Tracking Persistent User Data Across Your Website with Cookies

Tracking Persistent User Data Across Your Website with Cookies

FIRM FIXED IDEAS

Google Tag Manager
Cookies
Attribution

How to setup your own personal cookie to store important marketing related information about the website visitor.

In moments that could only be described as Deja Vu I came across a solution to a problem I was having and it turns out – I’m not the only one who was having that kind of problem. I was sending website traffic to one of many of the company’s websites from a paid platform and I was not getting the conversion return that I expected. I tested, changed, and tweaked for weeks finding a new low in my acquisition confidence when I tried explaining the situation to a friend of mine.

He very meekly invited me to explain what I was doing and I gave him the ELI-5 treatment (explain it like I’m five years old). As the words came out of my mouth I realized that I was not tracking website visitors who navigated away from my landing page. I mean, they were tracked, but they weren’t attributed. I knew about Google’s multi-channel tracking capabilities and decided to see what the report would hold.

If I had a screen shot of that report it would look like a rainbow because all of the channels were color coded and my user reports were all over the place (in terms of channels). [See an example below from the Demo analytics account]

I remember that the top converting channel combination was simply, “Direct” and after that it was an average of 9 channels per conversion. I was in the, “Assisted Conversions” report and saw that although my advertisements were fighting to break even in the first month from last-click conversions they were more then carrying their weight by assisting future conversions.

So Google knows in one of it’s reports that my paid ads are generating conversions but not always in the ‘last-click attribution’ window of time. Using this information I realized that on average (at least 9 channels worth) I could get a conversion from nine interactions. Not that any of those nine conversions were valuable but it did tell me that my paid channels were generating value and I wanted that information passed into my CRM.

Here was the problem: how do I store and pass marketing attribution data into my CRM from those channels that simply assisted in the conversion to prove their value?

So let’s break this down into the elements of the question that we would need to solve for in order to correctly answer it:

  1. How do I store marketing attribution data from the varying channels?
  2. How do I pass that data into my CRM?
  3. How can I make sense of the data to award credit to the proper channels in order to prove the worth of my paid acqusition efforts?
where utm parameters go

“How do I work with this in my situation?”

The first element to solve is to figure out how to store marketing attribution data from varying channels. There are likely many ways to solve this but I will show you how to create your own cookie in order to accomplish it that way. GDPR does not want anyone storing PPI data but the beauty of this is that you can store data related to the channels (UTM values) and this does not necessarily constitute PPI data. As long as you aren’t storing data that can lead back to a single customer you are not violating GDPR (call me on this if I’m wrong?).

So what information do we want to store?

Staying away from PPI we only need to store data right above the consumer level and the UTM parameters are exactly right above that. In terms of granular data I would use the UTM basics: the Campaign, the Source, the Medium, the Content (Ad Group/Ad Set), and the Keyword. None of those have PPI data in them as long as you do not add it yourself. In addition to the UTM parameters you will want to store this differently in your CRM by loading the values into fields in your CRM that correspond to the first time that those values were created and possibly the most recent time they were collected.

For example if the fields are empty, then populate them with the UTM values (call it first campaign, or first source, etc), however… if they are populated then populate another field (call it last campaign, or last source, etc) and append the value there regardless of there being a value in that field.

Here’s what you will be storing (feel free to customize this to however you want):

  • utm_campaign
  • utm_source
  • utm_medium
  • utm_content
  • utm_term
  • gclid
  • msclkid

The values with ‘utm’ in them will denote the UTM values each time the data is detected and the cookie is created. This will create the effect of a last-click attribution model. Every time a user visits from a different channel with UTM values in the url the values will update. You could forseeably add any data from a web visit or from a web parameter that you wanted but make sure you clean up your urls in Google Analytics with filters (that’s for another blog article).

Here’s what you need in order to store this data in a cookie:

  • Google Tag Manager with admin access.
  • The code scripts, variables, and any relevant tags published in GTM to deploy this.
  • I also recommend a preview environment in order to test it.
where utm parameters go

Custom Cookie Installation Instructions:

  1. Login into the correct Google Tag Manager.
  2. Enter the appropriate container (like a property).
  3. Create a new tag.
  4. Set the trigger to fire across ‘All Pages’ (unless you need a specific page-case).
  5. Set the tag configuration to be a Custom HTML tag type.
  6. In the HTML whitespace, you add the code below.
  7. Name the tag to comply with your taxonomy structure in GTM and Save it.
  8. At the top, click preview and then view the website where your container will fire.
  9. In the web page, at the bottom (by default) you will see the preview mode, and make sure you see your tag name in the list of Tags Fired on This Page.
  10. Next, tap the F12 on your keyboard (on windows) or open up the developer console (I’m using Google Chrome). Then hit the tab for Application, and on the left open the view for Cookies and select your domain.
  11. When you look at the alphabetical list on the right you won’t see your utm fields and values… wait why? Because you must put the utm parameters into the url.
  12. Now, try reloading the URL but first add the following parameter text to the end of your page’s URL (?utm_campaign=test) so it will look like (domain.com/page?utm_campaign=test).
  13. Now when you scroll down in the application > cookies > domain view on the right you should see the field of utm_campaign and on the right of it, the value of ‘test’ – you did it!
  14. Back in Google Tag Manager you can save or play around before you finally publish the changes to your live site.
  15. Last, if you have a requirement to tell your visitors what data you collect, make sure you consult with your legal team what you need to add to your privacy policy and cookie policy.
where utm parameters go

Step 2: Collecting that data from cookie and storing it into your CRM

I can’t begin to know what CRM you use or if you even are using a CRM (you know who you are) but if you have digital conversions such as form fills, phone calls, chats, etc then you can collect this information. At the moment of filling out a form, making a call, initiating a chat, or whatever is the point where the data you have been storing in the cookie will be associated with that conversion.

