Welcome to Getting Granular
The podcast where digital marketing experts from the agency Granular talk about the latest trends, tried and true best practices, and share their unfiltered thoughts about the digital marketing industry.
The Importance of Web Tracking and Tag Management
Do you know what users are doing on your site? What pages are they looking at, what form did they fill out, what link did they click, how far did they scroll and how did they exit? Implementing web tracking and tag management may seem a daunting task, but it provides valuable insights into what and how your users are interacting with your site. It’s more than just “nice to have” it can be crucial.
What you’ll learn in this episode of Getting Granular:
- Why is tagging and analytics so important? (2:24)
- What you are missing if you are not tagging and tracking (4:44)
- How and when to optimize based on the data (8:29)
- How it can affect your bottom line (11:52)
- Three reasons businesses are not using tracking (21:46)
- How to educate yourself on GTM & GA (24:15)
- Actionable items that businesses can and should be tracking (38:27)
- Ways to set up Google Analytics (46:04)
- Importance of learning to use the data once implemented (50:52)
- Recap main takeaways (53:51)
Chris: Many businesses are quick to dismiss their analytics data as an incomprehensive wave of information that is just nice to have. What they don’t realize is there are concrete measures they can put in place that when used correctly, can grow their business in a measurable way.
Narrator: Welcome to Getting Granular, the podcast where digital marketing experts from the agency Granular talk about the latest trends, tried and true best practices, and share their unfiltered thoughts about the industry. Whether you’re here to learn how to grow your business, improve your digital skills, or just want to hear some Midwest PPC experts rant about digital media, you’ve come to the right place.
Chris: Thanks again for tuning into the Getting Granular podcast. I am, once again, Chris Cesar, a senior manager of paid media here at Granular and I am joined today by Mark Lee, a manager of paid search here Granular. Hey Mark.
Mark: Hey, Chris, thanks for having me.
Chris: Glad to have you. So I guess today what we’re here to talk about is largely just the importance of web tracking and tag management. So Mark, not only are you a paid search manager here at Granular but you also play a big role in our overall implementation of analytics and data studio reporting, and you seem to have a big passion for that.
Mark: Yeah, so obviously, I learned paid search, and I work on paid search, and obviously social and other areas predominantly, but a big thing that I like to work on is real analytics implementation, so tracking with Tag Manager, implementation from the simplest event tracking to more technical questions, as long as… as well as Data Studio, that’s really kind of… I like to have that technical background to myself. And that’s what I kind of pride my self on a little bit. So I like working on that kind of stuff.
Chris: Okay, that’s really interesting. And so I think that you’d be the first one to sort of let us know that these things are important to be using actively within each business, regardless if you’re a small business, large business, enterprise level business. I guess, can you just explain a little bit to why that’s so important across the whole spectrum of companies?
Mark: Yeah. So naturally, analytics is very tied, what you track or your analytics or your analytic goals or your analytics information is very much tied to your business scenario, your business in particular, like the information of a large scale business is not going to the same information that you collect off of a small business. But I would really argue and say that the information off of a small business is equally as important as what you get from a large business, because there’s still kind of things you can take from it, and you can move in certain direction based off that information. And I keep saying information, but it’s really, in the instance of digital marketing, for these businesses is website analytics. And really, that’s the bare bones information that you want to collect to understand what your customers are doing on the site, and where they’re looking and what they’re actively kind of engaging with, because there’s just so much you can do with that, other than just knowing what page they’re on. But knowing what page your customers on is pretty huge in itself.
Mark: Yeah, I think it’s really important, just because if you operate a business that is e-commerce, or maybe you say you have all your business online, or you have a portion of your business online, you might know what your customers are doing in store, but you might not know what they’re doing online. And it’s kind of like, imagine if you were… this is kind of one way that I always thought of it, is imagine if you’re going… you see the customers, you know the totals, but you don’t really know what they’re doing online. And even imagine large businesses, businesses have this type of information track, but these small businesses, who are every dollar counts, this information can be huge for them.
Mark: I know that’s a long way of basically saying it’s important, but I truly think it is because it can really help you grow your business because it gives you the information you need to know that would help you prioritize your efforts, but also your money because… Yeah.
Chris: Yeah. And I think that sort of leads us into to the next point of the types of insights you’d be missing. You mentioned something like it’s important to know what page they’re on, what page your customer is on, I guess, can you expand a little bit on, if I don’t know that, if I don’t know what page you’re on, but what do I lose out there, and what do I miss out by not knowing how they interact with my site?
Mark: Right. Yeah, so at the bottom level, you want to know page your tracking. So pretty much just knowing what page users are at, what pages on the site that they’re browsing, and that’s bare bones, that’s the first step of really having marketing analytics on a site, just knowing actively what they’re doing. So I think that’s obviously, something that you want to have, but also things like, knowing if people fill out a form, knowing if people download it, there’s so many small businesses that run off of B2B, lead gen, and they might also have e-commerce and going from having e-commerce information.
Mark: So I think there’s, just at the bare bones of it, obviously, it depends so much on what your business is, but I think at the bare bones, although you want to have page view tracking, because then you can say, “We’ve had X, so many sessions, and they viewed these pages.” And it’s huge, and it’s valuable, and I think, at the bare bones level, it’s really page view tracking is where I recommend most people to start and be able to view website performance at its simplest kind of level.
Chris: So, aside from the obvious answer of how this can affect the bottom line of your business, how else would you measure success in terms of implementation and tracking things?
