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Archive of ‘Google’ category

What Should I Track in Google Analytics?

“What should I track in Google Analytics?” That’s a common question when I help new clients with their Google Analytics accounts. And my reply – which I’m sure is frustrating – is “That depends”. The amount of data available is overwhelming and I encourage people to not track every single number.  Instead I suggest a few metrics that are important for all website owners while also reminding people that they are only numbers. It’s up to us as marketers to decide what to do with those numbers.


Are Smart Goals and Smart Lists in Google AdWords Really Smart?

Google offers Smart Goals and Smart Lists that can be helpful for advertisers that are new to AdWords. Both are described below along with how they might be helpful. However, they are not recommended for advertisers who are experienced and have conversions set up on their website since advertisers do not have control over these two metrics.

Smart Goals

Smart Goals are admittedly a fuzzy metric in Google Analytics.  According to Google , they measure smart goals by applying “machine learning across thousands of websites that use Google Analytics and have opted in to share anonymized conversion data.  From this information, we can distill dozens of key factors that correlate with likelihood to convert: things like session duration, pages per session, location, device and browser.  We can then apply these key factors to any website. The easiest way to think about Smart Goals is that they reflect your website visits that our model indicates are most likely to lead to conversions.


Getting to Know Personal Tools and Assets in Google Analytics

Hidden in the Admin area of Google Analytics, you will see a section under Views for Personal Tools & Assets. These features and reasons for exploring them area defined below.

Getting to know1

Segments: If you are not already familiar with segments, please read a previous post about how to use them. You can access them from the regular Reporting view, and they are also stored here in the Admin area of your account.

Annotations: I describe these as “post-it notes” in your account. You can highlight a date in your account when a significant offline event occurred. It could be after you presented to a large in-person audience or distributed a print mailing.  It’s useful for any time-specific event that may influence website behavior. These too are accessible from the reporting section under graphs as seen below or in this Admin area.

Attribution Models:  An attribution model determines how much credit each channel gets for conversions. There are a number of models already built-in to Google Analytics but you might want to create your own when you have a unique perspective on how your channels will work together. You create your model by first deciding which baseline model you want to use as your foundation: First Interaction, Last Interactions, Linear, Time Decay or Position Based. Once this is selected, you decide which rules to apply, such as the percentage of the credit you want to give to each interaction. It is confusing initially, so take advantage of the Import from Gallery option to import custom attribution models created by other users.

Custom Channel Groupings (Beta): The default channels are viewed in your Traffic Sources and include direct, organic, social, email, paid and display. For many people, that’s enough. However, you can drill into that data by creating channel groupings based on traffic source, medium, or campaign, as well as landing pages or AdWords parameters. Let’s say you are promoting a new product line on two specific channels, such as LinkedIn and Facebook. You can create a grouping called New Product, include both of those social sources with a regular expression of linkedin|facebook and include the landing page URL for the New Product page. That way, you are segmenting out your social media data for this New Product campaign.

Custom Alerts: If you are not logging into your Google Analytics account regularly, you can set up alerts to be notified when a significant event occurs on your website. An alert I recommend for everyone is “Traffic = 0”.  In other words, it notifies you if your website is not tracking any website visitors to your site. Sometimes tracking code may break when there is a site redesign or glitch with your site. This notifies you the day it happens so you can get it corrected quickly. You may also want to know when there is a significant decrease in traffic (you have a problem) versus an increase (your new campaign is doing well). You can choose a percentage (such as a 50% change) to trigger that notification.

Scheduled Emails: Like Custom Alerts, this feature is helpful for people who do not log in to Google Analytics regularly. They can receive reports weekly or monthly with key data.  If users no longer want to receive a report, you can go to the Admin section, and delete those email subscriptions.

Getting to know2

Shortcuts: What if you log in regularly but don’t want to constantly drill into your data with secondary dimensions and in-line filters? Once you have a view of your data in Reporting that meets your needs, you can choose the option to “Add Shortcut” which makes it available under Dashboards the next time you log in.

Share Assets: This final option lets you share the configuration of the different customizations you created in the account. It does not share any of your account data. Instead, it shares the skeleton, making it easy for others to benefit from your work.

These different features are found throughout your Google Analytics account in the Reporting screen, which is where users spend most of their time. However, this is a central place in Google Analytics for viewing the different customizations you have made.

Google Mobile-First Indexing Shakes Up SEO

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

If your SEO game is good, and you want to keep it that way (or it’s not so great and you want to improve it), then this blog post is for you. Because within a few weeks or months,

Google is finally going live with its mobile-first indexing initiative, and you’ll need to be prepared for the main event. Google mobile-first indexing could have a huge impact on your rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs), so let’s dive right in to what you can expect and how to help your website maintain or improve its

What’s this Mobile-First Indexing All About?

Google is about to change the way it indexes web pages. In the past, the search giant analyzed the desktop version

of a website to index it on search engine results pages. Now, with mobile usage dominating desktop, Google will soon be indexing the mobile version of websites instead.

For brands and businesses, this means if your mobile website does not mirror your desktop site (or you don’t have a mobile site), your rankings on the SERPs could drop. Big problem.


Checklist for Migrating to a New Site Design

Launching a redesign of a website is an exciting time for many companies. Whether it’s freshening up an old look or presenting a new brand, you want to make sure it’s done right! Before you flip the switch on your newly designed site, you need a plan for redirecting your existing URLs.  Having this plan is important so you do not lose your SEO ranking or negatively impact website traffic. Below are nine items to include on your site migration checklist.