I cannot cover a how-to for every type of conversion but I will detail the form because it’s the simplest and can be applied to the other conversion methods depending on what you do. You will capture this information using hidden form fields that will pull the data out of the cookie and store the information into your CRM at the point that the form is submitted. I would also make sure to add the information you are gathering to your privacy policy or at least make a mention below the form that you are gathering marketing data for the purposes of serving them a better experience.

Some form builders have built-in tools to pull data from a cookie or proprietary methods to get data that could require customized javascript or jquery (I just have the basics). For example I know Marketo has a hidden field that can pull from the cookie which makes it very easy for you to set this up. If you use HTML or have form fields that can be populated from a jquery snippet (and your web page accepts those languages) then you can use this method:

Add this script to your form, page, or to your form/landing page however you can:

$('input[name=INSERT FIELD NAME]').val($.cookie("INSERT COOKIE NAME"));

Step 3: Making sense of all this data to paint a better picture of multi-channel attribution

The use cases are many, bringing me back to my Deja Vu. In the past few years since I figured this out I’ve run into dozens of fellow marketers struggling with a problem that this could solve. Not every solution ended up with them slapping together their own cookie but it was relief for them to figure out that there was a solution if they are willing to go through with it.

So here’s my warning: don’t make this, set this up, and then forget about it. You need to have an applicable use case for how you are going to use the data. Even if I tell you, this is amazing if you do it because it helped me do X, Y, or Z… you still need to know how it’s going to benefit you.

Knowing the attribution of your conversions is only half the picture. The other half is how you can impact the conversion for your higher-value customers. You should use this data to help you better understand the differences in your customers. Do not use the data to look at your customers in aggregate without considering that your customers fall into different segments. Users that turn into high-value, long retention, and high frequency buyers will be your best customers and so spend the effort (extra effort required) to understand them and where they come from.

Slice your customer data by value segments or retention segments and then take a look at your attribution channels to see what you find.

Optional Cookie Code I’ve Seen:

Why use the datalayer? You could use the datalayer across domains… and there are other reasons if you want to dig around.

Kevin Profile Shot

Kevin Dieny

Marketing Professional

Here is a great resource for you if you want to learn more about the DataLayer:

https://www.simoahava.com/analytics/persist-datalayer-across-pages/

Unifying the User for Marketing Attribution

Unifying the User for Marketing Attribution

FIRM FIXED IDEAS

Unifying User
Marketing Attribution
Google Data Studio

How to unify marketing insights from silos of data so you have a complete picture of the customer journey.

To unify the user for marketing attribution requires a unique identifier across the discrete silos of data in order to merge them. Sometimes you have a lot of data that can be merged but possibly not 100% of it. The good news is that most analytics and data collection tools have a unique identifier. The bad news is that few tools have the same identifiers with the same data in those fields such as: emails, cookie id’s, phone numbers, addresses, identification numbers, or semi-randomly derived values. This sounds complex and you might be asking yourself, “How do I work with this in my situation?”

(Tip: You will need a field in your data to account for every system or tool’s unique identifier).

where utm parameters go

“How do I work with this in my situation?”

First, it’s helpful to start with where you want to have your central space of truth. Where do you want to go for the data? What system do you have that is equipped to contain all of the data you need? Data collection is the first step towards unifying the user and is why most marketers lean on their CRM or marketing automation tools as those systems tend to be robust enough to handle it. In my opinion I recommend a CRM (customer relationship management) tool.

Second, you need to take inventory of all the data you currently have access to. Do not focus on all the data you could have or might have… start with what you have today. You will need to inventory all of the data that touches the customer either directly or indirectly. You might want to prioritize the data that most directly interacts with the customer (where you can see the customer in your data) and sources that are easy for you to access.

Third, you need to model your data inventory to draw out some ideas for how it will all merge together. Have a whiteboard, mind mapping, or sketching software then use that to help you. To model the data you need to think of everything in terms of tables (think of excel). Rows will always correspond to your unique identifiers (typically over time). Data that is too large will make it impossible to work in software like Excel because it will crash on you. This is why you can’t just rip all of the data from everywhere – you need to begin with a model. You don’t need all the rows of data but you do need all of the columns (the metrics and dimensions) that add context to your data. With this model you can see the unique identifiers that cross silos and some that cannot.

Fourth, you will almost need to write a recipe of sorts that details what needs to be merged with what, when, and in what order. When two identifiers can match up between two tables of modeled data you will end up with a single table that includes all of the information combined. For example say you have a table of names and emails, and another table with phone numbers and emails, when you combine them you will have a table of names, emails, and phone numbers. The emails column was the unique identifier that connected the two data silos and when they matched up you will be able to have phone numbers alongside the emails. When you have data you feel that you don’t need you do not need to bring it along – but this is why we model so you can see ahead of time what work needs to be done.

where utm parameters go

How does this whole process look?

