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The Digital Marketing Landscape: Setting Goals with Acquisition & Attribution

Posted on 06/26/2018 at 12:17 PM

Good morning, evening, day, night - whenever you’re reading this! I’m happy to be back chatting with you about your marketing analytics journey. If you’re thinking, “Who the heck is this lady?” check out my first two blogs in my digital marketing landscape series: Why You Need Marketing Analytics and Marketing Analytics Basics.

We’ve talked at a high level about what your organization can do with marketing analytics and how to get started, but now, let’s dig deeper in. How can you use your marketing data to set goals? At Zirous, we recommend looking mostly to your Google Analytics acquisition reports. Once you have an understanding of how people are coming to your site, you can use attribution models to give credit to each source appropriately.

Acquisition Reports

To navigate to acquisition reports in GA, go to your desired view, and find “Acquisition” in the left-hand column. Here, you’ll find an overview and five sub-reports: All Traffic, AdWords, Search Console, Social, and Campaigns.

The overview will give you a high-level look at your site’s performance and acquisition. This includes things like top channels, sessions, pageviews, bounce rate, etc. Most of these are “vanity” metrics as we’ve discussed in the past; they aren’t useful on their own. You’ll likely find more value in some of the other acquisition sub-reports.

All Traffic. This report is broken up into Channels, Treemaps, Source/Medium, and Referrals. These reports show you exactly their namesake: all of the traffic that’s coming to your site. This information is very valuable. In fact, I could write an entire blog just on these reports alone, but I’ll keep it short for you. My two favorites here are Channels and Source/Medium. 

Channels breaks down traffic by GA’s default channel groupings, such as direct, social, email, etc. You can take it to the next level by creating your own custom channel grouping to make your data work best for you. These insights give you a quick, easy way to see which sources are actually driving traffic to your site - and where you may want to spend more or less money. A great planning tool, indeed.

Source/Medium gives a slightly more granular level of data than Channels and is a fantastic way to customize your data easily. By using UTM parameters, you can easily lay out if traffic came from Facebook, an email newsletter, a traditional ad, etc. And by using the optional ad content feature in UTMs, you can drill down within each source/medium in GA to see which ad, email, post, link, etc. brought that traffic in.

Not only do these reports give you insight into how users are getting to your website, they’ll also tell you which channels and sources brought in the most conversions - the ultimate goal, and therefore, the ultimate goal-setting tool. If you have a dollar amount assigned to your conversions, you can quickly and easily see which channels are most profitable (and to what degree) and deserve the most your resources.

AdWords. I’d bet good money you already know what this report is all about. This report has a dozen categories, so I won’t go into all of them, but like All Traffic, let’s look at a couple that may be most useful.

Campaigns will give you clicks, budget information, conversation rates, and more for specific AdWords campaigns and ads. (To drill down to the ad level, use the “secondary dimension” tool and select “ad content.”) You can find great insight into which AdWords ads may need to be improved, which you should spend even more budget on, etc.

Keywords is useful in a similar way to Campaigns. Knowing which of your keywords are driving the most traffic to your site will tell you where to place your bids more strategically. It can also tell you how successful your keywords are, but you’ll have to look at more than clicks. If you have a keyword with high clicks, but a high bounce rate, those users were probably looking for something else.

Search Console. Google Search Console is a great tool designed to help you optimize your site’s SEO. Its reporting is very extensive, but GA has included a few summarized reports for you to use without having to leave the GA platform.

One of the most interesting of these is the Queries report, of which there is a summarized version in GA. This report tells you what words people searched before arriving to your website. (In the full version of the report within Search Console, you can also see to which page the search term lead them.)

This report may not be as directly related to high-level goal setting as some of the other acquisition reports, but it’s a very valuable report when setting targeted goals for your SEO and website strategy. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with the entire Search Console tool.

Social. These reports indicate the success of your social as it relates to your website. It gives you some more insights into social than the Channels report (from All Traffic) does within the social channel. In addition to the overview, there are five sub-reports here: Network Referrals, Landing Pages, Conversions, Plugins, and Users Flow.

