had some spare room and so I added a section on scroll depth. Scrolling is not something GA tracks by default, but you can add code to your website to track scrolling as a custom event, and our development team did that. The scrolling data, I felt added some good depth to our measures of customer engagement with the page.

The landing page report, is, of course, a living document, so there are other changes I have made and will continue to make to it as we move forward.

Other Versions of the Landing Page Report

Other enhancement requests that my colleagues made required me to make separate versions of the landing page report. Again, it wasn’t too hard to copy a data studio report and then make alterations to the copy without changing the original. In the top menu of any Data Studio report, there is a copy button. Below are some of the other versions of the landing page report I have created.

  • Version that Keys Off Page Title, rather than URL: Another enhancement that was requested was to be able to pull landing page reports based on the page title, rather than URL. This helped some of our less technically savvy friends the marketing department. Also, while I wish URLs would remain constant, there are times when the same page has multiple URLs, so this enhancement allowed us to look at the page performance by title regardless of the changed URL.
  • Version that Excludes Hilti Employees: Another requested enhancement I received was when one day someone asked how much of the traffic to a page was generated by Hilti internal employees compared to non-employees. We don’t have perfect methodology to identify employee traffic on the site, but if an employee is logged into the website or is located at our main offices, then we can identify them. So again, I made a copy of the report, and this time I used a custom segment to only bring in data from the segment of users that are not employees.
  • Version for Pages with Videos: Then one day we were looking at the landing page report for a page where the major call to action was to watch a series of videos. So I created a version of the landing page report that included video metrics.

Other Reports Created in Data Studio

I have spent a lot of time of the landing page report, but in the time remaining, let me briefly go over some of the other reports I have created for Hilti using Data Studio.

  • SEO Report from GSC Data: I mentioned that early on in my usage of Data Studio I realized I needed to keep the GSC sourced data in a separate report. The SEO page report, like the landing page report, has a page selector at the top. If you don’t select a specific page, it will report on all pages for the website. But of course you can select a single page to see it’s SEO performance. On the left is how the page is doing on branded keywords. On the right are the metrics for non-brand keyword performance in the areas of organic rank, search impressions, clicks, and click thru rate.
  • Email Traffic by Campaign Report: This report also has similarities to the landing page report. Obviously, it looks very similar and again, I apologize for that. Data Studio really does have a lot of features to make reports look sharp, but up until now, I have been more concerned with the data and functionality, rather than the look and feel. At Hilti, probably like many of you, we send out a lot of emails. Our email service provider provides the email team a lot of stats about open rates and click thru rates, but once the email visitors gets to our site, the team had less data readily available. This report allows our email team to select any given email campaign from the drop down filter. Then they can see what visitors from the campaign did on the website, what pages they viewed and how many times they viewed them. And most importantly, it provides eCcommerce metrics such as how many orders they made and what products they bought. One other thing I should point out about the email campaign report is that I added a second page. While one of the things I love about Data Studio is the ability to have concise, one-page reports with a ton of great data, you can, of course, have multiple pages in your reports. On the second page, I put metrics to help our team see what time people are clicking through our emails and coming to the website.
  • Campaign Specific Reports: The final report I will mention is one I put together for a recent campaign we were running for our chemical anchor products. At Hilti, when we talk about anchors, it’s not boat anchors, we manufacture and sell concrete anchors for construction applications. Part of our suite of anchoring products consists of epoxy, adhesive, or chemical anchors. This past summer we had a marketing push around the chemical anchor line and this is the summary report I’ve put together to report on the performance of the chemical anchor pages. Part of the chemical campaign was also to publish several new pages with the goal of attracting more organic search traffic, so I created an SEO dashboard in Data Studio for the campaign as well.

Engagement Rates for Landing Pages See Marked Improvement

As you can see, we have used Data Studio to create a wide variety of reports and we have seen a lot of success in democratizing the data this way and getting the marketing team to pay attention to the data. But you may be wondering, what concrete benefits have we seen from using Data Studio? Sure the data is getting out there more, but is it really being used to improve the performance of digital marketing campaigns? The answer is yes, we have seen tangible results and here are two big ones.

Engagement Rates for Landing Pages See Marked ImprovementHere is a chart of the bounce rate and conversion rate for our landing pages over a year. Before we started using Data Studio for our reporting, we were seeing relatively steady bounce rates and conversion rates with room for improvement. When we started using Data Studio, those bounce rates began to decline and ended up stabilizing around a percentage roughly half of what they were before. And similarly, the conversion rates began to improve as we used Data Studio and have effectively doubled in the course of a year.

