5 Easy Fixes that Will Instantly Help you Get More from Google Analytics

My Post - 2019-09-18T130640.936.pngGoogle Analytics is without a doubt the single most popular digital analytics tool of all time. Full stop. 

While it’s impossible for anyone to give the exact number, according to many different sources it’s used by over 50% of websites on the internet. And because about 30% of the remaining half is not using any analytics at all, it makes Google Analytics the dominant market leader.

There is no other digital analytics product which gives its user so many powerful features and is also free. It becomes even more powerful when synced with its cousins from Google Marketing Platform, Tag Manager, or Data Studio. Not to mention AdWords (Google Ads)…

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that for many companies today Google Analytics is a no-brainer when it comes to building the foundations of a data-driven marketing environment.

Like every engine, Google Analytics too has to be taken good care of. It can, and should be serviced and optimized. It’s like an insight motor that runs on data fuel. So if you want to make sure that your engine produces maximum energy and minimum fumes, this analytics tuning is something that should be done quite often. Especially if the quantity of data being processed by Google Analytics increases in the course of time.

Remember, analytics is just a tool. It is your company’s or team’s individual setup that should help you do things, make decisions, let you understand, measure and above all utilize all the insights you may obtain from data. You’re the driver and it’s you who should have confidence behind the steering wheel of the analytics machinery.

If you’re reading this article, you probably suspect that your current Google Analytics setup could be better or (what’s also possible) you’re not using it as often as you may think you should. And you’re probably right! But you know what? You’re not the only one!

I’m a UX consultant. My team works with growing companies helping them to build a data-driven culture for sustainable and organic growth. We usually start with a Google Analytics audit.

90% of the accounts we work on could be optimized. To say the least.

And there’s nothing wrong with that! As I mentioned above, if GA is not being serviced and tuned it may stop producing valuable insights or, the worst case scenario, stop being used at all. And it happens quite often.

If this is something that has happened to you, then this article is here to help! You’ve just made the first step in fixing what’s broken, so you’re about to become a part of the 10% of those whose analytics runs like the most efficient, ecological, insight-producing engine.

You may want to ask, if Google Analytics is such a great product, why does it need to be adjusted? Well, that’s a tricky one. As I mentioned, untuned GA is like an instrument or an engine, and in the default state it would and it will work, but different uses require different customizations or adjustments.

You can play a piano which wasn’t tuned, sure, but if your aim is to become a professional musician, you need someone to tune and customize it according to your needs. The more accurate you need your data to be, the more certainty you need.

Every business has its own characteristics and thus the Google Analytics setup should reflect that. So what might work for an ecommerce store will not necessarily be needed by a SaaS.

The following checklist will help you make the first 5 steps to improve Google Analytics performance regardless of your type of business — or help you ensure you get set up correctly in the first place.

So let’s go!

1. Set up the 3 views (Raw, Master, Test)

Google Analytics is not retroactive. There’s no magic undo button that when hit would fix the data collected, say, three months ago. Every change you make in Google Analytics can have an irreversible impact on how and what data is being gathered. This is very often the main cause of why people are afraid to change anything in GA setup at all. Sad but true. We wouldn’t want that happen to you, would we?

Luckily, there’s a very simple and easy-to-implement solution to that problem which will give you not only confidence in using Google Analytics comfortably, but also the ability to test, experiment and even undo without the fear of losing or affecting data. This solution is setting up the proper structure of Views for each Property you use.

It works like this: if you use only one View and if, for example, you set GA to filter (in this View) traffic from specific IP, this data will not be collected. At all. There is no way to undo this command to filter out some portion of data. It’s gone, whoosh, GA didn’t see it and held no record of it.

By the way, a Property is like a type or a class of analyzed object (e.g. your website) and Views are different collections of data sets related to this object. In general, you should always use 1 Property for each analyzed product as multiplying Properties for objects of the same type will only unnecessarily duplicate the same data collected and as a result slow down the GA or/and make people using it more confused. Unlike Views, you can and you should create 3 views for each Property.

