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Google Analytics: The Big Picture

Since I spend a lot of time in Google Analytics accounts, I can easily get bogged down by the all the data available. Occasionally, I need a reminder to step back and look at the big picture and the overall marketing strategy for each client. What exactly are clients hoping to accomplish and what actions on their web sites will lead to meaningful outcomes? Rather than looking at numbers that are subjectively judged as “good” or “bad”, they need to be viewed in the context of the client’s big picture.

Understand the Customers

A client may have a section on a website that he or she thinks is fantastic. It may present a good picture of the work a particular client does or highlights their next big thing. But the customers – in terms of website visitors – may not agree. If they spend a time of time on a website and it’s not where or how it was expected, it’s worth spending some extra time on that section of the site with the critical eye of a customer. Is there a segment of your business you haven’t given much attention because you want to promote something else? If you want to push “A”, but website visitors indicate a more significant interest in “B”, take that into consideration when you look at the big picture of your strategy.

Remember Your Ultimate Outcomes

If a large number of website visitors sign up for your email newsletter, that does seem like a good thing, right? But what if the people who sign up for your email newsletters turn out to be very interested in your content, but for some reason, do not convert to customers. Your outcome – as with any business – is to make money. So you need to look beyond the metrics to see if those positive numbers regarding behavior eventually convert to revenue.

Be Willing to Make Changes

You may have someone on your staff that loves Pinterest and does a great job with it. However, as you look at your data, you find that it is not producing the same results you see with your Instagram content. It does not mean you should automatically throw out that channel. It does mean that it may be worth looking at the different channels that send you traffic. Review the performance with your channels – not just the social media ones – and do so in the context of your overall strategy. It could be time to make some changes in channels used or how they are used.

Focus on Your Popular Content

Pay attention to the content that attracts most of your traffic. Those pages probably rank well in organic search and may be linked to frequently by other referral sources. Look for a general theme of what seems to resonate with visitors. You could potentially update the most popular content, allowing you to re-purpose it. This could also be an opportunity to link to content that you think will bring some conversions, but it just happens to not be ranking well yet in organic search. Linking popular content to it could help increase that traffic. And remember any goals happening with popular content should relate to the big picture of what you want from visitors.

Make Sure Your Goals Measure Meaningful Calls-to-Action

The main goal types that do not need any coding knowledge are destination, duration, and depth. The fourth one, Event Tracking, is a more advanced concept. It’s easy to go in and randomly create multiple goals in each of these built-in categories, but make sure there is a larger purpose for what you’re doing. Are they right goals for each of your business objectives?

Google Analytics data is a fantastic tool for business – in a larger context. Make sure your analytics staff and management are working together. If you do not yet have goals, you need to start there before you use your analytics data in a meaningful way. Also, incorporate qualitative and competitive data as part of your investigation. Multiple sources will enable you to do a more comprehensive analysis of your strategy.

 

5 Google Analytics Performance Dashboards

Google Analytics Dashboards are a great tool for my clients who do not like logging into their accounts. They often become overwhelmed with the amount of data in analytics and prefer to see data at a glance.

I have a previous post on how to use the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery for dashboards. The gallery permits you to use dashboards created by other Google Analytics users.  But even that can be overwhelming with hundreds of dashboards to choose from.

Below I’ve listed five of my favorites for measuring performance with Google Analytics. Please note that I did start with some dashboards I imported from the gallery and modified them to be a better fit for my reporting needs. Each heading below links to a dashboard you can automatically add to your account as long as you are logged into Google Analytics when you click on the link.

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Organic Search Performance

How often are people finding you through organic search?  With this dashboard, you can see the behavior of people coming to your site through organic search results. And yes, it probably will primarily be Google for your organic source, but you can see other sources of organic searches such as Bing, Yahoo, or AOL. You can also measure how this source impacts the number goals completed and pages viewed.

