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July 2019 Recap – Presenting Results to Inspire Action

For our July event we had a great turn-out to see Valerie Kroll from Search Discovery teach us about effective presentations. As part of a Search Discovery caravan down from Cleveland for the evening, Valerie presented a consistent strategy on getting the attention of stakeholders to drive action from test results.

The context of this strategy was A/B testing, but the larger points on presentation were totally relevant for any kind of presentation. No matter what kind of results you’re showing we were reminded:

  • To focus on the key results from the perspective of your audience.
  • Even a “failed” project can be an opportunity to learn important things.
  • It’s possible to boil down the results even more than you might think! A two slide presentation can be enough, and after all you are the real conveyor of content, not the slides.

Maybe it’s new to you, or maybe you think you’ve heard this stuff before — but focusing your presentation down to the simplest and clearest version of the results is one of the consistently most difficult (and important) part of our jobs.

A consistent methodology for both the creation of a testing hypothesis and the presentation of results before you start actually running anything can be crucial, but is also a lot of work. Valerie showed us a very useful template for presenting results, and has been kind enough to share her hard work by making the PowerPoint templates available at the Search Discovery site here.

Valerie has also made here slides available!

Please join us next month at Rev1 again for more on testing when Melanie Bowles from InfoTrust will present on building an experimentation strategy.

April 2019 Recap – The Future of Driving

For our April event we had husband and wife duo Kevin Boehm and Sharon Santino lay out the current state of autonomous driving as well as where we are headed down the road (ok, we promise no more car puns).

If you read some of the tech press or Elon Musk’s twitter feed, then you might think that we’re only months away from just laying back and letting our smart cars do all the work, but that’s not quite the case.

Sharon and Kevin brought our flying smart car dreams back down to earth a bit by explaining many of the challenges involved, but they also showed some of how revolutionary this technology will be when it does eventually fully arrive.

As usual, most of the engineering problems are related to people and their unpredictable behavior. While the cars may be getting smarter and smarter, people will remain people.

They also laid out how it’s not an all-or-nothing process, but much more of a continuum — and while fleets of cars at scale with no steering wheels at all may still be pretty far away, there’s also lots of this technology already out there.

Please join us next month when we’ll have Jim Gianoglio from Bounteous talk about the path from Data Analyst to Data Scientist!


As a bonus, check out the cool time-lapse that Sharon and Kevin made!


February 2019 Recap – What Lies Beneath Sentiment Analysis

Despite the crappy weather, many in the group recognized this event would have been a terrible talk to miss out on!*

If you didn’t manage to make it to our February event with Dr. Marie-Catherine de Marneffe from the Ohio State linguistics department you might wonder why my writing is even (slightly) more convoluted than usual. Those who did attended will certainly recognize this as an example of a sentence that would be judged as positive in sentiment by a human, but perhaps negative by a computer.

Dr. de Marneffe provided the group with fascinating insights about how sentiment analysis engines really work, and also when they might fall down on the job. These systems can be incredibly powerful and useful, but before relying on their output for real-world decisions we should really understand some basics, including:

  • What data the model was trained with. If the test data is similar to the training model (for example determining the sentiment of a movie review with a system trained upon movie reviews), then we might hope and expect to get some pretty accurate results! But take that same classifier and apply it to all the tweets you find about your product and maybe not!
  • What kind of output does the model create? If you’re making real-world decisions based upon what the model tells you, maybe get some more details than happy face vs. sad face? It’s not an all-knowing magic black box and dangerous things can happen when we treat it as such.
  • What are the biases inherent the training data? The decisions made by the system are reflective of the data, warts and all! (Anyone remember the crazy Microsoft AI twitter bot?)

Real world examples of additional language data encoded in non-word form (yes, I mean their hands).

There will be no March meetup, but we encourage everyone to join us at the Women in Analytics conference at the convention center!

In April, please come back to Rev1 to hear Sharon Santino and Kevin Boehm talk about autonomous vehicles.

*So how did our first sentence do when run through the Stanford NLP lab sentiment analysis demo? Well, if you believe the computers this must have been a pretty lackluster event…, wrong again! Maybe that’s why they call it “machine learning”, not “machine knowing”?

January 2019 Recap – Dabbling in Data Science

For our first meetup of the new year we were in a new space (Hopewell) with a lot of new faces! Our speaker wasn’t new though, it was none other than cbuswaw co-founder and data science dabbleR Tim Wilson.

2019 is definitely the 11th year of Web Analytics Wednesdays (we counted), but what else is it? Is it the “Year of Mobile”? Or maybe the “Year of Linux on the Desktop”? Tim declared it to be the year of “Applied Data Science”! Sounds good to us. The mobile thing has already had a few years, and the Linux desktop thing doesn’t seem too likely… so let’s go with it!

