Digital marketing needs to clean up its act

P&G’s Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard said what many digital marketers have been thinking for some time now, “The days of giving digital a pass are over…It’s time to grow up. It’s time for action.”[We don’t] “want to waste time and money on a crappy media supply chain.”

Almost immediately after reading that, I came across an article, 10 Things I Hate About Digital Marketing by Jerry Daykin, also pointing out many of the pitfalls of digital. What do you think?

“Digital is all around us and there’s never been a more exciting time in marketing, but there’s also never been an easier time to completely waste your advertising budgets. Digital transformation is creating huge new opportunities to reach consumers and drive business objectives but if you blindly believe everything you read in a marketing headline, or see presented on an event stage, you can easily be led astray.

The digital industry is sadly still full of misinformation, misguided gurus, false perceptions and perhaps even a few deliberate crooks. With so much constant change it’s hard for anyone to keep up, but in general the traditional rules of marketing all still apply…”

Read the rest of the post HERE.

The online ad scams every marketer should watch out for

Setting up a new digital ad campaign or hiring an agency/someone to do it? Read this Harvard Business Review article on some techniques of which to be aware and that can often overstate performance for a given tactic.

online ad scams
HBR Staff

Imagine you run a retail store and hire a leafleteer to distribute handbills to attract new customers. You might assess her effectiveness by counting the number of customers who arrived carrying her handbill and, perhaps, presenting it for a discount. But suppose you realized the leafleteer was standing just outside your store’s front door, giving handbills to everyone on their way in. The measured “effectiveness” would be a ruse, merely counting customers who would have come in anyway. You’d be furious and would fire her in an instant. Fortunately, that wouldn’t actually be needed: anticipating being found out, few leafleteers would attempt such a scheme.

In online advertising, a variety of equally brazen ruses drain advertisers’ budgets — but usually it’s more difficult for advertisers to notice them. I’ve been writing about this problem since 2004, and doing my best to help advertisers avoid it.

Overstating the Effectiveness of Sponsored Search Campaigns
A first manifestation of the problem arises in sponsored search. Suppose a user goes to Google and searches for eBay. Historically, the top-most link to eBay would be a paid advertisement, requiring eBay to pay Google each time the ad was clicked. These eBay ads had excellent measured performance in that many users clicked such an ad, then went on to bid or buy with high probability. But step back a bit. A user has already searched for “eBay.” That user is likely to buy from eBay whether or not eBay advertises with Google. In a remarkable experiment, economist Steve Tadelis and coauthors turned off eBay’s trademark-triggered advertising in about half the cities in the U.S. They found that sales in those regions stayed the same even as eBay’s advertising expenditure dropped. eBay’s measure of ad effectiveness was totally off-base and had led to millions of dollars of overspending.

Now, eBay is unusual in its dominance of U.S. consumer auctions. Your company is probably less fortunate in the markets it serves, and if you don’t buy your trademark as a keyword to show your search ads, Google will try to sell your trademark to your competitors, a tactic which some courts have allowed. But if a user searches for Dell, an ad for a competitor like Lenovo tends to underperform. Some users may be willing to consider an alternative at Google’s suggestion, and others may be tricked or not realize the difference, but at least a portion will recognize that Lenovo is something else entirely.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Chicago generalizes these methods and shows that buying your own trademark tends not to be as good an investment as standard measurement tools suggest. Tempting as it may be to increase spending on these (supposedly) “top-performing” keywords, I’d advise the opposite: Cut them, perhaps all the way to zero.

Overtargeting Display Ads
Another problem arises with “retargeting,” which recognizes consumers who didn’t make purchases. The logic: if you went to Expedia and looked at a hotel but didn’t make a reservation, Expedia will arrange for its ad to be shown as you browse the web in the coming days. The banners can be eerily precise, often promoting the specific properties you considered. This approach makes it easy to click back to where you were and complete the purchase.

