3 Reasons Analytics Dashboards Are So Important for Multi-Location Businesses

(And any businesses for that matter.)

Unless you are in a self-driving Google car, driving down the road without a dashboard is going to cause a lot of problems. If something goes wrong you have no warning, and if you’re speeding you have no idea until the cop gives you a ticket. The same thing happens when you have no dashboards for your business. Just like you would never operate a car without a dashboard, you really wouldn’t want to operate 100 cars at once without a dashboard, which is what it would be like for many multi-location businesses where they have multiple websites.

So what are the most important reasons to use analytics dashboards to run your multi-location business marketing campaigns?

1. Help identify errors in your data

We have seen many times where customers are monitoring several websites at once, whether they are using a specific multi-location CMS or they are on another platform and have several very different web properties for different parts of their business. It can be hard to keep up with the tracking differences between each site or even app. Because there are so many issues, such as events, confirmation page changes, custom dimensions, goals, and more to keep track of, it can be easy for tracking to fall through the cracks. And when bonuses and marketing strategy are set based on these metrics, bad data can be super painful, personally, and for the company.

Dashboards help solve this problem as it puts all your sites key metrics in view. So if the development team makes a change without letting you know; i.e. removing event tags on one site, or if the marketing team forgets to tell the people in charge of analytics about a new off nav landing page built on some third party tool and moves all the traffic there, you can figure out what is wrong before you lose too much data. The dashboard highlights this. The important part is to ensure that these issues are caught first thing This is done by assigning alerts and tolerances on the dashboard so you can know whether or not something seems too good to be true, or things seem way worse than they normally would.

2. Quickly spot problem areas or locations



Of course with franchises and other multi-locations businesses you really need to check on the performance of each individual location. Is a location performing really well this quarter or unusually poor this quarter or month? Identify early on by setting up goal pacing for each site, so you can take action before it gets too late in the month or quarter when whatever you do to improve likely won’t matter in that goal period.  Utilizing pacing charts to help identify problem areas leads to the next important reason for dashboard usage.

3. Gives you action steps if set up properly

When set up properly, marketing analytics dashboards will not only give the c-suite pretty reports, but it will also give help to everyday managers. This gives you action steps for each month or quarter as you are able to know what problem areas need the most work. And if you have chosen the right metrics in your dashboard you will be able to know exactly what you should do for each location, whether that be adjusting ad spend, editing landing pages, refocusing ad targeting, etc. It can all be easily identified if the metrics are properly set up. If you don’t build your dashboard with a purpose, you will not identify the things that you need to make decisions.

What is the right way to set up a dashboard?

One word. Planning. Planning the dashboard is the most important item. I could go on, but we are going to write more about developing your dashboard strategy in the future. But remember a few simple rules for now.

  • Start with your business objectives
  • Identify your KPIs
  • Set goals
  • Set tolerances to ensure you are going to hit your KPI goals

If you don’t have a dashboard: Get started!

If you don’t have dashboards to keep constant track of all your locations, it is time to get started. There are tons of great tools out there right now. So research them. Whether you want to use Tableau, Supermetrics, Looker, or other tools, there are many options to make it work. Just get started, and talk to a professional if you really want to make your dashboards useful.


Photo Credit: 123rf.com/maridav

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    How to Track Landing Page Templates Across Multiple Websites Using Crazy Egg and Wildcards


    Let’s say you run a multi-location business with several locally-optimized websites (i.e. examplemiami.com, examplechicago.com, examplesanfrancisco.com, etc). These sites all have similar layouts and URL structures. Say you also have a set of landing pages that are nearly identical across all sites, like examplecity.com/product-experience-1, examplecity.com/product-experience-2, etc. If you have the same landing page template replicated across several different websites, how do you gather data that will allow you to optimize the user experience for all of those different sites and landing pages?

