What’s an API? The marketer’s definitive guide is here!

I have a problem. At weddings, parties, or family gatherings, someone will generally ask what I do. “I’m a technical writer”, I reply. They look confused and then ask what that means. I find myself saying something about ‘documenting APIs’, at which point any audience I may have gathered has sidled away, keenly looking for their next canape.

 

Why is that? It’s probably because most people – certainly people who don’t work in any kind of IT-based business – don’t know what an API is. Moreover, most people don’t know what ‘API’ stands for.

API is an acronym and it stands for ‘application programming interface’. Explaining that doesn’t really help matters though! Let’s try with a very simple definition: an API is a set of functions and procedures that allow different computer systems to communicate with each other. That’s a bit better, but it still doesn’t really help visualize how one works. In which case, let’s go back to that canape – because the idea of food and restaurants serves well as an analogy for an API.

The API – an analogy

It’s best to think of an API as a menu that you’re given in a restaurant. A menu lists all the dishes and drinks on offer, and you request something off it if you want it returned to you from the kitchen or bar. If you order something that’s not on the menu, then the kitchen won’t be able to make it and can’t return it.

Now, think of two separate computer systems. How is data exchanged between them?

Answer: via an API. An API lists operations that can be used by one system to request data from the other system’s database. As with the menu though, if you request something that the API doesn’t list then the other system won’t be able to respond with it.

However, unlike a restaurant menu, you can do more with APIs than just ‘return ordered food’ (data) from ‘the kitchen’ (the other system’s database). An API can also let you send the other system new data, update existing data, and delete data (with a restaurant menu, you’ll be extremely hard-pressed to send any food that you’ve brought along yourself into the kitchen, or to force them to throw their food away!)

Chefs discussing menu on clipboard in commercial kitchen

 

So, there you have it. APIs work on a request/response cycle and they’re essentially the engine running under the internet’s hood, galvanizing all the online data connectivity that we’re constantly making use of.

For instance, APIs have enabled you to do all sorts of things, from ordering a pizza from your mobile phone using a food delivery app, to checking for the insurance deals on a price comparison site, to receiving a calendar notification that you’re due to check-in for a flight. Two or more systems are making this possible through the exchange of data via APIs.

The difference between private and open APIs

APIs can be used in different ways to facilitate different things. Some APIs are private ones, used solely within a company by that company’s software engineers to communicate between many different services and systems that make up the company’s overall infrastructure.

An open API (often referred to as a public API) is one that has been made available by a company for external users to consume. A company with a public API will have purposely designed their API to expose only a certain amount of services that their product offers (and not all, otherwise this would prove detrimental and a security risk), which will be documented online for software developers to make use of.

The better an API is designed and documented, the quicker a visiting developer can get up and running and start communicating with another system to build effective integrations.

APIs expand businesses

Public APIs are mutually beneficial. External developers get to extend their system or product by consuming the services of another company’s API, whilst the company offering the API benefit from lots of developers writing code and integrations that can be made public, shared – and in turn expands their product and business.

Shot of a man working in an office

 

Businesses are fast harnessing the money-making potential of APIs to expose those services and make data available to external audiences. This enables integration and creation of new revenue streams. For some companies, the API is the product, such as omnichannel communications platform service Comapi (a dotdigital company).

Why the dotmailer API benefits you – the marketer

dotmailer offers a powerful, flexible open API. As such, internal and external users consume our API for various reasons. It powers the premium eCommerce and CRM integrations that we offer, like Magento, MS Dynamics and Shopify Plus. It also allows partners and customers to develop and build their own custom integrations and technical solutions for the platform.

How does this benefit you? It means you can point your developers to our API documentation so they can start making some of your keenest marketing automation wishes come true! It enables them to quickly get to grips with our API and create code that not only gets data out of dotmailer, but gets your data in too – as well as automate various actions crucial to smarter marketing.

You’re no longer bound by the user interface of the app itself.

Find out more about how to use the dotmailer API by visiting our dedicated API support page.

Social media and global network concept.

What can I do to benefit from the API?

