Tackle the New GAIQ Exam

Tackle the New GAIQ Exam

I’m a lifelong list-maker. And nothing pleases a list-maker more than crossing something off the list of to-dos like tackling the updated Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ) exam. That’s why I finally girded myself to prepare for the GAIQ over the holidays.

Why bother?

There are disparate views of whether the exam is worth the effort of studying or dismissed as mere resume fodder, window dressing for those who are shiny rather than substantive.

Frankly, the answer depends on whether you consider yourself a novice or a ninja with Google Analytics. The more advanced your skills, the less you’ll get out of the process (besides a screenshot of a certificate).

Personally, I found the material engaging and so I really wanted to retain the principles long-term instead of just for the 90-minute, multiple-choice exam. I think Google’s done a superb job of synthesizing the foundational concepts of web analytics for application across the field—not just their own proprietary product. And all for free.

Further, the exam reflects the evolution of the industry so you’re forced to think about how mobile has changed measurement; in a hyper-connected world, smart marketers assess how all devices, touch-points and micro conversions (behaviour indicator, e.g. newsletter registration) lead up to a macro conversion (business goal, e.g. online sale). That holistic thinking then also impacts how we attribute credit for conversions—automatically assigning it to the last channel (Google’s default setting) could be myopic depending on your goals. So even if you’ve been certified in the past, it may be worthwhile to brush up on what’s changed.

Ok—I’m in. Now what?

I spent about a week revising for the exam, and the first thing I did was read up on other folks’ experiences. There are two resources that I found particularly invaluable:

  • A 5-Step Plan to Mastering the New GAIQ Exam by Josh Waldrum on The YouMoz Blog
    • Comprehensive coverage of key concepts with great explanatory visuals.
    • Note: The actual exam has been updated since this post was published so some facts about the test itself are now out of date.
  • Taking the GAIQ: Advice to Help with Your Study by Robert Fleeting on Web Analytics World
    • Clear overview of the current exam, including all of the changes to the test.
    • Thorough outline of how Robert approached GAIQ, and his tips for success.

Afterwards, dive in to Google’s Analytics Academy and focus on these two self-study courses:

Each lesson includes a video, a PDF transcript and a short quiz. Because I’m an old-school visual rather than an auditory learner, I preferred reading the PDF, taking notes and then the quiz before watching the video.

I used Evernote to keep my notes; feel free to download them for the first course and the second set too.

Sitting the exam

Don’t do what I did—I got sick of studying and then sped through the exam, finishing in just over 60 minutes. While I passed with 90% (63/70), my heart was pounding and I felt sick throughout it. I let nerves get the best of me because I just wanted it over. Eep!

GAIQ CertificateBut there’s no need for you to be nervous—or at least that panicky—if you’ve studied the materials and played around with a sandbox account on Google Analytics (or your own), then you should be just fine.

Any tips you’d like to share?

Boiling Down Digital Storytelling

Boiling Down Digital Storytelling

Basic Principles to Get You Started

If you’re tackling digital storytelling for your brand, then it probably feels like you’re being asked to boil the ocean.

No wonder the task seems daunting—we just passed 1 billion websites according to Internet Live Stat’s count. And by the end of 2014, the UN’s International Telecommunication Union expects that we’ll hit nearly 3 billion Internet users.

Every second on the Internet equals:

  • 7,840 tweets
  • 1,390 photos uploaded to Instagram
  • 45, 905 Google searches
  • 89,924 videos viewed on YouTube
  • 34M emails

The sheer scope and velocity of communication in the digital space is compounded by the platform itself; in fact, digital comprises multiple formats and channels—you could easily spend your time specializing in a single area from websites, email, video, social media and games to apps.

So where do you start?

I think a few basic principles can ground day-to-day content planning and creation, making the task manageable and your output more effective.

online or offline, storytelling is the same


1. Online or analog, storytelling is the same.

Digital is still often referred to as “new media”; in fact, news headlines since 2004 show virtually equal preference for the two terms. The connected web has fundamentally changed how we list, buy and sell products and services—disrupting industries from banking and travel to education.

But the types of stories we tell online follow age-old patterns we’ve inherited from oral narrative through to stage plays, radio, TV, movies and advertising.

In the end, you still need to tell a good story with compelling characters and conflict—but in this context your brand, product or service should help fulfill the central protagonist’s need. One of my favourite examples is the Webby award-winning Milwaukee Police Department’s website, which highlights how the community’s desire for safety is fulfilled by dedicated officers—not the usual lionizing of might and authority.

Customer is the hero


2. Your customer is the hero.

Storytelling may bridge both analog and digital—but our cast of characters has changed irrevocably with the democratization of online publishing and social networks. Your customer’s now squarely center stage as the most valuable player in the narrative.

Not a terrible stretch in an era of widespread #selfies, eh? (Cool fact: selfies make up almost one-third of all photos taken by people aged 18-24.)

