Google Analytics Certification and How to Pass the GAIQ Test

Posted by Slingshot SEO

When I hear the word, “cookies,” I generally think of warm, gooey homemade chocolate chip cookies. But when it comes to passing the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ) test, I had to put my cravings for Mrs. Fields’ Nibblers aside and learn about the differences between first-party and third-party cookies.

Google Analytics Cookie Monster - Delete cookies!?

Cookies are just one of the many topics covered on the exam, and passing can be a daunting task, especially for those unfamiliar with the program and its ever-changing features. The GAIQ test is one of the best ways to become a more knowledgeable user and deepen your understanding of Google Analytics. For those to new to GA or seeking additional tips & tricks, check out our Google Analytics Guide. Studying for the exam can be a fun process, and I would like to offer some advice so that you can pass as well.

The GAIQ Test

The test is limited to 90 minutes, consisting of 70 multiple choice questions with two to five answer choices. The trickiest part is that some questions ask you to select "all that apply," which means there can be up to 24 possible answer combinations for those questions (assuming you have to select one answer). The test can be accessed at the Google Testing Center, and each sitting costs $ 50. During the test, you have the ability to pause and come back anytime within the next five days. Although the questions vary in difficulty, it's an open book exam. The pass mark is 80%, which means you must answer at least 56 out of 70 questions correctly.

Preparing for the Exam

All the topics and content covered on the exam are available through Google’s Google Analytics IQ Lessons, formerly known as Conversion University, which consists of online lessons that are freely available for viewing at your leisure. There are 21 different presentations that are easily digestible and will last a total of roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes. However, these presentations move fairly quickly, so I recommend pausing and taking notes that you can use during the exam. A rough outline of topics is listed below:

  • Accounts & Profiles
  • Interface Navigation
  • Tracking Code
  • Interpreting Reports
  • Traffic Sources
  • Campaign Tracking & AdWords Integration
  • AdWords
  • Goals
  • Funnels
  • Filters
  • Advanced Segments
  • Cookies
  • Regular Expressions
  • E-Commerce Tracking
  • Domains & Subdomains
  • Custom Reports
  • Motion Charts
  • Internal Site Search
  • Event Tracking & Virtual Page views

The GAIQ lessons are the best way to study for the test and should be your starting point. I recommend watching each video at least twice, and using your own Google Analytics profile in tandem with the videos, to practice and walk through each lesson to make sure you understand the topics. It is important to note that there have been many changes to Google Analytics over the past year, and Google has updated its exam in January 2012. The fundamental material covered on the exam has stayed the same, but if you are still using the old version of Analytics, you may want to get used to the new version and all of its new features before taking the exam.

I would not be surprised if Google started asking questions on features that are only available in the new version (multi-channel funnels, real-time analytics, social plugin analytics, and flow visualization). Also, there is always a chance that Google has made an update, but hasn’t changed the test question or GAIQ lesson videos. For example, the “__utmc” cookie is no longer used by the Google Analytics tracking code to determine session status, but it is still mentioned in the GAIQ lessons and could still be asked about on the exam as one of the cookies that Google sets. When in doubt, I would answer questions like this based on whatever has been taught in the GAIQ lessons. It is more likely that Google would not change the test without updating the videos first.

When Taking the Exam

For a “pass-the-exam” strategy, the most important thing to remember is to keep moving. Answer all of the easy questions first and don’t get tied down by any one question. You have roughly 1 minute and 16 seconds to answer each question, so if you answer all of the easy ones first, you can judge how much time you have left to finish the remaining, tougher questions. You have the ability to mark questions, answer them, or leave them incomplete. A good strategy is to answer the easy ones, mark the questions that require some research, and leave the questions you have absolutely no idea about blank. That way, during your second run-through, you can review all marked questions first and do the most difficult questions last. I feel safe in assuming that all questions are weighted equally in the score and that there is no penalty for guessing incorrectly.

During the test, I recommend having the following resources open on your computer: Google Analytics IQ Lessons, an Analytics account, the Google Help Center, and Jens Sorensen’s test notes. There will be some questions that require research, so keep these resources close.

Practice Problems

I’ve included some original practice problems with solutions that will help you get ready for the exam. These problems are meant to challenge you, but do not necessarily represent how Google will test you on these topics. These problems should be a final test to take after watching all of the GAIQ lessons. They are available for download in the link below :-)

Download Slingshot SEO GA IQ Practice Problems

Passing the Exam

If you pass, Google sends you an email with an official certificate showing that you have passed the exam. The certificate is valid for 18 months from the date of the passed exam. Google does not give you the results for each question, but it lists the percentage of questions you answered correctly, and the four most missed topics on your exam.

