Blogs By Author

Nick

looking to learn what will happen in your business?

PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS

We can work with you on building custom machine learning models to help you forecast and predict your business. We deploy a variety of data mining and statistical techniques, machine learning and predictive models to help you leverage historical data to inform the future.

For example, by examining customer purchasing data and analyzing customer behaviors and characteristics, we can determine how a particular segment of customers will act in the future - namely what products will they purchase and when?

 
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Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Nick

not sure where to begin with data?

DATA STRATEGY

At Sandstorm, we can help you develop your data strategy including identifying your business goals, questions and/or issues, identifying the available data sources and developing a plan to seamlessly integrate the data in order to analyze it in real-time.

Almost every organization is trying to figure out what to do with their data and how to do it. So you are not alone, we work with a variety of clients in various states of data collection and analysis to help them get smart about leveraging their data and uncovering hidden insights to inform their business.

 
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Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Nick

what are the trends and patterns in your business?

STATISTICAL ANALYSIS DRIVES PERSONALIZATION

Understand critical factors, trends and relationships affecting your business and how to effectively pivot in order to achieve your business goals. Using your business goals, target metrics, and other drivers defined in our marketing workshop, we determine the appropriate analysis to help you understand what is happening with your business.

For example: Is there a seasonality to purchasing certain products? Is geography related to purchases? Do generational cohorts (e.g., millennials, Gen Xers, etc.) affect my business? Why is this happening? What is the relationship of X & Y? Does X cause Y?

We can help you understand the data available, plan for the analysis and conduct the analysis to help you answer key business questions.

Through statistical analysis and a personalization strategy, we can help connect you with the right audience by delivering the right message through the right channel on the right device at the right time, by offering a customized user experience based on demographics, geography, behavior, context, and other knowledge of the consumer. This ties your business goals and positioning to your online experience, with a roadmap around analytics, optimization, and personalization to maximize conversion rates.

 

This blog was posted by Nick on .
Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Nick

65% of the population consists of visual learners

DATA VISUALIZATION AND REPORTING

Using your business goals, target metrics, and other drivers defined in the marketing workshop, we create data visualizations, dashboards, reports and analysis tailored to the needs of the marketing team, executives or other stakeholders.

Rows and rows of static data become charts, graphs, and other easily consumable graphics to help you find valuable information – such as trends and patterns – hiding within the data. Business and operational decisions are made easier, faster and more confidently with this evidence. 

Want to know more about your data? Reach out today and we can work with even a small data set to show you what's possible.

 
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Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Nick
Drupal vs. Wordpress

Over the years, Sandstorm® has built websites on content management systems (CMS) using a variety of programming languages: Python, .NET, and PHP to name just a few. These programming languages support CMSs like Django, Kentico, and Joomla, respectively. Two of the most popular CMSs are Drupal and WordPress, built on PHP.

A common question we hear from clients is whether they should use Drupal or WordPress. While there’s no right answer, there is an answer that’s right for you. Each one has its place, so we've laid out where you can gain the most benefit from each CMS.

The Benefits of Drupal

Speed and Performance

When it comes to a scalable CMS that can support high-volume traffic and vast libraries of content, Drupal beats out WordPress. Not only does Drupal offer better performance out of the box—including default cache features that help pages load faster—it’s more robust for handling complex projects with lots of functionality.

Security

Drupal is favored by many top companies and government agencies, including whitehouse.gov, for its enterprise-level security. Drupal has a very active security team with a stringent review process for plugins and a robust permissions layer that provides nuanced limitations for user access.

WordPress, on the other hand, is a popular target for hackers whose malicious attacks often succeed due to fully coded plugins compromising security. Additionally, WordPress doesn’t provide the flexibility in tailored permissions that Drupal does.

Lead Conversion

When it comes to getting leads through web contact forms, WordPress requires third-party tools like Gravity Forms or JotForm, which will cost you extra.

With Drupal, web form functionalities are already built into the platform, so you don’t need external tools. Drupal can also enable rules and set up triggers so that when someone fills out a form on your website they receive an SMS message from your company, which helps with lead nurturing efforts and potential conversions.

The Benefits of WordPress

Ease of Use for Small Businesses

Since WordPress started primarily for less tech-savvy bloggers, small businesses with a junior development team benefit the most from the platform. Additionally, most writers and content managers have some experience with WordPress, so there's little need to train them on the platform.

