Digital Marketing In A Recession

We’re data analysts at heart, so when the numbers are telling us something we tend to listen. Many economists agree that a recession is on the horizon. The size and length of such an event is debatable, but regardless of its impact you must be ready. Digital media tactics are agile, allowing you to make quick pivots to your marketing dollars with the click of a mouse. So as the economy weather changes you can act fast and maximize your digital spend.

Marketing Mix In A Recession

It’s hard to pull a television or radio ad. It is nearly impossible to pull a print ad or billboard. While these tactics certainly have their place they are not as easy to adjust when things change economically. It is not always recommended to have a 100% digital marketing marketing mix. It is instead important to have tactics that can be adjusted on a dime when economic uncertainty hits. On the whole we see about a 60-70% mix of digital tactics for most of our clients. Your mix may differ, but shouldn’t be too far away from those percentages.

Web Analytics Are Key

First, make sure all of your digital tactics are properly tagged with campaign tracking variables. Second, review your analytics reports weekly to understand the tactics that are working best. Third, ensure that proper attribution is applied to all tactics in order to understand the full impact of each tactic. If you have offline conversions ensure that there is a tracking mechanism in place in order to properly attribute your tactics.

Optimizing Digital Tactics

As economic forces shift leverage your web analytics data to maximize your digital spend on the tactics with the greatest impact to conversion. Evaluate your attribution funnels, or a multi-channel funnel report in Google Analytics, to ensure your spend is driving results. Decrease spend on those tactics that drive little to no tangible value as economic signs start to weaken. While brand awareness may require some spend, a recession event may not be the best time to do so. Track every dollar spent and if it does not at least assist in a conversion it is time to pull back the reigns. Through these optimization tactics you’ll weather the economic downturn better than most and be ready to spend big once things start looking up.

Need help optimizing your digital marketing during a recession?

Use the form on this page to contact us or simply click here and we’ll be more than happy to help you navigate the choppy economic waters.

How To Import Google Analytics Data Into Google Sheets

If you’re like us sometimes you just want to play around with your data a bit more than Google Analytics provides. Maybe you want a different type of chart or simply want to combine your data with some other source. While Google Data Studio is a super useful tool for this type of task, there can be a learning curve in order to get the exact type of data you seek. Enter the Google Analytics Add on for Google Sheets.

What can you do with this data?

If there’s data in your GA account you can pull it into Google Sheets with this plugin. Dates, goals, users, sessions; it’s all there for the taking. What we like to do with this plugin is to leverage this data to create better dashboards than what GA provides as the Sheets plugin allows you to schedule this data to be pulled automatically and thus you can send your team a link that they can access at any time to see fresh data in the format you wish. While the Sheets charts have a long way to go in order to be as useful as Excel, there is still plenty of visualization options at your fingertips.

Take a look at Google’s documentation and tutorial to see what is possible. Then, start putting questions on a white board that your Google Analytics data can provide answers to. Once you know what you’re asking from your data you can begin to query the vast Google Analytics API easily using the Dimensions & Metrics Explorer. As you click on different dimensions or metrics others will gray out if no correlations are available. This Add on is a simple way to start seeing your data in a whole new light and providing better visual insight into new opportunities!

How to Calculate Cost Per Acquisition

Are you willing to buy a $10 bill for $50? Probably not. But if so please email me. Unfortunately many businesses do this transaction every single day by not understanding their true Cost Per Acquisition. It is a very simple task to undertake and ensures that your paid media strategy maintains profitability.

How to Calculate Revenue per Lead

You may have to do some ballparking here, but basically you have to look at your customer base. How much revenue on average does a customer bring to your business? Let’s say that number is $1,000. Next, what is our business margin, meaning; how much can we afford to spend and still stay profitable. Let’s say that number is $250 (eg: a 25% margin). Now, on average how many leads turn into clients? (Leads being calls, form fill outs, etc) Let’s say we average about 75%. The math is pretty simple from here: (Revenue Per Client * Margin) * Lead Conversion = Cost Threshold (for our example; $187.50)

How to Calculate Cost Per Acquisition

Now that we have a Cost Threshold we can work backwards to understand how much we can spend to acquire new leads. We need to review the analytics a bit here to determine our website’s Conversion Rate. Then we can do the math to determine how much we can spend per Conversion; Cost Threshold / Conversion Rate  = Cost per Acquisition (for our example $18.75)

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 Chicken vs. Egg Strategy Approach

Not too long ago we were redesigning a website for a large hospital chain client. During the research phase of the project we reviewed the analytics to find that the ‘Locations’ page was nowhere to be found. We further dug into the numbers and saw that site searches for ‘locations’, ‘hours’, and ‘directions’ were quite high. In the qualitative research phase we talked with customer support specialists and determined that ‘locations’ type questions get asked a lot. Needless to say, when we created the user experience there was a ‘Locations’ link front and center!