Here too, standard metrics indicate that the campaign works. No doubt the folks who browsed at Expedia are good candidates for buying from Expedia. Showing banners may remind them to do so. But how many of them would have made a purchase anyway? Certainly not zero. (Consider the traveler who was waiting to finalize his itinerary, perhaps awaiting confirmation from a friend or a business associate.) Yet most measures of ad effectiveness will give full credit to the retargeting vendor — asserting, falsely, that had it not been for the retargeting banner, the user would not have purchased. This hasty analysis leads advertisers to run retargeting campaigns that appear to yield profitable purchases more than sufficient to cover retargeting costs. But if an advertiser considers that some of the sales would have happened anyway, the appeal of retargeting campaigns necessarily diminishes.

It turns out that even demographic targeting of banner ads (without retargeting) is also at risk. Suppose your company is fortunate enough to enjoy popularity with a given demographic group — say, 40% market share among men aged 18 to 25. You might target banner ads to that same group, hoping to reach the 60% of customers in this group that you don’t yet serve. But remember that you’ll also be addressing the many customers that already use your offering. You might falsely attribute “success” to a campaign that prompted purchases from the customers who were going to buy from you regardless.

My advice: try a randomized experiment. Take a portion of the users who would have seen a retargeting campaign or a demographically-targeted campaign. Rather than showing them your ad, decline to advertise to them, and track how many of them buy anyway. If 20% of them still make a purchase, your ads are actually 20% less effective than basic measurements would suggest.

Paying for Affiliate Sales That Would Have Happened Anyway
Affiliate marketing is supposed to align incentives perfectly, paying only for success — like a 10% commission if a user actually buys a given product, but zero for impressions and clicks. Is fraud “impossible,” as some have claimed? Not at all.

Consider a sneaky affiliate who “stuffs” a cookie on every user’s computer as the user browses an unrelated web site. With a moderately popular site (or a banner or widget on someone else’s site), this “cookie-stuffer” might claim to have referred millions of users to a given merchant. Some of those users are bound to make purchases, and the merchant will pay the affiliate a commission as if it truly caused the user’s sale. Worse, the merchant is unlikely to suspect the problem; with real sales, merchants are often slow to realize that some customers’ decisions are uninfluenced by any affiliate marketing activity.
Mere speculation, you worry? Not so. In 2008 indictments in San Francisco, Shawn Hogan and Brian Dunning were charged with wire fraud for using these methods to claim more than $20 million from eBay. They were, for a time, eBay’s largest two affiliates, and they report that eBay wooed them with dedicated account managers, chartered jets, and more. Only years later did eBay realize it was being swindled. (Disclosure: I advise eBay on certain aspects of affiliate marketing fraud, and litigation records indicate that I uncovered Hogan and Dunning’s activities.)

The take-away: if you run an affiliate marketing program, you shouldn’t assume it’s fraud-free. A good start is to know your affiliates — browse their sites to examine their offers and approach. Some affiliates try to keep their sites secret, claiming that merchants might copy their proprietary methods. I can understand their worry, but if they want to get paid, they should expect reasonable oversight. If an affiliate’s site doesn’t look quite right — too ragged for the volume it reports, too hasty, or otherwise not quite right — you should push for specifics and check third-party sources like affiliate network staff, server logs, and online discussion forums to try to confirm your suspicions.

Measuring Success When Adware Intervenes
When users’ computers are infected with advertising software like adware and malware, advertisers are at still greater risk of being separated from their money with little to show for it. I’ve tracked adware that covers advertisers’ sites with their own pay-per-click ads, so that a user browsing (say) sees paid links for RCN rather than (or on top of) the genuine RCN site, prompting unnecessary clicks. I’ve found banner injectors that insert ads into other companies’ web pages without permission from those pages, and certainly without paying those pages’ publishers. Remarkably, some injectors insert an advertiser’s banner ad into its own web site — a particularly outrageous scam against the advertiser, which then pays to retain a user it already serves. (An example is Revizer adware and ad network Criteo charging Zappos for users already on Adware can also monitor a user’s browsing, then invoke the affiliate link to the site a user is about to buy from.

Adware tends to be particularly tricky to uncover since testing is so difficult. Advertisers are rarely willing to set up testing labs to see adware in action first-hand. As a stopgap, consider insisting on higher standards from responsible networks. Revise contracts to allow for clawback of any payments later shown to result from adware. While you’re at it, you might look for one-sided terms throughout an ad network’s contract; ad network defaults tend to protect their interests only, disclaiming every possible warranty or guarantee to leave advertisers vulnerable if anything goes wrong.

