Transcript of Improve Your Business by Getting the Most Out of Your Data

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John J: In today’s show we’ve got a really sexy topic. We’re going to talk about google analytics.

Now, I know people don’t get excited about analytics and data, but the fact of the matter is businesses that track their data, that use the data to get better succeed, and those that don’t get lucky, I suppose, occasionally.

So I’m speaking in this show with Jeff Sauer, he is a Google Analytics expert and trainer. We’re going to talk about some of the most important things. We don’t get too in the weeds. It’s the most important things that you need to know so that you can get the most out of your data, so that you can improve your business by getting the most out of your data. Check it out.

(intro music)

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Janssen, my guest today is Jeff Sauer. He’s a digital marketing speaker, professor, and Google Analytics consultant. So Jeff, thanks for joining me.

Jeff S: Hey John. Hey, thanks for having me John.

John J: You bet. So tell me about the professor part. Where are you professing?

Jeff S: I’m an adjunct faculty member at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, in Minnesota. I created a digital marketing certificate program there, and that program basically takes professionals who are looking for a career change or looking to boost their skills and it teaches them a crash course in digital marketing. In the end they get certified and move on to the workplace.

John J: Does this university actually pay money for this?

Jeff S:  Yeah, it’s a pretty good business. It’s a class that we sell out a couple times a year. Lasts for a bout two or three weeks. It’s been a good arrangement for the university, myself and for the students.

John J: Probably pretty good, just from a branding stand point it’s probably a pretty good credibility badge for you as well, I suspect.

Jeff S: Yeah, absolutely. It’s my alma mater, actually. So when they approached me and said, hey, I want you to teach here, I was like, oh, I didn’t even know that I was qualified. But I always like to give back to my community, and also I’ve learned a lot of my skills from the classes I learned in school as well.

John J: And do you get free basketball tickets?

Jeff S: Yeah, I think you can get free basketball tickets anyways, it’s only division three so (laughter).

John J: Alright, so let’s, enough of this nonsense, let’s talk about Google Analytics. So, everybody has it installed on their website. I see it … I shouldn’t say that. 92% of the people have it installed it on their website and I work with so many small business owners and all they can tell you is they think it’s there.

Is there advice that you give to people that say, “Look, okay, put the code step one, but how do you set this thing up so that it’s not just this maze of stuff that they don’t know what it is?”

Jeff S: Absolutely, you hit it spot on. I think it’s something in the 85 to 90% of website owners have Google Analytics installed, and in order to do that we’ve all gone to the same place, which is on, and they say sign up for an account, put some code on your website, step three is just you collect enough data that you can magically have insights. That’s what they recommend that you do, and that’s what everybody does to get started.

But they sort of sell the story short. They make it sound like everything ends once you do that third step, which is to log into your account after you’ve collected data, but there’s actually a few little things that you should do to get the most out of it.

The first thing is that you should make sure that you have goals configured. There’s a section in Google Analytics where you can say what your marketing goals are. If you’re a small business, for the most part your goal is going to be somebody filling out your contact form, or if you’re a retail business, it’s going and trying to figure out what your store hours are or when your store is open. If you’re selling stuff online the goal’s going to be that they made a purchase.

It basically is just training Google Analytics to recognize what makes you successful.

John J: I think that that’s … The sad thing about it is, and I’m sure you can do it in your sleep now, but I tell people that all the time and the go on there and they go, “Where are the goals?” I think Google sort of buries it

Jeff S: Yeah. Absolutely, it’s sort of buried in there, it’s hidden.

John J: It’s sad because it’s such a fundamental step it ought to be … a pop up box ought to come up after you log in and say, “Have you set up any goals?”

Jeff S: Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny because you’re right. I’ve had 7,000 plus people go through my class and I always … the first day I don’t even tell them how to set these things up because they’re afraid they’re going to break things and I just want to get their confidence up there. But it is sort of scary to set up a goal because you need to go into the administrator section, you need to make sure you have the rights to do this. You think you could screw up your data, and you actually can. You can configure these things and you can mess up data, so it does get scary, and you think Google would make it easier. But ultimately that’s sort of why I have my programs for training, is because it just gets you over that hump of the scary parts.

John J: Yeah, you make a living out of Google’s confusion, right?

Jeff S: Absolutely.

John J: So, let’s talk a little bit about the goals, though. I think a lot of times, again somebody thinks, “Goals, well, my goal is I want more business.” And I think it’s really crucial to break it down to micro goals. What would be steps or actions that people would take that might hint at the fact that they could become a customer. Would you say that that’s kind of an accurate way to look at it?

Jeff S: Yeah, absolutely. I think that it’s easy for me to say you should configure Google Analytics to recognize when somebody fills out your contact form, but if you’re in the situation where that happens once a month, then it’s probably not a big effort to do that and it’s probably not going to give you that much insight.