Paid Search Performance (AdWords)

Advertisers will definitely want to see how their paid campaigns perform when compared to other channels, such as organic or email. It’s also valuable to drill into paid campaigns to compare them to each other. Are visitors performing a desired action in one campaign more so than the others?  Although this dashboard is for AdWords, it can be modified to also view other paid campaigns, such as with Facebook or Bing.

Social Media Performance

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How to Measure Display Campaign Performance in Google Analytics

When it comes to online marketing, measuring the performance of an ad on the Display Network is similar to measuring the performance of any other traffic source, such as Search Network ads. But what needs to be considered when viewing these metrics is that display ads are often better for branding rather than a direct conversion. When you analyze your data, it is important to keep this in mind when deciding whether your display ads are worth the investment.

In general, ads on the Display Network have a slightly higher bounce rate and fewer pages per visit than other traffic sources. Users who respond to a display ad often were not looking for your product or service at the time so their response is more passive than a visitor who is actively searching for something. As a result, your visitors are somewhat interested in what you have to offer but they are not actively seeking it.  As a side note with these ads, you want to write compelling headlines, but not click-bait headlines. With a click-bait headline, visitors click only out of curiosity, not necessarily a genuine interest in what you have to offer so it is probably not worth paying for those clicks.

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With the bounce rate, you may see a bounce rate for your display campaigns of 80% whereas the bounce rate for your other sources of traffic is only 50%.  Rather than focusing on that single number of 80% for display ads, drill into this and look at the specific placements, ad copy, and and targeting methods.  Google Analytics provides this granular data about behavior by each of these dimensions.  As you drill into your data, you might find there are several placements that are responsible for the highest bounce rate which you can then exclude in your Google AdWords campaign.

Also, as you review your Google Analytics data, give a little more credit to your engagement metrics, such as pages per session, for people who come from display ads. When people arrive on your site they’re passively searching somewhere else and they spend time surfing your site, it’s a good indicator of the effectiveness of your ads on the Display Network.

The value of this initial introduction, or branding, is seen when someone does make a purchasing decision. Because they saw your ad earlier, they remember what it is that you offer and are willing to visit your site again when it comes time to make a purchase. They may bookmark your site when they reach it through a display ad to revisit at a later date when it is time to buy. Or it could be they may not even remember you when they are ready to buy, but in doing an internet search at a later date, your brand does comes back to mind when they see your results again. Keep these factors in mind when you review the performance of your display ad campaigns.

Of course, everyone who runs paid ads for a site wants to see conversions in AdWords or goal completions in Google Analytics. It makes sense. When you are using cold hard cash in your marketing, you want to see results. But when you look at completed goals with display ads, look beyond just the straight conversion metrics. Make sure you set engagement related goals which include pages per session, mentioned above, or time on site. This is also when it makes sense to have a goal value set for valuable behavior that is not revenue-generating.

Remember that your metrics for display campaigns are going to be different than your metrics on your search campaigns with fewer clear-cut conversions. This is a campaign type that is still worth using because it can attract people who have an interest in what you offer and it could get you to the top of their mind when it is time for them to make a decision about their purchase. So go ahead and try the Display Network but keep these differences in mind when reviewing your results in Google Analytics.

10 Steps to Go Viral on Social Media

10 Steps to Go Viral on Social Media

 “Let’s go viral.” It’s a phrase we hear it all the time, yet the truth is people think by just saying those words aloud, as if they are ordering a side of fries, makes it happen. And that just isn’t the case.  There are two types of viral: the random content that takes off like “Charlie Bit My Finger,” and the much more planned and develop campaigns like the “Old Spice” commercials. There are a few things both of these types of viral social media have in common, but if you’re actually planning to “go viral,” than you should be doing the following:

1.     Be strategic. If you want a campaign to take off you really need to put in the time and effort to plan it. This means studying your audience; what resonates with them, what they care about it, what channels they are on, and how you plan on connecting with them. The Dollar Shave Club is a perfect example of knowing their audience and connecting with them. The company knew who they were targeting and how to target them. This viral commercial  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUG9qYTJMsI took off because it was funny while still highlighting that brand and what they were about.

