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SMX replay: Create dashboards that inform and persuade



Data insights are only as effective as your ability to communicate them in a way that results in buy-in from colleagues, management and clients. That’s why Sam Marsden, SEO and content manager at DeepCrawl, has turned to data visualization using Google’s Data Studio to help stakeholders make more informed decisions.

During Marsden’s Insights session at SMX Advanced, he explained that creating impactful dashboards can revolutionize your reporting and provided some examples of how it has helped his team reduce friction, strategize and save time.

You can listen to his full session above, then continue reading for his tips on getting the most out of your dashboards. The full transcript is also available below.

When building out your dashboards, Marsden recommends that you:

  • List the areas where you waste time on reporting, whether it’s report creation, insight extraction or sharing your findings.
  • Research and build automated dashboarding solutions that get you to the data you need to see as quickly as possible.
  • Repurpose your dashboards to fit the needs of different stakeholders by creating different views for each of them (e.g., one dashboard might have separate pages for senior management and SEO practitioners).
  • Use visualizations to tell compelling data narratives and make business cases. Live demos can work really well, just make sure your dashboard is fast enough to cope and that it functions as you expect it to beforehand.
  • Invest in skills and tools that will help you build more effective dashboards, like data visualization theory, regex, and BigQuery.
  • Get involved with the Data Studio community by sharing dashboard templates, guides and experiences. There is so much to learn from smart folks from different corners of the marketing spectrum.

For more from SMX Advanced, listen to Patrick Stox’s Insights session on SEO that Google tries to fix for you, Amanda Milligan’s guide on using data storytelling to earn top-tier media coverage or Ashley Mo’s tips on improving your YouTube ad performance.

What did he say? Here’s the full transcript

Introduction by George Nguyen:

Just what good are your brilliant audits and analysis if you can’t communicate the insights in a way that persuades clients, management and stakeholders?

Welcome to the Search Engine Land podcast, I’m your host George Nguyen
and the question that I just asked comes from Sam Marsden, an SEO and content manager at DeepCrawl.

Breaking down silos is a common struggle for brands and agencies. To help resolve the issue, Sam visualized his data using Google’s Data Studio. The benefits for him — and hopefully for you, as well — included streamlined workflows with colleagues and clients, better organization,
fewer unnecessary conversations and disruptions as well as more interest from management.

You’re about to hear Sam’s Insights session from SMX Advanced, in which he explains how to create dashboards that inform and persuade. After you’re done listening, I encourage you to check out Patrick Stox’s session on SEO that Google tries to fix for you — that’s another great time saver — or one of our other SMX replays. Links to those can be found in the article accompanying this podcast. For now, here’s Sam…

Sam Marsden:

Good afternoon everyone. My name is Sam. I work as an SEO and content manager at a web-crawling platform called DeepCrawl. If you can’t tell by my accent, I’ve come all the way all over from London. And yeah, I’m really excited to be here in Seattle at such a great conference and speaking about automating reporting and dashboards.

So, I pitched this talk, it was probably a couple of months ago now and I had these lofty ambitions of revolutionizing your reporting, sharing some impactful dashboards and hopefully making you more efficient in your job. So, Chris from SMX got back to me and said, “That sounds like a great idea. We’ve got a slot available for you.” And, my initial reaction was like, “Oh my God, this is amazing. I’m speaking at SMX.” I then went on to read that there was an eight to twelve minutes slot available and that sent me into a mild panic because I’m not great at being concise. I’d been writing a lot about Data Studio over the past, kind of 12, 18 months. So, I’ve got a lot to share on the topic. However, I’m also really obsessed with efficiency and also productivity. So, this is like a really good challenge to fit this into a 10-minute talk.

So, Data Studio is really fueling my addiction with productivity and efficiency. In my work life it’s helped me automate reporting, combine different data sources to reveal insights that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to find. In my personal life I’ve managed to put together some dashboards using Strava data. So I’ve got these elaborate running dashboards and mapping out productivity with rescue time as well. So, I’m really obsessed with it. But, I’m also really interested in trying to spread the love with Data Studio and trying to get other people on board with Data Studio in my company as well.

