Use Google Analytics to Optimize Advertising Spend

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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.

Spend Money to Save Money

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Some experts in the marketing space seem to think that you have to spend money to save money. Sounds like a bit of double speak that is used to get companies to say yes to proposals and campaigns that cost more than they might otherwise spend. Sounds like “experts” conning you out of your fought-for marketing budget.

But on closer inspection, some of this actually makes a little sense.

To identify the good spending from the bad spending, we have to approach our marketing budget from both a short term and a long term perspective.

Short Term

In the short term, the money you spend today should have immediate impact on results. Companies that rely on direct response advertising measure the return on every dollar they spend. Did that campaign bring in new sales? How many? And what does that mean for our revenue?

From that perspective, a company should only increase their budget if we can guarantee the same results. Because spending money now that won’t generate new sales is a waste. It hurts the bottom line in the short term.

Long Term

But if we take a longer-term mindset, the advantages of certain kinds of new advertising spend make more sense. Companies that spend money on branding are not concerned as much about the immediate return on that investment. Instead, they know that by spending money in the right ways now, they’ll be able to more effectively generate sales growth later, over time.

There are a lot of different marketing initiatives that fall into this second bucket.

  • Website redesigns

  • Most traditional advertising – billboards, television, radio, print

  • Content marketing

  • Digital branding – banners, videos, etc.

Companies don’t necessarily expect that money spent in these areas will lead immediately to an increase in sales. Rather, over time, they expect that these activities will expose new potential customers to their brand. In this way, they can increase their brand awareness.

When more consumers know who you are, more often they will come to you, instead of the other way around. Brand mentions go up. Brand searches go up. Word of mouth improves.

And over the long term, you experience significant sales growth.

You spend money now so that you don’t have to spend so much money chasing sales later.

Why is the Bounce Rate so High on Your Landing Page?

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A landing page is the page on your site which people land on when they click on one of your paid ads – be they search ads, display ads, social ads, or others. And so, many marketers and the companies they represent expect that some percentage of people who land on those pages will end up leaving before the do anything else.

In analytics terms, we call that a bounce. And the page’s bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who expect your website before completing any additional action.

A high bounce rate is clearly not a good thing. But traditionally, marketers tend to be more tolerant of a high bounce rate on a landing page, where a visitor has come from an advertisement, than they would be on other pages of the site. And I am not here telling you that you should expect visitors you pay for to behave the same way as visitors who come to your site organically.

However, just because we expect higher bounce rates on our landing pages, doesn’t mean we should be okay with them. And it doesn’t mean we can’t work to lower them.

So make 2019 the year you refocus on landing pages, and cut those bounce rates in half.

How? Start by understanding why people are bouncing in the first place.

Here are five possible reasons:

  1. You are advertising to the wrong people.

  2. Your page doesn’t provide enough information.

  3. Your page is not optimized for mobile.

  4. You are not clear about what they should do next.

  5. You don’t give them any incentive to take action.

Let’s explore each of these possibilities and what you can do about them.

You are advertising to the wrong people.

If the wrong people are landing on the page, it’s no wonder that they are leaving. This may happen if your targeting is too broad, meaning that your ad is being shown to people who are not in the market for your offerings. It also can happen when you use the same landing page for multiple channels and audiences. It is a best practice to make sure your landing page is specific to each audience. To accomplish that, you may need to create multiple landing pages for each campaign.

Your page doesn’t provide enough information.

Many companies treat landing pages as teasers for a certain product or service. They provide just enough information to whet a customer’s appetite and get them to take the next step. But what you think is enough information to tease a product, may not answer the questions that most of your visitors have. And rather than take the required next step, they leave your site and go looking for alternative solutions.

Your page is not optimized for mobile.

We are living in a mobile-first world. More web activity is taking place on phones and tablets than ever before. And your landing pages absolutely must be geared toward the mobile visitor. This means focusing on load times, readability, and usability. Challenge your own perceptions of your landing pages by looking at the bounce rate for mobile users separate from desktop users. You may find that solving for mobile alone can cut your bounce rate in half.

You are not clear about what they should do next.

Some people will leave your site because they simply don’t know what else to do. A strong call-to-action is an important part of any landing page design. Once you have provided enough information to convince the visitor that they are in the right place, give them an action to take. It could be a phone call, a form to submit, a button to start the sales process, a web chat. And make it obvious. The more they have to search for it, the greater the likelihood that some will give up.

You don’t give them any incentive to take action.

Why do this now when I can do it later? That is the mentality of most consumers. It is up to you, as the marketer, to give them a reason to act now. Perhaps it’s the opportunity to claim a special offer, perhaps your offer is only good for a limited time, or perhaps they don’t want to have to wait in line. As a marketer, you are constantly fighting for attention. So don’t squander that attention when you get it by letting consumers leave without taking the next step.

