Ecommerce SEO: The Definitive Guide [2019]

How to Fix Common Technical SEO Issues On Ecommerce Sites

Problem: Too Many Pages

Having thousands of pages on your site can be a technical SEO nightmare. It makes writing unique content for each page a monumental task. Also, the more pages you have, the more likely you’ll struggle with duplicate content issues.

Why It Happens

Some ecommerce sites just have lots and lots of products for sale. Because each of these products require their own page, the site accumulates lots of pages. Also, sometimes each slight variation in the same product (for example 15 different shoe sizes) has its own unique URL, which can bloat your ecommerce site’s total page count.

How to Fix it

First, identify pages that you can delete or noindex… without affecting your bottom line.

In my experience, 80% of an ecommerce site’s sales come from 20% of its products (the ol’ 80/20 principle at work). And around 25% of an ecommerce product pages haven’t generated ANY sales over the last year.

Rather than working to improve these pages, you’re better off simply deleting them, noindexing them, or combining them into a “super page”.

Most ecommerce CMSs (like Shopify) make it easy to find products that haven’t generated any revenue lately. If they haven’t, you can put them into a “maybe delete” list.

But before you actually delete anything, check Google Analytics to make sure these pages aren’t bringing in any traffic.

Analytics – Landing pages

If a page isn’t bringing visitors to your site or putting cash in your pocket, you should ask yourself: “what’s the point of this page?”.

In some cases these “deadweight” pages will make up 5-10% of your site. For others, it can be as many as 50%.

Once you’ve removed excess pages that might be causing problems, it’s time to fix and improve the pages that are left.


Problem: Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is one of the most common ecommerce SEO issues on the planet. And it’s one that can sink your site in Google’s search results (thanks to Google Panda).

Fortunately, with a commitment to unique content on every page of your ecommerce site (and using advanced SEO techniques like canonical tags), you can make duplicate content issues a thing of the past.

Why It Happens

There are a lot of reasons that duplicate content crop up on ecommerce sites.

Here are the three most common reasons.

First, the site creates unique URLs for every version of a product or category page.

For example, if you have a category menu like this…

BestBuy – Categories

…it might create a unique URL for every selection the person makes.

BestBuy – Link

If those URLs gets indexed by Google, it’s going to create A LOT of duplicate content.

This can also happen if slight variations of the same product (for example, different shoe sizes or colors) create unique product page URLs.

Second, we have boilerplate content. This is where you have a snippet of text that appears on multiple pages.

Here’s an example:

Boilerplate content

Of course, it’s perfectly fine to use some of the same content on every page (for example, “At Brian’s Organic Supplements, we use the best ingredients at the best price.”).

But if your boilerplate content gets to be 100+ words it can be seen as duplicate content in the eyes of Google.

Finally, we have copied descriptions. This happens anytime you have the same (or very similar) content on multiple product or category pages.

For example, here’s an example of duplicate content on two different ecommerce product pages…

Product Page #1:

Product description

Product Page #2:

Product description

As you can see, the content on these two pages is almost identical. Not good.

How to Fix it

Your first option is to noindex pages that don’t bring in search engine traffic but are causing duplicate content issues.

For example, if your category filters generate unique URLs, you can noindex those URLs. Problem solved.

Once you’ve noindexed all of the URLs that need to go, it’s time to tap into the canonical tag (“rel=canonical”).

A canonical tag simply tells search engines that certain pages are exact copies or slight variations of the same page. When a search engine sees a canonical tag on a page, they know that they shouldn’t treat it as a unique page.

Use the canonical tag to differentiate between duplicate and original pages

(Not only does canonicalization solve duplicate content issues, but it helps makes your backlinks more valuable. That’s because links that point to several different URLs reroute to a single URL, making those links more powerful).

Pro Tip: Implementing canonical tags can be tricky. That’s why I recommend that you hire an SEO pro with technical SEO expertise to help. But if you prefer to set up canonicals yourself, this guide by Google will help.

Finally, it’s time to write unique content for all of the pages that you haven’t noindexed or set up with canonical URLs.

Yes, this is hard work (especially for an ecommerce site with thousands of pages). But it’s an absolute must if you want to compete against the ecommerce giants (like Amazon) that tend to dominate Google’s first page.

To make the process easier, I recommend creating templates for product and category page descriptions (I’ll have an example template for you in the next section).


Problem: Thin Content

Thin content is another common technical SEO issue that ecommerce sites have to deal with. So even after you solve your duplicate content issues, you might have pages with thin content.

And make no mistake: thin content can derail entire ecommerce SEO campaigns. In fact, eBay lost upwards of 33% of its organic traffic due to a thin content-related Panda penalty.

eBay – Traffic loss

But let’s not focus on the negative. Our data from analyzing 1 million Google search results found that longer content tended to rank above thin content.

Content Total Word Count

Why It Happens

One of the main reasons that ecommerce sites suffer from thin content is that it’s challenging to write lots of unique content about similar products. After all, once you’ve written a description about one running shoe what can you write about 25 others?

While this is a legit concern, it shouldn’t stop you from writing at least 500 words (and preferably 1000+ words) for all of your important category and product pages.

How To Fix It

First, you want to identify pages on your site that have thin content.

Pro Tip: Everyone has a different definition of “thin content”. In my mind, thin content refers to short snippets of content that doesn’t bring any unique value to the table.

