Episode 12 features part 2 of our two-part series with the Better Business Bureau (BBB). In this episode Nathan Hall shares his experiences as a SEO analyst who uses Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics to find anomalies and investigate the reason for changes in website traffic. He also supports multiple local BBB’s helping them to make data driven decisions and update their digital marketing based on algorithm changes. Listen to this episode to hear Nathan’s thoughts on how to know if being an analyst is right for you.
(upbeat music) - This is Buffalo State Data Talk, the podcast where we introduce
you to how data is used and explore careers
than (indistinct) data. Hello, and welcome back to another episode
of Buffalo State Data Talk. I'm your host, Heather Campbell. Today, we'll be talking to Nathan Hall. Nathan is the SEO analyst for the International Association
Better Business Bureaus.
Thank you so much for
joining us today Nathan. - Well, thank you, Heather. Appreciate being here and
happy to share my knowledge of the data analyst field and hopefully enlighten
your listeners a little bit.
- Super excited to hear
everything you have to say. So just to start off, could you give us just a
really general overview of what do you do for the company? - Yeah, so my role at the IABBB,
official title is SEO analyst. I spend a bulk of my time
reviewing our website data to look for trends, to look for issues that
might be coming up, but I also provide a lot of help
and consulting for our membership in regards to digital marketing, using the data that we compile
to make better decisions for what they're doing
on the ground floor. - Excellent.
So you said that you
spend some time analyzing, looking at data, could
you give us an example of the types of datasets
that you typically work with and what is the goal in collecting
and analyzing this data? - Sure, the data that
we primarily focus on
is what we refer to as analytics data, website analytics data. We have two software packages we use to compile and track the
data, Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics.
So they're the tools that populate and track all of the information for us. And so what I do is use those
tools on a daily, weekly basis to see how overall traffic is doing, where our traffic is coming from.
Are we seeing declines? So if we are seeing declines beginning to dive into that data, that to try to determine
what's causing it, along with also tracking
what we're doing out
on the internet in terms of marketing, to see performance, analyze
what's working and what isn't. I also provide support to the local BBBs and helping answer their questions or run reports that they need
for specific questions they
have or data that they need in order to help their
operation run better. - It sounds like you use a lot of data from a lot of different areas. - It's every day, the
data is really a driver
of our business and the
decisions we're making. We've in the last six months really moved into a much more data-driven
decision-making process. And the way that we did
that is implementing a tool called a Adobe Target,
which is another product by Adobe that allows us to do A/B
and multivariate testing, which is essentially the ability to show one visitor an option or a layout, and then show another
visitor a different layout
and then determine what was
the reasons for either decline or an increase in performance. And so that's something
we're ongoing doing. It's kind of an iterative process where you're constantly just looking
to just improve a little bit every test, or at least get an
understanding of maybe things that aren't working. And that is really the bulk of
the work that we do every day here at IABBB.
- So have you ever found
something interesting when you were doing your A/B test? Like people prefer blue
lettering over red lettering or something like that? - Oh, absolutely.
Like that's one thing that the A/B testing is interesting to see what
preferences people have in terms of colors and
also headlines, imagery. Oftentimes it's not what you expect. I would think that this particular color
would be more engaging,
would resonate better, but once we run the test, oftentimes it's not what we expect. And partly, that's why we run these tests. - Exactly.
- If I just knew all the answers and I wouldn't have to analyze the data to help understand what's really going on. - So a lot of the data
you're getting is from Google and from your marketing,
what do you do after you get this data? - A good example is on a monthly basis, we provide a report to
the entire organization and that's pulling data out of both Adobe and Google Analytics
to help our local
membership understand better how we're performing so that when they're talking
to prospective customers or working with existing customers, they have the information
to show the value
of being a part of our organization. And so on a monthly basis, I compile several reports
and then provide a write-up on what we're seeing in the
data, what trends we're seeing. There's a number of things
within the search community
that we know are coming. And then we let the
membership know what's coming, how we're tracking it, and then as these, what we refer to as algorithm updates, it's when Google changes the way
in which they're may be
gonna rank something. We monitor that in order to
determine, did we get impacted? And if we did, what do we need to do potentially
to mitigate the changes 'cause this is an environment
that's constantly changing every month. There's something new, there's a change they've made
that we need to be aware of and making sure that we're
not getting negatively impact as these changes are getting rolled out.
