LevelTen is a Dallas based digital agency that specializes in large Drupal web projects that is now developing relationships in the WordPress community.
Ron Huber & Tom McCracken, the creators & founders of the IntelligenceWP Plugin are our special guests for the WP-Tonic Podcast. As Google Analytics experts, Ron Huber & Tom McCracken provided insight into how frequently people make basic mistakes when endeavoring in implementing Google Analytics.
Ron & Tom shared examples on how marketers can go a lot farther with Google Analytics besides using the default settings. By configuring how content is scoring on a website and how well it is doing based on a variety of factors can give marketers better insights on what will generate value for them.
Here’s a Full Transcript of Our Interview with Ron & Tom
Jonathan: Hi there folks. Welcome back to the WP-Tonic show episode 232. I’ve got the great pleasure of having two guests of the show this Wednesday. Kim won’t be joining us folks. She’s still trying to sort out here slightly wrecked home in Florida. But she will be returning this Friday on our Round Table show. Now back to our two great guests. That’s Ron Huber and I hope I’m pronouncing it correctly folks, and Tom McCracken, founders of IntelligenceWP and the digital agency LevelTen. I’m going to ask you to introduce yourself quickly to the listeners. Let’s start with Ron. Like to do a quick introduction Ron?
Ron: I’m the CEO of LevelTen. I’ve been an agency owner for 15 years, mainly in the Drupal space. And this year, in 2017, I’m breaking into the WordPress world and very excited about everything that’s going.
Jonathan: That’s great. And Tom, like to quickly introduce yourself?
Tom: Actually, a little bit of a similar background to Ron’s, but I’m more on the development side. So started LevelTen back in 1999. Ron does a lot of the business stuff. So it allows me to do a lot of the programming and so it’s kind of what we’re doing.
Jonathan: All right. That’s great folks. So tell us a bit about IntelligenceWP. What’s it about and why you developed it, and what you hope to achieve with it?
Tom: Okay. The main reason is that, I think Ron mentioned that we did WordPress a long time ago. And then we got into Drupal as we started to work with some large enterprises. And we had some big teams that were doing a lot of different things. Marketing Automation, generating lots of content, eBooks, all of these, just bunches of things going on. And over time, people started to try to figure out, well, what of this content is actually really working? We know we’re doing all these things. But we need to figure out what’s the right way to write titles? What’s the right proper length? And not just what shows up better in the search engines and might generate more traffic, but what really engages people and gets people to convert. What is the ROI of all these different elements of things that we’re doing for Marketing channels and so forth? And so, we basically created a system to help solve that problem. Originally the thinking was that we would have to build a custom analytics package or something like that. But as we dug deeper into what was possible of Google Analytics, there was a lot of extended features of Google Analytics. And by leveraging those extended features, we were able to get
We know we’re doing all these things. But we need to figure out what’s the right way to write titles? What’s the right proper length? And not just what shows up better in the search engines and might generate more traffic, but what really engages people and gets people to convert. What is the ROI of all these different elements of things that we’re doing for Marketing channels and so forth? And so, we basically created a system to help solve that problem. Originally the thinking was that we would have to build a custom analytics package or something like that. But as we dug deeper into what was possible of Google Analytics, there was a lot of extended features of Google Analytics. And by leveraging those extended features, we were able to get to a better set of analytics than just sort of the vanity metrics that you typically see in Google Analytics.
Jonathan: Yeah. Like what we’ve discussed Tom is a lot of people set up Google Analytics and it’s forgotten, isn’t it? It’s the lost orphan of digital measurement, isn’t it?
Ron: Google Analytics is built for everyone. They have to make sure the platform works for every type of business, across platform and where we can be a little bit more specific. We can really dig down into content providers and people that are in business to do action over the Web. In this particular case, all the way drill down into what folks that use WordPress and how they can get the most out of their analytics.
Jonathan: And what’s really impressed me is that the basic core product is free and it’s not crippled really, is it? It’s totally pretty functional with how much of the functionality is available in the free product.
Tom: Yeah. Analytics has just always been a passion of mine. And years ago we built a free hit counter and what I really wanted to do is I wanted to give people a complete product that they could see the true ROI of what they were doing. And so then, we left the pro version for people who are doing more advanced things, need to do advanced visitor tracking and so forth. But, yeah, I wanted to give people the complete tools so they basically could create this sort of method for measuring ROI and understanding the value of their content marketing channels without having to pay for, without having to put that barrier of going up to that next level.
