Use Google Analytics to Optimize Advertising Spend


When you think of Google Analytics, what do you think of?

You might think of website metrics, like visits and users. You might think of website usability – bounce rates and time on site. You might even think of goal tracking – transactions and revenue.

Google Analytics does all of that, and more. Which is why it is such a great tool for marketers at companies large and small.

However, most marketers don’t think of Google Analytics as a tool to help you optimize your advertising spend. But it can do that too.

How to Optimize Your Ad Spend with Google Analytics

First, did you know that you can import cost data into your Google Analytics account? You can link your Google Ads account so that all of that data gets pulled in automatically, and then use this article to learn how to add all your other ad spend.

Once you have cost data included in Google Analytics, you can use various ‘Acquisition’ reports to dig into the performance of all your advertising channels. From paid social campaigns like Facebook and Instagram ads, to search ads on Google and Bing, to email marketing and display – you can learn more about how visitors behave on your site when they come through one of these paid channels.

You can see the number of sessions, and calculate the cost for every new visitor to your site. You can see where they go on your site, and how long they stick around. And you can see transactions, including conversion rate, revenue, and cost per transaction. In that way, you can even calculate your return on ad spend (ROAS) for each campaign – that is, how much money is this campaign delivering in revenue for every dollar you spend in advertising.

At this point, you will have a better idea which channels are working and which are not. And you can optimize your budget to spend more in those that are working, and press pause on the campaigns that are not.

But that’s not all.

Take things one step further and learn how to improve performance within each individual campaign with audiences and segments. You can identify specific behaviors in each of these visitor groups (based on the traffic source or campaign) that will help you create better onsite experiences.

Looking at landing pages, bounce rates, conversion funnels, and ecommerce data, you can collect vast amounts of data points to help you better understand how people are interacting with your site. Find the gaps, and work on improving the overall conversion process – whether its for that single campaign or all of the above.

This conversion rate optimization work – that springs from observing traffic patterns and user behavior in Google Analytics – will help you optimize your advertising efforts even further, by improving the ROAS across the board. If you get more conversions for each dollar spent, your ROAS goes up. That means greater marketing contributions and a happy boss.

Top Advertising Blog Posts

Advertising is obviously a big part of marketing. Many people mistakenly understand the two terms to mean the same thing. As marketers, we know there is far more to marketing than just advertising. Nevertheless, we need to know advertising if we’re to succeed.

For that reason, we went back and collected the most widely-read blog posts on the subject. Here are the top ten advertising blog posts from the last several years:

  1. The State of Social Media Advertising
  2. How Many Times Will the Same Person See Your Ad?
  3. Ad Blockers are Here to Stay
  4. Not All Ad Placements are Created Equal
  5. Brand Advertising vs. Direct Response
  6. The Two T’s of Advertising Success
  7. Ethical Issues in Ad Targeting
  8. Selling with Sex
  9. Deceptive Advertising
  10. Marketing Myths: People Read

Not All Ad Placements Are Created Equal

If I told you to create a banner ad for me, how would you respond?

I hope you’d have questions. I hope you would want to know what it should say, what is the offer. I hope you would want to know what it was for, and where it was going to direct people. And lastly, I hope you would ask me who it was for, who do we expect to see it and click on it.

That last question is one of the most critical, because not all ad placements are created equal. It’s like a marketer being given a product and told to market it. To who?

We need to define our target market. Who are our customers?

And in the banner advertising world, a big part of the answer to “Who” is also the “Where”. Where an ad shows up matters, for a great many reasons:

  1. Where an ad shows up tells you what it is showing up next to. What are you competing with for attention? How can you leverage the content around you to draw people in?
  2. Where an ad shows up tells you why someone might be interested in what you’re offering. What are they interested in? What took them here?

From this logic, I draw two conclusions.

First, the practice of measuring display campaigns by number of impressions really doesn’t mean anything. That assumes that every impression is equal to every other impression. We know that’s not the case.

I get why we do it that way. It’s easy. But it’s stupid.

And second, while you might not have the bandwidth to create different ads for everywhere they might show up, it is a bad idea to simply use the same creative everywhere. Knowing where an ad shows up gives you vital information that your design team can use to create a more effective version.

2 T’s of Advertising Success

I wish there were a simple formula for advertising success. I wish it was like a recipe – you find something you like a lot and you know exactly what went in to it so you can duplicate it over and over again.

But, sadly, advertising is not an exact science. A lot of different factors go in to whether or not an ad is successful.

The creative aspects of an ad often get the most attention: the look and feel, the copy, the headline, the call to action, the imagery, etc. But I would challenge you to question whether or not the creative is getting too much attention. Yes, it matters. But there are other factors that seem to matter a little bit more.

Those factors are Timing and Targeting.

Timing and Targeting are two of the most important parts of an ad, and are also two parts that are too often overlooked or underappreciated. When we start to think about an ad, we want to know what it will look like. And when we go to measure an ad’s success, we focus on what it looked like.

We don’t focus on WHO saw the ad and WHEN. But we should.

Especially in today’s world, with consumers who are 1) constantly bombarded with advertising, and 2) constantly connected to each other and the world around them through technology, advertisers who focus on Timing and Targeting will win on a much more consistent basis.

Timing answer the WHEN question. When should we show them our ad? When do we want them to see our ad? When will they be most ready to receive our ad?

Timing is all about triggers. What time of day would consumers most likely respond to an ad? What are they doing when they see the ad? What do we want them to do afterward?

When you get the timing right, you win attention.

Targeting answers the WHO question. Who do we want to see our ad? Who is most likely to respond to the ad? How old are they? Where do they live and work? What media do they interact with?

When you get the targeting right, you are showing your ad to the right people and not wasting money on everyone else.

It’s all about Timing and Targeting. Show the ad to the right person, at the right time. If you do that, the ad creative matters less than you might think. 

How to Ruin an Ad – Part 5

Welcome to the latest edition of our current weekly blog series, How to Ruin an Ad. As is most obvious from the title of this series, each week we’ll be identifying a key element of an ad that, when missing, is sure to reduce its effectiveness.

Last week’s ad was ruined by drop-out text.

Today’s ad is ruined by: No call to action

There are two different types of advertisements.

There are advertisements intended to create some sort of direct response in those who see or hear it. Let’s call those direct response ads – DR for short.

Then there are advertisements that are meant just to expose you to a brand, make you feel good about it, remind you that it’s there, in hopes that you come away remembering them next time you might need something that company offers. Those are “branding” ads.

If you are creating a branding ad, A) your ad budget must be pretty high, and B) you can ignore the rest of this post. Because brand ads don’t need a call to action.

But if you’re not, if you’re creating an ad that you hope gets the potential customer to pick up the phone or visit your website or take a trip to your store, you need a call to action. You need to tell them exactly what they should do.

The last thing you want is for someone to be exposed to your ad, convinced to take action, and not know what to do next. You might tell me, “Zach, they should really be able to figure it out on their own.” But why leave it in their hands when it’s so easy to go the extra step for them.

A call to action says, “Call 555-555-5555” or “Visit” or “Click here now”.

Without it, your ad is incomplete. You lead someone all the way to the door and don’t give them the key to get inside.

Did you enjoy this post? Do you have a surefire way to ruin an ad you think we should cover in an upcoming post? Share it with us in the comments or by email.