Mark: I think it really depends on making sure you use the information. If you implement page view tracking in the simplest form, event tracking for things like form submission, and you don’t really do much with it, I question the success of it, because you can have success where you’ve implemented it all, and you can say, “Oh, this is successful,” but you’re not really doing anything with it.
Mark: So oftentimes, I’ll see, when I’ve worked in implementation of analytics, or I’ve seen clients with this type of information, they’re looking at page view you tracking, they have event tracking, they have form-submission tracking, and then I’ll ask them, “How often do you actually look at this? How do you look at this? What do you do with it?” And they’re like, “Well, we really don’t, we just have it set up, and it’s just there.” And then it’s like, I argue that they’re not very successful with it, because, yes, they might have this type of tracking, web analytics tracking kind of like set up, but like I said, they’re not doing anything with it, so I’d argue that it’s not very successful, unless you’re really doing anything with it. And I say doing anything with it, it’s kind of a loaded thing, because the things you could do with it are very varying, but I would say if you have success with it, you’re taking this kind of clean cut information, and you’re making changes.
Mark: So if you really want to improve SEO, what are the organic search queries that are driving traffic, what pages are driving the most conversions, stuff like that, I think is huge. And I’d say looking at that, and being able to say, “Okay, we know what to do with it going forward.” I think that’s really the key kind of indicator of being successful. It’s not so much the implementation, it’s really using it.
Chris: Okay, so when we talk about these actionable insights, I guess, the next question comes up of how do you know how and when to move forward with the optimization of your campaigns based on what this data is telling you?
Mark: Yeah, so you have to make sure that it’s… I’d say this could get a little bit more technical, but you have to make sure that your implementation is correct. At the bottom level, you want to make sure you’re not double tracking pages. So if someone’s on the page one time it’s tracking two pages, that’s something I’ll often see with smaller businesses, because they had an agency help them implement GTA or, not GTA, GA once, and then they’d forgotten about it, and then someone else came in and implemented it again, or the code wasn’t implemented correctly. And I’d say, really, you have to make sure that this information is clean, at its bare bones level, that you’re tracking conversions correctly.
Mark: And that takes a little bit of debugging and making sure that this stuff is working correctly. And once you feel confident in that, then you can really move forward and start really viewing it and engaging with it. I feel like it’d be frustrating if you used information that wasn’t clean or had errors in it. When I say clean, I mean it’s error free, you’d be pretty upset if you made recommendations or you made changes or you went a certain way based off information that might not be correct based on the implementation.
Chris: And then, assuming we have that clean data, taking it another step forward, one thing comes to mind, especially we talk a lot about this when we’re testing different things. Things like… Sorry, it’s really hard for me to say, statistical significance-
Mark: Significance, yeah.
Chris: Yes. And I guess, how would you sort of incorporate those types of things in your analytics and tracking, if at all, you would?
Mark: Yeah. So I think statistical significance can can really be brought in, and that’s why I bring up making sure your information is clean, because obviously, you could build significance… Yeah, statistical significance, excuse me, based off information that’s not set up correctly. And then you’re finding, you’re moving in a direction based off that that’s not right. I think it depends, statistical significance can be brought in, but it depends on how you kind of use it, I think things can be cut and dry, you can kind of know, or you don’t know, but I think with anything, statistical significance can be brought in, you can look at, say we have this information on this, and based on what we see, we believe that we can move in this direction.
Mark: Yeah, I think it’s useful. It just depends on kind of how you want to analyze it, how you want to break it down, can you just clearly make decisions based off the information and you purely know, or do you need to break it down a little bit more, and do that kind of math side of it?
Chris: Yep. Okay, yeah. And I guess, then, sort of bringing this all back to square one and wrapping it up together, how might this affect your bottom line? Do you have any sort of examples that you can think of off the top of your head where we implemented this for somebody, and then realized that we saw making changes lead to some sort of additional return on our investment?
Mark: Yeah, so, I think, I mean, it’s tough to say, in the top of my head, I can’t think of necessarily a huge… I can’t speak to the exact return on investment changes, but from an improvement, and from a site engagement perspective, and analytics implementation and tracking is one function to help the analytics, kind of your collection of data, but also from a UI and UX perspective. Some of the things that I’ve done, and that I’ve seen, and that I think are useful is really tracking things like when a user visits a 404 page. 404 is like this big red flag, and it should be because your users are going to a page that doesn’t load anything, it says, “Not found,” or it gives them an error message, and then they potentially leave the site and they don’t convert.
Mark: Tracking when someone lands on a page, and they get a 404 message, there’s tons of examples online that can help you implement this within Tag Manager, so that you can track that and know what pages are people getting this error, and then if you know what pages they’re getting this error, then when we need to look at that page. It could be a small minuscule page, or it could be something as large as they’re getting a 404 on a checkout, or an add-to-cart or whatever. That’s something that unless you’re a developer and you’re seeing… I’m not a developer, so I haven’t seen how they kind of store this information. But unless you’re seeing that, events of these pages somewhere else, you’re not going to really know, you’re not going to know they’re having these errors, and then the next day you’ll see performance was poor or whatever.
Mark: And you question it, you wonder why, and you might not ever figure out until you have a developer look at it, and they go, “Oh, well, this page was down.” So, like I said, 404 not found is a huge one I’ve seen, and I think that’s pretty important, because, like I said, it’s site interaction and site engagement, it’s protecting you a little bit in places that you can’t necessarily see.