I’m not saying Data Studio was the only factor in these improved engagement rates—it was not. We have ongoing efforts to continually improve our landing pages and using Data Studio reports was only one aspect of our approach. But the correlation is undeniable—that using Data Studio to democratize web analytics data has been an important tool in helping us get data in the hands of marketing decision makers and they have used that data to improve the effectiveness of our marketing campaigns.

LinkedIn Notes We Are Drowning in Data. Data Studio Has the Solution.

As we wrap up, I like to share a quote from a LinkedIn article I ran across just a couple of weeks ago as I was preparing this presentation. The article was about how marketers are using digital analytics, and it pointed out, as I did at the beginning of this presentation, how digital marketers are drowning in data. The article said, “We found that digital marketers are struggling — struggling to calculate their impact, share that impact with key stakeholders, and market that impact across their organizations.” I found it interesting that they pointed out these three challenges with measuring, sharing, and making an impact across the organization. And it was quite timely, as I have pointed out, that you can overcome each one of these challenges with Data Studio. And when you do that, instead of drowning in data, you will be riding the data-driven wave. Thank you.

Lessons Learned from Doing SEO Freelancing for a Year

Summary: After doing SEO freelancing for a year, I learned important skills and gained invaluable experience in selecting clients, estimating work load, negotiating payment, measuring success, establishing processes, succeeding in the short-term and long-term, and perhaps most importantly, in learning to follow my heart.

Background Motivation to Do a Side Hustle

bathtub leaking into kitchenIn 2018, we hit a financial rough spot in which my family had several thousand dollars of unexpected expenses within a one month period. My car broke down and that cost $2,500 to repair and the family van had a $1,000 repair for some weird electrical problem. The water heater in our house burst and it was over $1,000 to replace. The upstairs bathroom shower faucet broke and it started leaking into the kitchen—another $1,000 to repair. And there were several other items that I do not now recall.

My daughter was approaching her 16th birthday and we had been saving up money so she could have my old car to drive and then I was planning to buy myself a new (used) car. But all of a sudden, virtually all the money we had been saving to buy a new car was gone, and that’s when I thought I should look into doing some freelancing to make some extra money. By profession, I am a digital analytics manager who has a lot of experience managing websites and performing search engine optimization (SEO). I thought I could make some time for digital marketing consulting, maybe 10 or 15 hours a week, by working nights and weekends.

Selecting a Freelance Website

My first item of business was finding somewhere to get freelance work. Years ago, I had hired a freelancer through Upwork.com, so that was my first destination when I began looking to do freelance work. Honestly, I didn’t do as much research as I should have when it came to selecting which freelance website company to work through. I picked Upwork because they were the most prominent freelance website I was aware of. In retrospect, I would have researched the competition (like Fiverr.com and Freelancer.com) to compare fees and terms of service.

Signing up with Upwork, searching for and securing my first freelance gig cost me nothing. But once I began working, I was shocked that Upwork charged a 20% fee on every dollar I billed my client, though that fee did go down to 10% after the first $500 billed. Even more shocking, though, was Upwork’s user agreement which states that freelance/client relationships made through their website must use their system to complete payment transactions FOR 2 YEARS. That means, if you connect with someone through Upwork, you agreed that you will pay Upwork their service fees for two years for all work done. That seems like an outrageously long time to me, so be aware of that going in.

Lesson Learned #1: Do competitive research of fees and terms of service of freelance websites before signing up and making an agreement with a client so you know beforehand exactly what to expect.

Finding My First Freelancing Gig

As I browsed the digital marketing related freelance gigs that I was qualified for, SEO ones where the most prevalent. I submitted my application to several of them. I had no idea how hard or easy it would be to get hired for one of these gigs, and like any job application, the hard part was taking the time to write a thoughtful, persuasive application letter even when you don’t know the likelihood that they’ll select you. But it had to be done. And then there was they issue of what hourly rate to charge. I checked out the competition and there are a lot of SEOs on the platform with low fees, along with a smaller number of ones with high fees. I ended up picking an hourly rate that was lower than what I wanted, but I felt I needed to do that to be competitive as I was getting my feet wet in the world of freelance SEO work. I thought that once I was established, it would be easier to get work at a higher rate.

A month or so went by without getting selected for an interview, and I was beginning to think this was a waste of my time, when one day I got asked to have a phone interview for one of the jobs. The phone interview went well, and I was soon offered the job. I had some debate with the client about whether the gig would be paid by the job or by the hour. I was pretty firm on doing it by the hour, as I didn’t want to get stuck in a commitment to do work that could drag on for a long time and thus diminish my hourly rate. The client was okay with me tracking the hours and paying by the hour, so we moved forward with an official agreement through the Upwork website.

Lesson Learned #2: Be patient in finding the right gig for you and it could lead to a great long-term working relationship, as you will see was the case for me.