But what does “applied data science” mean? Or “data science” for that matter? Rather than debating the definitions for the 100th time or drowning in Venn diagrams — Tim got to what it’s really all about, using data to answer questions.

Tim had somewhere between four and five examples of using R with Google Analytics to give new perspectives into the same old data that we all have and see. Which blog post was the most effective? What are the users on my site really interested in? When is my site most heavily used? Unlikely the definition of “data science”, all of these questions are eminently answerable with the right approach. You can still use a Venn diagram though if you’d like.

Tim’s approach stated no fancy paid GA or BigQuery required, no sites with millions of sessions, but a simple process:

  1. Have a question or idea about your data.
  2. Explore that data.
  3. Use R (and Shiny) to visualize and iterate on your ideas.

Tim also was brave enough to do a real-time demonstration of the R Shiny apps that he has created and made available. All of the code, slides, and links to the apps are available on github here:

You can also watch the presentation itself!

Please join us again next month at Rev1 when Professor Marie-Catherine de Marneffe from Ohio State will cover sentiment analysis, which should fit in nicely as an extension of some of what Tim talked about this month with text analysis!

October 2018 Recap – Call Tracking and Analytics with Alain Stephan

At our October meet-up we learned a lot about an oft-neglected part of that tiny multi-function computational device we keep on us at all times: the phone. You know, that thing you use when you talk to people? Really, that does still happen… A lot.

Alain Stephan, SVP analytics services at call tracking and analytics company DialogTech, showed us how and why we might want to actually pay attention to what customers say when they call, no matter what size our business is.

162 billion calls driven by digital marketing!

Alain walked us through the basic mechanics of how this kind of system works: forwarding, recording, extracting the contents of a call, and then mining that content for points of interest in a customer journey.

We learned that the building blocks of this kind of system have come as far from the days of dial-up Compuserve (their contributions to text-to-speech technology notwithstanding) as a iPhone from an old rotary phone.

Maybe this doesn’t sound like “web” analytics, but those of us that are driving traffic and running marketing campaigns might want to think about what happens when the click we drove turns into an inbound customer call!

A digital analyst might think of the content of a phone call as an “offline” conversion, but if we can extract the contents and customer funnel interactions in that call — that doesn’t sound like something fundamentally much different a series of website interactions to me. And as we learned from Alain, one call can have a series of different interactions just like a site visit. If we’re listening to the interactions in a site visit shouldn’t we be listening (this time, more literally) to the phone call interactions as well?


September 2018 Recap – Experiments in Attribution with Katie Sasso

At our September meetup Katie Sasso from the Columbus Collaboratory took us again into that most dangerous of web analytics jungles — attribution. And by “dangerous” I of course mean working on it puts you in danger of straining your back after hurling your computer out the window in frustration.

Katie walked us through a fresh approach to this topic covering how she would (and has) attacked the problem from a more scientific perspective.

From the rules-based approaches most commonly used (as in Google Analytics) to some example R code for Markov Chain attribution Katie got quickly to puncturing some of the vendor-hyped conventional wisdom. She also encouraged the audience to take the same kind of experimental approach to other common problems like A/B testing.


Katie also was the first cbuswaw speaker to create & present her slides in R Markdown (code on her github), which you will likely have more success in downloading and compiling yourself than PowerPoint.

View Katie’s Slides Here


Upcoming Events:

September 21 (at the Columbus Metropolitan Library) — Market Research Exchange of Central Ohio’s fall conference.
September is Data Analytics Month at OSU, with events all month long.

See you next month for learn about using AI for call tracking.

August 2018 Recap – Storytelling With Ruth Milligan

“They want the Teddy Bear, not the stuffing”.

So what does that mean exactly?? No, it’s not a German translation of an old Steiff company slogan — it’s about putting your audience first and thinking about how to be an effective communicator. It doesn’t have to be a TED talk viewed by millions; any time we speak to a group it’s a chance to hone our communication skills and craft a story that puts our message clearly in minds of our audience.

Our guide and personal Obi-Wan for this excellent session was Ruth Milligan, founder of Articulation executive communication coaching and organizer of TEDxColumbus.

Ruth knows a thing or two about how to communicate with an audience and shared a lot of wisdom with a packed house at Rev1.

Ruth’s slides are available below (most of the videos she showed are included as links in the slides):

The big takeaways:

  • Make sure your presentation has a clear “Why?”
  • Boil down your presentation to one idea (if you truly have multiple ideas, you have multiple presentations)
  • Limit yourself to three supporting points
  • Kill the bullet points!

