A primer on Google analytics

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A primer on Google analytics

Understanding how to use Google Analytics is one of the main skills you need to become an ace digital marketer. It’s a powerful tool that can provide comprehensive data about your website’s performance, but it can be confusing and daunting to a newcomer who isn’t familiar with the tech lingo.

In my daily work, I monitor analytics across all of USGBC’s digital properties to understand what’s working on a webpage and what isn’t; for inspiration on article topics (for instance, if there has been a spike in searches related to energy efficiency, perhaps it’s time to write an article about that); and to help other departments understand what content our audience finds most useful. The information Google Analytics provides a true north, if you will, in what I need to spend my energy and time on as a digital marketer.

If you’re just beginning to dip your toes into the digital marketing field or need a Google Analytics refresher, here’s what you need to know to get started in collecting data reports.

Navigating Google Analytics

Let’s say you already have Google Analytics installed on your website (if not, check out Moz’s guide on how to set up the tool). Once logged in, you’ll see an overview of your website’s performance regarding number of users, sessions and bounce rate—we’ll discuss these terms later on—and on the left-hand navigation bar, you’ll see several tabs, including “Real-time,” “Audience,” “Acquisition” and “Behavior.”

This section will show you real-time data, including how many active visitors are currently on your website, how many pages they’re viewing, the most active pages and where your users live.

This is my favorite section of Google Analytics, because it shares useful information about your online audience on a macro basis. The Audience report will give you a ton of demographic data about your users, including their ages and interests, but it also will show you how many pages a typical web user visits after coming to your website, the average amount of time they spend, what devices they’re using and if they’ve been on your website before.

This section will show you where your web traffic is coming from, such as organic searches (if a user types “flowers” into Google and then arrives at a flower shop’s website, that’s an organic search), emails, social media or paid searches. If you’re analyzing whether your marketing campaign is effective at driving traffic to your website, this is the tab you’ll use most often.

Curious how much traffic a web page is getting? Look no further than the Behavior tab. This is where you’ll find information about pageviews, unique pageviews and bounce rates.

Terms to know

As you work your way through Google Analytics, here are the common terms you’ll run across.

Pageviews:When a page is loaded in a web browser. If a user views a page multiple times, it’s counted in this metric. (If you’re looking for information about how many times a PDF document has been downloaded, those are designated as “events” and not pageviews, since they’re not HTML files.)

Unique pageviews: Unique pageviews essentially show how many times your page has been visited at least once in a given session. When a user views a page multiple times, each visit is counted as a pageview. With unique pageviews, if a user visits a page more than once during a session, this will only count as a single unique pageview.

Bounce rate: The percentage of users who visit only one page of your website. Learn more about lowering your bounce rate.

Session: A group of actions—such as a transaction, pageview or PDF download—that a user makes on your website within a given time frame.

Conversion: When a user makes a purchase on your website during a session.

Medium: Where your web traffic is coming from, such as Google or an email.


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Tips for creating an effective online customer survey

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Tips for creating an effective online customer survey

Wondering how well your content is doing? Just ask your customer. 

Online surveys are an easy way to gather customer feedback and research that helps you make better-informed business decisions. At USGBC, we recently launched a global language survey to see how we could enhance our international audience’s LEED experience.

Here are several guidelines to follow when launching a survey, from writing the questions to sharing the final results with coworkers.

Define your survey’s purpose, and write a marketing plan.

Before you get started on drafting any survey questions, ask yourself: What do you want to know?

After determining what information you’re looking to collect, write it all down by creating a marketing plan, which should include target audience and promotion tactics, to share with your team.

Our survey aimed to capture key demographic information about our international audience, so we could sketch a customer profile in terms of industry, job level, age, location and primary language.

We opted to keep the survey open for three weeks and distributed it through an article, emails and USGBC’s social media channels. We also leveraged our staff’s international contacts to help promote the survey.

Draft your survey questions, and share them with your team for their feedback.

Keep your questions as simple, direct and short as possible, so there’s no confusion about what’s being asked. Avoid any leading questions. 

Since we were looking for demographic information about our global audience, our questions centered on profession and industry, location and language. Some of our survey questions included:

  • What is your primary language?
  • What is your country of residence? How long have you lived in your country of residence?
  • What is your primary language? Are you fluent in any other languages Is English the primary language you use at work?
  • Which of the following most closely matches your job level?

SurveyMonkey has a great list of tips on writing effective survey questions.

After you’ve finished writing your questions, make sure to share the draft with your team for their input and pick a survey platform to use, such as GetFeedback or SurveyMonkey. Ask your team to do a beta test to get an average on how long the survey takes to complete and to determine if any questions need additional polishing. 

