Why does Google care so much about bounce rate?

Google significantly promotes this statistic – the bounce rate – making it available in most of its reports and even on the accounts overview page (the only other statistic shown is the number of sessions). Google focusing on bounce rate makes a bit of sense: Google sells recommendations for a living through its advertising platforms, and a high bounce rate means that it is doing a rotten job of matching consumer intent with the advertiser content.

So what is bounce rate?

Bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors who visit one and only one page of your website.

Single Page Visitors            Total Visitors – Multiple Page Visitors

————————-   =   ———————————————— = Bounce Rate

Total Visitors                                   Total Visitors

 

Why provide two very similar equations for bounce rate? I wanted to highlight the easiest way to improve your bounce rate: increase the number of multiple page visitors. Preventing visitors from bouncing is hard…you are trying to accomplish a negative. Getting visitors to visit a 2nd page is a lot more actionable. To improve your bounce rate, all you need to do is get more people to click on a second page. Read that one twice. Go find the pages that are causing most of your bounce problems and see whether you have made it appealing to visit a second page. Are there too many navigational elements? Are you providing your entire website on the page? Once you start thinking about how to get people to visit a 2nd page, you will find some easy ways to improve your bounce rate.

Are there better metrics?

You bet. Having a low bounce rate as a goal is like looking to purchase a car that does not explode: it is a good minimum standard, but you should aim higher. Ideally, your metrics will include a visitor purchase where money changes hands. But starting with measuring purchase activity may not provide enough insight in what is happening between that first visit and the eventual purchase. According to Google Analytics, 98% of visitors NEVER make a purchase, so figuring out where along the path customers are dropping off can help you identify were you should focus your efforts.

Why does Google obsess with bounce rate?

The genius of bounce rate is that it is the easiest “quality” metric to measure on the planet. There is no need to ask what a consumer actually wanted, or to ask an advertiser about its campaign goals. Bounce rate allows you to abstract away all of the complexity of a real-world business relationship and ask a simple question: did the visitor click on a link after following our recommendation to visit the site?

Businesses should take time to define more meaningful goals, and revisit their goals from time to time. Typical goals will include activation (e.g., visiting a certain number of pages, reading a white paper, revisiting the site), signup (e.g., for a newsletter, a trial, or a demo), and purchase.

Matt

Note: I published this article for Payboard a while back, and I am republishing it here since the Payboard blog is no more.

Skipping Over Quill Buttons with Tabs

I am a big fan of Quill. You can add it to your website, and in minutes have rich text capability (like adding links to the Quill website to your text).

I am also a big, dare I say HUGE fan of tabbing when I am filling out forms. By default, Quill controls (like bold, italic, link, etc) accept focus when you tab, so if a user is filling out and tabbing through a form, when they get to the rich text editor they have to (aaahh!) grab their mouse and navigate into the rich text box.

The short answer is to use jQuery to add a tabeindex -1 (do not allow tab focus) to every button within the .ql-toolbar class, like this:

$(“.ql-toolbar”).find(“:button”).attr(‘tabindex’, ‘-1’);

For good measure, here is the complete Quill code that I am using. It also handles tabbing out of the editor (so when you hit tab you go to the next field). Let me know if you know how to make this better. Thanks!

Matt

 

Error when you Add New Scaffold Item for ApplicationUser

Here is one that took me a couple of minutes to figure out: if you are using ASP.NET MVC, and you select Add New Scaffold Item on ApplicationUser, you will get the following error:

Severity Code Description Project File Line Column Suppression State
Error CS0453 The type ‘string’ must be a non-nullable value type in order to use it as parameter ‘T’ in the generic type or method ‘Nullable’ INV..NETCoreApp,Version=v1.0

This is caused by the scaffolding assuming that Id fields are integers, that are nullable, when the ApplicationUser Id is a string (which is not nullable). This is a quick 1-minute fix. Just go and remove all of the question marks after the string, For example:

Details(string? id)

Becomes

Details(string id)

Super simple.