The Network Referrals, Landing Pages, and Conversions reports, in particular, are good for goal setting. Network Referrals will tell you from which networks visitors came, which Channels can tell you, but it will also tell you the average session duration from each network, which is great information to know which social sites provide the highest quality audience. Landing Pages indicates the same metrics, but for the pages upon which your social audience entered. At the end of the day, though, we want conversions. The Conversions report will tell you how many conversions were completed from audience members of each social platform you have. If you’ve set up a conversion value, you’ll also see how much revenue these conversions brought in.

Campaigns. Finally, the Campaigns sub-reports (All Campaigns, Paid Keywords, Organic Keywords, and Cost Analysis) will give you greater insights into your campaign performance. The All Campaigns report in particular is neat because it shows the entire campaign - AdWords and UTM-tagged items alike - and is a great way to view a campaign’s overall success. Some of this information can be found in other reports, especially in All Traffic. This is a great way to view the success of a campaign in a more centralized location; however, when breaking down these reports for the purpose of goal setting, you may find that some of the other reports are more valuable simply because the campaigns are broken into separate chunks to which you can delegate credit - and therefore budget.


So, now you know how people are getting to your site. Again, this information is so valuable because it can tell you which channels and strategies are most effective at driving traffic, and therefore are most worthy of extra attention in your marketing plan and budget.

But for many organizations, getting someone to your website is only half the battle. Then what? If they convert, do you assign that credit to the most recent acquisition? What if they’ve been to your site multiple times and have come from multiple different sources? This is an entirely other piece of the puzzle, but a very important one that fits perfectly with understanding your acquisitions.

Check out the different attribution models within the Conversions report by going to Conversion - Attribution - Model Comparison Tool. The seven different attribution models - Last Interaction, Last Non-Direct Click, Last AdWords Click, First Interaction, Linear, Time Decay, and Position Based - all distribute credit for conversions to different channels in different ways.

You and your organization’s management should determine which model makes the most sense for you. This really varies for each organization and their strategy, but Google has some pointers as to which model may make sense for you. It’s also possible to create your own custom attribution model.

Setting Goals

By using this information, you can set some really smart goals for your organization. You know which channels are driving the most traffic to your site, which areas of your site are most successful, and where your greatest amount of conversions are coming from. With this, you can create a marketing plan and budget that ensures you boost those areas of your plan in the best possible way to get the greatest return on investment. And bonus, now that you have a solid understanding of these reports, you can track that ROI even more successfully, bringing more value to the table for you and your team.

Remember: this blog is just scraping the surface, and I didn’t have time to dig into every report. Some that I didn’t mention may actually be very useful for your organization; every company and strategy is different. For any of the reports I didn’t delve into, check out Google’s Analytics Support Center as a resource for how to use each report, or contact an analytics professional to give you an objective, third-party opinion on where your money should go.

About the author: Kelsey Cervantes is the marketing manager at Zirous in West Des Moines and is certified in Google Analytics, Google AdWords, and Google Tag Manager. After studying marketing at Drake University, Kelsey spent a few years in the traditional marketing management world before going into digital marketing and analytics, which has given her great insights into how to tie the two worlds together.

Data for Deeper Insights and Better Decision-Making

Posted on 05/29/2018 at 12:37 PM

There is no dearth of data for marketers to draw conclusions from, but building insights that drive smart decisions is a more nuanced and valuable skill. It is not enough to just collect data. Marketers needs to be strategic about the data they collect and the data points they analyze. The information we gather needs to be closely reviewed to create new perspectives or ideas. 

Read what David Krajicek's article, 8 Tips to Curate Data for Deeper Insights and Better Decision-Making  to learn about curating your data for decision-making and insights. 

Tired of Marketing Messages That Fall Flat? Hone Your Tone with Customer Personas

Posted on 05/18/2018 at 12:46 PM

The Internet has long been the new market square. Countless people around the world use it to find the people, products and services they’re looking for. The challenge for businesses and the marketers who help them is making sure they’re found by the people looking for them.