Mark: And then another situation I’ve had where a client, this is real simple stuff, but I think it makes a huge difference with kind of site engagement, is I’ve had clients have clicked a call, we had a situation where a client had a phone number listed and it said, “Call this,” or it was… I can’t matter if it was click to call or just call, and then we realized when we’re implementing tracking to basically track when someone clicks to call that, that clicking that doesn’t actually do anything. It just highlights the text on a mobile device. And it doesn’t actually open up the phone’s native kind of phone dialing service to call.
Mark: And we tracked it regardless, because we wanted to see what the clicks were on that, we were realizing that people were clicking that in high numbers. And we tested this on iOS and Android and we thought about it… and we want to make sure that when it clicks that, that it doesn’t open up the native phone app, and we realized that, “Yeah, people are clicking this, and it’s not opening up the phone app.” And you’re seeing that people want to click to call and they necessarily can’t.
Mark: And I know that’s not necessarily like, “Oh, that’s going to massively affect the the bottom line.” And they worked in the financial industry, but like, still, that idea that you can track this stuff, and you can make improvements on the site engagement, I think all of that… Analytics web tracking is really tracking interactions on the site, engagement, conversions, whatever, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the ROI, revenue focused, kind of event tracking, it can be really anything that makes sure that you’re understanding what’s happening on your site from a marketing perspective, making sure people run through the site, but also technical perspective.
Mark: I think a lot of times clients often under… they don’t quite understand that, they know what they want to track, but they don’t know, “Oh, you could track you know.” I think oftentimes, I’ll blow the minds of clients, if it’s, “Oh, you could track this.” And they’re like, “Oh, that’s super interesting. I’d really like to track that.” And that’s our job, but it’s also, I want them to realize that analytics tracking, it can be used in so many different ways.
Chris: Yeah, and I think that what this actually really comes down to at a basic level was just knowing that you’re available to your customers, as a sort of a real world example that popped up as you were talking about 404 errors, I was shopping on costco.com. Shout out Costco, I love you guys. But-
Mark: Yeah, its great.
Chris: … I added something in my cart, and I clicked on cart, and my cart wouldn’t load. So I tried on my… I have the Costco app on my phone, I tried to open it there, cart would load, I tried a different browser, cart wouldn’t load. And that went on for a couple of days. And it just sort of dawned on me, if they didn’t have any sort of tracking in place where they get notified of an error, they would need somebody proactively reach out to them and say, “Hey, the cart isn’t loading.” And if this is widespread across the entirety of anyone shopping on costco.com, their sales are going to plummet for a couple of days. And that’s where I guess, where you’ll start to see those red flags come up of, “Okay, something’s wrong on our website.”
Chris: So I think, and correct me if I’m wrong, but at the most basic level, it just sort of comes down to if you have all this stuff in place and implemented correctly, you’ll have those proactive warnings of, “Hey, are we sure that we’re accessible to our clients?” Similar to just how if your phone is down in your business for a day, people are trying to reach out to you, again, that’s not something that you may or may not realize, until once the phone company lets you know, but something like that is just something like a real world example that came to mind where, “Okay, oh, shoot, this is how we identify a problem and know how to get that fix implemented more quickly.”
Mark: Yeah, no, I think it’s huge. Analytics, I talk about Tag Manager, and for those that don’t know, Tag Manager is Google’s native program that allows you to add certain tracking elements to your site allows you to do page view tracking, I highly recommend, if you don’t know, GTM, Tag Manager, look into it, I think it’s huge, and it can do so much. And yeah, I mean, and I’m sure that… I use a tool in my browser that allows me to see GA events, so it allows me to see when events are sent to Google Analytics from my browser, basically. And I can see those event hits get sent, I can see him being sent to GA, and I know what they’re tracking, which is pretty cool.
Mark: So I’ve been on large sites and I’ve clicked a certain button, and I can see that they actively set up an event to fire when I clicked something, or if I’ve been on the site for a certain period of time, this is another one, engagement timer. So Google Analytics, natively, you can track the time on a site, so the amount of time people spend on a site, but it needs another page view to record that. So if someone lands on your page, and then doesn’t go anywhere, it’s not going to necessarily record that time, it needs another hit, another page view to basically build that time on site, but your engagement timer can kind of give you a more granular view of how people are interacting on the site, and that can be set up.
Mark: So yeah, going back to your Costco, I’m sure… And I don’t know, and they might have tracking for this, and they might not, they might not need to, because they have the large dev teams that get these notifications, but if you’re a smaller business, and you have a third party dev team, or your dev team’s really on a case-by-case situation, you want to make sure that if you’re asking them for help, and you’re using client time that you’re actually using it for the right fixes.
Mark: So yeah, I think it’s huge, engagement time or, 404, really any of this stuff, I don’t want to say tracking and your site’s limitless, because you have to… I wouldn’t say, “Go wild,” you want to make sure that you’re using things that are going to benefit you. But you can really track so much, and it can be so useful for you, and kind of taking away valuable kind of insights.
Chris: So we talked about how it’s important to track all of these different metrics to gain these actionable insights, but let’s talk about why some people don’t use it. I guess the first reason, and that’s sort of why we’re here talking about it today, is just the lack of education on its importance.