You can go through each page on your site one-by-one or use a tool like Raven Tools to find pages that are a bit on the thin side (Raven considers pages with fewer than 250 words as having a “low word count”):

Raven Tools – Word count

Once you’ve identified thin content pages it’s time to bulk them up with high-quality, unique content. Templates make this process go significantly faster.

Here’s an example template for a product page description:

Example template for a product page description

Pro Tip: The more truly unique your content is, the better. That means actually using the products you sell. Write your impressions. Take your own product images. This will make your product descriptions stand out to users and search engines.


Problem: Site Speed

Site speed is one of the few signals that Google has publicly stated they use as part of their algorithm.

But site speed isn’t just important for ecommerce SEO: it also directly impacts your bottom line. Research by Radware found that slow load times can increase shopping cart abandonment by 29.8%.

Why It Happens

Here are the three most common reasons that ecommerce site pages load slowly:

  • Bloated Ecommerce Platforms: Certain ecommerce platforms are inherently slow due to bloated code. And unlike a blogging CMS like WordPress, you can’t just install a plugin and watch your speed improve.
  • Large Image File Sizes: High-res product images are awesome for your customers, but can make your page load like molasses.
  • Slow Hosting and Servers: When it comes to web hosting, you get what you pay for. A slow hosting plan can put the brakes on your site’s max speed.

Fortunately, all three of these site speed issues can be solved somewhat easily.

How to Fix it

  • Upgrade Your Hosting: I can’t recommend specific hosting providers because your decision depends on your preferences and needs (for example, the level of support, pricing, security etc.). But what I can say is that you should spend at least $50/month on your host. If you spend less, your loading speed is likely to suffer.
  • Invest In a CDN: A CDN is one of the fastest (and cheapest) ways to significantly crank up your site’s loading speed. Bonus: a CDN also makes your site more secure from attacks and hacks.
  • Optimize Image File Size with Compression: This is a biggie for ecommerce product pages. Make sure to export images so they’re optimized for the web.

What Can I Do With A Free Account From SEMrush?

What Can I Do With A Free Account From SEMrush?

Many new users to SEMrush ask this question and are not really sure what you can do with the SEMrush software. Obviously, many new users to SEMrush will start out on the free level before deciding to make a purchase on a subscription. But when you first create your free account, it’s important to know exactly what you get access to so that you can utilize your SEMrush account to its fullest potential.


Quick Tips on Improving User Experience

User experience has become more and more important in the 21st century.

We live in a digitally focused world. Activity occurs constantly. And it occurs across all device types. Way back when, an optimal user experience meant your landing page loaded. Then it became responsive design. Now, it’s even more involved. An optimal user experience means a customer-oriented experience. What the consumer wants, you need to make sure he or she gets.

Here are some things to know right now if you’re trying to enhance your website visitors’ experiences.

Tip 1: Keep It Simple!

Simplicity is key. Make it simple for a user to navigate, to search on your website, to read your content! Make an effort to put pages where users would look for them, write short to-the-point sentences and paragraphs, and be sure to use headlines and bulleted lists where possible. Allow visitors to get where they want to go quickly and easily.

If you need some inspiration, check out these websites that breathe simplicity: this one, another, and anotherlast one.

And this principle isn’t just limited to user experience! The KISS principle has been around for a long time – Keep it Simple, Stupid. You can’t go wrong.

Tip 2: Navigation Should Be Easy

Make it easy for your customers to find things on your website, whether that’s a product, blog, pricing pages, the contact us form, etc. Help your website help your users by ensuring ease of use in navigation. Keep navigation consistent across pages and organize into a hierarchical structure that makes sense.

Good rule of thumb – if it’s hard for YOU to find it, it will be hard for your consumers to find it.

Tip 3: Speed up Page Load Times

Page load time is important. Did you know that 47% of users expect a page to load under 2 seconds.

U n d e r 2 S e c o n d s.

The time it took you to read that, your website should have loaded. If you want to check your page load time, Google has a nifty tool that will measure page speed and provide suggestions for improvement. Google Analytics can help with this as well!

Tip 4: Put Yourself in Their Shoes

Assess your user experience as if you were the consumer. Perhaps hold a focus group or create a ‘consumer persona’. What does the consumer want to see? What questions can you answer for them with your content? How can you improve the content they see or the flow of information to better serve them?

Tip 5: Test across Browsers and Devices

Test your website across all browsers and devices types for compatibility issues. What shows up in Chrome may look very different on Safari. Make sure your website is usable regardless of where a user accesses it. And, if you haven’t done so already – make sure your website is optimized for mobile. There are several tools (some are free) that you can use to test – such as this one and this one.

Tip 6: Fix any Broken Links or 404 Errors

Send users where you intend for them to go. Fix any issues or roadblocks that would prevent users from getting there. Here’s an online tool that will help you find broken links on your website. We’ve also got some tips to handle your 404 errors as well!


Before you go, here’s a neat 7-minute test that you can take to score your website’s user experience, created by our own Andrew Garberson.

So there it is. Take those quick tips and run with them. Cheers to keeping those visitors on site!


Absolute Beginner Google Analytics Tips for Small Businesses

Analytics is a field where it’s really easy (and sometimes fun!) to get ‘lost in the weeds’ over code, best practices, implementation and analysis.