Google Analytics Qualified Individual Badge

Sometimes, the difference between passing and failing can be a matter of how you interpret some of Google’s questions. They can be quite tricky, so be sure to pay attention to detail on every question. If you fail, you may take the exam again, but you have to wait 14 days and can only take it twice within a 30-day period. You have to pay the $ 50 fee for each sitting, so do your best to pass it the first time.

If you’ve taken the exam, we’d love to hear your thoughts and study tips. Or if you have any other questions, please leave a comment!

Best of luck!

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Putting Guest Post Outreach Theories to the Test [With Some Real World Data]

Posted by jamesagate

Following the positive response to my last post here on SEOmoz, I wanted to bring you all some data right from a few of our real-world campaigns.

As a business, we systemise a great deal and monitor a lot of processes so it made sense for me to put use to some of this data and try to prove/disprove any commonly held theories about outreach.

The following is based on a sample of 400 guest posts that we placed for clients over a three month period (November-January). Make of the data what you will, it isn’t conclusive but I feel it does go some way to providing some good starting points for you to explore in your own outreach campaigns – as with most things, the best strategy is for you to test it out for yourself in the industry/industries that you work in.

Theory #1 – Being a woman will get you more links

Speak to nearly anyone that has been building links for a while and they will have at least come across the theory that approaching a prospective link partner looking for a guest post is more likely to be successful if you are a woman. I would think this stems from the widely held belief (rightly or wrongly) that women are more trustworthy and well-meaning than men.

I wanted to investigate this theory in a little more depth. Quite by accident, of the 400 posts, it was roughly a 50/50 split with a woman conducting the outreach 52% of the time.

  • 790 potential sites were contacted
  • 411 by a woman
  • 379 by a man

Battle of the sexes – who performed better?

  • 437 positive responses received (remember there is a small attrition rate which has to be accounted for within the guest posting process where the link partner either doesn’t accept the content or doesn’t deliver on his/her end of the bargain).
  • 263 positive responses received by a woman.
  • 174 positive responses received by a man.

You might argue that this difference in performance between the genders could be attributed to a number of things:

  • Some are better at outreach than others – whilst this might be true, all receive the same training however, and any slight differences should be averaged out by this fact.
  • Consultants have different methods – similarly, some consultants may have slightly different methods although in reality we have systemised our process and continue to innovate as a team sharing best practices so again any impact is likely to be negated.
  • Consultants were contacting different websites – again, a very real possibility that the difference in performance is attributable to the ‘leads’ each consultant received. We do have different consultants who work and specialise in different industries so this could be a potential reason.

To really put this theory to the test though, we had one of our female consultants get in touch with five potential link partners who had either declined the offer of a guest post or requested payment for a guest post from one of our male outreach consultants.

When a female consultant made contact, they managed to reduce the price of the paid placement (we didn’t pay for it anyway) and we got a positive response from two of them. To clarify, that was pitching exactly the same website and roughly the same content as before.

That’s a pretty interesting find, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Theory #2 – Job title matters

Depending on whether the client has a preference, we usually approach the link partner as either an agency employee or an individual/freelancer.

Some clients like us to contact link partners as if we were employees of their company, others prefer we don’t disclose agency connections which on the face of it may stir some ethical debate however in these situations we merely act as the facilitator between our freelance content team and the host blog and since we strive to create win-win-win situations I have no problem with operating in this way.

In all honesty – each of these has its advantages and disadvantages (whilst contacting as an agency employee might invoke more requests for payment, it does make the option of continuing the relationship and benefiting your other clients much more practical) but let’s look at this from a pure success rate basis.

  • 790 potential sites were contacted
  • 297 were contacted as a freelancer
  • 373 were contacted as an agency employee
  • 120 were contacted as an in-house

In cases where the partner was approached by a freelancer, a positive response was received 189 times. In cases where the partner was approached by an in-house employee, a positive response was received 78 times and finally in cases where the partner was approached by an agency employee, we received positive responses 170 times.

The results surprised me because, one would think, that an email from someone directly working for an organisation that is going to benefit from the guest post would result in more declines or at least more requests for some form of payment. Clearly though trust is an important factor when it comes to largely unsolicited (albeit well researched and properly pitched) offers of guest posts.