2.     Be emotional. The core of any great campaign strikes a cord with you. You feel the emotion behind the mailman donating books to a boy http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/boy-asks-mailman-junk-mail-books-read_55b6b002e4b0224d88338ba4 who was reading junk mail because he had nothing to read. Not only is it emotional and pulls at your heartstrings, it makes you want to join the cause and take action yourself. That’s real viral success.

3.     Tell a compelling story. It doesn’t take much to tell a great story in a minute or two. Great stories do two things: they evoke an emotion in you and inspire you enough for you to share it. When you tell a story, whether it’s a blog post or video, the goal is to create a connection with your audience. You tear up a bit when you see Budweiser’s Puppy Love commercial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uQB7QRyF4p4 because you have a best friend and can relate. It doesn’t even reference the beer company to the end, which was probably a contributing factor to why people shared it. People don’t share commercials; they want to share an emotion and experience with someone.

4.     Share positive content. Why? Because positive content gets shared almost twice as much and increases your chances of going viral. Several studies have confirmed this, including one conducted by Fractl http://www.frac.tl/research/viral-emotions-study-2 that interviewed 800 people and found that there was a significant correlation between the number of content views and the number of positive feelings (such as joy, interest, anticipation, and trust) reported by study participants. The bottom line: create and share content that highlights positive emotions.

 5.     Incorporate an element of surprise. The Fractl study also found there was a high correlation between the element of surprise and social sharing. So perhaps consider incorporating an unexpected twist to your campaign.

6.     Write list posts and include infographics. A study done by Buzzsumo, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/noah-kagan/why-content-goes-viral-wh_b_5492767.html revealed list posts and infographics receive more average shares than other content types. This is probably because list posts are easy to read, as are infographics. So be sure to have a lot of images and good visual component to your posts or campaign. And if you do write a list post use the magic number 10 that receives more shares than any other number.

7.     Write longer form content. It turns out that our short attentions spans might be longer than we think. The Buzzsumo study found that the top 10 % articles shared were between 3,000 and 10,000 words. So if you really want to stand out write in-depth posts that people can use as a resource time and time again.

8.     Know when to share it. The timing of when to launch a viral marketing campaign is just as crucial as launching it in the first place. You absolutely need to know your audience and when they are online. This includes the most active day of the week at the peak time on the most popular social media channel for your target market. Additionally, it can help leverage the time of year. For example, is there a holiday, event, or new promotion coming up that you could tie the launch of your marketing campaign into? Look at what’s trending and how you could capitalize on it.

 9.     Make sure people can find your content. Do you have an easy domain name or website to remember? Are you using social media to increase your awareness? You can’t go viral if people can’t find you or your content.  Not sure if you’re findable? Do a Google search to see if you come up. And not just with the exact words from your campaign, but words close to it as well. If you aren’t coming up be sure to add keywords and tags to everything you’re doing.

10. Advertise on social media. In addition to the organic approach, you should invest in advertising for more awareness of your marketing campaign. Facebook advertising usually has a huge pay off and ROI for marketing. Don’t overlook Twitter’s sponsored tweets or sites like IZEA that pays social influencers to share Tweets.

 

 

 

The Awesome Powers of Google Tag Manager

*This blog post was originally published by RSO Consulting.

If you’ve ever looked at your website analytics platform and wondered where your conversions are coming from or who is clicking on your links, then you’re probably going to be a big fan of Google Tag Manager. Not only does it save you time, but it also makes it really easy to gather exactly the types of data you want.Close-up of web analytics dashboard

Google Tag Manager is a free program that provides you with snippets of code (JavaScript and non-JavaScript) to put on your website pages. Instead of waiting weeks or months for developers to hard code, Tag Manager generates the code for you. All you have to do is embed it onto your website, and Google makes this incredibly simple, too.

