What Are Google Analytics Content Groupings

Not long ago I was doing some analysis on an Ecommerce website in order to determine how visitors navigated through to checkout. The hardest part of this effort was pulling the all pages report out of Google Analytics and conducting some Excel wizardry to filter out just the Product Pages vs. the Product Category Pages. It was time consuming and incredibly monotonous.

Another client was confident about the fact that their Photo Gallery was a top viewed page because it was constantly in the top ten on Google Analytics’ all pages report. They made the usability decision to feature this page front and center on nearly every page on the website. What they overlooked was the fact that they had hundreds of Events Pages and Business Detail Pages that were getting small numbers individually, but in aggregate were the top page types viewed on the site.

What Are Content Groupings?

Google Analytics’ Content Groupings are a way to group similar pages into buckets in order to see user behavior at a more aggregate level. In our Ecommerce example above it allowed us to group all of the Product Pages together in order to see how visitors navigated after seeing any product page. In our second example we were able to determine that the most desirable content was not Photos, but instead Events and Businesses.

How to Set Up Content Groupings

It is super simple to create content groupings. Head on over to your Google Analytics Admin and select the appropriate View. Then select Content Groupings and start creating up to five different content grouping sets. Note that you have three ways to target different content groups:

  1. Tracking Code
  2. Extraction
  3. Rule Definitions

More information on these groups can be found here, but I find that Rule Definitions are pretty robust and fairly easy to implement. Just target pages using Include and Exclude filters the same way that you do when you create Advanced Segments.

You do need to consider the different groupings you may wish to create and also note that groupings don’t talk to each other, so you’ll need to define all pages in each content grouping you create. Below are a few different types of groups we have created fro clients:

  • Products Grouping that identifies Downloadable vs. Hard Copy products
  • Site Sections Grouping that shows us how visitors navigate between Main section pages vs. Sub section pages
  • Listing Pages vs. Detail Pages to see how visitors interact with the main Listing Pages and flow through to the particular Detail Pages

We could list several more, but it really depends on your website. Ask yourself, do you have a lot of a particular type of page (eg: maybe Blog Articles) that individually are very difficult to report on but in aggregate it would make your life easier? If you have any questions about how you might set up content gropings send us an email and lets chat about it!

Digital Strategy Independence Day

On July 4th, 1776 delegates from the 13 original colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, signifying the birth of American independence. This important date in history allows us to reflect on how the United States of America came to be, but also reminds us of the value of freedom.

Freedom of Cost Data

Any data, whether it be cost, impression, click or otherwise, should be available to you at any time. There are several agencies out there that conduct paid media efforts for their clients but hide vital information such as Return on Ad Spend at a keyword or creative level. This is wrong in our opinion as transparency is what makes us all better partners. The only reason to hide cost data at a granular level is to mask the margin an agency is making on your spend. Request your cost data by keyword, by creative, or by location of ad so that you can review (along with your agency) where optimizations can occur. If your agency won’t release this information then it is time to declare your independence!

Freedom of Segmentation

Not all site visitors are the same as they all have different needs and wants. They will also navigate differently and expect to be spoken to in different ways. By sitting down and thinking through these segments you can then figure out a way to track them more effectively on your website, whether it be through event tracking or custom dimensions, and start learning how different groups interact with your brand differently. Advanced segments in Google Analytics are a great way to track audiences differently so that you can pinpoint different areas where optimization can occur. If you or your agency partner is unable to track visitors separately, then it is time to declare your independence!

You should have full control over your data and all of your marketing accounts. Don’t let your agency partners hide crucial data behind a wall. It is time to declare your data independence and work with true partners that value data transparency with the goal of optimizing your digital marketing strategy!

How to Conduct a Digital Marketing Strategy Session

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

-Dwight D. Eisenhower

Over the years we have worked with companies of all shapes and sizes all with vastly different marketing budgets. One thing seems to remain fairly constant among them all, a lack of planning time! A while back I read 7 Habits for Highly Effective People and one of the big takeaways was yearly goal setting. This exercise allows you to focus and head in a particular direction, although it doesn’t mean you must always achieve the goal. That’s why I felt the Eisenhower quote was so appropriate here, as we all need to take the time to do the planning, but the plan may go out the window quick.

Questions to Ask About Your Digital Strategy

First, start by identifying your business goals. Who are you, what do you believe in, and what would you like to offer you customers? Second, define your audience. Although some might argue this should be step 1, we’ll assume you’re already in business to fill a need of some kind. Never the less, ask yourself why your customers are in need of your services. What are their pain points and how can you alleviate them? Third, where are these customers and how do they like to be messaged? Fourth, what message delivery vehicles make the most sense in order to effectively target this audience? Fifth, does your website convey the pain point solutions and is it free of road blocks for your audience to achieve their ultimate goal? And finally, how will you plan to track success? Are you collecting the right data points and have a means to distribute them?

