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Last post: April 10, 2019

How To Identify The Most Valuable Online Metrics For Your Business

How To Identify The Most Valuable Online Metrics For Your Business

By Anna on  April 10, 2019

Nowadays, businesses of all industries and sizes have a website. Some good, some not so good. Your businesses’ website should be more than just a pretty digital storefront. With global e-commerce sales projected to reach $4.9 trillion by 2021, it’s important to optimize your website to help your business increase awareness, leads, and sales.

A common question business owners ask is, how do you know if your website is successful? Success looks different for every company but can be measured all the same. Here’s how to know if your website is working for your business.

5-Step Process to Build a Measurement Plan

Before you open any type of analytics or tracking program, you should sit down with a group of stakeholders from your company and outline the following five elements to include in your measurement plan. Follow this process, developed by Avinash Kaushik, which can be adapted for any business setup.

1. Outline business objectives

For this first step, you'll need input from executives and senior leadership. What are you hoping to accomplish online? Why do you even have a website?

If you are an e-commerce site, a common objective is to sell products. For a B2B site the focus may be on lead generation. Discuss what matters for your business, and remember to think about objectives that can deliver value in both the short- and long-term for your organization. No need to go crazy coming up with objectives. Keep it simple. We've found identifying between one to three objectives helps keep focus while incorporating multiple priorities.

We’ll use St. Baldrick's Foundation as an example, as I believe their organization does great work with their online presence. As a previous volunteer shavee, I've used this before in examples of organizations that make it easy for users online.

Screenshot of St.Baldricks website

The St. Baldrick's Foundation is a volunteer-and donor-powered charity dedicated to raising money for lifesaving childhood cancer research and funds more in childhood cancer grants than any organization except for the U.S. government. Since the Foundation's first grants as an independent charity in 2005, St. Baldrick's has funded more than $234 million to support the most brilliant childhood cancer research experts in the world.

If I was working with their team to identify a few key business objectives for the organization, they might include: raising money for childhood cancer research, growing awareness of research (show people what they are doing with the money), and getting people involved to volunteer.


2. Set goals for each objective

soccer goal


Goals are how you will accomplish the business objectives. Start to think about both bigger and smaller actions that will contribute to success, and align a set of goals underneath each specific objective. This isn’t a one-person job. It's important to work collaboratively with team members who can give insight on different aspects- business, marketing, sales, etc.

Using the St. Baldrick’s example, if your objective is to raise money, then your website should be able to collect donations. If you want to get volunteers involved, you should have a way for volunteers to sign up or contact you on the site. And if you're trying to grow awareness, it may be important to share information about the organization and get new visitors to your website.

3. Assign key performance indicators (KPIs)

measuring tape

Now that you know how you will accomplish the objectives, you need to track your progress toward meeting them. These are called key performance indicators, or KPIs. For help identifying your KPIs, a good exercise is to separate them into in-process KPIs (the means to an end) and output KPIs (end result).

In order to track your KPIs, you can install Google Analytics for free on your website. Some useful Google Analytics reports might include tracking visitors’ locations, reporting activity from landing pages and social media, and more. And again, have a conversation with your team about what will drive your business and support the goals and objectives outlined in the previous steps.

For the St. Baldrick's example, in order to raise money and support donations online, one of the KPIs could be donation conversion rate. If you drive a lot of traffic to the site but no one is donating money, it won't support that objective. It's also important to make the essential site actions that drive your KPIs easy for your users.

4. Identify targets

dart board hitting target

Don't skip these next two steps because they will be essential in understanding success. Once you have your KPIs, you'll need to know what good performance looks like.

There are many areas to review as you start to set targets. First, you should connect with your team members who have historical knowledge of the business and performance. This could be historical performance of the website, sales numbers, monthly leads generated, etc. You can also look to industry benchmarks. Google Analytics has the ability to report on benchmarks on certain metrics across similar business industry and website size. Collaborate with team members to agree on what good or bad performance looks like.

5. Break into segments

apple slices segments

If you look at data in one big lump, it will not be helpful to anyone on your team. Breaking it down into targeted groups will show you important insights about your data and how you can improve performance to support your objectives. You'll see a common theme here. Again, it's important to talk to the executives about the most important segments for each goal.

Think about analyzing the data from different angles: How are visitors getting to your site? What are they doing once they get there? What happens after they complete an action on the site?

Avinash Kaushik refers to these as the "acquisition, behavior, and outcomes areas of marketing." Take some time to think about how your data could be broken into segments under each category.

Here are some examples for each:

Acquisition: Where the traffic is coming from. In the St. Baldrick's example, you could look at traffic from different online channels. How do visitors from social media engage with the site? Are they donating more or less than visitors from organic search? What about traffic coming from paid search, organic search, or email? Break the data up into these segments and review your KPIs. Keep what's working, stop what's not, and identify areas to test from there.

Behavior: What are visitors doing once they get to your site? How does a visitor who viewed five pages of your site compare to a visitor who only looked at one? What about the group of visitors who signed up for a newsletter or the visitors who abandoned the donation process—what was their experience like and how could it be improved? Some of these questions may require more testing or even setting up usability tests to understand the “why” behind some of the behaviors, but it will help guide your business into making the best decisions that support the overall objectives on the site.

Outcomes: Look at the results of actions on the site to identify what is most valuable for the business. Here you could review the time to donate for visitors who donated on their first visit compared to visitors who donated after a week. You could also look at the average donation amount and where your larger donations are coming from. Do you have visitors who are consistently donating more than double the site average? How can you find more like them? Another angle is to review the visitors who don't donate on the site—what actions are they taking and are those valuable in a different way for the business?