For marketers, that means that the specs of any product or service are secondary to how that purchase makes life for the customer better.

GoPro’s tagline is literally “be a hero” and its dedicated channel includes snapshots and videos created by customers using its action cameras. User-generated content gives customers the creative control to tell their own story.

Alternatively, Lowe’s is creating a series of six-second Vine videos that highlight quick fixes around the home rather than fixating on the features of individual tools or parts. Do-it-yourselfers are making a home into a sanctuary and Lowe’s wants to be part of that experience—not just sell widgets.


Online complements offline


3. Online complements offline.

Customers expect a seamless experience when they move back and forth from clicks to bricks; a Forrester study reveals that 71% of customers expect to view your in-store inventory online. And 50% of customers further expect to buy online and pick up in-store.

Often, however, organizations can’t deliver an integrated customer experience because of how they’re structured. For example, a recent study by Forbes Insight and Wipro of 125 global executives in consumer goods highlights how internal fragmentation is holding back some companies:

  • 37% still treat digital marketing as a separate function
  • 39% operate e-commerce in a silo
  • 50% reported that their digital marketing failed to integrate with essential back-end processes in one or more instances

While it’s tempting to stick to digital platforms when you’ve been put in a corner to muck around on your own, the end results will be better if you can marry online and offline efforts. Plus, the demand for greater integration doesn’t apply just to selling and fulfilling orders—it’s the same for storytelling too.

Event organizers have been doing it for a while by live streaming attendees’ tweets, photos and videos. Likewise, digital signage at brick-and-mortar locations have been widely used to reinforce key messages from in-flyer promotions and direct mail campaigns. And political activists routinely employ online petitions and rallies in real-life to advocate for change.

And even though “Weight Watchers has an online app, it continues to host weekly, in-person meetings as well,” points out innovation broker Katherine Bierce.


All content should reflect your voice and tone


4. All content should reflect your voice and tone.

Even the lowly “Page not found” is a chance for you to connect with your audience. In fact, some brands and agencies have taken up the challenge and produced some really creative versions of the staple 404 page.

My personal favourite is the one for SpaghettiOs—a simple but clever reference to the famous “Uh-oh SpaghettiOs” jingle created when the brand launched in 1965 that still acknowledges the visitor’s disappointment after stumbling on a broken link.

404 SpaghettiOsThese are some of the basics rolling around in my head that make the daunting task of telling digital stories more achievable. What are yours?

Why I’m Paying Attention to LinkedIn

Seven Takeaways for Marketers
Tracy Bains LinkedIn profile
I’m an avid user of LinkedIn—one of over 120 million professionals from more than 200 countries and territories who have signed up to manage their business identity, keep current with industry news, or search for jobs on this social network.

But when I put together a marketing plan, LinkedIn isn’t necessarily the first place I think to advertise. Since I work in the non-profit sector—higher education by day, community development by night—it hasn’t been a natural fit.

At least that’s what I thought entering this week’s LinkedIn Marketing Innovation session in Vancouver. After spending a couple of hours learning more about this platform, I’m starting to mull over how I can use LinkedIn’s sophisticated customer segmentation for my business needs. At the very least, it’s important to keep up-to-speed on what’s possible on this platform—even if I can’t apply that knowledge immediately.

Seven Takeaways

  1. At Ad Week this year, LinkedIn will announce a new feature: Company Pages will allow status updates similar to how you can post what you’re doing on your personal profile.
  2. LinkedIn’s ability to target customers is unparalleled, leading to precise segmentation by profession, gender, title, seniority, age, industry, connection size, company size, company name, geography, group targeting, education, language and influence.
  3. In Canada, a minimum budget to be effective is $10,000. This applies to campaigns that involve custom polls, banner ads or sponsored messages via InMail.
  4. A self-serve portal allows even marketers with small budgets like me to access some of LinkedIn’s power.
  5. There are nearly one million Groups on LinkedIn—some good, some bad. If you’re considering starting a Group, consider the fact that you’ll likely need to pay for advertising to attract followers.
  6. Interactive LinkedIn Content Ads are morphing banner ads into microsites, featuring rich opportunities for engagement like videos, webcasts and content for download.
  7. Build your Company Page—you own this space so use it strategically to share your story, including a showcase for your Products and Services.

Do your marketing efforts include LinkedIn? Share your wins, lessons and wish list items below.

A gift for you: Karo Group’s holiday greeting

Yesterday, I received a new twist on the traditional holiday greeting by Karo Group, a strategic branding agency based in Calgary, AB. Instead of either a traditional printed card or even a simple e-card with a generic message, I received a gift from Karo—a donation made on my behalf to the charitable organization of my choice.

Donations to worthy causes on behalf of someone aren’t new. But here’s the clever bit—Karo asked me where I’d like to see the $10,000 go. I was able to select from a list of ten organizations, ranging from local groups like the Union Gospel and nationwide causes such as the Boys and Girls Club to international outfits, like a project to reduce the effect of poverty on women living in Ghana.

