29 Apr

WordCamp Ottawa 2013 – an event review

Since this website uses WordPress I always seek out tips and tricks managing it. That’s why I spent last Saturday (April 27th) at WordCamp Ottawa 2013.  Here’s why it was well worth the day’s investment:

Overall assessment of WordCamp Ottawa 2013

If you have a WordPress website it’s well worth the day!  This is an excellent event packed full of good advice, information and valuable networking opportunities. 

With three learning tracks there was something for all levels of WordPress users; Content Creators (beginner users), Site Creators (Intermediate) and Code Creators (Advanced).  Even better if you needed one-on-one attention there was “Happy Bar” staffed with experienced users eager to help. 

It’s tough to beat the value on the dollar for WordCamp.  My total spent was $37:  $28 on the conference (including $5 was for a 3 hour pre conference WordPress introduction) and $9.00 on parking at the University of Ottawa. 

I sure hope there is a WordCamp 2014!

WordCamp Ottawa 2013 – what I learned

Here’s my summary of some of the sessions I attended.

Making a living with WordPress.  Presented by Chris Ross @thisismyurl

Chris was very entertaining and had some great quotes (that will probably show up later on this website, thanks Chris):

  • ·         Consultants are trouble shooters.  They find trouble and shoot it.
  • ·         “This graph means nothing…”

A lot of graphs (meaningful ones), charts and data were used to show how one can make a living servicing (design, customization, etc.) the 65 million WordPress websites out there.  Chris was generous with valuable personal experiences.   

How to write a blog post.  Presented by David Hamilton @ko_davidh

This was an inspiring session for me.  The best part of this session was “Beginnings, Middles and Ends”.  David laid out what they mean and who to do them well:

Beginnings have two parts – “lead”, the first paragraph which identifies the who, what, when where…  Part two is the “pitch” which answers why read this article, the value to the reader and sets the expectations what is going to be covered.

Middles set out the scope of the article; what points are going to be covered and there is a logical progression through these points, 1st, 2nd, 3rdStructure this section with headings to help readers.

Ends provide the summary that sharpens your point, perhaps raises other relate questions or previews upcoming posts.

Help me Help You:  the art and science of getting good WordPress support by Kathryn Presner (@zoonini)

WordPress help comes from volunteers not paid (and therefor accountable) employees.  Hence Kathryn’s advice – be nice and people will want to help you.  Act entitled or snarky, don’t expect a lot of help.  The point was emphasized with some real life examples. 

Other things you can do to help yourself get an answer to your question include: 

  • Provide a link to your site – I put this first because it’s important that helpers can look at your site and if get source code.
  • Present a clear goal – what you are trying to do
  • Be clear about the problem you are having and what you have already tried to fix the problem
  • The browser and version you are using
  • OS / device you are using
  • Version of WordPress
  • Anything unusual about your set-up
  • Screenshots of the issue.

Typography in Web Design.  Presented by Jasmine Vesque @jasminevesque

Fonts – just how exciting a topic can that be?  You might think it’s a recipe for a morning nap.   Not so fast…  Jasmine’s passion for the subject of fonts is contagious and so I learned a few interesting tidbits that will help me with my website. 

Font Selection considerations: 

  1. Readability – is the font easy to read and understand
  2. Don’t use multiple colours – it’s annoying which distracts the reader
  3. Use one font for headings, use another for the body
  4. Careful with colour usage – to make the point Jasmine had a slide with red type covered with a yellow highlight. 

There was also an introduction to fonts summarized in the table below:   

Font Type



Best use

Serif Little Feet and tails Garmond, Oldstand Headings
San-Serif No feet or tails Ariel Text
Display Sorry missed this Missed this too Short text
Script / Handwriting Looks hand written. Missed this too Short text


WordPress Themes and Frameworks Explained.  Presented by Richard Martin @richardmartin

This session was a summary of how to pick a theme and a bit of a review of Richard’s two favourite theme providers; Woothemes and Gennis.

When selecting themes consider the kind of website you are building; a blog, a brochure or a store.  As you review themes consider things like your freedom in sidebar placement and what is needed in page templates:

  • Blog
  • Landing pages (can you remove the navigation which distracts visitors from your goal)
  • Columns
  • Home page design.