This step is recommended for these Google Analytics users who have only one View. Most likely its name is something similar to ‘All website data’.

The best (and also recommended by Google) set are these 3 Views: Raw, Master, Test. – Read more

Google Ads App Now Displays Campaign Optimization Scores

My Post - 2019-09-16T124405.195.pngGoogle has updated the Google Ads app with support for campaign optimization scores.

Optimization score is a metric that was introduced last year – it’s designed to evaluate how well a Google Ads campaign is optimized.

The score ranges from 0% to 100%, with 100% meaning that your account is set up to perform at its full potential. – Read more

How to Write Excellent Subject Lines for Your Outreach Emails

My Post - 2019-09-16T123834.204.pngOne of the most effective ways to build links today is digital PR.

No other tactic gives you the opportunity to earn links from authority top-tier publications, at scale.

So long as you develop a process for coming up with great ideas and concepts for campaigns, it isn’t unusual to earn significant numbers of quality links from trusted publishers.

Often links which money couldn’t buy, however hard you tried, and it’s these links which drive real, measurable, organic growth.

Yet, I repeatedly see the same mistakes being made in outreach:

Terrible subject lines.

Subject Lines Are Killing Your Campaign’s Chance of Success

Think about it this way:

Email opens lead to reads of your outreach email. In turn, this leads to clicks to your campaign and, hopefully, coverage and links.

If your subject line doesn’t encourage the recipient to open your email, there’s a good chance you’ve lost the chance of a link from that publication.

Writing a great subject line is hard. It takes time and thought to get it right.

However, over the past few years, I’ve seen a few common mistakes made which result in bad subject lines.

Let me share with you, based on my experience of launching more than 100 campaigns each year for the past three years, how to write an excellent subject line for your outreach emails to help you improve your open rates and maximize the links earned through digital PR and content marketing.

What’s an Average Open Rate?

Hopefully, you’re already tracking the open rate of your outreach emails. But, if you’re not doing so, you need to be.

You can easily track this through platforms such as BuzzStream, Pitchbox, Outreach.io, and many more.

Open rate data is one of the most valuable pieces of insight which you can have on a campaign for the simple reason is that it gives you an accurate figure as to how many of the people you reached out to have actually seen your email.

This is so insightful as it means, quite simply, that you can change up your subject line and resend to these people.

They’ve not read your email or clicked through to your campaign, so you can have the confidence that you aren’t resending prospects the same thing twice. (This, assuming that your list has been put together properly and you’re not just blind targeting anyone without consideration as to whether your campaign is relevant.)

But, what’s an average open rate?

According to data from my own campaigns over the past six months, the average open rate on outreach emails is 41%.

That means that, even after extensive testing of what does and doesn’t work for subject lines, only 4 in 10 of the prospects reached out to actually open the email.

However, analyzing data from older campaigns which I’d now happily claim have terrible subject lines, the open rate was around 23%; only an average of 2 in every 10 prospects opening.

See why it’s so important to get your subject line right? – Read more

4 Things That May Surprise You About Automated PPC Bidding

My Post - 2019-09-16T122741.084.pngIt’s no surprise that Google, with its massive capabilities in machine learning, is pushing hard to take as much control over PPC bid management as possible.

They believe that by letting the machines handle number-crunching and pattern recognition, advertisers will get better results.

And having more happy advertisers obviously helps the bottom line and makes Google and their investors happy, too.

But when bids are automated, it does not mean that PPC is automated. Good news indeed for those of us worried about our future prospects as PPC rockstars.

There are important things to know about automated bid management and I’m going to share a few here based on conversations with advertisers who expressed surprise when our tools and scripts uncovered some aspect of bid automation they were unaware of.

1. You Can Lose a Huge Impression Share (IS) with Automated Bids

I’m not sure I can explain why, but some advertisers I speak with believe that once they turn on automated bidding from Google, the things they used to worry about in the past will all of a sudden take care of themselves.

