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Ten Hard Won Lessons on the Road to Automation

Discover the ten lessons that we learnt on the road to automate our processes

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Ten Hard Won Lessons on the Road to Automation

  1. 1. Author: Charles Meaden Ten Hard Won Lessons On The Road To Automation Charles Meaden Digital Nation
  2. 2. Author: Charles Meaden Obligatory Bit About Me • Been involved in analytics for 25 years now • SEO and Usability are my other core areas • Based down in Mumbles, South Wales – No, that’s not filtered
  3. 3. Author: Charles Meaden A Lot Of The Things I Do Are A Process • To get my work done I need to extract data from lots of different systems – Google Analytics – Crawlers such as Screaming Frog and Sitebulb – Google Search Console – Ecommerce systems • Then transform (clean!) it • Before invariably loading it another tool
  4. 4. Author: Charles Meaden This Talk Is Platform / Tool Agnostic • I can’t code for toffee • But I can work out logical steps • My preferred tool is Analytics Edge for Excel
  5. 5. Author: Charles Meaden Statement of the Bleeding Obvious – Why Automate Because so many of the jobs that we do consist of the same steps every time
  6. 6. Author: Charles Meaden Example – Extracting All URL’s That Contain a Query String • We do Google Analytics audits • One of the tasks is to – Work out how many URL’s contain a query string – Which values are shown in the query strings – How many page views does it affect • To get 3 months worth of data out of Google Analytics is at least 10 clicks to get data I can work with – Plus the time waiting for Google Analytics to go from screen to screen – Then, I’ve got to merge the files together • In Analytics Edge, I’ve got a ready made macro that does the above, plus – Uses regex to split and identify each query string – Calculate the number of different values for each query string – Calculate how many page views if affects • Result – I get to the data a lot quicker
  7. 7. Author: Charles Meaden 15 Minutes to Write this Macro • Any tool has a learning curve • Once you’re confident with one, automation becomes a lot easier • This macro took 15 minutes to create from start to finish
  8. 8. Author: Charles Meaden Lesson 1: Focus on the end result • Forget for a second what tool you’re going to use • Have a clear idea of what it is end result going to be • Also who is going to be using it • Sometimes working backwards helps to uncover new methods
  9. 9. Author: Charles Meaden Lesson 2: It’s Always Going To Take Longer • Ideas that seemed great in theory, often taken longer • Things are going to get in your way such as messy data or systems changing the format • This can be a good thing – some of my best solutions came from having to adapt previous solutions
  10. 10. Author: Charles Meaden Lesson 3: Stand On The Shoulder of Giants • As Isacc Newton once said • Just like we’ve all learnt from Simo Ahava how to use Google Tag Manager • Dig into the Python, R or whatever tools you don’t use and see what people are doing there • For a user intent tool, we’ve just replicated a stemming library to remove plurals inside Excel
  11. 11. Author: Charles Meaden Lesson 4: Accept that Data Will Always Be Dirty • The first thing we always look for in any data set is the variations from the norm • Things such as – Upper and lower cases – Misspellings – Wrong formats • It’s an ongoing process especially if humans are involved • Build out processes to trap those errors as early as possible in the process
  12. 12. Author: Charles Meaden Lesson 5: Build A Library • Build a library of all the parts that you use • As well as the code, write down the process you used • My favourite tools for this are – Evernote as I can add tags to everything – LucidChart for building quick flow charts
  13. 13. Author: Charles Meaden Lesson 6: Accept That Not Everything Can Be Automated • A lot of my processes are semi automated • At some point in the process, I need to quickly check for outliers • I have routines that clean and then identify anything that it new • Especially true when dealing with campaign tracking or new variables that someone forgot to mention
  14. 14. Author: Charles Meaden Lesson 8: Use Your Eyes • Before sending the results of your data off to someone else, take a look • Does it make sense? • What could you improve?
  15. 15. Author: Charles Meaden Someone didn’t here… • This is an anonymised version of a chart that a digital agency sent us • No other documentation to explain what it was • A classic example of a ‘data puke’ • A quick eyeball of this would have spotted that it wouldn’t make sense
  16. 16. Author: Charles Meaden Lesson 9: Educate Everyone About Benefits • Don’t hide your talents • Make it clear that while automation has a cost, the ROI can be amazing • That it frees people up to actually do things with the data • Once people see what can be achieved, more projects will come your way
  17. 17. Author: Charles Meaden Lesson 10: How Can I Build On This • Take a look at the process • Encourage feedback from users • Continually evolve the process
  18. 18. Author: Charles Meaden Tools That We Use • Analytics Edge for Excel is the tool that we use most frequently – Best £150 we spend each year – Technical support is superb • Others have raved about SuperMetrics • Google Data Studio and Sheets have some really good automation features
  19. 19. Author: Charles Meaden Thank You • You can find me here – Charles@digitalnation.co.uk – https://twitter.com/charlesmeaden – https://www.linkedin.com/in/charlesmeaden/

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