The Way Forward: Aligning Incentives for Marketing Managers
It’s probably no surprise that advertising networks offer services that aren’t in advertisers’ best interests. An ad network is an advertiser’s vendor — fundamentally, not a genuine partner or ally, but a supplier whose direct interest is charging more for doing less. Savvy advertisers should view the relationship accordingly.

How about ad agencies and advertising buyers? Advertisers often pressure agencies and buyers to deliver near-impossible results. They often face tough demands — “20% more customers for 10% less money” and so forth — and cutting corners can feel almost unavoidable. I understand advertisers’ insistence on results, and I share it. But when measurement is imperfect, an excessive focus on measured results invites vendors to game the system with tactics that advance measured indicators without genuine results.

I’ve even seen instances in which a company’s in-house staff become complicit, knowing that vendors are up to no good, but afraid to call them out on it. Companies almost invite this behavior through bonuses and performance objectives — “$10k extra if you increase ROI by 10%” — yielding temptations too enticing for some to resist.

Advertising is hard work. Short of the rare product that practically sells itself, advertisers and their vendors should expect to hustle to find scalable and cost-effective methods. When you see a new tactic delivering outsized results, you might ask yourself whether it’s too good to be true. Sadly, often it is.

Original POST

Author: Benjamin Edelman

Analytics? Let’s defer to Avinash Kaushik

Want to get up to speed on the world of digital analytics relatively quickly? Follow Avinash Kaushik‘s blog Occam’s Razor. He writes and speaks on analytics in way that is easy to grasp and you can start implementing some great ideas right away. Here’s a recent post:

Speed, Focus, Smart Insights: 5 Google Analytics Custom Reports FTW!

SplitsStandard reports stink. Custom reports rock!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you are quite familiar with this sentiment. I’ve expressed it often. 🙂

The primary reason is simple: You are unique. Your business is unique. Why would a report created for everyone work for the special someone that you are?

There are other great reasons as well.

Custom reports allow you to deeply focus (by eliminating the rif-raf metrics and dimensions, they save time and show just what you want). When shared, custom reports allow you to deliver deeper relevance. Custom reports allow you to package up entire datasets for deeper analysis.

I’ve shared a whole bunch of custom reports in the past. You can download them into your Google Analytics account via one click (along with some lovely Advanced Segments and a Dashboard). Just go to the GA Solutions Gallery and click Import: Occam’s Razor Awesomeness.

You can download a bunch more, that are not yet in the bundle above, by following the links at the end of this post. Seven more! The include single custom reports that replace all/most current standard reports in GA on Mobile, Content, Paid Search and Acquisition. Your life will be simpler. Grab the above, then grab the ones at the end of this post.

Today, I want to share a few of my recent favorites that solve day-to-day challenges in clever ways.

But, before we go there I want to share an important concept. Many custom reports are wrong because we mess up the fundamental data model in analytics. We mis-align metrics and dimensions across Users, Session, Hits. If you want to create accurate custom reports (or apply advanced segments), this post is mandatory reading: Excellent Analytics Tip #23: Align Hits, Sessions, Metrics, Dimensions!

With that life-lesson out of the way, here are the super-cool custom reports that truly unlock the power of Google Analytics…

If you use Adobe or IBM or… you’ll find these concepts to be extremely relevant. They all allow you to create deeply custom reports, so just recreate them there. If your digital analytics tool does not allow you to create these types of reports, ditch it before it gets you fired!

In each of the above five amazing custom reports, you’ll learn various techniques – how to create a flat report, how to use filters, how to create micro-ecosystems of data, just get cool visualizations you can in PowerPoint, etc. – and you’ll have a link you can click on to download the report directly into your Google Analytics account.

Here we go….

1. Hostname [Domains with your GA code]

This report demonstrates the power of getting something out of Google Analytics that you might know exists there.

There are many metrics and dimensions in GA that are hidden because they are not in any standard report.

I suffer from the problem that tons of people scrape the content from this blog and repost it as if it were their own. Silly problem (and an ineffective strategy for the scrapers). I was worried that if they scrape the content from my blog, they likely scrape my GA code as well and now I have polluted data!