I should also mention that the client asked if we could do the payments outside the Upwork website, thus avoiding their fees, as well as avoiding Upwork’s incredibly poorly designed user interface. It was an tempting offer, but knowing the Upwork User Agreement terms, I had to insist on using Upwork’s prescribed time tracking and payment system. I don’t think the client was trying to break the rules, they were just unaware and when I said I felt it was best to honor the Upwork terms of service, the client was fine with that, and so we moved forward.

Lesson Learned #3: Be prepared in case your client asks to pay you outside the freelance website and know how you will respond. It’s against the terms of most of the sites. Honesty is the best policy.

Analysis, Plan of Action and Understand Client’s Business

The client who hired me was a small digital marketing agency, which for anonymity’s sake, was run by a woman I will call Molly. We had agreed that I would put in about 10 or 15 hours a week, and Molly asked me to split my time between two of her clients which I’ll call Website A and Website B. I dove right into analyzing the SEO performance of the two websites, as well as diving into the Google Analytics to understand how the sites were performing overall. By the end of the first month, I had presented my SEO and web analytics findings to Molly and the website owners, and offered my recommendations for improvement and suggested next steps.

Website A and B were both the online home for small technology companies, and both companies used their website as a major source of sales and lead generation. Website A got a couple thousand visits per week, while Website B, a smaller niche business, was getting a couple hundred visits per week. Both sites had good things going for them in terms of branding, content, and design, but both were also lacking some basic SEO best practices such are optimized titles tags, meta descriptions, H1 headlines, interlinking, and more. Both sites also had an information architecture (IA) and main menu lacking in high-value SEO keywords.

With both sites, I should mention that it took several conversations with the site owners to really understand their business, the products and services offered, as well as their target audience. It was particularly difficult to grasp the business model of Website B, the more niche business, but once I did, a course of action to make the content resonate better with their audience and with search engines became clear. And thus far, the freelancing was going very smoothly—I was enjoying the work and earning a little extra income, everything I had hoped for.

Lesson Learned #4: In scoping out SEO freelancing projects, be sure to bake into your estimates time to get to know the company, target audience, products and services. Having a well-rounded understanding of the business will make you a better SEO consultant.

Performance Measuring and SEO Results for Website A and Website B

Over the next couple of months, we implemented the course of action I had laid out to improve the SEO, usability, and conversion rates of the two websites. Both sites were built on WordPress, a website content management system (CMS) that I am very familiar with, so I was quite comfortable not only developing the strategy, but executing it as well. While the freelance contract had been for SEO services, it was clear that the website owners wanted help in many other aspects of their web presence and digital marketing. At the end of the day, I knew the website owners would only be happy if the increase in organic web traffic led to more leads and more website visitors turning into buying customers. Therefore, in addition to SEO tasks, many of my efforts were also around landing page optimization, reducing bounce rates, improving conversion rates, cleaning up web analytics tracking and reporting, and doing other digital marketing tasks.

Lesson Learned #5: Nobody wants to rank for rankings sake. SEO consulting isn’t just about improving the website’s placement in search results, it’s about improving the volume of target audience visits and quality leads.

As part of the performance measurement plan, I put together a Google Data Studio report with some of the high-level SEO and website stats which I reviewed weekly with the website owners. The report served to benchmark prior website performance as well as communicate how my SEO efforts were paying off. This was important as a freelance consultant as I wanted the clients to know where the key performance indicators (KPIs) had been and how my efforts had improved them.

Within a month of implementing our first changes on the websites, we began to see some small improvements in the amount of organic search traffic to the sites as well as improvements in the conversion rate of visitors. After three or four months, Website A had doubled in traffic and with conversion rates doubling as well, the owner saw a four-fold increase in leads. And they were good leads too, many of them turning into paying customers. With Website B, the results were positive, but less dramatic as Website A, with traffic increasing by about 50% and slightly better conversion rates.

Lesson Learned #6: I already knew this, but it was reinforced that freelancers should always benchmark the SEO and website performance prior to their engagement as well as establishing regular reporting to communicate improvements in KPIs.

Overall, the owners of Website A and B were very pleased with the results, as was Molly who was thrilled to have such happy clients herself. It was then that I began to more fully realized how valuable my skill set was. I began to think that I had sold myself short with the low hourly rate I set at first, and I began to wonder if I should raise my rate. I also began to wonder if I should consider expanding the time I spent freelancing to see if it could turn into a legitimate full-time business for me.

Asking for a Pay Raise

At about this point in my relationship with Molly, I thought it was a good time to ask for an increase in my hourly rate. I had been doing the freelance SEO work for around six months and I had been trying for months to find the right time to bring up the topic. For someone of my personality, this is a difficult thing to ask for, but I was glad I finally did it. I asked for a substantial increase because I knew I didn’t want to do this again. Molly clearly didn’t want to lose me, but the increased rate was difficult for her to take. She made a counter proposal and I accepted it and we moved on—it seemed like a win for both of us.