Use the above examples to identify a few segments for each area of your own website to support your objectives.

Next Steps: Measure ROI

Once you’ve built your next measurement plan, it’s important to, well, start measuring the value of website conversions, or the ROI of your website. It can be tricky to string the data together, but your business needs processes and systems in place to connect the dots. Even sites that are not e-commerce can work to calculate the economic value for actions on their websites. It's especially important to understand the value of the smaller conversions on your site, because only about 2 percent of your visitors will be completing the main conversion (purchase, contact, etc). How can the smaller actions add up? For example, how much is a PDF download of a popular catalog worth to your company? If you are measuring PDF downloads as a KPI for your business, the next step is to understand the value.

Read more: How to Set Smart Goals for Your Website

Start Talking Online Metrics

Now that you've walked through the five-step framework to outline objectives, goals, KPIs, targets, and segments for your business, we hope these questions will start an interesting discussion with your team and put you on the path understanding (and growing!) the success of your website.

Questions to ask your team:

  • How are we measuring the success of our digital marketing efforts?
  • What are the most important conversions on our website (and how much are they worth)?
  • Where are we currently spending time and money to acquire traffic?
  • What are the key benchmarks and targets for our goals?
  • What are the important segments to consider for each goal (acquisition / behavior / outcomes)?

How does your business measure success online? As a digital marketing and web design and development agency, Aztek works with our partners to develop measurement plans following this structure. Contact us for guidance and help measuring the success of your website.

5 Useful Google Analytics Reports

5 Useful Google Analytics Reports

By Anna on  March 4, 2019

Google Analytics is a powerful tool, and you can easily get lost in all the data and reporting options for your business. While it's fascinating that you have one visitor from Kazakhstan, what you track and what reports matter depend on what you've outlined for your business goals.

Important conversions on a website like e-commerce transactions and form submissions are always top of mind, but what else can you track that gives you a better understanding of how users are interacting with your site?

We want to share some of the basic Google Analytics reports that can benefit every business. If you have Google Analytics on your website, you can access these reports to help answer some common questions related to your website.

5 Helpful Google Analytics Reports


Where do my website visitors come from?

Screenshot of Google Analytics location report

Google Analytics tracks locations using IP addresses (based on a user's internet connection location vs. actual location), so keep this in mind as you review the data. You can find this report in Google Analytics: Audience > Geo > Locations

You can narrow down locations from country, to region, to city, to metro area. If you're a regional business or have specials running in specific locations, it may be beneficial to track new users from that region in Analytics.

This report shows you users, new users, sessions, and—if you have conversions set up (you should!)—the number of conversions. It's also helpful to view the source and medium for this traffic so you know how visitors from those regions got to your site.


What devices are most popular with my users?

Screenshot of mobile device report in Google Analytics

You can't walk down the street or get a cup of coffee without noticing how everyone around you has their heads down looking at their phones. Do you wonder how many of those mobile visitors make it to your website? Google Analytics can tell you. To see this report, go to: Audience > Mobile > Devices

You'll be able to see the percentage of total traffic that mobile devices account for, as well as the specific mobile device info that details if they're visiting from their new Apple iPhone X or a Samsung Galaxy S7.

Again, if you combine this with goal or conversion data, you'll be able to see if users from specific devices complete goals at a higher or lower rate than others. This will giving you insight into which devices may have usability issues to check or investigate.


What social channels send the most valuable traffic to my website?

Screenshot of social media overview report in Google Analytics

The social overview report outlines which social channels are sending traffic to your website. To see this report, go to: Acquisition > Social > Overview.

If you have goals set up in Google Analytics for your website, this report also shows which social media channels contribute to conversions on your website. Even better, if you have a value set for the goals, you'll see how the social media channels are contributing to your bottom line. Having additional tracking set up is helpful because you'll be able to see which social channels are sending the best traffic to your site—traffic that is completing a desired action once they get there.

Landing Pages

Where do visitors enter my website?

Screenshot of landing page report in Google Analytics

One of our favorite reports, this shows the pages where visitors enter your website (and yes, it's not always the home page). These landing pages are not to be confused with landing pages used for paid search campaigns or other definitions. To see this report, go to: Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages

To get more insight from this report, add a secondary dimension of source/medium. This will show you where the traffic is coming from that lands on those pages. For example, you can see which pages are good at bringing organic search traffic to your site.

Exit Pages

Where do visitors leave my site?

Screenshot of Exit Pages report in Google Analytics

The exit pages report shows you the last page a user visits before their session ends or they leave your site. To see this report, go to: Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages

This report gives you a list of places you can try to engage more with your visitors. They are leaving your site after being on these pages, so review and see if you can find out why. You'll want to understand the context around what users are trying to accomplish on these pages, and if they are successful or not.

However, there are some pages that are natural exit pages, like form submission thank you pages, e-commerce transaction receipt pages, etc. While there are opportunities to drive a user back into the site, those types of pages will likely have higher exit rates naturally. What you're looking for are pages that are outside of this context—ones where users should not be leaving your site.

Now that you've explored some of these standard reports in Google Analytics, we hope you've been able to find helpful data that can help you improve your business online. If you need additional help outlining a measurement plan, feel free to contact us.

Footnote: It's also important to understand the settings for Google Analytics that collect this data. Google has data processing and data retention terms that your business should review to ensure you are following proper data collection methods. Learn more here:

A Key To Success Online: Make It Easy

A Key To Success Online: Make It Easy

By anna on  March 23, 2018

It's difficult to simplify a process.

