Knowing the Ropes, Mae West & SEO

“A dame who knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up.” This quote from Mae West, who was known for her witty double entendres, is all about knowledge, self-confidence, and success. This quote came to my mind when I was reflecting on “The #1 Thing Search Marketers Should Fear Most” and its exploration of fear that can both help and hinder success. On the one hand, fear may be a motivator, but the best decisions come not from fear, but from well-founded confidence.

This led me to consider how we can dispel fear and develop confidence in our work, particularly recognizing the lightning-fast pace at which the world of SEO moves. It’s easy to get tied up by big data; gathering data is one matter and making sense of it is another matter entirely.


Analysis, Intuition, and the Abacus

Those who gravitate to SEO and other analytical fields tend to be innately analytical and choose coursework, either formal or self-study, to further develop their natural talent. They don’t necessarily disregard their intuitions, but always verify them by conducting rigorous research. Aside from developing one’s own innate ability, finding the right tools for the job can greatly increase confidence in your results. Humans have always devised methods to leverage their own abilities, and the abacus, a calculating tool developed thousands of years ago, is still in use by traders in some parts of the world today.

While it’s great to know that human traditions are kept alive, using outdated methods, like the gentleman shown above, can lead to less-than-optimal results. Let’s look at a few case studies in which modern analytic tools were successfully employed, providing confidence in the results.

Case Study: Kaplan International Colleges

Kaplan International is a global leader of English language courses worldwide. Voluminous data, however, from its global market was difficult to compile and was requiring a significant amount of time for analysts manually to build meaningful reports. Kaplan hired Digital Business Intelligence (DBi), which immediately put Adobe Report Builder into action to supersede manual report building with dashboard designs using automation best practices.

Analysts found that manual report building that had previously required six hours of work was reduced to 30 minutes, permitting more time to devote to meaningful business insights. Additional training was provided to staff to permit it to build and modify dashboards to stay abreast of the continued evolution of the business data and environment.

The end results included an improved reporting efficiency to produce KPI reports with accurate performance data across all channels for Kaplan of the remarkable figure of 92% through utilization of the features of Adobe Report Builder.

Case Study: Privalia

Privalia is an online-fashion outlet holding a leading market share in Spain, Italy, Germany, Brazil, and Mexico. It conducts flash sales that permit registered members to purchase brand name products at discounted prices, while offering the companies with the brand name items a venue in which profitably to remainder products.

As one of the largest e-commerce businesses in Europe, Privalia had a variety of challenges, including the need to process large amounts of data, track and measure international business, respond to new markets, integrate tools, and e-mail marketing, as well as to create easy-to-use and personalized user profiles within the company.

Privalia hired DBi, and Adobe Analytics was fully implemented at Privalia, with best practice recommendations for optimal performance, including training, and, importantly, testing. Dashboards and reports were personalized for each user, taking into account required information effectively to discharge each employee’s job duties.

Among other benefits, Privalia is now able to analyze the behavior of its members over long periods of time more effectively to make personalized offers resulting in a higher conversion ratio. It has been reported that Privalia now has one of the most advanced Web analytics systems of any e-commerce business in Spain.

Conquering Fear, Gaining Confidence

Never before have such massive amounts of data been available, and the challenge accurately to analyze to make strategic business decisions to increase ROI has also never been greater. The abacus, along with other computational tools, are revered and have their place of honor in the Computer History Museum—definitely worth a visit on your next trip to Mountain View. They help us to understand ourselves and how our computational and analytic needs have changed over time, but continued self-development is a 21st century requirement.


Knowing the ropes through a commitment to constant, lifelong learning leaves you, as Mae West would say, less likely to be tied up, and more likely to use the rope in creative ways to serve your goals, like the tight rope walker above. To conquer fear and gain confidence in your analytical results, employing effective analytical tools capable of operating in today’s environment can act as a partner to leverage your innate abilities.

I welcome you to share your comments, insights, and experiences on measures you have successfully employed to leverage your analytical nature.