    We at Flint Analytics faced this exact issue with one of our clients. Similar to the example above, the client had localized websites for each of their major markets and a slew of landing page variations for each product. The objective was to understand how users interacted with each landing page, and we used Crazy Egg to do this. The challenge was getting Crazy Egg to aggregate this information across multiple domains (Tampa, San Jose, etc) so that we could track each landing page type as a template and make UX changes across the entire program. Luckily, Crazy Egg has a wildcard option that allowed us to do this.

    Crazy Egg Wildcards and Hostnames

    Returning to our example company, let’s say we wanted to create a wildcard pattern that captured the homepage of all domains that we owned. Replacing each city with an asterisk (*) and using the pattern example*.com would capture all of our location-based sites, including examplemiami.com, examplechicago.com, and examplesanfrancisco.com.

    Let’s say we also wanted to track the page path product-experience-1 across all of our different domains. The individual pages to track might be:


    Here are the steps for setting up a Product Experience 1 Snapshot across multiple domains in Crazy Egg:

    1. New Shapshot – On your Crazy Egg homepage, click +Add new and then Snapshot.


    2. Snapshot URL – Any of our URLs above will do, but for this example we’ll choose examplemiami.com/product-experience-1/. The only thing that matters is that all of the URLs that you plan to track have similar layouts.


    3. Snapshot Name and Device – It’s important to keep desktop, tablet, and mobile snapshots separated from each other. Here you can choose a naming convention that allows you to easily identify the Product Experience 1 snapshot for your chosen device.


    4. Wildcard Option – Click the Advanced Options dropdown and then check Use a Wildcard.


    5. Wildcard Pattern – Clicking Next takes you to a page that will allow you to enter your wildcard pattern. For our example, our variable is the city name and our constant is the page path, so our wildcard pattern would be example*.com/product-experience-1/.


    Since we used the examplemiami.com hostname in our Crazy Egg setup, the screenshot will show just that page. However, since all of our different hostnames use the product-experience-1 landing page, and assuming all formatting is the same across all hostnames, the aggregate clicks and scrolls will accumulate on the examplemiami.com page so that we can make whole-program optimizations in user experience.

    Note for AdWords users: If you are sending AdWords traffic to a landing page and you are using auto-tagging, make sure to add “?*” to the end of your wildcard pattern to account for any tags Google adds (i.e. example*.com/product-experience-1?*).


    Photo credit: 123rf.com/rawpixel

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      Making your franchise more locally relevant

      How To Make Your Multi-Location Business or Franchise More Local To Your Customers

      9 in 10 Americans believe it is important for people to support the small businesses they value in their neighborhood.

      What does that mean for multi-location businesses, franchises, dealer networks, etc? It means there continues to be a rising wave of buying local.


      Customers want to support their local business. They appreciate the service and local knowledge that accompanies doing business with them. So how can multi-locations compete and take advantage of this local opportunity when people view large corporations as nameless and faceless organizations only out to maximize profits?

      Your brand name has a lot of power and can stand for great quality, but it also says dull, safe bet, non-customized service. Is there a way to combine the power of your brand with the personalization and enthusiasm people have for supporting local businesses? Of course there is. It’s all about local credibility.

      Local Credibility

      The most important thing you can do to change your image is to enhance your local credibility. Make yourself more local. Because most multi-location businesses are local. You are local. The store is often locally owned, their people are local, and when you call them you are dealing with a local store and not a call center. The only thing not local about the business is the brand.

      Your people live in their communities, volunteer in their communities, and raise their kids there. They are as local as you get and generally utilize the corporate brand and processes to help them grow their businesses. Remember, though, when you tell your customer that you are local, they might be looking at you like the skeptical kid below. When they look at your website or business, they are looking you over to determine if you really are local. And the first hint of inauthenticity will have them jumping to the next site or store.

      are you credible?

      So, let’s ensure our customers know we are local and how we are local by looking at three great ways to remind your customer that you are local.