It takes time, effort, and many iterations before you're able to boil something down into what really matters. Think about Amazon. They've been testing how to make it easier and easier for you to buy products online: Amazon Prime, Dash buttons, recurring purchases, and even one-click purchasing. It's so easy to buy something on Amazon.

Other businesses can take advantage of this concept of "making it easy." I'll share an example of how one non-profit is making it easy for their audience online, and how you can apply some of these principals to your business.


Who's Doing it Right: The St. Baldrick's Foundation

St. Baldrick's Foundation Logo

The St. Baldrick's Foundation is a volunteer and donor powered charity dedicated to raising money for lifesaving childhood cancer research and funds more in childhood cancer grants than any organization except for the U.S. government.

Since the Foundation's first grants as an independent charity in 2005, St. Baldrick's has funded more than $234 million to support the most brilliant childhood cancer research experts in the world.
- St. Baldrick's Website

The name "St. Baldrick's" is a combination of the words "bald" and "St. Patrick's," since the first event was held in 2000 on March 17, which is St. Patrick's Day. For over 18 years St. Baldrick's has been able to refine and expand on the ways they support their mission- you can learn more about their history.

Now, I'll admit, I have a vested interest in this non-profit. I shaved my head in support of the cause (you can see my before and after photos at the end of the post). Because I'm also a volunteer "shavee," I have an inside look into all the wonderful content efforts St. Baldrick's has in place. I don't have a connection to anyone who works there, but I admire what they are doing with their website, content, and digital marketing efforts (not to mention the cause).

What They Do Well (Basically Everything)

But, in addition to all this, I believe the biggest factor to their success is that they make it easy to do what you need to do - as a donor and as a volunteer.

Top 5 Ways St. Baldrick's Makes It Easy

1. Make it easy to get started.

Half of the battle is to getting people to take the first step. And once they decide that's what they want to do, you better hope it's easy! First impressions are everything, and nothing deters a user more than being frustrated with their first experience.

St. Baldrick's does an amazing job of getting volunteers and donors to what they need quickly. When you land on the home page, if you are a new volunteer and want to "Get Involved" by shaving your head, you'll go to this page where you see exactly what you need to do to get started (they even mention how easy the other steps are!)

Four steps to get started as a shavee with St.Baldricks

2. Make it easy to fundraise.

fundraising tips to get to 500

If your organization is asking it's audience to complete a task, giving direct guidance and support is necessary.

With St. Baldrick's once you're signed up as a shavee you get access to a resource lounge with tons of helpful information about fundraising tips including sample emails, sample donation request letters, facts to share about the organization, and more. It's easy to know what to do to start raising money. They even outline exactly how you can get to $500 and what that impact would be for the kids fighting cancer.

3. Make it easy to donate.

Going back to the basics is something I'd recommend every business do with their online efforts. What do you want your users to do on your website? Now the big part, is it easy for them to do that?

With St. Baldrick's they want to raise money for childhood cancer research. So it needs to be easy to donate. If you go to their website (on your phone of course), here's what you see:

home page for st. baldricks website

You can donate in the top right, you can enter the amount you want in the box to donate once or make it recurring, or you can find the individual, team, or event you want to support all within your first view. Then when you go to complete the transaction it's a simple 3-step process that's easy to complete.

Step One

step one of donation process for st.baldricks

Step Two

 step two of donation process for st. baldricks

Step Three

step three of donation process with st.baldricks

If you pause while going through this 3-step process, they've even listed helpful content below that talks about why it's important to fund childhood cancer research and reasons why you should support their organization. Perfect content placement. And so easy to complete this task.

4. Make it easy to track your progress.

If you have a goal or target and no one knows, it's hard to measure how you're doing. This is true in all aspects of business.

St. Baldrick's sets up each shavee with an individual fundraising page, and you can customize it with your own information. They make it easy to see your fundraising goal, how far you have to go, and who's contributed.

individual shavee fundraising page

5. Make it easy to say thank you.

When your users or supporters do something great for you it's important to acknowledge them. This helps build your community and engagement with your audience. And it's nice.

St. Baldrick's has an excellent system that tracks donations and allows you to send thank you notes out from an online dashboard (and they have thank you templates ready to go in the resource center!) - you can send a note via Twitter, Facebook, or email. Or you can print out ready-made thank you cards to send the old fashioned way. They make you look good (thank you!).

thank you options social media and email

Bonus: Make it fun.

By grouping the events into teams and keeping track of individual donations and team donations, St. Baldrick's puts the "fun" in fundraising by turning it into a challenge. The excitement and dedication to the event from the team leaders and attendees is contagious, which is why there are so many return volunteers. They even give out awards for shavees who've donated over a certain number of times. And of course, everyone's favorites: the BEFORE and AFTER photos!

before my head was shaved for the St. Baldricks Foundation to conquer childhood cancersafter my head was shaved for the St. Baldricks Foundation

How Does this Apply To My Business?

It's clear that St. Baldrick's has walked through each step of the user journey for each of their different audience segments, and they understand what's needed to help make each part of the process easy. Similar to Amazon, they've probably tested, updated and tested again for each part of this process. This takes time, but there are some questions that can get you started:

  1. What are the most important tasks for your users to complete?
  2. Is it easy for users to complete these tasks? How do you know? (try it yourself!)
  3. Do your users need additional support or information at any point along their journey?

Make adjustments that you believe will help your users complete their tasks. Test again. Repeat.

Not sure where to start? We can help. And you won't even need to shave your head. But if you do want to support St. Baldrick's I think it's a great organization!

What Are Personas?

By anna on  April 24, 2017

You Don’t Matter

It’s true. We like you, but we don’t care about you. We care about the people who are using your website, purchasing your products, and calling your help line. These are the people who help you achieve your business goals, and we want to get to know them better.

