Tell the Story of Your #BigData with QuillEngage

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Big data, small data, analytics. Blah blah blah.

It all sounds like a load of waffle, right? At least until we find a thread of narrative running through the information.

For many of us, the closest we are likely to get to a large amount of usable data is on our own websites. And believe it or not, even small amounts of web traffic, visits, comments on a blog etc can generate a substantial amount of information. If you get a chance, log in to your server and download the “log files”. You’ll soon see just how much information is generated by visitors to your website.

The thing is, raw log files are relatively useless. Sure they might help your webmaster pinpoint a problem or recurring error, but thousands of lines of information only make sense in aggregation. Or when they are decoded. Translated.

And that’s where Quill Engage comes in. You simply sign up, provide access to your Google Analytics information and then each week, QuillEngage will email a report explaining what’s going on with your website.

Now, I have been a fan of web analytics before there were web analytics. I have created my own reports, created simple tracking systems to collate conversion data and so on, but in a world where there is ever increasing pressure on our decision making capabilities, handing off the data processing tasks to an artificial intelligence engine may be the smartest thing you can do. Especially when it produces not just a report, but insight.

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My latest report highlighted a few important things to think about:

  • My mobile traffic was up 3% over last month and now accounts for 19% of total traffic
  • The most visits to Servantofchaos.com come from Sydney and NSW (which is big change over previous years)
  • Facebook replaced Twitter as my top social network referrer, up a massive 250% on the previous month

Why is this important?

Well, these days I hardly have time to write let alone check the performance of the site. But if I do check, I am unlikely to connect all the dots in this one email report in under 10 minutes. In fact, the email report from QuillEngage is so quick to read and easy to consume that you’ll be using those 10 minutes to think about what you might do differently next month.

And that’s really the point.

From what I can see, QuillEngage is a no-brainer for any business owner or marketer. Sure, you’re not going to get the detail that comes straight from Google Analytics, but the report should give you some quick thoughts on what to interrogate and act upon. And it’s free, at least for the time being. Get started here.

Getting Started with Online Marketing

Over the last couple of years I have developed checklists galore, but some of the most useful have been the most simple. One in particular I use when setting up a new blog or website. It steps me through the process of establishing a digital footprint – the spaces in which your online conversations and interactions will take place.

And while these checklists are great, usable and effective, they are nowhere near as pretty as the unbounce Noob Guide to Online Marketing.

I will be printing this out and ticking off the spokes in the wheel. And then, when the footprint is done, it's down to some quality time with Darren Rowse's 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. From there it is almost like clockwork!

Via Andy Moore.

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Getting to Know robots.txt

We all love visitors to our websites. We love the recognition, the sense of connectedness and the thrill of fame on whatever scale we happen to achieve. There is also a fascination with the numbers, pure numbers – where visitors came from, how they found our sites and what they are interested in. All this is good. The tingle of recognition ignites our passions and makes us want to improve. To make our sites better for our visitors, our customers and yes, even our communities.

But how do people find your site? How can you make sure that Google, Yahoo and all those other search engines are indexing your site in the right way? For example, you might want only Google to index your site. Or you might want to index everything except your photo gallery.

OR better yet … you might want to STOP search engines from indexing your site while you are still tweaking it prior to launch.

If you are using WordPress, you will be able to setup WordPress so that it hides your site from search engines with the click of a button.

But the rest of us have to rely on the Robots Exclusion Protocol.

Why use robots.txt?

Because the vast majority of us find websites via search, the careful management of robots.txt can have two particular impacts for marketers:

  1. Messaging – you can ensure that the bots index the pages that you want and specify the descriptions and information that tell your story – even before your customers get to your site.
  2. Customer experience – craft and refine the experience of your site by focusing on the experience of discovering your site and engaging your customer’s imagination early.

Of course, you may just want to funnel traffic from particular engines, or exclude indexing altogether.

What is robots.txt?

As the name suggests, robots.txt is a text file designed for automated web robots. It is one of the first files that a web bot scans on your website amd it tells the bot what to scan and what not to. Of course, if the person who wrote/designed the bot chooses to ignore robots.txt, then there is not much you can do about it (beyond putting a password on your site).

Where do you put robots.txt?

It’s very simple. Put your robots.txt file in the top level directory of your website – the same place as your home page.

What’s in robots.txt?

On the first line of robots.txt, you specify which bot you are targeting. Using * indicates that robots.txt applies to ALL bots.

On each subsequent line, you specify the “rules” for indexing your site. For example, you may want to disallow your personal photo gallery and the directory that runs your website programming scripts (cgi-bin). If so, your robots.txt file would look something like this:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /cgi-bin/
Disallow: /photos/

Blocking all search bots in robots.txt

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

Allowing only ONE search bot in robots.txt

User-agent: Google
Disallow:
User-agent: *
Disallow: /

Learning more about robots.txt

There are a few other tips and tricks that you can use to direct search bots to optimise your messaging and your customer’s experience. Check out the robotstxt.org website for more details.


This is part of my Digital 101 series – designed to explain the technical aspects of the digital landscape in a way that helps marketers do their job better.

Digital 101 – 20 Things About the Internet

20ThingsBook Very early on I had an interest in computers and computing. I wrote some BASIC programs using a Vic 20 and later a Commodore 64. I had a VZ200, tape drive and some extra RAM and would spend hours trying to create a Star Trek style adventure game.

When I worked as a trainee accountant, I used my programming knowledge to create a lease accounting program. It allowed me to complete in minutes a boring task that normally would take days. I knew I was onto something!

At university I turned my hand to FORTRAN and COBOL but started to reach the plateau of my interest. But I did also discover the internet – and learn about the node based network that sat beneath the world wide web. This understanding has been an absolute foundation for my work over the last 20 years – helping me to not just create strategy, but to ensure its realisation.

These days, with an increasing interest in digital and social media, I am always surprised to hear of people working in this space who have little or no experience AT ALL with technology. I’m not saying that you need to become a programmer, but you need to be able to understand the concepts. For example, can you answer the questions:

  • What is TCP/IP
  • What’s cloud computing
  • What is HTML and CSS
  • What’s different with HTML 5
  • Why should I use an up-to-date browser
  • What’s a cookie and why do they taste so good

Luckily, Google have stepped in and have put together a great introductory guide that answers these questions and more (HT to Stan Johnson).

And while I am on this topic, don’t forget also to check out Coding for Dummies. Some essential reading that won’t hurt your brain – and may just make you more successful in your digital efforts!