Jonathan: But obviously, there are paid options. But folks, like I say, if you go to their website, there’ll be full links in the show notes, a full transcription of our interview. I’ve had a look at it and Tom’s going to spend a little bit of time. And I’m going to actually run it on the WP-Tonic website as well and we’ll be reporting back how effective I find it. But it looks a really fantastic product. I’ve been looking for something that can really help. Because I’m as guilty as, probably we all are that are listening to this show, of we get very enthusiastic about Google Analytics for a week and then we forget it. I do have some other plugins that I’m going to deactivate that give some basic info. But to get the real power, you need to spend a little bit more time. So the next part version of the product is that you offer to set it up and give some training, isn’t that correct?
Ron: Yeah. Especially in the beginning. I’m going to be honest with everybody. The product has been around only for a few months. We’ve had it on the Drupal site for a few years. So it’s a very sold platform. But we’ve just moved it over to be available as a plugin for WordPress. So as we’re getting people to use it and getting amazing groups like WP-Tonic to really give us feedback, what we want to do is see how you use it, what parts of it are important to you? So for us to come along and do the install for you and then offer you a few months free of the pro version, all we’re asking for is a little feedback. At the core of it, we’re open source guys. We’ve been part of the Drupal community for many years. We were major contributors of that. And we plan to be major contributors of the WordPress world. At the core of it, it’s all open source.
Jonathan: Greatly said. So what are some of the key things that you think IntelligenceWP offers that could attract the listeners and get their attention and hopefully sign up to download the product and start using it?
Tom: I think the thing pretty much out of the box that most people gravitate towards if they’re doing content marketing or inbound marketing or something like, is the content scoring. And in particular why I think it’s really interesting is if you’ve got different people who are writing content and it can give them feedback to not just, “Hey. These are the best practices for writing a good title”, or, “This the best subject to write about”. It can actually give them feedback on what happens, not just traffic. Are people sharing it? Are people commenting? Are they engaging with it? Is it converting? Are people downloading eBooks or signing up for newsletters? And so, they can actually see the business impact. And what’s been fun about that is then we start to see teams gamify around that. And now, because a lot of times we go in and help teams. They might be Engineers. They might be non-marketers. And they don’t necessarily, they’re just writing because it’s some they’re passionate about. Now they can actually see that kind of data and you could start to run experiments. Start setting up, what kind of tone should we use on our Blog posts or different lengths and things like that and start to see what is the impact of those different things, not just traffic, but actual engagement and conversion. That’s what I think’s one of the biggest things. Another area that’s kind of fun is Web Developers. I like to say that web developments done by theory. And so, a lot of times there’s, we want to change a menu structure on the website or we want to change the design. Well, now we have a way of measuring the true impact of doing that. So if someone just spent $100,000 redesigning their website, we can now tell what kind of change did we, are we going, we’ve measured this for a month now, what kind of ROI can we project out and was that a successful positive ROI generating? Or should we maybe go back and change a few things back?
And then I think the last, one of the other bigs things is Marketing channels. Understanding what kind of Ads are producing the most engagement and good conversion. Understanding which keywords, social networks, all of those things, breaking all those things down. And then the last thing here is breaking everything down by visitors, locations, devices. One of the big interesting piece of information we’ve got is that, well, responsive designs been around since 2010, 2011. We’re all doing it now. But even though your website might collapse down on a mobile and look right, a lot of times the performance is very different from a conversion standpoint. So a lot of times that CTA may get buried and no one even looks at it. And so, if you even identify, “Hey. We’re seeing a real drop-off in the way our blog posts are structured on mobile devices”. The site technically is mobile, but maybe there’s something being lost because of the way we’re organizing some of our content. And maybe there are some things that we can do fix it and measure do they really fix the issue.
Jonathan: That’s greatly put. I actually attended a WordPress conference in Sacremento a couple weeks ago, a WordCamp. And there was a great presentation, unfortunately, I’ve just forgotten the individual’s name, but he’s actually coming on the show so I apologize. But he’s Chief Analytical Strategist for 10up which is a leading WordPress agency. He did a great presentation about why people find Google Analytics hard to use. And one of the things he pointed out is a lot of the way Google Analytics is set up initially out of the box can actually give you a lot of false data, false figures about visitors. Is that right, Tom?
