22 October 2020
01 September 2020
Author: Alex Webb
Help. The clicks my vendor is showing don’t match what I’m seeing in Google Analytics! Unfortunately, this is a very common problem. In fact, we’d say it’s the norm! Usually, the number of clicks the vendor is reporting is significantly higher than what you’re seeing in Google Analytics, which can be quite distressing. However, there are a myriad of potential causes behind this discrepancy and unfortunately, more than one factor may be at work here. Here are some reasons that the number of clicks in a vendor report won’t match what you see in Google Analytics. Common Reasons Vendors Don’t Match Google Analytics Clicks Are Not the Same As Users If you’re running display or pre-roll video ads, the vendor is mostly delivering those ads over an ad server or ad exchange and is most likely tracking clicks, which are calculated based on server logs. On the other hand, Google is tracking “users.” A user is not necessarily the same thing as a click. A user is a unique person that has come to your website. To put it more accurately, it is a unique device and/or browser. Let’s dig a little deeper. Scenario 1: John is surfing the web using Mozilla Firefox on his laptop. He clicks your display ad three times. Your vendor would count this as three clicks, but Google Analytics would only count this as one user. That’s because the first time John clicked your ad and Google Analytics fired, he was “cookied.” A code snippet was appended to him so that Google could recognize him. Now, any time John visits your website on his laptop in Mozilla, he’ll just be counted as one user unless he clears his cache or the cookie expires. Scenario 2: John is surfing the web using his iPhone and a Safari browser. He clicks your ad two times. Then, later that night, John is on his laptop in a Chrome browser and clicks your ad once. Your vendor would count this as three clicks, but Google Analytics would count this as two users. Once on the iPhone in Safari (even though he clicked the ad twice) and once on the laptop in Chrome. Unless John changes his device and/or browser or clears his cache he’ll keep being counted as one user in Google Analytics… but your vendor will count a new click each time he clicks on your ad. Now, there are instances where Google can track users across devices—and Cross Device Reporting within Google Analytics can give you additional insight into that. And of course, Google is getting smarter all the time at being able to track people from a myriad of sources, but the general principles outlined in this section still hold true. Conflating clicks with users is the quintessential apples/oranges issue in third-party reporting. Google Analytics Is Not Firing In order for Google Analytics to count a user, the Google Analytics tag must fire, which happens as the webpage loads. This means if a visitor clicks your ad and then quickly hits the back button your vendor will most likely report a click while Google Analytics will show nothing. In addition, if the visitor prevents the page from fully loading by quickly moving to another page or by pressing the browser’s “stop” button, Google Analytics may not fire. Again, your vendor would report a click because the person did click your ad but Google Analytics would show nothing because it never fired. Google Analytics Is Not Set Up Properly If Google Analytics is not set up properly, it may not accurately count users or document where they came from. This could be something as simple as Google Analytics not being installed on your landing page or something more complicated, like a cross-domain tracking issue. Traffic Is Being Sent To The Wrong Page This sounds silly, but if you’re seeing large discrepancies, always ask the vendor to verify the URL they are sending traffic to. We’ve seen cases where clients have accidentally provided invalid URLs or URLs to a different website and therefore traffic was going to an unintended location. Tip: Avoid URLs that redirect as this can cause reporting problems within Google Analytics and exacerbate the discrepancy. Traffic Being Counted As “Direct” A lot of display ad traffic happens on mobile devices, specifically in apps. This can be problematic because when a user clicks an ad in an app, their browser may open. (In other words, the website doesn’t always open within the app.) Sometimes, Google Analytics gets confused about where this user came from and just dumps them in the “direct” traffic bucket. In other words, Google Analytics thinks, “hey, this person just opened up their browser and went directly to this website.” It isn’t able to see that they really came from an app, specifically an ad within an app. This recently happened to us. A longstanding vendor reported 17,833 clicks for a given campaign. During that same time, Google Analytics was only attributing 5,734 users to that vendor. That’s a discrepancy of 67.8%—far larger than what we normally see from this vendor. Closer examination showed that this client had a HUGE number of direct visitors for the campaign period. The number of direct users was approximately 9x higher than what it normally is. After accounting for all of the previously mentioned reasons for a discrepancy and talking to the vendor, we determined that Google Analytics had been counting in-app clicks as “direct” traffic. This