Impression Share is a good example.

Advertisers on manual bidding monitor this metric as an indicator of missed opportunity.

After they enable automated bidding, they stop monitoring it, and when their account later goes through a PPC audit, they are surprised to find there is a lot of lost IS.

There can be many reasons for lost IS, but the key point is that automated bidding only works to try and set the appropriate bids based on what it knows about the person doing the query (probability of conversion rate), and the value the advertiser may get from the conversion (predicted value of a click).

Bids may be increased when a competitor’s actions lead to changes in expected conversion rate and value per click, but the bid automation will also try to stay within the bounds determined by the advertiser’s targets for CPA or ROAS.

So if a competitor raises bids there is no guarantee the automation will be able to respond and more impression share may be lost.

Bid Automations Are Bad at Sharing Insights with Advertisers

If conversion rate drops after the launch of a new landing page, bid automation will dial back bids so it can continue to deliver conversions at the desired target, but it will not tell the advertiser that their new landing pages are terrible, and so more impression share may be lost.

But until an alert is triggered, for example using a tool like Optmyzr, or until the advertiser notices a drop in volume, they may have become so disconnected from what’s happening in their account that they find themselves shocked to see that they have lots of lost impression share even when they assumed that bid automation was handling things.

The bottom line is that advertisers should continue to care about details.

They should monitor metrics like conversion rate, IS, etc because these are INPUTS and OUTPUTS of automated bidding but they are not the things that are automated.

2. Bad Targets Are Just as Bad as Bad Bids

The previous point covered how externalities like changes to a landing page, changes in consumer behavior, or changes by competitors can cause problems with automated bidding.

But the reason can also be related to the bids themselves.

Issues arise when targets are set badly. Think about the first campaign you ever managed and how you set the CPC bids for that.

It probably wasn’t scientific or based on expected conversion rates because you were so new to PPC that you’d simply be guessing (or relying on third-party data).

So most of us, when we set our first bid, we probably used the Goldilocks principle and we picked a number that felt good… not too high, but also not too low.

This was OK because the day after, we’d log back into Google Ads to check results. If we saw that we were getting a ton of clicks but very few conversions, we lowered our bid.

Of course, bid automation handles increases and decreases to CPCs, but we are still asked a number at the beginning: what is your target from which the system will then calculate the CPC?

Despite Google’s best efforts to suggest a target based on recent history that is likely to provide continuity in the campaign, many advertisers see automated bidding as a magical system that will help them achieve the results they never could achieve manually before.

They set a target that is too low and then walk away since it’s now automated.

That is a mistake.

Remember that bid automation is fundamentally just about:

  • Predicting conversion rates and value per click.
  • Using those predictions from a machine learning (ML) system to set the CPC bid that the engine uses to rank ads in the auction.

Knowing this, it should be clear that if you set a bad target, it may lead to bids that are suboptimal:

  • If the target is too conservative, you may lose volume.
  • if the target is too aggressive, you may reduce profitability.

As with manual bidding, it actually makes sense to monitor the performance and change the target based on what you see.

For accounts managed in Optmyzr (my company), we use an automation layering methodology to identify when automated bidding is losing impression share for parts of the account that drive conversions.

By simply letting advertisers know that there is upside potential if they are willing to get more aggressive with their targets, they can take the right action, or even simply automate this process. – Read more

Is Changing Your URL Structure a Bad Idea?

My Post - 2019-09-16T120716.410.pngThis week for “Ask An SEO”, we have a question from Emma in Yorkshire, UK. She asks:

“My blog has little traffic. If I change the structure of my URLs, is this a bad idea? Or, is it good to do it now whilst the traffic is low?”

The answer is the same as when we examine so many SEO other scenarios – it depends.

But why does it depend?

Your reasons for making a change of this nature should be deliberated carefully. Why are you making this change?

If you do not have well thought out business or platform reasons for doing so, it would be best not to entertain the effort.

However, there are times when such a change is unavoidable.