Until next time…

Matt

Hey Microsoft People: Anybody Have an All-Up ASP.NET Core Sample Application?

ASP.NET Core is the newest incarnation of ASP.NET. It allows developers to deploy their applications on any server, not just IIS or Azure, but also Linux. This marks a pretty significant shift for Microsoft, and I absolutely love that Microsoft is branching out.

But, I do have a simple question: has anybody provided comprehensive sample application that shows how all of these Core components work together? There are a ton of great samples on the web for building out sample apps in previous versions of ASP.NET, but there is nothing that I have found that demonstrates an end-to-end yet basic ASP.NET Core application that includes ASP.NET Core MVC and ASP.NET Identity Core.

Let’s get specific: I want to see something like a blog application with multiple authors and a blog administrator, where the users can create and edit/delete their own posts, create and edit/delete their own comments on other people’s posts, and an administrator can create, edit, and delete anything. I actually do not care what the application is, but I do want to see some navigation properties (and whether Lazy Loading works or not, and if it does not work, the right way to get related data loaded), something that leverages Identity Core to manage authentication, authorization, and content (e.g., I want to click on an author’s name, and see all of the posts that they have written).

If you want to get fancy: include minimalist testing (e.g., based on your experience, what are some smart tests to include right off the bat), use Visual Studio 2015, add some additional properties to an Application User (from the ASP.NET Identity Core), create roles and associate users with roles (e.g., admin and author), showcase how to use Scaffolding in an agile manner (e.g., as you change the data model, do you just delete the controller and then add using Scaffolding again…or what is the practice).

It feels like so much code is being developed that the communication of how to leverage the code has become highly siloed and it is difficult to stitch together the right way to do things from a comprehensive perspective. BUT, with a simple sample project (and ideally a quick write-up of how it works) would work wonders to bring more people under the MVC Core umbrella.

If this post already exists, please show me the way. If it does not yet exist, but you could create such a thing, please spend an hour writing out the bullet points or creating a screen recording, and I can convert it into a (temporarily) awesome blog post for you.

Thanks in advance.

Matt

Ps-If you do not have this magic blog post that covers ASP.NET Core that includes ASP.NET Core MVC and ASP.NET Identity Core, but you would like to see how all these technologies play together, please drop a comment!

Some useful articles:

Resource-based authorization in ASP.NET MVC: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/aspnet/core/security/authorization/resourcebased

Setting Up Goals in Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager

Set Up a Destination Goal

If you want to start improving the business performance of your website, you have to have a goal, sometimes called a conversion event. If your goal is a destination (e.g., a “thank you” or confirmation page), Google Analytics makes it easy. Just click on the Admin tab along the top, scroll over to View, and select Goals. Select Create New Goal, give your goal a name (e.g., Purchase), select destination, and then enter the part of the url following your domain name (e.g., if your page is http://www.mysite.com/success, just enter /success).

To make sure everything is set up properly, you can click the Verify link. If you get this message:

This Goal would have a 0% conversion rate based on your data from the past 7 days. Try a different set up.

You may have misconfigured your goal, the goal may not have been reached yet (e.g., nobody has visited that page), or the data may be working its way through the interenets (I have 12 hours between when I started firing an event to when the first completion was recorded).

Set Up an Event Goal using Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics

Occasionally, you may want to fire a goal on an event, such as a button click or a form submission that posts outside of the host domain (hello Paypal). This is a bit trickier. The best way to do it is to use a combination of Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics.

Create the Trigger

In Google Tag Manager, you first need to create a trigger for the event that you want to capture.

Triggers > New > Click > Just Links.

This is where I play a little dangerous. I do encourage waiting for tags for up to 2 seconds (2000 in the milliseconds box). This means that you give Google up to 2 seconds to record the click before following the link…a bit of delay for the user, but you will not be swallowing (as many) clicks by fast transitions. You will want to validate that the form submission works, because you may interfere with validations or other scripts that were built without expecting a delay.