SEO is part of being found online for sure, but equally important and arguably more within your power to control as a marketer or business owner, is how you organize your content. If you’re tired of wondering whether or not your marketing messages are breaking through the clutter, consider customer personas and how using them can help you connect with the right people at the right time.

What is a customer persona?

If you’ve heard about inbound marketing, you might already be familiar with the term ‘customer personas;’ they’re one of the most critical aspects of an inbound marketing strategy. Customer personas are foundational in that once you create them, you can organize all of your content around them.

When we saw that analyzing our current customers could help us find our ideal customers (the people we should be trying to speak to online), we were all in on creating customer personas and organizing our content marketing efforts around them.

According to Hubspot, which is a leading authority on inbound marketing, customer personas are, “semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer based on real data along with some select educated speculation about customer demographics, behavior patterns, motivations and goals.”

At OBI Creative, we use our customer personas to guide all of our content creation and publication activity. We love research because of the validity it brings to marketing efforts, so the idea of digging into the details of who our customers are and why they come to us for help resolving business challenges and seizing growth opportunities was exciting from the start.

When we saw that analyzing our current customers could help us find our ideal customers (the people we should be trying to speak to online), we were all in on creating customer personas and organizing our content marketing efforts around them.

How does a customer persona help you connect with your ideal audiences?

A customer persona helps you connect with consumers motivated to purchase your products in two critical ways:

  1. Personas help your ideal audiences find you.
  2. Personas help you find your ideal audiences.

If you take the time to research your current customers and write personas based on them and then let those personas collect dust on your hard drive, you will see no real benefit from your customer personas. If however, you use them every time you create a piece of content, they can really help you connect with your ideal audiences. This is because they aren’t just target markets and job titles. A customer persona tells a story about a subgroup of your actual customers – their pain points, interests, hobbies, family life and background.

Every time you create content, whether it’s a blog post, tweet, Instagram photo or email – you want to write it with a specific customer persona in mind. That will help ensure that your content attracts people positioned to connect with your brand and find value in the products and services you offer.

Your customer personas also help you locate where your ideal audiences interact online. Once you know that information, you can put yourself there so that they will find you. Personas are also helpful for creating products and services that your ideal audiences want and will use.

Once you’ve done the hard work of figuring out what motivates your ideal audiences as well as what challenges and delights them, you can design content, products and services around those interests, needs, pains and desires. That work will lead to a better understanding of your customers, which in turn can inform all aspects of your operations – from sales and acquisition to service and ongoing customer relationship management.

Looking for more information on customer personas and how to create them? Check out OBI Creative’s blog post on how to create your own customer personas.

The Digital Marketing Landscape: Marketing Analytics Basics

Posted on 05/02/2018 at 12:50 PM

Hey there, it’s me again. Hopefully you’ve read my first blog in my “Digital Marketing Landscape” series, Why You Need Marketing Analytics, and you’re excited to learn more about getting started on your analytics journey. There are some important decisions to make and steps to take in order to make your analytics program successful, so let’s dig right in!

Choose the Right System for You

One of the most important aspects of a strong marketing analytics plan is choosing your one true source of data. This means you get all of your information from one source, and you perfect that source as much as you can to get the most accurate data in the largest quantities possible for your organization.

It’s a decision that should be made carefully, and there are some key factors to consider:

Popularity. Okay, no, it’s not a popularity contest. But often, this is a good indicator of which systems actually do what they say they will. Additionally, more popular systems will have larger online communities if you ever get stuck or have questions, which brings us to the next factor.

Support. Check out the first-hand support you can receive from any potential providers. Do they have plenty of demos, instructions, and customer service options for you? In some cases, for some of the more popular systems, there may also be third-party organizations who offer you the same level of support you might need in your analytics endeavor.

Budget and time. For many organizations, this may be the ultimate deciding factor. While you should aim to spend around 9% of your marketing budget on analytics, make sure these dollars are spent well. For instance, don’t put that entire chunk of money toward an expensive platform that you don’t have the capability or time to run, no matter how good they make it sound. A stronger option may be finding a less expensive platform and spending those leftover dollars on professionals and consultants who specialize in analytics, giving you the big-picture information you need in a much shorter time with minimal effort.