There is a simple way to understand the impact, create a custom report to draw out an otherwise hidden GA dimension: Hostname.

Here’s my custom report…

hostname custom report google analytics

I wanted to capture how many sessions and users were being “added,” I wanted to know their bounce rate (ha!), and some sense for how deep the engagement might be on their site (as I have set up some behavior goal-types on my GA account and also, hurray, assigned goal values!).

Here’s the resulting output… a simple and effective report that caused me to step off the ledge…

hostname custom report data google analytics

So, yes, people are scraping content. It is not a big deal.

So the Sessions and Users numbers are tiny – completely ignorable. (This is why I think it is such a distraction to have Analysts wrap themselves into a pretzel and spend a ton of time and custom coding to “eliminate internal company traffic.” Look, just grow the pie, just do better marketing. Make the internal traffic so small that you can ignore it!)

I’ll admit it hurts a bit that their bounce rates are so much lower than mine. 🙂

On a serious note, some of these values are ok. For example, shows users who are reading the blog via Google Translate and are likely non-English speakers. If this number is big, consider providing translations. Just check each source to see if you need to be worried. And, in my case even if the number are 10x more, I would not really worry in context of the 1.2 million overall Visits.

Custom Report Download: Just grab the Occam’s Razor Awesomeness bundle, the report is in there.

Bonus: There’s lots of goodness that is hidden in Google Analytics. Explore here: Dimensions & Metrics Explorer

2. Social Media Performance Analysis

This report demonstrates the power of custom reports to reduce the time you spent hunting and gathering.

Let’s say you want to analyze your social media performance. At the moment you will have to go to the Acquisition folder, and at the very minimum look through all these reports to pick out the best bits…

google analytics acquisition reports

That’s a lot of stuff, right? The All Traffic folder has Social spread out in Channels, Treemaps, Source/Medium and likely in Referrals. In the Social folder you’ve got lots of other stuff (which might be un-tied to All Traffic), that you likely need some time to internalize.

For most people, you don’t need all this digging around. You can create one destination where you, and everyone in your company, can wallow in the trough that is social data!

I call reports like this one micro-ecosystems. It brings together everything you need in one place. (There’s a Paid Search micro-ecosystem you can download at the end of this post.) We have three tabs of data. The first one gives you the overall end-to-end picture (Acquisition – Behavior – Outcomes). The second one will focus on analyzing content performance on our site from Social traffic. The third one will be on device analysis (because of our hypothesis that so much of Social consumption is mobile!).

Here’s what the first tab, ABO, looks like in the configuration mode…

social media custom report definition

Always, always, always, no matter what you report, ensure you have acquisition, behavior and outcome metrics. You’ll see all three above.

I want to know what Social Network people are coming from. I want to know Users (valiant imperfect effort at people!) and how often each User comes (acquisition metrics). How much content they are consuming (I use session duration only on rare occasions due to time imperfections) and do they get what they were looking for are go hunting (behavior metrics). Finally, what value was delivered to my business (even for a non-profit such as myself, an outcome metric).

To aid further discovery, I’ve created a drilldown for country to optimize my social participation.

Do notice the clever use of the filter (Social Source Referral Exact Yes) above. I want to give the Google Analytics team big love for this life saver. It was deeply frustrating to keep track of social networks (they come and go every day!). Now with Social Network dimension and Social Source Referral filter, you don’t have to worry about it. Uncle Paul is keeping track of it on your behalf! Give him a hug next time you see him.

Here’s the delightful report…

social media custom report ABO

I can easily see all the sources I would expect, and some I did not expect. Again, this is thanks to Uncle Paul’s clever mappings. I can see that Pocket drives most repeat visits, and people are most curious (5% internal search rate). They are also delivering the highest Per Session Goal Value.

I’ve never expressed much engagement with Stack Exchange (or Quora), clearly a mistake I need to rectify.

It also confirms some truths I already knew, Twitter and LinkedIn. But I have stronger numbers for some metrics, but it is clear I can do more to increase the Per Session Goal Value. (I would do that by creating advanced segments for, say Quora and applying that to my Goals Overview report and comparing it with Twitter and LinkedIn.)