Lesson Learned #7: Do research so you can price yourself right from the get go, but don’t be afraid to bring up the topic of your hourly rate. And, of course, it is best to have some success under your belt before asking for a pay raise.

Taking on a Third and Fourth Website for My Client

With the success of Website A and B, my client, Molly, asked if I thought I could take on additional clients of hers. I had been averaging about 8 or 10 hours a week on the freelancing work, and due to my full-time job and family constraints, I told her there was no way I could put in more hours. She said she would be bringing on additional junior SEO freelancers, though, and wondered if I could step back and play a more strategic role. I would continue to complete analysis and set strategies, but the more junior SEOs would do the work of executing the tactics. I had been enjoying all the work I was doing for Molly and wanted to continue to expand my professional relationship with her and her agency so I decided to go for it.

Website C and D, did not turn out as well as A and B, for a variety of reasons. And though we didn’t see much SEO success with these two websites, I did learn many important lessons about freelance and agency work. Website C was owned and operated by some people who were very difficult to work with. Whereas the owners of Websites A and B were open to almost all of our ideas, the managers of Website C pushed back against a great many of our proposals. Ironically, they still demanded results even though they wouldn’t follow our recommendations. It was a difficult situation, and certainly above my freelancer pay grade. Thankfully Molly handled most of those end-client relationships, though this company didn’t remain a client for long.

Lesson Learned #8: Be selective about clients. From my perspective, no amount of money is worth it if the person you are working with is unreasonable and they make your life miserable.

Lesson Learned #9: Know yourself, your strengths, and your preferences. For me, if I ever go into business for myself doing digital marketing consulting or start my own agency, I want a business partner who will handle client relationships. It’s not my forte.

The managers of Website D, contrary to Website C, were very nice to work with. Like Websites A and B, Website D had a lot of log hanging fruit with regard to optimizing page titles, meta data, headlines, call-to-action buttons, and other content. Also like the others, an information architecture overhaul was implemented to put the topics that matter most to users higher up in the menu structure. But despite our efforts, and to my surprise, after a month or two, the organic search volume didn’t budge.

On top of the lack of SEO results, it seemed like each week we were uncovering unusual and unexpected issues with the website. Their WordPress implementation was outdated, with problematic plugins, and content was in disarray. On top of that, the site managers had been making changes to their homepage and other page without communicating it to us and in some cases messing up the SEO. The company had Google display ads running, and running very inefficiently, sending thousands of unqualified visitors to their site weekly. And they had three instances of Google Analytics on their site, so we wondered about the validity of any of the data we were looking at. The more we worked with the website, the more oddities and technical debt we seemed to uncovered.

Lesson Learned #10: Evaluate the state of the website backend before beginning optimization work and build into the scope of work plenty of time to do clean up. If the back end is in disarray, it can put a major hamper on optimization efforts.

Problems in Working with an Expanding Team of Freelancers

In addition to the problems with clients and client websites, as I had expanded my case load to handle four websites, the working model of me being the senior SEO strategist with the assistance of junior SEO freelancers was having bumps of its own. I began each website engagement with my normal thorough analysis, and then made a to-do list of things for the junior SEO to do. Unfortunately, the other freelancer was not accustomed to my way of communication and didn’t understand many of the tasks I gave her. Many of the important tasks went undone or were done the wrong way or simply in a way I was not accustomed to.

This particular junior SEO was used to going through a checklist as she gave a website an SEO tune up, while I, on the other hand, wasn’t accustomed to working in such a rigid process. I quickly began to see the benefits of the checklist, however. Though a list like that cannot cover every aspect of SEO, what it did cover was good SEO practices. And I realized the checklist allowed her to get much of the low hanging fruit, freeing me up to do deeper analysis and uncover issue less likely to turn up in a standardized checklist. In fact, I decided that a checklist could be a great tool in doing the initial analysis of a client and their website. Eventually, we worked out many of the kinks in our internal process and we began working together better.

Lesson Learned #11: It takes times to learn to work well with someone, so make time for it and don’t take teamwork for granted.

Lesson Learned #12: While checklists can be mechanical, rote, and less-than-comprehensive for qualitative evaluations, they can still be a helpful, time-saving tool, and a good way to delegate and a make sure you don’t forget anything.