      1. Personify your location
      2. Show your community involvement
      3. Create and use local trust symbols

      Personify Your Location

      Show your people and share your stories. Don’t make your location faceless. The key to a local business is it feels like everyone knows your name and your story. They know that the store owner or manager went to the local state college and has three kids that go to school around the corner from the store. They might even know that you play slow pitch softball in the evenings, coach your kid’s little league team, and donate to the local food pantry. So the question becomes, how do you show this? One way is on the local store website’s About Us page.

      About Us

      About Us is one of the most visited pages on a site. There are several reasons for this:

      • Customers want to know what motivates you, such as why you got into this business.
      • Customers are looking for a way to know how long you have been around and if you can be trusted.
      • They want to see why they should buy from you over other businesses offering the same services.


      Another way to personify your business is to allow them to blog on their own or to save them time, posts blogs for them in their name. Then people who are reading the site or find it through search know who is running that local store.

      Talk To Customers

      The final way to personify your local store is to make sure your store managers are talking to their customers. And you don’t have to talk strictly business – be a friend. (But don’t go overboard, as you are there to earn business and not just talk about the weather). Make your store or in-home visits feel like the customer is a part of the community.

      Bottom line, make it human and show photos of your people on your website that also tell their story. Do this, and the customer realizes you are part of their tribe and community, making them more likely to do business with you.

      Show Your Community Involvement

      What do your people do in the community? Do they sponsor events, do days of service, participate in parades? The more specific impact they have on the community, the better. So don’t just say they worked with United Way. Talk about the local division of United Way they worked with and what they did that impacted the local community.

      Customers like seeing you a part of the community and there is no better way to be a part of the community than by serving it. You can even be involved through the way you sponsor community events. Whether it be the local parade, sponsoring community festivals, or creating a local meetup, you will be more local the more you get involved. This not only helps PR efforts, but it will help sales as well.

      Local Trust Symbols

      Create & Use Local Trust Symbols

      A “local trust symbol” is similar to normal trust symbols except instead of only making your website trustworthy, they help consumers trust that you are a local business.

      For online customers, there is nothing more important than local trust symbols to highlight that you aren’t just a national company with a local branch. Using local trust symbols online is easiest when you have a local website. If you don’t have a site for each local store, it can still be done, but isn’t quite as effective. Some local trust symbols are:

      • A locally relevant domain name, i.e. a domain that might be something like OurNameChicago.com.
      • A local address on every page of the site.
      • A local phone number on every page of the website.
      • Local photography that uses the imagery of your city.
      • Using local names, idioms, and other unique language to your local area. For example, mentioning Hoosiers on the site in Indiana or other local terminology.
      • Content that talks about your products or services in relation to the local market. Such as articles about getting ready for winter for a heating company in Boston or getting ready for summer for heating & air companies in Miami.
      • Pictures & video of your people on the website.
      • Local BBB & Yelp listing easily available on every page.
      • Angie’s List or other relevant service awards listed.

      One of our local business clients has worked hard to build trust that they aren’t just some local reseller of national security services. They have found local trust symbols to be key to their business. They have their phone and address on every page. They even have a unique logo that shows how many years they have been serving the Indiana community. They also make it easy to see their BBB listing and even access their reviews on Angie’s List. On top of that, they have a video where the business owner talks about their service. And they talk about the Indianapolis area in their marketing and blogs.

      At the end of the day, building local credibility will help ensure potential customers pick up the phone for your locations and not someone else’s. And building that credibility can be easier than you think, especially if you have built out a solution to make it easier for each location to take action. If you need help figuring that out, give us a call.


      Photo credits: 123rf.com/talanis and 123rf.com/moodboard


      Let us solve your franchise marketing problem.

        4 Considerations When Implementing Multi-Location PPC

        Businesses with dozens or even thousands of locations have a unique paid search (PPC) challenge; how to efficiently execute a localized strategy. I’ve worked on many multi location PPC accounts that approached the issue of multiple locations in different ways, and while there are pros and cons to all account structure strategies, below are the main considerations that we, at Flint Analytics, take in to account when determining the best solution for each of our clients.


