Why pay for a tool when there is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is free, offers so much, and there is actually no reason whatsoever to pay for an Analytics tool, right? In this post, I am sharing the three things in GA that bother me the most – coincidentally, three things that I usually get in paid Analytics tools. And no, it is not about privacy.

We all love Google Analytics. So much has been written about the great features it offers. And rightfully so. Google Analytics has made Web/Digital Analytics/Intelligence/YourBuzzword mainstream compatible. Its user interface is probably the most user-friendly on the market, its AdWords integration is just plain awesome, and ground-breaking features like Ad-hoc Segmentation, Intelligence Events or Multi-Channel Funnels have forced other vendors to innovate faster.

Some things you pay for because they really are important

Brown square robot holding black fountain pen and writing "Free vs Paid" on a pad of ruled paper

Google Analytics offers you so much awesome stuff that you may wonder: “Why pay for an analytics tool if GA gives us all this for free?” [Read more...]

Analyzing the Analytics

Everybody is aware of some simple facts in the Analytics landscape: An increase in Page Impressions is good. A high bounce rate is bad. Are you sure? Shouldn´t you educate yourself on additional synergies within those facts? It is too naïve to say that generating more Page Impressions than the day or the month before is a positive development in your digital channels. An important aspect of Key Performance Indicators for example is that they all should be set in comparison with a time interval to be able to judge the growth or decrease of the figures.

In many metrics this is a key aspect. So, again: is an increase of Server Calls good? Simple answer is: you do not know. If you want to find out – compare. Not only with your historical data (and then of course with the same time frame a short period ago: yesterday with the same day a week ago, instead of yesterday with the day before). You also have to compare your data with the market trend. [Read more...]

7 Ways You Should Have Advanced Your Digital Strategy in 2013

Wow, it’s January 2014 already! If you’re like me, 2013 was a fast-moving combination of wins, near-misses, regrets, accomplishments, failures and fun. Amongst it all, I hope you can look back and count 2013 as a pivotal year for your online strategy. Before we dive into 2014, I’m thinking of seven ways you could have, no make that should have, advanced your digital strategy.

1) Implemented a Tag Management System
I’ll start with this one; it’s a no-brainer. If you don’t have a Tag Management System in place yet, forget the other six items on this list and immediately go sign up for Google Tag Manager. It’s free, and it will save you countless hours and headaches in the future. It’s not the only good solution out there, but it’s a good place to start for 95% of businesses or organizations.
For more on Tag Management, check out these great posts: http://www.webanalyticsworld.net/category/tag-management

2) Planned a Migration to Universal Analytics
If you are using Google Analytics, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Google’s next generation framework dubbed Universal Analytics. It’s the first fundamental overhaul to the Google Analytics measurement model since Google purchased Urchin in 2005, and it will open the door for tons of great features in the future. Unfortunately, for many users, the value of Universal Analytics has not been made clear enough. While at the moment there are still some features missing that some GA users depend on (remarketing support, DFA integration, etc.), an upgrade already makes sense for many businesses. The simplified codebase, server-side options and ability to define and use custom metrics and dimensions make Universal Analytics appealing already.
Google has made transitioning to UA fairly easy, but there are still some coding changes required. If you’ve taken my advice on #1 and are utilizing a TMS, this shouldn’t be so bad. Go ahead and put a migration plan together for Q1 of 2013 and make it a priority to switch to UA. You’ll be able to quickly implement new features and functionality, including the oft-cited promise of tracking users across devices with the UserID override capabilities.

3) Executed a Smart PLA Strategy
It’s not much of a stretch to say that PLAs took over the SERPs in 2013. If you sell products online, but aren’t in the mix of Product Listing Ads, you missed the boat. PLAs offered merchants low CPCs and high conversion rates, but lately CPCs have been climbing fairly dramatically (53% increase since last year).

There is a difference, however, in having PLAs and having a smart PLA strategy. The default way of adding products to an AdWords account is actually very dumb, and it produces a lot of bad results for merchants. At this point, without a granular, product-specific PLA strategy, you may be underwhelmed with PLA performance. Smart merchants are using 3rd party tools and services to bid efficiently by inventory, category, profit margin and other key data points. Breaking out products efficiently into campaign and ad groups allows for greater control and precision bidding – just what SEMs are used to.

4) Advanced Your Remarketing Campaigns
You do have a remarketing program, right? OK, good. But how sophisticated is it? The best remarketing campaigns are built with highly dynamic designs, reach audiences across multiple platforms and are based on specific visitor behavior and time. If you are still throwing all visitors into one bucket called “All Audiences,” it’s time to take it to the next level.

