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Take Content Marketing to the Next Level with Data and Analytics

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Transcript

Introduction

Andy: Hi and welcome everybody. We are back with another content marketing webinar with SEMrush. Glad to be here. We're going deep into content strategy with one of the true experts in our field. I'm glad to have finally met Krista. We crossed paths at long last at a conference in Vancouver. Krista, give us the highlights of your background.

Krista: I have been in the analytics space for 10 or 12 years at this point. I spent time at Adobe and a few other companies, and most recently I was at Google for almost seven years doing a bunch of different things in the analytics world, but spent a lot of time on the actual Google Analytics team as the evangelist and the person writing and running all of the education for Google Analytics and all of their measurement products. I recently left there and I actually started my own analytics consulting practice now called KS Digital and that's just a little bit about me. 

Andy: Excellent, thank you. I think a lot of our attendees will probably know your face from all that awesome helpful content that you published for Google on the topic of analytics. 

Krista is going to give us a quick presentation, 15, 10, 20 minutes, something like that. Ask questions. We have another pro, Liz Willits is on this call from AWeber, and she is going to be kind of co-hosting with me today to extract as much value as we can from Krista's brain. For those of you that don't know Liz, give us a sense of your background. 

Liz Willits: I'm the senior content marketing specialist at AWeber and AWeber's email marketing platform, so that makes me an email marketing nerd. I've spent many years studying email and working with some of the best businesses in the world on their email marketing strategies. I am the email nerd at this show.

Andy: Let's just give people some practical value and a new perspective. With that in mind, Krista, take it away.

Krista: Awesome, thank you. I'm on Twitter, @kristaseiden and I have a blog, kristaseiden.com, where I talk all about analytics and optimization if this isn't enough for you. But let's go ahead and dive right in. 

We're going to talk about a few...fairly common topics today, but hopefully, take you to the next level of really using these for content marketing. The first is site search and campaign tracking goals, and if we have a little bit of extra time, I do have a peek ahead at some cool stuff coming down the pipe with Google Analytics. All right, so making the most of Google Analytics.

Why You Should Use Site Search Tracking in Google Analytics

We're going to start with site search. What is it? Well, it helps you collect the search content that is used on your website's search box. When somebody comes to your site, this is my blog, and they click into that search box, or in the upper right-hand corner and they start to type a topic that they're looking for in my site, site search allows you to actually collect that keyword so that you can see what people are searching for. 

The reason that I love this is because it's actually the voice of your customer. They are telling you exactly what they need, want or can't easily find on your website.

I wanted to give you just a really quick understanding of this. First to set it up, in case you aren't familiar, very simple, go to your site, do a little search. In this case I searched for Google Tag Manager or GTM in my search box, and you can see the URL I have pointed to in the upper right-hand corner, it just has ?s=gtm. Now that s= is what's important here if you want to set up site search. 

We go over to the Analytics interface and here we're in the Admin Settings, and we're down here in View Settings, and this is where I'm looking at my Site Search Settings, and it says Query Parameter and I've put in “s”. If are looking to set up site search on your site, all you have to do is do a quick search on your site, find what your query parameter is, throw it into this simple setting here, and you're good to go. You're going to start collecting site search data. 

Now that you've done that, how do you actually take advantage of it? What do you see? What's the outcome? Well, I wanted to show you a quick look at my website.

This is some of the data that I am seeing in my search term results right now. Google Analytics recently released something called App + Web. It's a new property type in analytics. You can see that a lot of people are actually coming to my site looking for App + Web content, but they're not just looking for App + Web, which is the aim of it, they're also looking for Web & App, and there's a very long tail of these search results. There is a couple hundred of these, right? 

I actually highly encourage you to go ahead and look at that long tail of data, because this is where you're really going to find those nuggets. Here you can see people are searching for “App + Web Event Tracking”, “campaign tracking”, “Google Tag Manager”; a bunch of different things. 

If we go further down the list, now we're in row 80, these are one search apiece, so it's long tail, but you can see that App + Web is actually an even more popular topic than I would have seen in the first 16 results here. I have other several results that are some different variations of how App + Web looks here.

Andy: This reminds me about, I saw a presentation by Will Reynolds recently, and he said, you've heard this before, "Data is the new oil. Drill baby, drill. Just go, keep going, go down, keep looking." 

Krista: Exactly, because that's where the real insights are, I mean, it gets even better. Keep going down and now we're in row 179. Somebody is actually typing in exactly what they want to find on my site. “Is this for a web event or an app event?” “How do I set up GA or GTM for now?” “Does the real GA get this Event if they add the SDK?” 