Photos of users

Maybe you’ve heard your web team refer to these people as your “users” or “visitors." Companies will spend time researching, interviewing, and collecting data on these people to find out how they behave on the web. The qualities, characteristics, goals, and behaviors of these groups of people will become the basis for your personas.

But Wait, What Is a Persona?

The term persona means different things to different people, so it’s important to ask what it means to whoever you’re working with. 

Personas are a research-based combination of common demographics, behaviors, goals, and challenges for a specific group of your website visitors or customers. When completed, a persona may look something like a LinkedIn profile (except that it’s not a real person). 

Keep in mind that personas are used as an internal tool, so most businesses do not make their personas public. But some do. MailChimp for example.

What’s the Story Behind Personas?

Alan Cooper started using personas in the 1980s to help empathize with the users of the software he was developing. He realized that he could group users together with similar goals, tasks, and skill levels and then use that information to support his project recommendations. This practice of using personas was publicized in Cooper’s book, “The Inmates Are Running the Asylum."

Now you can find tons of articles and blog posts written about personas. However, to help you cut through the fluff and give you a comprehensive understanding of the topic, we share three blogs written from different perspectives in the industry. 

What you’ll notice is that everyone has a different way of describing and building personas, but in all cases, the process will help you learn more about your visitors, customers, and/or users which is never a bad thing.   

1. Personas 101: What Are They and Why Should I Care? 

by Elastic Path

"Personas are fictional characters based on actual observed behaviors of real users a UX professional experiences in the field, talking one-on-one with users." Laura Ballay, User Experience Manager Elastic Path

Written from the user-experience context, this blog post focuses on how personas apply to the overall experience when a person uses a product (such as a website or computer application). Real-world observation is stressed as well as asking the right questions. Learn about what personas are not, additional benefits, and how to observe your users. 

Read the full article on Personas 101


2. Personas: The Art and Science of Understanding the Person Behind the Visit 

by Michael King (iPullRank)

"Personas are a method of market segmentation wherein we collect a combination of qualitative and quantitative data to build archetypes of the members of our target audience." Michael King, Moz

This one might take you awhile, so grab another cup of coffee. You can learn everything from the basics to how to incorporate analytics to enhance your understanding of personas in this in-depth post by Moz.

With many real-world examples, the focus is on collecting data and using that information to help structure your personas.

Be sure to use the table of contents to navigate through the full post

3. What Is a Buyer Persona? Why the Original Definition Still Matters to B2B

by Tony Zambito

Tony Zambito is a strategist that focuses on business to business (B2B) user research. This blog post looks at the definition of a buyer persona from 2002 and how it still applies today in a more advanced digital age.

Tony focuses on the story of the buyers- the who, what, where, when, why, and how that leads to a deeper understanding of their needs and behaviors online.  

Read the full article and see how Tony uses the 5Ws + H in user research.

Benefits of Personas

"A major virtue of personas is the establishment of empathy and understanding the individual who uses the product." Donald A. Norman, NN/g

When used effectively, personas can help

  • Build empathy for the user
  • Develop focus and priority for project tasks
  • Form consensus across teams
  • Guide decisions from a user’s perspective

What does that mean for you?

It means that visitors will be able to find what they're looking for on your website. That your customers will be able to find answers to their common questions so they can make a purchase decision. And that your web team will be able to make faster, more informed decisions to move your project forward. 

Types of Persona Development

Just like there are different considerations for what a persona is, the type of persona you develop will depend on your goals for the project, and the resources you have available. Again, if you ask me, any effort spent on user research will be beneficial to a project.

Yeah, I've Got A Budget For That

Hooray! Seriously, that's awesome. Go for full-fledged personas created by a company dedicated to user research and persona development. These personas will be

Limited (or No) Budget

Consider using provisional personas created internally or with your web agency. (We'll talk about how to develop provisional personas in part two.) These personas will be 

  • Based on internal assumptions and second-hand data.
  • The result from brainstorming with those who have a deep understanding of current audiences (customer relations, HR, service positions, etc.).
  • Evolving as you continue to learn more information. 

Are personas necessary?

Great question. And the answer is of course not. But, they can be very helpful.

Personas are a tool that can be used to help build empathy for users and create alignment on project goals. Creating them is not the goal, the goal is to use them to better understand user behaviors, and to inform project decisions now and into the future.

Samples users images from: Random user Generator


Content Marketing: Be Honest. Be Authentic. Be Human.

By anna on  April 24, 2017

What do you take away from the biggest content marketing conference in the world? Besides tons of vendor swag and a hangover, we picked up insight into the industry and three popular themes for you to try in your marketing.

Google Trends confirms the increasing interest in the phrase "content marketing" since 2005.

And as more and more companies invest in content marketing programs, it is essential to be able to show results. When programs are started without a clear strategy or measure of success, then it can lead to questions over the impact and effectiveness of the program.

State of the Industry

Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing | Gartner Study July 2015

Jake Sorofman of Gartner summarizes the cautionary tone of how content marketing is maturing in the industry, and how its place on the "Hype Cycle for Digital Marketing" is in the decline (see diagram above). But don't worry, it's not going anywhere. Jake outlines five causes of failure in content marketing from Joe Pulizzi's keynote speech. If you're feeling this disillusionment with content marketing, are you making these mistakes?

Three Themes

If you weren't lucky enough to attend this year (thanks boss!), we found three themes that ran throughout keynotes and presentations.

  1. Be honest
  2. Be authentic
  3. Be human

Seems simple enough, but the value is in the stories and examples that speakers shared to support these themes.