Chicken Theory

“That’s just the way it’s always been done!”
This is often a tough one to overcome, especially in a large organization. Web analytics can help sway opinions, but you may have to do some digging. We would not have convinced the CEOs about putting such prominence of the ‘Locations’ link had we not dug deeper into the data. UX can, and should, drive user behavior. But bad UX can drive an undesired behavior and could lead you to make incorrect design decisions. Dig into your data and don’t just settle on the quantitative side. If something doesn’t make sense go deeper and collect more data sets. A developer once told me that he approaches things like a 5-year-old… just keep asking “Why?” until you reach a point where an answer emerges.

Egg Theory

“Hey, let’s bolt this feature on!”
Don’t do this! A strategy is a plan, and a failure to plan is a plan to fail. Bolting on feature sets without understanding how it fits within the larger digital strategy can be immensely harmful to user behavior. It can also wreck havoc on your analytics if it isn’t implemented properly nor tagged, as we discussed in our example. When new features are discussed they must be wireframed and discussed, determining how a real life user would actually use the feature. Oh, and obviously the big one… how will we track their behavior with this feature?

So which is it?

Well, it’s a combination of the two. It is important to think through new features and undertand how they fit into your site’s overall architecture and user experience (The Egg). However, it is just as important to learn from past behavior by asking the right questions and letting a mature site give you UX direction (The Chicken).

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!

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!

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!

Oooh look, a squirrel!

In today’s world of flashy advertising, new fangled gadgets and the seemingly limitless capabilities of the internet it is easy for us to be overwhelmed.

I’m no scientist, but as I type this Pandora plays in the background, my iPhone is at the ready to my right and I am typing this on screen number one of my two-screen setup. All of this… wait, a biker just went by on the street outside my window… where was I?

The point here is FOCUS. Although you probably need it personally, I’m not necessarily talking about personal focus. Keeping your digital strategy focused is nearly an impossible task these days. With so many new technologies, tracking and targeting tools it is no wonder marketers get so overwhelmed day in and day out. So how do we get back on track? Lets ‘focus’ on that…

New isn’t always better

If you don’t know how to drive stick shift why in the world would you ‘upgrade’ your car to a manual Ferrari? This happens all the time in the business world though. Too many companies abandon their digital strategy because a new shiny object comes out promising to pinpoint audience segments with a message specifically for them and ultimately get them to buy more. Now, this strategy works when you’re ready, but not if you don’t know how to drive stick.

Stick to the basics…

Ya, ya, the basics are boring. I get it. However, typically the sports team that wins their championship tends to focus on the fundamentals, or basics (unless you’re the New England Patriots I guess). This should apply to your digital strategy. Can your analytics track the entire visitor experience? Do your inbound marketing tactics drive visitors to the right landing pages? Are the calls to action on your site clear and noticeable? These are all digital strategy fundamentals and too many companies do not exhaust their options here before moving onto the next big thing.

It’s not working…

Brand loyalty isn’t what it used to be these days. Music tastes change by the hour. And there seems to be a new diet every second. My point is that we are always quick to jump to the next thing as opposed to seeing if what we currently have could actually work for us. Are you utilizing your tracking tools to their fullest potential? Are you driving visitors to the right landing pages? Are you taking advantage of all the segmentation features in your content management system? The next new thing won’t solve the issues of you not using your tools to their fullest. It’s sort of like a power saw because you can’t use a measuring tape when using your hand saw. Your cuts will still be way off with or without the power.

What can you do?

There are some simple questions to ask yourself before going out and spending money on that latest new technology:

  • Inbound Marketing
    • Have you exhausted your potential keyword opportunities and do you have content for them all?
    • Are you out of AB testing options for your Display, Email and PPC mediums?
    • Are you unable to target audiences any more granular than what your existing tools allow? Google has MANY targeting options…
  • Conversion Optimization
    • Have you conducted AB testing on all your landing pages through your existing testing tools?
    • Have you polled your website visitors through a usability test to see what they think you should do?
  • Website Analytics
    • Do you have more than just the basic tracking code implemented on your site?
    • Have you created Advanced Segments for several different factors including particular audiences?
    • Are you taking actions based on reviewing your analytics reports?

At the end of the day there are some really great tools out there that can absolutely help your business succeed online. However, make sure you’re utilizing them to take you to the next level, not to simply stay where you’re at. Remember that any new tool requires implementation and strategy time that adds to the overall cost. Instead of looking at the next shiny thing why not try and take full advantage of what you already have? The power is there, it is installed, but perhaps just needs a little TLC. It all starts with a strategy though… a failure to plan is a plan to fail (or in this case spend money on tools you don’t need).

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!