The rest of the selections are basic, so we can now jump to the 2nd part of the process…

Create the Tag

Still in Google Tag Manager, create a New tag.

Tags > New > Google Analytics > Universal Analytics > Add your Google Analytics Tracking ID > Track Type = Event > Action = “BuyLinkClick” (or whatever) > Fire on Click > Select the Trigger you just created. Phew!

Now you are pushing the events to your GA account. If you head over to Google Analytics > Real-Time > Events, you should be able to see it as you click these links.

Create the Goal

Back in Google Analytics, go to Admin, scroll over to View, and click Goals. New Goal > Event > Action = “BuyLinkClick”. Odds are, if you click on Verify, you will get this message:

This Goal would have a 0% conversion rate based on your data from the past 7 days. Try a different set up.

You may have misconfigured your goal, the goal may not have been reached yet (e.g., nobody has visited that page), or the data may be working its way through the interenets (I have 12 hours between when I started firing an event to when the first completion was recorded).

Come back tomorrow to see if this goal is being tracked properly.

From Text File to Map in 30 Minutes

I wanted to see where United States patent attorneys reside. Using data from the United States Patent and Trademark Office and a free account from Microsoft’s Power BI, I was able to create the two visualizations below in about 30 minutes. Pretty amazing. Let me know if you want any details on how to do this – I sketched out the process below.

Steps to Create Power BI Map Visualization

  • Grab data: text file of all active US Patent Attorneys can be found here: https://oedci.uspto.gov/OEDCI/practitionerRoster.jsp
  • Visit Power BI Getting Started Page https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/get-started/ so you can:
    • Download the Software (this allows you to author your visualizations); AND
    • Sign Up for a Power BI account (this allows you to publish your visualizations to the web)
  • Once you have downloaded the Desktop Power BI software, create a new report (File > New).
  • Click on Get Data > File > Text, and point to the file you downloaded (you need to extract it from the zip file if you have not already done that).
  • There are two types of maps in Power BI: maps and filled maps; I used maps that represents each node as a bubble.
  • For the top left map, just drag the City on to the Location box.
  • For the bottom left map, drag State on to the Location box, and drag State on to Size; click on the State under Size, and make sure Count is selected (not Count Distinct).
  • Finally, add a couple of tables to the right. For the top map, drag over City and Firm Name under values, and then click on the down arrow for Firm Name and select Count (this will aggregate for the city instead of showing all of the Firm Names along with their city).
    • I should have used registration number, instead of Firm Name, because this is actually a count of FIRMS by city, not a count of practitioners. Alas,  if that is the worst mistake I make today I am doing all right.
  • On the desktop, you can now click on the Publish icon in the top right.
  • Now navigate to the web version of Power BI and navigate to your app.
  • Under File select “Publish to Web”
  • Grab the “HTML you can add to your website” and paste this into a text view of your blog, and you are done. Super easy.

If you have published or stumbled upon some nice Power BI visualizations, drop them in a comment. I am a bit surprised this has not become more common. My prediction: data visualizations will become the norm in 2017, because all of these visualization tools are racing to become the standard, and are breaking down the barriers to adoption that have historically prevented people from jumping in (primarily complexity and cost). Exciting times.

Thanks.

Matt

Visualizing Sports League Standings

I have been thinking about a new visualization for sports league standings. Something that you could use to see teams on the ascent, and teams on their way down. Ideally, this would include all of the teams in a league, but since it takes a bit of time for me to prepare the data, I figured I would start by sharing the a micro-set of data, seeing whether this visualization already exists somewhere, and, if not, whether you find the visualization intriguing.
MLS Standinds

If you click on the image, you can download the Excel spreadsheet that I used to create the chart.

What you are seeing is the 2016 season of wins and losses for the Seattle Sounders (red) and the Portland Timbers (orange). A win is worth +1, a loss is worth -1, and a tie is worth 0. For the first game, you see that the Sounders lose and the Timbers win.

