Tell us a bit about yourself:
I have been building websites as a hobby dating back to 1996 when I learned to hand code sites in HTML on Geocities and Tripod. I began working professionally in SEO and web analytics in 2003 and I have worked in a variety of in house and agency-side positions and have personally used WordPress heavily in its different incarnations over the years. I also happen to be one of those people who very much believes that SEO is Alive.
Currently I serve as Senior SEO & Analytics Strategist at designory. where I work with companies such as Nike, Hewlett Packard, and Vonage to develop comprehensive natural search programs. Previously I was SEO/SEM Product Manager at Hostway, a leading worldwide web hosting provider where I developed search engine marketing solutions for clients such as Ebay and Costco.
I live in the Chicagoland area with my wife and son and in my spare time in addition to building WordPress sites, I am an avid Ice hockey player and Skier.
Why did you choose your topic for Wordcamp Chicago?
Having attended the first two Chicago Wordcamp events, I noticed that there had never been a session dedicated to web analytics and thought it might be interesting to share my experience on the topic since web analytics is such as critical element to building your business on the web.
What do you hope the attendees will get out of going to your session?
I hope to provide everyone with a solid overview of web analytics and how they can best leverage it in their business. I also want to share some valuable takeaways that WordPress users can implement right away into their day to day workflow.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in web analytics?
By far the biggest challenge in web analytics (especially in large organizations) is putting yourself and your business in a position to actually take action on the insights pulled from web analytics. Analytics reporting by itself is useless unless you are learning from the insights and making updates to your web presence based on those insights. I think this is a huge advantages that WordPress users have is that the platform makes it very easy for you to take action. I want to see more businesses better leverage this advantage.
Where do you see the web analytics discipline going?
Web analytics is a field (not unlike SEO and other emerging channels) that continues to evolve and get more mature. I think some of the most interesting innovations going on in the field is the move towards more multivariate and split a/b testing. Certainly this type of testing has been around in direct marketing for years, but we are just beginning to see a significant increase in adoption on the digital side, as tools like Google’s phenomenal Website optimizer and SiteCatalyst’s Test and Target solution see increased adoption.
What is your favorite WordPress theme?
While themes definitely serve a purpose in that they help site owners get sites up and running quick and inexpensively; in general I believe in custom designed themes. Great design has a lot of value and sometimes I wonder whether out of the box themes do more harm than good. That said my personal blog uses an out of the box theme so I am talking out of both sides of my mouth.
I am really impressed with what is being done with theme frameworks with solutions like Genesis and Thesis, I think they allow site developers to have a strong foundation to build their site on, while not forcing designers to have to compromise on creativity or simply reworking an existing theme’s design.
Any tips for people just getting started with Blogging or using WordPress?
My biggest tip would be to seriously consider what you are trying to achieve with your blog before you buy your first domain, get hosting, and install wordpress. If possible narrow down the topic of your blog to a niche you are passionate about rather than building a general purpose site. It will significantly increase the chances that you can turn your blog into a successful business.
Do you have a WordPress hero?
Well without a doubt I will always remain in awe of what Matt Mullenweg has been able to achieve with WordPress from an application standpoint and also in terms nurturing the building of such a great community that has created easily the best open source blog/cms platform in my opinion. I have also more recently been very impressed with what Brian Gardner has achieved with the Genesis Framework, it is an excellent product that provides a lot of value.
What is your idea of success?
Looking at the analytics data from your WordPress blog and seeing “hockey stick growth”
What is your favorite restaurant or club in Chicago?
I really like Piece Brewery & Pizzeria in Wicker Park. Great pizza, great beer, and its owned by Rick Nielsen (Guitarist for Cheap Trick) so you really can’t go wrong.
Senior SEO & Analytics Strategist at designory.