Start with a site crawl

Start with a site crawl to understand the architecture of the existing website. Note the different page types on the existing site, such as PDFs and identify which URLs are disallowed in the robots.txt file.

Download the XML sitemap

A sitemap lists the pages a website wants to have indexed with the search engines. If you want index the new pages, then you will want to map them. The sitemap is a good place to start. (more…)

How to Optimize your Remarketing Lists for Search Ad Campaigns

Many visitors leave a website without converting, which is why remarketing campaigns with Google AdWords are valuable.  And since these visitors also visit multiple sites before making a purchase, you want to make sure they do not forget you. As they get closer to that decision point, you want to remind them that they visited your site in the process, and bring them back to your conversion funnel.

To use RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads), start by creating remarketing lists from segments of your audience based on an attribute, such as their location in your conversion funnel or transactions. This is data you can glean from your Google Analytics account.

In your initial RLSA campaigns, bid based on audience behavior by choosing the “bid only” option rather than “target and bid”. With this strategy, you are bidding based on behaviors that are the most valuable and can adjust bids based on the performance. For example, you would bid differently for home page visitors versus those who viewed a specific product or even abandoned their cart. People who visit on a category page may be one a bucket of users with a moderate bid and a higher bid is given to those who got as far as adding something in the shopping cart. You may even want to have a group specifically for bounced traffic. Your strategy with this type of group would be less aggressive with your ad spend, and you wouldn’t aim for a direct conversion as your goal since they have not yet indicated a strong interest in what you offer.  Instead, with the bounced audience, bid lower and have a different goal, such as driving them to landing pages with a softer CTA that invites them to download a free guide rather than asking them to commit to a purchase.

Remarketing lists picture

With “target and bid”, ads are displayed only if the search is for one of your keywords and the searcher is on your remarketing list. It’s more focused because you are targeting a very specific audience. You bid differently on these users depending on which particular audience list they fell into. This could be the time to include competitor terms, higher funnel search terms and broad match types.  Although broad match can bring in a lot of irrelevant terms in your standard Search Campaigns, in this case, you are able to get in front of an previous visitors again in a broader way.  Once you’ve defined these groups, make sure your messaging speaks to them specifically rather than using one message for all your audiences.

The final step is optimizing and expanding the campaign depending on performance and after you have collected 2-4 weeks of data.  If the CPA on the RLSA list is lower than the regular search, you could be missing out on conversions, so it might help to bid more on those. Try increasing your bid to reach your CPA goal with more conversions.  With keywords that have a 1.5 position or higher, there’s really no need to increase the bid since you are already staying in those top three spots.

Some best practices with RLSA include utilizing different membership durations. You don’t need to stick with the default of 30 days because people may do research for longer than 30 days. When setting bids, look at ROAS, then optimize for that. A mistake with remarketing for Search or Display is oversegmentating – going very niche – rather than broad first and optimizing later. It can cut out too many potential buyers.  And finally, if you are unsure of your usual buying cycle for your site visitors, view the Time Lag to Conversion Report which is available in AdWords under Tools > Attribution  before creating your audiences.

Breaking Down AdWords Demographic Targeting for Search Ads

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

Reach ideal customers in AdWords with demographic targeting

Reach ideal customers in AdWords with demographic targeting

A few months ago, AdWords demographic targeting for search ads was introduced, including the ability to segment by age and gender. This brought joy to many brands and marketers, because they could better match ads to audiences while gaining more control over who saw their ads.

It was a definitive moment for sure. Yet if your head’s still not in the game, then this quick explanation should help.

Let’s start with an example. Say your software company has a new product and you want to advertise it. In the old days, a user would type in a keyword and, if your keyword matched theirs, it could trigger your ad to appear on the search engine results page. Now, with demographics targeting you can refine who sees the search ad, based on who has the greatest propensity to buy your product. (Careful, your targeting should reflect data on user intent, not who you assume are your buyers.)

Let’s take a look at how AdWords breaks down demographic targets for search ads: (more…)

Takeaways from Google Marketing Next

There were some exciting announcements from Google Marketing Next this week about Google technologies for marketers.  Some offerings are available now and others are coming soon. Read below for key takeaways from the event.

One second or one step

When it comes to the online experience,  brands need to stay ahead of customers and offer a solution within one step or one second.


Google’s internal research shows that a slow page load time – especially on mobile – significantly impacts the probability of a high bounce rate.  If a page takes more than three seconds to load, half of visitors will not stick around.  Online brands need to respond quickly to searchers online with a google web experience.


Google Analytics for Content Marketers

When you create content, you write not only for your website visitors, but also to reach their connections so you want to make sure your content is worth sharing.  With Google Analytics, you can see what people like based on engagement metrics and how often your content is shared.  Using the below metrics can help you make decisions about which content you want to create next.

Content Grouping

An advanced feature of Google Analytics, Content Grouping, lets you aggregate your content into categories as defined by you. You determine these categories based on how you want to report out on the content people engage with on your site.  For example, if you primarily write about Google Analytics, SEO, and AdWords, you can create three groupings and see the performance of your posts by the main category they fall into.  You can create these in the Admin section of Google Analytics by defining groupings by URL and WordPress users can easily do this with a plug-in. However you set this up, you are now able to see the bigger picture with your site content.

Social Sharing


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.