Maybe you log in to Google Analytics, then leave after being presented too much data and too many options for the time you have to look into your questions. It might seem too technical at first, too much to take in or too time-consuming. But remember, you can be interested in data without being interested in becoming a data scientist or analytics specialist. This is especially true for small businesses.

For those independent entrepreneurs and small businesses, the goals are different. Owning or working for a small business requires unmatched versatility where you are the CEO, the accountant, the creative, the marketer, the logistics expert and the customer service lead all-in-one (and possibly more). I’m getting exhausted just typing that out, so for you it’s all about being as efficient and effective as possible with your efforts.

It’s not practical for you to be digging into Google Analytics constantly, reading documentation, or spending hours or even half-hours clicking and poring over the standard reports multiple times a day or week. The Google Analytics documentation is great to learn it, but my goal here is to point those ‘wearers-of-all-hats’ in useful directions to get the most out of their time.

If you do not have analytics set-up yet and need help with adding Google Analytics to your site, you can get started here.

The Measurements: The Basics

The first thing to do before looking at any reports or information is to understand some big concepts in Google Analytics: pageviews, time, bounces and sessions. Different analytics programs may calculate these differently, so that’s why it’s worth going over.

Pageviews

In Google Analytics, pageviews is simply the number of times that a page loaded. This means that if I stayed on one page and kept hitting the refresh button, a pageview would be sent every time. Also, in order to be considered a unique page, the content must have a unique URL. For example, if you have one-page scrolling website where the content changes but the URL stays the same, it will appear as one page in your reports.

Time

Google Analytics doesn’t start a timer when you land on a site and record how long you are there. Instead, when you load a page a timestamp is sent with the exact time and date that it loaded. Then, when you go to a second page on the same site, another timestamp is sent. Google figures out how long you were on the first page by calculating the difference between the two.

It is a simple concept, but will be important for understanding the next two topics.

Sessions

Sessions deal with both pageviews and time. A session is essentially the entire visit – imagine it as a browsing session. Multiple pages can be included in a session, but every session has to end at some point, which is called a session timeout. It makes sense because if there was no expiration on the session, everyone would have 1 session across days, weeks and months.

So by default, the session expires after 30 minutes if the user does not go to another page in that time (and thus send another timestamp). This is one of the more complex ideas in analytics, so if you’d like to read more on sessions, I recommend Google’s own documentation here.

Bounces

You will see numbers related to Bounce Rate in many of your reports, which deal with bounced sessions. A bounce is when someone only views one page in a session. Knowing what we know about pageviews, sessions and time, here is an example:

  • I visit a page on your site (1 pageview)
  • Leave the browser open and go to lunch for more than 30 minutes (session times out)
  • Session 1 is now a bounce since there was only 1 pageview and the session ended.
  • I come back, finish reading the page and click to another page on your site (1 pageview, new session begins)

Use Bounce Rate to help determine how many people came to your site and were enticed enough to visit a second page. For a deep dive into Bounce Rate, check out this article.

The Tools

Staying on top of everything can be difficult, but luckily there are some ways to keep up with it!

The Mobile App

One of the questions you may have as a small business owner is simply, “How is my site doing?” There are many, many ways to find the answer to this question, but one of the simplest methods in my opinion is to use the Google Analytics mobile app. It is not just a mobile version of Google Analytics – for example, you won’t see the same style of reports and tables. Rather, it is specifically designed to answer that exact question in a visual, valuable way.

After signing in, the Overview menu item in the left navigation will give you an idea of the current performance of your site. Along with the real-time data of how many people are on your site right now, the data under will show where your audience comes from in the world, which traffic sources led to the most sessions, how many pageviews happened and green/red comparisons for all.

By default, this is based on the last 30 days and the comparison is based on the previous 30 days.

As you can see from the screenshots, these are useful visualizations for a quick read. If you’d like to dig into either audience, behavior (content), acquisition (traffic) or goal conversions, there are more options in the navigation for more details.

Dashboards

If you have a group of more specific questions that you’d like to answer on a regular basis, dashboards are a better option. The menu for adding them is on the left navigation in the Google Analytics interface.

Like the mobile app, dashboard elements can be visual and simple. The best part about them is that once they are created, you can refer back to them again and again instead of drilling down into each of the standard reports.

More about dashboards here.

If you’re not sure where to start, just hold on – there’s a great resource below to help you with templates that you can add to your Google Analytics.

Advanced Segments

To move beyond just counting overall pageviews and sessions, a great way to get to know your customers and users is to use advanced segments. Just as the name hints, segments divide your audience into groups making it easier to spot trends and insights.

Start by comparing different groups of traffic, like Mobile Users vs Tablet & Desktop Users to see if there are any major differences.

For example, maybe you saw that a local news site linked to your business’ website – you would definitely want to see the behavior of that audience over time! You could create a segment of visitors that came from that specific source.

The Google Analytics documentation has an introduction to building segments here.

Solutions Gallery

These tools are great, but often it’s hard to know where to get started. Luckily, there’s an answer for that!

The Solutions Gallery is a great place to download templates for the assets mentioned here. It’s a site where you can get pre-made reports, dashboards and segments that have already been created. All you have to do is click the ‘Import’ button and choose which view you would like to apply to.

Once imported, take some time to see how they arrange data and use the different widgets/tools to display information in different ways!

