Get your business on the Digital Mainstreet —for free!

Get your business on the Digital Mainstreet —for free!

Digital mainstreet

 Digital Mainstreet is a free government program that helps small and home-based businesses grow, promote and sell online.

There are a lot of obstacles small and home-based business owners face when it comes to adopting digital tools and technology, including time, money, and lack of tech savvy. A new program aims to help.

Digital Mainstreet is a free, government-run program that targets small and home-based business that want to increase their online presence.

When a small business is accepted into the program, it will be assigned an advisor. This is an experienced digital expert who will help the business owner build strategies and assess the businesses’ needs. Advisors are paid through the program, and each business gets up to six hours of its advisor’s time at no charge.

Any work recommended by the advisor, including building an online store, website, or social media page, is done by recent graduates under the supervision of experienced professionals. The grads get valuable hands-on experience, and entrepreneurs get a a digital platform to grow their businesses online. Talk about a win-win!

Here are some Digital Mainstreet success stories I know about:

  • My kids’ hair salon had an e-commerce website built so they could sell haircare products online;
  • A home-based artist had a full website built to promote paintings online;
  • An addiction not-for-profit is getting a whole new website and Google Ads training;
  • A local restaurant is putting their menu online and introducing take-out service; and
  • A psychotherapist’s Facebook page is being redesigned and she is getting social media training.

Learn More and Apply

Ottawa’s Digital Mainstreet program is operated by Invest Ottawa. Learn more and apply.

Not in Ottawa? Digital Mainstreet is an Ontario-wide program. Visit their main website to learn more.

This is a great opportunity for businesses to get some expert assistance with their online presence. Let me know if you have any questions.

Marketing Results Through Tagging: How to Get the Specifics

Marketing Results Through Tagging: How to Get the Specifics

Marketing Campaign Tag has a Source, Medium, and Campaign.
You work hard at your marketing programs email and advertising campaigns and social media engagement. Your investment and hard work make marketing results important to you.

Wouldn’t it be great to know how well those activities are contributing to the specific goals you’ve set; things like:

  • Sales revenue
  • Leads generated
  • Number of new email subscribers


How to Track More Than Click-Through Rates

How to Track More Than Click-Through Rates

Evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns: move beyond click-through rates

Actionable information comes from knowing what people did after they clicked your promotional offer.

Last week my friend Michael’s company sent an email blast with a special offer. I asked Michael how many people had made a purchased as a result of getting the email, or if anyone was any closer to making a buy because of his email blast.

He didn’t know. Nor could he tell me which of his web pages people had visited as a result of reading the email.

On the other hand, he was proud of the statistics his email campaign service provider gave him: a 44% open rate and a 31% click-through rate.

I asked him what actions he was planning to take because of those open and click-through rates. Michael gave me an inquisitive look then asked me what he should do.

Let’s play tag

I suggested he tag his marketing materials (email links, social media campaigns, etc.). He said he already did tag everything … he even showed me the tag in his email.

This kind of tag is from an email campaign service provider (e.g., MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc.) and is only built to track clicks and click-through rates – data you can’t take action on.

Email tracking code provided by email or advertising suppliers will not provide send data to Google Analytics so you can track what happened after the click.

Example of email tracking code provided by email or advertising suppliers.

This tag does not send information to Google Analytics so you can know how many people purchased, or came closer to buying.

To learn about the buying actions triggered by your marketing materials you need to have your data-click information sent to Google Analytics. And that requires an additional tag that’s embedded into your email campaign service provider’s link.

This embedded tag is called a UTM (Urchin Tracking Monitor) tag. It contains the instructions Google Analytics needs to classify, store and track clicks. It’s the UTM tag that gives you the valuable and actionable data you need to know how much closer your marketing efforts are bringing people to buying your products or services.

Two tags work together

It’s important to understand that the two tags combine to work for you:

  1. Your email or advertising campaign service provider’s tag captures the click.
  2. The UTM tag that’s embedded in your email or advertising service provider’s tag sends the information to Google Analytics

 Here’s how tagging for Google Analytics works:

The UTM tag is instructions for Google Analytics on how you want your marketing campaign information stored so you can measure activity after the click.

The UTM and Service provider tags combine to make your link.

The UTM tag has three elements:

  • Source: a broad category of marketing activity such as email, social media, advertisements, etc.
  • Medium: a narrowing of the category focusing on something more specific, such as which email campaign, which social medium, or which advertiser.
  • Campaign: is a further narrowing of the source and campaign focusing on a specific sale, campaign date, or offer.

Here’s an example of a tag a business might use on a social media campaign:


The first part is the website address. The tag itself begins immediately after the .ca/

?utm_” identifies the start of the UTM code. This notifies Google Analytics to wake up and store the next bit of information under campaigns.

Source=banner” tells Google Analytics that we’re calling the source “banner”.

The “&utm_” says there’s more…

medium=twitter” tells Google Analytics that this is a Twitter campaign.

The next “&utm_” identifies that there’s more…

The “campaign=june” identifies that the campaign ran or will be run in the month of June.

In Google Analytics under Campaigns it would read like this:

  • Source: banner
  • Medium: twitter
  • Campaign: june

We can use the Source, Medium or Campaign to follow our marketing results with increasingly greater detail:

  • At a high level (Source) you can see how each of your advertising platforms is performing. Is email generating more leads than advertising campaigns?
  • At a lower level (Medium) you can see which email lists are performing best, or which advertisers are driving sales.
  • At a detail level (Campaign) you can see how specific email or advertising campaigns performed.

Put simply, tagging lets you know your marketing return on investment – the best places to spend your money, and best places to spend your time.

What’s in a name?