Reporting the results: Make sure to include key takeaways and charts.

After your survey is over and you have all the data, build out several charts and graphics to share within your company. Make sure to include within your report your survey’s duration, number of responses, methodology and high-level observations.

Our survey results suggested our international audience is fairly young, fluent in English and mid-level in their industries, with the top three being in design, engineering and construction. 

Spanish is the most popular native language, followed by Portuguese, English and Chinese. Interestingly, we found that the majority of our users preferred to use English resources in studying for a LEED professional exam or working on a LEED project.

Learn more about getting relevant data on your customers

Becoming content experts with the LEED Green Associate credential [podcast]

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Becoming content experts with the LEED Green Associate credential [podcast]

For communications professionals who work in sustainability, earning the LEED Green Associate credential is the best way to learn about green building principles—and in turn, to help you produce stronger, more engaging content.

That’s why I took the test, along with my colleagues, communications manager Ali Peterson and content specialist Amanda Sawit. As any marketing and public relations professional knows, the key to being an effective communicator is knowing your subject matter like the back of your hand.

Ali, Amanda and I recently gathered with moderator and content marketing specialist Heather Benjamin to discuss tips on studying for the test, why we decided to pursue our credential and how earning our LEED Green Associate credential improved our content strategy and workflow.

Listen to our conversation:

About the LEED Green Associate Exam

The test involves 100 multiple-choice questions that you have two hours to answer on a computer. There are no eligibility requirements to sit for the exam. The test costs $200 for USGBC members, $100 for students and $250 for all others. Check out our Beginner’s Guide to the LEED Green Associate Exam for more information.

Looking for additional resources? Here were our essential studying materials while gearing up for the test: 

Listen to the podcast

3 tips for better SEO

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3 tips for better SEO

Ever heard the old philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

As a digital marketer, content delivery is important. Understanding your target audience and knowing what they want is key to crafting compelling product marketing material—and ensuring its success. After all, why make content if no one is going to see it?

One of the major weapons in your arsenal is SEO.

SEO, which stands for search engine optimization, is all about connecting users to the best, most relevant content. Here are three tips to help make your content more SEO-friendly and rank it higher in search results.

Make your content relevant.

At the end of the day, search engines are a business, and they’re looking to generate high customer satisfaction. To do their jobs as best as possible, their goal is to refer users to websites and content that’s most relevant to what they’re searching for, says Search Engine Watch.

Content that’s filled with keywords, which are the words and phrases you use in a search box, likely will be rewarded with better rankings. Some websites use sneaky tactics—such as using white text on a white background or setting a font size to zero—to boost their listing, also known as blackhat SEO. Avoid such underhanded techniques. They’ll earn you nothing but a hand slap from search engines, pushing your content further down in search results.

Ways to improve your content:

  • Write strong, clear and concise headlines that immediately convey what your content is about. Use headlines as opportunities for keywords. Check out NPR’s article on how to write great headlines.
  • Wrap hyperlinks around keywords and text. When search engines crawl the web, hyperlinking vague words and calls to action, such as “click here,” don’t mean much to them.
  • Make sure to provide “alt text” for images in HTML to give search engines a text description of your visual content.

Be authoritative.

Search engines have discovered that links can serve as a proxy for a good-faith vote in strong content, according to Moz, a marketing analytics software company based in Seattle.

Take Wikipedia, for instance. It consistently ranks as one of the 10 most visited websites around the world, according to Alexa, and it’s partly due to its content using a robust, comprehensive linking structure.

Additionally, use more synonyms to describe your product or a topic. Search engines register content that uses a variety of related phrases as higher in quality, said Arnie Kuenn, CEO of Vertical Measures, at Content Marketing World 2016.

Improve user experience.

Search engines look for the “long click”, in which users click a result without heading immediately back to the search page to try again, according to Moz.

Think about your website’s user experience. Is it difficult to navigate around your website? Does your website look safe? Does it have a high bounce rate? Those are factors that will play into how your website ranks.

Also, work on your URL structures. Search engines like Google display URLs in results, affecting click-through and visibility. Use shorter URLs and keywords wherever possible, and make sure to use hyphens to separate words for easier readability.

Looking for more SEO tools? Explore SearchMetrics’ SEO glossary, and check out Google Trends, which offers a broader picture of search query data. 

Learn more about best practices for your website

7 easy green DIY decorating projects for Halloween

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7 easy green DIY decorating projects for Halloween

The National Retail Federation projects that Americans will spend approximately $8.4 billion to celebrate Halloween this year, a record high in the annual survey’s history. Save a bit of green while being green, and make your home spooktacular with these seven eco-friendly DIY decorating projects.