Realizing the Freelance Work is Stretching Me Too Thin

After several months of working on Websites C and D, neither was showing much SEO progress, and the great progress we has seen in Website A and B was slowing down. Furthermore, I was personally being stretched incredibly thin trying to keep up on all the freelancing work while at the same time trying not to fall behind in my full-time day job and balancing the demands of a large family. While I had thoroughly enjoyed the freelance work for the first six or eight months of doing it, in the most recent months, I began to dread the work more and more. I have almost no free time as it is, and what little spare time I had was filled with the freelance work. I felt like I was not dedicating the time I should have to my wife and kids, yet we were all enjoying the extra income. The extra income allowed us to buy that third car for my daughter to drive, which was a huge benefit to my wife who no longer had to take her to and from school and other activities.hannah driving gold corolla car

Molly must have noticed that I was being stretched thin, and she suggested I hand off Website C and D to another freelancer, and return to dedicating myself wholly to Websites A and B. We made that transition, but I continued to be weary of the workload. I was taking on more responsibilities at my full-time job, and it became increasing apparent that I needed to spend more time with my family. I didn’t want to lose the extra income, but my health and my family were more important.

After nearly a year of doing the freelance gig, I happened to be on a family vacation. It’s always nice to have time off, but I particularly enjoyed the freedom from the demands of the freelance work. I dreaded getting back to real life and starting up with the SEO freelance work again. It was then that I realized that it was time to be done with the freelancing. When I made the mental decision to stop doing the freelance work, a feeling of peace and comfort (a feeling that I have learned comes from the Spirit of God) came over me letting me know that it was right. When I got home, I gave Molly notice that I could no longer do freelance work for her. She respected my decision, I wrapped up and handed off my projects, and we parted ways.

Lesson Learned #13: Trust in the feelings God puts into your heart and do as He prompts you. Decisions may be difficult, but the Lord is watching out for you, and will give you confidence to move forward.

Conclusion

It was a great experience to do freelancing for a year. I had many successes and also several failures, and in the process I learned much, as I have pointed out in the lessons learned above. I was able to accomplish my goal of earning some extra money to get a third car for our growing family. And in the process of freelancing, I learned skills and gained experience that will help me throughout my ongoing career, whether that continues in the in-house corporate SEO world or if it evolves into future consulting, agency work, or even freelancing again. While the time is not right to keep doing SEO freelancing right now, the time could be right again in the future. And if that time comes, I’ll be much more prepared.

Thrifty Loses a Customer for Life When They Could Have Gained One

A couple of months ago I rented a car from Thrifty Car Rental but never again. This week I got a bill from Thrifty, shown below, for $0.70 from a toll road and a $15 administrative fee on top of that.

Thrifty Car Rental Fine

 

Apparently, despite my best effort to avoid toll roads during that trip, I must have gone through a toll booth. Now Thrifty is chasing me down to make sure I pay that $0.70 toll, and they’re charging me an additional $15 fee on top of that for their trouble.

At first I was mad at them, but now I just feel sorry for them and their incredibly short-sighted business practices. Just think of Thrifty’s options:

  1. They could have paid the $0.70 toll themselves. I would have been none the wiser, and I would have remembered renting a car with them as problem free.
  2. They could have sent me a bill for the $0.70 toll. I would have thought it was a little silly to bill me for such a small amount, but I would have understood. Perhaps, regardless of how big or small the toll amount, Thrifty has a process of reaching out to their customers to collect the money for tolls.
  3. They could have sent me a letter, letting me know that I incurred a $0.70 charge from a toll booth during my recent trip, but also letting me know that due to the small amount, they would just pay it themselves. The letter could have thanked me for being a loyal customer and encouraged me to use Thrifty again in the future. And I would have been glad to do so.
  4. They could have sent me a bill for the $0.70 toll plus an administrative fee on top of that. This would reassure me that Thrifty cares more about their short term bottom line than having me as a loyal customer.

Of course, Thrifty chose the last option, and I’m writing this post to remind myself never to use that car rental company again. It amazes me that for $0.70 and the price of a stamp, Thrifty could have gained a loyal customer. But apparently, they’d rather have $15 now and never have my business again.

I don’t know how much Thrifty spends on marketing. Probably not a lot, since they are a discount car rental company. But they must spend something on occasional TV spots, billboards, or online advertising. They likely spend thousands, perhaps even millions a year, on marketing campaigns that may or may not be effective. Here, though, they had the opportunity to spend $1 on a marketing campaign that would almost be guaranteed to win them new business, and not only did they miss the chance but they used the opportunity to offend and lose a customer.

P.S. I also am amazed, if you notice in the image above, that they have the website, ThriftyRentalFine.com. This both cracks me up with laughter and saddens me. Apparently, chasing down customers to pay fines is something Thrifty does so often that they need their own website dedicated to this purpose.

Email Marketing Best Practices

It’s 2013 and email marketing is alive and well in the online marketing sphere. Most businesses find it to be an effective component of the overall online marketing strategy. Exact Target, in discussing consumers’ preferred direct marketing channel has called email “the number one direct channel in terms of daily use and consumer preference for both personal and marketing communications,” saying 77% of consumers prefer to receive permission-based marketing communications through email.