Tom: That is correct. Well, in particular, it’s going to give you some false data around time on page, bounce rates, things like that. And then, particular some of the ways some of the mobile devices work gets tricky, so for example, if you leave a page open. So let’s say you go to a recipe website. You just open a bunch of recipes. You click right tab and open those pages. Google Analytics counts all of those as page hits, whether or not the page ever was visible or not. It might have just been a hidden tab. And so that’s one way it creates sort of like some false data. Another way is that some of the mobile browsers will actually refresh pages automatically when you go back to them and Google Analytics will track those as a new visitor, even if happens, say, a few hours later, a new session. When in reality it’s not a new session. And in particular, it can pollute a lot of your mobile data. And so, yeah. There are some things that cause, and there’s lots of other little things that can sort of create some false data or some misleading data in the system.
Jonathan: Yeah. Because he was saying that it basically gives you inflated figures about visitors, how many people are coming to the site. He hinted that Google wants you to feel there’s a lot of visitors coming than there probably is to some extent. But I don’t know if that’s over exaggerating it. But it did kind of show. And I think the other thing, I just wanted to see if you agreed with that, that was pointed out as I was listening to this presentation is he kind of emphasized that you need to be clear about the objectives that you’re going to measure. That’s the tricky bit, isn’t it? Because each organization might have different priorities, won’t they? That’s why having that out of the box is practically impossible because it could be an E-commerce store. It could be various types of organization, couldn’t?
Tom: Right. Right. And that’s one of the big challenges Google Analytics has is going through that.
Jonathan: And that’s why a lot of people fail at it, isn’t it?
Ron: Yeah. And we’ve created a wizard to help people install and then walk you through. And we’ve got some things set up that you can easily change because it is a complex setup. There’s a lot of decisions that you have to make that you might not be ready to make. And that’s where I think most people get hung up, is especially when you get to custom events and etcetera. Maybe, Tom, you can elaborate on that.
Tom: Sure. Sure. Yeah. You’re absolutely right. Every websites’ different. What’s kind of the nice advantage of being an agency is that you do see a lot of things that are common. Most people are going to want to track social shares. They’re going to want to track when people play videos, when people vote on something or they do a poll or form submission are going to be a big thing to do. And so, by creating tools that make it easy to track those things, you cover a lot of things. Now what those form submissions are can be very different. And that’s one of the hopes is that there’s a lot of work we’ve with clients about how to kind of organize those things. So for example, if you’re doing Marketing Automation, you might want to group all your educational pieces into a single conversion and you may want to group your middle of funnel offers and your sales leads and then maybe your job applications and these things. And there are some tricks to kind of bring a lot of that together. And so, the tool helps make that stuff easy. But we also want to be providing education that kind of point people in the right direction.
Jonathan: Oh, that’s very well put Tom. How have you been operating the plugin in the Drupal world? How many, roughly, users have been using it in the Drupal world?
Tom: So we released it in 2013. And unfortunately, it’s one of those things where it got released and then I got kind of pulled into other work.
Jonathan: Never, never. It would never happen to me.
Tom: And so it wasn’t promoted as well as I would have liked. And we primarily use it as a tool for clients we worked with. The interesting thing for us was that, what we found is that in the Drupal world what we all kind of do is there’s these sort of top agencies and we all get together and we’re friends and we talk. But really what we do is we try to prove that we know this platform better than other people and that’s how we get hired. What was interesting is, we came up with doing some pitches to some large clients and what we found was these kinds of tools helped us land the business and you kind of took out of the equation which team is sort of the best team or something like that. They’re going, “Oh. We want that kind of measurement on our website”. And that’s where the idea came from, “Well, let’s try to start working with other agencies to use these tools”. And when we started to do that, we started to get a lot of requests to bring it over into WordPress. And so, that was sort of the impetus to bring it over. And so, there’s a few hundred people that are using it in the Drupal world. And we’ve put it on some websites that are, we’ve put it on some billion dollar websites of some of the clients that we work with. It’s kind of nice to get some of that kind of experience.
Jonathan: Well, that’s great. I think we’re going to go for our break. When we come back we’re going to delve into what’s it like to run a Drupal-based agency. Yes. This is Facebook. Facebook? This is the W WordPress. I’m mixing my words here folks. I’ve not been on the Scotch at all. I probably should. It’s too early, even for me. But one of the things I wanted to discuss is bringing people in from different communities and see some of the differences and just hear their reflections. And I think it’s going to be a fascinating discussion when we come back. So we will be back in a minute folks.
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Jonathan: We’re coming back folks. I promise not to mix my words. I got a bit stuck there before we went for our break. You’ve been running your agency for quite a while. So have you always been big into Drupal guys? How long have you been part of the Drupal world?