Conclusion

The key to learning Google Analytics as a smaller business employee is to focus on powerful, focused and reusable assets. Creating dashboards and segments (or downloading them!) will ensure that you’re not wasting time looking for the same data continuously and the mobile application can act as a fast performance check of your site.


How To Sell CRO To Your Boss

What is one element of business that every boss cares about?

Money. Specifically, Return on Investment (ROI).

If you plan to convince your boss that Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is the way to go, then you need to prove that optimizing your website, app, ads or whatever else is going to make the company money.

Don’t think of this challenge as how am I going to sell CRO to my boss. Think of it as I’m going to show my boss this awesome thing that’s going to improve sales for the company.

Step 1: Data

In order to convince your boss that CRO will improve the company’s bottom line, you first have to show them how. Data is the best way to go about it.

If you haven’t worked on CRO projects before, you will have to rely on data from other companies. I would suggest Optimization sites, like Optimizely, that have a ton of case studies to help you out. You can also use your competitors’ case studies if applicable. (Soon, we’ll be able to use Google’s Optimize 360!)

Don’t forget to show your boss how much money the company is losing by not optimizing!

You can use these optimization stats to help you out. When management hears that Obama raised an extra $60 million for a fundraiser during his candidacy and all his optimization team did was test the CTA button and the media banner, they’ll get a nudge in the right direction.

Step 2: Research

Get a few reports of your company’s web/app/digital ad data and set up a meeting with your analytics team to determine where improvements can be made.

Check website pages with a high bounce rate, low conversion rate and low time on page. Then, review those pages to discover why people are leaving, why they aren’t converting, etc. Is the page layout awkward? Is it hard to find what they might be looking for?

Make a list if the problems and the opportunities.

Step 3: Strategy

Now, you need a plan. It doesn’t have to be a 30 page document, but know where you want to start and about how long it make take to optimize your pre-selected areas.

Tip: Make sure to emphasize quick wins.

Start with something like A/B testing for CTAs, imagery or maybe paragraph phrasing. These tests are easier to implement than others and can show improvements in conversions and pages/session quickly.

In your plan, you should also provide the metrics you’re going to use to define success. These metrics will be different depending on your goals. Maybe you want to sell more products and you plan to change your CTA button in your A/B testing. If so, then your metrics would be clicks and conversions. Did you get more clicks than usual and did that lead to conversions or an abandoned cart? You get the point.

The faster you can prove the ROI of the CRO testing, the more convinced your boss will be.

Step 4: Tools or professionals

If he/she is on board, they’re going to want to know how all of these ideas can become reality.

You have two options: you either need to figure out how to use optimization tools or find a professional to help you optimize.

How much time do you have to make this happen? Is that time best spent learning to optimize, or talking about a contract with a professional? Read about both and pitch the ideas to your boss.

Tell us everything!

Have you ever had to convince your boss to invest in CRO? Which tactics did you use and did it work? We would love to hear about it.


Meet The New Google Analytics 360 Suite

Today, we awoke on the Ides of March to news of a coordinated media blitz from Google Analytics as they executed a dramatic product launch – rebranding several of its enterprise-class products and announcing new products that are on their way, if not quite here yet.

These new products address specific limitations that Google Analytics-critics have decried for years: content experiments, data visualization, and managing large amounts of data. The new tools boast features that Google Analytics is well suited to handle – products working seamlessly together in the Google ecosystem to provide holistic solutions for marketers and analysts.

Current Rebranded Products

A Rose By Any Other Name

To make this all work together in the 360 Suite, we see some of our old favorites being renamed. GA says that current customers of these items will see the changes rolling out in the coming months.

Google Analytics 360

Google Analytics 360, the enterprise-level version of Google Analytics, is now called Google Analytics 360. Google Analytics 360 will still have all of the same accoutrements of GA360, more features, more integrations, more features, and less sampling. You can read more about these differences here.

Google Attribution 360

Adometry, the advanced attribution company that Google Analytics acquired in 2014 is now called Google Attribution 360. This tool helps to go beyond the attribution tools that come baked into Google Analytics 360 and bring in outside information like views, click-throughs, and TV analysis.

This, along with the other 360 products, will remain separate products that can be added à la carte into the suite.

Newly Announced Products

To Be, Or Not To Be

Along with renaming its existing products, Google Analytics formally announced the launch of several features that have been years in-the-making, whispered about in hallways and Google office nooks, and are finally making their appearance into the world. These products will directly challenge existing products on the market and will help to round out the suite to truly meet the needs of enterprise-level marketing and analytics.

These new products are all currently in limited beta, and Google Analytics has said it will reach out to current Google Analytics 360 customers when they’re eligible to join.

Google Tag Manager 360

Similar to Google Analytics, which has a free version that anyone can use, Google Tag Manager is spinning off a premium version that is called Google Tag Manager 360. This will plug neatly into the suite and will supposedly offer a few ways to differentiate itself from its free counterpart. Google Analytics 360 took a period of time to really bulk up its offerings, so we can expect GTM 360 to grow over the next couple years.

Google Tag Manager, both the free version and the 360 version, helps make it easy to tag your website to collect information about users and their interactions on your site, whether you’re using Google Analytics tags, third-party tags, or custom tags.

Google Optimize 360

Now we’re talking! Google Analytics is launching a revamped way to run content experiments on your website. You’ll be able to test and personalize multiple variations and track the version that performs best and should connect seamlessly with Google Analytics 360 and Google Tag Manager 360.

