Internal Campaign Tracking

Campaign Tracking Variables are a great tool to evaluate how various traffic sources perform on your website after arriving. However, that is their limitation and where they should stop; upon arrival. Too many times we take a stroll through the Campaigns or Source reports and start to see some odd items that immediately send the color red to the top of the flag pole!

How to use Campaign Tracking Variables

We covered this subject in-depth already, but for the sake of this post we wanted to remind our readers that Campaign Tracking Variables are simply for tracking external traffic that arrive on your website. This may be PPC traffic, Email links, or referral traffic. Basically if you have access to touch the destination URL it should absolutely have campaign tracking variable on it.

Tracking Visitors Interactions on Your Website

Google Analytics Event Tracking ParametersDo not, under any circumstance, ever use campaign tracking variables to track internal campaigns. Your internal ads, upsell areas, sliders, etc should not have any “utm” variables attached the the URL. Instead you should be using Event Tracking. Google Analytics Event Tracking tags allow for three fields (well, technically 4 if you count ‘value’) that you can enter any text you’d like. These fields are called Category, Action and Label (optional). So for instance, maybe your Category is “Internal Advertising” and then your Action is “300×250 Red Upsell Ad” and your Label could be {{Page Path}} (notes what page the visitor was on when they clicked. These events are tracked in a separate way and do not overwrite the previous Campaign Tracking Variables used to enter the site, therefore you can even attribute these clicks to the different campaigns you are tracking upon site entry.

When To Use What

Here’s a quick and handy guide on a few common instances of when to use which tracking method:

Campaign Tracking Variables

  • Pay Per Click ads (if not auto-tagged)
  • Email Marketing links
  • Text links on referring website

Event Tracking Tags

  • Internal advertising campaigns
  • Call To Action (CTA) buttons
  • External links that point to other domains from your site

Helpful Google Analytics Custom Reports

google analytics custom reportsCustom reports within Google Analytics are not as widely used as they should be. We won’t discuss the setting up of customer reports as Google’s already done that for you here: However, we’ll walk you through three reports that we typically set up immediately when gaining access to a client’s Google Analytics account.

Dimension: Hostname

The hostname is the domain that fired the GA code. Why is this necessary? Well often times there are development or staging sites where we get everything set up before pushing a site live. The hostname report can show us if those sites are still firing GA code or if we have not properly removed them. Other times it may be nice to see what subdomains are getting the most engagement.

Dimension: Hour of Day

This report is pretty self explanatory, but we have used this report a TON to see when site engagement or conversions are highest. This can help you find out when to increase marketing spends and also help to target visitors more effectively.

Dimension: Day of Week

Similar to the hour of the day, the day of week can help target your marketing spends much more effectively. Does your audience typically engage throughout the week or do conversions happen more often on the weekends? This report can also help to dictate when to launch new website additions to ensure any issues would have the least impact.

There are so many more amazing custom reports, but if you’re just getting started these are three that can help you immediately. Happy reporting!

Setting Up Your Analytics Profiles

Have you deleted an analytics profile? We analysts cringe at that thought for one huge reason; historical data trending. We have experienced a handful of clients over this last year who, for a myriad of reasons, deleted profiles or started anew. Below are a few quick tips in setting up analytics for your website that will eliminate the need to do such a thing again!

Setting Up Analytics Raw Data Profiles

This is job number one. Any time you have an account in Google Analytics you should have a raw & unfiltered profile that just keeps on truckin’ and collecting data as it comes in. This is helpful for a few reasons. First off, if you run into site issues it’s much easier to track them down without the filters getting in the way. Secondly, sometimes filters are too restrictive and it is then necessary to run an Advanced Segment against the raw data profile to see what went wrong! But don’t forget that best practice though is to make sure your goals make their way to the Raw Data Profile as well!

Profile vs. Advanced Segment

Remember that a Profile starts collecting data the day you set it up. Therefore it inherently removes the ability to review historical trends. Advanced segments are so powerful these days that it often removes the need to create a separate Profile. All you do is apply the Advanced Segment to your filtered profile and away you go. I would say that 95% of the sites we have worked with can get away with having 2 Profiles, Raw Data and IP filtered, simply because of Advanced Segments. However, if you need to restrict user access to data then new profiles it is!
If you’re considering removing a Profile or just starting from scratch take a look at Advanced Segments before you do so and you just might find that they solve all the world’s (analytics setup) problems!

Online Marketing Strategy You Say?

Current Digital Marketing Landscape

In today’s complex digital marketing landscape decisions are made on a daily basis.

  • What marketing tactics should we use?
  • Where should we drive visitors?
  • What do we do with the pages to make visitors convert more?

Often these questions are answered by pulling some data from the analytics platform and running with whatever it spits out. But what if the data is skewed, what if visitors simply don’t see what you are promoting on your pages?