had not happened in previous campaigns. We told the vendor to stop serving our ads in apps and we’ve since seen a much smaller discrepancy between the vendor’s report and Google Analytics, as well as normal levels of direct traffic. There’s Fraudulent Activity If you’ve ruled everything else out, it’s sad to say, but there could be fraudulent activity going on. There are two possibilities: There were invalid clicks on your ad. Most ad servers have safeguards in place to filter out invalid clicks (like those by a bot). Typically, your vendor will deduct these invalid clicks from the total in your report. However, Google Analytics reports all users. This is an instance where the number of Google Analytics users may be higher than the numbers reported by your vendor. Your vendor has inflated the number of clicks. This could be some kind of glitch with their reporting system OR an intentional action to make the campaign appear to have performed better than it did. It’s sad that this one has to be on the list … but there are less than reputable vendors out there. So, Why Use Vendors At All? If a vendor’s report isn’t going to match up with Google Analytics, why use them at all? Great question. At St. Gregory, we’re always striving to provide the best possible results for our clients. If we can do something in-house better and cheaper than any vendor, then we will (and we frequently do!)—but if a vendor has access to some audience or technology that we don’t, we’re going to talk to them. We don’t want to limit our clients out of fear. That’s why we have stringent measures in place for evaluating campaign results and making sure vendors are really performing, regardless of what they report. How Can I Make Vendor Reports Match Google Analytics? Sadly you can’t. Seriously, we’ve never seen a third-party vendor report match up perfectly with Google Analytics—and that’s okay. They don’t have to match up … as long as the vendor is still providing value. Here are some steps you can take when working with third-party vendors to make sure you get the best results: #1 – Know that the numbers aren’t going to match going in. You’re going to have a discrepancy. Be prepared for it. Prepare stakeholders for it. #2 – Use UTM parameters on the URL you give the vendor. When you’re setting up a campaign with a vendor, you’ll provide them the URL (or URLs) you want to drive traffic to. Append UTM parameters to this URL so that you can more accurately track the traffic they’re driving to your site. When you send the URL to the vendor, point out the UTM parameters. Tell them not to alter your URL in any way! (Otherwise, they might strip the parameters off of your URL.) UTM parameters allow you to control exactly how the traffic shows up in Google Analytics, which makes tying users back to a particular vendor a lot easier! #3 – Check your landing page. Hit your landing page before the campaign launches and make sure Google Analytics is firing properly. You can use Real Time reporting (within Google Analytics) to find yourself on the page. #4 – Check your site speed. So … when you checked that landing page, how fast did it load? Did you know that on mobile devices, people expect a website to load and be functional in three seconds or less? If your webpage is a bit laggy, try picking a faster page (or taking steps to speed that page up). If you can’t do that, just understand that you might be a victim of people clicking your ad but then clicking the back button before the page can fully load. #5 – Consider telling the vendor to not show your ad in apps. After the large discrepancy we saw, we’ve become more cautious about in-app clicks. In fact, at the moment, we’ve told our vendor to not show our display ads in apps at all. We’ll probably retest this in a month or two. Update: In September 2020, Apple rolled out iOS 14 which included a lot of additions that are meant to protect user privacy. Unfortunately, these additions can cause tracking issues for advertisers. It’s too early to spell out exactly what all these issues may look like and how to avoid or overcome them, but be aware that iOS 14 may cause problems for you! If you’re seeing wonky numbers and your site gets a high volume of iPhone traffic, consider testing a campaign with iOS 14 users excluded, which is a capability most vendors possess. #6 – Evaluate the vendor on what you can document. Your vendor’s report says you got 1,000 clicks? So what. What does Google Analytics say? We take the number of impressions the vendor served with the number of users (or sessions) and conversions from Google Analytics to figure out how the campaign performed. If the cost per user (or session), CTR, cost per conversion and conversion rate are in line with what we would expect from that type of campaign, then we’re good. It doesn’t matter how many clicks the vendor reported. If the numbers are below what we’d expect to see, there are more questions to ask both of the vendor and of ourselves—for example, was there something wrong with the creative? (But that’s a different story!) Need help deep diving into your Google Analytics or vendor reporting? Our number nerds would love to help you out. Our entire digital marketing department is Google Analytics–certified and (better yet) passionate about data analysis. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.