How to Conduct a Digital Marketing Strategy Session

So now that you have all the questions, you’ll need to answer them. This is where many companies fall flat. We recommend carving out a full week to delve into all of this as a collaborative team. A week of lost productivity is worth 10-times that in marketing effectiveness. Reserve a room with comfy chairs, stock it full of coffee and snacks, and make sure lunch is on order. Your team should be laser focused on answering the questions above and coming out with a cohesive plan of action.

Still sound like a lot? That’s ok, because it is a lot. This is why many companies don’t take the time to conduct these sessions. However the ones that do will be far more successful and while the plans may get thrown out, the planning will have been indispensable!

Want some help conducting your own digital strategy planning session? Contact us and then make sure the snacks are ordered!!

Remarketing Without Stalking

I had multiple conversations on my annual tuna fishing trip (Bluefin Strategy… get it?) regarding what it is we do here. Inevitably someone always asks; “Wait, do you create those creepy ads that follow me around the web?” While we don’t create ads here we do advise on the strategies that may drive consumers to convert. Part of that strategy is always trying to get visitors back to your site who may not have converted the first time.

How Remarketing Works

It pretty simple. When a visitor comes to your website and either views a page or takes an action you attach a cookie to their browser. That cookie stays attached to the browser and as that visitor navigates other websites the ad servers see the cookie and serve up your ad to them. Additionally, email remarketing is a slightly less creepy version of this concept, but obviously requires you to have a visitor’s email address on file.

Remarketing Without Stalking Tip #1

Ecommerce sites are the worst at stalking in my opinion because the lazy programmatic ads that they run simply just show you a few products you looked at, inviting you to return to purchase. If they instead made a more personal message pushing the product benefits or promotional aspects I would consider that less ‘creepy’. Even less ‘creepy’ might be simple brand reminders; “Hey, remember us, we’re cool!” Certainly leverage the benefits of programmatic advertising, but do not be the lazy ones simply showing a product feed.

Remarketing Without Stalking Tip #2

Remember email? Ya, that thing everyone said was dead (side note; direct mail is still an amazingly viable marketing medium I might add, and that was declared dead in like 1997). There are some great programs such as MailChimp, HubSpot, Marketo and others that allow for easy remarketing via email.  First step, PLAN! Devise visitor segments, then develop a drip strategy (eg: how many emails will you send and when) with highly targeted messaging. Don’t go crazy, but 3-4 segments with 3-4 email messages is most likely sufficient.

Why is this less creepy? Well, because in order for us to send an email to a person we had to collect their email address so unless you acquired that address through shady means (DON’T do that by the way) that visitor should be expecting some sort of interaction from you. Don’t be pushy in your email, just simply invite them back, start adding in promotions, then if they don’t bite leave them alone.

Everyone should be doing some level of remarketing to visitors who don’t convert. It is super easy and the tools mentioned above make it even easier to automate the process. We have seen clients grow conversions by 10-20% simply by adding some level of remarketing to their digital strategy plan and it’s about time you followed suit!

Google Analytics Data Retention Policy & GDPR

You have to hand it to the Europeans, they really care about their consumers. So much so that starting May 25th, 2018 the European Union (EU) is instituting the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR for short. There is a lot going on with this regulation (read MarTech’s handy guide about GDPR) but at its core it is about not storing personally identifiable information. Technically you shouldn’t have been doing this via Google Analytics in the first place, as it violates their TOS. Again, a severe oversimplification there, but that’s kind of the gist.

Google Analytics and GDPR

google analytics data retention settings

Data Retention settings are under ‘Tracking Info’ in your web analytics Property.

You may have seen an email in your inbox about Google Analytics’ Data Retention Policy and how you now have the ability to adjust your data retention settings. It is kind of a way for Google to ‘pass the buck’ a bit as they are now the ‘co-controller’ of users’ data along with the website owner, but in reality it is the right move because YOU should be in control of your users’ data and not Google. NOTE: Google is defaulting this to 26-months! If you’d like to change this you must login to the analytics admin for each Property, click on Tracking Info >> Data Retention Settings and adjust accordingly. You may also elect to use the “Reset on new activity” option, which is set to ‘Yes’ by default. This means that if a user re-engages with your site their counter restarts (eg: If a user comes to your site, then doesn’t come back for 25-months their information will not be on the block for deletion for ANOTHER 26-months).