This is the heart of digital strategy. Taking data, evaluating what they say, deciphering the user intent, and ultimately recommending a better approach. All too often these steps are not taken into account and the design team simply requests some data that either confirms or goes against their design theory and they move on.

The Why of Digital Strategy

Data is any marketing team’s best friend. Tracking opens, clicks, engagement and conversion happens every day, every hour, every second. But often we get lost in the data and we are no longer telling a story or creating a journey. When data alone is the only means of decision making it can easily lead you astray.

The Analytics Gap

A digital strategist can bridge the gap, translating volumes of data into actionable advice and clear recommendations.

For example, analytics may show that no one visits the “locations” page on your site. So the data would suggest that it is unimportant and can be buried. However, what if the links to the page are hidden or the color of the button/text do not stand out?

The data provided a problem, but the digital strategist can provide the solution.

The Design Gap

On the other side, a design mockup can be developed that is stunning, but when it goes live, engagement drops like a rock. Had a digital strategist been involved, they would have uncovered that 90% of website traffic views it in a browser smaller than a tablet. Since the design did not account for such a small screen size, only 10% of the audience saw its beauty.

And Before You Start

A digital strategist is the key to day-to-day marketing decisions as well as the principle of any web project. A digital strategist not only evaluates web analytics, but conducts surveys and Q&A sessions with stakeholders and visitors to gauge their needs and wants, develops website testing plans to evaluate website usability, and so much more.

A handful of hours at the beginning of a project can save you thousands in the long run and tons of frustration. A digital strategist gets to the bottom of any user problem online and helps to ensure your digital efforts are optimized for website conversion!

What is Google Tag Manager?

We’ve had a lot of clients ask exactly what is Google Tag Manager and does it have anything to do with a collection of Tag Heuer watches?. The quick answer is it is AWESOME for marketers and NO, you don’t get any jewelry out of it. Instead of telling you how to install Google Tag Manager though we’re simply going to walk through why it’s so valuable and why you should get on installing Google Tag Manager immediately!

What is Google Tag Manager?

Google Tag Manager can house nearly every tag on your website, including tracking tags for Google Analytics, Google AdWords, Microsoft Bing, DoubleClick, etc. It can also allow you to fire code on pages for various other things such as a popups, chat functionality, and more.

What Google Tag Manager is not…

Google Tag Manager does not hold any data, does not display any metrics, nor does it do analysis of any kind. And, as we mentioned earlier, it is not a way for you to manage your collection of Tag Heuer watches.

Why is Google Tag Manager Useful?

Google Tag Manager takes away a lot of the reliance on development teams for marketing needs, such as adding conversion pixels or other tracking needs. It allows a way for a marketer to quickly and easily put tags on their website without having to go through a development sprint or push cycle, as they simply add a tag into the system and click publish.

How to install Google Tag Manager

I know earlier we said we wouldn’t talk about this, but we simply want to point out how easy it is. Just like your analytics code, Google Tag Manager has a simple javascript snippet that goes on every page of your website. Once in place you use the system to define variables and triggers that fire your tags. SOME development may be needed to track Commerce or to add things into the dataLayer, but that’s more advanced and you’ll probably want help from an expert at that point anyhow (and if you do contact us!).

Google Tag Manager gives marketers more control over their website and minimizes the need for developer involvement. It’s a win-win for both sides and allows the development team to focus on other more important projects. Instantly add tags to the site and update tags at will! Google Tag Manager is an incredibly powerful tool that EVERY website should consider adding.

Google Analytics Campaign Tracking Variables

Tracking your marketing campaigns is imperative to success, mostly so you’re not spending advertising dollars on underperforming mediums. However many websites go without the use of campaign tracking variables. Now, every analytics platform has a campaign tracking component of some kind but today we will focus on the Google Analytics side of the fence, as that is the most popular.

What are campaign tracking variables?

Campaign Tracking Variables in Google Analytics allow you to track any inbound link to your website with specific variables that give you insight into how visitors who clicked it behaved on your site. These variables allow you to put each visit into a particular bucket and then even group them so you can tell if one particular group of ads performed better or if a particular website you’re advertising on performed worse. Below we will outline each variable available to you:


This is the overarching umbrella of your group of ads. Is it a “Fall Sale”? Perhaps it is simply “Widget Awareness”. Or maybe it’s just a “General Branding” campaign. You have full control over what to name these, but be sure that you use the same name for ALL ads within the group.


This describes where the ad or link is placed. “Facebook”, “Twitter”, “News Sentinel Daily”? Where does the ad or link actually exist where the visitors can click on it? Now, this is straight forward for the examples I mentioned previously, but what about an Ad Network or an Email? Typically I will use the name of the Network or the Email Provider as I may change Networks or Providers down the line and this distinction helps me see who may have done better.