Let’s go through a hypothetical example using some free tools and how you could merge that data into a business intelligence tool (in this case we will use Google Data Studio). For our example let’s assume you have the following tools with data in them:

  • Google Analytics (Website data)
  • Email (Could be any email platform)
  • Digital Advertising (Could be any advertising platform)
  • CRM (Could be any customer relationship platform)

Step 1 – Decide what your ultimate source of truth will be.

In these tools we could have (3) possible sources of truth: Google Analytics, Email platform, or the CRM. I recommend not using Google Analytics because you are not allowed to store personally identifiable information that is not hashed or stored in a private way. Depending on how robust your Email platform is you could use it as the source of truth but typically these systems are not built with this primary function. Feel free to use anything you can to achieve this but for this example I will consider using the CRM.

Step 2 – Take inventory of your data sources to get our metrics and dimensions.

Google Drive is free if you have a gmail so for this example I’m creating a gmail and jumping into Google Sheets. From sheets (similar to Excel) I am going to use this to inventory the data and do all of the merging with the index match function galore (see this article if you want to know how I do this).

For Google Analytics you can use the free analytics addon to pull your data. I’m going to save you some time and let you know that if you use the standard setup of GA you aren’t using the User-ID view and you are not hashing or storing your personal data into custom dimensions/metrics. Lets deal with the basic setup here – in which case the unique identifier is the cookie id or a UTM parameter. The trouble is, if you aren’t capturing this into your Email platform or CRM with a form field that picks this up you will not be able to use this data to merge. You can of course see data in aggregate like X visitors came from a specific email (assuming you used UTMs) but you cannot see this by each unique customer unless your systems are setup to account for unique user identification. By default they are not setup this way.

So what now? Your Google Analytics standard setup is valuable for website analytics but does not come out of the box with a unique user identification system. You have to do some work to set it up that way. I wanted to include this mention but if you have setup your analytics with a way to match the user to a specific ID that is stored in your CRM/Email provider because you capture it there as well – then power to you! In this case you can use the analytics addon to pull any metrics and dimensions (other than the identification field) to add website analytics to your model.

For Email, you have the easiest source of data yet because you at least have the email of each unique record in your system. After that any data you have corresponds to information that adds context to that email such as: first names, last names, company information, demographic information, any activities/interactions that took place, and possibly commerce related fields. Most email platforms have a way to export data but if you can only download the aggregate data (leaving out the individual emails) then you will not be able to do any trying of it’s data to other systems.

Email to landing page insights might also exist in your email platform but likely will not exist in Google Analytics (tied to a user) by default because Google Analytics removes personally identifiable information like this on purpose.

Digital Advertising data collection of the unified user is similar to email – whatever platform you are using for forms is going to have the user identified by emails. If however, you are not using an email platform like this and have your CRM attached to the forms then you will look there. Either way the only way to attribute any digital advertising activities to users is from the capture point such as a form, a chat, an email, or a phone call. The point where a user becomes known is often described by many platforms as a, “Conversion.” By itself, saying something is a conversion in marketing is not very descriptive.

The last and hopefully the easiest place to get customer data is the customer relationship management platform (aka the CRM). In order to model the data you need to work with the data it it’s tabled format. So export all of the user-related data from Google Analytics (if the unique identifier exists), Email, Digital Advertising, or CRM platforms with at least the relevant dates and the unique identifiers. All the other metrics, dimensions, and context of your data is not necessary for modeling.

googles utm builder tool

Step 3 – now we will model the data you’ve exported and align their unique identifiers.

If your data is not too large you can hold the data from one table in the first Excel tab, and the data from another table in the second Excel tab. Assuming this is the case, we are going to be using Index Matching to merge the second table into the first table (or vice versa). The two data tables need to have at least 1 of the unique identifiers in common. I would start with a table that has the most data potential (like the CRM) as the first tab and merge all data into it.

(Tip: If your data is too large for Excel or Google Sheets, then you need a server (SQL-Lite) can use a desktop and provision a file for this purpose. Is it worth it? If you are working with that much data you should really consider what value improving data insights could provide).

As you work through the data modeling you need to remember (or better yet, write it down) all the steps you took to merge the data. The index data (first part of the formula) will contain the data you want to add from the second tab into the first tab. The match data (second part of the formula) will contain the data you are comparing to see if there is an exact match of the unique identifier. For example, the index data could be the names, and the match data could be comparing emails to ensure they match.

(Tip: This is where you might realize that the data in one matches the other but there are spaces or formatting issues in one table. Therefore you might need to use format cleaning in the Excel document or change the way data is collected to make sure it’s scrubbed prior.)

utm parameters archive

The cleanliness of the data you are merging is a major factor. You need to rinse and repeat the index match formula for each column of data in the second tab that you want merged into the first. At the end you will end up with a much larger first table then you started with.

(Tip: After you are done merging the tables copy and paste the values but do not paste the formulas, paste just the values so no formulas exist in the cells but just the values.)

utm parameters archive

Now that you’ve done this for two tables, let’s open a third tab (if its possible), or delete the older second tab and start another second tab (that is fresh and empty). Time to merge the next table into the first – so make sure that the tables both have at least 1 unique identifier. You will continue this for all data tables you wish to merge until you end with a final table of glory… hah.

utm parameters archive

Step 4 – the last step is to write down your process and make sure you can account for everything.

Writing down the process in this way prepares you to work with Structured Query Language (SQL) the basic language of processing data in most if not all systems. You are working in Excel because that is a great place to start but you are learning a skill that can be applied to working with large volumes of data using a SQL-based server. The merging in SQL is done using Joins just as it is using Index Match in Excel.