Where It's a Toss Up

Supportive Community

Drupal and WordPress users have created diverse global communities that offer international conferences like DrupalCon and WordCamp; local training events and Meetups; and active forums where users can ask questions and learn more about the platform. While the WordPress community is larger than Drupal’s, it’s uncommon that you would run into an issue with either platform that someone hasn’t encountered, and solved, before.

Search Engine Optimization

It doesn’t matter to Google which platform you use, and both platforms offer excellent plugins and modules to help you with your SEO, including Yoast for WordPress and Content Optimizer for Drupal.

At Sandstorm®, our experts have extensive experience developing, designing, and writing in Drupal, WordPress, and many other content management systems. We’d love to find the one that’s right for you.

This blog was posted by Nick on May 1, 2017.
Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

Nick
Analytics, Analytics Strategy, Nick Meshes, Clickstream data, SEM

Analytics are now a standard piece to any project. Our society has evolved into a data-rich environment, allowing for greater consumer insights and in turn smarter analytics strategies. However, some businesses are approaching analytics as an afterthought and as a "nice to have" option. They put a great deal of work into setting up sites, landing pages, campaigns, etc, but are then only looking at analytics as simple measurements of success/failure and not the dynamic journey it should be.

Often times when setting up reporting tools, people take a “set it and forget it” approach. They establish an idea of what data they need, set up a dashboard and some notifications and then it is managed as time allows by someone whose main responsibilities are elsewhere in IT or Marketing. Worse, they don’t even configure the reporting tools and just go with the default settings. They essentially put it on autopilot, and it fails to take into account feedback and doesn’t allow room for shifting strategy due to changing goals.

An effective analytics strategy is a dynamic journey built around the analytical data where the strategy is adjusted accordingly to drive goals and conversions. It is a very agile process of frequent measurement, discovery, strategy, and course adjustment.

Recently, we worked with a client in their higher education industry who ran frequent email, SEM, display, and offline campaigns. As part of the project to help them redefine marketing strategy, we reviewed their analytics for clickstream (Google Analytics), search engine (AdWords), and member data (their CRM system). They were very concerned with increasing new leads, as well as monitoring the established leads down the funnel to drive sales conversions. They had a small marketing team with a wide variety of responsibilities and were looking for ways to measure success without requiring too much time from their team.

We did two things for them: provided analytics training and automated as much of the process as possible. In the training we gave them tools to eliminate unneeded information from their data stream and to track goals accordingly. With automatization we set up message reporting around goals and added attribution and valuation to maximize the mix of offline and online channels. Both of these tactics streamline the process allowing the team to spend less time pulling reports and more time to strategize around the results.

We acknowledge that people will be at different comfort levels with their analytics and data stream, but analytics will only work as hard as you do. Like other parts of business, you need to build an analytics strategy that not only defines goals but continually informs them. Once you have the strategy it is easy to set up a process to track, monitor and adjust your analytics strategy.
If you need help turning your analytics strategy into a dynamic journey, contact Nick at nick@sandtormdesign.com

 

This blog was posted by Nick on September 14, 2016.
Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Nick
Analytics driving business

 

Enter the Clickstream

Web analytics tends to start with collecting and analyzing “clickstream” data - the information that can be collected directly from visitors to your webpages using javascript, cookies, images, or other tags that act as tracking codes. Here are 15 questions regarding your visitors (clickstream data) you can answer, examine, and visualize through website analytics tools like Google Analytics: 

  1. Where are visitors entering and exiting your site?
  2. How many people visit specific pages? What content is drawing the most attention?
  3. How many people immediately leave? Which content is failing to retain them?
  4. How many people are first-time or return visitors?
  5. How long do people stay on your site?
  6. Where are your visitors geographically located?
  7. What browsers, operating systems, devices, and screen sizes are they using?
  8. What keywords are driving people to your site through search? What pages are delivering search traffic? 
  9. How do visitors flow through your site? Are they efficient and inefficient paths? Do they see your intended message or offering?
  10. How much response does each call to action get?
  11. What referrers are directing visitors to your site? From which search engines (organic results or marketing campaign), social networks, blogs, web pages, etc? What content are they being directed to?
  12. How fast do your pages load? When and where are the peaks and lows?
  13. How are the specific goals you’ve defined in the analytics tools being met?
  14. How are your pay-per-click campaigns working?
  15. What additional demographic data is available for each of the questions above? 
     