The most common reason to change the structure of your URLs is during a company rebranding, site migration or redesign where some site defining element like domain name, product types, topical focus, or platform changes no longer allows you to keep the same URLs.

There are good reasons to make a change that affects your URL structure, but the question is:

Should you change your URL structure?

The answer is if you can avoid it at all costs – do.

Why You Should Try to Maintain Your URL Structure

There are definitive reasons you want to try to maintain your URL structure, whenever possible, outside of SEO.

For instance, a change might break bookmarks users have saved in their browser from visiting your site or emails you have sent out.

Changing the URL structure, in essence, removes the direct link relationship the user has to your site. – Read more

Google Ads Offers More Choices for Automated Bidding Strategies

My Post - 2019-09-12T164013.643.pngGoogle Ads is expanding its automated bidding solutions by giving advertisers three more options to choose from.

The three new choices include:

  • A new way to pay for campaigns
  • Expanded support for non-guaranteed deals
  • The ability to manage automated bidding at the insertion order level

Here’s more detail about the three new automated bidding options.

Outcome-based buying

With outcome-based buying, advertisers can now pay only for the outcomes they care about. Previously, automated bidding only supported buying on a cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) basis.

Outcome-based buying supports cost-per-click buying for campaigns that use CPA or maximize conversion strategies.

Google Ads Display & Video 360 will optimize bids to help advertisers get more of the actions they care about – such as clicks, conversions, and installs. Advertisers will only be charged for clicks. – Read more

Optimize for conversion value with eCPC in Google Ads

My Post - 2019-09-12T104133.419.pngGoogle has added a new option for manual CPC bidding.

Google has extended maximize conversion value optimization to manual CPC bidding when you’ve opted into enhanced CPC (eCPC).

Scott Clark of BuzzMaven in Lexington, Kentucky was among those who’ve noticed the new option showing in the Google Ads.

Scott Clark@scottclark

Hey this is cool. Manual CPC with enhanced CPC on conversion value.

View image on Twitter

Why we should care

Google rolled out its maximize for conversion value smart bidding strategy to search campaigns at the end of last month. That option aims to optimize for the greatest conversion value (cart value or a value you’ve applied to your conversion actions) while spending your entire daily budget.

The optimize for conversion value option with eCPC is a simplified version of the smart bidding option. It doesn’t have a goal of spending your daily budget, and you can’t set a target return on ad spend like you can with the smart bidding option. It will raise your max. CPC bids for clicks deemed more likely to lead to higher conversion value (rather than simply a conversion) when you choose that option. – Read more

Google Ads Expands Keyword Variant Matching, Again

My Post - 2019-09-12T101854.166.pngOver the past couple of years Google Ads has expanded the use of close keyword variants.

I wrote about the initial change in April 2017, in “AdWords: Exact Match Not So Exact Anymore,” when Google altered the match type to include not just misspellings and plurals, but also function words, rewording, and reordering.

Then, last December, I wrote “Google Ads: ‘Exact Match’ Keeps Getting Less Exact,” which described how Google expanded even further to include implied words, paraphrasing, and words with the same intent. Again, this was limited to the exact match keyword type.

Now, Google has again expanded the use of close variants.

Phrase Match and Broad Match Modifier

Here’s the official Google Ads announcement on July 31, 2019:

In the coming weeks broad match modifier and phrase match keywords will also begin matching to words within the search query that share the same meaning as the keyword.

Each of these match types is different. I’ll look at each one.

Phrase match. The purpose of the phrase match keyword type was to ensure that the desired keywords remained in the order specified. Other words and phrases could precede or follow, but that phrase needed to be present to trigger an ad impression. Now Google can swap out the words for close variants. Here’s an example supplied by Google.

The example above isn’t the best. The matched queries from the “before” column both include purchase intent words “prices” and “rates.” However, the “after” column queries don’t include them. Companies that provide lawn-mowing services are likely much more interested in the queries that include pricing, as it indicates the searchers are further into the decision process.

