Noise to Signal


Digital Analytics Meetup on 8/24 @ Northeastern

Last year, Todd Belcher and I started the Boston Digital Analytics meetup in order to bring together our peers in the marketing analytics industry for networking and knowledge sharing. This month, we’re hosting our 5th Web Analytics Wednesday on 8/24 at Northeastern where Sharon Bernstein will be presenting on the topic of Data Storytelling. If you’re in the Boston area, come out and meet some local analytics enthusiasts!

RSVP here –

Knowing is at Least, if not More Than, 40% of the Battle

When I send out weekly performance summaries to my clients, I often focus on just a few key take-aways and insights. For instance:

Campaign A is providing leads at $5/lead while Campaign B is converting at $15/lead. I’ve shifted most of the budget from Campaign B to Campaign A, but started an A/B test on Campaign B’s landing page to see if its performance can be improved.

These reports focus on what happened and what is about to happen. What’s missing in these emails, and discussions around measurement in general, is what didn’t happen.  In other words, what mistakes did we avoid because we had data pointing us in another direction? Read More

Deploying autotrack.js through Google Tag Manager

*autotrack.js has been updated! See this post for more information*

Just 2 days ago, the Google Analytics team released a plug-in called autotrack that packs a lot of new functionality into Google Analytics. The thinking behind autotrack is that far too many clients deploy the default GA snippet and stop there. By packaging up advanced GA tracking capabilities into one, easily deployed plug-in, clients will gain more value out of their GA account. These tracking capabilities include:

  • Event Tracking – Track when users click on any HTML element with a certain data attribute
  • Media Query Tracking – Track breakpoints, orientation, and resolution
  • Outbound Form Tracking – Track when users submit forms that land them off-site
  • Outbound Link Tracking – Track when users click on an outbound link
  • Session Duration Tracking – More accurately track the duration of sessions by firing an event when the user closes their browser window
  • Social Button Tracking – Track when users click on social sharing buttons
  • URL Change Tracking – Track when the URL changes but the page does not refresh (important for single page applications)

While utilizing these enhancements goes beyond a “beginner” understanding of GA, by packaging them up in this easy-to-use plug-in it brings them from the clouds and into the hands of anyone with a basic understanding of GA and HTML.

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Integrating Brightcove’s video player with Google Analytics

For the many customers of Brightcove’s video platform, understanding user engagement (ex: play, pause, percentage watched) with their videos is key. And while Brightcove offers reports showing user engagement, there are many advantages to tying that data into a broader analytics platform such as Google Analytics. One particular advantage of this approach is that AdWords remarketing lists can be generated based on video engagement. Did a user watch your video but not convert? Remarket them!


I recently completed a Brightcove/GA integration and learned some things along the way worth sharing.

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Analysis Exchange Case Study with MIT Press

I recently completed a project with MIT Press Journals (MITPJ) as part of the Analysis Exchange, an online marketplace that connects  mentors and students in order to provide free web analytics services to non-profits. The program is intended as a vehicle for providing recent entrants into the web analytics field with real-world experience while assisting non-profits with services that are typically out reach due to budget and staffing considerations. It’s a great program that I can’t recommend enough so I’ve put together the following case study that can hopefully inspire others to get involved. With permission from MIT Press, I’ve released all the deliverables for the project on Google Drive so that others can borrow/steal from our work as much as possible.

The project spanned 4 weeks and can be broken out into the following 4 phases:

  • Week 1 – Understand
  • Week 2 – Educate
  • Week 3 – Analyze
  • Week 4 – Recommend

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Simplify your Campaign Tagging using Sitecore and Google Tag Manager

Anyone responsible for measuring campaign performance has likely run into either incomplete or missing data due to incomplete campaign tagging. This can show up in the form of (not set) values in Google Analytics or in artificially inflated (direct / none) traffic.

campaign values in GA

The typical solution is to ask that everyone in your organization generate campaign links with UTM parameters such as:

However, these links and parameters are often cumbersome to generate and are prone to human error. Any typos will result in misleading data in your reports.