Let me provide you with a few common scenarios in which the API helps with custom marketing automation:

  • Import new signups to your site in real time: our API has several calls which means new signups are not only added to your CRM, they’re also added to dotmailer as contacts, so they can then be sent an automated welcome.
  • Import order data from your store so it can be used to send better targeted and personalized content: our API has a number of transactional data calls that enables you to not only import historical order data but to also schedule keeping this data up to date, as new purchases are made, and orders updated. Once this data is in, you can go on to create contact segments and, if you have it enabled on your account, use advanced personalization in content.
  • Export contacts’ email engagement data: our API features numerous calls that can export contacts’ key engagement data with your campaigns into your CRM, allowing you to create marketing lists and other actions to improve relevant targeting.

Get more automation tips and tricks from our free resources.

 

Hopefully the concept of an API is a lot clearer now, and you understand the benefits. In which case, back to that analogy before I leave you…

Feeling hungry for integration? Take a seat at the restaurant, bring along your developers, hand them that menu and put in your request.

In the meantime, I’ll wish you all ‘Bon API!’

See the dotmailer API in action: watch a super-quick demo.

The post What’s an API? The marketer’s definitive guide is here! appeared first on The Marketing Automation Blog.

Reblogged 1 month ago from blog.dotmailer.com

SEO in 2018: What’s hot, what’s not?

Voice search. AMP pages. Gap analysis. Algorithm updates. Local SEO. SEO is constantly changing, and what worked well last year may not work at all now. With new technologies and new rules constantly evolving, it’s critical to stay on top of the latest developments. In this webinar, we’ll sit down…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 1 year ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

Local search ranking factors: What’s working in 2017 [Podcast]

In our new episode, we chat with Darren Shaw about the just-released Local Search Ranking Factors survey and discuss what marketers need to know about local SEO in 2017.

The post Local search ranking factors: What’s working in 2017 [Podcast] appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 1 year ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

What’s new: Changes to the things you use every day

As a Product Manager, I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can make our big releases impact you in the best way possible. Our next big release is in February and will contain a number of great new things for our customers who sell (online or otherwise).

But we haven’t only been working on improvements for those of you with shops. We’ve been looking at how you create campaigns – any campaigns – from conception through to editing. And rather than make you wait until February, we’re launching them today. Here’s what’s changed.

Drag and drop template uploader

When you come to upload a template (or a one-off campaign), you’ll notice we’ve replaced the old interface with a drag and drop canvas. You can now drag files from anywhere on your computer straight into dotmailer (although you can click and select too if you find that easier). What’s more, you can drag in as many files as you like, as often as you like. It’s also lightning fast. Tip: try dragging in a zip file, too!

Campaign details with added emojis 😲👍👏

Subject lines. The first thing your contacts see. Proven to increase (or decrease) open rates. We think they’re so important, we’ve redesigned the ‘campaign details’ page to help you come up with subject lines that win.

You can now – finally – add emojis using the searchable picker. Combined with your skills and the personalization picker, your subject lines can now be expertly written, personalized and eye catching.

We’ve also improved the preview window that gives you an example of how your campaign details will look when your email arrives in an inbox. No, we didn’t much like the blue Outlook panel either, so it’s gone and been replaced with an inbox mock-up.

A clearer, cleaner EasyEditor

We’ve changed the building blocks in EasyEditor from pink to grey. Well, we’ve done a lot more than that, but that’s the most noticeable change. We also studied how you interacted with blocks, noticed some old design decisions that could be way better, and improved them.

For example, the header bar that contained the move, copy and delete tools would sometimes be inside a block, and sometimes outside. We knew why this was, but it turned out you didn’t, and it was just plain annoying. And why was the drag area so small? And why was it you couldn’t always see what type of block was selected? We’ve fixed all these things – and more – to create an easier, more consistent experience.

You’ll also notice the new blocks in our segment and landing page editor, too.

And more…

Finally, we’ve tweaked the Settings menu slightly to prepare for more changes later this month. In particular, your users, API users and transactional email users are now found under the ‘Access’ option.

The post What’s new: Changes to the things you use every day appeared first on The Email Marketing Blog.

Reblogged 1 year ago from blog.dotmailer.com

When You Rank High Organically But Not Locally (Case Study)

You’ve done everything right in terms of local SEO — you’re even ranking high in organic results — but you just can’t seem to get a place in the map pack. What’s wrong? Columnist Joy Hawkins explores.

The post When You Rank High Organically But Not Locally (Case Study) appeared first on Search…

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 2 years ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

Stop Ghost Spam in Google Analytics with One Filter

Posted by CarloSeo

The spam in Google Analytics (GA) is becoming a serious issue. Due to a deluge of referral spam from social buttons, adult sites, and many, many other sources, people are starting to become overwhelmed by all the filters they are setting up to manage the useless data they are receiving.