Before I go there, I can click on the network I’m most interested in and see where the traffic is coming from…

social media custom report ABO country

There are huge differences for me between Twitter and Facebook. Insights I will use to shift my participation on both channels.

Such a simple collection of metrics and dimensions, such lovely immediate insights.

The second tab is more fun. We always worry about our tweets and posts and reshares when it comes to Social. We don’t analyze what people are interested on our site (mobile or desktop) enough. So, here’s the tab configuration…

social media custom report content analysis

I’ve switched the dimensions so that I look at the Landing Page first, and then drill down to which Social Network is most effective. For metrics, I’ve chosen Unique Pageviews and Pageviews (remember pages are hit level metrics, don’t pick Users and Sessions, they are session level dimensions). Then Page Load Time and Bounce Rates – interesting contrast, right? Finally for outcomes I’ve picked Page Value (remember, it is imprecise to measure session level metrics like conversion rate, goal completions, for hit level dimensions like pages).

Here’s the gorgeous beast…

social media custom report content analysis data

First, look at the contrast between Page Load Time and Bounce Rate. Even accommodating for the fact that Page Load Time is sampled and could always be measured better, there is a lot of goodness here. Work for me to think about and my IT Team (one person 10% of the time!) to action.

The thing I’m most surprised about is the long tail of Social interest. I now write once a month, so much of the stuff above is old. This is a good reminder. Most Social strategies consist of spamming the fresh and moving from fresh to fresher to freshest. Forgetting the truth above. The value in monetizing the old (and still relevant and valuable).

It is also clear above that certain types of content delivers higher value outcomes for my little business here. That in turn will help me figure out what to amplify using social channels. Fewer Google Analytics posts, more broad marketing and business consulting posts! Goodness. I should stop writing this one. 🙂

Tactical and strategic insights. Lovely.

I can also then drill down specifically and optimize for each Social Network by clicking on any of the posts above…

social media custom report content analysis data detail

A new layer of insights.

It should not matter that my insights and guidance above are for a content site and you have an ecommerce website. On Social we create content (hopefully that informs, entertains, provides utility – my mantra for social success). You can use the same process, for your hardcore ecommerce money making venture, to identify actionable insights.

Lastly, remember the hypothesis that most Social consumption is mobile?

I have a tab called Device Analysis to help me dive deeper into people’s behavior by device when it comes to Social, here are the ABO metrics…

social media custom report device analysis

Turns out that at least for me, the prevailing wisdom is not true. Yes, mobile, mobile, mobile and mobile. I hear you Gurus. But, my report does not bear that out. I need to ensure my social strategy is Desktop, Phone and then Tablet (I have to admit this small number was a big surprise).

This will influence the content I’ll write (length, type, images, etc.), and it will influence the promotion I might do using advertising options (for example, as Edgerank chokes all of us, I buy ads on Facebook to share my content, above data helps me target that better).

My Device Analysis report has a built in drilldown. Just pick the platform, click. Here’s the report for Mobile…

social media custom report device analysis detail

It was really fascinating to see the goal completions and conversion rates for Apple vs. Samsung. They did not go with what the prevailing wisdom was. If I were a real business I would use these insights in my ad-targeting strategies. But, I’m too poor (other than FB above), so this report is just for demonstration purposes for me. You can, and should use it though as a part of your Social Media Marketing strategy.

Custom Report Download: Log into your GA account, click: AK: Social Media Performance Analysis Report

Bonus: The very best use of custom reports is when you apply relevant advanced segments to them. This is how you find really rich insights. For example, I found it extremely useful to look at the broad cluster of Social Traffic and contrast it with Users that became Loyal to the website…

social media custom report advanced segments

A much smaller number than you might expect, but these are golden people to me, a part of theavinash army of analysis ninjas! I learn from what works for them, and try to get more of them.

I would not get to this if I did not use advanced segmentation.

3. Business Outcomes Analysis

This report demonstrates the new amazing metrics in Google Analytics, thanks to Enhanced Ecommerce, and the new wonderful ability you have to understand the business outcomes delivered from all those cookies/visitors/users.

All you people (like me) with non-ecommerce websites, hang in there. See the second tab below, that’s for you. We’ll come back to it. Patience padawan!