That's great - But What Do I Do with It?

The answer to each of these questions can help you optimize the user experience, raise your search engines rankings, tailor your message expand your audience or focus on a specific segment, and build data-driven personalized relationships online.

The answers to these questions are often quite valuable to your business. Some are immediately apparent, such as the answer to “How much response does each call to action get?” Others, however, may seem to have less business value, at least at face value. For example, “why do I care where my web visitors are geographically located?”

To use an example, one of our clients has offices in three states. After reviewing their traffic sources, we identified a great deal of traffic from two states where they did not have offices. The visitors from these two states matched their target demographic too. So, analytics helped our client identify potential locations to expand their business. 
 

Building a Better Business

When it comes to data analytics, clickstream sources are often the most available to business owners. You can use these 15 questions to adjust your business strategy in an informed and insightful manner.

For a more comprehensive view of how you can use analytics, data-driven website optimization, and search engine, Sandstorm offers full consulting and implementation services that support and improve your marketing strategy.

This blog was posted by Nick on February 19, 2016.
Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Nick
A/B Optimization Testing

website optimization services to increase visitor engagement and conversions

WEBSITE A/B TESTING AND MULTIVARIATE TESTING

What's website optimization testing? You have all the content there for users to understand what you offer. You have calls to action to drive them toward a goal. You have flashy graphics and informational videos. But you're just not getting the response you want. Why aren't you getting the conversions? We can help. We propose and implement some tests on your website: to change the content, to call out certain actions, to recolor the buttons, to grab your audience, and to lead them through the goal paths. Then, we measure what works and provide recommendations on how to make those changes the most effective. Now, you're getting the results you want.

How does it work? Based on information from our marketing workshop - including business requirements, segmentation of audiences, conversion goals, and target metrics tied to conversion strategy - we will devise a website testing optimization strategy. The testing strategy will confirm the prioritization of your goals, provide a set of UX experiments to run, specify variations to the websites targeted in those experiments, identify success criteria to achieve target metrics, detail tools and practices for data collection and analysis. We implement the tests on your site and measure responses from visitors, keeping you informed of trends as the tests run. Once we have conclusive results, we provide you with an insights report of findings and recommendations what delivers the most results, who responds the best to each change, what could be done better, and what to do next.

Whether your target conversions are increasing website visitor count, leads through newsletter subscriptions or contact forms, online orders, traffic to your physical location, hits through organic search, engagement over social networks, referrals from social channels, or effectively leveraging advertising platforms, we use optimization to test, measure, and deliver results.

Optimization testing is made most effective when used in combination with brand strategy, user experience research, heuristic evaluation, and a variety of the other comprehensive services that Sandstorm offers.

Want to know more? Reach out to us today and tell us how we can help.

 

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Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Nick

what are you doing with your data?

WE TURN WHITE NOISE INTO ACTIONABLE INTELLIGENCE

Data is prolific. Not all of it is meaningful or easily understandable. How do you make data work for you and your business? By turning white noise into actionable intelligence. Whether your goal is to attract more customers, sell more products, educate more consumers, keep your team members engaged, raise awareness for your cause, or just understand who visits your website, we offer services such as data strategy, visualization and analysis. If you are looking to predict what will happen next, such as who will purchase my product in the future, we can also help with our data science offerings.

Whether your target conversions are increasing visitor count, newsletter subscriptions, contact form submissions, purchases through your e-commerce site, hits through organic search, engagement through social media, or general public awareness, we use data from a variety of sources, expert strategy, and analytical processes and tools to deliver quantifiable results.

Our services are designed to help you become a data-driven, and predictive, organization:

Data Strategy
Let's work together to collect the right data in the right way for easier reporting and analysis. We'll help identify what type of data you have access to, in what format, what can you do with it, and identify a long-term plan to leverage your data for intelligent, real-time decision-making.

Data Visualization & Reporting
Make sense of your data quickly through visualization. Rows and rows of static data become interactive real-time charts, graphs, maps, or customized reports for any end user.

Statistical Analysis
Understand critical factors, trends and relationships affecting your business and how to effectively pivot in order to achieve your business goals.

Predictive Analytics
Looking to learn what will happen in your business? We can work with you on building custom machine learning models to help you forecast and predict your business.