Assuming you got this far now it’s time to have some fun in Google Data Studio. You do need a Google Account, but it’s easy to create one (with a strong password) and then jump in there:

utm parameters archive
utm parameters archive
Kevin Profile Shot

Kevin Dieny

Marketing Professional

Get started by saving your final data table as a (.CSV) file and then upload it as a data source into Google Data Studio.

After your data is in there create a report. You can jump into a template one designed for what you are trying to measure but usually you can open a blank template and then add charts and data visualization to play around.

I recommend that at the end of the day you watch some videos (take a training) on how to get the most out of Google Data Studio. At first some of it is daunting but it’s a really great tool and one that has amazing features. Most of what you learn you can even take with you into paid platforms.

Here is a decent Google Data Studio learning video from Google:

I wish I could expand more into different data types but this can be so subjective for different businesses. At some point I will tackle the user-id in Google Analytics but it is well covered in other blogs. My experience with user-data in Google Analytics is that while it is nice to have it also means some of the elements of Google Analytics function differently.

The Right Way to Use UTM Parameters

The Right Way to Use UTM Parameters

FIRM FIXED IDEAS

UTM Parameters
UTM Conventions
UTM Builder

The right way to use UTM parameters is to use them to attribute marketing activities in a universal and standardized format.

“Organization is a journey, not a destination.” – Mom’s Everywhere

If you are not using UTM’s in your marketing links… get on it! If you are, use this as a refresher to ensure that you are efficiently using UTM’s the right way. I say right way, but what I am about to share is the best practices for using them in any marketing plan.

Rule of Thumb? Always use them whenever a link points to your website (property) and the link is going to be placed somewhere not on your website (property).

I didn’t bother when I started in marketing and now I wish I had. UTM’s are not the answer to the ever present issue of marketing attribution… but they are big step forward and a requirement in some future attribution tools. Perfect solutions for marketing attribution do not (yet) exist, remember that.

where utm parameters go

UTM?

UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module, Google originally purchased and made use of the Urchin Company’s tool and rebranded it. Creating a UTM is simply a matter of adding details to the end of a url link that specify marketing information. The marketing information you specify is always connected to topic-focused campaigns so you know the who,what,when,where… etc behind causing the link clicks.

Types:

There are many types of parameters that can be utilizing within UTM’s. The standard types are:

  • Source
  • Medium
  • Campaign
  • Term
  • Content

Stick to the five, you really do not need to go overboard with adding UTM parameters because by default Google only focuses on the standard five. Non-standard parameters or custom UTM’s, were used only when additional tracking tools exist to pull those fields and match them up with specific fields in a CRM or Database.

Javascript, PHP, and other codes can pull the parameter data from a link URL and insert that information into form fields. This is a much more complex way to use UTM’s but if you are looking for a way to pass url parameters into form fields, to make use of complex cross-domain tracking… then you will need to push that data into forms that is stored into CRMs.

In addition you can try to achieve a form of first/last click attribution by passing UTM parameters into a cookie (I will discuss this in an advanced UTM tutorial).

Builder:

You should not be using UTMs on every single link. As mentioned in the rule of thumb, you only need to use UTMs on links to direct to your webpages. You also should only use them where the link where be posted is not on your website. Just in channels you do not own.

 

googles utm builder tool

https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/

This builder allows you to add marketing details to a link in a quick and easy way. Google’s tool makes it easy to copy/paste, and even gives you the ability to short code your URL (but I do not recommend that unless you absolutely must). Pop open the builder and add only the information that’s relevant, more is not always better. 

Avoid these mistakes:

  • NO CAPITALIZATION.
  • Repeating a word or phrase in more then one UTM parameter.
  • Use date only once.
  • No spaces at all, ever, anywhere between words.
  • Make it readable so use ‘-‘ between words.
  • KISS – keep it simple stupid.
  • Cross-functional understanding and ability to understand.

 

utm parameters archive

Naming:

Whether it’s just you or a whole team of marketers, you need to keep track of your naming conventions. UTM normalization is the easieset way to have adoption and understanding across teams. An easy way to track past conventions is to use an excel or shared Google sheet and paste the links you use into it. This way you can refer back to what you used before. See my example above.

Always use the same exact (case sensitive) name. If it’s “google” use “google” and not “google.com”. How you name them matters. This needs to be known and available to everyone who will be creating links. You need a naming convention, a standard, and it should be easy to access.

Kevin Profile Shot

Kevin Dieny

Marketing Professional

In review, use UTM parameters in your marketing activities. If you are not, spend some time to set up a shared excel or Google sheet and come up with conventions. The earlier you make this change the better. Get everyone on board; this will make marketing attribution much more streamlined and save you tons of time and money down the road. You will thank yourself later when questions about attribution come up and you want more budget.

Do it!

Marketing 101 – Saturation

Marketing 101 – Saturation

FIRM FIXED IDEAS

Marketing 101
Marketing Saturation
Innovation

Marketing Saturation is how exposed a consumer is to your messaging and likely to ignore it.