Google Analytics Introduction

There is one system we at Zirous use more than any other system, and it’s one that almost every other marketer has used at some point, too: Google Analytics. This platform is extremely popular, has tons of online content and classes for beginners through experts, and - the best part - it’s free!

All of these things being said, it’s still important to look at the best option for your own organization. But because it’s impossible to dive into every system out there, let’s take a closer look at Google Analytics, or GA.

Getting Started in GA

The first step to take with GA is simply to connect it your website. Using a Gmail account, set up a Google Analytics account. You will enter your account name, which is the name of your organization, along with your website name and address, your industry, and your time zone. Easy peasy! (For complex or multi-website organizations, additional setup may be required both inside and outside of GA. Sadly, we don’t have time to cover this information here, but an analytics expert can help you.)

Once you have entered your information and preferred data sharing settings, you will receive your magical Tracking ID. (Disclaimer: not actually magical, but really seems like it sometimes!) GA will provide you with a snippet of code that includes this Tracking ID to copy and paste into each web page you want to track.

I know, this sounds like a daunting task. And to be honest, an improperly pasted code, missing code, duplicate codes, and other errors can have major implications on your data. Enter Google Tag Manager, which can help you manage this code with a Universal Analytics tag, allowing you to implement your code on your website pages in a “one and done” style, including pages that are added after the tag’s setup. Tag Manager can do many other amazing things for your website tracking, but that’s a conversation for another time.

Setting up the Necessities

While Google Analytics has dozens, if not 100+, great features, there are some that are fundamental and simply necessary to correctly use all the other ones. Let’s define these and discuss best practices for them.

One of the first steps of setting up a successful GA program is establishing your account’s hierarchy. After you set up GA, you will have an account, which is the highest level of organization within GA. Within your account, you can have one or more properties. These usually include websites and mobile applications. Within each property, you should set up views and filters to capture the best data. Let’s take a look at these items in more detail.

Properties. Many small and/or companies will have only one property, so don’t be worried if this is the case for you. However, more complex companies may have a variety of properties, including multiple websites and/or mobile applications. Consider carefully how you want to create your properties. In some cases, tracking websites separately may be appropriate, but in other cases, using cross-domain tracking and track your websites within one view may work best. Determine the best way to track your data to create actionable insights, and set up your properties based on these decisions. An analytics consultant can be very helpful.

Views. Within each property, you should have a variety of views, which are your access points for reports; they determine which data does and does not appear to you. You can’t turn back the clock on views, so once data has gone through and been filtered out, it stays filtered out; there is no way to retrieve it later.

As a best practice, you should have at least three views:

  1. An unfiltered view that contains all raw data. This will help you avoid any catastrophes if any needed data is mistakenly filtered out of other views.
  2. A test view, to use when you want to test new filters or practices. If there is an issue with a new filter, you will know on your test data before it affects your main data.
  3. A main view, which contains your tested and approved filters. Your main view should be the one you use to analyze and make decisions. You will want to set up filters to perfect this view’s data as much as you possibly can.

Other views are possible as well. For example, you can set up a view that tracks only your AdWords data, only tracks traffic to a certain subdomain, etc. Views are extremely useful tools, but set them up to be in line with your overall strategy; make sure the views you have are only the views you truly need to answer the questions you have.

Filters. Filters are the lifeblood of views; they limit and/or modify the data in a particular view. GA offers several predefined filters to make the process of setting a filter up easy for you. There are also many options for custom filters, which can get increasingly complex, depending on the data you want and need to capture. In some cases, an analytics consultant is a good resource to assist you in filter setup.

Predefined filters allow you to include or exclude traffic from specific ISP domains, IP addresses, subdirectory traffic, and hostnames. A highly recommended predefined filter is an “internal IP exclude.” This excludes any traffic to your website from your employees while they are at work, as this is invaluable data to a majority of companies and skews the numbers you really need.

