11 June 2020
In this series of posts, I’ve addressed some of the reasons why what Google Analytics reports may not align with the numbers you’re receiving from advertising partners. In this edition, I’ll address two more potential causes that may be more difficult to resolve. Clicks Counted as Direct Traffic 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 has to open—the website doesn’t 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 one of our clients. A long-standing 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 almost 68 percent—far larger than what we had ever seen 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 about nine times higher than the site average. 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. Is It Fraud? 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 a sad truth, but there are vendors in the marketplace who are less than reputable. It’s not the most frequent reason behind reporting discrepancies, but it does happen. By understanding the logic behind the reports your web team and your vendors are delivering, you will be better equipped to protect your budget and yourself. This post is part of a series on digital marketing analytics. To read the others, follow this link.
29 January 2020
Author: Natalie Shawver
In today’s world we’ve taken the very definition of multitasking to an entirely new level. We’re bingeing the latest season of The Crowne on Netflix while scrolling through our Instagram feed. We’re listening to a podcast while adding something to Facebook Marketplace. We’re downloading books from the local library and reading another on our tablet. This, of course, is on top of working full-time at a career or as a parent (or both), juggling upkeep with our house, attending the neighbor’s birthday party and somehow remembering to let the dog out. We’re exhausted. And we’re wondering how we can win our time back. Many companies have cracked the tick-tock code: Netflix tells us what we should watch next (time saved on searching); Amazon has monthly subscriptions so we’ll never run out of toilet paper (time saved on trip to grocery store); and bill payments and Rx refills have never been simpler thanks to automatic bank account deductions or reminder texts. #truelove Life seems simpler with all of these technological shortcuts … and yet we’re still running around with our proverbial heads cut off and wondering where the 25th hour in the day is. Take me for example and meet my friend Liz. And by “friend” I mean the influencer I’ve turned to (who I don’t personally know but I pretend like I do) for the past nine years when I need a decision made and relief in my brain. Chicago lifestyle blogger Liz Adams of Hello Adams Family has been on the scene since 2011. What first started as a fashion blog has turned into her full-time, focus-on-real-life account from all angles. Her transition from single-to-married woman to mother of two has shown the power of evolution at its finest—all before our very eyes. Instead of writing about what the latest spring trend in raincoats is, she serves up must-have skincare, must-try recipes and must-do activities for children. And I/we love her (and others like her) for it. We see someone else in the same place of life with the same undereye circles just trying to get through the day, and we realize that heck, if they can juggle it all, so can we. Oh, and they’re going to tell me what gifts I need to buy my husband for Christmas? Sign me up. Liz is like the equivalent of the Netflix movie recommendation in human form. And, just like I trust Netflix to know what I’ll love best, I trust Liz, too. But why? I don’t really know her. Because, simply put, she does all the heavy lifting and she gives me my time back. I don’t have to think about what to make for dinner because poof! Liz emails me a recipe every Wednesday. I don’t have to figure out which home cleaning product is the safest for my toddler because poof! Liz tells me which one is. She takes a product and makes it relatable—a product that may be hard to sell (hello CBD oil) as well as ones that fly off the shelves (bedazzled headbands). She makes me feel like I need it without being used-carsalesman-y. She makes me feel like her friend—who she is trying to help save time, too. #sharingiscaring It is this uncanny need for time saving that makes me the epitome of a sponge, soaking up every possible human advertisement thrown my way. I’m a marketer’s dream. So how can a company capitalize on overwhelmed, searching-for-extra-minutes consumers like me? They can make it easy, automated and enjoyable. They can showcase have-to-have products in my social feeds, newsletters in my inboxes with curated content, and eye-catching advertisements before my YouTube video begins. They can partner with my friends (cough cough Liz) to talk about their products in a very real way. They can catch me in the small moments I have and convert me into a sale. They can use the power of influence to capture my attention and make me part of their tribe. They can give me my time back.