Once your tags are in place, they send information to your website analytics platforms like Google Analytics or Facebook. Let’s say you want to know the number of users who are clicking through to your purchase page, and you want to know which page the clicks are coming from. You can place conversion tracking and analytics tags on your pages, which then sends this very data to your analytics platforms for assessment.

Or let’s say you only want to know when a visitor clicks on a certain button. You can set up your tags to “fire” only when a specific action is taken. Google Tag Manager gives you lots of flexibility to set up your own parameters, so you can get refined data about your website visitors.

It’s also a great accompaniment to Google Analytics. Whereas Analytics is fantastic at delivering statistics about how many people visited your website, which pages were visited or which web browsers were used, Tag Manager lets you dial in on more specific behavioral data. You can even generate user IDs, so you can gather data about specific visitors.

All of the information you can glean from Tag Manager helps you make better marketing decisions, such as where to spend your ad dollars, what type of content resonates with your audiences, and how to improve your website for an even greater user experience.

Three Strategies to Understand Visitor Intent with Google Analytics

When it comes to your website, your visitors are the ones who are in charge. With Google Analytics, you can use that data to learn what it is visitors want to accomplish. As you analyze this information, you can see if there’s any disconnect between what somebody is coming to the site for and with the site has to offer them. Here are three strategies to understand visitor intent with Google Analytics. (more…)

What to Monitor with your AdWords Budget – Part I

“AdWords is a money pit”. I hear that a lot from people who are cynical about their experience with AdWords. They spend a lot of money yet do not see any sales as a result.  And I agree that it can be a money pit when it’s not monitored closely. Advertisers who set up an account, then barely look at it will find themselves maxing out their budget very quickly with little to show for those dollars spent.  But when your Adwords Budget is monitored and optimized, AdWords has the potential for great results for advertisers – both for online and brick and mortar store. The major concepts to learn and manage so AdWords does not become a money pit is the daily budget, bid strategy, keyword costs, and conversions.

Campaign Budget

The highest level is your campaign budget. A simple account for a small company may have only one campaign because they do not need to account for variation in geographic locations or language. Others may have a separate campaign for each country or each product or service. Note that you are setting a budget by campaign. If your total spend for the month is $5,000 and you have five campaigns, you might set each campaign at $1,000. If it was one campaign, then you set the one budget of $5,000 for that single campaign.  Start here when determining your maximum spend for the month.

Ad Group Budget

Next you can set a budget for each ad group within a campaign. In the below example for a florist, they bid slightly higher on their “Brand Name & City Name” ad group because it produces the most revenue. Less money is spent on RLSA (remarketing lists for search ads) because the return is lower. If you are just getting started, there is no need to make edits yet at the ad group level. You may want to first collect data on how your ads perform in each group.

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Keyword Bids

You can also manage bids for keywords.  Below you see a slighter higher bid for the keyword phrase marketing conference compared to a business conference so this advertiser is bidding based on the return each of these words provides. The expectation is that searches on the phrase marketing conference will result in more ticket sales than business conference.  If you are just getting started with AdWords, bidding at the keyword level may be more granular than you need initially.  Unless you are confident that some keywords will produce a higher ROI than other keywords, allow some time for your account to collect data, then come back and adjust bids at a later date depending on how the words perform.

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Tracking Performance

Now that you have the basics of budgeting down, it’s time to track performance on your ads. While getting a click on an ad is generally a good thing, you do not know how good of a thing it is unless you measure what happens after the click. Previous articles on this blog talk about the importance of tracking conversions and how to set it up.

In Part II, we’ll review bid strategies which are a more advanced option for bidding.

How to Use Google Analytics to Optimize Your Website

Google Analytics not only provides a picture of the good things happening on your site which include sales and lead generation. It can also point out the things that are not working well that need to be changed. Below are five steps for optimizing your website based on data available in Google Analytics.