Custom filters are also available to track even more complex data or to modify your data in a particular way as it enters your view. You should explore these options as they relate to your organization’s goals and consult with an analytics expert for filters that are very technical.

Know What You Want to Track

This seems obvious, but unless you specifically sit down and do it, it can be surprisingly easy to forget. But marketing analytics is a big picture practice. It is very important to set some goals to know which data you want/need to track and what steps you need to take when designing and implementing your campaigns to make that possible.

You and your team should agree on some key performance indicators (KPIs), which are quantifiable measures used to evaluate the success of an organization, campaign, ad, etc., in meeting objectives for performance. A best practice for setting these up is to think of it as a math equation. KPI equals desired result over action taken.

As an example, let’s say you’re hosting an event and have a registration page on your website. You might be marketing it through traditional media, social, email, AdWords, and more. How are you determining the success of these activities? At this example’s core, the desired result is event registrations, and the action taken is a visit to that particular page. Let’s say you want 10 people to register for the event per every 100 people who visit the page. Therefore, desired result (10) over action taken (100) equals a KPI conversion rate of 10%.

An even better practice for KPIs here is to have a different KPI for each marketing avenue. For instance, you want and expect more registrations to come in through emails, so that KPI might be 10 registrations per every 50 emails sent, or 20%. (This requires you to understand how you are acquiring traffic to your website - using acquisition tactics and reports - which we will cover in the next blog.)

As mentioned before, knowing your KPIs will allow you to better understand what it is you need to be tracking. Then, being able to track your actual KPI data will give you insights into setting goals and budgets for future campaigns.

Set Up Goals

Once you know your KPIs, you can set up goals in GA that will easily track your progress for you, rather than you having to analyze the numbers to find the answers for yourself.

For instance, you might have a goal of PDF downloads. GA will tell you how many goal completions you received for a given page on your website, and you can use that number against your overall organizational goal for PDF downloads quickly and easily.

It is important to note that GA only allows 20 goals per view, so carefully consider what your goals are and their level of specificity. In many cases, you can alter reports in lieu of an ultra-specific goal.

Gather and Use that Data

You’re set up! Again, what we’ve gone through here are really the most basic steps in your analytics journey, and there are a myriad of other tips and tools that you can - and should - use. We’ll get into some of these in later blogs. For now, let’s talk about gathering your data.

Step one is to know your way around GA and its reports. Fortunately, Google offers great first-hand articles on all things GA along with video trainings with some hands-on experience. An analytics expert is also a great resource to help train you and help give you insights into your data.

From here, you can use your data to make decisions on what channels to target, where to spend more (or less) money, what messaging you should use, what changes you might want to make to your website flows, what types of ads you should be running, and so much more.

We’ll dig into this information more in the next blog in the Digital Marketing Landscape series: Setting Goals with Acquisition and Attribution. Until then, happy setting up!

About the author: Kelsey Cervantes is a marketing analyst at Zirous in West Des Moines and is certified in Google Analytics and Google AdWords. After studying marketing at Drake University, Kelsey spent a few years in the traditional marketing management world before going into digital analytics, which has given her great insights into how to tie the two worlds together.

Kelsey and the Zirous Analytics team dive into clients’ data to give them the actionable insights they need to back up their marketing initiatives with facts and figures while providing ongoing training and support.

The Human Experience

Posted on 04/26/2018 at 12:19 PM

Creating brand loyal customers is a hard job. The importance of a great customer experience (CX) is now shifting into a human experience (HX). While CX is about creating a stellar experience for the customer's functional and transaction needs, HX is meant to create a deeper bond by appealing to the consumer's human desires like freedom, identify, knowledge, friendship and creation.

Key Takeaways

​What? Human experience looks beyond commercial needs to understand and meet human desires such as freedom, identity and creation.

So what? Companies that prioritize HX are able to deliver meaningful experiences that build relevance and value with their customers.

Now what? Harness data, explore patterns, systematically study shifting human values, and expose future trends to explain, rationalize and predict customer needs.

Read the full article, Are You Designing for Human Experience?


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