So, these sessions are all about, kind of key insights and one key takeaway. So, I’m going to give you mine straight up: You need to embrace the power of timesaving automated reports. Not only for yourself, but you need to become a dashboarding evangelist within your company. And I’m going to be sharing a few different ways that I’ve been going about that within DeepCrawl. And, hopefully it’ll give you some inspiration for how you can do this with your colleagues, clients, etc.

So, Data Studio has been helping me work with management. It wasn’t too long ago that I was getting frequent requests for site traffic data from my marketing director, Jen, who’s here. It involved a lot of last-minute screenshots for management meetings. It was quite disruptive, repetitive and an inefficient way of working. Yeah, so, sorry Jen, but it was like, it was quite annoying.

So, what I went to create is a site performance dashboard within Google Analytics, or in Data Studio using Google Analytics. So, I had a lot of top level KPIs in there running across the top as you can see here. And that gave Jen all of the information that she needed, along with some monthly trending below that. And, so instead of having to come to me, Jen could go straight to the dashboard.

I then went on to create some top level organic trends in this dashboard, which uses Search Console data. Again, we’ve got these top-level metrics across at the top, showing performance status, so you’ve got impressions, clicks and click-through rate. And, then we’ve also got monthly trending below that in a really clear, easy-to-understand graph so that you can come straight in and see the story of the data.

I then went on within the same dashboards to break out a performance for branded and non-branded queries, which might tell you a different story compared to everything rolled up together. I’ve also broken down performance by directory and looking at different areas of the site as well as the breakdown of the distribution by countries and device trends as well, which is something that management might want to see. So, this dashboard is kind of aimed at communicating the top-level insights. It’s not necessarily for SEOs who are in the weeds of that, but with optimization. But yeah, people who have an interest in organic insights.

So, Data Studio helps me work with management by saving these unnecessary conversations. It removes this recurring friction point. And now, Jen is a much bigger advocate of the value that I provide to the company. Traffic is communicated within our company updates now. So, yeah, it’s been really positive to see.

Data Studio also helps me work with our content team at DeepCrawl. So I sit within this content team within our marketing team and each month we have a content review meeting. There used to be a lot of manual preparation for this but I decided to build a dashboard using analytics again.

And, so we’ve got monthly overviews looking at the visitor’s engagement, a different user types and then visualization of the monthly comparisons below that. And, interestingly below that, we’ve got a different content types as well. So, at DeepCrawl we regularly put out a different content types like event recaps, webinar recaps, webmaster hangout notes. So what I’ve done is broken down each of those sections to see the overall performance, how that’s tracking from month to month and then some page level stats underneath that to see what’s contributing.

So, this has really helped. It’s saved a bunch of manual prep work, actually guides our content review meetings now, rather than us going round in circles. It keeps them structured and focused and informing our content strategy going forward.

A third way that Data Studio has helped me is with and the onboarding of a new SEO exec. So, we had an SEO exec join us, recently and I wanted to show her how we were using Search Console data. And, I realized that I was accessing Search Console in a really kind of manual way, going into the native user interface and configuring various different reports and it was all quite fiddly and quite time consuming.

So, what I decided to do was build a monthly comparison dashboard. Now, this uses Search Console data; it varies from the other Search Console dashboard because it’s not showing the top-level trends. It’s much more focused on kind of monthly — looking at things on a monthly basis and even a daily basis as well. So, we’ve got the month on month, the month on year comparisons at the top, and then we’ve got these daily trends below that showing impressions, clicks and click-through rate. So, this is really ideal for kind of daily and weekly check-ins.

And then below that, we’ve got a series of graphs looking at, so from left to right we’ve got clicks, impressions and click-through rate, but then we’ve broken down, devices, geographic and search type trends as well. So, these look like quite busy graphs, but the point is that we can detect fluctuations very quickly and use that as a starting point for further investigation. Then I’ve put in some tables as well because sometimes this is just a more efficient way of displaying the data to show you top performing pages, top performing queries.

And then we’ve got the biggest wins and losses. So, this is a simple filter that you can set up within Data Studio and it’s showing us where the biggest changes over the last month compared to the previous month in terms of clicks and impressions.