- That's really interesting. So you're doing the research yourself. It's not like somebody
that's publishing this and you're just reading about it. You're actually going in and
figuring out how these changes
are affecting your
company's page directly? - Exact, it's kind of the
combination like we have, there's a lot of really smarter
people out there than myself who are looking at what's coming, talking to the industry
experts, writing articles.
There's a number of industry
related publications, digital publication specifically around SEO,
search engine optimization and digital marketing. And so they're the ones
who kind of are looking at the future and then letting us know as kind of the day-to-day
practitioners of what's coming, then what's often happens
is a change will occur, but we don't get impacted by it
because we weren't doing something maybe that Google didn't like, and now, so we didn't ever get impacted, but we need to monitor that, make sure that we weren't and
then report on it that, hey,
everything looks good or actually know what
we're seeing a decline. We're actually experiencing
this right now. We have an update that rolled out about a month and a half ago,
specifically targeting kind of content that's not really ours, but
Google is picking us up. It's what's referred to as review content. So someone writes a review on a product. Well, Google is trying
to improve the quality
of these reviews. A big portion of our website are referred to as our business profiles. That's the information
on our business as well. Those pages have gotten picked
up in that algorithm update,
even though they're not
technically review pages. And we've seen a slight decline in traffic in the last month in that. So we're aware of it and now
we're putting together the, what do we do about it?
And unfortunately it's not a quick fix, but we do know the areas of improvement that we need to make, and now we can communicate
that to the decision makers, they can then begin planning for it,
and that's just kind of a good example of Google does something, we knew about it a little in advance, but we didn't know we
would get impacted by it. We did, and then we,
all these other processes kind of take off from that standpoint. - That's really interesting and kind of unique that
you guys got impacted, even though you're not reviewing.
And now you have to adjust
a little bit here and there to fix (indistinct).
- Yeah, in the nature of the business, that it really is one that's a constant, it's a constant change.
And so things that you don't
think should impact you do, and then you have to deal with it and come up with solutions. So it's what makes it fun every day. You don't know what you're gonna find.
So it always gives us a new challenge and a new problem to solve. - Yeah, so you were kind of talking, do you work with like a
team of people on this, that you said you produce reports,
who are you giving these reports to? - So the BBB is an
interesting organization. We are made up of, I believe
at this point 98 members, along with IABBB, which
is the organization that oversees all of the individual BBBs.
And so these reporting is both
for my executives at IABBB, but also for all of the
teams at the local level, the marketing teams, the sales
teams and the executives. So they know what's going
on because they're now out on the ground talking to
a perspective customer
and they use this data in
those conversations as well. - And the work that you do, are you mostly working by yourself or do you have a team of analysts
that you're working with? - As large as the BBB is,
we are a small organization at IABBB. So it's a small team. There's just a couple of us that really monitor and watch this. However, the larger Fortune 500 companies,
this could be a team, it
could be several people. Oftentimes in a digital
marketing division, within a larger corporation, you're gonna have data scientists, you're gonna have graphic
You're gonna have people
who set up ads and run them. So it's all of that. And so you can see how the data just flows through all of
that, but at our organization, we're small, we're agile.
And so it's myself, a couple others. I'm really looking at the hard data to show something's happening. We've seen visits increase by 10%. Why is that?
Where is it coming from in those type of questions and answers? - So when you're actually
looking at that data, that 10% increase, what are
you using to analyze that? Do you use a specific
or Tableau, Excel? - So Excel's definitely a
tool that's used heavily within the analysis, but oftentimes, I'm just using the tool,
specifically Adobe Analytics. And that tool, it's a Fortune
500 analytics package that is,
I mean, it is amazing in
what you can do within it. And so a lot of the analysis
is done using that tool or using the tools built
in predictive analytics. So it has its own AI that
monitors our traffic. It basically gives me
an interesting layout
where it shows me what's happening, it shows me what it
believes is the variant. Then there's an area
outside of the variance, and that then indicates there's indicators that let me know something
happened an anomaly basically.