Identify pages with the highest bounce rates

In the Site Content section of Behavior data, you can view your landing pages. View which pages are the common entry points to your site. Are those pages designed to receive new visitors? In other words, will a new visitor know what your website is about if they land on one of these pages rather than the home page? If you see a high bounce rate, it could be that it is not a good introduction for people who are new to your business and there is some room for improvement. Pay special attention to landing pages with a large number of visitors and a significantly higher bounce rate than the other pages on your site.

Analyze goal performance

The easiest way to see how you are doing on your site is to look at your goals in Google Analytics. However, rather than looking at just the raw numbers or the absolute percentages, examine what’s been happening over time so you can see if there’s been an improvement in site performance. So yes, you will still want to look at conversions as a number on it’s own, but make sure you do watch for trends over time. And give extra attention to any spikes and conversions that may be related to a new marketing activity that you started or perhaps an update that was made to your website.

General site performance

The Site Speed section under Behavior is more relevant to the website developers then to the marketers. However if you are involved in decisions about the design, it is helpful to know if an image-heavy page seems to be causing a slow load time. With short attention spans, you are losing potential customers who lose patience and visit another site. The good thing is that this is one of those problems that can be fairly easy to fix and it’s very clear-cut.

Check the Reverse Goal Path report

In a previous article, I wrote about how the User Flow through a website might not be that meaningful for many sites. If there is not a clear path through your website to reach a conversion, it is hard to know what you are measuring other than the end result. However, you may still want to check the Reverse Goal Path report to see the pages a visitor navigated before converting on your site. It can be helpful to know which pages are the common steps followed by people who eventually complete a desired action

Look for drop offs in your conversion funnel

Once you set up goals you can see how people travel through your site to complete them with a Funnel Visualization report (found in Goals section of Conversions). With this report, you can learn which pages have a high exit rate in the funnel and brainstorm ways to improve them.

Website optimization is all about using data to make your website more attractive to visitors and make visitors more inclined to complete a desired action on your website. Looking for ways to improve your site using your analytics and qualitative data such as customer surveys is an ongoing process.

And always remember that no matter how great you may think your website is, you are not the customer. If you can stay curious about what it is your website visitors want, it’s easier to get rid of your assumptions and to be more open to creative ways for improving performance. There can be room to change your overall copy, your images, your navigation, your offers, your landing pages etc. The bottom line is if you adopt a mindset where your website is not a one-time project, you will increase the ROI with the channels used to send you traffic.

 

Inside View of Agile Marketing

Do you feel like your company doesn’t understand what you do? Do you have a constant stream of requests and ideas coming into your team? Are you expected to immediately act on all requests? Do you feel like you can’t say no or negotiate? First of all, you are not alone!

What I learned

I recently instructed the Agile Marketing Boot Camp, and this is what I learned from my students. This class was comprised of mainly management-level marketing professionals that realized it was time to make a change in the way they are doing their work. The industry is changing and becoming more technology dependent. Teams are becoming more cross-functional, and marketers are now expected to have a wider range of skills including some IT functions.

The common theme with the students was that they were overworked and misunderstood. Marketing teams typically have too many stakeholders to keep up with. Within the 30 minute break, one of the students said that she had already received multiple urgent requests. If you are not on a marketing team and reading this, you are probably thinking well that’s just business, right?

Let me paint you a picture. You have 10 people in your company who each have a very important project that month and that is their top priority. Each of these people also has three or four ideas on what they want to do to market or promote their project. This is where the flood happens because these people either cannot or do not want to execute on those ideas. That is what the marketing team is for. Meanwhile the marketing team is drowning because these 40 requests have all come into the department at the same time, all marked as “top priority.”  The last line of these emails is something usually along the lines of, “Can you get this back to me this week?” Of course they feel like they cannot just say no, and then weeks go by without any progress and stakeholders become frustrated.