In 2005, I joined the FedEx marketing department and was heavily involved in their email marketing for several years. FedEx has email marketing best practices well integrated into their processes and ingrained in their corporate culture. The management and my co-workers at FedEx would never have dreamed of doing anything other than permission-based email marketing because no email campaign was worth potentially offending a customer, losing their business, and hurting the company reputation. In recent years I haven’t been as heavily involved in email marketing, but I do it enough and consult (internally and externally) on best practices for email marketing that I thought it worth while to document the following email marketing tips.

Top 10 Email Marketing Best Practices:

  1. Only Email People Who Have Given You Their Permission
  2. Only Email People with Content They Have Requested
  3. Have an Online Email Subscription Center
  4. Send Emails When Your Audience Will Read Them
  5. Send the Email from a Recognizable Source
  6. Use Accurate and Compelling Subject Lines
  7. Honor All Unsubscribe Requests in a Timely Manner
  8. Keep Your Email List Clean
  9. Build Your Email List At Every Opportunity
  10. Have a Clear Call to Action in the Email

1. Only Email People Who Have Given You Their Permission

FedEx email subscription centerFirst and foremost of my email marketing tips is to always practice permission-based email marketing. This does not mean you can email anyone you want for any reason until they opt out of your list. This means you should only send messages to people who have opted in and requested to receive them. Unsolicited emails wore out their welcome long ago. As one writer put it, permission-based email marketing “has become standard practice for legitimate email marketers because it is a key component for optimizing deliverability, return on investment and recipient trust.” (see bluesite.lyris.com, Permission Email Marketing: Permission is Not Optional).

2. Only Email People with Content They Have Requested

The second major principle of email marketing is related to the first: only send emails relevant to the type of content the person has requested. When you collect email addresses, whether through the Web, paper forms, or otherwise, it should be clearly communicated what type of content the end user will be emailed about: product updates, promotions, contests, newsletters, etc. Be vigilant about only sending your customers emails concerning the type of things they have requested.

3. Have an Online Email Subscription Center

An email subscription center is a page on your website where new people can provide their email address and give you their permission to send them emails. This could be an independent section of your site or it could be a section of a user’s profile. If your company only sends out one kind of email, this could be simply one check box on the user profile page. To the right is a screen shot of the FedEx E-mail Subscription Center, which, if you’re a large company like FedEx, with numerous types of email alerts, can be quite detailed.

4. Send Emails When Your Audience Will Read Them

(Warning, the next sentence is a candidate for the obvious statement of the year.) If you send your emails at a time when your audience is more likely to read email, your email has a greater likelihood of being read. If your target audience is business professionals, and you send your email over the weekend, it is likely to end up at the bottom of a pile of other emails and may never be opened or read. Business to business emails, have shown to have the best open rates on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. According to iContact Best Practices for Email Marketers, personal or consumer targeted emails have the best open rates “between 5pm and 8pm Tuesday through Thursday or between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon.”

5. Send the Email from a Recognizable Source

Many people will only look at the the From line in the email before deciding whether or not to read it. The From name for your messages should either be your company name or the name of a recognizable person at your company (could be the president of your company, or the candidate’s name on a political-type email, etc.). You’ll also want the from email address to be intelligible and memorable, i.e. something@yourcompany.com.

6. Use Accurate and Compelling Subject Lines

Compelling subject lines are a must have if you want your email opened and read. Subject lines should also accurate describe the contents of the email; deceptive subject lines are deceptive, will hurt your company in the long run, and in some cases may be against the law.  If you have the opportunity, it’s always good to test potential subject lines on a small group to see which gets the best open rate before sending the email out to all recipients. Do not use all caps, multiple exclamation points, or excessive dollar signs in subject line or body text because doing this will likely trigger SPAM filters. Some words and phrases like “Free” “Act Now” “Cash Bonus” “Please Read” and “While Supplies Last” also have been known to cause SPAM filters to block emails.

7. Honor All Unsubscribe Requests in a Timely Manner

Not only is it good business to to provide and quickly honor unsubscribe requests, but it is the law. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 requires that each email message you send contain a visible and operable unsubscribe feature.  At a minimum, the unsubscribe mechanism should be either to send a reply email message or to visit a single page on the Internet. This doesn’t mean that you can’t also encourage recipients to visit your email subscription center. The law also requires that opt-out requests be honored within 10 days, but the sooner the better in my view. At FedEx we occasionally got unsubscribe requests via phone or even via snail mail, but regardless, we opted those people out immediately.

8. Keep Your Email List Clean

Keeping your list clean means taking steps to ensure the email addresses you have are accurate. At FedEx, we kept our email lists very clean and we averaged open rates over 90%. An un-scrubbed email list, on the other hand, can be much worse. You don’t want to think you are emailing 1,000 people, when due to bad data, you actually only have 500 good email addresses.