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Design Sprint Amazon Wishlist

Lately I’ve been revving up to run a design sprint with a local agency interested in redefining their client on-boarding and discovery process. The timing lined up well as my copy of Design Sprint arrived just last week. Authored by local Boston luminaries C. Todd Lombardo, Richard Banfield, and their NYC compatriot Trace Wax, Design Sprint is a practical guide for running sprints within any sized organization.

There’s a section in the book on sprint supplies which I used as a check-list for my own sprint. After loading up my shopping cart on Amazon, I thought “Wouldn’t it be nice if these were helpfully collated in a public Amazon wishlist?”. After some quick Googling, I decided I might be the first to have this idea (please correct me if I’m wrong!).

Without further ado, here’s my Amazon Wishlist for design sprint supplies.

It includes:

Leave a comment if you have any suggestions for additional supplies and happy sprinting!

Google Analytics Content Groups – “Unique Views” vs “Sessions”

The question came up recently within the Digital Analytics Association member forum regarding whether one could interchange the Google Analytic’s “Unique Views” metric found when viewing a Content Group and the “Sessions” metric found when using Advanced Segments. They were asking because they had a preference for using Advanced Segments, but wanted to make sure they were comparing apples to apples. The question boiled down to this:

If I create a content group defined as “contains /blog/” and an advanced segment defined as “sessions that viewed pages which contain /blog/”, will the “Unique Views” metric for the content group be the same as the “Sessions” metric for the advanced segment?

The answer is yes. Let’s look into why.

When you create a content group and view the “All Pages” report with your content group selected, you’ll notice that the first 2 metrics displayed are “Pageviews” and “Unique Views”. Don’t be thrown off here. You may be familiar with “Pageviews”, but “Unique Views” is not “Unique Pageviews”. It’s a metric only available when viewing content groups.

unique views

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Origin Story

It begins! I’m excited to announce the formation of Noise to Signal, a consultancy which makes marketers more effective through the thoughtful implementation of marketing technology. I created N/S in response to coming across numerous marketing teams who were either overwhelmed by the number of tools available to them today or felt they weren’t taking full advantage of the tools they already had in place. Additionally, I want to ensure that my clients are making full use of the data and analytics being generated by their tools and able to turn that data into actionable insights.

Noise to Signal and my interest in technology was a long time coming. As all good stories do, this one starts with a Commodore 64. I can trace back my fascination with technology to the Commodore 64 my mother bought to help her transcribe music. Once my older brother showed me the ropes, I was diving into Basic programming and a few video games pirated from a school computer lab. Yes, I copied that floppy.


Fast forward to 2009, and I found myself at the ground floor of a fantastic digital agency, Velir, that I stayed with for 6 years. I was fortunate enough to be a part of Velir’s explosive growth as it grew from 25 employees to the ~150 there today. While I started there as a developer, I quickly carved out a position for myself as someone who could convert amorphous client needs into technical requirements to be passed along to our developers. This grew into a director position managing a team of solutions architects which then morphed into a VP position responsible for creating a Digital Strategy and Analytics division within the company.

At Velir, I was fortunate enough to work with world-class organizations such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Brookings Institution, the Kauffman Foundation, the CommonWealth Fund among others. Given Velir’s focus on enterprise content management, I was exposed to large projects that each carried complexities in terms of the amount of content, the number of integrations, the number of distinct user personas, and the needs of various internal stakeholders. While I worked on a range of projects within a number of different industries, I often ran into the same challenges from CMOs and web managers:

  • I know that I’m supposed to use data to inform my marketing efforts but I don’t know how to create that loop
  • I know my website should produce more leads/conversions but I don’t know what changes to make or how to test their effectiveness
  • My website has grown over time and is confusing to users and my team
  • We’ve purchased marketing technology X and need help integrating it into our business

Noise to Signal is here to help marketers respond to these challenges.

So where did the name Noise to Signal come from? We live in a world of constant broadcast where it’s become harder to find your path in a sea of information. For website users, this means difficulty in finding relevant products and services. For marketers, this means finding relevant strategies, technologies, and marketing tactics. Specifically, I’ve seen marketers and web professionals fall into anlaysis paralysis when evaluating CMS platforms, analytics vendors, email platforms, and implementation methods. Having been exposed to every technology and challenge under the sun, I want to bring those experiences to bear so that others don’t hit avoidable traps and pitfalls.

Here’s to the future!

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