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Because of the nature of the marketing industry, it is more common now that executives and stakeholders are not doing this intentionally. They are simply unaware of what truly goes into completing some of these tasks. Marketing has become technical, and with that there are a lot of misconceptions of what a marketer does. I for one can’t even explain to my friends what exactly it is that I do. Most other departments in an organization don’t really know what marketing does either.

How Agile Can Help

Marketers are seeking out Agile Marketing for these reasons. They want to find a way to help their team organize priorities, utilize their resources, and manage stakeholder expectations.  Most of the students were aware of Agile from what they had heard within the IT Teams at their organization. They understand that the Agile methodology can truly be applied to the marketing industry in an effective way because of the growing use of technology and the structure of the project teams. Some had even taken some steps to start building up an Agile framework within their department. The common pain points were lack of resources and lack of communication between teams.

Over the two days of class, we focused on how to set up a structure within the marketing teams to help them organize their priorities and create a way to become more transparent within the organization. Agile Marketing is based off a foundation of transparency within the team and stakeholders. Teams are able to use data and organized planning to communicate and justify the projects they are prioritizing and give a more accurate estimate of project completions to stakeholders.

I could tell that they were truly excited to get started on what they learned in class and they were able to walk away with tools and foundations for starting to implement Agile within their teams. If you are looking for a way to find some real solutions for your team, click here to find out more about the Agile Marketing Boot Camp.

5 Quick Tips on Writing Your First Professional Business Blog

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Writing professional blog posts for a company blog is a common task given to interns in the marketing, PR, and communications fields. But it’s not just busy work, it’s a cost-effective marketing investment in content marketing that helps drive web traffic, generate leads, and increases engagement.

It is important for newcomers to business blogging to note that writing a professional business blog is different than writing a personal blog.  Business blogging can be fun, but it’s still business, meaning content and voice can make or break the success, or failure, of your post.

In order to deliver worthwhile results, follow these 5 tips for writing your first professional blog:

Tip #1: Know Your Audience

After you settle on a topic, visualize different personas that might find your blog interesting. Knowing who your audience is will help you shape the tone of the blog post and the type of language you use. Variables like age, profession, industry, education, and experience-level will greatly affect what the appropriate tone of your blog should use.

Tip #2: Read Other Company Blogs

I challenge you to find a great writer who is not also an avid reader. And even though you’re likely not aiming to win a Pulitzer Prize for your business blog, the same applies to you and your professional blogs. You should subscribe to successful blogs in your industry and read them as much as possible. Reading other company’s blogs will provide you with a wealth of inspiration and will help you develop your own writing style.

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Tip #3: Incorporate Relevant Images

Posting a blog that’s just a large block of text will lead many readers to hit the backspace button, no matter how well written the blog may be. Adding images that are relevant to the topic and the tone help break -up the text, and improve the readability of a blog. To avoid copyright issues, only use images that your company owns, or from free stock websites like pexels.com.

Tip # 4: Create an Eye-catching, Yet Informative Title

This may just be the most important part of your writing process. The title is going to be the first thing readers see and will ultimately determine whether they click/read your post. You want to come up with an interesting title that immediately grabs your readers’ attention. However, there is a fine line between an interesting title and clickbait. So make sure your title is still relevant and informative.

You also want to come up with a title that speaks to a topic your readers might be searching. There are a few tools you can use to help with this process. The first is just Google search. Start typing your topic or keywords relevant to your topic into a Google search and see what topics autofill suggests. Another fun tool is the Blog Post Headline Analyzer by CoSchedule.

Tip # 5: Proofread…..and Then Proofread Again

Everyone makes mistakes, but posting a blog with glaring spelling and grammatical errors will hurt your credibility as a writer and the credibility of your company as well. Running your blog through online tools like gingersfotware.com and grammarcheck.com will help you catch common mistakes that we often overlook. Having someone peer-review your blog will also make sure it is ready to be seen by the masses.

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Regardless of what business industry you are in, these tips will help you develop a voice for your company through blogging.  And as long as you remember to always write with your audience’s benefit in mind, you will be on your way to becoming a great business blogger.

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