Optimize will also tie in directly with the Audience Center 360 tool below, as well as DoubleClick and AdWords to link to campaigns and measuring success. With these connections, your experiments and tests will go beyond the standard A/B tests.

Google Audience Center 360

As technology bounds every year, the amount of data we have to work with is exploding. Google’s Audience Center 360 is a “powerful data management platform” to help connect with Google Analytics 360 with DoubleClick, third party data, and more.

We’re looking forward to getting all of our audience data together into one place, and being able to connect different data sources together to better target customers with testing, advertising, and getting better insights.

Google Data Studio 360

This is the one that our data science team is geeking out over! This new tool offers ways to visualize and analyze all of your new data into “beautiful, interactive reports.” This also includes real-time collaboration and sharing, which we’re also thrilled about.

This brings together all of the data from the suite, can link together outside data, and then can help display the information in meaningful ways to help you make more data-based decisions.

This product comes in two flavors – there’s a free version that anyone (in certain countries) can use, with five free reports, and then there’s the full enterprise version, Data Studio 360.

Want to learn more? Check out our post about Google Data Studio!

What Happens Next?

Forward, I pray, Since We Have Come So Far

So we’ve got old products with new names and new products rolling out in the next couple months. Already, we’ve started getting questions about how this impacts current customers!

Current Google Analytics 360 Customers

If you’re currently a Google Analytics 360 customer, you are primed to take advantage of these new tools as they become available. Google Analytics has said you’ll encounter the new names rolling out shortly. As access becomes available to the limited betas for the new products, current customers will be made aware and ideally invited to participate, though I’m sure these will be limited.

Remember, these are new products that are being sold. Current Google Analytics 360 customers will also get Google Tag Manager 360 as part of their license, but the other announced products will need to be added on as needed.

Current Google Analytics Users

If you’re currently using the free version of Google Analytics, then you’re really not going to see many changes. These new products and features are a separate, paid tier of products, though certain products will be able to be purchased independently from each other.

If you’ve been questioning whether or not Google Analytics 360 is right for you – this announcement of upcoming launches should help show you the path that Google Analytics is heading, connecting marketing and analytics to increase your understanding of customers through smart integrations and intelligent tools. We’ve got more information about Google Analytics 360 here, and we’re always available to chat!

Not Currently Using Google Analytics

If you’re not currently using Google Analytics, it’s time to start comparing features! These tools are designed to work seamlessly together, as well as providing the ability to bring in data from third-party products and internal products. The Google Analytics 360 Suite helps to connect your marketing, website interactions, online and offline data, and to help you turn all of that data into decisions. We’d love to tell you more about these Google Analytics 360 and these additional tools!


How Many AdWords Accounts Should I Use?

This is a really great question and, as simple as it seems, an important one to consider before getting started with new campaigns. AdWords implementation is, unfortunately, never straightforward so do yourself a favor and answer a few questions before you create that first account.

What Is Your Budget?

Typically, larger budgets require greater segmentation. If you intend to eventually give each of your business initiatives a significant portion of your digital budget, then it might be best to build account-level segmentation at this early stage.

A few examples that we have worked with might include segmentation for various product or service segments or domestic and international targeting.

How Do You Want Cost To Be Associated To Your Google Analytics Properties?

Whenever you establish the linking groups in Google Analytics, the setting that pulls cost and click data into GA, it will pull ALL of the cost data into that associated property. Because the AdWords data is a separate data set, there is no way to segment that cost prior to import unless you build multiple AdWords accounts then individually link them to the most appropriate properties for reporting purposes.

For example, if you have a B2C Google Analytics property and you import your cost and click data from a single Google AdWords property that represents ALL of your marketing initiatives, then your cost attribution will appear skewed in certain reports (unless, of course, you filter or segment your data in some way within the report).

How Much Access Should Particular Users Have?

Kind of a no-brainer, but if you want to ensure that certain users can only make changes in campaigns that they are responsible for, then you should consider multiple accounts with multiple users of varying access levels.

Another concern is that you may not want the team from Product A to know how much of the overall marketing budget Product B’s team is receiving this year. Using multiple accounts can alleviate “budget wars” in this case.

Can You Handle Organizing This Level Of Complexity?

One key issue you that you want to avoid while managing multiple accounts is having keywords that overlap across the account. This cause two problems: (1) lack of consistency in ad messaging and (2) increased costs overall.

Consider the following circumstance:

Both Account #1 and Account #2 are bidding on the keyword [ebooks] and are attempting to drive searchers into different experiences in order to complete different business goals. When the keyword is eligible to be triggered (i.e. someone searches for ‘ebooks’) AdWords will evaluate both accounts to determine which ad will win the auction, but because only one ad from any given domain can appear in search results, the ad with the highest “ad rank” (typically the highest bid) will win the auction.

Essentially, you would be creating your own internal competition and unnecessarily driving up cost. You also lose a bit of control over messaging.

Think of this same scenario for broadly-focused keywords. Which initiative gets priority for branded search or shared search intent? This should play a large role in how you structure your AdWords account(s).

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Prioritize the questions above to determine which what account structure is the right fit for your needs.

Option 1: Use One Account

If you are not concerned about sharing budgets with users and can trust them to not make edits in campaigns that are not their own, and if segmenting cost prior to importing into GA for more accurate attribution is also not a concern, then simplicity is usually best. Use one AdWords account and link it to all of your Google Analytics properties. Grant any users access as necessary.