Mark: Yeah, I think, oftentimes, I think people understand… If you’re a small business owner, you understand, and I think at the higher level, they understand this, but oftentimes, small, medium businesses, especially depending on their industry, they don’t… maybe it’s a small business, and they don’t have that marketing team, or they have a marketing team that’s not so much a digital focused marketing team. And they just don’t really know that… And they might know that Google Analytics exists, but they might… Oftentimes, I’ll ask people, “Do you know GA?” And they know GA, and then I’ll ask, “Do you know Tag Manager?” And they’re like, “No, I don’t know, Tag Manager.” And that often leads me to believe that they might have GA tracking, but they don’t have GTM, they’re not using this event tracking, and really getting the full, I guess, spectrum of useful analytics tracking, I guess, in a weird way to describe it.
Mark: Yeah, I think there’s just a… I think a lot of people just lack knowledge of it. I think GA is always changing, and GTM is a relatively new tool, I believe, don’t quote me on the date that it started, but it’s not that old. And I just think there’s just not enough… I mean, the young kids graduating and people like me who are younger and have been in it, and older, obviously, but they’ve had a lot of experience with it, they know this stuff.
Mark: Yeah, I think to kind of sum it up at the basic level, I think it’s the relatively new tools, and the idea of website analytics tracking, at the way that you can do it now, it’s still an ever changing topic that I think a lot of people are just kind of been slow to, I guess, get on board with.
Chris: Yeah, so I guess as we start to learn more about these things, the next sort of gap that even a lot of people like me, someone who does this on a day in, day out basis struggle with, is just knowing how to get all this stuff implemented correctly. This is again, stuff like tag management isn’t something that I necessarily would consider myself an expert in. But that’s why people like you and others on the team are here to help grow those skills in terms of how we can better hone these skills of getting this stuff implemented. So I guess to sum that bar, there’s just a lack of knowledge and how to get the stuff implemented. So aside from, yes, you should learn more about this, I guess, can you touch in some ways of how you’ve delved into this and learned more about it and become more of an expert in it?
Mark: Yeah, sure. So I’ve taken a lot of… This is something that when I was starting to work and I realized I really wanted to do, I dove headfirst in, so a lot of the ways I learned this stuff was just obviously from experience, from asking questions, from asking, “Can I start working in this?” And I know that’s not very easy, because everyone might not have that person to go to but, Google Analytics offers so many free courses. There’s Google Analytics Academy, and what’s actually pretty cool about this, that I highly recommend if you are wanting to kind of, at the bare bones level, you don’t know GA, and you’re like, “Well, I want to start kind of understanding it and using it, maybe I’ll implement it, and maybe I’ll start kind of using it at its full capacity.” If you start using Google Analytics Academy, it’s Google’s free training course, they offer you basically… they give you the ability to sign into Google’s… I believe it’s their merchandise site. It’s some kind of clone of their merchandise site.
Mark: So it’s the analytics account for their merchandise site. So that has really everything that you could want, it has e-commerce tracking, it has event tracking, and it has page view tracking at the lower level. And this is free for you to use. And I say that because when I was starting out, I didn’t have clients who were e-commerce, necessarily, and I didn’t have clients who were using analytics super robustly, so I wasn’t able to go in to their accounts, and just look at what they were tracking, because oftentimes I was learning how to implement this stuff, and helping them or helping to educate them. So having this Google Analytics property, when I say property, it’s just a Google Analytics account for their e-commerce site, it gives you all this information that you can learn with, just basically, like setup, how the platform is set up, how it’s tracking.
Mark: And YouTube’s such an insanely wonderful thing. I mean, I think I’ve learned a lot from just YouTube videos, there’s so many people that are really putting out really good content to help you just understand, obviously, Google Analytics, but also GTM, if I switch over to GTM. There’s a guy I watch called MeasureSchool, he’s a younger German guy named Julian, and MeasureSchool is basically him educating people how to measure, so how to track with GA and GTM. So that’s something I’ve used super, super well.
Mark: And then there’s people like Loves Data, or Loves Data, and he’s Australian guy who really publishes good content on YouTube for people who are really kind of looking to start out with this. So we can put some of these in the show notes, some of these links that I have, but I think YouTube’s a huge place to go if you’re really starting out with wanting to track this stuff.
Mark: But then there’s just so many of the answers I’ve found to questions, I’ve just typed in Google. And I know that sounds really kind of vague, but there’s so many blog articles and stuff out there of people wanting to kind of like talk about this, it’s such a useful community of people that are just willing to offer an insane amount of help.
Mark: And then obviously, there’s websites like Conversion XL which is something I use, it’s a website, it can be expensive. So it’s oftentimes best to go in with a group of people, if you have a company, or you have a team. But they have an insanely large kind of library of videos. So basic GTM tracking, basic Google Analytics, all the way up to advanced to developer-focused courses. So there’s just a lot of places and, like I said, I’ll put this in the call notes, or show notes, because I’m kind of listing off sites and things like that.
Mark: But I think that was, to sum it up, that was the thing that I noticed when I was starting out with this, and the thing that I want people to understand is that all of this can be… I taught myself most of this, really, by myself, I had experience working with these tools, but I really taught myself as much as I know now, really, on my own, and I say, on my own, because I had these resources on YouTube, online, on these courses, to help me grow with this. To sum it up, I think the information is out there for anyone to become a master in this. You just have to kind of put in the time, really.
Chris: Sounds like you sure have put in a lot of time.
Mark: Yeah, I’ve tried to.
Chris: Yeah, so I guess, that’s a big chunk of why people don’t have all these things implemented and use it in the right way.