This is all about the type of ad or link you are using. Is it a banner, ppc, text link, email? This one should be very broad and contain a large portion of your ads. For instance, I wouldn’t recommend using “banner” and then “flash banner”. We’ll talk about how to distinguish between ads in the “Content” section below.


This is where you can really go crazy. I typically use the “Content” field to describe the actual ad. Is it a “728×90-Blue” banner ad? Is it the “header-logo” in an email? Speaking of emails, maybe you need to denote multiple emails within one campaign, so maybe you expand on the previous example by saying “header-logo-sign-up-email”. These can be whatever you want them to be, but they should speak to what exactly the ad is all about.


Typically you will never use this field unless you are doing PPC on a non-Google property OR if you’re using a shady third-party who won’t give you the keywords they are using to run your PPC campaign (fire them immediately if this is the case). However, if you do need to use this field, it is specifically for defining the keywords of a pay per click ad campaign.

Campaign Tracking Variables in action

Create a tracking url

The easiest thing I can tell you is to simply visit Google’s URL Builder. However, I use a spreadsheet that automatically calculates the tracking url based on some formulas. This spreadsheet is great when I’m doing more than one link. Plus, it allows me to keep track of every link I use.

Naming your variables

Naming each variable the same thing is absolutely imperative. Even something as simple as “email” vs. “e-mail” will show up as separate line items. So in order to keep track of them I typically create a simple spreadsheet to ensure I use the same naming conventions.

Viewing campaign reports

Each of the sections above represent individual reports (eg: There’s a “Campaign” report, “Medium” report, etc), however you may also combine them together. For instance, How did all the “Mediums” within one particular “Campaign” perform? Or which “Sources” drove the worst conversion for particular ad “Content”?

Campaign Tracking Variable Planning

In addition to the spreadsheet I mentioned above you should first sit down and think through all of your marketing means and ensure you have a plan for how to track them all. That plan should then be put into your spreadsheet and never change the course from your naming conventions. You can’t change anything once it’s in Google, so this planning is incredibly important, as is ensuring you use the same naming conventions.

At the end of the day you should have this mantra… if I can control the link there should always be campaign tracking variables on it! If not, you’ll be blindly throwing darts at the wall!

Big Data and why you won’t use it, yet

Big data was going to revolutionize your marketing efforts. But according to an eMarketer report only 5% of businesses say that it is fundamentally changing the way they do business. How could that be? We have all the data we would ever need to micro-target our customers with the right message at the right time! The problem is lack of strategy and lack of understanding of how to actually use this wealth of knowledge. Above all else, many businesses do not have a data collection engine set up to track audience behavior and customer preferences. But fear not, help is here. Below are some common pitfalls and how you can start using Big Data to grow your business.

No Strategy, no gains

In “The Art of War” Sun Tzu talks at great length about devising a strategy to defeat an enemy. While the tactics may change from battle to battle, the fundamentals do not. Having an in-depth digital strategy allows you to focus your messaging and target the right customers but much of the data either has yet to be unlocked OR just isn’t being collected. For instance, with Google Analytics you can easily see where visitors come from. You can then see which states or cities perform the best OR perhaps which cities buy particular products. With this data you can retarget those customers with messaging around promotions or sales for said products. That sounds good in theory, but you have to sit down and map it out. You need to say “For Miami, FL visitors we want to show rain jackets” and “For Denver, CO visitors we want to show heavy coats”. But Big Data goes beyond that. What time of year do we show these messages? What about to customers who have already purchased a rain jacket or heavy coat? How long ago did they purchase? When do customers typically repurchase these jackets? This is the heart of Big Data. The ability to micro-target these audiences and spot trends. But the data itself won’t do anything. You need to interpret the data and have a ready-made message to display to the audience. Many firms are not built to handle this type of strategy in addition to just not having the time. Bringing in a third party digital strategist, such as those from Bluefin Strategy, can help you develop these strategies and messaging schemes to micro-target your audience and increase your bottom line!

I don’t Understand

As I mentioned above, there is a severe lack of understanding as to what Big Data can and will do for your company. It’s not your fault, there’s a million things Big Data can provide and you need to focus on running the business. Once you have a strategy of who your targets are and what their behavior is you can begin to show the messaging. But how? Do you do it on your site? What about in banner ads? Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising? What about offline through direct mail? There are multiple channels that allow you to take advantage of this amazing data source but understanding how to utilize them is paramount to success. The best strategy in the world will fall flat on its face if you’re not using the right medium to get the message out. Just as a financial advisor gives you investment options, a digital strategist can help you with placement options to ensure your message reaches the right audience at the right time.

So why won’t you use this, yet?