So, the benefits of this are that we get clear monthly comparisons. I don’t need to go through search console and configure this all manually. We can detect fluctuations quickly. It provides an ideal entry point for junior members of staff who are just kind of getting into SEO. And, it also provides this starting point for further investigation.

A few things that I’m working on in the next few months: So, I’m focusing on how we can inform development teams. So, I’m going to look at how we can use crawl insights. We can bring those in through DeepCrawl through our Data Studio connector and look at things like whether there’s differences between the rendered and non-rendered version of crawls and look at various other technical aspects. I’m also going to be looking at how we can assist with site migrations and various other SEO tasks as well. And also visualizing speed metrics, which is something I’ve been working on recently. I’m using the Chrome User Experience report. If you’re interested in finding out more about that, I had a “Whiteboard Friday” published about a month ago now. It was a real, real honor to be a part of that, so, check that out if you’re interested.

But, the kind of key message here is that Data Studio’s not just helped me, but it’s helped me work in a better way with a different teams within my company. And, I appreciate that there are limitations with things like dates studio, but I think the technology is really there and it’s accessible. So, we’re actually limited by the ideas that we can have. So, coming up with different ways of combining different data sources together, we’re constrained by the time with which we have to implement these ideas and the adoption as well — so, persuading others. And I think the remedy to this is that we need to get better at sharing. There’s a thriving Data Studio community on Twitter, but I think we can do a lot better in terms of sharing different guides, different experiences that we’re having with this and how we can get people to adopt these sorts of initiatives.

So, I think it was Mahatma Gandhi that said, “Be the dashboarding change that you want to see in your business.” Now, that might not be a direct quote, but I actually found that the original quote — it wasn’t actually Gandhi that said that anyway — so I think I can have some artistic license to mess around with that.

So the key takeaways are: start investing in automating recurring reporting for yourself; build dashboards that help others that you work with, whether that’s colleagues or clients; and also contribute that knowledge to the Data Studio community. And, yeah, hopefully we’ll get better together. If you’ve got any questions, then you can meet me in the back room. But if not, send me your questions on Twitter. I’m @sam_marsden on Twitter. So, yeah, you can find me there, if the back room’s a bit uncomfortable for you. And, so thank you very much.

More from SMX Advanced 2019

About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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New site Hotspot Law like ZocDoc for lawyers



Local search is probably more visible than it has ever been since the advent of Google Maps. Yet, paradoxically, there’s almost no consumer-facing innovation taking place. There’s Google, Yelp, Facebook (somewhat) and a range of specialized vertical apps and sites, some of which have simply survived but aren’t thriving.

Little or no ‘horizontal’ innovation. Part of the lack of “horizontal” innovation in local is likely the result of venture capital not wanting to fund anything that goes up directly against Google. The company may appear to many investors now like an insurmountable juggernaut in local/mobile search.

Any new local-consumer startups, therefore, are likely to appear in specific industries or otherwise offer specialized use cases. Such is the case with Hotspot Law, a new legal search site that hopes to bring ZocDoc-style appointment scheduling to the legal profession. It also seeks to provide a more reliable and cost-effective flow of leads to consumer attorneys.

The legal vertical has a quite a few competitors, including Avvo (Internet Brands), LegalZoom, FindLaw and several others. Despite this, Hotspot Law founder Felix Shipkevich believes he’s solving two unsolved problems in the legal vertical.

“The legal market is in dire need of an upgrade,” argues Shipkevich.

Making direct connections with lawyers. “Once you’ve finished searching online, you have to start calling,” he said. “You don’t get to speak directly to attorneys, you typically talk to a gatekeeper.” He points out that this process of getting to a lawyer is time consuming for people who need legal help. “None of these [completing] platforms directly connect the consumer with an attorney.”

Shipkevich, who is an attorney and faculty member at Hofstra Law School, said he was inspired by ZocDoc and the way it enables direct connections between doctors and patients. Similarly, he wanted to remove the friction in lawyer-consumer matchmaking. Shipkevich explained that also sees Hotspot Law as a way to make “justice” more accessible to consumers.