Mark: Yeah, it’s kind of just a… You don’t have to, and I talk about this because… I’m not trying to say that people have to go in and become an expert, but if you’re a small business, or you’re a team of two, or whatever, and you’re just starting out, these programs are just as useful to you if you’re wanting to start tracking for your business, as it is for someone who was working in an agency.
Mark: So I don’t mean to speak to it like this is for people who are agency focused, this is for anyone, I mean, these programs are just as useful for someone working in an agency, as someone who’s starting out. So that’s kind of what I wanted to add there is this isn’t focused towards one person, this is really anyone that wants to learn this stuff.
Chris: Sure, yeah, no, that’s actually a really good point to where, like you said, you’re still learning things every day
Mark: Oh, for sure.
Chris: … and try to teach this to your grandma, she’d be like, “Step one, day one.” There’s that vast spectrum of different ways that we can continue to learn and grow our skills here.
Mark: Yeah, I have a client who, I had an hour long call with them, just teaching them how I set up their tracking in GTM. And I basically said, “I want you to go in and give this a shot. If you need to set up anything, but let me know if you have issues.” And I had one of the girls I spoke to, she came to me, she set up a tag, and she had one… Because it wasn’t working, and yes, she had something wrong, but at the level, she understood, she even wrote her own regular expression, because I taught her regular expression a little bit. Regular expression is huge in analytics. But that’s a whole nother thing. And you don’t necessarily need to use that. That’s a whole nother rabbit hole.
Mark: But she wrote the tags, she wrote the trigger, and she had one thing wrong, but it was idea that she learned this pretty quickly, and I found that she found this… I saw that she found it pretty interesting to do this stuff. And she had not even heard of Tag Manager before I spoke with her. So yeah, you can pick this stuff up quickly. And I think that’s pretty cool.
Chris: Yeah, that’s really good to know. I guess, looking at sort of the, if we’re looking at top three reasons, we sort of had people don’t know about it, two, people aren’t skilled enough to implement it. I guess the third issue that sort of sometimes arises is, in these larger companies, and this is something that I can attest to, as well, on multiple occasions, where this gets set up and implemented, but who owns it? Is it the marketing team? Is that the IT team? Both, neither? And sort of, how does that play into how we have this setup, and reasons for why it may be one or the other?
Mark: Yeah, so I mean, Google Tag Manager, and Google Analytics can be a little overwhelming at times, because they come from a technical… they’re built technically to pull this information in kind of a, I won’t say, qualitative, because it’s quantitative, but it’s the idea that, they’re built in code, and they’re built pretty complexly to be able to pull this information. So, I think at its bare bones level, it can be a little overwhelming to set up, at least page view tracking, and know, like, “Oh, I got to take this code and put it in the body of my website.” I get that, at that level, that can be a little confusing. And if you don’t know code at all, it can be a little overwhelming, it genuinely can.
Mark: Then it’s like, “Well, if you have the idea to put this through Tag Manager, put your page view tracking through Tag Manager, well, then you have to put Tag Manager on your site.” So I think one of the larger reasons is kind of a lack of understanding and the technical. And I know, you don’t have to become an expert in this, but I think it can be a little bit confusing from a technical perspective.
Mark: But also, I say that, who should own it, and we talk about who should own it, because it comes from a technical perspective in your IT team, or your development team, they have the more tactical understanding of this, you have the more marketing aspect of it. So they implement it, they understand, analytics teams at larger businesses, or obviously just your IT person, they’ll probably understand, “Oh, I know how to implement this.” And you might know how to look at the data, but it’s like, “Are you siloing it?”
Mark: So I think often times, and I’ve had discussions with people about this, and a few various Slack communities I’m in is like, “GTM and GA are becoming more technical.” Who owns that analytics implementation? Is it the technical people in the IT team? Or is it the marketing people who are really using it? And I’d say it makes it tough, because there’s kind of two aspects of this, it’s the information that’s kind of put out there within the platform, and it’s how you set it up, but it’s also the technical side of it, and understanding if something doesn’t work, can you debug it from a marketing perspective? Or do you need the IT team? And so that’s why I say it’s huge for marketing people to understand that a little bit on the IT sides so that they can kind of get the same frame of mind and understand this a little bit better than just what it’s kind of outputting.
Mark: So yeah, I mean, there’s counterpoints to both who should really own it, but I think, at its bare bones level, it should be kind of understood by both sides. I’ll speak with and I’ve worked with IT people in the past who didn’t fully understand how it worked, they just knew how to kind of implement it, and then there’s marketing people who don’t know how to implement it, but they kind of know how it works. And yeah, I think it’s a two folds kind of situation is who owns it, and then who kind of manages it, and then you can get into situations where how are we tracking? Is there personal, identifiable information being tracked? It just takes a really big, I guess, co-op between IT and marketing to make sure that analytics is implemented correctly, is tracking correctly and it’s safe. And that it’s being used correctly.
Chris: So yeah, I think the biggest takeaway is just make sure it’s not siloed by one group
Mark: Right. Yeah, because you just want everyone to be on board. Because if you run an e-commerce site for a large business, or even a small business, you run a small store, or whatever, and say you have one IT person, your website is where you’re making money, your website is your… it’s your storefront. Imagine if you didn’t know… I guess this is… I’m trying to think of an analogy. But imagine if you didn’t quite clearly know what people were buying, or what they were looking at in the store, or, like I said, it’s not very good analogy, but it’s the idea that this is huge information. And this is a huge thing to know, and I don’t think one side should fully own it, because it it comes from two aspects. It’s the the implementation, but it’s also kind of the analyzing of information.