09 July 2020
https://stgregory.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/SGG_Zoom_Call_v12.mp4 Since the novel coronavirus became the story of the year, many of us have wondered how the new normal we eventually return to will be different from what we knew before. One of the lessons the great quarantine of 2020 taught us was how to use technology for remote learning or meetings, as well as for business and consumer transactions. It’s not like the technology was exactly new. There’s almost nobody in management or marketing who wouldn’t say they’d been through more than enough webinars or video presentations in their life. But when it became the normal way of communicating with your team at the office, your kid’s teachers and even the local car dealership, things got real. If you tried to upgrade your teleconference equipment in the first weeks of April, it was apparent that many of us had already begun to see video conferencing as a long-term trend—the major online players were all but completely sold out of custom-focus webcams and deep-resonance microphones. A cottage industry of downloadable custom backgrounds sprang up overnight and if you already owned a green screen … well, why, exactly? But you just about owned the weekly staff meeting. So is more common video conferencing going to be one lasting effect of COVID-19? Absolutely. People now are much more comfortable with the technology. For many, the added experience gives more confidence that we can actually drive the technology, rather than simply submit to it. That means many routine business meetings are likely to stay on video platforms, even after social distancing. But it also means that when an auto dealership or a jeweler or your financial planner invites you to a quick video demonstration, you’re more likely to be comfortable with the experience—and respond positively. The other side of that equation, of course, is that if you are operating as one of the competitors to that car dealer, jewelry store or financial adviser, you’d better be ready to do the same. Early movers will only have an advantage until other marketers catch up. This doesn’t mean that retail stores, car lots or conference rooms are going away anytime soon. As we’ve said before, personal interaction is a basic human need. But at least for the preliminaries … or the follow-up conversations … if a video chat isn’t as personal as a visit, it’s more intimate than phone call or an email. And the barriers to that technology are coming down. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
03 June 2020
Author: Natalie Shawver
Over the past three months, we’ve seen the world change drastically. We’re wearing masks in public, helping our children round out their school year virtually and becoming accustomed to the “new normal” of social distancing—in almost every capacity. Brands and businesses have exhibited sheer determination and utter brilliant displays of nimbleness—and frankly, we’re impressed. So impressed, in fact, that we’re hoping much of it sticks around. Whether it’s contactless Pizza Hut deliveries or curbside pickups from Kohl’s, social interaction has shifted. No longer do we have to physically engage with someone behind a register for our goods and services. Send a text, wait in your car and the item will be deposited into your trunk. Wave goodbye to the retail associate and be on your way. Easy peasy. Businesses have proven, again and again, that they can put the customer first throughout the recent COVID-19 crisis. Amping up email marketing with “don’t worry, we’ll come to you!” messages and social media updates (new hours, specials or dedicated shopping times for at-risk individuals) are what we’ve come to expect. Quick virtual chats with our doctors means less time twiddling our thumbs in waiting rooms. Online grocery orders with a specific pickup time have become the highlight of our weekly to-do list. Librarians bringing books to our vehicles instead of making us search the hold shelf ourselves … glorious. So the question becomes, what remains? Does the general public expect this no-touch-minimal-interaction to be a thing forever? Perhaps. There’s no denying much of the recent purchase process modifications has given us our time back—but it’s also shifted our focus back to the basics. Consumers have a need; companies rise to meet it. The days of someone filling up our gas tank are long gone … or are they? What about milkmen delivering straight to your door? Hmmm … seems eerily familiar. Has the pandemic simply made us return to the level of service we (or our grandparents) once were accustomed to? The time when the customer’s needs came first—and that made for happier, more loyal, more satisfied customers … which therefore meant more business? Maybe. The touchpoints may be slightly different, but the journey remains the same. Hermits, germaphobes, clock-watchers and the like aren’t complaining about this added layer of instant gratification we seem to be living in. Amazon may have been ahead of its time with Prime, but the rest of the world bent over backward to stay in business and think outside the box. Kudos to operations teams everywhere. Our economy has stayed afloat thanks to your inventive and ingenious ways. And bravo to all those making it come to life. We’re saluting you with our mobile Starbucks order while we run weekend errands without ever stepping foot inside a store. This post is part of a series on marketing during and after the pandemic. To read the others, follow this link.
28 May 2020
If events or sponsorships were part of your marketing strategy at the beginning of the year, chances are your plans are changing rapidly. The industries we work in at St. Gregory involve a number of event and seasonal sponsorships. Due to circumstances neither our clients nor their partners could have controlled, not all of those plans will be working out this year. If you’re experience is similar, you’re likely working out adjustments and revisions already. There will be pain. Whether that pain is going to last depends to a great degree on how you approached the sponsorship from the beginning and what you and the partner expect from the relationship. Are you just casually dating the other brand or looking for a serious commitment? A common offer from sponsorship partners is to roll over your investment to the following year. That may come with some added value thrown in or an option on the Platinum Level package at the Gold rate. Or whatever. So, should you bite? Extending sponsorship agreements to make up for cancelled events or a shortened sports season is one option, but it only makes sense if the sponsorship still fits with next year’s strategy. And that’s the key. Sponsorships are most effective when there is real alignment between the two brands in the partnership. In the best partnerships, fans or participants are attracted by some attribute that your brand shares, whether that’s adventure, competition, compassion or a love of kittens. When that alignment is there, your sponsorship partner can deliver value far greater than attendance figures and camera time. Those are relationships that increase in value over time, meaning that despite the pain you’re experiencing now, the longer-term investment just may be worth it.