GDPR and You

So, technically this only affects citizens of the EU. However, if an EU citizen visits your website you are now liable for their data protection rights under GDRP. So, you can A) Prevent EU residents from accessing your website, or B) comply with GDRP. I guess option C would be to just take the smug American ‘I don’t care’ attitude, but we don’t advocate that here. Again, since Google’s TOS are pretty clear about personally identifiable information you really should already be in compliance.

What Data Does GDPR Affect in Google Analytics?

According to Google; “If you limit the retention of user data to 14 months, then any information associated with conversion events that occurred more than 14 months ago will be lost, for example, the Source, Medium, and Campaign information associated with first_open events that occurred more than 14 months ago.”

But remember, this ONLY affects sites collecting personally identifiable information. So if you are collecting User ID, Client ID, or have personal data in URLs via query string (eg: /page-a?user=bob-smith) then the dire warning above is for you. If not, you’re free! (for now).

What does Bluefin Strategy Advise?

From what we can see (and we are not lawyers), we will be recommending the following settings for our clients:

  • ALL clients should double-check their URL strings to ensure no personally identifiable information is present
  • MOST clients should set Data Retention to “Do not automatically expire” and ensure that any User ID and Client ID capture is removed
  • For those clients that REQUIRE User ID and/or Client ID as part of their reporting we will be advising that they follow Google’s default and expire the data after 26-months

This advice may change down the line, so it’s always best to contact us so we can chat through your specific tracking needs before making a sweeping change to your analytics data.

The Death Valley of Over Analysis

Picture this; you run an eCommerce site and your revenue isn’t where it needs to be… and you’re only in Q1! You have a few options, you could say it’s everyone for themselves and recreate a scene out of Lord of the Flies OR (and preferably) you could do some analysis to see where the issue is. The only problem with the latter, you find yourself in the Death Valley of Over Analysis!

Identify the Issue

On a recent call we heard the following; “We’re going to tweak our messaging and turn off display, because it isn’t working. Our AB test is inconclusive after a week and we’re also making tweaks to the conversion funnel. We’re really hoping this moves the needle.” Umm, NO! While the issue is probably in there somewhere it most certainly is not going to help to change ALL of that at one time. When testing your digital strategy you have to make incremental changes so you’re able to identify what the root cause or driver really is.

But seriously, How do you identify the issue?

Start at the top? You could, but often times I like to start at the bottom. Why do I do this? Well, if I send more traffic to an awful funnel then my awful conversion rate will continue. Yes, I will drive more conversions, but the process certainly isn’t optimized. So start by evaluating the current funnel by looking at the dropoff at each step. If everything looks good there move on to landing pages and site engagement. Are your landing pages driving people to bounce? Are there problems with your call to action that drives visitors into your funnel? Still no smoking gun? Well now move on to your inbound marketing. Is one source engaging less than others? What messaging are you using for the failing channel? Perhaps it’s time to update the messaging before turning off the channel completely. Lastly, take a gander at your attribution report to see if perhaps the failing source is driving visitors too early in their decision process. You may find that while a source shows little engagement it may simply be the first way visitors find you and they return via another channel to convert.

While that was a very high-level look at how we approach digital strategy we hope it provides you with some takeaways to use on your own strategy. If you’d like a little help or want to dig into our process a little deeper why not send us a note and let’s chat!

Everyone has a plan, until

Everyone has heard the old Mike Tyson quote “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. It’s a good quote and is quite true, but I’m starting to hear it more and more in the context of strategy and I have to strongly disagree. If you are devising a strategy, digital, business or otherwise, that cannot stand a ‘punch’ then it really isn’t the right strategy. A sound strategy is a fluid one and not one that is stringent to the letter of the law. Below are some examples of strategy adjustments that we often prepare clients for when that punch happens.

Audience Personas

Back in my college days my roommate got a job at American Eagle and he remarked that at his orientation they showed him an image of some dude wearing AE clothes with captions saying; Male, 18-34, SUV-owner, and avid outdoorsman. But what happens when AE produces a line that is no longer ‘hip’ to that audience? This is punch #1. Focus on what you do/make best and adjust audiences as you go. You may have the same audience for decades, or you may find a new audience pops up and vanishes just as quickly. Be on the lookout in Google Analytics for Demographics & Interests to see if perhaps a new audience group is emerging OR an old one is falling behind.

Tactical Reversal

“Hansel is so hot right now.” Insert any tactic for Hansel and you have an ever changing digital environment. What I recommend today may not be relevant 6-months from now. This is punch #2. Monitor your Channel Groupings closely each week and each month and dig into each one to see what is driving the change. You may even discover issues with how Google is categorizing your channels. An example of this was that Google was categorizing Weebly and Blogspot referrals as ‘Social’ for one of our clients, inflating Social visits and engagement. Keeping a close eye at the Channel Grouping level helps you adjust to where the puck is going OR allows you to tweak a tactic to be better targeted.