5) Cursed Google for Taking Away Keyword Data
Ok, this won’t exactly “advance” your strategy, but it needs to be done, am I right? Moving on…

6) Developed a Custom Attribution Model
Attribution modeling used to be only for the elite: the 1-percenters. Not anymore. Many folks don’t even realize that there’s a pretty nifty Attribution Modeling Tool just waiting to be used in their own Google Analytics account! Yep, and it comes with seven built in models and the ability to create all kinds of exciting custom models. Further, in 2013 Google added the ability to integrate GDN display data to spice up those attribution models (see my earlier post about this here).
If you are still using Last Click, prepare to have coal in your stocking this year.

7) Invested in Conversion Rate Optimization
Acquiring traffic to a website has never been more difficult or expensive. On the SEO front, techniques that used to work don’t work as well anymore, and Google is methodically pushing organic results farther and farther down the page. On the paid side, CPC costs continue to rise and competition is fiercer than ever. As traffic acquisition becomes harder and harder, it’s surprising that more businesses aren’t focusing their attention to Conversion Rate Optimization. For most organizations, it is much more affordable to increase their conversion rate by 20% than it is to increase their total traffic by 20%. But did you know that for every $92 we spend on acquiring traffic, only $1 is spent helping that traffic convert to a lead or a sale?

Our clients are finding CRO drives tremendous value across all of their online channels, and at a fraction of the cost it would take to produce similar gains through acquisition alone. If you missed this opportunity in 2013, let next year be the year you start a Conversion Rate Optimization journey.

That’s my list, but you probably have others, right? Chime in below and let us know how you made out in 2013, and what’s on the list for this year!

Digital Marketing Data Gift Guide for 2013

Digital Marketing Data



Gifts for the:

Digital Analyst | Content Marketer | CMO | CDO

With love and apologies to the fine writers of the New York Times Gift Guide 2013.


Marketing Data Gifts for the Digital Analyst

All good analysts know: What’s measured matters. Apply this general wisdom to gift-giving, and the results are deepened insight, increased mathematical rigor, and metrics to treasure.

  1. Multi-device, multi-browser analytics: One of the best gifts I ever got was access to Google’s Universal Analytics tool. Once it was assembled, I had access to cross-device, cross-browser behavior as well as a handy attribution model. The resulting insights spurred me into a happy analytics dance. Also available in Premium starting at MSRP $150K. Some assembly required.
  2. Freedom from pre-packaged reporting: If you thirst for a web analytics tool that lets you under the hood –  direct access to raw, structured data in an easy-to-query format – start with a demo of Snowplow Analytics. Snowplow Analytics is a powerful, open source platform from the UK. You can store data in your own AWS cloud. You can query it with any tool you want. In lieu of pre-packaged views, Snowplow gives you advanced analysis recipes that turn even average web analysts into marketing masterminds.
  3. Robust text analysis: Truly useful text analysis tools – as opposed to top lists and word clouds – are surprisingly hard to find. KNIME caters to a wide range of industries, and will support your enterprise, too. The suggested applications range from social media influencer analyses to recommendation engines. Whitepapers with repeatable workflows are useful, though training is required. Gift this to an analyst with a training budget – stateside training is rare and pricey.
  4. Meaningful engagement metrics in social media: Chaos and confusion continue to reign in the world of social media, as  marketers find themselves cornered between a rock and a hard place. On one hand there is too little time to authentically engage with customers; on the other, there are a slew of vanity metrics being touted with little business relevance. Fortunately there may be an out, as the more established social media networks continue to release increasingly compelling analytics tools. Here are some suggestions for diving deeper into your social media metrics.
    1. YouTube Analytics Groups: “Groups allow you to view aggregate data of the videos or channels in a group, which can help you analyze performance in an organized way. For example, you can create groups based on a common topic or type of video as well as by geography or the recency of the upload. You can see groups data for all the reports available in YouTube Analytics.” – YouTube
    2. Twitter Analytics: All statistics from Twitter, including follower characteristics, account growth and click-through rates on account tweets, can be accessed by setting up a $1 campaign (and then canceling it before a penny has been spent.) How-to guide is available from Econsultancy.

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Big Data Gifts for the Content Marketer

It’s a hot topic! It’s a marketing channel! It’s a digital consumer product! We offer data in three surprising categories. Thanks to net neutrality, these items come not just from the marketing industry but from organizations focused on academics, philanthropy, fitness and technology.