1. Paper origami bats made with 100 percent recycled construction paper

Trick your guests into thinking there’s a flock of bats in your home by creating 10 or so paper versions to stick on a wall (instructions are at AGirlAndAGlueGun.com). You’ll need recycled black construction paper, which should cost $2–3. You also could create a paper bat mobile as Martha Stewart advises, by tying your winged creations to a tree branch.

2. Spooky terrarium jars

Decorate your windowsills with these DIY Network spooky terrarium jars, using recycled glass jars with spiders, cotton ghosts, moss and branches. Making these terrarium jars is fairly easy, and it’s a great project to get kids involved in. You can let them fill their jars with whatever tiny, terrifying toys they like.

If you have some old gauze tape lying around and extra glass jars, you also can make your own mummy luminaries from the blog “A Little Clairification.”

3. Dark paper flowers

Add a touch of shadowy glamour to your space by making a black flower arrangement using biodegradable crepe paper. If you have extra paper, you also can make a black paper wreath, as seen in “Country Living.”

4. Wooden pumpkins

Try something new this year, and make your own version of a pumpkin as Today’s Fabulous Finds suggests, by reusing old wooden blocks.

5. Spirit jugs

Light up the pathway to your home for trick-or-treaters with “Eighteen25″‘s spirit jugs. Take any old, used milk gallon jugs, and draw silly faces on them using a permanent marker. Make these ghost-like containers shine at night with low-wattage christmas lights.

6. Apple tea light holders

These apple tea light holders from “Woman’s Day” are an easy and quick way to illuminate a room during Halloween. After using the apples, you can give them to a local farm for animal food or add them to a compost bin.

7. Recycled K-cup garland of lights

Big coffee drinker? The “KimSixFix” shows you how to put those old K-cups to use by making a garland of lights to hang across your fireplace’s mantel for Halloween. Like the spirit jugs, you can draw a variety of scary faces on each cup.

4 digital marketing blogs to follow

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4 digital marketing blogs to follow

Digital marketing is always evolving, thanks to new tools, technology platforms and changing audience behavior. To make sure I don’t fall behind the marketing pack, I follow these four blogs and publications for the latest insights, research and inspiration.

1. Think with Google

Audience: All marketers 

When an Internet giant like Google speaks, you probably want to listen. Think with Google captures all the latest current events, consumer trends and data and adds context on how it could impact marketers’ work for their brands.

Take this summer’s Olympics in Rio, for example. Think with Google recently published a quick and fun article about top searches during the games and why brands have to think beyond sports for Olympic video marketing plans. Spoiler: Apparently, people who were searching for information about cycling also were searching for rice cakes.

Other things to note:

2. Create

Audience: Designers, illustrators and photographers

They say a photograph is worth a thousand words. Create, Adobe’s online magazine, must be worth a million.

Create regularly publishes features on photography, graphic design and illustration, among other topics. It posts tips and advice on challenges that creatives typically face, such as creative block, and how-to guides, including building a brand in real time and using color more effectively in photos.

Other things to note:

3. TrackMaven

Audience: All marketers

TrackMaven’s blog is a favorite of mine, not only because their company mascot is a corgi (and I repeat, a corgi), but because they cover a wide variety of content strategies and platforms.

Among the topics they cover are SEO practices, emerging social media such as Snapchat and updates to existing platforms such as Instagram, with its new Stories feature. TrackMaven also hosts live webinars, which I have found very useful, that you can view afterward.

Other things to note:

4. Poynter

Audience: Content creators

As a former reporter, I’ve always had a soft spot for Poynter. It’s a journalism blog, but a lot of the challenges the news industry faces in its high-speed migration from print to web mirror what marketers experience regarding content publishing strategies. Some news organizations, such as The New York Times, are investing more in their interactive content; others are wondering how best to use social media to lift their content up in terms of engagement and traffic.

Nieman Lab and Northwestern University’s Knight Lab also are great blogs to keep an eye on for content publishing practices.

Other things to note:

More resources

AP Style cheat sheet for content marketers

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AP Style cheat sheet for content marketers

Around the USGBC communications and marketing departments, you’ll find one item sitting on most of my comrades’ desks: the AP Stylebook.

Since its initial publication in 1953, the stylebook has been the go-to authority in the communications world for spelling, language, punctuation, usage and style. It’s updated annually to reflect new terminology, such as “emoji,” and to revise older entries, such as whether “internet” is capitalized (hint: it’s now lowercased) or if you should spell out state names in a story (hint: you should).

New to AP Style, or need a refresher? Here’s a roundup of common AP Style guidelines and a few additional resources to help you never go out of (AP) style.