04 September 2019
Amidst these days of digital dominance, it’s rare to find a business that doesn’t understand—and try to capitalize on—the importance of good SEO. In fact, you’ll find that most organizations, regardless of size, agree it’s among the most vital factors for long-term success. And yet there are still some that are missing the mark on having a solid SEO strategy in place. Some without a targeted plan at all. Others who’ve just let it slide a little (or a lot). There are countless experts and articles underlining the tactics, trends and tools that still matter—and more important, that still work. SEO is alive and well, so why would any business push it to the back burner? Or worse, ignore it or table it entirely? It’s a long-term strategy. SEO takes commitment, especially from key stakeholders within a company. When it comes to digital tactics, oftentimes the mindset is to simply deliver instant traffic and hit all the desired key performance indicators. *brushing off hands* “Mission accomplished,” they think. In reality, a strong digital media strategy is more complex than that. Of course, all the paid methods such as Facebook ads, Display and Search provide instant gratification. But the critical connection is the one between your SEO strategy and your marketing efforts—meaning, are they working in conjunction? There’s a wealth of keyword information to be had from just one search campaign … including deeper insight into which keywords are actually driving conversions. It lacks a tangible objective. Crazy as it sounds, there are businesses out there that don’t know what their goals are—or have trouble articulating them in a way that can be capitalized upon. Maybe those goals have changed. Just like with paid campaigns, a business needs to have clear KPIs attached to their SEO efforts. Think about what you want to accomplish from your SEO: Generate more organic leads? Increase the number of people reading your content? Create a better user experience? Secure higher placements? Once those details are identified, a clear SEO strategy can be crafted (or adjusted). It’s overwhelming. Many times, companies just don’t know where to start. They know their business objectives, but maybe not how to translate them into SEO objectives. Or an established business has an old SEO plan that doesn’t seem to be delivering the way it once did. Regardless of SEO experience or history, the best thing to do in these situations is to run a comprehensive SEO site audit. This in-depth assessment can uncover items that need to be addressed, added or fixed in order to ensure your site ranks well in a search—presumably, higher than it was before the audit. It can also improve your site’s overall user experience and increase conversions from other sources of traffic such as Google Ads or social media. Getting Started: The place to start often is with a site audit. Through this process, you and your team will identify opportunities to better align your online presence with your business objectives. Then you can track the metrics you’ll use to measure success. SEO is never a one-off project. It’s a continuing process of responding to your customer preferences and user behavior, and adjusting to changes in both the online and competitive environments.
01 March 2019
Customers are more likely to survive a plane crash, complete Navy SEAL training, or summit Mount Everest than they are to click on a banner ad. Statistically, 85% of people won’t click on an ad, and about half of the clicks that do happen are “fat finger” accidental clicks. On top of that, 56% of digital ads are never seen by a human. It’s easy, therefore, to conclude that web ads are ineffective—but the truth is that you may have been measuring the wrong thing all along. The Web Advertising Environment Web advertising takes a variety of forms. The basic form is the banner ad, which comes in a suite of typical sizes and can be found on every website, where businesses use them as a way to monetize their web traffic. These are the most easily identifiable as ads. Other types of digital advertising include native ads, paid content designed to look like the media in which it’s inserted; ads built to be shared on social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram; retargeting ads, which use data about users’ web behavior to serve them repeated ads that follow them across websites; and search ads, which appear in the results of Google and other search engine queries. An oft-repeated statistic in the marketing industry claims that the average internet user is served more than 1,700 banner ads per month—but that number is from 2007. The ubiquity of mobile devices means that the rate is almost certainly much higher now. Clients are accustomed to judging the success of web campaigns by the click-through rate (CTR), the number of clicks divided by the total number of impressions. But depending on the type of campaign and its goals, CTR doesn’t tell the whole story. What you measure should vary depending on what your goals are. Here’s how you can plan for and evaluate a successful web campaign. Setting Expectations and Goals Before you decide