        Adwords offers a few choices when it comes to billing: automatic payments, manual payments and invoicing. Depending on how many locations you intend to advertise for and how you intend to pay for each location’s spend will determine which option will fit your needs best.

        I’ve worked on ppc accounts for huge, Fortune 500 companies that had little concern for individual store KPIs and instead were focused on regional and national performance as well as performance by service category (campaign group level). In this type of model, it was best to use one PPC account that rolls their media dollar spend up to one invoice at the corporate level where the marketing department received a monthly invoice for all locations.

        Alternatively, I’ve also experienced companies that have individualized needs for each of their locations. For example, perhaps you have 100 franchise locations that all pay in to the same marketing pot and you need to be able to easily access individual store invoices. In this scenario, it may make more sense set up separate accounts for each store or region of shared stores that share an invoice. Each account can pay with a credit card as an automatic payment or set up monthly invoicing (if they meet Google’s invoicing requirements and pass the credit check).

        The company’s need to keep track of their media spend will determine how you want to set up their Adwords account(s). This is something we hammer out with clients early on in the process so you set up everything correctly the first time.


        Adwords made things easier for us when they rolled out the capability to share daily media budget across multiple campaigns. You can even set many separate daily budgets and share them across different campaigns. For instance, say you have 10 locations in a Midwest region that all share the same media budget. You could make a “Midwest Budget” and share it with only the Midwest stores’ campaigns. Then, say you have 20 stores in the Southern region. The same concept would apply; create a “Southern Budget” and apply it to only the campaigns that are targeted to your Southern region.

        This technique makes it easier to provide many store campaigns with a chunk of daily budget and allows the AdWords system to allocate those dollars where they’re needed throughout the day. The major pro to this system is avoiding the task of manually allocating dollars across campaigns. That being said, there are also some cons to this setup. For one, if your daily budget is limited because you only have say $5,000 to spend per day but your keywords and geographies can spend $20,000 per day, AdWords won’t necessarily send the dollars to the top performing campaigns, but rather, to where those dollars can be spent.

        Day-to-Day Management

        Granular ad groups with relevant ad copy and corresponding landing pages are the backbone of PPC. When planning your account structure, it’s a good idea to think through how many ad groups, keywords and pieces of copy you’ll end up with and if you’ll be able to effectively manage the workload. If you’re managing 20 accounts under the same company, can you efficiently keep tabs on their performance and make bulk changes quickly if they’re all in separate accounts? Alternatively, if you don’t make your campaigns and ad groups granular enough, can you reap all the benefits of a localized structure or will you run the risk of appearing too general/national to capture a local audience?

        Landing Pages

        Businesses with multiple locations may struggle with PPC performance when they send all of their visitors to the same landing page or to a small batch of landing pages that aren’t localized. Users are more likely to convert when the landing page matches their search query and provides them with the content they’re looking for without having to dig in to your site to find it. We can take this concept one step further by providing a localized landing page that matches the user’s intended location or physical location.

        As an example, let’s look at an appliance and electronics store that operates hundreds of locations across the United States. Let’s assume this location has three stores in the Indianapolis metro area. If you’re running a refrigerator sale at all nationwide locations, and someone in the Indy market searches for “GE profile refrigerators Indianapolis”, you’ll be able to appeal to that potential searcher by sending them not only to a GE refrigerator product page, but can take them one step further by showing them products available in their service area. On the landing page, that searcher is more likely to explore your offerings if they can see that there is an appliance store within a few miles of their home where they can go see the appliance in person after browsing on your site.

        In addition, think of the other calls to action you can add to your landing pages to help improve the localized experience: discount coupons for their store, a trackable phone number if they want to call directly, your local address and store hours, relevant offers that may sweeten the deal (like free shipping and installation), an efficient e-commerce system if they’re ready to buy, etc.