These are topics that people want to know and they're searching for. Granted, it's long tail, it's only one search, but this is true voice of customer and based on a lot of the other searches I see, this is actually fairly common. This person was just a lot more verbose in how they were looking for it. 

Somebody says, "Please help. No one explains how to get data in both Google Analytics and Google Analytics for Firebase." I happen to know this person is asking about App + Web. This is another topic related to that. Maybe I want to do a topic that shows how these two relate to help this person understand exactly what they're looking for, and just a little bit farther, because I like to look at all of the long tail results.

Andy: Kudos to you, I mean I've recommended this before, I've taught this before, but I've never gone that deep into it. You're basically saying that there's valid insights even at the ultra-low search volume granted for site search on your own website.

Krista: Totally.

Liz Willits: That's like such a great way to get voice of customer data, like you're saying, which is perfect for any kind of content marketing you're doing.

Krista: Yep. This is the type of content you want to start creating for your customers, especially these longer ones where people are actually typing in full sentences because they're not just looking for that keyword. They're telling you how they want to see that keyword come to life. Hopefully, that's a good one you can take advantage of. 

Google Analytics Campaign Tracking Guide

All right, next one I wanted to talk about is campaign tracking. Now, if you are a content marketer, this should be very familiar to you. If it's not, it needs to be very familiar to you.

Campaign tracking, this is also called the UTM tracking in Google Analytics. This is how people are coming to your site. This is the URL parameters that you are collecting as part of that acquisition, to understand exactly where someone came from. Could be from organic, PPC, display, social, email. Many of these relate to content marketing as ones that you are actually putting this content out and hoping to drive people to your site. 

There's four levels of campaign tracking. The first is campaign. This is the highest level of the hierarchy. This is something to track your overarching campaign. For example, if you have an email that's going out, or you have a couple email blasts about your winter sale, it might all roll under the campaign of “winter sale 2019”. 

Medium is the next level down, this is how you're actually sending your campaign. If you're sending an email, the medium would be email. If it's a search ad, it would be CPC. If it's a social network, it would be social and so on. 

Now, source; this is used to actually differentiate the type of medium, so if that medium was CPC, then the source is going to be Google, Bing, Baidu. It gets a little bit more free-form when it's not something like email or something more out of the box.

If your medium was email, you have a little bit more options in terms of what you want to use this source for. I like to actually use it to track the buttons or the type of call to action that I'm trying to get people to do in my email. 

Then, content. This is the last field. This is actually my favorite. It's a bonus field. A lot of people don't even use it. 

Andy: I don't.

Krista: There's so much value, Andy, that you can get here. For example, if you were doing the email and that source was coupon, because you're offering a coupon, but you actually have two versions of this email going out to your audience and you want to see which coupon is working best. It's an A/B test. Content fields actually track which version they got. Did they get the $60 off offer or the 15% off offer? 

That then puts that information into your Google Analytics account, so you can track their email by the offer type that they received and be able to report on that, not just out of your email system, open rate and click view, but also in your Google Analytics data to see what else they are doing across your site. 

Putting it all together, this is what a URL would look like if you've never seen this before. You have kind of your site, and whatever landing page you're sending people to, separated by a question mark and then all of your UTM parameters appended. 

That's a lot to remember, a lot to build, if you're not familiar with this, so there are a couple tools for you to help you actually build these email, these URLs much easier. There's the URL, that's a tough one, URL Builder. This is on the Google Analytics dev tool site, there's a link to it right there, or you can just Google “URL Builder, Google Analytics”. 

All right, so this is a post on Facebook, and one on Twitter and it is using the exact same Bitly link. What does that mean? 

Andy: Well, hopefully the Bitly link has another level of, I mean they could be using campaign tracking on the next level of the link, but yeah, they're probably not getting any data here on the... at least Bitly won't show what the campaign source was. Medium, social, source, who knows? One or the other. It could be either. 

Krista: Exactly, so that data coming into Google Analytics is going to look the same if they just did social or if they said Twitter and they used it on Twitter and Facebook, they're never going to know which channel actually sent that traffic. This is actually a very common thing that I see from people, but it's so easily used in a better way to get a lot more data for yourself and to improve your content marketing efforts.

If you were to do what you saw in that screenshot, you could look at a social network report or channels report in Google Analytics and you'd see people coming from Twitter or Facebook, not too much more. You could add a secondary dimension of a landing page and see that they came from Twitter or Facebook to a certain page, but you're not going to know what post they actually came from or the granularity of that.