“Stand out, without sticking out.” – Friend

The important concept behind marketing saturation is entropy. Entropy is the phenomenon of natural decay or a decline over time. Just like in marketing, all of the business activities will slowly perform worse and worse, on average. Usually saturation follows a normal distribution; once it hits its peak it undergoes an entropy and will constantly decline. The more frequently someone is hit with the same message, after a point, it will preform worse and worse.

normal distribution graph with standard deviation

Gaussian graph of a normal distribution with standard deviations

Think of saturation as the great unifying force within marketing that forces new and inventive methods to reach new customers. Everyone deals with saturation including your competition, it’s a healthy and good phenomenon. Advertisements are often measuring this with the frequency metric. Frequencies above 2 indicate that ‘on average’ someone has seen your message at least twice, and so on.

The obstacle you will inevitably face is what to do about marketing saturation??? My answer will always be the same… innovate! Innovation is the cure, creating new and interesting content, that’s how you continue to thrive and do it better than your competition. You can always add new reach and a new audience to the message but at some point there will be a finite audience to show your message to.

How do you innovate?

There are plenty of articles online to read to discover how to make something new. You can start by asking your team, your customers, or looking at your competitors for new ideas. If your biggest problem is coming up with new messaging then you should realize… that’s amazing! Saturation for some industries is more difficult to overcome because there are only a small number of quality customers and everyone is fighting for them. As competition increases – saturation is a very real and tough issue to solve. You are trying to stand out in a big pond.

Cultivating creativity:

Not to steal from the many TedTalks here, but fostering creativity is a lifestyle and work environment dilemma. Risk is the natural enemy, it does not want you to innovate, and risk does not want you to spend money without guarantees. You bring out creativity by allowing for risk: learn from failure, fail fast and take notes, then reward your successes and keep going.

TedTalk video on increasing creativity and innovation.

Kevin Profile Shot

Kevin Dieny

Marketing Professional

You want to change your message enough each time that all your hard work does not fall prey to saturation’s entropic affects. You need each marketing message to have enough of a difference to be unique but not altogether off-key. You should build out a calendar of how often you will develop new content and messaging so you can plan ahead.

If you are hitting the wall and struggling with recapturing the success of the past it’s likely that you need a new message. Working hard in the modern workplace is all about being efficient with your time and energy in a way that allows for creativity and innovation without too much added risk.

How you do that… is often individual.

Marketing 101 – Position and Perceptual Mapping

Marketing 101 – Position and Perceptual Mapping

FIRM FIXED IDEAS

Marketing 101
Positioning Map
Perceptual Map

Marketing position and perceptual mapping is a valuable tool used in research to visually represent the comparative metrics and dimensions of products, brands, and services.

“When you throw dirt, you lose ground.” – Texas Saying

One of the issues that crops up in every organization is when everyone has different priorities for tasks and views the weights attached to those tasks differently. Unity is when everyone has a somewhat uniform perspective within the company at any given time. Meetings are held to unify us, special events, group activities, projects, inter-department meet ups, it’s all been strategically created with the goal of unifying everyone.

Ultimately everyone works together but you want all of your resources working cohesively and cooperatively to be as efficient as possible. Within this complex chain of efficiency lies position and perceptual mapping. Internally, these tools are used to help unify an organization and realign the goals and priorities so everyone is helping and maximizing their efforts.

Externally, this tool is utilized by marketing research to inform the company of how certain customers view specific metrics. The best example of this is asking customers what brand offers the best, “bang for your buck.” This simple comparison we do in our everyday lives compares the cost metric to the value dimension.

marketing perceptual positioning map

The image above is the standard design for any position and perceptual mapping. I will walk you through how to set this up and conduct your own mapping.

Step 1:

You have a question that if you knew the answer to, you could make your company, brand, product, or service more focused, and therefore create more value. The question needs to have a metric and a dimension; two key performance areas that make up the question.

“Compared to our competitors who has the most reliable product for the price?”

Step 2:

A representative audience and a limited-bias format of delivering that question and deriving answers should be used. The audience should be relevant to the population of clients, customers, whatever group the question pertains to.

The question should be non-partisan, should not lead them, and be conducted professionally. You want to extract quantifiable data not qualitative data, so use scales or assigned values to represent their answer choices. You can also compare each element to each other and create an ordered list which can be turned into a simple scale.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best and 1 worst, which of these five companies are reliable?”

Step 3:

Results should be tallied, statistical review completed, and all relevant data should be there with the presentation of results. The scaling should match what we will see on the map. The answers will produce a value for the metric, and a value for the dimension (X-value, and Y-Value) that you will essentially graph.

“Company Z, has 8 for reliability, but only 4 for price (8, 4).”

Step 4:

Present and evaluate results (think scientific method). There are a few considerations when it comes to mapping. The position and perceptual map is a limited view based on the people interviewed, it represents how people see the elements when compared with only that dimension and metric, and only shows you how something is currently viewed. Maps can become outdated quickly, everyone is competing and trying to interpret trends and predict the future, so anticipating shifts means redoing the map constantly.

“Right now, Company T is viewed as the price leader to our audience with a 10, while Company J is the reliability leader with a 9.”

The perceptual/positioning map is just that, a perspective, and a view of how things are in the mind of those asked. These are not rigid maps to buried treasure or gold for your company. In fact they may often be skewed and contain any amount of error because the measurement is not perfect.

These maps should be used to match and alleviate position imbalances, help you plot goals, and try to stay relevant. You can identify characteristics you may not have considered – representing fresh opportunities and market share you can conquer.

Kevin Profile Shot

Kevin Dieny

Marketing Professional

Marketing positioning and perceptual mapping is scientific but is limited in scope. Map what truly matters by starting with a hypothesis and test for it with professional research. We all know how hard it is to unify, it’s wishful and hopeful, but something must be done to focus and streamline goals and priorities.