I don’t like having more than six or so metrics (as you’ve seen above, and will below). Humans and only take so much in at one time. But in this case, more to demonstrate the power, I’m going to go a bit overboard.

For my ecommerce business, I’ve chosen my acquisition, behavior and outcome metrics…

google analytics business outcomes analysis ecommerce

We start with Users. So far so good. Deep breath.

The first new metric is Buy-to-Detail Rate, it measures the number of products purchased per number of product-detail views. I love this, and think of it as an efficiency metric. (Do you know what % of Sessions contained a Product Detail page view?) Product Adds to Cart and Product Checkouts are just what they imply. Clever new behavior metrics.

Ecommerce Conversion Rate, Transactions, Average Order Value and Revenue are buddies you already know so well.

I worry that Analysts are way too locked into Adobe or Google Analytics’ monthly view and rarely look at longer term performance. Partly because the graph on top only looks at one metric (and that too over 30 days unless you change it, dang!).

Hence, the dimension I’ve chosen to look at is Month of Year. I want to compare my key metrics over time. I’m also using a new dimensions not enough people are using, Traffic Type, and of course finally, our long-time lover, Source/Medium…

google analytics business outcomes analysis ecommerce dimensions

My resulting report is so sexy, :), that I have to break it into two pieces to show you clearly in the limited pixels I have available here. You’ll see it all as one report when you download it below.

Here are my acquisition and behavior metrics. It would be super convenient if the team at Google would be so sweet as to actually say June-15, July-15, Aug-15, but we push on regardless. You can see the three months and the trend of the various key metrics…

google analytics business outcomes analysis ecommerce data1

Aug-15 is partial above, so that explains the low number. But, June is unusual. While we got lots of traffic in July, it was clearly irrelevant to the ecommerce business because the Buy-to-Detail ratio was significantly lower.

The other signal is the June’s much traffic also had higher Add To Cart and Checkouts.

Is grabbing as much traffic as you can all it’s cracked up to be? Maybe not.

Here’s the other half of the report (because I love you so much, I’ve added the Month dimension here manually)…

google analytics business outcomes analysis ecommerce data2

You can see the other end of the story here. So far in Aug we are either trending with the June numbers or doing better. Bodes well for this month. But, really calls into question what the heck were we doing in July!

It is rare that we look at all key metrics trended like this over time. Hence, I love the above report.

I can choose a month, July since I’m so curious now, and I can drill down to Traffic Type…

google analytics business outcomes analysis ecommerce traffic type

You can see the key metrics trended for each channel. You can clearly see the important patterns above (what the heck is going on with Paid Search and Display!).

The big difference for me was Referral, in contrast to the other month. And, now I have the capacity to drill down and look at the Source/Mediums for that Traffic Type…

google analytics business outcomes analysis ecommerce source medium

YouTube… I’m going to kill you! What the heck man! Why are you not selling stuff for me!!! Reddit, you’re up next.

(All kidding aside, YouTube is a See-Think channel, it is supposed to be bad at Do. More: See-Think-Do-Care business framework.)

I can compare and contrast and it took me only a very short amount of time to discover what was going on in July, and now I can fix it.

I want you to try and imagine how long looking through three levels of drilldowns across eight metrics and three months of data would take in standard Google Analytics report. Wait. That’s a waste of time. Download the above report instead.

Custom Report Download: Log into your GA account, click: AK: Business Outcomes Analysis

I’d promised to share a non-ecommerce version of the above report. And, here it is…

google analytics business outcomes analysis non-ecommerce

I’ve simply added a second tab to the ecommerce report.

I can’t use the same metrics, but I’ve kept the spirit alive in choosing my metrics as Users, Goal Conversion Rate, Goal Completions, Goal Value and Per Session Goal Value.

I dare you to be more obsessive about outcomes!

I’ve kept the dimensions exactly the same, because I’m recommending the same type of analysis as the above ecommerce version.

Here’s my beautiful report…

google analytics business outcomes analysis non-ecommerce-data

To make the non-ecommerce tab work you’ll need two things. 1. You’ll need to have identified goals for you site. (And if you have not, really, what are you doing on the Internet?) 2. You’ll need to have identified the economic values for those goals.