The talks that Ruth mentioned were:

Casey Brown – know your worth
Chip Kidd – designing books
Eli Pariser – beware filter bubbles
Sam King – infectious diseases
Yiem Sunbhanich – data is the new seat belt

Articulation’s YouTube channel (including the short videos from the talk).

Join us next month on September 12th when Katie Sasso from the Columbus Collaboratory will talk about experimental design and machine learning.

Also don’t forget about the Market Research Exchange’s Fall Conference downtown at the Columbus library on September 21st!

June 2018 Recap – Mastering Google PLAs with Samuel Johnson

At June’s meetup Samuel Johnson from Adept Marketing got deep into Google Product Listing Ads. He showed us that despite what it might look like at first, there really are a lot of ways to optimize PLAs. And considering the growing domination of PLAs in search results (76% of US retail search ad spend, and over 85% of clicks according to Adthena), if you are selling stuff online you should start learning more about PLAs! Certainly your competitors are.

Samuel showed the group a couple of interesting case studies including lots of great tactical details. This being cbuswaw, when the implementation details come out so do the questions — and I believe we may have set a record in terms of total questions asked during a talk. Samuel was there with the answers — as well as an additional magic trick of turning the content of his slides to snow with the wave of his hand:


Minor technical glitches aside I think everyone learned a lot about PLAs including some really interesting optimization details you won’t come across every day!

We are taking July off but will be back in August with Ruth Milligan.

April 2018 Recap – Winning Holidays in Paid Search with Rob Barto

It was Christmas in April at CBUSWAW! Not because it has been snowing again, but because Rob Barto from Search Discovery came down from the far north (Cleveland) with the gift of paid search knowledge for any big event on your business’ calendar. But really, it can also stop snowing now.

Speaking of calendars, before Tim introduced his fellow Discoverer Rob he ran down our local upcoming analytics events:

First Rob ran down some quick hits on overall strategy like: plan ahead as far as you reasonably can, but be prepared to pivot quickly once your campaigns actually get going (so is he Santa Claus or Clausewitz? I’m getting my metaphors mixed up). Then Rob ran through a set of 3 detailed case studies showing some pretty incredible holiday results in both paid search and SEO.

Rob pointed out that while indeed some of these results were pretty eye-popping (1,000% lift anyone?!?!) good results are not usually the result of a single magic marketing bullet, but a full-court press across all possible angles of paid search and SEO. Want to do great on Black Friday? Well, you better start thinking about how you might approach that this Friday, and start thinking about all the different things that might help you do so, like maybe:

  • Offline conversion tracking
  • AdWords dynamic search ads
  • Timers in ads showing how long until an event happens or how long an event has left
  • More logical and actionable account structures
  • Smarter retargeting (like not showing ads to someone who has already purchased, or bidding more on existing customers, etc.)

Getting fantastic results like the ones Rob showed might require getting all of those items right and then some, or it might be something totally different for you! It’s a question of taking best advantage of the tactics that might fit your campaign and product best and then testing those ideas and working with the client.

To complete the holiday theme Tim then proceeded to hand out gifts for good questions from the audience, though let’s face it, they all were pretty good questions!

March 2018 Recap – Facebook Offline Measurement with Monish Datta

To celebrate 10 years of Columbus Web Analytics Wednesdays we realized there could be no better speaker than CBUSWAW legend Monish Datta. Sure, Monish might now be the Monetization Product Marketing Team Manager at Facebook, but we knew him way back when — and he hasn’t forgotten his Ohio roots. Managing to escape from New York just ahead of yet another late season snowstorm on the east coast, Monish stopped by to drop a whole bunch of knowledge about how Facebook is dealing with offline measurements such as store visits and offline conversions.

Despite our feelings that online commerce is taking over everything, online retail only accounts currently for about 10% of all transactions! This is why understanding what happens in “the real world” and bringing that gap between offline and online activity is so important. This is tricky stuff — not because there is any one piece of the technology puzzle that is so complex, but because there so many different data sources, touch points, and privacy concerns.

An engaged crowd asked some tough questions about how this type of measurement works and Monish was ready with answers. As a group many of us had experience working with Facebook Ads of multiple types, but very few had ventured into this area of offline activity. Despite threats to pivot to talking about himself — there were many answers to be had, and only a couple of “we can’t disclose that”s.

Ultimately, Monish described this sort of real-world activity as an “offline pixel” where, with the right data integrations, we can start to think about offline activity in some of the same ways we think about online activities — as those two different arenas continue to overlap more and more.

We hope to see everyone next time at Rev1 in April when Rob Barto from Search Discovery will talk about holiday paid search planning! It’ll be Christmas in April, with hopefully some less Christmas-like temperatures.