Your digital strategy plan is a fluid document that will change over time. Your goals and product/service offering should stay consistent (with the obvious understanding that you may adjust the latter for business reasons), but how your visitors engage with your brand will most certainly need to be adjusted. So when those punches come, don’t drop everything and start swinging. Instead anticipate these areas may change and perhaps include your action plan for what to do when they inevitably pivot in multiple directions!

Is AB Testing Dead?

After Optimizely announced they were sunsetting their free plan as of February 28th the internet was abuzz with posts about “The End of AB Testing.” I’ll save the suspense now and tell you that “website testing” is absolutely NOT dead, but AB testing certainly has been in a slow demise due to neglect, not because of necessity.

A Tool’s Pricing Does Not Make A Tactic Worthwhile

Just because a tool may change its pricing structure does not necessarily indicate the demise of what it is solving. The argument goes that with new options such as dynamic ad and content targeting that you can no longer simply perform A vs. B tests. While that might be true of very large websites I can count on one hand the number of organizations I have talked to who are using such dynamic content on their sites. Furthermore, a decent majority of organizations I’ve talked to are not even doing simple A vs. B tests at all.

So Why Get Rid Of The Free Tier?

Optimizely runs a business. A business’s job is to make money. My guess is that offering something for free didn’t nearly net the revenue gains they were hoping for. Apple sold less devices, but gained revenue because those devices now cost more. LL Bean got rid of its lifetime guarantee because they were losing money on ‘shady’ returns. These do not indicate that people aren’t using cellphones nor do people no longer need to stay warm and dry. What it does indicate to me is that not enough people were using it. (There’s a Bears Ears simile in there somewhere unfortunately)

By Optimizely removing their free tier this should make every organization re-evaluate their testing strategy. Are you testing anything right now? If not then start looking at your conversion funnel. If it is converting any less than 90% then you should be testing ‘something’ inside it! If you are AB Testing and not doing dynamic content, well that is ‘YOUR’ next step. If you’re doing both, well there’s always room for improvement.

Is AB Testing dead? Well, maybe it has been dying a slow death, but not because it isn’t useful. Maybe it’s like the local gym… we all know we need to go, we buy a membership, we rarely go, then we cancel, then the gym loses money and we’re still out of shape. It’s time to get our website testing strategy back in shape! Let’s do this together >

A Lesson in Digital Marketing Audience Targeting

As we dig into our clients’ 2017 analytics numbers there are some interesting trends occurring across all organizations. We’re seeing the Mobile traffic number growing at a slightly slower rate than previous. Tablet traffic is all but disappearing. But more importantly, conversion rates are rising for those websites using some level of targeting with their marketing campaigns.

One of our clients saw over a 150% increase in their email marketing conversion rates simply by segmenting their audience sets into product category buckets. Another client saw click through rates nearly double by targeting city-specific keywords and crafting messaging specific to that group.

This should not be shocking to anyone, but what is shocking is how little targeting is used. Yes, it takes a lot of time to develop your audience segments. Sure, it takes a bit of extra work to craft messaging specific to each segment. Yup, it’s a bit of a pain to add the extra analytics tagging required to track each extra group. BUT, I can (and our clients can) assure you that the work is worth it. If you want to start seeing above 100% conversion growth the answer may be in better targeting of your marketing. Here’s the digital marketing strategy approach we have been following for years and we’re sure it will help any website looking to see exponential conversion gains in 2018!

The Need for MORE Speed

Last week we reported our triumph over the AWS server gods and expressed elation as to our 1.5 second load time gain over our switch from Go Daddy. In Go Daddy’s defense we started with a really bottom barrel shared hosting package, so even my grandpa’s hosting service would have been better (NOTE: Grandpa does not have a hosting service). Unfortunately the AWS server gods fought back hard and defeated us lowly marketers as we were unable to setup some pretty basic stuff because EVERYTHING falls on you when you are in AWS.

So the Bluefin Strategy team set out on a new search for a top-notch hosting partner. There, buried deep in the woods off CA-57 we found DreamHost! While we did some comparison shopping to the others that will certainly pop up when doing a search for “WordPress Hosting” we settled in on DreamHost mostly because they weren’t selling fancy bells and whistles, just solid service. Secondly, their homepage ranked higher when we did a Pingdom Speed test. Kind of like testing the SEO-ness of an SEO agency.

After a little user error, their helpful staff got us (me) back on track and the entire site was moved over in less than an hour. Although there was a slight learning curve of their admin panel, everything is pretty easy to find and their live chat staff was prompt and helpful. Oh, and remember that whole 1.5 second gain from Go Daddy to AWS? Well, we gained another 1.5 second from AWS to DreamHost. #NBD