Why you should care. Legal lead-gen is costly. Shipkevich believes that existing legal sites and ad solutions don’t serve lawyers particularly well either. “PPC advertising can be extremely expensive; in New York it can be $60 to $80 per click.” He adds that “Yelp is expensive. Sometimes it takes $2,000 to $4,000 to bring in a case.”

He wants to solve that problem with simplified reasonable pricing for lawyers who may be struggling to find clients. But he also sees Hotspot Law evolving into a platform to help attorneys manage existing clients. Currently the site only operates in New York, with plans to expand geographic coverage in the coming months.

For the time being Shipkevich will need to rely on SEO for discovery but over time he hopes to build a branded consumer destination. It will be very challenging given the current structure of local SERPs. One has to admire the ambition and chutzpah.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He researches and writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.

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Remembering the Tragedy That Made Our Community Start Talking



About one year ago, everything changed for me and for our community.

A tragedy that struck home so hard it shook us to our core.

A suicide.

A dear friend, brilliant mind, adored father, respected colleague … the list goes on, left us in a way that hits straight to the heart and wakes you up like very few other events can.

I certainly woke up that day. That alarm screamed as loud as it could and I still hear it to this day.

I know I wasn’t alone. So many of my peers experienced similar emotions, sensations, and reactions.

We Could No Longer Ignore the Problem

Sadly, this wasn’t the first tragedy we’d encountered that year – we lost other friends and colleagues as well.

But we knew we couldn’t stand to lose any more amazing people.

We couldn’t look away. We couldn’t just carry on anymore.

So we started talking.

I have been blown away by our internet marketing community. Many of us have never even met face to face and yet the comradery, the friendship, the support among us run rampant!

Never before have I seen a group of people come together so quickly and so openly as when we were forced to face this tragedy.

Groups were formed. Calls were made. Texts were sent. Face-to-face get-togethers were had. Columns like this one were created.

And the best part of it all? It didn’t stop!

We saw the need to stay connected. We recognized that we are a family that needs to support each other. And, perhaps most of all, we saw that we were not alone in our struggles.

It has been amazing to see the openness and honesty that has become so commonplace over the past year. I have seen people that once felt they couldn’t risk being seen without their mask on break down and lay themselves out in the most vulnerable ways.

I include myself in that list. I have become more able to reveal myself to the world around me. That has only been made possible by others sharing in that journey with me.

In leading up to this piece, I knew that I wanted to really find a way to focus on the positive changes that our community has seen because of Jordan Kasteler.

I wanted to honor him in a way that really brought some form of good to this incredible loss that we all experienced due to his passing.

Where Are We Now? Thoughts from Our Community

I reached out and asked a few people in our community if they would share some words of how they have been changed for the better as well as how they have seen our community as whole making changes to support each other over the past year.

Here is what they had to say:

Alexandra Tachalova:

“Working days, nights, and weekends was normal for me a few years ago. However, at that time I couldn’t say that I was really happy. I didn’t understand at the time that my work-life balance was completely off, and I now know that that could have developed into something truly horrifying.

I eventually reached such an emotionally unstable point that I hit a time where one week I was super productive, but the following week I felt hugely demotivated and absolutely miserable. (I know this is a familiar story with many others as well, I hear people telling similar stories and sharing similar experiences regularly.)

Over the past while, I have been working diligently to save myself from this emotional trap. This new focus has led me to investing more time into things that are not related to work and putting more time into the things that help to create a happier life for myself.

I can see that more people in our community are becoming more aware of the need to make this sort of a switch to their schedules and priorities as well, which is brilliant to see!”

Melissa Fach:

“In the past year, I have noticed a massive shift in our community not being ashamed to reach out and ask for help, advice, or just a kind word. I feel like masks have been dropped, and people are not embarrassed to discuss what make them “real”; I love it!

I think many people used to feel they had to have public persona that was acceptable, and now they know we all have issues and it is OK to talk about.

I have a picture of Jordan out that I see every day. I moved past the guilt and the pain when I looked at it, and he is now a daily reminder to stay present with my friends as much as I can.