Option 2: Use Many Accounts

On the other hand, multiple accounts is best if you are concerned with privacy and attribution. Managing the overlap, as described above, between the accounts will be more difficult but not impossible if you establish some rules prior to launch.

In this scenario you might have an account structure managed under a Google AdWords manager account (umbrella accounts used to manage multiple other accounts).

Your structure might look something like this:

Company MCC
> Company B2B
> Company B2C
> Company Brand (optional)

**Each account is nested under the MCC, aka manager’s, account. The optional “Brand” account would house keywords that overlap initiatives, such as branded search or keywords with a non-specific, broad focus that would be used to simultaneously promote multiple initiatives using features like ad extensions or through creative landing page testing.

Link individual accounts to the most appropriate Google Analytics properties, link the manager account to your Google Analytics rollup properties, and grant user permissions to the applicable accounts. BOOM! Now you have a thoroughly broken down series of AdWords accounts. Each one pushing cost data to a specific Google Analytics view, and each one now has the ability to accept only certain users if deemed necessary.

There you have it. Consider your reporting and management goals when establishing your AdWords account(s). If your comfort zone is more along the line of straightforward and simple then go with Option 1. If you desire more control and 100% accurate attribution modeling, then go for Option 2.


Google Analytics Power Reporting for SEO and PPC

Your neighbor tells you he is thinking about buying an electric car. Avoiding fossil fuels is important to him, but he is getting older—his 80th birthday is next week—and his kids don’t want him riding a bicycle any longer. Forget Uber, he doesn’t have a mobile phone. Plus, his barber moved across town and he needs a monthly trim of the few remaining hairs on his head.

He returns the next day with a Tesla S, the zero-emission sports car that goes 0 to 60 (mph) in 2.8 seconds, faster than a Porsche 911 Turbo and nearly every other street-legal car on the planet. The old timer wanted an electric and his new Tesla S meets the criterion.

Enter Google Analytics.

At some point, we told coworkers that we wanted a web analytics tool and create a Google Analytics account because it did all of the things we needed. And for years we (figuratively) drove that bad-ass sports car to the barber at 22 mph. We are the old man!

Let me be clear, I am the old man, too. I have a turbo-grade tool in Google Analytics, but each year I do an industry scan for the perfect search marketing reporting provider. I compare features, sit through sales demos, subscribe to 30-day trials. As trials expire and shoulders shrug, I continue driving Google Analytics in first gear.

That stops this year.

Search marketers at LunaMetrics are using Google Analytics the way it’s designed to be used. Here are some of the ways that we are doing weekly monitoring and monthly reporting without totally overwhelming our people or our clients.

Daily Monitoring

Google, Adobe, Hubspot… most analytics providers have apps that allow digital marketers to monitor performance from anywhere: your bed, your birthday party, your wedding. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you should.

Goal: Reacting to an extreme shift in any search channel.

Challenge: Keeping a finger on the pulse while still having enough time to eat, sleep, and bathe.

Solution: Alerts in Google Analytics

Alerts act like push notifications. “Hey, healthy person enjoying their Sunday morning, your conversion rate tanked yesterday so you should probably finish your breakfast and check on it.”

Keep in mind that these alerts are not always real time. They will not let you know the moment Kanye takes a selfie with your product and your server buckles under the weight, but you are more likely to know before Monday morning when your boss is waiting by your parking spot. Here are 55 Google Analytics alerts for your account.

Weekly Monitoring

Spotting trends save lives. Okay, that might be a touch extreme for your industry. Maybe spotting trends saves dollars and bonuses. Throwing yourself in front of something trending downward or maximizing the effects of something trending upward makes bosses and clients very happy.

Goal: Spotting trends in the act stage instead of the react stage.

Challenge: Knowing where to look and, well, remembering to look there.

Solution: Custom reports and dashboards in Google Analytics.

The guide to basic Google Analytics automation reviews dashboards with custom reports, which are wonderful ways to monitor performance without losing your life to it – see the Daily Monitoring section above.

Google Analytics dashboards are perfect for 60-second reporting and analysis: a summary of search conversions, revenue, return on ad spend, etc.

Monthly Monitoring

This is the big one. We do the bulk of our reporting at the monthly level, and the demands are higher.

Goal: Finding a tool that is easy to access, affordable to use, and broader than several channels.

Challenge: Having all of it in one place.

Solution: Google Drive integrations with Google Analytics.

Google Drive reports are not the prettiest girl at the dance – other platforms have cleaner interfaces with interactive charts – but she is the best dancer, and isn’t that most important? Read-only logins for bosses/clients, automatic daily refreshes, and the opportunity to fetch data from AdWords, Bing Ads, Search Console, social advertising, and more. You can even create handy tools like ad budget trackers to maintain monthly pacing. Looks like I need to apply the brakes!

A coworker tackled the how-to side of this topic far better than I can. Check out Sam’s post on connecting Google Analytics to Drive and supercharging reports with filters and segments.

Taking a Test Drive

Google Analytics can be your Tesla. Or your (more modest) Nissan. It has all of the things you need and many of the things you want. The SEM power reporting muscle is there; you just need to know how to unleash it.

Want to learn more about Google Analytics power reporting for SEM? Attend Andrew’s session this year at SMX West, SMX London, and SMX Advanced.