The good news is, there is no need to panic. In this post, I’m going to focus on the most common mistakes people make when fighting spam in GA, and explain an efficient way to prevent it.

But first, let’s make sure we understand how spam works. A couple of months ago, Jared Gardner wrote an excellent article explaining what referral spam is, including its intended purpose. He also pointed out some great examples of referral spam.

Types of spam

The spam in Google Analytics can be categorized by two types: ghosts and crawlers.

Ghosts

The vast majority of spam is this type. They are called ghosts because they never access your site. It is important to keep this in mind, as it’s key to creating a more efficient solution for managing spam.

As unusual as it sounds, this type of spam doesn’t have any interaction with your site at all. You may wonder how that is possible since one of the main purposes of GA is to track visits to our sites.

They do it by using the Measurement Protocol, which allows people to send data directly to Google Analytics’ servers. Using this method, and probably randomly generated tracking codes (UA-XXXXX-1) as well, the spammers leave a “visit” with fake data, without even knowing who they are hitting.

Crawlers

This type of spam, the opposite to ghost spam, does access your site. As the name implies, these spam bots crawl your pages, ignoring rules like those found in robots.txt that are supposed to stop them from reading your site. When they exit your site, they leave a record on your reports that appears similar to a legitimate visit.

Crawlers are harder to identify because they know their targets and use real data. But it is also true that new ones seldom appear. So if you detect a referral in your analytics that looks suspicious, researching it on Google or checking it against this list might help you answer the question of whether or not it is spammy.

Most common mistakes made when dealing with spam in GA

I’ve been following this issue closely for the last few months. According to the comments people have made on my articles and conversations I’ve found in discussion forums, there are primarily three mistakes people make when dealing with spam in Google Analytics.

Mistake #1. Blocking ghost spam from the .htaccess file

One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to block Ghost Spam from the .htaccess file.

For those who are not familiar with this file, one of its main functions is to allow/block access to your site. Now we know that ghosts never reach your site, so adding them here won’t have any effect and will only add useless lines to your .htaccess file.

Ghost spam usually shows up for a few days and then disappears. As a result, sometimes people think that they successfully blocked it from here when really it’s just a coincidence of timing.

Then when the spammers later return, they get worried because the solution is not working anymore, and they think the spammer somehow bypassed the barriers they set up.

The truth is, the .htaccess file can only effectively block crawlers such as buttons-for-website.com and a few others since these access your site. Most of the spam can’t be blocked using this method, so there is no other option than using filters to exclude them.

Mistake #2. Using the referral exclusion list to stop spam

Another error is trying to use the referral exclusion list to stop the spam. The name may confuse you, but this list is not intended to exclude referrals in the way we want to for the spam. It has other purposes.

For example, when a customer buys something, sometimes they get redirected to a third-party page for payment. After making a payment, they’re redirected back to you website, and GA records that as a new referral. It is appropriate to use referral exclusion list to prevent this from happening.

If you try to use the referral exclusion list to manage spam, however, the referral part will be stripped since there is no preexisting record. As a result, a direct visit will be recorded, and you will have a bigger problem than the one you started with since. You will still have spam, and direct visits are harder to track.

Mistake #3. Worrying that bounce rate changes will affect rankings

When people see that the bounce rate changes drastically because of the spam, they start worrying about the impact that it will have on their rankings in the SERPs.

bounce.png

This is another mistake commonly made. With or without spam, Google doesn’t take into consideration Google Analytics metrics as a ranking factor. Here is an explanation about this from Matt Cutts, the former head of Google’s web spam team.

And if you think about it, Cutts’ explanation makes sense; because although many people have GA, not everyone uses it.

Assuming your site has been hacked

Another common concern when people see strange landing pages coming from spam on their reports is that they have been hacked.

landing page

The page that the spam shows on the reports doesn’t exist, and if you try to open it, you will get a 404 page. Your site hasn’t been compromised.

But you have to make sure the page doesn’t exist. Because there are cases (not spam) where some sites have a security breach and get injected with pages full of bad keywords to defame the website.

What should you worry about?

Now that we’ve discarded security issues and their effects on rankings, the only thing left to worry about is your data. The fake trail that the spam leaves behind pollutes your reports.

It might have greater or lesser impact depending on your site traffic, but everyone is susceptible to the spam.