Broad match modifier. The purpose of the broad match modifier (adding a “+” sign before a word) was to indicate to Google that you wanted that specific word to appear in a query if your ad was going to show. But now, with the new change, Google can pick a close variant. Google’s example is below. – Read more

Are you making these mistakes with your metrics? Here’s how to avoid them

My Post - 2019-09-11T123657.065.pngIt is important to audit analytics practices and maintain flexibility in your tactical approach to adapt to market conditions and technology that could affect results.

As a marketer, you are keenly aware of how important it is to monitor your website performance. It’s why Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics are so prevalent and have become integral to understanding the health of any online business. The widespread adoption of data analytics and the user-friendly reporting interfaces of Google and Adobe have led to a general familiarity with data among marketers, along with the confidence to interpret website performance using common metrics. However, while many of these metrics seem straightforward, some of the most widely used ones are trickier to interpret than they first seem. Below are three common mistakes marketers make when deciphering the results, along with advice on how to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Using time on site/page to make decisions

Content producers, ad agencies, and many other marketers love to mention higher time on site as if it is a clear indicator that visitors to your website are more engaged and a justification that you should pay them more to continue creating such excellent content. Conversely, lower time on site is generally regarded as a bad trend and to be avoided. After all, shouldn’t people be spending more time on your site and taking the actions you want them to take?

The problem here is that nobody, and I mean nobody, can interpret time on site correctly. Why? Consider these three examples:

  • Person A visits your website looking for product information and wants to download a specification sheet for a few similar products. She is also are interested in reading about new upcoming products. She spends six minutes on the site.
  • Person B visits your site and knows exactly what she is looking for, which is the name of a specific part for one of your company’s products, so she can order it via her local reseller. She knows the specific page she is looking for, where the information is located on the page, and ultimately only spends 10 seconds on the page before leaving and taking no other action.
  • Person C visits your site but has 20 tabs open in Chrome and only one of those is your page. He isn’t especially interested in your product or brand, but one of your links showed up in a search results page so he opened it to compare your product to others like it. After 15 minutes of browsing other open tabs, he makes it to your site where he views two pages quickly, clicks on a couple items on the page, then moves on again to a different tab. Eventually, the cookie for his visit times out and he is logged as having spent 45 minutes on your site.

Using typical time-on-site logic, Person A is a “good” visit, Person B is a “bad” visit and Person C is a “great” visit. That obviously makes no sense whatsoever, as both A and B are desirable visits, but C was clearly not. Unfortunately, by using time on site, you cannot determine what type of visit you’re really getting, which makes it virtually useless in decision making.

Solution: Instead of using time on site, consider using a combination of bounce rate, page views per visit, scroll depth, CTA clicks and overall traffic volume to get a sense for whether your visitors are truly engaged. Most of these metrics are already included in basic versions of Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics, however, scroll depth may require some light instrumentation work in Adobe and similarly it must be manually activated within Google Analytics.

If you use time on page because you don’t have much click-centric content for visitors to interact with, consider breaking up your text into sections and hiding some of it behind a “see more” click so that you can better understand if people are interested in reading the full breadth of your content. Some visitors may find this format less friendly for easy reading, but if you’re struggling to find ways to measure engagement, then this minor inconvenience to your visitor may be worth the risk.

Mistake #2: Relying on a single metric with no other context

Another common scenario is when the marketer uses a single metric as the sole indicator of success, without considering any other context. You might think an easily understandable metric like sales or revenue would make perfect sense. But, even with a measure as straightforward as revenue, there may be other factors at play. Maybe revenue looks good in isolation ($10 million dollars, awesome!), but you still missed your target for the quarter, and investors will not be pleased, causing your company’s stock value to tank. Perhaps all your revenue is from one customer, but what if that customer is Sears, they just went bankrupt, and you don’t have any other substantive revenue sources after Q2. Not good! – Read more

How to Use Google Tag Manager to Set Up Event Goals in Google Analytics