29 April 2020
Author: Steve Bleh
If you’re from the do-more-with-less school of marketing, what a time to be alive for you. But for brands who need to stay engaged with their audiences despite social distancing and restrictions on the size of gatherings, the last few weeks have been a time to get creative. Absent the ability to pull together photo or video shoots, many marketers have been forced to rely on existing assets or (horrors!) stock images and video. But some organizations have turned to their people and members of their own audiences for new content that’s both fresh and relevant. And when the content and execution matches brand identity, the shared experiences can be not just impressive, but inspiring. An example of that is the Parks @ Home campaign from our friends (and clients) at Great Parks of Hamilton County. The parks remain open, but with picnic areas, playground equipment and especially restrooms off-limits, it can be challenging for families with young children to enjoy a visit, even on a beautiful spring day. With the help of the Great Parks pros, they’ve created online experiences, educational content, learning activities and enriching games to engage kids and their parents. http://stgregory.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/20_0442_GREATPARKS_FAMILIES_15_HD.mp4 Most notably, it presents an opportunity for members of their audience to connect with each other through the program, with shared activities and exercises that foster conversation and build lasting engagement. Great Parks has some distinct advantages and they’ve created a way to leverage those assets to keep their audiences engaged during social distancing. Brands who do likewise will see it pay off once we get back to something closer to normal. What’s your brand’s advantage?
26 February 2020
Your business-to-business campaign clearly explains the advantages of your product. Your sales team has demonstrated the ease of operation, heuristic design and how it fits into your customer’s process. You’ve checked every box the decision maker needs to make an informed, rational, solid business decision. Still … nothing. Why does it take so long to make what you know is the obvious choice? Sometimes as marketers we lose sight of who’s making the purchase decision … and how. Our target customer may be an owner, operations manager, a manufacturing VP, a design engineer or some other business decision-maker. These are professionals who can be counted on to evaluate benefits, lifetime cost and ROI, and they surely use these metrics to explain their choices in the board room. But your customers are not just rational economic actors: They’re human beings. And people can’t help but make decisions with their emotions first. In addition to your customers’ business needs, how will going with your offering affect her or him personally? There are some questions that never get asked out loud. Sure, maybe it does everything you say, but am I going to have to fight with shipping to take advantage of all those features? Is my family going to forget what I look like while we’re switching over? Of course, it can be adjusted quickly and easily, but am I going to be taking calls from the production floor all weekend? All the research in the world is no substitute for understanding your audience as real-live people. There’s a good chance your decision makers are worried about more than their business. They’re worried about their jobs. And their lives. If your marketing can answer the questions that never get asked out loud, you can win their hearts. Their minds will follow.
06 January 2020
There’s no denying that we live in a review culture now. Social media started it, and online retailers made it the norm. Often overlooked, this element of word-of-mouth marketing has become one of the most powerful drivers of sales, particularly in the “decision” phase of the buyer’s journey.
04 December 2019
Author: Steve Bleh
Any plan for identifying, targeting and attracting customers to your brand almost always involves some sort of analysis of the customer journey. It’s the path from the Zero Moment of Truth, through something like a Sales Funnel, and leading ultimately to the Last Three Feet. Then we’re done, right? Everybody high-five and start filling out the awards submissions. The reality is that last moment of truth is not where the marketer’s job ends—it’s just where it starts over. With some notable exceptions—burial plots come immediately to mind—most of the brands and clients we serve are hoping for something more than a one-off transaction. So, what can we do to keep those customers coming back for more? First, be certain that the earliest customer experience is not only more than they expect, but clearly what they expect. Advertising messages that confuse your audience or imply a different kind of experience will leave guests confused, disappointed or worse. That means that a clear definition of who the product or service is for has to be baked into your strategy. This requires an analysis that goes beyond demographics or psychographics and gets to what customer need that initial purchase meets. It’s fair to say that the MegaMart and the art gallery have very different customer profiles, but patrons of the arts still, on occasion, need batteries or shoelaces. Second, anticipate that there still will be customers who walk away confused, disappointed or worse. Whether it’s because of an operations issue or a disconnect in your messaging doesn’t matter—it’s still marketing’s problem to address. There once was a saying that a satisfied customer tells two people, but a dissatisfied one tells 12. That’s still mostly true, but through social media that unhappy customer could reach 12 dozen or 12,000 in a matter of hours. Have a plan for responding to these situations that in a way that reinforces your accurate brand story and reinforces your commitment to meeting and exceeding expectations. Third—and this where the journey starts over at the beginning—your marketing plan needs to remind all those happy (or at least satisfied) customers about the best parts of their experience invite them back. Many mass-market retailers and food service establishments solicit comments at the cash register or create rewarded surveys. For high-value purchases or those that are less frequent, consider a personal contact to ask about the experience—good or bad—and even to ask for referrals. With so many options for any service or product in the market, brands need to make sure that every step the customer takes with you is on the right path. The first transaction is just the beginning of the relationship. And the beginning of a new journey.