Small and midsize sites are the most easily impacted – not only because a big part of their traffic can be spam, but also because usually these sites are self-managed and sometimes don’t have the support of an analyst or a webmaster.

Big sites with a lot of traffic can also be impacted by spam, and although the impact can be insignificant, invalid traffic means inaccurate reports no matter the size of the website. As an analyst, you should be able to explain what’s going on in even in the most granular reports.

You only need one filter to deal with ghost spam

Usually it is recommended to add the referral to an exclusion filter after it is spotted. Although this is useful for a quick action against the spam, it has three big disadvantages.

  • Making filters every week for every new spam detected is tedious and time-consuming, especially if you manage many sites. Plus, by the time you apply the filter, and it starts working, you already have some affected data.
  • Some of the spammers use direct visits along with the referrals.
  • These direct hits won’t be stopped by the filter so even if you are excluding the referral you will sill be receiving invalid traffic, which explains why some people have seen an unusual spike in direct traffic.

Luckily, there is a good way to prevent all these problems. Most of the spam (ghost) works by hitting GA’s random tracking-IDs, meaning the offender doesn’t really know who is the target, and for that reason either the hostname is not set or it uses a fake one. (See report below)

Ghost-Spam.png

You can see that they use some weird names or don’t even bother to set one. Although there are some known names in the list, these can be easily added by the spammer.

On the other hand, valid traffic will always use a real hostname. In most of the cases, this will be the domain. But it also can also result from paid services, translation services, or any other place where you’ve inserted GA tracking code.

Valid-Referral.png

Based on this, we can make a filter that will include only hits that use real hostnames. This will automatically exclude all hits from ghost spam, whether it shows up as a referral, keyword, or pageview; or even as a direct visit.

To create this filter, you will need to find the report of hostnames. Here’s how:

  1. Go to the Reporting tab in GA
  2. Click on Audience in the lefthand panel
  3. Expand Technology and select Network
  4. At the top of the report, click on Hostname

Valid-list

You will see a list of all hostnames, including the ones that the spam uses. Make a list of all the valid hostnames you find, as follows:

  • yourmaindomain.com
  • blog.yourmaindomain.com
  • es.yourmaindomain.com
  • payingservice.com
  • translatetool.com
  • anotheruseddomain.com

For small to medium sites, this list of hostnames will likely consist of the main domain and a couple of subdomains. After you are sure you got all of them, create a regular expression similar to this one:

yourmaindomain\.com|anotheruseddomain\.com|payingservice\.com|translatetool\.com

You don’t need to put all of your subdomains in the regular expression. The main domain will match all of them. If you don’t have a view set up without filters, create one now.

Then create a Custom Filter.

Make sure you select INCLUDE, then select “Hostname” on the filter field, and copy your expression into the Filter Pattern box.

filter

You might want to verify the filter before saving to check that everything is okay. Once you’re ready, set it to save, and apply the filter to all the views you want (except the view without filters).

This single filter will get rid of future occurrences of ghost spam that use invalid hostnames, and it doesn’t require much maintenance. But it’s important that every time you add your tracking code to any service, you add it to the end of the filter.

Now you should only need to take care of the crawler spam. Since crawlers access your site, you can block them by adding these lines to the .htaccess file:

## STOP REFERRER SPAM 
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} semalt\.com [NC,OR] 
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} buttons-for-website\.com [NC] 
RewriteRule .* - [F]

It is important to note that this file is very sensitive, and misplacing a single character it it can bring down your entire site. Therefore, make sure you create a backup copy of your .htaccess file prior to editing it.

If you don’t feel comfortable messing around with your .htaccess file, you can alternatively make an expression with all the crawlers, then and add it to an exclude filter by Campaign Source.

Implement these combined solutions, and you will worry much less about spam contaminating your analytics data. This will have the added benefit of freeing up more time for you to spend actually analyze your valid data.

After stopping spam, you can also get clean reports from the historical data by using the same expressions in an Advance Segment to exclude all the spam.

Bonus resources to help you manage spam

If you still need more information to help you understand and deal with the spam on your GA reports, you can read my main article on the subject here: http://www.ohow.co/what-is-referrer-spam-how-stop-it-guide/.

Additional information on how to stop spam can be found at these URLs:

In closing, I am eager to hear your ideas on this serious issue. Please share them in the comments below.

(Editor’s Note: All images featured in this post were created by the author.)

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Reblogged 3 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it