Tom: Actually, no. I’ve got a weird background. Actually, when I first started, we did job and small talk and we mostly did online banking, things like that. And then, which was awesome until 2001. And the telecoms fell apart and all that kind of stuff. And so, we really started getting more into doing small websites that wanted Marketing. A lot of times they were static websites which has some nice SEO and so forth. But then as content started becoming more important, we actually were using, we were using WordPress. And back then what we’d do is, we would kind of join together different open source platforms. So if we need a form, we’d use. If we needed E-commerce, we’d use osCommerce. And so, we ended up having this project for Simon & Schuster. It’s a book they were releasing and we had to do this game, a sweepstakes. We had a WordPress blog for the author and we had forums. And we just realized this is starting to get tough to integrate all this stuff together. And we did a lot of cool stuff with WordPress. We did Roger Staubach’s blog. We had our own blog running on it. We built a plugin called Blog Matrix. And to test designers, we had them come in and build a free WordPress theme to see how well they did with it, release the theme back. But this is like the WordPress timeframe. And so, what ended up happening was, we actually, being an old object-oriented programmer, I thought it would be a good idea to build my own, our own CMS so it’s object-oriented because we couldn’t really find one in the PHP world that had an object-oriented framework. Well, after iterations, we eventually found our way to Drupal. Primarily, we were doing a big music platform and Drupal had been already used on Sony and Universal and a lot of the big music companies. And so, we started building with it. And we moved our whole company over to it. And I think we actually did still for a few clients, we did a few WordPress sites along the way, but we got very into the community. Ron actually owns another agency in San Diego. When we were first learning Drupal, he was one of the agencies that we called and said, “Hey. Can you guys help us out?”. And he goes, “We’re so busy. Let me give you name of four other agencies”.
And other the time, I’ve gotten to know a lot of the other people in the Drupal world. And Ron and I just, we’d been talking about where the Web was going and how everything’s becoming more ROI driven. And we said, “Hey. Let’s go launch this product together”. And a lot of it had to do with, I have a lot of friends in Dallas. I have a lot of friends who are Marketers and work in the WordPress world. So I’ve always kind of kept up with it. Finally, it’s sort of like we had too many people ask us to move it. And I’m like, “You know. I’ll go dust off my chops. It’s all PHP”. And after a few weeks, I’m like, “Yeah. We can do this.
Jonathan: All right. So you go in Drupal, is there any particular industry that you specialize in or is it more to do with budget and size?
Ron: As Dries, the founder of Drupal has said, Drupal is a great platform for ambitious web goals. If you don’t really know what you want to build but you know you want to build something amazing, Drupal is a great building block to do that. If you know what your business is and you know what it should be, WordPress is a much better platform for that because there are already plugins and test and true ideas. But on the custom side, if you’re trying to push the edge, so that really opens up to entertainment. A lot of entertainment groups work in that. My team San Diego just launched the Recording Academy, The Grammys. We do a lot of work with health care because health care is very regulated. There’s a lot of industries that make a lot of sense that need the flexibility and the core of what a Drupal will provide. But then, all the rest is WordPress, right?
Jonathan: I got experience in a slightly difference, before I got heavily involved in WordPress and when I was based in the UK and a little bit here, I was involved with the ExpressionEngine community which kind of a way with those larger websites kind of was a direct competitor to Drupal. You tended to have agencies that either used ExpressionEngine or Drupal.
Tom: Especially in Europe.
Tom: Especially in Europe.
Jonathan: Yes. It was big in the UK. Some big names that were really quite, so what are some of your main competitors when you’re bidding, apart from other Drupal shops, is it priority kind of systems that you’re bidding against or fighting against?
Tom: Yeah. It depends. On one side, if it’s going to be a more Marketing focused site, Sitecore and Adobe will be the two big ones. In particular, Sitecore is always a tricky one for when people have got the .net background and you’ve got an IT Manager that’s not ready to have open source come in and so forth. On the development side, a lot of times it’s custom developed. It’s going to be Ruby on Rails, Symphony, Laravel, different systems like that. And more recently, Node. We’ve even seen a little bit of Go, those kinds of things. Those tend to be the main competitors for Drupal.
Jonathan: Right. So how do you pitch the strengths of Drupal to this potential client?
Ron: Well, for one thing, there is no upfront licensing fee. WordPress. The flexibility. And basically, the work that we’ve done. Over the last 11 years or so, our agencies have done a lot of work in the Drupal and been able to leverage that when it comes to the challenges that a company is trying to accomplish. And if you’re trying to build from a, let’s say you get a share point because you have an Intranet or you have a sales force you want to have a big integration, Drupal is a very good platform for integration. And it has it covered extensively when you’re talking about companies that use a CRM for those kinds of sales.