Some interesting things jump out from this visualization: the teams are in a dead heat from games 8 to 13, the Timbers are on top for most of the rest of the season, and around game 25 the Sounders are in the toilet. But, you have to get hot at the right time, and that is exactly what the Sounders did: advancing from -4 to +1 over the course of the last 9 games.

Let me know what you think.

Thanks.

Matt

Simplified Startup Business Framework – CP Squared

Summary of the Simplified Startup Business Framework: CP Squared

Customer, Pain, Competition, Product. Create something that optimizes across these 4 dimensions, and you have a great shot at building a meaningful company. Fail to deliver something that satisfies your customer pain 10x better than the competition (or for 1/10th the price), and you are on your on a well-trodden path to failure. Use this super-simple form to model your business, and ensure that you understand your fundamentals before you do anything else.

CP Squared Framework
CP Squared Framework – click to expand

Background

I have been focused on startups since 1999, when I had an idea that was going to change the world. Unfortunately, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and there was no framework for helping newcomers like me understand how to build a startup.

In 2003, Steven Blank published “Four Steps to the Epiphany.” In 2008, Eric Ries built on Blank’s framework and published the “Lean Startup.” In that same year, Alexander Osterwalder released the “Business Model Canvas,” a framework for visualizing your startup business model.

I relied on these tools extensively in 2012 when I was the Managing Director of the Microsoft Accelerator powered by Techstars. And we had some pretty amazing success: 1 startup from the 1st class was acquired within a month of demo day, and another startup has raised over $45 million. Despite these successes, a number of the startups struggled, and some of them failed. After the Microsoft Accelerator, I shifted back to building my own startup called Payboard, where I hoped to make websites intelligent. Unfortunately, I also failed. Overall, I have been involved with approximately 50 different startups, and a vast majority of them have failed. And for the startups that did not fail – it was as much luck as skill, and some of the startups that had the most skill on their team ended up failing. I have spent the last few months thinking about why failure happens, why success happens, and what can be done to improve a startup’s chances of surviving and thriving.

What is the Problem with Blank, Ries, and Osterwalder?

The problem with building a startup using existing frameworks is that there are too many #1 priorities. You need to build a great team. You need to be in a growing market. You need to raise money, and raise it from the right investors. You need to take care of the noise (like incorporation, and employment agreements, and software license agreements, and payroll, and SEO, and invoicing). You need to do 1,000 essential things all at once, and it is easy to get lost in those weeds and gloss over the fact you do not have a solid foundation (yet).

Let’s take a simple (and painful) example where I took an absolutely wrong path, which eventually lead to my and my startup’s failure. About 1 year into my startup, Mat Ellis (who has been able to build an awesome company called Cloudability – and it was not luck!) told me to stop what I was doing, and go figure out who my customer was. I heard him. I still remember the conversation very clearly. But I had so many other priorities going through my head that I did not listen.

Actually, it was worse than that – I listened and I understood I was wrong, and I drove on despite knowing that he was right and I was pretty much just digging a deeper grave for my startup. Why?  I calculated that if I took Mat’s advice and I really focused on who my customer was, I would disqualify most of the companies that were presently interested in working with us (including pilots like Microsoft and Moz), and that would completely destroy our fundraising efforts. So I forged on, as many a startup has, to put one foot in front of the other and keep making “progress.” We landed pilots with Microsoft and Moz and a dozen other high-profile companies, but because I did not have my customer clearly identified, and the pain that I hoped to resolve for the customer nailed, I was basically doing underpaid consulting work. 1 year after the conversation with Mr. Ellis, my startup was dead. 2 years, untold hours, and a kick-ass startup idea wasted. Bummer.