  1. “Big Data” as a hot topic: This hot topic has intrigue, unlimited potential, and a series of inherent challenges that marketers can discover as they devise their 2014 content plans. Thought leaders are jotting down their “big data” metaphors in tweets, blog posts and status updates in an attempt to feed the insatiable demand for big data content coming through Google search.
  2. “Big Data” as a marketing channel: It is now possible to gain access to hard-to reach IT Decision Makers through data itself. Host a contest on Kaggle (or if you are a non-profit, launch a project with DataKind) with a data set and a tantalizing problem statement. Participating data scientists who crave real-world data to develop and refine their techniques can then be recruited (with consent) if not simply incentivized to transform the way you think about your business.
  3. “Big Data” as a consumer product: “Big data” digital products, in a variety of shapes and sizes, connect to the internet as they capture and quantify consumer behavior in real life. The classic example is Nike+ Fuelband. Don’t underestimate the staying power of these products. With advanced analytics algorithms, consumers will be as overwhelmed and entranced by their quantified selves as content marketers are with campaign optimization.

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Big Data Gifts for the CMO

Big data does not have to cramp your style. Our selections add variety and velocity to the marketing dollar. Whether your marketing message is targeted towards B2B or B2C, these gifts speak the international language of ROI.

  1. Get results, fast! For a sped-up marketing campaign, combine real-time bidding with real-time analytics, to perk up both awareness and conversions.
  2. Pay for what you get: Put the kibosh on paying for bot clicks: a refreshing, band of marketers is moving to crack down on impression and click-fraud in advertising.
  3. The best thing in a tiny packages: As tailored messaging is created for niche audience segments, smaller campaigns are becoming favorites among data savvy marketers. This streamlined approach replaces spending beyond the point of diminishing returns by producing more campaigns with less spend on each

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Big Data Gifts for the CDO

In my office, filled as it is with go-getter entrepreneurs and millennials, revenue opportunities abound. We’re learning not to grow too attached to “my next million dollar…” ideas.The best of this year’s revenue opportunities are so lucrative, however, that I’m scheming to place them with the Chief Data Officer (CDO). It won’t be too long until we’ll need the money in the bank to fund the next big thing.

  1. Big data as a revenue stream: Sure you can sell products and services with differentiating features at competitive prices. But they’re not efficient if you need a lot of revenue in a hurry or want to supply a quickly growing demand. Consider instead monetizing your data. While more complicated than other potential offerings, monetized data captures a share of market currently up for grabs. In fact, in the first half of 2013, Twitter made $32 million in revenue from “data licensing.”

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7 things to consider before blindly choosing Google Tag Manager

More and more companies are switching to a Tag Management System (TMS) these days. And many of those simply go with the easiest option – the free and readily available Google Tag Manager. But sometimes it is better to look a bit further. Consider these 7 thoughts before deciding. 

Tag-Management-System-AnbieterGoogle is so incredibly dominant. It has long replaced “to do an internet search” with “to google”. Nowadays, many people seem to equate “Web Analytics” with “Google Analytics”. If that was not enough, I more and more often get the impression that “Tag Management System” has become synonymous with “Google Tag Manager” – as if Google’s TMS was the only one out there.

Far from it! Google Tag Manager is neither the most powerful, nor is it even the only free tool on the market! QuBit’s “OpenTag” (free up to one million pageviews per month and very cheap after that) and DC Storm are the other popular free ones out there, and they are pretty good themselves. A sort-of-free tool is “Adobe Dynamic Tag Management” (formerly “Satellite”) which you get for free when you use a product of Adobe’s Marketing Cloud.

Strengths of Google Tag Manager

That being said, I am a big fan of Google Tag Manager and use the tool almost every day (see my latest article here on Custom JavaScript Macros for example). It opened up the world of tag management for me. The major benefits of Google’s TMS in my opinion are:

  • free (simply pay by giving yet more information to Google)
  • available in seconds (just log in)
  • fast and very user-friendly
  • probably the best turn-key integrations with Google Analytics and AdWords
  • When you want to use a none-turn-key tag, you can usually just copy and paste the JavaScript code that your vendor gives you. No need to re-scope JavaScript variables or alter the code like you have to do in some enterprise tools.
  • probably the slickest testing functionality – I just love the ultra-fast in-browser testing on the live system
  • many other users, so the internet is full of tips and tricks 

Drawbacks of Google Tag Manager

But Google Tag Manager has also some drawbacks in comparison to enterprise tools like BrightTagEnsighten, Tealium, TagMan or Adobe Dynamic Tag Management if you are an Adobe client. Not all these tools offer all the functionalities I am going to describe below. But, as a general rule, the larger your enterprise and the more people involved, the more severe Google’s weaknesses become:

1. Very few turn-key tags

“Turn-key tag” are the tags you just create by filling out little forms instead of pasting and altering JavaScript code. Apart from the Google tools, turn-key support for other tags is sparse in Google Tag Manager. This has two consequences:

a) If your main Web Analytics tool is not Google Analytics, but, say, Adobe Analytics (“SiteCatalyst”) or Webtrends, you may have a hard time implementing those via GTM. 

b) All those other tags require you to paste JavaScript code into a “Custom HTML” tag in GTM. That, in turn, usually requires some IT folks to review the tags before they can go live – which in turn means that you may lose one of the main benefits of a TMS: speed. 