Jonathan: But what are some their concerns, on the other side, what are some of their concerns about when you say you’re a Drupal shop, what are some of the things that come up that you have to overcome?
Ron: I think security is always a big issue for everybody these days. The other side of it is, is that Drupal is built for Developers, not for Marketers. There’s a lot of custom work that has to be built in. That’s where LevelTen for years has been ahead of the curve and building products like Open Enterprise that have bridged the gap between WordPress and Drupal very well, especially for content marketers.
Jonathan: Oh, yeah. Because you’ve got this other product in your library, haven’t you? You want to quickly talk about that.
Tom: Sure. Well, the vision way back when was that we wanted to build websites that actually got results and realize there’s a lot of tools that you’re going to need to do that. You’re going to need to create content. You’re going to need to have good conversion mechanisms. You’re going to need Call to Actions. You’re going to have good analytics. You’ve got to have a lot of SEO tools and social promotion tools. A lot of things that extend the CMS. And then, you’re going to need to bring them all tother. And so, that’s what really is at the heart of what Open Enterprise is. And what’s interesting is a few years ago we started looking at HubSpot and realized, “Oh. We’re actually kind of building almost like an open source HubSpot in some ways”. It’s different because it’s built really to be much more flexible. But there is a lot of overlap sort of bringing all those things together. And then, really, the other part of it is just, one of the tricky things about Drupal is, I mean, it’s this erector set, you just dump a bunch of blocks on the ground. But a lot of times there’s things that are not as polished up. You’ve got to build every time for a client. So a lot of that stuff, some of the big companies needed very responsive style guides. You can build a responsive theme, but you need a good style guide and make sure you’ve got all these pretty elements that all collapse properly and so forth. And so, we integrated a lot of those things, that as we worked with clients, we found that they found useful. But people aren’t necessarily going to pay for on a one-off basis.
Jonathan: Right. Because the great strength of the WordPress community and also its weakness is its third-party plugin ecosystem and the entrepreneurs and businesses that have been built up. There’s some great talent in the WordPress community that built very successful businesses. What’s it like in the Drupal world guys?
Ron: That’s almost a Podcast to itself. Everything is custom, not custom, but it’s module building. There’s, I don’t know, 15,000 modules now. You have to be an expert at all of it. Recently, in the last year, I had a client come to me and ask me for an editorial calendar. We quoted it out. It was somewhere around $75,000. I went onto WordPress and I think it was $199 plugin that covered almost double what we were going to do. Because somebody had, as an entrepreneur, gone out and did that. And that’s such a powerful community. In the Drupal world, nobody wants to pay you for a plugin or a module. They want to build it themselves or they want it to be completely open source. Where in the WordPress world there is a market that allows people to succeed. And frankly, this what drew me to the market was, you need investment into these products. You need to continue to develop and support. So you need somebody to pay for those. And you can’t do that as a free module. The amount of free work we do in the Drupal world to maintain the amazing work that has been is, frankly, it’s ludicrous. But in the WordPress world, we’re able to monetize it and at least support the product.
Jonathan: You just heard it from the two very experienced digital agency owner there folks. The world of Drupal has got its own problems. I think we’re going to finish up for the Podcast part of the show. We’re going to continue this great conversation on YouTube and you’ll be able to see it on the WP-Tonic website. We have links and a full set of show notes and a transcript of the conversation folks. So we’ll probably go on for another 10, 15 minutes which. But before we end, how can people get a hold of both of you and learn more about IntelligenceWP and basically what you’re both up to?
Ron: Of course, the LevelTen website which is getlevelten.com. And then the Intelligence is intelligencewp.com. And that’s the best way to get a hold of us.
Jonathan: Oh, that’s great. Just to finish up folks. In October and also the beginning of November, we’re already booked with guests. We’ve got some fantastic guests coming on the show from outside the world of WordPress and also key members of the WordPress community. I’m really excited. Just had a confirmed guest for November that I’m really excited about. We’ll be back on Friday for the Round Table show which is always really very popular with the audience. And if you want to support the show, please go, I know I almost say it almost every episode, but please go to iTunes and give us a review. It really helps. And just contact us in general. Basically, I’ve had a lot more people in the WordPress community contact me. If you’re organizing a WordCamp, we’re most welcome for you to join us on the Round Table. We’re having one of the organizers of the Seatle WordCamp join us this Friday to talk about the WordCamp in Seatle and a couple other things. And if you want to join us, please outreach and contact us. So we’ll see you next week for another episode, an interview of business owners, somebody outside the community or a WordPress junkie. That’s who we’ll be interviewing. We’ll see you next week folks. Bye.
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