If you do, your report will be just as beautiful as mine above. And, you can do the same analysis that our e-com brethren are doing above. Including the relevant drill-downs to Traffic Type and Source/Medium…

google analytics business outcomes analysis non-ecommerce-data-referral

It is really, really cool that while serving the world with our content, we can also ensure that long term survival of our digital adventure.

Custom Report Download: Log into your GA account, click: AK: Business Outcomes Analysis

4. Campaign Cost Analysis

This report demonstrates something that will most likely won’t work for you, but something I desperately want you to care about if you want your business to really win. The reason your boss is not more in love with digital, dare I say, is what this report is demanding you do.

We usually measure the outcome of our web strategy using things like conversion rates and revenue. We just did that above!

But, that is just sales. What about getting closer to measuring profit? Or, at least revenue net of marketing or acquisition costs?

You’ll agree with me that that makes a lot of sense, right?

Yet, we rarely do it.

The problem is not the capability in the web analytics tools we have. The problem is our willingness to just do it.

Let’s establish that cost is important.

Here’s my custom report that helps my clients understand the truly end-to-end view of performance of their digital marketing campaigns…

campaign cost analysis custom report setup ecom

Except for the first one, I suspect you know the other metrics quite well. The first one is the one I’m most interested in.

The dimensions are Source/Medium, then we drill down to Campaign, and then by Device Category (as there are massive differences in performance once you get to Mobile and Tablets).

Here’s how the report looks like when you have all the data flowing in as it should…

campaign cost analysis custom report ecommerce

You can see how much money you spent, how often you showed up on the advertising channel, how many people ended up on your site, resulting in what number of sessions (Clicks and Sessions never tie, if they are close, just move on). Then you get to the interesting bits, focus on performance (Click-Through Rate), Cost-Per-Click, and Per Session Value.

The contrast between the last two are particularly important.

If you are paying $1.33 per visit to your site, is the value of $1.66 sufficient to deliver a net positive outcome? Especially, after accounting for your salary?

I kid a bit of course, but this is a deadly serious matter.

Most of the time, we don’t think about this carefully enough.

Notice the red arrow above. We only have cost data for 4.35% of the sessions. This is really poor because, in this case, over 35% of our traffic comes from Paid efforts (Email, Display, Social, Affiliates, etc.).

We can only answer smart questions about one: Paid Search.

This is shameful.

You can import cost data for all your Paid efforts into Google Analytics. For Email.For a billboard if you have cleverly added a url there. For Display. For Social. See an actual example of how to import non-Google ad data into GA.

Please invest the time in doing this. Your boss is going to love you infinitely more (because they will make decisions an order of magnitude smarter).

Custom Report Download: Log into your GA account, click: AK: All Campaigns: Cost Analysis: Ecom

I’ve also created a slightly tighter version of this report for non-ecommerce websites, because cost is important to all of us. As I’d mentioned above, I run some ads on Facebook to get FB to show my posts to more people who like my brand page on Facebook.

Here’s the report configuration…

campaign cost analysis custom report setup non-ecom

Just a bit more focused on the metrics side, with the same dimensions and drilldowns.

Here’s the report from a non-ecommerce blog, who uses email marketing to stay in close contact with it’s Think and Care audience clusters…

campaign cost analysis custom report non ecom

The cost data for the email campaigns was uploaded into Google Analytics, and you can easily see how the end-to-end picture helps us understand the complete value that email marketing provides. Look at that CPC! Sweet.

You can get this type of data for all your campaigns, and I urge you to invest in that.

Custom Report Download: Log into your GA account, click: AK: All Campaigns: Cost Analysis: Non-Ecom

#5 Key Metrics: Map Overlay Visualization

This last report demonstrates using custom reports for purposes it was not really created for, creating a nice visualization.

I present a lot, internally and externally. Hence, my objective is to try and simplify the data presentation as much as I can. In aid of that goal, one strategy I use is to pull out the Map Overlay view in Google Analytics to show the data.

What do you think of this…

key metrics map overlay dashboard

There is such little space in this blog to see four different sets of data well. Yet, I bet you can see lots of interesting trends and patterns above. Pick the same states (dark ones or your fav state…) and look across. Interesting, right?