  • Spell out numbers zero through nine, but use numerals for 10 or higher. Also, spell out the numeral if it’s at the beginning of a sentence; calendar years are the exception. Examples:

One, two, three, 10, 12, 14
Four score and seven years ago
2008 was a great year.

  • Spell out fractions less than one, using hyphens between the words. Examples:

One-third, two-fifths
5 1/2

  • Use numbers for percents. Spell out the word “percent” instead of using the % symbol. Example:

She needed more than 51 percent of the vote to be elected mayor.


  • A general rule of thumb is the fewer hyphens, the better. But do use them to avoid confusion or to form a single idea from two or more words.
  • Don’t use a hyphen for adverbs that end with an -ly.
  • Do use a hyphen when you have a number plus a noun of measurement. Examples:

A 1,200-square-foot home
A 3-inch bug


  • Holidays should be capitalized.
  • Titles of books, plays, poems, songs, lectures or speech titles, movies and TV programs should be capitalized and placed in quotation marks. For newspapers and magazines, capitalize the name, but don’t add quotation marks. Examples:

“Game of Thrones,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” ”Blank Space” by Taylor Swift
The New York Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

  • Job descriptions are lowercased. Examples:

Author F. Scott Fitzgerald
Singer Aretha Franklin

Dates and Times

  • Use numbers for times, excluding noon and midnight. Don’t use zeroes.

Right: 11 a.m.
Wrong: 11:00 a.m.

  • Abbreviate the month if you’re including a specific date. If you’re also including the year, set off the year with commas. Don’t use “st,” “nd,” “rd” or “th” after the number for dates. Examples:

Right: Dec. 25. Wrong: Dec. 25th
It was seven years ago on Jan. 20, 2009, that Barack Obama was inaugurated as president of the United States.

Other AP Style Tips

  • Toward, forward and backward don’t end in an “s.”
  • Farther vs. further—Farther refers to a physical distance, while further refers to time or degree. Example:

Let’s go a little farther up the trail. I can look further into the problem.

  • Never use an acronym (NATO) or initialism (ASPCA) on the first reference.

Additional Resources

  • Follow AP Stylebook on Twitter at @APStylebook for regular updates and to ask questions. They also host monthly #APStyleChats.
  • “The Word: An Associated Press Guide to Good News Writing,” by Renè J. Cappon, is a great read for those looking to sharpen their writing skills.

Find ways to improve your web copy

Five ways to improve your web copy

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Five ways to improve your web copy

A writing mentor of mine once remarked that writing for the web is like composing a poem—you’re trying to convey as much as possible within the short space of a few words and sentences.

Research shows that people read differently on the internet. Their attention spans are shorter, they tend to scan and they make decisions within the blink of an eye on whether to stay on a website.

The facts

With that in mind, it’s important that web copy is clear, precise and presented well—otherwise, visitors simply will leave and move on to the next site. Here are five tips when writing for an online audience:

1) Stick the important information at the beginning.

Cliffhangers are great for the movies, but it’s best to get to the point when it comes to your web content. 

Since the typical user only stays on a page for seconds, answer the most basic questions—who, what, where, when, why and how—right out of the gate. Then, explain why your content matters, following that with supporting evidence and background information.

In the mood to learn some marketing lingo? This style of writing is called the Inverted Pyramid, in which you prioritize information by descending order of importance.

2) Use signposts and bullets.

Big blocks of text can be off-putting for online readers, who typically skim rather than read everything on the page. (Slate has an excellent article poking fun at how we read on the web that’s also informative).

Use subheaders to break up text and organize your information. For lists, consider using bulleted points so the content is easier to scan.

3) Don’t use jargon.

Keep the language simple in your online copy. Using that dollar-sized word might have been great on your SATs, but when it comes to online copy, they’re a pain.

Jargon by nature is exclusive, and those online readers who aren’t immediately aware of your industry’s terms will seek other information that’s easier to understand.

4) Keep it lean.

Cut the fluff. Ask yourself, “Does this add to the article? Is this information necessary?”

From a language standpoint, the words “that” and “just” often are ones you can eliminate from copy, along with adjectives, adverbs and prepositions.

Example A

Original sentence: 31 words

“Earlier this morning, Sally Smith, the director of marketing, relayed to the audience of nearly 500 at the annual conference that developing content for mobile audiences is becoming increasingly important nowadays.”

Edited sentence: 16 words

“Marketing Director Sally Smith said at the conference that mobile content is more important than before.”

5) Use supporting links.

Provide supporting evidence for your online copy by linking to current, relevant and authoritative voices on the subject matter. Just be sure to not go overboard with the links; add them where they make sense.

Learn about best user experience practices for your website