I've actually created a new URL for this post here. In this case, the campaign is social post, the medium is social, the UTM source is Twitter or Facebook, depending on which platform they were on and then, I like to use the content field..

In Google Analytics, you're going to see that campaign of social posts. You take down into the source/medium, now you have Facebook and Twitter, both social, you add a secondary dimension of content, and now you have the posts that they came to, from which platform. 

Imagine what you can do with this level of data and insight, if you're really trying to dig deep on all of your different content marketing efforts to see exactly which ones are driving the most people to your site, and to which posts.

Using Goals and Custom Metrics in Google Analytics

All right, one more step here, and that's goals. Goals are awesome in Google Analytics. I do love them. They allow you to see or to track things on your site that you feel are really, really important. You can make a goal funnel. 

As you see on the right here, this actually allows you to look at the whole checkout process, see exactly where people are falling off. In this case, it looks like there is an increase in people falling out of the funnel of the payment method. Perhaps that means that there's something going wrong on that payment page. The credit card is not working, or there's some other setting that is preventing people from actually going through. 

But the reason I actually like goals is not so much this, though it is valuable, but I like to actually see goals done in reporting.

I wanted to give you a couple examples of goals for publishers or content marketers. Did they go two pages deep into my site, three pages deep, did they scroll all the way? Did they click on any related content or popular content? Those types of things, and then taking that goal and actually looking at it across your reporting.

Andy: Do you worry about using up, I mean, there's a limit, right? You get 20 goals per view?

Krista: Yeah.

Andy: You're making goals for things that could have been done with a segment or could have been done other ways. How do you decide what to make a goal and is there... are you worried about how that affects your overall conversion rates? 

Krista: I worry less about the conversion rate. I do worry about the number of goals. In my case, there's only a handful of things that I really care about tracking on my blog. 

You definitely have to be conscious of how you're using your goals and you should be using them to track the most important things that you want to be able to see in reporting. I like to be able to look at it across these table reports in Google Analytics easily for some of the things that I deem to be helping me understand engagement, or people doing things that are valuable on my site. 

 A lot of the things that I track as goals, I also track as custom metrics using the Events that are bringing these in. For example, I have a goal, in an event on my site for “continue reading”, like they clicked through on an article and went to the full page or that they subscribed to a newsletter.

I've actually also implemented this in custom metrics, and that's just a simple setting in Google Tag Manager, which is how I'm sending my Events to just add it as a custom metric. I can see kind of where people are clicking through if they're landing.

If you do run out of goals, or you want to track things in other ways, you can make custom metrics to be able to do that. 

Andy: I'll be honest, I've never made a custom metric. I use Events a lot. How do you make an Event into a custom metric? 

Krista: This is super easy. I can pull it up on my screen if you're really interested. There are two steps. It's just like a custom dimension. You have to actually create it in Google Analytics first. 

It gives you an index number of what you need there, so I just create one that I want to say is newsletter subscribing. It just assigns an index number, and then I have to actually implement it. The way I implemented it is in Google Tag Manager. When you go into your event tag for example, which is what I'm using to call this custom metric, down in kind of the more settings area of the tag itself, there's actually a dropdown for custom metrics. 

When you click to expand that, it just says what's your index number? I put my index number as one, if my newsletter subscriber is one, and then you give it a metric value, which in this case I just want one. It's worth one me every time somebody subscribes. 

It allows you to get around the limit of 20 goals and do other things that you want to track as custom metrics, that you then can pull up in a customer report like this. 

Andy: That makes sense. It's like another, it's like a setting inside GTM that you can add to an Event. 

Krista: Yeah, it's just like a custom dimension, but a custom metric instead.

What is Google Analytics App + Web?

I've talked a lot in my site search section about App + Web, the new stuff that Google Analytics is doing. This is a completely new property in Google Analytics, a new way of doing analytics, different data model even. 

Google Analytics traditionally is a page view and session-based data model. Google Analytics App + Web properties are an event and parameter-based data model.

What does that mean? It means everything is based on Events in this new property. This is your home screen. It actually looks very similar to Google Analytics for Firebase if you've ever seen that. You can see on the left-hand side, those reports are somewhat different than what you might be used to in Google Analytics. 

The main report is actually the All Events report, which as you see here is basically just a table list of all of the events that you're tracking. Now, when I say everything is an event, I mean it. Even a page view is an event, a session start is an event, all of those types of things. 

