Posts by stevieflow

An interview with Tom Betts, Head of Web Analytics at

29 March 2011

After completing the Search and Social Media Marketing course late last year I got involved in the Analysis Exchange – a free initiative to connect non-profit projects with SEO analyst experts and students.

Via the project I work on – Plings (about Places to Go and Things to Do for kids) – I was lucky enough to work with Tom Betts, Head of web analytics at

Financial Times

Along with Stewart, our Analysis Exchange student, we really benefited from some great insight and compelling actions to implement. So, with this in mind, I asked Tom a few questions for the Search and Social Media Marketing course blog:

As head of the web analytics team at the Financial Times, what is your main role and task?

“I am responsible for the use of data to make decisions at Unlike many businesses, online is our entire business at, meaning that we provide services to a wide internal client-base. My team and I get stuck in to analytics projects for:

  • Editorial (identifying which content is popular with what audience and why)
  • Marketing (figuring out how to sell online subscriptions to access our content, attract new audiences, how do we effectively spend marketing budgets etc)
  • IT (determining site problems, capacity planning and the like)
  • Advertising (to understand who our readers are, what interests them and how we can paint a better picture of our audience back to advertisers)
  • Finance (to analyse the profitability of our products and services)

…and the list goes on.

It is an extremely diverse role which spans everything from just telling people what is happening on site, what is performing well / not so well, to developing analytical models to predict future behaviour (what topics of content interest people who go on to subscribe?) and measuring the ROI of search engine marketing spend. Our executive team are heavily reliant on our insights to make product changes.”

Why did you get involved in the Analysis Exchange?

“I already manage an analytics team but wanted to see how I could help a wider selection of students to move their analytics skills up a level. As an industry, web analytics is a little bit chicken-and-egg. There seem to be endless roles for analysts, but only for people with relevant experience. It’s tough to gain that experience and Analysis Exchange is the best way I know of to obtain experience with real data on real-life projects.

Additionally, I spend most of my day thinking of the best way to use analytics for profit and felt I wanted to help some non-profit making organisations.”

What helped you make a success of your first Analytics Exchange project?

“Being on top of student and organiser to ensure that we were sticking to time and scope. I tried to tie the scope down as much as possible from the outset since the single largest reason I see projects delivering late is due to scope creep.”

Crystal ball time – but what is your analytics thing-to-watch for 2011?!

“I have two for this:

  1. Predictive web analytics – the area of ‘predictive analytics’ is already mature in many fields, but not yet in web analytics. Using web data to predict what a user might be interested in or what they might buy next is still quite pioneering in our industry. But not for much longer.
  2. Multichannel analytics – we’re seeing a huge and rapid shift in consumption from desktop PCs to access content to a wide variety of mobile devices. The development of apps, where the user experience is far more native to the device, poses big challenges but exciting opportunities for web analytics. All of a sudden, you are measuring much more than just the web.”

Finally, what tips would you give those studying on the #SSMM course?

“Find some real data and get stuck in! The Analysis Exchange is a great place to start and some experience there would land you in good stead for any digital marketing, SEO or analytics role.

Read around, and definitely check out the work of Avinash Kaushik. Simply by reading and understanding his ‘An hour a day‘ book, you’ll be well ahead of many practitioners in our field!”

Tom will also be speaking at the forthcoming SAScon 2011 conference in Manchester.

SASCon 2011 Search Analytics and Social Conference Manchester

Five Ways to Get People on Board your Search and Social Media Marketing Journey

23 November 2010

Whilst the Search and Social Media Marketing (SSMM) skills and techniques we’ve learnt, discussed and explored through the course have been vital, I’m really interested in how to take this back to my colleagues and clients I work with on the Plings project. How can we move SSMM away from an afternoon in a spreadsheet, through to something we *all* discuss and understand? How can SSMM be at the core of project planning, rather than a bolt on from the side?

Gimme the Social Media Marketing Headlines!

Whilst this may sound negative, I think it is often the reality. We like to think we have the capacity to dwell upon and scrutinize Google Analytics, but we are often pressed for time and resources to only take a cursory glance, or just use the top level figures. Equally, whilst Twitter is well documented as a channel for feedback, discussion and listening – the stream can quickly and easily be lost, with a sense of swimming against the tide. The challenge therefore is how we can best present these as opportunities rather than chores.

Five Ways to Sell SSMM to Your Team!

In thinking this through, I picked out some of the actions we have been taking in relation to Plings and SSMM. For those that don’t know, Plings is a project that aggregates and publishes information on "places to go, things to do" for young people in England. Whilst these beneficiaries of our toils are important, our key focus for SSMM is in fact the people who are responsible for the data – those in local and national government. Without their input, the project would falter. Therefore, our SSMM strategy needs to deliver enough carrots and sticks to keep them engaged.

I’ve picked out five examples:

1 – Scare them

OK, don’t *literally* scare them off, but make it clear that social media is here, and is in use, right now. We use a combination of Twitter Search and Social Mention to track the key phrase "youth club". This gives people a flavour of how people are talking. I might be over playing it with the scary term, but you get my gist.

2 – Delight them

I underestimated how much people enjoy a seeing our listing on a search engine results page (SERP)! With Google Webmaster tools, Meta Descriptions and XML Sitemaps, we’ve managed to get a nicely formatted listing for Plings. This is a very visible before/after SSMM action – people get it!

3 – Impress them

A good SSMM story is only as good as the time and effort you put in. With the help of PushON, we recently set up filters and contexts in Google Analytics to illustrate the volume of long-tail non-branded search terms we get to Plings. We also discovered that these people were more engaged on the site, spending more time there. These are not default reports or figures – but make impressive SSMM tools.

4 – Save them Money

With Plings we are not "selling" products or widgets, but we are keen to stress how it can deliver savings. Through a Facebook Ad Campaign we undertook recently, we were able to use Facebook Insights to get to a cost of around about 89pence for the install of our app. This detail isn’t easily available for Return on Investment (ROI) for printed marketing, for example, so our SSMM detail starts to get people hooked.

5 – Entertain them

OK, this doesn’t *actually* involve any of the tools we’ve used, but is a vital ingredient. If we can imagine that our goal is to get everyone on board our mythical SSMM bus, then we need to get out and cajole people. With Plings, we hold regular events for our stakeholders. We even give people cakes! Our point here is that whilst we may have published our SSMM related findings in a blog or white paper, finding the time and space to talk it thru with a cuppa, is vital

Setting the Right Metrics and Building the Relevant Matrix

Once you’ve decided on the ways to gather your SSMM tribe, then the related task is to establish the metrics and matrix to assist you all. How do you chart a successful "conversion"? How do you agree on that KPI? Is there a clear pathway for your audience? With Plings, we’ve been inspired by some of the work of Matt Locke and Ewan McIntosh, who in turn drew on the seminal ‘Metrics for Pirates (AARRR!)‘ work of Dave McClure. We think we can work with this as a matrix to underpin all our work. It is vital to establish this, otherwise the whole SSMM effort could just be a series of nice stories, but no plot.

So – Five Ways to Get the Right People on the Relevant #SSMM Bus, Just as it Leaves…

I think that is our task. To build an effective SSMM campaign you need many eyes, ears and arms. These people will be around, but the trick is to engage them through the relevant stories, and make sure you all have access to a timetable.

I put these thoughts together with some pictures for the end-of-course presentation:

please let me know your thoughts: Steven works for Substance as the Technology Enabler, mostly focused on the Plings project. He tries very hard not to use metaphors and analogies when explaining stuff, to varying degrees of succes.