Chris: Okay. Yeah. And just sort of, I guess, to make one other touch point on that is, you mentioned, are you collecting personally identifiable information, which in things like Google Analytics is a huge no no. So-
Mark: It’s a huge no no.
Chris: … again, as long as somebody knows if that’s coming in, you know you can shut that down really quickly.
Mark: Yeah, that’s actually pretty good timing, because I work over at a client who had, because of a URL string, so basically, when they were signing up, when they were having people sign up for something, or basically verify their email, their email address was being attached to the URL. So obviously the page view tracking, and GA is going to record what the… So GA, to kind of quickly say, GA is going to track anything within a URL after the page, unless you exclude it, so it’s going to pull in UTM parameters. So like source medium, and this is a little bit… I don’t want to speak too highly or too low depending on who’s listening, but it’s going to track this URL.
Mark: So we were saying that people’s email addresses were being pulled into GA tracking, so we could see their email address, and that’s a big no no for Google Analytics. Google does not want that information, because it’s personally identifiable information. So we were seeing that that was being pulled in, and that’s kind of a good situation, a good, I guess, situation where marketing and IT have to work together, because IT might own the site, but marketing owns the information, and marketing can go to IT and say, “Hey, we need to switch the code,” or, “We need to make changes to the site, because it’s pulling in that that email address, and we’re tracking that marketing.” I guess, that’s a good situation where IT and marketing have to work together to kind of own this, to own their analytics for their site.
Chris: All right, so let’s change topics slightly here just a little bit. So we talked a lot about the importance of tracking, who should be good at it. I guess, to sort of look forward with that, what are some actionable items that people can and should be tracking, if they aren’t already?
Mark: Yeah. So I think obviously, page view tracking at core level, so you can see what pages people are visiting on your site, but also, I think, if you look through your site, and you think, “What would be useful to know within Google Analytics?” I think things like form submission tracking, so knowing when someone fills out a form, whether it be a contact form, or a lead form, or really whatever, to download something, or any of that, form submission tracking is kind of like the simplest forms of… when you really start getting into Tag Manager, the kind of earliest… if you’re trying to kind of like adopt it, form submission tracking is a good way to get started. And if you look online, there’s tons of videos on really how to start form submission tracking for your site.
Mark: Another one I think of that’s pretty cool is just video interactions. So this can be kind of tough, but if you have YouTube videos embedded on your site, YouTube allows you to track that with Tag Manager so you can see what people are clicking, and it’s actually pretty cool because you can see how much progress they’ve made, If they’ve paused it, if they’ve pressed play, if they finished it, which I think is pretty cool because you can see what videos people are actively watching, which I thought is nice to have and just kind of know what’s going on with the site.
Mark: And then this is another one that is… I talk about it, but you have to kind of… It’s questionable how you use it, is scroll depth tracking. So basically, you can track when people scroll on a page. And you can set up parameters, you can set up like, do you want it to fire an event? And all of these are set up as events within Tag Manager. And that’s higher level, but when I say event, I mean, one of these happenings, so a form submission event, when someone fills out a form, an event when someone plays the video. So scroll tracking, you can have it fire an event when someone scrolls a certain page, part of the page. And that can just… it sounds cool, but it can be super overwhelming. Because you know the scroll depth, you know how far people scroll on a page, but you’re like, “What do I do with this?”
Chris: Sorry to sort of cut you off there, one thing about scroll depth for me is a lot of times that I’ve been working with a lot of lead gen type websites, one thing that I’ve actually found is really helpful with scroll depth is where are our lead forms located on the site? Obviously, if they’re at the top of the site, they’re going to get the most visibility, if they’re halfway down the site, unless we know how many people are actually scrolling through the website, we’re never going to know how many people are there.
Chris: And what I found is, most overwhelming majority of the time, if our only form is in the bottom of the page, 1%, or even less of those people are actually going to make it to the botom…
Mark: Oh, for sure.
Chris: … and be able to find that form. So that’s one thing too, bring in all this sort of together is we can look at it as a holistic approach of, “How are my form submissions doing, because I’m tracking those? And then where is it located on the page?” We can see where people are scrolling to get there. And if we move that around the page, how will that affect our submission rate?
Mark: Yeah, and if you think about where you put CTAs… And I kind of say how you use it can be very questionable, but actionable information can be brought from scroll depth. But for things like landing pages, and form submission, it can be huge, you just have to play with it a little bit, because you can change the parameters for when it fires, so if it’s 25% scrolled, 50%, 75, you could do even 20%, 40%. And you can see where do people scroll if they didn’t convert, where did they scroll if they did convert? And you can put CTAs and stuff like that, but a lot of the times, it’s very hit or miss with scroll depth, because I feel like it can be a little bit overwhelming.
Mark: I think things like engagement timer, which is another one that you can find online, might be a little bit more useful, because it helps you track page time a little bit better. So that might be more useful to you. But yeah, scroll depth is another one. And that can be actually be implemented pretty easily within Tag Manager.
Mark: Another one that I have that I think of is internal and external link clicks. So an internal link click, you might not necessarily need to track an internal link click. But if for some reason you want to track, say they’re going from your main site to your subdomain, that’s naturally tracked within GA, but you might want to track that to know that they’re leaving the main site and they’re going to the sub domain, or they’re going cross domain, so they’re going to a different site.