I applaud Karo for recognizing the growth of online voting competitions for social good like Pepsi’s Refresh Project and Aviva’s Community Grand Fund and then adapting the interactive features for their holiday message. They didn’t just produce another card, but got me engaged enough to visit their site and then vote. Now, I’m part of the process.

But I’m going to be a little picky about the messaging once they got me to their site. Since Karo is well-known for their rebranding work, their message was to rebrand me from “Naughty” to “Nice” via the donation. Okay—I like how they hit their key message while working in the holidays. But from a user design perspective, they didn’t tie the Naughty/Nice buttons from the first screen closely enough to the rebranding message on the next screen—in other words, it took me a couple of times to pull it altogether. Don’t make visitors work that hard!

Overall, I think Karo Group showcased real creativity with their holiday gift to me. Nice work!

Opening Screenshot

Voting Screenshot

My First (Last?) Barcamp Vancouver

Open to All—Except Advertisers

Yesterday, I joined 175 folks at BarCamp Vancouver 2010, an event billed by local organizers as an “ad-hoc un-conference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment.” I had read an entry on Wikipedia about the history of BarCamp before registering and expected an informal, peer-driven series of sessions on a variety of topics.
Happily, Barcamp Vancouver didn’t disappoint on that score. Armed with post-its, a plastic milk crate and the stopwatch on an iPhone, the organizers opened the floor to a steady stream of participants who wished to pitch a session. All attendees then “voted” to see which topics ocurred in the big room (sponsored by Mobify), medium-sized “Nitobi” room or in the smaller rooms on the upper floor at The Waldorf Hotel. Since I’m more interested in social media than coding, I headed for the following:
Listen, I enjoyed myself and met up with old friends and made a few new contacts too. The conversations were sharp, smart and I left knowing more about how to set up a strong promotion in Groupon, why Reddit is cannibalizing Digg’s user base, and how developers used a “Trojan” system at BBC to first standardize company websites before centralizing key systems.
Mission accomplished, right? Err, right.
Except that I can’t shake the feeling that I was an interloper–someone to be politely tolerated rather than strictly welcomed at yesterday’s event.
I’ve spent the large part of my career in corporate advertising. I’ve held all sorts of positions within the field, from copywriter to proofreader and content strategist. I define myself first and foremost as an advertiser.
During Eric Weaver’s session on Why You Don’t Need a Social Media Strategy, things got a little…tetchy. Weaver’s from DDB, a large creative agency, and–incidentally–one of the event’s sponsors.
During his presentation, he walked us through a recent campaign for Unilever’s Knorr product line of Sidekicks in which the character of Salty, an anthropomorphized salt shaker, became the emotional hook for driving awareness and engagement. Sales rose by 10%, the client’s website experienced the highest traffic ever and the brand overtook Uncle Ben which had been the market leader until then. Weaver’s point was that we shouldn’t get sidelined by the tools, it’s about having an integrated strategy that starts with the business’s end goals in mind.
But during yesterday’s session, the comments veered off the topic to focus on the product itself rather than the strategy Weaver and his team implemented to achieve success. He was asked to defend the line of rice which was “poisin,” then his industry’s business model (making money by making money for his clients), and the ethics of crass agencies co-opting the social media space for their own greedy ends.
To be fair, I think there were people who were genuinely engaged in the conversation and not for the sake of pure conflict. (See Weaver’s own diplomatic tweet.)
But for the most part the conversation seemed adversarial, argumentative and deliberatively rude. I felt pummelled sitting in the audience. Others noticed too. After the session, a special #adrant was organized to continuing exploring “people’s hate of advertising agencies.” I stuck around for it but didn’t glean much truthfully so I’m leaving it to others for their take.
In the end, I’m left with the same question I tweeted yesterday: “If you are so turned off by big, bad advertisers, maybe you shouldn’t ask them to be your sponsor?”
And should I, and others who work in advertising, feel welcome to join Barcamp Vancouver 2011?
Updated to include a link to Earl Von Tapia’s excellent presentation on Reddit.

Are writers and graphic designers equal in the eyes of our employers, peers, and clients?

I wonder if we treat all content creators with the same level of respect. I have a suspicion that, in general, writers get the short-end of the stick. My rationale is that since everyone who works with a writer is literate, they often think they can also actually write. Graphic designers and digital media artists also regularly encounter laypeople who think they can do it better. But, more than likely, they are afforded a certain degree of esteem in recognition of their professional expertise.

Do you agree? Is it because designers are proficient at using specialized software whereas writers can resort to stalwart but boring pens and paper? Are we digital snobs?

Do we also de-value text in favour of graphics? I find that the highest priority is always placed on the visuals, and copy can often be an after-thought. In fact, I am struggling against a trend to move work out of the hands of dedicated writers/editors to data entry workers.

If all content is not equal, what does that mean for us?

I originally made this post on The Content Wrangler Community (LinkedIn) on December 2, 2008.