You will, eventually. Many businesses need to collect the proper data first. So step one is ensuring your web analytics is setup to collect the right data about your visitors and customers. Step two is to devise your strategy by developing audience segments and their needs. Step three is to develop messaging to each audience segment for various times of year or buying cycles. Step four is to implement the messaging to the audience using the mediums and tactics that make the most sense for each audience. Step five… success! It isn’t that difficult when you have the right tools and the right partners. A simple evaluation and strategy to get you started doesn’t cost much (maybe a couple thousand bucks), but it can reap huge rewards! Talk to a digital strategist to determine the most effective use of your data and to make sure you have all of the right pieces in place to thrive online!

We all need help!

Digital Marketing HelpI had a conversation with a small business the other day where after presenting them with several issues that are easily fixed on their website the marketing person responded with, “ya we know all of that”. I guess this is why so many of us keep driving the car despite the engine light shining a Texas orange glow on the dash? How is it possible that in today’s landscape a business can dismiss such easy wins? Below I will outline a few of the common issues with the digital marketing landscape and how to overcome them with a digital strategy partner.

Lack of Knowledge

Many marketers in top positions have come from the Baby Boomer generation and haven’t grown up in the digital world. This isn’t bad, it just means there’s a larger learning curve, and we always fear what we don’t know. Another thing I have seen in my career is that many marketers don’t want to rock the boat for fear of getting the ax. Therefore, they just do the same things every year and don’t worry about upsetting what might be ‘sort of’ working today. Trying small things can reap huge benefits, but the quickest is implementing web analytics on your site complete with Event Tracking and Campaign Tracking Variables included. This is all offered free by Google and has very minimal upfront cost when working with a knowledgeable small agency to implement a rock solid analytics strategy. Knowledge equals power and web analytics provides it!

Lack of Time

There are hundreds of mediums and tactics to get your marketing message out there. Just within the digital marketing world there is SEO, PPC, Email Marketing, Social Media… etc. Many marketers today have a traditional and digital mix and really don’t have the time (or so they think) to monitor all of these moving pieces. Therefore they simply dip their toe in the water or keep it out all together, meaning not much attention is being paid and the results will suffer. Once web analytics are implemented on the site automatic reports can be setup to show how your inbound marketing is performing as well as where abandonment points may be on your website. This may take a couple of hours upfront, but then the reports are ‘set it and forget it’. Yes you still have to read them, but you won’t have to dig for the data every month to see what is working and what is not. Now you can answer with certainty to the question “what is our best online marketing medium”.

Lack of Money

When you add the word ‘digital’ to anything everyone expects the price tag to jump wildly. And in many companies’ defense digital agencies have been taking advantage of them for years with high margins and outrageously padded proposals. It’s like your electrician. If he charges you $50,000 for a job and says it will take 3 weeks you say, “OK, if that’s what it takes”. The truth is that many companies can get real digital strategy help for as little as $500 a month or quarter. Obviously the greater investment the greater the return, but the point is that it doesn’t have to be an ‘all in’ approach when it comes to your digital marketing investment. Additionally, many companies often think they need to spend $60,000 or more bringing on an internal resource. The point is, for a small investment (as little as just $2,000 per year) you can have a digital partner by your side guiding your digital initiatives and ensuring that your strategy is optimized and driving conversion success!

Bringing it all together

You don’t have to save the world all alone. I personally know nothing about an electrical circuit breaker and my electrician knows nothing of web analytics. But I also know that when I need an electrician I go for a small shop with a person I trust rather than some large regional company. My needs are smaller and therefore I want someone on that level. Hiring a digital strategy company is no different. On the flip side, larger companies can benefit from bringing on smaller agencies with lower costs for better resources. Many large agencies hire young kids out of college, so you’re paying top dollar for junior talent. You want a firm that understands that you do not have the knowledge, the time, nor the resources to do this on your own. Bringing on a digital marketing agency helps you focus on what you’re good at and lets them focus on what they are good at, driving website success!

Web Analytics Implementation Gaps & Tips

Galileo once said, “Measure what is measurable, and make measurable what is not so.” This is the basis for any web analytics implementation strategy. Web analytics does the following;

  • Tracks how visitors come to your website
  • Measures what they do when they are on your site
  • Records if those visitors take your desired action

Seems pretty simple right? Well, it is. But where so many companies fall short is adding the appropriate code to Track, Measure and Record, thus losing valuable insight on how to optimize their marketing plan and website.

A basic web analytics implementation will pretty much give you the bullets above to a certain degree, but you could go so much deeper and answer questions such as:

  • Was the blue or red display ad more successful?
  • Which homepage image drove more visitors to convert?
  • What audience group engages with my website longer and more often?

The questions you need answered will certainly vary, but rest assured that if it happens online web analytics can track it. But it won’t do any of that unless the proper set up is in place to do so! Let Bluefin Strategy take a look under the hood and provide a quick web analytics audit to ensure your data questions have answers.