And, it is a reminder to me to stay focused on my well-being as well. I tend to overwork and do too much for everyone and end up exhausted. I take steps now to take care of me more than ever before.”

Steve Wiideman:

“Though I’ve been in the industry for years, I’m still a somewhat newer member of the SEO community. Call it fear of rejection, social anxiety, whatever, I’ve always been nervous to put myself in a position to be judged by my peers.

It really wasn’t until I was invited to an amazing Facebook group made up of a small close-knit group of industry peers focusing on supporting each other through the day-to-day struggles that I realized that nearly everyone shared the same fears, anxieties and experiences that I have.

What a relief it is to know there is a place where we share what we are feeling and have so much empathy! Finally I have a place I can turn to where people understand me.

Even if I don’t share as much as others, I have peace of mind knowing there are people there ready and willing to listen and help, where there’s no judgement, just open arms.”

Danny Goodwin:

“We’ve definitely made a lot of progress over the past year as a community. However, if I’m being completely honest, we still have a long way to go. I’m still hearing about issues of bullying. I’m seeing people piling on people they disagree with on Twitter.

While, thankfully, these are in the minority, the polarization and black-and-white thinking needs to stop. The judging and assuming needs to stop. The trolling and “mob mentality” needs to stop.

We need to stop fighting each other and start lifting each other up – treating everyone like human beings. Nobody is perfect, but I hope we will continue to see more people be able to let go of their hate and negativity to accept love and positivity into their lives. I know that will continue to be our aim with Friday Focus – to remind everyone that they are not alone in their struggles.

Ultimately, though, I am so happy to be a part of something so positive in our community – and it’s great to see so many others jumping onboard, too.”

Kim Krause Berg:

“It’s easy to assume that your peers are generally doing better than you, making more money than you, and are super successful in every way. It is only in the past few years that I realized this is baloney.

I respect people who remove their masks and show who they really are. We are people with lives and struggles, heartache, depression, and pain.

In the past year I have opened up more and made new friendships as a result. We have more in common with each other than we might think.”

Dave Davies:

“Over the past year I’ve seen an incredible shift in our community.

Social media itself breeds an environment where we see only the best of our peers and post the best of ourselves and being in marketing, needing to be on social media, needing to market ourselves on social media and seeing only the best version of those trained in presenting the best version of themselves – one can feel very alone in difficult times. Compounding that we face an often isolated profession where even sitting beside someone, we are focused on a screen and all they contain.

Sadly, we all know too well what that leads to, and over the past year we collectively recognized that we are human. That those around us are human. That others need support and perhaps most importantly, that we do too.

We finally heard the words spoken all too often after those tragic events, “If only they had asked for help.” And we took it upon ourselves to do so.

We finally knew to listen, to watch and to find out how those around us were doing, lest we face the loss of another friend who we would have dropped everything for, ‘If only they had asked for help.’

The community has grown it’s heart and soul over the past year.

There is still a lot to do. There are still many who don’t know where to turn. Many who don’t know who to talk to. But each time we reach out and each time we talk about challenges openly, share our own and listen to theirs … each time we do that, the community grows it’s heart a little more.

It has been a incredible year of change. While we will forever mourn the spark, the now burning fire keeps us all warmer.”

Jeremy Knauff:

“One thing that has changed dramatically in our industry over the last year, is that as individuals, we’ve become a lot more vocal about asking for help when we need it.

I think most people are more than willing to help each other. They just have to know that someone needs help. Now that people are starting to open up more about their personal struggles, the community is able to better support them.”

Thank You!

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you – whether I know you in person, whether I know you online, even if I don’t know you at all –- thank you for being here.

Thank you for caring and sharing and being a part of the positive change that we are all working so hard at creating.

Keep being a force for good in our community.

Together we will make a difference.

Remembering the Tragedy That Made Our Community Start Talking  


This piece is written in memory, honor, recognition, and gratitude of Jordan Kasteler. For all that he gave us, shared with us, taught us and left us with. We are eternally grateful.


***PLEASE DO NOT STRUGGLE ALONE! Reach out, ask for help and know that you are valued.
CLICK HERE for a list of phone numbers for Suicide Hotlines around the world.***

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20190718 SEL Brief



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