        Your multi location PPC strategy is made up of many components and PPC work is never really finished, but the key items highlighted above should help you get off on the right foot. Do you have any questions about how to improve your multi location PPC? Contact us here.


        Photo Credit: 123rf.com/jagcz

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          Landing Page Optimization Tools (CrazyEgg)

          Landing Page Optimization Tools (CrazyEgg)

          Not all website pages are created equal. And, where conversion rates rule supreme, your newly created landing page better match or outperform the existing pages. But, you’re thinking: what more can I do? I followed all the CRO tips I learned from an article I read last week. I tweaked that landing page until every last word fit just perfectly on every device. I have Google Analytics code in place, and my goals are set up and reporting. What more can I do?

          Those were exactly my thoughts when I set up a landing page for a client last month. I was anxious to see the page succeed. That’s when I realized that I need to be proactive rather than reactive to the site visitors’ behaviors. I need to understand their experience on that page. That’s where CrazyEgg comes in.

          CrazyEgg is a tool that tracks where page visitors click and how far down a page they scroll. Its interface is straightforward and easy to use. You simply create a “snapshot” of your landing page by entering the URL. Choose the device view you want to track: desktop, tablet, and/or phone. Then, insert the line of code provided to you on that specific landing page. And, just like that, CrazyEgg will start reporting on the traffic patterns on that page.

          Here are some of the current report options:


          See how deep your visitors go on your page with this color-coded gradient overlay. The data is aggregated to create a scrollmap that clearly depicts the percentage of visitors that made it to 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of your page’s length.

          CrazyEgg Scrollmap: Flint Analytics Home Page

          Extracted from CrazyEgg on Nov 14, 2014.

          Now, you can see if people scroll below the fold. You can adjust your content to accommodate their inclinations. If you have a form at the bottom of the page and realize that most people don’t make it past 50%, you might consider moving the form above the fold or adding it to the sidebar.


          For me, this is the most helpful of the reports that CrazyEgg provides. In a glance, you get an idea of where people are clicking on the page. Sure, you can get similar information from Google Analytics if you wanted. But, you won’t get the beautifully visualized data all in one place.

          CrazyEgg Heatmap Flint Analytics Home Page

          Extracted from CrazyEgg on Nov 11, 2014.

          The brighter the color, the more frequent the clicks on that element. This report was really helpful when we revamped our own website. We noticed that visitors would land on the Flint Analytics home page and click on the sentence below the main slider: Transforming Your Data Into A Successful Marketing Fire. But, that text was not linked to any other page on the site. This would lead visitors to be frustrated as they expected their action to result in more information about our process of starting marketing fires. So, we hyperlinked the text and sent it to “Our Process” page to make the experience smoother. We would have never gotten this information from Google Analytics.


          Although on the outset, this report might seem the same as the heatmap, the clickmap (or confetti) is actually a more detailed look at your visitors’ clicks. It shows a) the exact point of contact between the cursor and the web page and b) the referral website the click is attributed to.

          CrazyEgg Clickmap (Confetti): Flint Analytics Home Page

          Extracted from CrazyEgg on Nov 11, 2014.

          What the clickmap allows you to do is pinpoint areas on your page that are not functioning the way users expect them to. The clickmap may show multiple clicks in the vicinity of a word in the menu bar, but the area around the word is not linked – only the text itself. Realizing that your users are not taking the time to click on the text itself, you can turn the tab into a clickable element, eliminating any unintended friction with the page.

          CrazyEgg Confetti Legend: Flint Analytics Home Page

          On the left hand side, you’ll notice a list of referral websites. This is the legend for the colors of the clicks. You can segment the clicks of visitors from Facebook from those from PPC. Then, you can examine their patterns of clicking separately. More times than not, they’ll be similar. But, if they do differ, it might be indicative of a need to create a separate landing page to cater to each audience.