Marketing Analysis with Excel – Index Match

Marketing Analysis with Excel – Index Match

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Marketing Analysis
Index Match Function
Excel

A walk-thru of marketing analysis with Excel using the Index Match functions for up to date and dynamic data across cell ranges.

“[The files] they’re *in* the computer?” – Hansel in Zoolander

Excel is a wonderful marketing analysis tool and is one of those universal tools to work with data. When I was working for an agency with multiple clients we struggled to find an affordable business intelligence solution for an agency with multiple clients. Everything kicked off in Excel.

My favorite tool in Excel (as of right now) is the Index Match function. Actually it uses both the Index and the Match functions together to make a range of data dynamically update. There are multiple use cases but I will walk you through how I was taught and still use this function today:

excel marketing function

EXCEL:

Unless you already have data to work with I would set up some sample data to play with and see if you can get this function to work for you before throwing it into official sheets. The function works by setting a code found using the index function, gets the position by the match function, and always returns the last cell in the range.

Disclaimer, I use this function to return data only, not words/phrases/etc.

excel marketing function

INDEX:

For the Index function we will be using the first block to indicate the Row number (ROW#) as pictured above. The Row should correspond to the row where your data range exists, from left to right. Each ROW# should be the same row number (ex: Row 20 is 20:20).

Traditionally, you would use the first block to indicate the column where your data exists, and where you will be returning a final value from.

MATCH:

The second block in the Index function will be used to specific the updating data in the range, or the last cell with data inside it, from left to right. You have the large number, and then the same Row you used before, exactly as you used it before in the second block of the Match.

Traditionally, you would use the final block to indicate the column/row you want to look up against.

The Large Number:

The large number (9.999999E) must be there, and as I am not an excel specialist, I can only say that it must be large to correctly narrow to the correct numerical data. It represents the lookup value but in our usage it reflects the numerical range. I believe it could be replaced in order to narrow to words/phrases if desired.

my function

The image above is a sample of one of the Index Match functions I am currently using in my Analysis Sheets. I will show you exactly how I am using this function now that you know how it works. Remember I am using this for number data, not words, so test your version accordingly.

My data sheet

A:

The A highlight shows the function that I am using, on Row 20.

A highlight function

B:

The B highlight shows the Row that I am referencing data from, Row 20.

B highlight row

C:

The C highlight references Column I, or the final range of data included in the function. Only the furthest right data will be referenced, in this range, which would be C, the value is 537. The bottom 2/3rds of my sheet represents the Deep Dive section – where all the micro data lives, period after period.

deep dive highlight c

D:

The D highlight references the top 1/3rd and macro data view of the data in the Deep Dive. At the top, for easy access is what is used most by Management or when sharing the sheet. The data marketers care about is in the deep dive – it’s not pretty down there but it’s where we see opportunities.

Top macro view highlight D

The Index Match function dynamically pulls the most recent (furthest right) data in the sheet and displays it in the top area automatically. This helps us to limit how much data we are inputting and manually updating. There are ways to automate even that to some extent.

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Kevin Dieny

Marketing Professional

All in all I use these tools to maximize the most important work that I do and minimize the tedious and unimportant work. Automation is vital for the mundane tasks. Once you have sheets set up you can jump into the optimization.

If you have any questions let me know?

[Solved] How to Install & Troubleshoot Google Tag Manager in WordPress

[Solved] How to Install & Troubleshoot Google Tag Manager in WordPress

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Google Tag Manager
Installation
Troubleshooting

I’ve figured out how to install and troubleshoot Google Tag Manager in WordPress after countless hours of problems, mistakes, and misfires.

“Poor unfortunate souls.” – Ursula

Working at a Marketing Agency means that you will often get tasks and jobs that seem far above you or way beneath you. I had come to assume that installing a UTM Tracker like Google Tag Manager was pretty far underneath my skillset. I even scoffed that anyone could do it – so why should I?

I confess, I was dead wrong. I had multiple sites working in tandem across domains and subdomains seamlessly carrying attribution from one to the next until it arrived in the CRM. Then my analytics stalled and data started coming in erratically.

The answer was, my Google Tag Manager Script wasn’t working. I am here to help you learn how to install this wonderful utility in WordPress, and even to troubleshoot the basics. I will start with the simple steps and work my way into the complex.

ursula google tag manager

Basic Installation:

First and foremost, installing Google Tag Manager requires you have created an account there with Google, you have a WordPress site running, and you have access to the editor files. I also want to throw this disclaimer out there that installations can vary depending on themes… what works for some won’t for others because some themes and WordPress installations are more custom.

The Google Tag Manager script/code is broken into two parts the header code, and the body code. Within GTM you can view the code by navigating to the appropriate Property (will list the name and the GTM-###### at the top so verify it’s the correct one you want) then going to Admin > Install GTM.

In another tab or window you need to login and navigate to your Admin Dashboard of the WordPress site you want to install GTM on. On the left there is a Paintbrush or Appearance > Editor. Once the editor fires up you should see the theme you are currently using selected in the top right. Click the “Theme Header” or “Header” (header.php) from the right sidebar.

Even if you do not understand PHP or HTML, you can do this without blowing everything up – however, I do recommend that you create a backup before you go further (if you do not know how – learn, I will provide insight on this at a later time sorry). A lot of web designers I’ve worked with have recommended loading up the header in Dreamweaver or other program instead of within the WordPress editor.