And then we get to go in
the job of the analyst is the tool tells us something's up. Now we got to go in and figure out why. There is a subjective nature to this. It is analysis,
but you're putting together your opinion on why you think something's happening. Now you can develop some
experiments to try to prove it, but in general, that's what we're looking
to is to see where anything
has gotten out of what we would expect, and then look into why. And as an analyst, you could
spend all of your time, just pulling data, crunching numbers, looking for anomalies, when they're like,
hey, we can do that. You need to go use your intelligence to ask the right questions
and find out the answers, so. - Asking the right questions
is extremely important, even when you're starting
to collect the data
all the way to after you've got it and you have analyzed it. - Absolutely, I kind of had
this as one of my end takeaways, but as an analyst and as someone who's in
this industry right now,
I think the biggest kind of skill and the thing that I think
is really indicator of this could be a good field for you is just the desire to ask questions, to then, 'cause the answers are available.
We have Google, we have software, we have all these tools to help us answer, but the tools can't ask the questions. They don't know what to ask. And so that's really the key.
And so finding that kind of
that creative questioning is I think so key to being
a successful data analysts, it's that curiosity of wanting to know why is that happening? I see it's happening.
I mean, there's all everything, there's things happening every day. It's that part of you that
says, well, why did that happen? And the analyst is now a job
where you get to go do that. You get to go find the answers.
And there's so many
amazing tools to do that. - You get to be a data detective (laughs) - Absolutely. I kinda tell this in my, I'm both a detective and an
And I love, you're just, you have an idea, you see something's up. There's something going on and
you're not really sure why, well, then you gotta dive into it and you gotta begin
asking those questions.
You gotta be that detective, you gotta be that investigative journalist and really get behind the scenes
on what's really happening. And if you like that, if that's
a part of your personality, I think data analysis can be a real,
it seems like when you look
at it from the high level, it could be very dry, very,
it's just statistical analysis. And it's like, but it's
so much more than that because it really,
that's just the surface. It's really, when you go into
it, it's figuring out the why,
and then coming up with
a plan to address it. And that's where the
real creativity happens. - I can tell when you're
talking about this, that this is something
that you really enjoy. So that's great that you
found a good match for you.
- Oh, absolutely, yeah, no, I said, I would've never really, I
mean, I always liked math. I was always decent at it,
but it wasn't a passion. But what I did as I was
going through school realizes that I always was just curious
about why things happened
and that really led to, oh, this is a good fit. This is, and I will say
to the other part of me and this isn't a requirement, but it's something that I find
has been helpful for me is
I enjoy service, you know? And so the idea of people
coming to me with questions or with problems, and then I get to go out and try to solve those problems or figure out why are they
experiencing that issue?
So there is this service
element that to me, it really kind of completes the why this is such
an enjoyable job for me in that regard of not only
do I get to be creative and finding these problems and solutions,
but I get to help in solving
their problems with the data. And there is a very, a
sense of accomplishment when at the end of the day you've really helped the client figure out why something's happening
that's been bothering
them for a very long time. And it's a very rewarding aspect. - So could you give us an example of how some of the data
that you've analyzed and the results that you've gotten
has then led to a change
in the BBB organization, even if it's something small. - An example was, we ran static ads along with video ads to see
what would be the difference. But in this analysis,
we realized that the video ads performed as well as the static ads from a click cost, all that standpoint. However, we got this added benefit, which was 90% of the
people that saw the ad
watched the entire video and clicked. When we run our next campaign, we will be focusing much
more heavily on the video. - That's awesome. It's great the ways that you
can see that your data analysis
is gonna lead to hopefully
better things for the company. - Exactly. - So as someone in a leadership role, who has mentored people below you, what advice do you have for somebody
who's starting off in this career path? - In terms of the data analysts, I mean, I think part of it is, is this something that you wanna do? And I really come back to that.
I mean, do you love asking questions and finding out the answers,
if you have that creativity, if you like problem
solving, the data analysts, role is perfectly suited. And the thing that is
so awesome about it too,
is there's, it's needed in every industry. And so that was kind
of my other P is like, if you have curiosity, let's say, you have a passion for
environmental justice. Well, there's an absolute
need for data analysis
to help with legislation or policy or if you love just,
you love good capitalism and you wanna run a website
and you like selling stuff and you're an entrepreneur, there's a huge opportunity to use the data
to make those better decisions. So I think that's one of
the great things about it is that it's a skill that is needed really within any business and
within any industry right now. And it's only growing
as the data that we're developing grows because there's an
infinite amount of data. It's overwhelming. And the real thing that I look for is I need it to be actionable.