1. Be Honest

Sure, normal honesty is ethical and professional. But are you insanely honest?

Insane honesty is a choice, according to Doug Kessler of Velocity Partners. He shared examples where companies went out of their way to be proactively honest, "insanely honest," by volunteering their weaknesses unasked. Basically putting your worst foot forward.

Uh, why would you do that?

Six Reasons

Examples of insane honesty in action:

The Onion

The Onion approaches sponsored content in a very honest way. It surprises and delights, while giving you confidence that they won't try to sneak in sponsored content without telling you.

They just tell the audience the truth upfront. It kinda makes you feel like you'd look at the content just because they were so honest about it, no?



If you're on a family vacation in Amsterdam, then the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel probably isn't for you. And you'd know if you took one look at their website or their ads.

Hans Brinker Hotel image of a man passed out in a sketchy looking bed

But that's okay. They use insane honesty to alienate the less likely buyers and attract more of their ideal customers: students, backpackers, sports groups, etc.

Ugli Campus

How do you convince people to move into an ugly office building? Tell the truth. Be insanely honest. It's an ugly building, but it's great inside! This will help attract the ideal prospects and alienate less likely ones.

Ugli Building

Ugli website screenshot

The building didn't have any trouble getting tenants. The content built trust and kept the least likely tenants from looking any further. If it didn't embrace its weakness, the story may have been entirely different.

I like this idea, where can I learn more?

Doug has a Slideshare on insane honesty in content marketing that explains further. Or, for more examples of insane honesty in action (from classic ad campaigns to newer cases) check out this blog post. He even mentions Eddie the Terrible (shout out to Ann Handley!).

2. Be authentic

It's PSL season, but that wasn't the reason everyone was talking about Starbucks during the conference.

Starbucks & Veterans

Starbucks CEO Howard Shultz partnered with Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a writer and editor for The Washington Post for more than two decades, on a project for veterans. This project turned into For Love of Country, a book about a dozen veterans and their lives after active service.

Rajiv spoke about how Starbucks approached the topic of veterans with an authentic interest and dedication from the top down. Starbucks committed to hiring 10,000 veterans and military spouses, and they threw a huge Veteran's Day concert to raise awareness of veteran's issues in the United States.

Your audience will know if you are not being authentic. Rajiv stressed that the key for Starbucks was Howard's dedication and genuine support of the issue from the start.

The purpose of this venture was not to drive sales for Starbucks, but it can still have an indirect impact. Going back to For Love of Country, Maj. Gen. Robert Scales wrote in a review in The Wall Street Journal,

"...Frankly I'm not all that crazy about coffee. But after reading this moving book I'll not likely pass a Starbucks again without stopping for a patriotic cup."

Writing books and starting ground-up social movements might not be in the cards for you, but that doesn't mean you can't embrace being authentic.

Another way to be authentic? Teach.

Share your knowledge with no expectations in return.

Ann Handley gave an excellent example from Blue Bottle Coffee (side note: I promise, I didn't mean to make all the examples about coffee). This Oakland California-based company started with one man and a dream. Now it has networks of cafes, partners, and coffee roasters on two coasts.

Blue Bottle Coffee Skillshare Course

Coffee skill shareThe company shares just about everything you'd want to know about coffee. On their website, they have brewing guides that explain the proper way to brew all different styles of coffee (Aeropress anyone? ). They also took it a step further and created a Skillshare course on how to brew an amazing cup of coffee.

With a 99 percent positive review and over 5,000 students, you'd imagine some would be curious to try Blue Bottle coffee after taking the course. I know I would!

3. Be human

Remember, 100 percent of your customers are people. And people don't engage with your brand. They engage with people. Kristina Halvorson highlighted this in her keynote and it was repeated in many presentations.

And people matter. Actually, in marketing, business outcomes and customer satisfaction are the only things that matter.

Warby Parker Home Try-On

Warby Parker does a great job of "humanizing" their brand. If you don't know Warby Parker, they are an online eyeglasses and sunglasses company. They have a program where they send you frames to try on at home so you can choose which you like best. Complete with a hashtag to promote customers sharing their #WarbyHomeTryOn on social media. They understand that it's hard to decide for yourself what style of glasses is best. In the traditional store, you would ask the sales person, but what do you do when you're at home? Tweet it or put it on Instagram, duh.

Warby Parker try on glasses

Then guess what happens? WarbyParker responds! They let you know which style they prefer. Consistently. And real people are responding, they aren't just canned robot responses. Sometimes they even put together a personalized jingle to help you decide... 

They understand that their customers are trying glasses on at home, and might need a second opinion. They are being human and offering advice to customers in a genuine way, and it's great. When you see a personal response like that from a company before you've even made a purchase from them, it gives you insight into the level of service if you do make a purchase.

What are your favorite examples of companies or brands being honest, authentic, or human? Have you seen any that really missed the mark? Let us know in the comments below.

Mind Your Forms and Thank Yous: 10 Tips for Form Optimization

By anna on  April 24, 2017

Forms are all around you

Let's walk through your morning routine:

You pour a big cup of coffee, sit at your desk, log in to your computer, sign in to your email account, browse Instagram, and Google funny memes to share with co-workers. 

Notice all those forms?

A form is a web page with boxes you can type into. You use forms all the time. Well-designed and tested forms you probably don't notice. But I'm sure you'll recognize a bad form when you run into one.

Bad forms make people frustrated. And bad forms can have consequences for your users. They stop filling them out. They leave your site. They use fake information. They abandon the cart. This is not good for your website or for your business.