Here’s the most obvious one. Traffic is so lop sided (California and Texas), and yet Per Session Value and Avg. Session Duration is so much more diverse! Are we simply getting sub-optimal traffic from California? And, why not more from Nevada? And, what is going on in the middle of the country in terms of time spent? What is up with that square state, and why don’t they spend more money with us when they do spend time?

Really nice. And, no numbers.

Clearly, this is more for presentation (after you’ve already done the analysis, and have some of the answer above). But, in front of a group of people, your boss, perhaps it is all you need to move focus away from data and to shift it to having a discussion.

I snagged the four pictures above from a simple custom report I’d created for this purpose…

map overlay custom reports

I’ve used the Explorer report type in all reports above, in this case I’ve used the Map Overlay.

I’ve set the Zoom Level to Country, and set it as the United States. You can change both to your needs (World, Continent, Sub-Continent, Country).

I’ve further set the dimension to Region. Again, you can set it to your needs (Region, City, Metro).

This report is here so that you’ll make your own clever use of the Map Overlay, but also to inspire you to take away the data as much as you can when you are done with your analysis. Your job is to not impress people with your data, you job is to drive the discussion forward about what to do and what the business impact will be from those actions.

Custom Report Download: Log into your GA account, click: AK: KPIs: Map Overlay Visualization

Bonus: Speaking of data visualization, more inspiration for you: 7 Data Presentation Tips: Think, Focus, Simplify, Calibrate, Visualize and, the even richer and more amazing, Data Visualization Inspiration: Analysis To Insights To Action, Faster!

So there you go, five new custom reports (six actually) that I hope will bring a new layer of insights to your company, while speeding up the time it takes to get to those insights.

Custom reports are a powerful tool in your arsenal, I hope you completely ditch the standard reports and build your Analysis Ninja-dom on these micro-ecosystems.

As always, it is your turn now.

Do you have your favourite custom reports? The ones you can’t live without? If so, would you please be so kind as to share links to them below so that we can all benefit? What changes would you make to any of my five custom reports above to make them even more effective? What can I take away? What can I add? Is there a clever strategy you use that I have not?

Please share your custom reports, your suggestions, your critique and your lessons from the front-lines via comments below.

Thank you.

PS: As promised, here are seven more custom reports I’d shared earlier on this blog…

Download the Page Efficiency Analysis V2, Visitor Acquisition Efficiency Analysis, and Paid Search Performance Analysis reports here: 3 Awesome, Downloadable, Custom Web Analytics Reports

Download the Paid vs. Organic Search Performance, PPC Keyword/Matched Query, End-to-End Paid Search reports here: Google Analytics Custom Reports: Paid Search Campaigns Analysis

Download the Content Efficiency & Keyword Drilldown Ecommerce report here: Produce Actionable Insights: Mate Custom Reports With Adv Segments!

Original POST


Networks fret as ad dollars flow to digital media

Published by the NY Times 5/10/15 – It will be interesting to see how much advertisers are willing to spend on traditional media this year. The question isn’t how much [there will be plenty of advertising time purchased] but will the decline continue? I believe so.

Where are you putting your budget?


With the number of digital alternatives growing quickly, the television industry is bracing for what many expect to be an anemic upfront market.

Beginning Monday, television networks will roll out the red carpet for marketers during the annual bazaar known as the upfronts, trying to lure them into committing tens of billions of ad dollars for the coming TV season. If things go well, the networks will sell as much as 75 percent of their advertising time in the negotiations that follow a week of flashy presentations and star-studded parties.
But behind that lavish veneer, the mood at some television networks is nervous and the sales pitch urgent.
That is because broadcast and cable companies are asking marketers to open their wallets at a time of great anxiety in the industry, when TV ratings have collapsed and networks are fending off fierce competition from digital outlets.
Television viewing has plummeted 9 percent so far this season compared with the previous season, according to MoffettNathanson Research. To explain the drop, some industry executives and analysts point to the rapid increase in the amount of time people spend watching Netflix and other streaming alternatives. Netflix viewing accounted for about 43 percent of the decline in traditional TV viewing in the first quarter of this year, according to MoffettNathanson.