Start at the top of the window and start scrolling down with your eyes… you should be able to find the word “head” between two brackets <, >. You can move your cursor after the last bracket and click enter two or three times to make some white space for yourself. Copy the Header text here.

Finally, scroll down till you see the header end usually denoted with a backslash “/” and the word “head” which should be followed by the word body within two brackets, just as the header was. There might also be php code with the words “body_class” here, but you can ignore it.

GTM header code install

Make some white space again by clicking on the line below the body tag and making room to paste. Make sure you do not cut off any code and that you are careful to make space without breaking code… you will know if your site blows up and you have to reinstall the backup.

Paste your body code here. Now verify everything looks good and if you are sure, have everything backed up… then click the “Update File” button beneath the window to save.

gtm body code

Testing:

If your site works, you have the script added to your files/theme, then you are ready to test. The easiest and most simple way to test is to tab over to your Google Tag Manager account. Verify you are logged into the correct property, then using the dropdown in the top right, click “PREVIEW” (Preview and Debug).

gtm preview and debug overlay

The window will reload and an orange colored banner should appear in your Google Tag Manager saying “Now Previewing Workspace.” Great, now tab back to your website and load up your home page/domain where you installed Google Tag Manager.

Once your website it loaded you will know if Google Tag Manager is working there because an overlay will appear at the bottom of the page. You should see the blue icon or the whole window appear with the name at the top “Google Tag Manager.”

successful preview of gtm workspace

Another way to test if pixels are firing is to load up the extensions. There are extensions for several of the pixels, the big ones: Google and Facebook, have their own pixel/testing extensions which can help you verify if things loaded and what was happening on a more granular level.

Here are links to the ones I use:

Troubleshooting:

Case #1 – The Invalid or Missing Account ID

The solution to the invalid or missing account ID issue is the easiest one I know – you don’t do anything. Google’s a little behind on having added GTM ID’s with additional digits, and if you are new to the GTM scene then you likely have a longer than usual ID number and you will get this error. Do not fret, it’s all okay, and Google has said they will update this in a future fix.

invalid or missing id error

Case #2 – The Theme

What I figured out after losing a few hours to stumbling around the internet looking for solutions to my problem I ended up discovering it was a theme issue. In fact, my Tags were loading, just not reliably and I couldn’t get the Preview overlay to come up. I knew there was an issue and I didn’t want to risk inaccurate data.

I tried updating the theme, it was updated. I tried manually configuring the code in so many ways but couldn’t get it to work. Some of you may use themes like I have where they have a built in area where you can add your tracking codes. These have always worked for me but not this time.

Even when adding the script into the header.php file I was still not able to get my preview overlay to load up. I was seeing that multiple analytics codes were firing and some were not. Oddly the fix for me came with a plugin. I tried everything and eventually tried a 3rd-party plugin.

I searched for a WordPress plugin that could deploy Google Tag Manager, and settled on DuracellTomi’s Google Tag Manager for WordPress. This plugin saved me when everything I was doing did not. The lesson here of course is to monitor your Analytics and watch for errors routinely to make sure your data is solid.

Case #3 – Wrong Property

I mentioned this throughout my installation guide but make sure that you are working within the correct property in Google Tag Manager. It is so easy to be in the wrong account. Check it and make sure before you go poking around.

Case #4 – Tags Not Firing

I cannot go too deeply into specific Google Tag Manager errors but this one comes up a lot so I am keeping it in here. A tag relies on the installation of Google Tag Manager to be correct and stable within the environment of WordPress and the Theme in which it is installed.

If everything is working besides a tag firing then the best place to start is the trigger. If you have recently moved over to HTTPS, that could be an issue. If you have the trigger even slightly off you can pinpoint the issue by CTRL + Clicking on the elements with the preview overlay on, check the log, and see if you had the right trigger. Don’t forget to publish your changes – they take affect only then.

Tags not firing can be so broad and complex that if you are still struggling I recommend having a web developer or coder look it over for you, it’s worth not wasting days of your time.

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Kevin Dieny

Marketing Professional

I hope that you find this guide useful. It is accurate up to today. Let me know in the comments if you have suggestions for me to add or write about in more detail.

The 5 Point Setup for Adwords Search Success

The 5 Point Setup for Adwords Search Success

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Adwords
Search
Checklist

Use this five point checklist to ensure that you have Adwords Search set up to maximize the overall marketing plan of your company.

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

The five point setup for Google Adwords helps evaluate if your marketing plan is focused. Focus is a big part of segmentation for marketing because we only want to target and produce content for segmented audiences to maximize their engagement.

You want to use this checklist to make sure that each of the overarching goals of your Adword Search Campaigns lines up with the funnel. This list can be used with any industry that uses Adwords Search and curates interest using a blog. If you aren’t doing this yet – start a blog and produce weekly content.

Download Shared File from Google Drive

1st:

Every product, every service, is unique and requires a specific strategy. Even similar products are different when offered by two different brands. You want to promote your product and brand simultaneously because you are persuading people to trust you and to part with their hard earned money.

Select a single product or service, be niche, be specific, and put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

2nd:

The content you create on your blog needs to be curated towards your best customers. You want to target a specific customer and deliver the best experience for them. Your blog should be providing resources and answering questions that crop up over time. The best content is specific and helpful.