A form is a conversation between you and your website visitors


Forms completed on your website can be an important element to help measure the success of marketing campaigns, online sales, and more (depending on your strategy). Just like in real life, you want your conversations to leave a good impression.

Improving your forms can increase conversions while maintaining the quality of leads.

One contact form study showed that reducing the number of fields from eleven to four increased the conversions by 120 percent

We want your forms to be successful too, so we're sharing some tips about how to create forms that are usable and will help you increase your conversions.


Who is filling out your form?

What else might your visitors be doing while trying to complete your form? They could be browsing Facebook, listening to Spotify, checking email, researching a purchase, etc. They are not eagerly awaiting a form to fill out online, that's for sure.

Keep this in mind when you're making your form.

Completing a form online is like starting a conversation.

It's normal to ask someone their name, maybe what they do. You wouldn't ask for their annual salary or home address (they might start questioning your motives). 

It's the same with your form, how much information are the visitors willing to give? What information do you need to help them complete their task?

Tip: If you have personas for your website, you can use them to walk through any forms on your site. What are personas?

Remember: Questions have a cost

Every field you include on your form is data that will have to be processed and stored. In addition to storing and moving around all that information, there are hidden costs for your site users.

If you have too many questions, you'll lose people. Or if people think a question isn't necessary they'll submit fake data (have you been getting any fake info on your forms?). Now you have to spend time cleaning that up and aintnobodygottimeforthat.

Make the form easy to complete

Only include necessary questions that collect useful data.

Talk with the people who will use the information after it's submitted. This could be your customer service team, sales team, or an administrative professional. Why do they need that piece of information? Who uses it? What happens if bad information is submitted in that field?

If you're talking to someone at a bar, and they ask for your number, you expect them to use it.

Just like if you ask for information on a form, your users will expect you to use it. If I give you my email, I expect to get an email confirmation that you got my submission. If you aren't sending me an email, let me know why you need it. Otherwise, why ask for my email in the first place?

For more complicated forms (or for forms that may run into a disagreement about what information is needed by administration or management), try using a question protocol.

Question protocol: How to find unnecessary form fields

In the book, Forms that Work by Caroline Jarrett and Gerry Gaffney the authors define a question protocol as a list of:

  • Every question you ask
  • The people who use the answer for each question within your organization
  • What they use it for
  • Whether the answer is required or optional

If the question is required, the question protocol shows what will happen if the user enters fake information to get through the form.

Example question protocol

Start by listing all current form fields (answer column), then go through one by one and complete the rest of the information. After you've gone through all answers, look back and determine which fields are needed/required to complete the task.

Answer (Required fields with *) Who needs it? For what (notes)?
Title Registration office Do we need to ask for titles? Seems more formal.
*Name Registration office Communication to confirm registration
Fax number Registration office When was the last time we sent a fax to an attendee?
*Telephone number Registration office Call in case there are any questions with registration.
*Email Registration office Email to confirm registration.
... ... ...

More on question protocols by Caroline Jarrett on UXmatters.

10 Tips To Help Improve Your Web Form

1. Put labels where people see them

Eye tracking shows that users focus on the labels and fields, and barely look at the rest of the form.

Users see labels above and to the left of fields.

Nielson Norman Group found that using labels as placeholders in the form fields hurt usability more than helping it. One reason is that eye tracking also shows users eyes are drawn to empty fields, so when placeholder text is used, the field looks complete and is easier to miss. Read all seven reasons why placeholder text hurts usability.

But there's an adaptive approach that combines a label in the form field when not active, and then adjusts after content is in the box. Warby Parker uses it, and we've implemented something similar on one of our recent forms.

2. Validate the field when the user is done

It would be strange if you were talking to someone and they kept interrupting you to ask your name while you were trying to tell them your name. 

So validating the field after the user is done is a fancy way to say "please don't interrupt/correct me until after I'm done entering my information." One of my biggest pet peeves is when I'm in the middle of filling out a field and the form is telling me it's incomplete. Yeah, I know, I'm still filling it out. Your users may not mind. Again, here is where testing comes into play. But validating early is appreciated and saves the user time from waiting until the end to make any corrections.

Image of form that validates while the visitor is filling it out. 

Image of form that validates while the visitor is filling it out.

Image of a form that validates field after it's complete. 


3. Make the clickable area an appropriate size

This is really important for mobile devices. Your finger is bigger than you think! Be sure to test your form on mobile to ensure it's easy to complete and submit on a smaller screen. 

4. Have the field size match the amount of content needed, and give guidance on what input you're looking for

If you're asking for an email or telephone number, you don't need a big text box. Size the field to match around what you'll need.

And for the phone number field, will you allow dashes and dots in numbers? Or no symbols at all? Make it clear to users how they should complete the fields. This will save them time by not having to go back and correct those errors. 

5. Take users to specific errors, and provide helpful feedback

Oops. You missed a field. But it might be hard to see now that you're at the bottom and/or top of the form.

If someone misheard your name in a conversation, you'd correct them the first time, not wait until the conversation was done. 

The same thing applies with forms. Provide error messages that address field-specific issues, and take the users to those fields so they can fix them quickly. You can also give more general error messages, but make sure it is easy for users to find what needs to be corrected.

Also, be nice. It's not the end of the world if your visitors forget to fill in a field or don't complete one correctly. Give them guidance on what they need to do to successfully submit the form. Avoid using exclamation marks and ALL CAPS, it's rude to yell at people when you're in a conversation. 

6. Let users know what's required (and/or optional)

There are different opinions in the industry here. You'll see different strategies for different forms. The only way to know what will work best for you is to test, test, test!