Theory #3 – Timing is important

I was really excited to pull together the data for this one because I was confident that timing really mattered, especially when it comes to the initial introductory email.

Whilst we don’t actively record the precise time an email is sent, we do keep a note of the time of day i.e. Morning, Afternoon or Evening for the recipient. We’re UK based so running campaigns for our overseas clients requires rigorous planning and execution if we are to get the timing right.

In this case, I found no conclusion that could be drawn from this data. This is because when you average the response rate out across industries and countries (as I did in this case) it is only logical that no correlation will be easily identifiable because no two prospects are the same; different industries, different time zones and so on.

This doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of timing though:

  • Recording when your prospect is at their most responsive is helpful for keeping the process moving especially if they become a little wayward right before the agreed publish date.
  • Observing patterns in specific niches and putting this to work for you, for example, I have identified a responsiveness pattern across some of the sports blogs we work with (most, not all, but the majority respond late evening in their time) which could well be attributed to the fact they are hobby bloggers with full-time jobs and a family who sneak a bit of ‘blog time’ once their wife and children have gone to bed.

Theory #4 – Personalisation is worth it (or is it?)

We wanted to guarantee a quality standard with our outreach processes, which is we have approved templates that are then tailored to each prospect.

In certain situations where we feel it will be beneficial, we will write emails completely from scratch.

We don’t send out any generic emails which for the purposes of this exercise is a real shame because we can’t properly compare the difference in response rate when you send out a stock email and when you send out a personalised or even bespoke email.

We make a note of whether the email sent was tailored or entirely bespoke and the results align with what you might expect…

Completely bespoke emails generate a higher response rate although the caveat to this is of course that to custom write every email just isn’t possible if you want a campaign to be of a certain scale.

If you contacted 10 partners with a tailored email then you would get fewer positive responses but similarly, try sending 100 completely from scratch emails. You need a lot of people and that costs money which then impacts on the ROI of a campaign.

The trade-off and what I believe to be the happy medium is a solid template that is tailored to each recipient. Be flexible with your templates too and allow them to evolve as you see certain elements working better than others. Innovate then scale by applying across your campaigns.

Theory #5 – The style of outreach email has an impact

As I discussed above, we have a number of base templates for our consultants to customise, we have one version which are very conversion focused and another which is more soft-conversion – both variations are useful just in different industries.

I recently covered what goes into our high-conversion outreach emails and whilst I still don’t wish to reveal the exact format of our templates I will say the following:

  • Template A – very proactive wording that encourages moving to the next step, selecting one of the articles rather than asking whether they’ll accept a guest post.
  • Template B – much softer wording that works well in industries where guest posting is less prevalent and where the prospect needs their hand holding on the process a bit more.

As you will note, the more proactive template A is more effective in terms of generating a response. However, given that these styles are effective in different industries, so both templates will continue to have a place in our work. That being said, I found it useful and really interesting to compare their performance side by side.

Theory #6 – Persistence pays off

I believe in creating win-win-win situations when it comes to guest posting and because we go further to research and evaluate prospective websites, I see no issue in following up with the potential link partner three times before writing them off as unresponsive.

If you categorise the responses received in relation to the number of times contacted, it becomes evident that persistence really does pay off.

You will note from the chart below that around 30% of positive responses received agreed on the second or third email.

Had we not been persistent we would have needed to find, research and contact additional link partners which would have greatly increased our workload.

Persistence is one thing but relentless pestering is another. Follow up on leads, but be polite and for the benefit of all of us in the industry know when you should be taking no for an answer.

What’s the perfect combination?

Is it best to be an in-house female link builder pitching content in the evening three times? No, not always.

Different strokes for different folks. To summarise, it’s important to test out what works best in your industry.

Remember that this is a relatively small internal data sample so it is by no means perfect as there are always multiple factors in play at any one given time but despite this, I do feel it is valid enough to make it useful. Hopefully it acts as a starting point to develop your own study or to shape your initial guest post outreach strategy.

I’d be keen to hear from anyone running guest posting campaigns to learn about their methods and the kinds of response rate they generate.

James Agate is the founder of the content and outreach agency Skyrocket SEO. They offer a guest posting service that’s aimed at agencies and website owners looking for a semi-scalable, high-quality way to proactively earn links.

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