The undelivered, or bounced, emails generally fall into two categories: hard bounce, and soft bounce. A hard bounce back indicates that the email address is invalid. A soft bounce-back typically is an indication that the recipient inbox is full, or is caused by some temporary situation. It is best to have rules in place such as removing bounced email addresses. A hard bounce back is generally grounds for immediate removal, while you may want to wait for 5 or 10 soft bounces before removing an email address.

Keeping your email list clean also means taking steps up front to ensure the email address is correctly formatted. Electronically this is usually done with scripts that make sure the address has an “@” symbol and such. Looking for and correcting common misspellings (“hitmail.com” instead of “hotmail.com”) is also a good practice.

9. Build Your Email List At Every Opportunity

Typical email address churn can be 20% to 30% a year, which means if you don’t continually build your list, it could be cut in half in two years’ time. Numerous opportunities exist, online and offline, to build you email list. If you have a retail location, have an email sign up form at the point of sale. At conferences or events, bring a paper signup form or have a laptop opened to your Email Subscription Center for interested parties. Prominently promote your newsletter signup form on your company website. Include a link to your Email Subscription Center in all of your emails and encourage users to update their information if it ever changes. Run a promotion each year offering the chance of a prize to people who visit your Email Subscription Center and update their information. These steps will build your email list and also help keep it clean.

10. Have a Clear Call to Action in the Email

Last, but certainly not least, is to have a clear call-to-action in every email you send. The email will, ultimately, only be successful if it effective in getting users to do what you want them to do (i.e. achieving the business objective of the email campaign). You must be able to convert browsers into buyers, or whatever the call-to-action may be, and you will do this by focusing on goals, measuring, and improving.

Designing a good email is a lot like designing a good landing page on the Internet. Think about why you are sending the email. What business objective does it support? Even if it is just a newsletter meant to be read, what action do you hope visitors will take after reading it? Perhaps your call to action is to get readers to visit your online store, or watch a video, or request a catalog. Whatever that call to action is, be sure to measure it. Most email marketing platforms have built in tracking features, but you can also do this with a web analytics solution such as Google Analytics.

Mozy Review: Two Thumbs Down

Avoid Mozy, Use an External Hard Drive for Backup

My wife and I have had a miserable experience with Mozy over the last month since our hard drive crashed.  Their customer and technical support is awful, but the real disappointment is that some of our files were not available  to restore.  My advice: go with an external hard drive to back up your computer, and save yourself the wasted time, money, headaches and heartaches when Mozy fails to meet your expectations.

Sorry for using my political blog for a personal issue, but I wanted to get the word out to as many people as possible to have a backup for your backup if you are using Mozy.  For those who don’t know, Mozy is an online hard drive backup service.  For $5 a month, Mozy will backup the files on your computer and have them available to re-download in case your hard drive crashes. We starting using Mozy’s services at the beginning of the year, and it initially gave us great comfort to know that everything was backed up.  But when we really needed Mozy, they completely failed us, they admit no wrong, and do nothing to try to make up for our loss.

From the Beginning Mozy was Slow

Mozy is slow in two ways.  One, the backup process takes an inordinate amount of time.  Our 250 GB hard drive took over a month to back up, and that was with us leaving our computer running 24/7.  And the problem was not our internet connection.  We have a cable modem with service through Comcast; it is about as fast an internet connection as a residence can get.  We also had a 100 GB external hard drive, and combined it took nearly two months, with our computer turned on all day and all night, to complete the backup.

The other way in which Mozy is slow is in regard to the responsiveness of their software.  Once their software was installed on our computer, to get into the configuration and setup area took way too long.  It just sits their and churns 5 to 10 minutes while the dialog box opens up.  And again, it’s not as if our computer is a dinosaur.  The computer is only two years old and has a 2GHz processor and plenty of memory.

Mozy’s Confusing Restore Process

When our hard drive crashed last month, the first thing I did, after getting the computer back up and running, was to visit Mozy.com to figure out how to restore my hard drive.  The only documentation was lengthy and confusing; I could find no simple steps to begin restoring my files in a similar manner (set-it-and-forget-it) as they had been backed up.  The online documentation mentioned a “restore” tab in the Mozy client, so I downloaded the software.  But when I opened the Mozy client, there was no “restore” tab.  At this point, I initiated an online chat with a technical support person from Mozy.