Three options for labeling fields:

  • Label only required fields

Most visitors will understand the asterisk means the field is required. If your users question why you need some of the information, give a brief explanation of why you're asking. These tips can be displayed inline, as tool tips, or as dynamic descriptions that only show up when you are using the specific field.

  • Label only optional fields

There's some research and testing to support the idea that users will complete more information if you only label the optional fields.

  • Label required fields with an asterisk and label optional fields

Jarrett and Gaffney (Forms That Work, 2009) recommend marking required fields with an asterisk and labeling the optional fields since that is the convention most web forms follow. They say that only labeling optional fields is “unusual, and therefore, confusing.”

Whatever approach you choose, be sure to test your form to determine if it is the best strategy for you.

7. Break up long forms, and provide progress indicators (if necessary)

If you put too many fields on one page it can intimidate your users. It's like your filibustering your site visitors, and that's not very polite.

Group like fields together, and hide additional fields until they are needed. If it's a long form with multiple screens, make sure users know where they are and how much is left before the form is complete. If you don't tell them, they'll probably leave (I know I do).

Imagine you're going to hire a wedding DJ. What would you talk about in the first conversation? What information would you need next? There are phases of information that the DJ will eventually need, but it would be very intimidating to try and talk about them all the first time you meet.

I loved my recent wedding DJ, but I started sweating when I saw the form he wanted me to complete on his website. He had relevant fields grouped together, which was good. But there was lots of room for improvement. 


So many fields presented at once. No way to save my progress. And I didn't know I'd need to know so many of these details, I thought I was just sending music. I skipped a lot of the fields and just emailed him the extra information later. I'm sure with some help this form could improve his goal of keeping all of this information together for his events.

Tip: Give your visitors a heads up about any specific types of information they'll need before they get started.

8. Only ask for the information you need

Worth repeating again. If you're in doubt, check that question protocol.

9. Don't settle for a "submit" button

Say hello. Download the E-Book. Get Started Today. So many button text options.

Carefully-crafted button text can also help increase your conversions. Through testing, you can find out what will get your visitors to take action. Make your button stand out from all the other submits! Align your action with what your users want to do. Just be sure that you're clear, and maybe get a little creative. Who doesn't appreciate a good submit button?

10. Close with an informative thank you

Your conversation should end smoothly. Don't just drop your drink and run out of the bar.

Acknowledge the user's efforts. Let the user know what will happen next and make sure to follow up as appropriate. Offer a helpful link to your website, like going back to the home page. Or offer a contact for help if they encounter any problems.

Not sure where to get started? Check out these examples of successful thank you messages.

Now that you're armed with tips for creating and improving forms online, go forward and start improving your conversions!

If you need any help, you know how to get a hold of us.


What other form tips do you have to share? Let us know in the comments.


Photo Credit: "I must be getting old..." by r reeves is licensed under CC BY 2.0


5 Content Marketing Expert Tips To Enhance Your Effectiveness

5 Content Marketing Expert Tips To Enhance Your Effectiveness

By anna on  April 24, 2017

You guys, how are there so many smart people?

It feels like just yesterday we were at Content Marketing World 2015 talking with experts about being honest (Doug Kessler, Insane Honesty), being authentic (Rajiv Chandrasekaran & Howard Shultz, Starbucks & Veterans), and being human (Kristina Halvorson). So how could we possibly top that?

With Legos.

And laughter.

And insight.

But most importantly (as the experts reminded us) with people, community, and quality content.

5 Tips from Content Marketing Experts


1. Put your customers on center stage, not your brand. Build a community around content. -Lars Silberbauer

Lars Silberbauer is the global senior director of social media & video at LEGO. He joined LEGO in 2011 when they didn't even have a Facebook page or YouTube channel.

Now LEGO's Facebook page has 11.6 million fans, and its LEGO YouTube channel gets more than 1 billion views a year!

Working closely with his talented global team (and partnering with Facebook) he emphasized empowering people to build relationships. Anyone can make plastic blocks, it's the community that connects customers and strengthens the brand.

"We have 20 times more content being generated by users than we do ourselves, this is what makes a ton of difference." - Lars Silberbauer

How LEGO Connects with the Community to Create Content

LEGO Ideas Website

Image of LEGO Ideas Website

With the ideas "building together" and "pride of creation," Lego created an ideas website. You can create your own project idea and if you get 10,000 supporters LEGO will put your idea into the market.


Image of LEGO campaign to promote George traveling the world

The "empty your pockets campaign," OK Lars didn't call it that specifically, but what a great idea. He wanted to see what kind of impact they could have with a smaller budget. For $100 they came up with "George."

George was a template anyone could create, and with the customer's help he'd travel the world. LEGO set the stage for customers to build their own content. And they got results immediately. George even has his own Facebook page.

Image of LEGO George traveling the world, in front of the Hollywood sign

What's your kronkiwongi?

This unique campaign lets you peak into the child's inner world and imagination. LEGO teamed up with Facebook and sent bricks for parents to have their kids build a kronkiwongi.

"98 percent of us are creative geniuses at 3 years old, but by the time we are grownups, only 2 percent of us have retained that level of creativity.'" - Lars Silberbauer

The creativity of children and the pride of parents was a perfect combination for Facebook.

The Facebook campaign rose engagement 61 percent on LEGO's Facebook page and reached 80 percent of the moms LEGO targeted on Facebook (27 million people).

Check out LEGO's Kronkiwongi page and watch the video (it's adorable).

Want more details? There's a complete write up of the LEGO keynote you can check out.

Key Takeaway: If you're noticing a lack of engagement from your customers on social media, take a closer look at your online community. Are you giving them the chance to be in the spotlight?