2. No workflow management / only basic rights settings

This is crucial for many large enterprises. Some companies want to be able to give the marketing team the right to publish on the test platform, but not on the live website. This is impossible in Google Tag Manager. Another frequent request is that Marketing can only publish a tag to the live system after IT has reviewed it – a simple case of a 4-eye check that is so common, but not possible in Google Tag Manager (nor in some enterprise tools).

data-protection-913770-m3. Security

With a TMS, you can easily bypass all the usual restrictions developers go through when wanting to publish code to the website. So if someone hacks into your Google Tag Manager’s admin account, your website will be gone in seconds, serve trojans to your visitors, or push your tracking data to a competitor’s system. In a time when we hear of new hacking scandals every month (see the recent one at Adobe for example), this is a huge security issue for some companies.

So look for a tool that offers two-factor authentication. That can be an SMS pin code or an email that contains a link that has to be clicked before you are able to publish to the live system. Some tools also offer IP restrictions so only users inside your company are able to log into the TMS.

4. No functions that go beyond a content management system for tags

A content management system for tags – that is a TMS ‘s most obvious benefit. Nevertheless, enterprise tag management systems are more and more leaping into what I call “data integration upon collection”, others call it “digital data distribution” (see “BrightTag’s Fuse” or this whitepaper by Tealium and Web Analytics Demystified for example). Since all the visitor data you collect on your webite goes through your TMS, there is no need to plug into multiple third-party tools’ APIs anymore to get the data into your data warehouse or dashboard. Instead, you let your TMS push the data directly to wherever you want to integrate it (the data warehouse, for example). Sounds easier than it is, but I believe that this is the future.

Other handy features common to Enterprise Tools and currently not available in Google Tag Manager are:

  • Off-site tagging (Ensighten offers this for example)
  • Privacy law compliance: Some tools offer automatic compliance with “Do-not-Track” (some offer this to be respected on a per-tag basis) or the privacy laws of the country the visitor is coming from. This can be important especially when looking at how differently every EU member state has interpreted the “cookie directive” (see Ensighten’s “Privacy” platform or a related functionality by Tealium). 
  • Tag Performance Reports (how long does each tag load? Which tags are not working, and on which pages is that the case?)
  • Server-side tag execution (possible with some of BrightTag’s tags)
  • “Visual Tagging” tools that allow you to create tags and data layers by just clicking on elements on your website or even in your mobile app (see Ensighten Mobile)

5. Support

There are indeed a lot of tips and tricks on the internet for Google Tag Manager. But sometimes, that is not enough. With an enterprise tool, you can turn to people who know their tool like noone else.

6. No way to change the order in which turn-key tags are fired.

Have a Google Analytics Event Tracking tag that should be fired upon pageload, but after the Google Analytics pageview tag (because if the event fires before the pageview, your page may not count as an “entry” page)? Currently, there is no way to do that other than through a workaround with custom JavaScript that means saying good-bye to your handsome turn-key tags (see CardinalPath’s Blog for an example).

7. No support for Google Content Experiments (A/B testing)

If A/B testing is something you love, Google Tag Manager will not make it easier for you. It still does not support Content Experiments. That being said, even some Enterprise Tag Management Systems have this problem (luckily, not all of them!). The main reason for this is probably that the Content Experiments tag is supposed to load synchronously instead of asynchronously and it has to go into the start of the head section whereas GTM’s tag container goes after the opening body tag.

The points I think are especially important are 2, 3, and 4. So before just going with the seemingly easiest choice at hand, do invest in a tool evaluation or test-drive Google Tag Manager against an Enterprise tool on a smaller pilot website. Make sure to compare the page load time as well, since it can differ quite strongly from tool to tool – even though all TMS providers claim their tool is the fastest, some actually slow down your site instead of making it faster.

Which features do you miss in Google Tag Manager?

Now it is your turn: Which features would you like to see in Google Tag Manager? What does an Enterprise TMS  bring to the table that GTM just can’t? I am curious to read your comments.