3 Ways to Save Money on Paid Search

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If yours is like most companies, your business derives a lot of prospective customers and new web visits from paid search – that is, the ads you run on Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.

In 2017, companies spent an estimated $35 billion on paid search, which represented nearly 50% of their total digital marketing budgets.

With such a high percentage of our money going to one channel, the inevitable questions surrounding its effectiveness come up. What am I getting for that money? How many new customers are attributed to paid search? What is my ROI?

No company wants to artificially limit the amount of new customers they can reach with their advertising. But the fact is that we don’t have unlimited advertising budgets to work with. And so we have to spread the money around in a way that makes the most sense.

Therefore, if there are ways to save money on paid search without impacting its effectiveness, we should figure out what those are and implement them as soon as possible.

As luck would have it, there are three simple ways to save money on paid search. They are…

1) Mind Your Exclusions

If your goal is to save money without impacting sales, then the first thing you are going to want to do is stop spending money where it isn’t working. This is very easy to do, because of all the tools you have at your disposal. Each of the major search platforms allows you to track where your clicks are coming from, how much you are spending on them, and how many conversions (or sales) they are delivering.

When you find keywords or phrases that are costing you money but not leading to any new business, it is easy to exclude them from your campaigns. And if you are spending money on content campaigns and remarketing, you can find those websites or categories of sites that your ads are showing up on but not driving conversions. And you can exclude them as well, so your ads stop showing up there and costing you money.

When you eliminate keywords and placements in your campaign that are wasting money, you have more money in your budget that you can put toward the keywords and placements that work.

2) Improve Your Conversion Rate

We may view the amount of money you’re spending on paid search and the performance of your site as two completely separate items. But that view is too narrow, ignoring the very real consequences (or should I say benefits) of conversion rate optimization.

While it may not be as simple as exclusions are, taking the steps necessary to improve on-site conversion rate will absolutely save you money on paid search. When a higher percentage of the overall traffic you are driving to the site takes the desired action, each one of those conversions costs you less, thereby driving the same number of sales at a lower total spend.

What you choose to do with the savings is up to you – either spend it on driving even more qualified traffic to this newly optimized site of yours, or pocket it as a cost reduction.

3) Own Your Brand Terms

Brand terms are an area up for some debate. Depending on what advice you listen to or whose article you read, you will hear competing directives.

Some say you should not bother bidding on your brand terms in search because that traffic is likely to find you regardless. After all, they are searching for you directly.

But others say that you should bid on your brand terms for a few reasons, chief among them the fact that your competitors can bid on your brand terms in an attempt to “steal” that traffic. By bidding on your own terms, you make that very real possibility less likely.

Regardless of whose side you take in that argument, the fact is that by eliminating the need to bid on your brand terms will save you money. So my advice to you is to monitor those terms closely, make sure the organic results on the first page of Google are what you want them to be, and keep an eye on where your competition is showing up. If you can avoid spending extra money on those terms without losing out on any of the traffic, go for it.

Who Are You Bidding Against?

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Knowing who your competitors are is a top priority for all businesses. If I were to ask most marketers and small business owners, “who are your top competitors?”, they would be able to answer off the top of their head.

Now, are those the same people you are bidding against on Google?

Not always. But it’s easy to find out.

If you use Google Ads (formerly AdWords) for SEM, you can run a simple report for each campaign that gives you very valuable competitive information. It’s called Auction Insights, and it exists in the Google Ads interface under Ad Groups.

What Does Auction Insights Tell You?

The following is a list of metrics available in Auction Insights:

  1. Display URL Domain – this is the competitor.
  2. Impression Share – the number of impressions you received divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive.
  3. Avg. Position – the average position of each advertiser’s ad on the page.
  4. Overlap Rate – how often another advertiser’s ad received an impression in the same auction that your ad also received an impression.
  5. Position Above Rate – how often another advertiser’s ad in the same auction shows in a higher position than your own, when both of your ads were shown at the same time.
  6. Top of Page Rate – how often your ad (or the ad of another advertiser, depending on which row you're viewing) was shown at the top of the page in search results.
  7. Outranking Share – how often your ad ranked higher in the auction than another advertiser’s ad, or if your ad showed when theirs did not.

How to Use the Auction Insights Report

Like I mentioned earlier, the companies that are bidding against you in paid search are not always the same companies that you might name as your nearest competitors. Therefore, you need a separate understanding of competition when it comes to paid search.

These are the companies that you are competing against when someone is searching for something you offer. And you want to make sure you outwork them.

So much of paid search is about finding the right position, on the right keywords, at the right times. Your competitors are doing the same thing. They have the same goals.

Use the Auction Insights provided by Google to gain a deeper understanding of their strategy, and how it overlaps with yours. You might learn something about who they’re targeting and how much they are willing to pay to show up at the top of the page.

And by looking at the Auction Insights over time, you will better see how the competitive landscape is changing month to month and year to year.