Mark: But also external, when someone… I think of a situation, if you’re a website, and you have referral links, so you have referral links, or… Yeah, referral links for products and stuff like that, you can track when people click those referral links, and you can know what site they’re tracking. Another situation that came up was we had a client who, their products were sold on a few different places, I believe. And one of my co workers wanted to track basically what sites people were leaving to go to, where they were going to actually view the product. So we set up a tag to basically track, and this is pretty simple, but you can set up a tag, you can track, like I said, what external links people are clicking on. And I think that’s pretty valuable, because you can kind of just know where people are exiting the site naturally, like when people leave the site, if they’re leaving, other than they just are done browsing, you kind of want to know where they’re going. So yeah, that was kind of some of them.
Chris: Yeah, and I was going to say, I’ve had that exact same example where I have worked with somebody who sold a product, but you couldn’t buy that product right on their site, you either had to go to Amazon or Walmart or whatever it may be to fire off and they sold it to these distributors. So yeah, that seems like a huge benefit to know where are people going, and where are you driving these sales from your website?
Mark: Yeah. It is huge. And I actually, I should emphasize it a little bit more, because it is pretty huge to do external link clicks. We had a situation, I’m helping a client implement e-commerce tracking for their site because they have a larger client to a smaller company, basically sells the larger company’s product or put larger company’s products in their equipment, and then they sell it, I believe, is kind of how it works. But basically, the larger company wanted to know, when people are coming from their site to the smaller site to purchase the product, how many people are going and how many people are purchasing? So how many actual sales is the larger company driving to the smaller website? They wanted to actually know the sales, so we had to implement e-commerce tracking.
Mark: And then the larger companies going to set up, they’re basically going to set up this type of external link clicks so that they’ll know how much is driving to the smaller company, and then the smaller company can give them the sales. So it can be pretty huge in that. I think of it like I’ve worked in the past with large e-commerce retailers where we spoke about they don’t sell online, they don’t sell on their website, they only sell in other retailers, and they just use their site as kind of like a product information. That’s huge. I guess I call them where-to-buy clicks, is what I’ve called them in the past, or retailer clicks. You want to know what retailers are people going to.
Chris: So I guess then let’s talk about… We’ve talked a whole ton about why it’s important, and what we should be doing with it. Let’s think about setting it up, and I want to get Google Analytics tracking on my website. What are, I would say, the top three ways that people normally get their Google Analytics set up?
Mark: Sure. I ask another question is like, “What CRM are you using?” So what content management, excuse me, not CRM, CMS. So content management system are you using, because it obviously can massively, I guess, change the way that you implement it. So at the simplest level, and I think a lot of people know WordPress, is obviously if you’re on WordPress, so if you’re like, “I don’t really want GA tracking or GTM on the site, I just want page view tracking,” for whatever reason, you can set up plugins that allow you to put your… So basically put the GA code within these plugins on a WordPress site, and you publish the plugin, and boom, you have Google Analytics tracking on your site.
Mark: If you don’t want to putz with the code, it’s really simple, you find plugins. So people with WordPress, I highly recommend the plugins if you want just Google Analytics tracking on your site. But also, there’s plugins to put GTM on the site too. So I’d say plugins, unless you really, really know WordPress code, I’d say plugins is your best friend with WordPress. But also Squarespace, that’s another one. Squarespace has something in their advanced settings called Code Injection. And you can basically put the GA code or put the GTM code in these two little boxes, it’s super simple, and there, boom, you have GA and GTM within a Squarespace site.
Mark: So it really depends on your CMS, at its bare bones level, you place the code on a site, but like I said, first figure out what CMS you’re using, because there’s a pretty good chance that they probably have a somewhat simplified way of implementing these on the site.
Chris: Okay, so aside from just implementing direct to the CMS, and you also mentioned being able to install Tag Manager through CMS.
Chris: You could also install analytics through Tag Manager.
Mark: Yep, yep. So yeah, it’s really quite simple to do this too, you can just set up a new tag, and then you pick Google Analytics, it’s probably going to be universal. But there is a new Google Analytics version rolling out, called GA4, and that’s a whole nother level to dive into. But basically, you just pick Google Analytics, you want to track that, and then Google is going to offer you.. Google Tag Manager has a trigger. So basically, where you want it to fire, and then you have fire on all pages. So it takes probably about 15 seconds if you have GTM on your site, it takes about 15 seconds to get GA running from GTM on your site.
Mark: So yeah, there’s a couple different ways. I always say GA can be implemented to hard code. And when I say hard code, you don’t use Tag Manager, you just put the code in your site, or you can run it through GTM. I prefer to run it through GTM, and I recommend people run it through GTM. But it’s really based on what your needs are. So yeah, like I said, there’s two ways. GTM is hard coded, but GA can be hard coded, or it can be ran through GTM.
Chris: Okay, and then obviously, you sort of already mentioned, you really don’t want to hard code, if at all possible, because it’s going to be more difficult to make any changes if you need to, and-
Mark: It’s just contained within… If you have GA already on the site, and then you eventually want to add GTM, I wouldn’t say necessarily delete the code off the site and run it through GTM. But if you’re like, “Well, I want to do GTM and GA, I don’t either,” just simplify it, instead of doing code for GA and code for GTM, just do code for GTM and then run GA through GTM.