Introduction to WordPress by Rick Radko (@r3designforge)

This three hour pre conference introduction to WordPress was just enough to get a beginner user started.  I am more of a novice than beginner and there was a lot of value in this session for me.  For instance:    

  • Pages and Posts– Rick is the first person who has clearly explained to me the difference between a “post” and a “page”
    • o   Post – for blogs;  posts are collections that have date associations, categories and tags and can be searched by any of those criteria.  You can also sort by author and not usually on the website menu.
    • o   Pages are single (standalone) pieces of content without tags, categories or date associated.  They usually show up on site menus.
  • Images – use the Alt tags, they describe the image and help your SEO
  • PermaLinks are URLs – page codes that are numbers.  The numbers are meaningless to people and to SEO so Rick showed us how to customize URLs in the “Settings”.


Comments from speakers, other attendees welcome.  Please add anything you think I missed. 

16 Apr

Track your marketing results with this free tool

Do you have data on your marketing activities like your newsletter links, banner advertisements, paid links, social media?  A technique called “tagging” each call to action link enables tracking of these results.  Google Analytics URL Builder (it’s free) makes tags for you and then puts the results in Google Analytics.

What is a “Tag”?

A “tag” HTML code that places a unique identifier on a link.   Every time that tag is clicked it is counted because of the tag.  Every tag needs to contain identifying properties; source / referrer, medium, and campaign.

To understand a tag’s value take how to build them take a look at the post How to Move Beyond Open and Click Through Rates.

HTML coding NOT required with Google’s free URL Builder

You don’t have to know HTML to create your own tags.  Google Analytics URL Builder is a free tool that creates a custom tag to track results for marketing activities like display / banner ads, newsletter links, email blasts, affiliate links, tweets and more.    It’s a great way to get accurate and objective feedback on what was done well and what needs improvement.

How to make your own tags with Google Analytics URL Builder

Let’s assume you place an advertisement in an online publication and that ad contains a link back to your website.  To track the advertisement’s performance attach a unique tag to the link that takes viewers of your ad back to your website.   Take these steps:

  • Go to Google Analytics URL Builder
  • Fill in the blanks; campaign source, medium and name are mandatory
  • Click the button “create URL”
  • Immediately below you are presented with your tag that is pasted into your advertisement.

Here is a sample of what a link with a tag for my website might look like:

Track Marketing campaigns in Google Analytics with UTM Codes

Google URL Builder makes the tag for you!


All your results are in Google Analytics

For those with Google Analytics Accounts the clicks on each tag are identified under “traffic sources” > Search > Campaigns. All activity where a tagged link was used is captured in this single, which place which makes for easy comparisons.

I have a tag on my email signature so I know if email recipients are using it to access the website.  Figure 2 shows how it is displayed in Google Analytics.






Let me know how about your tagging experiences.

15 Apr

Better Marketing decisions – GA’s advanced segmentation and profile

Web analytics tools make it easy for B2B marketers to get distracted, overwhelmed and then not do anything meaningful with the valuable data.  Google Analytics offers two powerful tools, Profiles and Advanced Segmentation that help you focus meaningful data and removing extraneous data.  In fact Profiles and Advanced Segments are complimentary features of Google Analytics that make it easier to view data.

A profile is something you set and forget because it “cleans data” based on criteria on a go forward, “permanent” (until you change the profile criteria) basis.  For example many companies exclude their employee website traffic from their so they set-up a profile that excludes their employee traffic and then use that profile for their analysis.

On the other hand advanced segmentation is an ad-hoc drill down tool for deeper investigations.   For example, looking at traffic from a specific geography, that used a keyword, viewed more than two pages and converted into a sales lead.  In this case you would segment your data using the Advanced Segments feature in Google Analytics.

Profiles and Advanced Segmentation have a lot of similarities.  For example both;

  • Can be customized to pull exactly the data you need.
  • Set rules that define what data you can see; for example, visitors from a specific geography, keyword traffic, page performance and bounce rates, etc.

Although similar, there are important differences identified in Table 1 between a profile and Advanced Segment.

Table 1 – Difference between Google Analytics Profile and Advanced Segmentation

Advanced    Segments

Filtered    Profiles

May be applied to historical data Applied only going forward data
Available across all accounts and profiles Applied to specific web property
Compare up to 4 advanced segments side by side in reports Can be viewed only one at a time.
Easier ad-hoc creation for both uses and administrators Need some planning to create because it impacts data on a go forward   basis.
Temporary Permanently affect or restrict data that appears;  example;    profile only shows cpc data
Restricts user access until the filtering is removed or they log out. Restrict user access to a data subset



Brian Clifton, Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics (p. 288-89);   Third Edition, 2012.

Google Analytics Help.