What Is Google Tag Manager? (And How Does It Work With Google Analytics?)

For quite some time, Google Analytics (GA) has been around to help you collect, process, configure, and report website and mobile app data that results in actionable insights. Then in 2012, Google announced the release of its new groundbreaking product, known as Google Tag Manager (Tag Manager or GTM).

In short, we love it. And we write about it often! Despite GTM’s usefulness, there’s still a lot of confusion about what it is, what it does, and how it’s different from Google Analytics. So, we’ve decided to dedicate this bit to dissolve the confusion.

Where People Get Tag Manager Wrong

A common misconception is that Tag Manager is the same thing as (or the latest version of) Google Analytics. This is not the case! In actuality, Google Tag Manager is a completely separate tool.

Breaking It Down

In short, Google Tag Manager is a user-friendly solution to managing the tags, or the snippets of JavaScript that send information to third-parties, on your website or mobile app. Adding other products to your site, including but not limited to AdWords Conversion Tracking and Remarketing, DoubleClick Floodlight, and of course, Google Analytics, is a breeze.

In more detail, GTM makes your life easier by simplifying the process of adding these JavaScript snippets to your website. Instead of updating code on your website, you use the interface to decide what needs to fire and on what page or what action. GTM then adds the appropriate tracking to your site to make sure it all works.

Google Tag Manager consists of these three main parts:

  1. Tag: A snippet of code (usually JavaScript) added to a page.
  2. Triggers: Defines when and where tags are executed.
  3. Variables: Used to receive or store information to be used by tags and triggers.

Before And After Tag Manager

Before Google Tag Manager, the JavaScript on your website or mobile app had to be hard-coded. In other words, you were forced to team up with developers to make even the slightest changes to your tracking. Need to add an event? Get in line behind the urgent site issues and routine maintenance. Or, if you’re the one in charge of updating your site, tracking certain links or forms may require wrestling with JavaScript/jQuery to get the exact thing you need.

Now, Tag Manager gives you a friendly user interface that walks you through creating tags step-by-step, which eliminates the need to have extensive experience with JavaScript. To get started, you add the custom-generated tracking code, also called the container tag, to your website or mobile app.

Afterwards, Google Tag Manager allows anyone with the appropriate user permissions to add, change, and debug tags for your website. You can use it to control and fine-tune what fires on your website while it delivers the JavaScript to your site for you.

Most importantly… You can take tagging into your own hands, and steer your tracking however you desire, quickly and easily, without those sometimes pesky backseat drivers (your developers).

So GTM And GA Aren’t An Old Married Couple?

Not necessarily. Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics are two completely separate tools, and can live independently of one another: You can use Google Analytics on your site by itself, just as much as you can use Google Tag Manager on your site by itself.

However, as our Technical Marketing Manager, Jon, always says, “Google loves Google.” Therefore, it should’t be surprising that they work very well together.

GTM And GA Working Together

Quite honestly, the possibilities of how the two tools work together are endless!

However, there are a few ways to use Google Tag Manager with Google Analytics that are commonplace. For instance, you can use GTM to send different pieces of data to Google Analytics, such as pageviews and events. Let me reiterate that normally, you would have had to add JavaScript on your site, but not when using Tag Manager.

Here’s an example:

For Google’s sake, we’ll show you how to send data to Google Analytics using Tag Manager. Let’s say that you need to track resource downloads on your website (pdfs, docx, xls). For tracking purposes, it’s important to know two things:

  1. How many people downloaded the file?
  2. What page was the user on when it was downloaded?

In this case, GTM allows you to easily set up a Click Trigger and a Google Analytics Tag to see what and where resources are being downloaded without needing to add any additional code to your site.

Furthermore, you can use Google Tag Manager triggers to dictate when this data should be sent to Google Analytics. To expand on our previous example, maybe you want to only send a virtual pageview to Google Analytics when a user clicks on a resource download link. If so, you can use Tag Manager’s triggers to specify these conditions.

7 Reasons Why Google Tag Manager Is Special

1. It’s F-R-E-E, Free.

Not to worry, it’s both free and awesome! Google Tag Manager has a multitude of robust features, including (but not limited to) usability, accounts and user roles, tag firing rules, and supported tags (Google, third-party, and custom HTML tags).

2. Do It Yourself

Insert the container tag once, make changes whenever you want without much hassle, and voilà! With the available debugging tools and preview mode, you can be sure of what you’re doing before you publish it.

3. Forget About Limitations

You can use Google Tag Manager with more than just Google products. Take a peek at the other predefined tags, such as Marin, comScore, AdRoll, and more! Can’t find the tag you need? Customize one! You can also add Tag Manager to not only your website, but also to your iOS and Android apps. You’re truly unlimited.

4. Cool Features With Google Analytics

Google Tag Manager makes it easier to implement some of the more complicated Google Analytics features, such as User ID tracking. User ID tracking gives you the ability to measure real users instead of devices. This provides more accurate data for you, which ultimately helps your users! It’s a win-win. Tag Manager also helps with common challenges in Google Analytics, such as Custom Dimensions, Cross-Domain Tracking for multiple sites that are tracked together in Google Analytics, and Enhanced Ecommerce that requires collaboration with developers.

5. Easily Track More Things

With so many great resources available on the web (and our own site!) it’s easier than ever to track things like YouTube videos on your site, print tracking, or AJAX form submissions.