What I really wanted to show you here or talk about is not the details of this, but how you can actually apply this in a really meaningful way to content marketing. Given this new parameter, Event and parameter model, it's a different way of implementation. It's a different way of collecting data.

Let's say that you're a publisher or you're writing a lot of blog posts, you have a lot of articles on your website. For example, let's say you're The New York Times, and you have an article that's on the homepage and it's on the technology section, it's on the new and hot section. This article could be in multiple places. 

If you were tracking that in Google Analytics today, it would look like a lot of different page views. You'd have page views for the article in a lot of different places and you'd have to do some math to figure out all the total views of that article, right? 

Well, in this case, you would actually check that article as a content piece. If somebody clicks in to view that article, you're sending an event called a content view, and you're attaching parameters to that content view of content title, content author name, content author ID. 

Automatically appended will be parameters of the page name, the page title. You can attach up to 25 pieces of information as parameters to that content view to know a whole lot more about that piece of information that people are reading, and then you'll be able to analyze that in a lot of different ways.

Andy: Are those parameters all standard and built-in?

Krista: Page name, page title, are standard and built-in and come out of the box. Some of the others are custom made, you'll have to find yourself. 

There's a whole lot of new ways to be able to track the types of things that people are interacting with on your websites. If you want to learn more, I wrote a whole blog series about this new App + Web property, or you can just go to my site, search for App + Web in the search box. 

Andy: I'm going to jump in immediately following up on that last piece. Is this going to be, it's like a different look, it's a different UI for analytics?

Krista: It is a different, it's not a completely different UI, it looks and feels similar but it is, everything inside of it is different. 

Andy: Is it like when you create a property you say that I want this to be an App + Web property?

Krista: Yes.

Andy: Then you get that different UI?

Krista: Right now you have to actually create it first in Firebase and then link it to Google Analytics, and then you have this App + Web property. 

Andy: What is Firebase?

Krista: Firebase is a mobile app development platform. It is Google. It's mostly been used by developers thus far for making apps, but there is an analytics component to it, and so this new App + Web property is actually based on the analytics platform that was originally there and is now being moved to allow for web too, so that you can do cross-device, cross-platform analytics checking. 

This is the home screen of App + Web. It's a lot of the same type of stuff that you have seen before, but like I said, it's all events. You can report on users and a whole bunch of other things, so it doesn't look completely different, but the data is different and therefore the way that you are kind of consuming it and what you do with it might vary a little bit too. 

Andy: I'm going to scan through for some questions here, but in that, Liz I'll give you the chance to chime in here.

Common Google Analytics Mistakes People Make

Liz Willits: Yeah, I actually have a question for you Krista while Andy's looking through, what are some of the big mistakes you see when you see people using Google Analytics?

Krista: I think some of them are actually the topics that I covered today, right? It's not using UTM tracking, or not using all of it. 

I think events. I use a lot of events. Events are so powerful in Google Analytics, but the majority, and granted the majority of Google Analytics are long-tail users, but the majority of people are not taking advantage of events in Google Analytics, which is an amazing way to collect so much more information on your website. 

Everything from what button they clicked to are they scrolling through your page to did they sign up for your newsletter? Very, very important stuff that you can actually track using events that are highly underutilized.

The last thing I would say is segmentation. Also highly underutilized.  Or secondary dimensions or any way that you're slicing and organizing the data. Looking at the data as a whole aggregate out of the box is great. You can see how many people came to your site overall, but you really get meaning when you start to break it down by the different segments of people and how they're doing things differently on your site. 

Tracking a User’s Journey in GA

Andy: Here's a campaign tracking code question. It's from Andy Simpson. Thank you, Andy, for asking. How do I track a user's journey through the site who has come to the site via UTM link? 

Krista: Yeah, great question. I think journey tracking in general in Google Analytics isn't great. There's these things called flow reports. There's some old versions of them. I was known when I was a product manager on Google Analytics to say that my goal was to kill all of the flow reports in Google Analytics because they're that bad.

There's a navigation summary report that allows you to see kind of the previous page and kind of the next page of where someone went, that one's a little bit better. There's actually something new in App + Web only currently called Pathing. I'm a little bit biased here because I built it. 

If you are using App + Web or you start to use App + Web, it'll be available to you for free, and it really does allow you to get a lot more sense of how people are flowing through your site. But to answer the question, there's not a great way, but you can. Those UTM parameters will stick through the session, and so you can look at individual actions that they are doing if they view a certain page, by which acquisition channel they came from, or if they've completed a purchase or whatnot by that acquisition channel. 