There’s other things you can track as well to be indicators of success. We call them micro goals, or just steps along the way. You might not have a lot of people filling out your contact form, but you might get people downloading this free pdf that you put out there. A white paper, whatever you’ve invested your time into creating. You could track that.

I just did one, I did a product launch for one of my things, and I tracked how many people played the video, how many people made it 25% of the way through the video, 50%, all the way to 100%. Then I was able to track how many people made it all the way through. Basically, anything that you do in your marketing perspective, there’s a measurement component to it. What you want to do is you want to make sure that if you’re spending any effort at all creating marketing programs, creating a reason for somebody to come to your website or to engage with you, you want to have a measurement plan to go along with it. It doesn’t need to be complex, it should be about as complex as your marketing strategy in the first place.

John J: And I think a lot of times, people will say, okay, I’ve got a measurement plan, I’m measuring lots of stuff, I’m getting lots of data, but it really, the point of view sometimes that I think people miss is that the reason we collect this stuff is so that you can get better.

Jeff S: Absolutely.

John J: I read a great analogy the other day that said imagine if you played golf but you only practiced at night, when it was pitch black. So you got no feedback on a whether or not the ball was going straight, or far, or anywhere. There would be no chance for you to get better, and I think that’s what happens when people don’t set up these goals and collect data. It’s like playing golf in the dark. You can’t possibly get better.

Jeff S: Yeah, absolutely. You can’t really compare what happened in the past to what’s going to happen in the future, you can’t predict things, you can’t optimize your budget, you can’t optimize your efforts. What I always try to tell people is to look at it as basically 80-20-ing your efforts. Analytics helps you figure out what the 20% of your efforts are that deliver 80% of your results.

Now, yes, you might have fewer results if you focused only on analytics, but is also makes you much more efficient.

John J: One of the things that is powerful about analytics is, especially the free version of analytics is the dizzying number of reports and configurations of those reports.

How do you help someone break it down and say here are the three or four things we should be looking at?

Jeff S: Yeah, for sure. So beyond goals, the reason why Google Analytics exists, and the reason why it’s free is because the Google AdWords advertising platform, pay per click platform … What they determined was not enough people were going to spend money on pay per click if they didn’t know what was happening on their website. So in order to get people to spend more money on pay per click advertising, they gave away a free website analytics tool to measure how things would work. Because it was … When I first started in this, 2005, you had to have an AdWords account in order to even get into Google Analytics. It was like a, you had to have this in order to get that type of arrangement. It’s still the tightest integration between products, so one of the things you want to do is you want to make sure that if you’re running any paid advertising through Google, that you hook that into Google Analytics and make sure they’re integrated tightly.

Then it gives you just a whole wealth of information about your campaigns, whether it’s paid search, or remarketing or any type of campaign you’re running. Display advertising, you can measure that in Analytics.

Then there’s other integrations of Google products that are probably the next … It’d be like, 1a that you’d want to do. If step one was PPC, you’d want measure Google Search Consoles. You’d hook it into Google’s Search Console and you’d do something similar for your organic search results.

These two reports, configuring them allows you to have a pretty good idea and some granularity around your traffic generation efforts through Google.

John J: A lot time I’ll work with folks that, we really have kind of a primary goal in mind for the business. Sometimes if you have that, you can then go to Google and say, how can we measure our results in that?

So for example, we had a client that was spending way too much on pay per click, mainly because they were getting no organic traffic. Our overall objective was to increase their organic traffic and significantly decrease their paid spend without significantly decreasing their paid traffic. Does that make sense?

So with that sort of plan in mind, ewe could go to certain reports, and I’ll throw it to you as a quiz. How would you measure that?

Jeff S: How would you measure whether your efforts-

John J: What I just, yeah.

Jeff S: -of reducing PPC is impacting organic? Yeah absolutely. Obviously, traffic is … What everybody looks at from the first perspective is overall how many people are coming in. So if you’re getting 10,000 visits from PPC, for example, and that’s somewhat commensurate with your budget as well, and you cut that down, you might get fewer visits from PPC but if you look at your organic search reports you see how many people are coming in from search.

If that’s increasing then you can sort of do on a timeline, you can compare side by side. You can do segmentation, you can say, How’s my paid performing compared to my organic, you can look at the two together and see if the total is higher, and basically you would just do some kind of comparison between what your baseline for where you were at before, and then compare it to what you’ve achieved since you made the changes.

John J: So looking at the channels report is really a great tool one of the things I love is you can also do … Look at first quarter 2016 versus first quarter 2017. So you can really come up with some, like you said, some progress reports.