I am not alone in failure. In fact, I think failure in tech startups is far higher than the 90% estimate. But even assuming it is just 90%, that is still too high. With as many problems that need solving, we need more startups to survive and thrive, and make money solving the most challenging problems on the planet. Even if your focus is not cash, you need to make enough money to fuel growth so you can help more of your customers. And if your startup needs non-familial investors, do not fool yourself: your focus is cash.

The Solution to Startup Failure

To this end, I would like to propose a simplified startup framework called the CP Squared Framework:  Customer, Pain, Competition, Product. 90% of your time and energy should be focused on the Customer+Pain loop. If you can articulate with specificity who your customer is, and what pain they have (and back this up with 30+ customer interviews where they are telling you they have this pain), then I believe that your odds of reaching escape velocity are 10x greater than the average startup.

Once you have a locked in Customer+Pain, then you can start evaluating your Competition+Product. Typically, we start with our product. This is natural because we want to build something. But, in order to build something of significant commercial value, you have to learn what your competition has already built. If you are a startup, and you build something just as good as the market leader, you will fail. Even if you make it 10% better or 10% cheaper, you will fail. If you are building something new, you have to achieve either 10x performance (e.g., your product is 10 times better, aka transformational) or 1/10 the price as the market leader. Nobody is looking for a nice to have feature from a startup, or a little bit of cost-savings – there is simply too much risk in working with a startup to justify these nominal returns.

One word of warning: the size of your existing market is limited by the value of the competitors’ revenue selling their product to the specified customer to address the specified pain. So if your competitors are making, in aggregate, $10 million a year selling competitive products to your target customer to address your specified pain, the most you can hope to make with your market-dominating product is $10 million (assuming you take 100% of the market – probably not likely). Sure, once you are making $10 million a year, then you can have a huge team doing a number of different things and you can educate customers that they SHOULD be doing something that they are not currently doing. But to start you need to focus on the competitors that are currently in the marketplace, and how you can grab market share from them. If there is not enough competition (that you can dominate) that is currently making money that should be yours, you are going to a near impossible journey.

You can think of this as a simplified business model canvas, but I actually think of this as a complex business model canvas: since you have fewer irrelevant blocks, you actually have to get super-clear on the blocks that matter. A simple and effective plan is far more difficult to build than a complex plan. Agreed?

If you would like to discuss how this framework could apply to your startup or business, please grab some time on my calendar at https://calendly.com/mdyor/30min/.

Thanks, and have a great day.

Matt

Ps-If you think that you are not a startup, either because you are in a big company, or you have been around for a long time, you might be wrong. My definition of a startup is an organization that is looking to transform an income statement – something on the order of 10x increases in revenue.

 

The problem with Data Discovery

Despite the power of data discovery tools like Qlik, Tableau, and Power BI, a vast majority of businesses are failing in their efforts to become data driven. Qlik estimates that for their existing customers, there is only a 25% adoption rate (Qonnections 2016). That means that even for companies that have invested in becoming data driven, 75% of their employees are just winging it. Without the right data in the right format for each type of business user, these businesses can end up with entire departments that are not benefiting from data discovery.

There are 2 core reasons why this adoption rate is so low: 1) the right data is not available at all within the Qlik environment; and 2) the data that is available within Qlik is not refined in such a way that it can be useful to the 75%’ers.

If you are struggling with these challenges, you should check out TimeXtender (disclaimer: TimeXtender is an awesome company; disclaimer 2: I work for TimeXtender:). TimeXtender provides software that gets complex data into Qlik, and enables business intelligence (BI) teams to integrate, join, cleanse, denormalize, and otherwise refine the data for each business user. TimeXtender does the job of 3 tools: ETL software (like Informatica and SSIS), database management software (like SQL Server Management Studio), and semantic modeling (like Qlik Data Load Editor). Not only does TimeXtender do the work of these 3 tools, but it does it without required BI teams to write a single line of code.

If you are struggling to increase adoption of data discovery tools like Qlik within your organization, consider whether you are providing all of your users with the data they need and in the format that makes sense to them. If not, take a look at TimeXtender.

Regards,

Matt

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