Andy: I'm going to try to jump into, I'm going to share a screen to answer this question now. He says, “if we can't use UTMs for internal links, like an in-text call to action in a blog article, how would you track a blog article: which calls to action are performing better than others? 

Great question. That data is already in Analytics without using any campaign tracking code. I know people who've put Bitly links because they want to track with Bitly, like internal link performance, so let me just share this screen super quick and go into Analytics. 

I'm going to go to behavior, site content, all pages. This is a really powerful, often overlooked report. Any time you're looking at a low enough data set, you can always get more data to by increasing the date range. 

I'm going to go to an article here. This is a popular one, How To Write Testimonials: which links on this article get clicked the most. The navigation summary shows you. Just go to the navigation summary and it shows you people who came to this page as if this icon is the page, what percentage left, huge bounce rate, and if people continued on, where did they go? This is basically the performance of all the links on a page. It shows you what percentage of visitors went to which page.

I would argue that going to the homepage and looking at this navigation summary, you're going to see the general performance of your main navigation, which few marketers do very often. Just go to behavior, site content, all pages, click on your homepage, go to navigation summary, and it's going to basically show you how well your main navigation is performing. You don't need to use any UTM tracking codes to measure visitors movement from page to page within a website. 

Krista: Yeah, totally. I'd also chime in there and add on top of that, I like to use event tracking for all of those different buttons and links. I'm the type of analyst who likes to put event tracking on everything, that somebody can click on a site, and then I can actually make a heat map out of all those clicks if necessary. 

Should Marketers Outsource Data Analytics?

Andy: I've got a question for both of you. To what extent can marketers delegate or outsource analytics? To what extent is it necessary for a marketer to be hands-on with their own data? Liz? 

Liz Willits: Here at AWeber we do kind of a hybrid approach. We do have a data analyst, but our content marketing team is pretty deeply in GA. All of our content marketing team has a working knowledge of GA. But we have a data analyst who is the guru and the expert. 

I think it's important for a content marketer to have a working knowledge of GA, and there are so many resources out there to learn GA, if you want to get your GA certification, if you check out Google's site, you'll actually see Krista right on there. You can take a basic beginner's GA course and there's a more advanced one as well. 

Krista: I think hearing that your entire content marketing team is well versed in GA and is in there using that data warms my heart. That's not as normal as you would hope, but it's definitely kind of the dream. You want your teams to be as versed in data as possible because that's how they're really going to make data-informed decisions.

Then, being on the consultant side as well, of course, I do think that there is room for that, but I think you should use consultants in a way that they come in, they help you kind of get set up and get ready to go, and they help train you. 

Liz Willits: Yeah, and that's a great approach with having a consultant come in, because we have a larger team but not everyone has that opportunity to have an in house data analyst. But if you have a consultant who teaches you how to use GA, and then sets you up like you're saying, that is ideal, because I've done GA setups from scratch, not knowing a ton about it, and I made mistakes along the way that you can avoid if you get expert help. 

Is Google Data Studio Worth It?

Krista: I also saw a question in here about Data Studio. Is Data Studio worth it? I know that's not something that we've actually talked about today, but just for this recording kind of aspect here, I think that this is a good place to bring this in. 

Data Studio is awesome. It has a bunch of built-in templates that you can repurpose for your own use in terms of the types of reports you want to see, integrations to search console, integrations... all of the different Google marketing stack platforms, but also so many integrations to every other source of data you might have. 

The really great thing about it is that you can have so many different reports or so many different data sources within one report. You can have data coming in from your email marketing provider, right next to your Google Analytics data, talking about the people coming from those particular source/medium UTMs from that email and see how those align in various aspects. I'm a big fan of Data Studio, to answer that question. 

Andy: Cool guys, coming down to the hour. We try to end these on time. We answered I think, almost all the questions. If anyone has a question that they wanted to ask but we didn't address, feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and just drop the question in there. I accept virtually all LinkedIn connection requests. Liz, how can people connect with you?

Liz Willits: You can connect with me on LinkedIn at Liz Willits. I also accept pretty much all LinkedIn connections, or on Twitter. My handle is Liz Willits as well and if you have any email marketing questions, that's where I can help you out. 

Krista: Yeah, likewise for me, Twitter is probably the best, @kristaseiden, or on LinkedIn or via my blog posts, there's a contact from there as well. 

Andy: Okay guys, that was exactly the one hour mark. I love, we nailed it. Thanks, everybody, thanks, SEMrush. Find us online, and we'll see you next month for another edition of content marketing webinar with SEMrush.

All levels

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