Mark: Yeah, it’s just, like I said, there’s simplicity in just running it through GTM. But like I said, don’t go back and remove code from your site just to run it through GTM, because I say that it’s best practice, if you have it on your site, it’s not going to break it.
Chris: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Mark: Yeah, that’s kind of the thing, don’t touch it, don’t touch the GA, especially if someone else implemented the GA tracking code on your site, the hard coded, don’t touch it, because you potentially could break it, and then you don’t know code enough to implement it. For whatever reason, unless you’re really starting out, and you have no analytics code on your site, I would say, don’t implement GA hard coded.
Chris: And then, of course, now that we have it implemented, I think that the other big thing that we need to stress is learning to read the data itself, and being able to take the time to actually get good at being able to read the data, use the data, and knowing what’s relevant and isn’t.
Mark: Yeah, like I said, you’ll learn this, like what reports, so GA has reporting, obviously, it’s a reporting tool. So technically, it’s much more than that, but at its bare bones level, it has reports within it. So a page view report, an event report, conversion report, putzing… Like I said, that e-commerce store that Google provides you for free that you can get access to, that’s going to help you learn the tool, so you learn what reports to… Because if you look at GA, if you just go into GA for the first time, it’s super overwhelming, because there’s just so much, there’s segments, there’s filterings, all this stuff that you can do.
Mark: But the more you get familiar with the tool, the more easy you’ll get with kind of like knowing where to go, and that comes with time. But at its bare bones level, it’s like page view tracking, there’s a page view report, a landing page report, an all pages report. I think learning to look at those reports and learning to understand it is, I guess, step one in kind of making sure that you can kind of take anything from this. But it comes a time because these tools don’t… it’s not overnight you’re just going to automatically understand it.
Chris: Okay, yeah. And I think the other issues that sometimes you run into is a resistance to change, for example, if we’re tracking X conversion on the site, this lead gen form, but then we want to add an additional conversion, or we want to remove one, that can sometimes hurt data integrity. So I know that every now and then there’s some sort of resistance to change based on that.
Mark: Yeah. I think looking at this data, or you kind of taking actual insights, is like you’re trying to tell a story. And I think oftentimes, perhaps people, they look at the data, and they might not trust it, or they just don’t really want to do anything with it, or they’re slow to do anything with it. I kind of understand that, and it comes with time, and being able to verify what you’re tracking is helping you.
Mark: But oftentimes, I think it’s just a bit overwhelming for people and potentially, if you’re an owner of a business and someone’s come in and been like, “I want to start tracking this, and I think we should do this with that,” you’re a little bit nervous to kind of start making changes to it. I guess, that’s kind of what the… I think people find value in it, it’s just, it can be a little bit tough to always trust what you’re collecting.
Chris: Okay, well, that’s a lot of good, helpful, actionable information that I feel like, even I’ve learned a lot today, just talking to you here for the last bit of time. I guess, to sort of wrap things up here, is there one, or maybe two, just main takeaways you’d like everybody to take from this conversation today?
Mark: Probably one would be just don’t feel overwhelmed with this, like I always try not to sound like I’m throwing too much out there. And obviously a podcast you have so much that you’re talking about, but I would say don’t feel overwhelmed, because all of this is… you can learn all of this and at the simplest level you can implement some of this stuff and really start to see a benefit from it, and there and there’s so many different places you can learn this. So I think it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with what you could track or what you should track. But I think kind of stop, reassess, valuate, kind of look at your site, think, “What could we track?” And then kind of go from there and don’t feel overwhelmed, don’t feel like you need to track everything and don’t feel like you need to understand everything.
Mark: I think that’s, when I was starting out, it became frustrating because there was just so much to learn. And I think you just kind of have to take step by step and start understanding web analytics and understanding tracking and how tracking can benefit your web analytics, and what you can do with it and how they kind of work together. So yeah, I would say don’t feel overwhelmed, I’d say if you want to get into this, just use some of the resources that we’ll put in the notes.
Mark: And just have an interest in it, kind of know what you want to track. If this sparks your curiosity, and you have an interest with it, really just start diving into it and learning and really start kind of picking out what things you want to track. How do you get GA on the site? Understanding GA, understanding how do you get GTM on the site? How do you use GTM? There’s just so much you can learn. So I just say if this is something you want to do, focus on the bare level of understanding GA, understanding GTM. And then if you don’t have it on the site, implement that on the site, if you can, and if you don’t have access to it, watch videos, use that Google e-commerce store that you get through the GA Academy and just start kind of diving in and picking up facts and educating yourself on this.
Chris: Okay, that’s great. Yeah, Mark, thanks for all the great insights today. It was great to have you on and, like I said, even I feel like I learned a lot.
Mark: Yeah, no, I could talk about this forever. So I think there’s just so much that people can learn, and there’s so much that I can learn and it’s a never ending… I learn new stuff every day, and it’s an ever changing field, analytics and tag implementation and all this. So yeah, I appreciate you allowing me to kind of chat about it, and I hope people found this interesting, and that it maybe sparks their curiosity a little bit.
Chris: Yeah, absolutely. All right, Mark, again, thanks, and hope to have you on again soon sometime. And thanks everybody else for tuning in today. We’ll talk to you next time.
Narrator: Thanks for listening to the Getting Granular podcast. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on any PPC tips, tricks or news in the digital marketing world. Be sure to visit our website for more content at granularmarketing.com. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next time.