Web Analytics, SEO/SEM & Insights
Provides your people the data that they need to know how they are performing on their goals and the key indicators that drive your business. Brings you our expert opinions on how to improve your existing analytics implementation, data management, and ability to derive insights. Increases awareness and convenience by bringing your website, online tools, or other web presence to the top of search results. Drives qualified traffic and conversions through targeted advertisements based on the search requests that people make.

A/B and Optimization Testing
Makes your website, mobile application, or other user interface more efficient and effective by giving visitors multiple versions of pages, content, and layout, and measuring what gets the most response.

Ready to use data to improve your business? Contact us.
 

Sandstorm proudly works with:

Qualtrics
Tableau
 
 
 

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Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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Nick

useful knowledge delivered in actionable insights

GOOGLE ADWORDS CERTIFIED: WEB ANALYTICS CONSULTING SERVICES, SEM & SEO

You know you need to perform analytics on your site, but which data points really matter and how can you use your web analytics to make good business decisions? For too many companies, they either end up logging in once a year, or find themselves in "analysis paralysis." So how do you know if you are achieving your web and business goals?

By implementing web analytics into your site, you have the tools to understand the characteristics and behaviors of your audiences, measure how changes are affecting engagement and conversions, and formulate insights to sustain and grow relationships. We implement web analytics with every site experience we build at Sandstorm®, giving our clients the ability to see where users are coming from, what’s driving them there, and what (if anything) is making them leave. In addition, we offer a variety of follow-up services depending on your needs.

Analytics Integration
We integrate the analytics we’ve implemented with your other website analytics, optimization testing, customer experience, social tracking, campaign management or other CRM tools to offer you an all-encompassing view of your customer.

Dashboard Creation
Using your business goals, target metrics, and other drivers defined in the marketing workshop, we create dashboards tailored to the needs of your marketers, executives, and other key stakeholders. Using the dashboards and automated notifications, your decision makers have valuable information at their fingertips to track key indicators and make the most informed business decisions.

On-Going Assessment Reports
After initial dashboards are created, we offer consulting services to review the data and provide advise on additional opportunities. These services include monthly/periodic reports assessment, analysis and insights around your KPIs, with actionable recommendations to increase goal completions, enhance the user experience, and adjust dashboards to identify changing trends.

Training
Sandstorm offers education on how to review and enhance dashboards and reports, as well as how to export data for other analysis tools.

Analytics Implementation Audit
Sandstorm performs an examination of your current analytics implementation to identify potential gaps or other issues. Sandstorm collaborates with you to identify the key performance indicators and tie them to target metrics across organic search, social engagement, conversion funnels, and PPC initiatives. Mapping business goals to website data, we will ensure your existing analytics solution is properly tracking and clearly reporting status that's relevant to your goals (business, marketing, website, social, etc). After identifying what gets tracked and why, data collection points, and current technology, Sandstorm provides recommendations on how to adjust tools and techniques to optimize your business.

Data Assessment
Sandstorm analyzes your current business data to identify your visitors, leads, customers, and influencers, and their behavior. This incorporates your websites, social channels, log file collection, first-party and third-party data management technologies and methodologies, dashboarding, and other relevant data. We will provide insights on where your goals are being achieved, where you can improve, what blockers you face, how you can tailor your content and navigation to drive conversions or other actions, as well as how to optimize your site for the best operational performance. Sandstorm provides recommendations on what data to collect across your channels and 3rd party data providers, how data should be collected and integrated, and technology to best achieve these goals, supported by data-driven evidence.

SEM & SEO
We do both, search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO) for our clients (and for our own company as part of our digital marketing plan and web design strategy for lead generation). Here's a few things that you should know:

Search engine marketing is getting so expensive so quickly, that it just kills us when we take over a pay-per-click (PPC) Adwords account and see yet another company creating Adwords campaigns that are competing with themselves, therefore raising the cost per click... on themselves and everyone else competing for that phrase. If you think this might be you, please give us a call and let us review your account. This happens so often and everyone loses.

Search engine optimization alone does get you to the top of the search engines. It's a part of your big picture strategic planning which should include content marketingsocial media marketing, and web analytics reporting. This is a game changer for so many companies. Let us help!

Want to learn more? Tell us how we can help you with your website analytics today.

This blog was posted by Nick on .
Nick Meshes

About the Author

Nick Meshes

Nick is Sandstorm’s Director of Analytics and Technology. He’s boosting our quantitative focus. He’s busy increasing our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, SEO, SEM, display advertising, business intelligence, and personalization.

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