3rd:

For a lot of industries their products and services sell because of their amazing blog and content. For the rest of us we need to pixel and capture as much information about our visitors as possible. By pixeling and then segmenting your blog you will be able to target them again on Facebook and from Google retargeting.

4th:

Finally, we move into Adwords. A lot goes into making sure that Adwords Search Campaigns are successful. It’s not easy to make positive returns on Adwords because your competition is likely paying rooms of professional SEO and Adwords experts to outbid and outperform your attempts. This is why it is crucial to have a content engine and set yourself apart from the crowd.

Keywords are where we are focused. You want to target highly relevant strings of words, the more the better, that are specific to your blog and your product/service. You want to avoid being too broad – you need to be exact. In fact, I would only start out with broad match or broad match (+) if you don’t have any idea of what people are searching related to your keywords. Otherwise, stick with phrase and exact matches.

Create Ad Sets that correspond to those keyword types, so one Ad Set that is “Phrase” and one that is [Exact]. You will set the bid about 20% higher for the Exact Ad Set so you stress higher preference for an exact match query.

Manage your negative keywords and keep an ongoing reference list as you track your search terms to manage what is getting in the way or throwing your searches off. Using all of this you should be able to ensure you are getting a higher CTR. It’s not about impressions or clicks – it’s about the click thru rate and the beginning/exit conversion rates.

5th:

Last but not least you need to test. Multivariate testing or (A/B Testing) ensures that your Adwords Search is successful and constantly optimizing. You will not get it right the first time! You need to be tweaking your Ads with testing weekly. Look at your headlines and below the fold text for areas you think could be rewritten, and test it.

The optimal way to test is to test only one element at a time. Try to stick with testing only a few elements and give it time. I would suggest a week or at least a hundred impressions (more is way better) before you resolve a test.

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Kevin Dieny

Marketing Professional

To conclude there are a lot of other ways to maximize your adwords search campaigns but these 5 steps will make sure that you have the macro goals focused. You need to get the basics right every single time no exception. I will post again with advanced and expert strategies of setting up adwords campaigns at a later time.

Basics of Digital Marketing Analysis

Basics of Digital Marketing Analysis

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Marketing Analysis
Metrics
KPI

One of the most effective steps you can take as a marketer right now is to start tracking the data of your most important key performance indicators.

“Prove it to me, and you’ll get the budget.” – An old boss

Digital marketing analysis can be broken down for beginners and the advanced but only if we are talking about the key performance indicators. If you want insight you need data and not all data is the same you need the right metrics.

simple marketing analysis

Let’s talk about a few of the most important metrics for each stage of the funnel and why these might be key performance metrics for your own business. My goal here is to give you the tools you need to get started and figure this out on your own and apply it to your own situation.

VISITS

Visits is one of the most important metrics because it is the knock at the door, the first glance, and the moment that your brand makes first contact and brings them back for more. You want to track these because they represent the beginning of the funnel and come in handy for optimizing traffic.

Tip: Not all visitors are the same – unique visitors are not the same as sessions or page views.

LEADS

Leads are all too common a metric that is lumped into one fat category. Leads are vital but my suggestion is that not all leads are created equal – they must be segmented as early as possible. If your leads came from newsletters, products, or opt-ins then tag or segment them as such.

Tip: Attribute your leads using UTM parameters and hidden fields in forms as often as possible.

ROI

The final metric is usually one reserved for the CFO or the CEO – it’s also one that winds up sucking the life out of the directors and managers at the end of a month or quarter. The ROI can be tracked weekly, daily, and monthly, however you like – but you must track it. Learn how and add it.

Tip: I would recommend that you stick to tracking the return on investment from marketing activities only and then adding it to the overall accounting picture at the end.

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Kevin Dieny

Marketing Professional

Some additional suggestions for KPI metrics to consider tracking are: Audiences, Likes, Shares, Followers, Backlinks, CPC, and many more.

Want more?

I’ve created a special marketing analysis template to get you started. Head on over to the shop or click the link below to learn more.

Top 5 Essential Skills for Marketers

Top 5 Essential Skills for Marketers

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Facebook
Marketing
Tools

The top priority skills that every person in marketing should be working on and improving to make themselves more valuable.

“He who opens a school door, closes a prison,” – Victor Hugo

From my experience there are five essential skills in the industry that can have the greatest impact on your overall value. I built this list from first-hand experience and from the opinions of recruiters. If you have an industry; find that industry version of the following skills.

step back into the classroom

Not in any specific order:

  1. Continuing Education
    • Dive into blogs, advanced education, marketing courses, conferences, and high quality books.
  2. Building Your Own Brand
    • Give back, share what you know, do the part of the job you love and find sell your services, and also try new things.
  3. Email Standards
    • Email deliverability is an overlooked asset – you need to be optimizing your emails with every send and deep dive into the smallest metrics, because they matter!
  4. Code Writing
    • Prioritized languages from recruiters and my own experience are as follows: JavaScript, HTML/CSS, and SQL. I would also consider looking into API based languages such as Ruby or PHP to get further niche.
  5. Customer Research
    • Humble yourself and realize that you may have a very clear idea of your target customer but there will always be more you can learn. Continually refine your customer and adapt your marketing to fit.
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Kevin Dieny

Marketing Professional

These skills should help any marketer advance themselves – but it’s important to understand these are not a place anyone should start to learn marketing. Consider these advanced tips to keep marketers on the right path.