Jeff S: Yeah. And actually, the cool thing is, and this is a tip that I like to tell anybody who is sort of casual user of Google Analytics, they realize that it’s important but they’re not necessarily sure if they’re going to take the efforts to log in every day, or if they don’t look at trends. There’s a free tool out there called Quill Engage, and that one allows you to sign up with their account and then it will send you a report every week, or every month, or both if you want, to let you know how you’re doing compared to previous month, previous week. And it tells you growth trends. It’s basically like an outsourced analyst that you can use, and it’s a free tool just to get started.

John J:  You mentioned the tool that I was going to bring up, and I may sink the entire show here by doing so. So you mentioned (coughs) Forgive me I’m … for those of you who’ve heard my last couple shows you know I’m still recovering from a cold.

But you mentioned AdWords, and Analytics Integration. What about Search Console and Integration? And then, let me really kill the show, and Tag Manager and Integration?

Jeff S: Yeah. Absolutely. So Search console, yeah, it’s a great integration that I would recommend everybody sets up. It’s very painless, you just need to verify that you own the website in your search console accounts. If you’ve already done that it’s just linking the two. If you haven’t done it yet, you can use your Google Analytics administrator access to verify that you own the website. I’ve written extensively about it, there’s a lot of articles out there we can maybe link to them in the show notes as well. But setting up Search Console basically tells you the data that Google wants to tell you about what search queries are popular for your site, but more importantly, what landing pages … or more granular, what landing pages are driving traffic.

So, which pages on your site are getting the most organic search traffic.

John J: There’s a lot in there. It’ll show you positions for the search terms for those pages, I mean … Tell me this, and maybe you don’t know the answer. Why are those two separate places?

Jeff S: The reports? Because it’s actually not part of the data you collect for Google Analytics, so the reason … Basically the data you collect from Google Analytics is all collected through a JavaScript snippet, which you can run through Google Site manager, which you mentioned, or you can just place the code on your website. That JavaScript collects all kinds of data based on somebody’s browser, their location, what pages they view, the cookies on their machine, all kinds of crazy behind the scenes stuff. Probably getting a little bit more advanced than we need to. That’s all collected and then stored in your reports.

Google Search Console is actually collected not via the same method. It’s not collected via JavaScript. It’s actually just a reporting mechanism into another absolutely different Google database, and that’s their SEO database, or their Webmaster database essentially. So the reason why the data’s not really linked very well together, or it’s just loosely linked is because it’s butting up two different data sources from two different systems.

John J: Got it. But definitely, when combined, I think some terrific insights.

Jeff S:  Yeah, absolutely. When you combine the two, and you have this level of granular data, as granular as you can get with the data, you can then start to make better decisions. Search traffic is good, but search traffic that converts is better, and that’s where these two combines can help you out.

John J: You mentioned tag manager, and I don’t know if you can just briefly give somebody a high level what that is? Obviously you do entire trainings on that tool, so give us a, kind of how that relates maybe to this puzzle, then you can tell people about how to get training on it.

Jeff S: Yeah, absolutely. So in general tracking things on the internet is not difficult, but every single piece of advertising you do, whether it’s Facebook, or Twitter, or Google, or Pinterest, whatever you’re advertising, in order for them to measure your results, they’re going to ask you to put something on your site. A piece of code, we call them tags. Just put this little tag, or this little pixel on your site, and we’ll be able to track our advertising efforts and give you reports and tell you your return on your investment.

Now they all say that this is a harmless thing to put that on there, but it ends up being like, death by 1,000 cuts, because if you’re putting a pixel for every single system, you might have 10, 20, 30 different pieces of JavaScript bloating down your website, or making it run slowly, or just code that you don’t understand what it means, or it could just, it could break your website.

So Google Tag Manager is almost like a Rolodex of the different tags you want to do. You put them in there, and then Google handles the delivery of them. They make sure that it’s done in a valid way so you don’t break your website. They make sure that it runs after all the front end pieces of your site load, so after the whole website loads, then Google will end up sending out this data. It’s basically just lik this super tool that handles all these little, seemingly small pieces of code, and it just handles it for you.

One of the advantages, the main advantage is that instead of having to talk to your website owner, your website developer, webmaster, whatever you want to call it, instead of having to let them know every time you want to add a tag or remove one because you stopped using a system, you just put it into Google tag manager and you can publish it yourself. So you can get it out on the web without having to talk to somebody to write code in order to make it work.

John J: I suppose a couple other benefits is on a system like WordPress, it makes it easier to inject page by page code too, doesn’t it?

Jeff S: Yeah, absolutely. You can do so many things. Were finding all kinds of new hacks for Google Tag Manager. Even the SEO community is starting to find some really cool uses of it that I never even imagined. So it’s going beyond just managing your advertising tags. It starting to become people’s … Basically the CMS of JavaScript. It’s like the Content Management System for anybody’s scripts they want to run.