2. An ally in creation is an ally in promotion. -Andy Crestodina

Andy Crestodina knows a lot about how to work with people and grow a business. He shared his personal story and strategy that took his company from around $900 annual revenue in 2002 to $5 million with 100% inbound leads in 2016.

Image of KeynoteInk for Andy Crestodina's Keynote at Content Marketing World 2016

Spoiler alert: he didn't do it alone. He built relationships and created a community of people that supported him (and shared his content).

For Andy, there are two types of content:

  • Strong opinion content (generates shares)
  • Original research content (generates links)

Questions to help you generate ideas for these types of content:

  • What do people say but rarely support in your industry? (Find the missing statistic)
  • What do you believe that most people will disagree with?
  • What questions in your industry are people afraid to answer?

Answer those questions, and you'll have content people will want to read. Andy and his team do a great job creating both types of high-quality content on the Orbit Media Blog.

But are other people doing this too? Who's creating all this content online? Turns out...

"Only 1 percent of people online create content — the other 99 percent are lurkers."

If you're a lurker, now's the time to step out of the shadows.

Get Collaborators for Your Content

  • Get quotes
  • Get videos
  • Get selfies
  • You've got a portable recording studio in your hand, put it to use!

People are more likely to share content they've been involved in creating (that ego, right?).

Aaron Orendorff (@iconiContent) was doing this at Content Marketing World by asking attendees to share their networking tips. These attendee quotes and videos will supplement his initial piece with tips for connecting with influencers from the experts themselves.

Image of Iconicontent sharing networking tips!

Everyone should make their content as collaborative, interactive, and easy-to-share as he does in this piece.

Key Takeaway: Going to a conference? Follow a similar strategy to meet people and build your community!

Not going to a conference? Start to build relationships with industry experts through social media. Connect via Twitter chats, Google Hangouts, Webinars, LinkedIn groups, etc. Once you have a group you're comfortable with, reach out and see if they'd be interested in collaborating on your next piece of content. Remember: strong opinion, original research!

3. Data points are easy, insight is the harder thing, the more interesting thing. -Doug Kessler

Image of Doug Kessler CMW 2016 Insight presentation

What is insight? Doug Kessler warned that there are some things that will pretend to be insight, but it's not really the case.

  • Data is not insight until it's meaning is unpacked for an audience.
  • Eye candy is not insight. (put data in an infographic) This isn't M-f*cking-TV
  • Curation is not insight. Until you add some analysis.

How do you find insight and turn it into content?

Image of Doug Kessler CMW 2016 Insight to Content process

There's not a set formula, so this is the difficult part. But you have to start somewhere! For example, Doug shared,

Fact-> Observation -> Insight

  • Fact: People feed their pets twice a day.
  • Observation: They tend to feed them at breakfast and dinner time.
  • Insight: People feel guilty about eating in front of their pets.

So now that you have this insight, you'll see pet food companies doing things like:

Image of Cesar Savory Dog food from Doug Kessler's CMW 2016 presentation

Image of TikiDogs dog food from Doug Kessler's CMW 2016 presentation

Or, the fact that only 2 percent of women think they are beautiful. Dove had insight into that one and created a HUGE global ad campaign based on "real beauty."

Image of insight by Dove campaign to create the Real Beauty content


Why does insight matter?

Image of Phil Dusenberry quote on insight.

Key Takeaway: Take a chance and spend the time to spot the insight on your next project.

4. Just like your retirement portfolio, you should diversify your content channels. The challenge is not being spread too thin. -Margaret Magnarelli

Margaret Magnarelli is the Managing Editor/ Senior Director, Marketing at Monster. She gave practical tips on how her team structures diverse content creation and promotion to positively impact key performance indicators (KPIs).

Don't focus on your home page: "front door" traffic is dying

"The New Your Times saw a 50 percent decline in homepage entries between 2012 and 2014...while side doors (email, paid social, organic search, referral, etc.) are multiplying."

What does this mean? Diversification is good!

Image of retirement portfolio diversification, similar strategy for content

"Diversification of channels increases traffic and conversion potential while at the same time decreasing the risks of plummeting KPIs."

*The challenge is not being spread too thin.*

Image of content being spread too thin

The Monster Content Portfolio

Image of the Monster content portfolio strategy

She outlines the different types as follows:

  • "How?" is evergreen educational content that offers supreme utility, and establishes your brand as a thought leader.
  • "Now." is news-, trend- or data-driven content that builds authority and integrity, while helping make your brand seem current.
  • "Wow!" is content created for social sharing or engagement—e.g. infographics, quizzes, humorous lists, GIFs posts— for our own site or for specific social platforms.

An Example of Wow! Content

See, a resume can be fun!

What was the payoff?

Image of How Now Wow Payoff at Monster

Key Takeaway: Work with your team to outline your content diversification and promotion strategy. Margaret shared a detailed organizational chart that shows how much coordination and planning is required to put a successful program in place.

Image of content team structure at monster

5. You have to be inspiring. What's your punchline? -Michael Jr

Comedian Michael Jr. started out by explaining how jokes work: most of the time you have a set-up, and then you have a punchline. But he went into more than jokes. He explained how his perspective on comedy changed.

The video explains it best, and to be honest, I got a little teary-eyed at the end.

Key Takeaway: You should probably just watch the video it's only 3 minutes.

If you want to hear more about his keynote, there is an entire article about his performance at Content Marketing World.

Like I said, smart people! 

It's impossible to include them all. Hear from Ann Handley and Kristina Halvorson about Slow Content. Or check out other summaries on the CMW blog.

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