Like, if it isn't actionable, then you're just, it's just entertainment. You're just like, so the point with that is that there is so much
actionable data out there for every industry and the
ability to find not only a role
in this kind of creative problem solving world of data analysis,
but in finding an industry that lights you up, that
you have a passion for, and that you can use this data to help them make better decisions,
I think is really the key. - So if somebody decided that
they were really interested in being an SEO analyst, what would you tell them to work on now? Like, what are the most
important hard, and soft skills?
How could they get to where you are? - To become an SEO analyst, part of it, it's kind of, it's done by doing, the start
of it is the research part. There is a wealth of information
on the internet at this
point with how to do SEO, how to understand it. And I've even seen some college courses starting to be developed
around digital marketing SEO, but with, even without that,
there's so much information
on the internet right now regarding SEO, SEO roundtable,
SEO Search Engine Land. There's a number of
these websites out there that are just everyday contents being developed on what's
going on in the industry.
Where are we going, what's happening. So really getting just well-versed in that ecosystem of the content that's out there. One of the big things when it comes to SEO
and digital right now is content. So now we're talking about a
lot of potential skill sets that maybe don't overlap
well, but good writing. Like good copywriting
is gonna be a big key to SEO to digital marketing
in the next five years,
especially with this third-party
cookie issue that's coming. It's all gonna be about
content development for segmentation to get in
front of your right audience. So, and then getting a little
bit of marketing chops too. I think that it's easy to,
let's say you're a CSE major and all your focus is on
these hardcore engineering, science, data classes might not be a bad idea to
take a little bit of marketing, to take a few of those.
And especially if your school's offering more digital marketing related classes, because what you begin to see is you got to kind of begin to understand how all these pieces fit together,
because they're all interrelated,
they all work together. And so the more that you can
understand the basic concepts of digital marketing and how to track, how to develop the strategies that then plays right into
what's happening in SEO.
And really at that point too once if you're in, let's
say a program right now, I would look for internships. I mean, I just see all, no, it was 2001, the economy's tanking,
nobody's getting jobs.
And I literally went out to a
company and I was like, look, I will work for you for free. I just need an internship. I need this experience, getting
that initial experience, working with an agency,
getting in and learning
from those who are doing it is really, especially with this industry is the best way to become an expert at it is just to get in there and to do it. It should be coming clear
of like this industry
is both an art and a science. Like there really is this need for very strong analytics skills, but you also have to be very creative. You have to be very strategic oriented.
Everyone's really focused
on this stuff these days, because every company I talk
to realizes the absolute need for this skillset in their organization. And so I think there's
a lot of opportunity for anyone coming out of school,
in school right now with this background. - Well, if any of our listeners are interested in finding an internship, you should listen to
our summer mini series all about how to get an internship
and how to make the most out of it. - Indeed. - And also we can link some resources, some of your favorite SEO resources into the description of the episode too.
- I'd be happy to do that, absolutely. - Excellent. So finally, before we let you go, is there anything else you'd
like our listeners to know that we didn't get a
chance to cover today?
- The keyword of analyze. Like I've looked up the
official definition to discover or reveal something through
detailed examination. And I think that after all of this talk, it really just comes back to that
of do you enjoy finding something deeper than what it looks like on the surface? And if you do, this is a real, there's a lot of really
great opportunities within this field.
And there's so much variety in terms of what kind of
jobs you can be doing, utilizing this skillset that I think it comes back to that. If you're curious
and you love figuring out
why something happened and finding solutions
based on your findings, data analysis is a great fit. So, I'll leave you with that (laughs)
All right (laughs)
- Well, Nathan, thank you so
much for joining us today. - Yeah, it was my pleasure. I hope what I shared here is helpful to some of you out there or to all of you out there.
It was great talking with you, Heather. This was really fun and yeah, I'll definitely be providing
some followup resources that hopefully can help
everyone listening, dive into this a little bit deeper.
- Excellent, and to all of our listeners, if you haven't already, check
out our previous podcasts. They're available wherever
you listen to podcasts. And for more information
about starting your career as a data scientist or an SEO analyst,
go to dataanalytics.buffalostate.edu, and don't forget to subscribe so that you get a notification each time we release a new episode of Buffalo State Data Talk.
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