For most small businesses making tags isn’t the real challenge. The real challenge is coming up with source, medium and campaign names that will make sense when they’re later analyzing their marketing results in Google Analytics.

Make sure you use easily understood names. If the names cause confusion, you may end up making bad assumptions that lead to poor decisions.

A good naming convention requires consistency so you can keep track of each of your activities.

Once you’ve created a UTM tag, put it in your link shortener, your email blast supplier tag, etc. so Google Analytics will record all your click details.

What do you do with the data?

Google Analytics gathers your tag data and puts it in Acquisition > Campaigns. You can see all of your results there.

Or, you can use your campaign data as a secondary dimension to see which web pages your marketing campaigns are delivering traffic to and which goals they’re helping you achieve.

Tagging delivers results

Properly tagging your marketing campaigns with both your service provider tag and a UTM tag gives you an easy way to know how many people purchased or became sales leads as a result of each of your sources, mediums and campaigns. And that can help you develop and deliver more effective marketing campaigns that drive sales.

Leave me a comment if you have questions or want to know more about tagging.

Ways to engage audiences with context for your content

Ways to engage audiences with context for your content

Ecommerce_Analytics_ From_Data_to _Decisions_ CertificateYesterday morning Canada Newswire (CNW) hosted a seminar featuring Michael Pranikoff (@mpranikoff), Global Director of Emerging Media at PR Newswire (CNW’s parent company).  It was an inspiring seminar about ways to engage audiences. 

Here are my notes:


There were many content strategy nuggets offered; these three resonated most with me: 

  • “Advertisers story YELL, instead of story tell”
  • “In Google we trust” – 65% of buyer research is done before engaging directly with a vendor
  • 72 – 96 hours that’s how long content conversations last after release.   

Here’s a close look at each.

Advertisers story YELL instead of tell

With the rise of search engines, mobility and social; earned, owned and paid media are converging.  However, advertisers (content publishers) deliver messages designed for one of owned, earned or paid media – each has its own silo.  By operating in “content silos” the content sometimes gets out of context with the consumption technology – search, mobile and social media, so the audiences perceive the messages as “story YELLING”.

Time of day matters

There are multiple devices on which content is consumed and audiences have a tendency to use different devices at different times in the day.  For example:

Mobile in the morning – during the morning content is mostly consumed on a mobile device.  “Mobile context” means:

  • Keep it short – three swipes max / single scroll
  • Bullet points
  • No block paragraphs

Mid day is laptop / desktop consumption time – Context of the larger screen means:

  • Longer “heavier” content
  • Attachments
  • Video – best time for video is 1 – 3 pm.

Evening on the tablet – context means

  • Video use soars
  • Audiences are multi tasking – looking at tablets while listening / watching TV.

To make story telling an easier process across the three media “silos”, Pranikoff suggests these ways to engage audiences with an agile approach to content development:

  • Identify and target the intended audience
  • Engage and interact with the audience
  • Promote and syndicate content
  • Listen and analyze (use your analytics) the audience’s feedback

“In Google we trust”

Most buyers self educate on line.  In fact 65% of their research is complete before engaging with a vendor.  This demonstrates the trust people have that “Google knows where they should go to answer their questions.

In response content producers need to provide a “trail” indicating where we want them to go – a link to another website or purchase page, join an email list, donate, etc.

Content conversations last 72 – 96 hours after release

Following that initial 72 – 96 hours, CNW’s research shows that content enter a “long tail” period that lasts about four additional months.

However, those deploying multimedia content strategies by adding short bits of related content can extent the engagement period an additional 12 to 18 months.

Context is as important as the Content

CNW deploys the method talked about at the seminar – publishing their content in context with multiple device types, or different places online.  They improved audience engagement 35%.

Thank you CNW for sponsoring this informative seminar.

Get all the seminar tweets:  #cnwcontent



Track your marketing results with this free tool

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.

B2B website content and lead generation – It is a team sport

A company hired me after they blew the entire marketing budget and had less than 20 leads to show for it. The CEO asked me what was wrong. When I replied that the website content and marketing message needed alignment asked “what’s that have to do with lead generation?” Here’s how I showed him the importance of alignment.

The website analytics clearly showed a spike in website visitors following each lead generation campaign. In fact, the traffic spikes so closely mirrored lead generation activities I was able to tell the CEO when they exhibited at tradeshows, ran an advertisement, sent an email blast, used social media, and just about any other lead generation activity.

Lead generation campaigns brought more website traffic

It was clear that each lead generation campaign was causing a spike in website traffic, but the company’s website was sabotaging the efforts. The website message was a couple of years old and the message had not been updated to reflect the new market and buyer needs.

Website analytics lead to fact based decisions

The web analytics validated that the website message was not aligned with the messages being delivered in lead generation activities like advertising and email blasts. Using the web analytics it was easy to make fact based decisions on new content and navigation for the website.

On the other hand, if we did not have web analytics we might have proceeded with my “guess” that the problem was message alignment. But what if that was not the problem? What if it was something far deeper…. How would anyone know?

Ensure message alignment

Most of your lead generation activities will send people to your website (even if that’s not what you want them to do – they will just google your company name), where they will determine if your content helps them. Need proof: look at your website analytics after executing your lead generation activities.

Many businesses follow a “set and forget” approach to their website – that is the website rarely updated. Meanwhile they constantly evolve their marketing activity messages. It’s an easy thing to do when we are really busy.

Message alignment – it’s a team sport

Website data such as keywords, page abandons, and more can demonstrate which messages are working and which ones are collecting digital dust. The good keywords can be applied to lead generation efforts. Likewise the successful marketing campaigns can be great tests for potential new website messaging.

What’s your experience with the alignment of lead generation programs and the message message on your website?