what type of web ads you want to make and how you should measure their effectiveness, you need to set clear, measurable targets. Those goals will then dictate what key performance indicators—KPIs—you should document. KPIs are, more than anything, a form of communication. They allow all stakeholders to check their efforts against an agreed-upon metric of success that builds toward a desired outcome. Examples of common KPIs could be conversion rates, bounce rates, or unique visits. When CTR Matters There’s one scenario in which the CTR is very important: when there’s a call to action on a banner ad. In that case, the goal is to inspire someone to take action (click). If you’re confident about targeting the right audience through your ad buy but you’re seeing a low CTR, then it’s time to tweak the creative in order to inspire more clicks. CTR directly influences an ad’s quality score or relevance score on Facebook and Google AdWords. Use Google’s Keyword Planner to find out what customers are searching for, and use those terms in your advertising—but be sure to back them up with relevant content on your site. Boosting Visibility/Reach If your goal is simply increasing brand awareness, impressions and reach should be part of your equation. Impressions are the number of times your ad is displayed. It’s a good starting point for understanding the big picture, but it doesn’t tell you a lot all by itself because it doesn’t mean anyone actually saw the ad, only that it appeared on a web page or app. Reach is the number of unique individuals who were served your ad. Because ads are generally shown to the same people multiple times, the reach will always be a lower number than the impressions. On social media, your reach increases exponentially with each share. That’s why “going viral” is such a dream-come-true for marketers. The problem with using reach and impressions as your main KPIs is that there’s no way to directly track the impact your web ads have on conversion. So while you should keep track of reach and impressions, consider one of the following KPIs as a more educational metric: Completing Conversions A conversion is basically whatever goal you’re leading a customer to the website to complete. It can mean a sale, or filling out a lead form, or signing up for a newsletter. This is the most direct KPI, and it happens near the end of the customer engagement process—as opposed to the click-through, which happens at the very start of the engagement process. Native advertising and retargeting ads help to focus the audience for web ads and make them more targeted. Users who receive retargeted ads are 70% more likely to convert. Viewers engage native ads 53% more than banner ads. “Bounce rate” is kind of like the opposite of a conversion. Your goal should be a high conversion rate and a low bounce rate. A bounce is a single-page session on your website, meaning someone clicked on your ad but left your website without looking at any other pages. Typically, this means that your ad is promising something that the website doesn’t deliver. You can test your ad to determine where the problem is by changing one element at a time—the ad copy, targeted key words, offer or landing page—and then watching what your bounce rate does. Google explains “bounce rate” as “single-page sessions divided by all sessions, or the percentage of all sessions on your site in which users viewed only a single page and triggered only a single request to the Analytics server.” Increasing Engagement Engagement is whenever your audience interacts with your brand. On social media it can mean likes, retweets, mentions, favorites, shares, clicks and comments. Brands that incorporate quizzes, games, calculators, assessment tools or contests have the most success increasing engagement rates. Creating a successful web ad campaign takes time on the front end: establishing your goals, choosing the KPIs that will get you to those goals, and then crafting web advertising that gets you those KPIs—but time put into planning is never wasted. With our track record of winning web strategy, consider letting St. Gregory take the reins on your next campaign.
24 July 2017
30 September 2016
05 June 2015
We’ve just unveiled a brand-new version of StGregory.com, and we’re over the moon about its new look and capabilities, if we do say so ourselves. Here's why we decided to take the plunge, and what you should look for in determining whether your own website could use a refresh.
04 August 2014
Much like snake oil salesmen sold potions of dubious quality in the 1800s, search engine optimizers today promise great search rankings for your website by employing keyword-loading trickery. But SEO suffered a great setback late last year when Google unleashed a whole new set of search algorithms that negated much of the work those people
31 December 2013
The web moves fast. With tech geniuses constantly devising improvements and innovations, what was cutting-edge six months ago can be basic today. A website from 10 years ago? It might as well be in a museum. How can you make sure your business’ website is up to snuff? It doesn’t mean you have to redesign