          There you have it. CrazyEgg puts visitor behavior on a canvas for you to examine and use to improve your page. If you’re taking the time to write content and design the layout of a page, wouldn’t you want to make sure people are taking the actions you want them to? Now, you see why I like this tool so much.

          What landing page optimization tools do you use to visualize areas for improvement?

          Let us solve your analytics problem.

            Three Years Of Adventure & Success

            Flint Analytics turns 3 this week. It has been a great 3 years. We moved our business from South Bend to Indianapolis. We expanded our service offerings from web analytics analysis and PPC to conversion rate optimization and advanced remarketing. We have also grown adding more power to our team. We also started Smartups Indy to give back to the local Startup community so we can help grow some of the best startups in the world.

            So, thanks to our clients for putting up with us and letting us challenge them these past three years, and here is to more great years to come!

            Oh. And Happy Halloween!


            Falling In Love With Analytics

            Falling In Love With Analytics

            It’s been 5 weeks since we first met, but it feels like we’ve known each other for as long as I can remember. My life has changed from the moment I caught a glimpse of its perfect curves and learned of its realistic outlook on events. I am not sure if I am quoting a line from ABC’s The Bachelor or the potential sequel to Joaquin Phoenix’s Her when I say that, at this point, I am falling in love with analytics.

            Analytics doesn’t get mad at me. The first day – the first week, I had no idea how to navigate Adwords Editor. I wanted to explore every corner and know how to operate every function, but I was hesitant to start. What if I accidentally click the wrong button? Easy – I retrace my steps and/or ask Tim. Either way, analytics and I never fight. Okay – maybe not in public.

            Analytics remembers my preferences. I’m not talking about the kind of tea I like or my favorite color. I’m talking about the dashboards I save, the reports I automate, the views I prefer. Whether I’m in Google Analytics, Adwords, Bing, or Wordstream, I know that I can rely on their advanced features to never have amnesia while remaining flexible enough for me to edit a dimension or two. The best part? Analytics doesn’t brag about remembering.

            Analytics makes me smile. When I’m staring helplessly at an endless column of numbers, I need only to reach to the top and sort them with one click, or hover over that eternal beacon of a question mark to get help, or add a column or filter that would provide a better sense of the data. And, if you’re one for visuals like me, the instantaneous reflection of the bog of numbers in a colored graph comes as a much-welcomed magical antidote. It’s the little things. It’s always the little things with analytics.

            You see, it’s easy to fall for a perceptively perfect system. You may be just as in love with it as I am. Don’t worry. I’m not the jealous type. I am just glad that, in a world of information overload and marketing noise, the loving light of analytics shines through. A love you too can enjoy, and it starts with a simple spark of Flint.

            Let us solve your analytics problem.

              Welcoming Nour Sadek

              Nour Sadek @ Flint AnalyticsWe are excited to introduce our first employee, Nour Sadek, Internet Marketing Specialist. She joined us in January, and thanks to her, we have now doubled our team and our capabilities.

              In our search for an employee, we needed someone with a unique combination: number and analytics smarts with a healthy dose of marketing and writing skills. We found what we were looking for in Nour, plus a wicked sense of humor to boot. We knew she’d fit right in.

              Nour was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon, a Mediterranean city engraved in history, drenched with olive oil, drunk in diversity. Nour received her BA (2011) in Biology and Psychology and MBA (2012) from Anderson University. After a 10 month marketing internship with Indiana INTERNnet, she had found her passion for combining creativity and analytics, and her way to us.

              Nour has been featured on the cover of the 2013-2014 edition of Indiana GRAD Magazine for her witty insights on a legendary internship. When she’s not glued to a computer screen, you can find her watching the latest episode of How I Met Your Mother, playing board games with friends, trying out the local eateries, and planning her next travel adventure.

              You can follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn, or reach her at nour at flintanalytics dot com.