John J: And I suspect it might potentially have some impact on the speed of your site load.

Jeff S: It only can be faster because they load it asynchronously. That’s a big term to use but basically the code on your website, whether the HTML or the JavaScript, it’s all read from top to bottom, and what asynchronous means is they make it so that it runs at the bottom. So even though it shows up early, it just runs at the bottom and that makes your site faster because it doesn’t block any of the front end pieces that you would see as a user.

John J: Let’s jump to another really goofy topic, and that is referral spam. Have you found a good way to get rid of, and again, just to set that up, there’s a lot of … Some for ad reasons some just because they can, there’s a lot of traffic that’s coming to a lot of people’s websites that has nothing to do with anything. Shows up as referral traffic from other sites, but a lot of it is just garbage. So a lot of analytics folks spend a lot of time just writing scripts and different things to get rid of that.

Have you found a great way to fence that in?

Jeff S: So, I’m very outspoken on this topic. I’ve gotten yelled at by my friends at Google several times because of this, because I sort of stir the pot, because I think that the only real solution is to have Google just fix it, and to eliminate all the bad stuff.

It’s not something you can really be proactive with, because it’s like whack-a-mole. You could basically say, this is spam now, and then block that spam. But it’s already in your system. The only way to truly be proactive with it, with the current incarnation of spam, it’s going to keep on changing, is what people are implementing is something called a host name filter, where the only way that they’re going to count traffic to their site is if the URL in the URL bar is their main domain name. So mine’s, I could create a host name to only include if it’s . What this would do is it would prevent bots or headless browsers, essentially, from sending data into the system.

John J: Is there any danger in under-reporting, doing that?

Jeff S: Tons, tons, and tons of danger. Because it would eliminate any third party systems you use Google Analytics on, it would maybe break your iframes, it could do all kinds of different unintended consequences. So it’s not … It’s like an advanced solution to a basic problem. The basic problem is that Google should just fix it. So I don’t even, I usually don’t even recommend a solution. People want to know if I know this solution, yes I do. I don’t recommend implementing it because you could break other things.

John J: Tell me a little bit about an asset that you’ve developed, I know it gets a lot of attention. The Periodic Table of Google Analytics. You want to explain that, and tell people where they might find that?

Jeff S: Yeah, sure. So, I had mentioned earlier, I do this in teaching and you had mentioned my university but I also teach at a training institute in Minneapolis as well. After about 200 people went through the class, I realized that I was trying to talk about all the different parts to a space ship, and sometimes they just needed to see a picture of what the spaceship looked like when it was assembled.

I was like, okay, well how do I visualize this, how do I turn this really complex thing we’re talking about and make it in a really familiar way. Let’s just use the periodic table of the elements, but make it specific to what you can do in Google Analytics.

So I started going through all the different reports that I use all the time, all the different configuration options, and I created this piece of content / a repository called the Period Table of Google Analytics. It’s just a downloadable PDF you can use to test your own knowledge of Google Analytics to see if there’s anything you have missed, or just to be inspired and think, oh wow, I didn’t know that I could do all these things within that program.

John J: And is it a bit like the original table, where you’re finding new elements?

Jeff S: Yeah. I honestly update it about once every two years, and in between that Google makes about 100 updates. So it’s always changing and always evolving. I try to stick with the major things that people can use rather than trying to go for everything, but I would say that by the time it’s printed out it’s already out of date because yes, new things come out all the time.

John J: So tell people where they can find out more about jeffalytics and your courses, and you even do some live, in-person training in Minneapolis.

Jeff S: So, my website is, and on there you can find my blog, you can find the Periodic Table of Google Analytics, you can find links to all my courses. I have three online courses, one teaches Google AdWords, on teaches Google Analytics, the other one teaches you how to start your own agency business, like if you want to provide services to people. They are all linked on the home page there, and then basically I do those online programs, those are sort of the next generation from my in-person ones, but I still really love the in-person teaching so I do that couple times a year in my home state and home town, in Minneapolis.

I love to teach people all these things, and I want to make sure that people who look at their analytics, I don’t want them to be scared of it, I want them to be empowered by it. I want people to start thinking about how if they’re making these marketing efforts, how they’re going to measure it, and then be confident in the measures they have.

John J: Awesome. Jeff, thanks for joining us today, and we will share lots of links in the show notes to some of the things Jeff mentioned. Hopefully next time I’m up in Minneapolis area we can bump into each other.

Jeff S: Sounds great, John. Thanks so much for having me.

John J: Thanks for listening to this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. I wonder if you could do me a favor. Could you leave an honest review on iTunes? Your ratings and your reviews really help and I promise I read each and every one, thanks.


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