6. Worry-Free Security

No need to worry. Google Tag Manager has all of the security features you need. One awesome feature is two-factor authentication that requires both your normal password and then a numeric code that you receive via a text message, voice call, or mobile app. You are also able to control the access by granting different levels of permission at both the account and container levels.

7. Debug Central

With debug options, built-in error checking, and version controls, you can rest easy knowing that everything you do with Google Tag Manager can be tested and debugged before it goes live.

When Can You Migrate To Google Tag Manager?

Any time is a good time to migrate, especially if you haven’t already upgraded to the latest version of Google Analytics (Universal Analytics), then it would be a great opportunity to also migrate to Google Tag Manager. Check out the important migration tips and tricks linked below that you should put into practice. Migrate whenever you feel you’re ready to take advantage of its many awesome features!

How Can We Help?

Are you ready to try it out? We are a Google Tag Manager Certified Partner that is here to help you implement Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics through GTM. You can reach out to us, check out some of our other blogs on Google Tag Manager, check out our GTM Book and GTM recipes, or find out when our Google Tag Manager trainings are coming to you!


What’s Premium About Google Analytics Custom Funnels

As web analysts and marketers know, analyzing and understanding user behavior is so much more than reporting on overall users and pageviews.

There are tools in the Google Analytics interface to help understand behavior like the Navigation Summary and Entrance Paths, but both are limited in terms of the scope of steps and stages. Even the Behavior Flow report, showing a complex map of user navigation, really just scratches the surface of behavior analyses. Using the funnel visualization or sequences with advanced segments are also options, but a new feature may prove to be one of the most powerful (and easiest) tools yet!

Custom Funnel Reports is the newest available reporting feature released by Google Analytics 360. It is a custom reporting template that allows you to experiment and create funnels out of nearly any user behavior and action on your site. You don’t necessarily need an explicit stepped process with pages belonging to a strict path. In fact, using custom funnel reports becomes more valuable when you think of ways to explore the data.

The view that you are in must be within a Google Analytics 360 property. If you are not currently a GA360 customer, you will not have access to this type of report but can follow along with the screenshots! If you’ve used Enhanced Ecommerce features like Shopping Behavior and Checkout Steps, you will be familiar with the look and feel of the end report.

Creating a Custom Funnel Report

Like other custom reports, the first step is navigating to the Customization tab in the topmost menu and choosing New Custom Report. Once in the creation screen with all of the custom report settings, you should notice that there is a new button in the Type section, Funnel.

Then, you can choose what sort of analysis you are looking for. If you are more focused on sessions, choose “All stages must occur within the same session.” If you want a user-level, choose “Different stages can occur in different sessions.” This option means that if a user completes a step one day and completes the funnel the next, the user will still be counted in the funnel analysis and not look like a drop-off.

The section Funnel Rules is where the steps, or stages, are defined based on Google Analytics dimensions. You may already have some ideas for pages that you are interested in creating a funnel report for but don’t limit yourself to just pages!

The best part about these reports is that you can use any dimension in Google Analytics, including custom dimensions and ecommerce dimensions. You can even use different dimensions for different stages or different dimension conditions in the same stage as well.

This can be used to create a funnel solely from events. Maybe we have a one-page form with events that fire on the individual form fields and we want to track drop-off within that form. We wouldn’t be able to use the goal funnel visualization because it is a single URL.

Below is an example of a Custom Funnel Report based off of fields in a lead generation form. The settings for the individual steps would be based of of event category, action and label:

This may spark ideas about creating event-based funnels around actions that you may already have implemented like scroll tracking, video interaction or even timing events! The limits for Custom Funnel Reports are currently a maximum of 5 rules per stage and 5 stages total.

Custom Funnel Reports can also be used to analyze user actions along with content. For example, at LunaMetrics we might want to analyze the closed funnel of users who view blog content, then view our services page, and finally take action to contact us. Not only can we analyze the volume of users who flow through the stages, we can create segments based off of the stages and drop-offs. In this case, I might want to target the users who left the funnel before completing the last action of submitting a contact form to create an advanced segment or remarket to this very specific audience.

Custom Funnel Reports vs. Funnel Visualizations

Custom Funnel Reports don’t have the same behavior as the funnel visualizations and work differently. Unlike the funnel visualization report, there are no backfills, it can be used on historical data and you can add an advanced segment to the reports (there is a limit of only one at a time).

However, you do have similar options such as choosing whether the funnel is open (where a user can enter the process at any step) or closed (where a user must hit the first step to be included in the funnel). Custom funnel reports are also visually different and are interactive.

Custom Funnel Reports vs. Sequences in Advanced Segments

Custom Funnel Reports are similar to advanced segments in that you are free to use any and multiple Google Analytics dimensions. Both also provide the option of specifying whether the next step should be immediately following the previous step or not.

The biggest difference between these two tools is that Custom Funnel Reports allow you to interact with and re-engage your users based off of where they entered or dropped out of the funnel with remarketing. Also, keep in mind that using any type of advanced segments in the standard version of Google Analytics will trigger sampling if there are more than 500,000 sessions in the range of the report and flow visualizations will trigger sampling at 100,000.

The GA360 Custom Funnel Reports provide a new way to analyze behavior with Google Analytics. Moving toward user-centric analysis, the flexibility lets us analysts and marketers think more about the journey and story of people using the site in a more focused and insightful way.