Mozy’s Unhelpful Help

The support person I chatted with that night did little to help me and actually contributed to the frustrations.  He told me that the “restore” option in the client wasn’t available to me and that I would have to use the “web restore.”  For a week, my wife and I struggled to use the web restore service which requires you to download the data file by file and folder by folder.  This process was excruciatingly slow and confusing due to the list of zip files(which Mozy generates) changing order each time I came back to the download page.  This put a major burden on us and still it was nearly impossible to keep track of what files and folders had been restored and what had not been.

After a week of trying to use the Web Restore process, we reported some of these issues, when the Mozy support person asked us why we weren’t using the client restore tab.  I re-checked the client and discovered that the “restore” tab had appeared.  No explanation was given as to why that tab was not present and usable a week earlier, and we didn’t ask (by this point we had no hope of getting a straight answer from Mozy support).

At that point we were finally able to use the the client restore and set-it-and-forget-it method of having Mozy simple go to work restoring our entire computer.  We let that run about a week and then Mozy said that our entire computer had been backed up.  The relative speed of the restore was a major surprise to us given how long it took to back up the computer.  But then we discovered one reason why the restore process was so fast, a huge folder was missing.

Surprise! A Major Folder is Missing

My wife has a small business where she designs and prints photo cards.  Therefore she has hundreds, even thousands, of Photoshop files, including templates and the final product.  These files were located in a folder called “C:\users\Heather\simplyfreshdesigns”  After the restore was complete, we realized that this folder was missing.  We went and doubled checked our online Mozy account, and sure enough, it was not listed as a folder that had been backed up.  At this point we re-engaged Mozy’s support team which, true to form, ended up being no help at all.

We explained that we had every indication that this folder had been backed up.

  • In the initial backup configuration, we had told Mozy to back up all PhotoShop file types.
  • The ultimate back up size was confirmed by Mozy to be 346 BG.  This, we thought, was consistent with our 250 GB hard drive plus 100 GB external drive.
  • Other folders located under “C:\users\Heather\” had been backed up and were present and available to restore.

Yet none of these facts phased Mozy.  Again and again they came back to us and said that the folder in question had not been selected by us to be backed up, therefore Mozy had not backed it up.  And of course with a fried hard drive, at this point, it was impossible to prove that Mozy was wrong.

Slow Responses, No Efforts to Make Amends, and Insults

During the past two weeks of trying to figure out what happened to the missing folder, Mozy has been extremely slow to respond to our emails.  We average less than one email a day from Mozy, which makes it very difficult to carry on a good conversation.  I would send an email to Mozy and it would be 24 hours before I would get a response back.  Once they did reply, I would respond again within minutes, yet it would still be a day or two before I would hear back.

And after nearly a month now, I have lost all hope of recovering this missing folder.  And all the while, no one at Mozy has made any offer to make this up to us. No offer of a refund.  No offer to try to recover our hard drive. In fact, in the middle of this whole situation, Mozy billed us for another month of service.  What an insult!

In the most recent email I received from Mozy (7/22/09), the Mozy support person acknowledged no wrong doing on the part of Mozy and has even gone so far as to begin mocking me. In response to my statement that I had all indications that the folder had been backed up, he said, “all indications are the folder was never backed up.” And he continued, “it looks like Mozy was working fine.”

If the experience we have had was “Mozy working fine,” you’ll definitely want to avoid ever using their services.

50% of Americans Have Little Use for the Internet

On Tuesday, May 15th, I will be starting a new position here at FedEx. I will be moving from a Marketing Analyst role on the Small Business Team to a Marketing Specialist role with FedEx.com. Particularly, I will now be working on the application to prepare shipments online at FedEx.com.

Given this new direction professionally, I was particularly interested when I saw this recent headline “Nearly 50 Percent of Americans Have Little Use for Internet and Cell Phones, Survey Finds.” This article is based on a 2007 article from Fox News with data provided by the Pew Research Center.

While the headline above seemed shocking to me, as I looked at the data, it all made sense. The study puts Americans in 10 buckets according to their use of information and communication technology (ICT).

  • Top 4 buckets = Elite Tech Users (31% of American adults)
  • Middle 2 buckets = Middle-of-the-road Tech Users (20% of American adults)
  • Bottom 4 buckets = Few Tech Assets (49%)The elite users of ICTs consist of four groups that have the most information technology, are heavy and frequent users of the internet and cell phones and, to varying degrees, are engaged with user-generated content. Members of these groups have generally high levels of satisfaction about the role of ICTs in their lives.

    The middle-of-the-road users consist of two groups whose outlook toward information technology is task-oriented. They use ICTs for communication more than they use it for self-expression. One group finds this pattern of information technology use satisfying and beneficial, while the other finds it burdensome.

    For those with few technology assets (four groups), modern gadgetry is at or near the periphery of their daily lives. Some find it useful, others don’t, and others simply stick to the plain old telephone and television.

    Take this quiz and find out what kind of tech-user you are: http://www.pewinternet.org/quiz/