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How to Measure Behavior with Google Analytics Cohort Analysis

I introduced the Cohort Analysis in an earlier post, noting that it is a Google Analytics feature that lets you “look at a group of users based on a shared acquisition date”.  I noted that my preference has been to create segments, but I wanted to explore this beta feature in Google Analytics a bit more in this post and offer some use cases for it. You will still want to spend time getting familiar with segments because they make this feature more useful.

A Cohort Analysis is worth exploring if user retention is a key metric on your site since this feature measures behavior over time.  If you see a significant increase in traffic, this helps you determine if a cohort is responsible for the majority of that change.  You can also determine if a specific group completed an action on your site after their initial visit.

If you are interested in doing a Cohort Analysis, you can decide the size of your cohort by day, week or month; the metric (the number you want to measure), and the date range (how far back you want to analyze).  With a size of day, the cells in your resulting table will each display a single date. With a metric, you can only select one number at a time and these are displayed as columns in your table.  And the date range determines how much data will appear and corresponds to the number of rows that are in your table.

Although I primarily look at the tables, you can also view your data in a chart, which is a cumulative metric for your particular cohort. In the below example, you can see a significant drop in pageviews for each user after the initial visit, which could imply there is not enough compelling content that brings people back to the site.




Identifying micro and macro trends

Are you wondering how a specific campaign impacted your sales? Do you also want to know if a visitor from a campaign took action immediately or came back a month later? Since your cohort groups visitors by similar dimensions (such as traffic source), you can view them by a particular source, such as Paid Traffic by selecting that segment.


For this Paid Traffic group, session duration increases in some weeks after they first came on the site.  The darker color in each cell indicates the value of the metric when compared to other values in the table.


Behavior by Device

You do not need to be told that a mobile-friendly site is non-negotiable for today’s businesses. But have you wondered how behavior varies on a mobile device?  Here we can see that more purchases are made in following months for desktop users than mobile users. It’s worth exploring why that could be.


Analyzing by Channel

With segments you can select multiple channels at a time. Here we can see goal completions for this account’s paid traffic versus organic traffic. Both channels are bringing people back, but organic channels perform better when it comes to the goal completion metric.


One of the more useful features of a Cohort Analysis is that it helps you understand how long it takes for a visitor to make a decision. These views can also help you determine if a remarketing strategy is good for your business.  If you notice that traffic declines after a certain day, you may want to start remarketing at that time.

If you discover that a Cohort Analysis is useful for your business, you can save a view as a shortcut, email it, or add it to a dashboard like you would with other reports in Google Analytics.  To reiterate, this helps you analyze group behavior on your site based on common attribution.  In my opinion, it is still limited since only Cohort Type is Acquisition Date. If Google makes other options available, it will increase the usefulness of this tool. In the meantime, use segments to drill into your data for a Cohort Analysis.

Now You Can Target Facebook Ads to Those Who Engage With You

This article was originally posted on

Even if you have trouble keeping up with all of Facebook’s changes, you’ll want to pay attention to this one. Your Facebook ads can now be targeted specifically to people who engage with your page or ad, using a new feature called Facebook Page Engagement.

What is Facebook Page Engagement?

Facebook Ad Targeting

The Facebook Page Engagement feature in Custom Audiences gives you precise targeting for Facebook ads.

Located in your Ads Manager account under Custom Audiences, the new Facebook Page Engagement tool allows you to take your ad targeting a step further. You can target any user who has engaged with your page or ads, using one of these six different conditions:

  • Everyone who engaged with your page – Like the name suggests, this option targets everyone who has engaged with your page or ads on Facebook or Messenger. It gives you the broadest audience selection of the six, but it may return the least conversions.
  • Anyone who visited your page – No mystery here. This option lets you target your Facebook advertisements to anyone who has visited your page. The audience is a bit narrower than what’s available with the previous option.
  • People who engaged with any post or ad – This Facebook Page Engagement option gives you even more precise targeting. It includes people who engaged with any of your posts or ads, including reactions, shares, comments, link clicks, and carousel swipes. It’s a great choice if your content gets a lot of action, because it essentially lets you remarket to those who have already shown interest.
  • People who clicked on any call-to-action button – Any time someone clicked on a call-to-action button (in an ad or in your shop, for example), you can target your Facebook ad to them with this option. Consider this option when you want to remarket to someone who clicked but didn’t convert the first time around.
  • People who sent a message to your page – If you get a lot of messages on your page, then this option could be a great way to follow up with a special offer via Facebook ads. The audience is narrow but more likely to convert since they’ve reached out to you before.
  • People who saved your page or any post – This last Facebook Page Engagement condition is a natural fit for anyone who saved your page or your post. You may want to use this option to target this audience with ads featuring content similar to what they previously saved.

When setting up your Facebook ad using Page Engagement, you can also specify the window of engagement. For example, you can target your ad to everyone who engaged with your page in the last 180 days. Or you can narrow it down to people who sent you a message in the last 60 days.

Facebook Page Engagement is like hyper-targeting for your Facebook ads. It’s a great way to touch warm prospects who have already shown interest. Give this new feature a try, and compare your results with your previous campaigns.

Remarketing is Now Even More Important for Online Marketing

This blog was originally posted on and can be accessed here.

Global cart abandonment is on the rise – up to 76.8% over the last quarter, according to recent data. That means even more website visitors are deciding against purchases. Companies that want to improve their online marketing this year may need to consider remarketing as a means of loss mitigation. (more…)

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.


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.


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


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.


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 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 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 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 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, 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.