Tim Jensen – Search Engine Land News On Search Engines, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM) Fri, 06 Nov 2020 15:05:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 Using auction insights for better PPC competitor analysis /using-auction-insights-for-better-ppc-competitor-analysis-343264 Fri, 06 Nov 2020 14:14:12 +0000 /?p=343264 Here's how Google and Microsoft auction insights can help you identify core competitors and track their bidding activities month by month.

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Competitive analysis should be a regular task for anyone involved in managing PPC campaigns. Keeping up with what messaging your competitors are using, what keywords they’re bidding on, and where they’re overlapping with you are important for keeping your own campaigns on point.

The Auction Insights sections in Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising offer a wealth of information about where your competitors are bidding against you. Let’s dive into how to view Auction Insights and then how to make the findings practical to your account management process.

Accessing auction insights

As long as your account has enough data, you can look at auction insights at the account level, by campaign, by ad group, or by keyword (or a set of keywords). Segmentation can allow you to see what topics specific competitors care about, based on which ones show up on the radar for each campaign.

Google Ads

To get to Auction Insights from within your Google Ads account, click on “Campaigns” in the left sidebar and select “Auction Insights” from the menu that appears. This will show account-wide insights. 

For more segmented data, select the checkboxes next to individual campaigns, ad groups, or keywords you’d like to include and click the “Auction Insights” option in the blue bar above the table. 

You’ll now see a table showing a list of brands that have overlapped with yours in search results for the timeframe you have selected.

Here are the stats you’ll see broken down by column:

  • Impression share: The number of impressions you got, divided by the number of impressions you were eligible to receive
  • Overlap rate: The percentage of times a competitor’s ad had an impression at the same time your ad had an impression
  • Position above rate: The percentage of time a competitor’s ad showed above yours in search results
  • Top of page rate: The percentage of time a brand’s ad appeared anywhere within the top set of ads in search results
  • Abs. top of page rate: The percentage of time a brand’s ad appeared in the #1 position at the top of search results
  • Outranking share: The percentage of time your ad showed higher than a competitor’s ad, or showed up when theirs didn’t

Microsoft Advertising

To access Auction Insights in Microsoft Advertising, look for the “Auction Insights” tab at the top of the screen, next to “Campaigns.” You can also access Auction Insights for individual campaigns/ad groups/keywords similarly to Google Ads, by selecting the ones you want to include from the table, and then choosing Auction Insights.

Microsoft Advertising also includes a graph allowing you to see how competitor metrics have changed over time, as well as seeing a summary in a bar chart format. Interestingly, the chart option is one feature Google Ads doesn’t have!

The available metrics are the same as for Google Ads, in addition to Average Position.

Applying auction insights

So, how can you make this report practical to your account management process? Here are a few tips for what to look at and how to apply the findings to your accounts.

Identify new competitors

Auction Insights are perfect for flagging new competitors who are starting to scale up advertising efforts. If you see any new names you haven’t come across, you can bring those up with your client or marketing team to spur further analysis of what the competitors are doing online. Sometimes the people who compete with your brand most on search are not necessarily the people who would be pegged as the top competitors.

In addition, you can find out if brands that have existed but previously not had done much with paid search are starting to put more budget into search. If you see a competitor suddenly having a high overlap rate when they haven’t in the past, you know that they’ve likely scaled up their budget.

You can also identify if competitors are expanding into different product or service offerings, or even regions. For instance, if you have separate campaigns for different countries, you may have seen a client overlapping in the US but not in Canada. By monitoring Auction Insights, you can see if they’re expanding their advertising efforts into Canada and flag potential international expansion efforts. 

Compare Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising

Often, the competitor list that shows up in Google Auction Insights will vary from what shows up in Microsoft Advertising. Generally, fewer competitors are active on the Microsoft end, and the ones spending the most in Google might not even be competing in Microsoft. Sometimes, you’ll find completely different competitors showing up in Microsoft than in Google.

Be sure to include Microsoft as well as Google in your Auction Insights analysis to potentially identify even more competitors, as well as to get a more accurate picture of their cross-channel tactics.

Track historical changes

You can track changes in bidding activity over time by pulling reports by month, and looking to see which brands have increased and which has decreased. For Google Ads, you’ll need to pull reports manually for various date ranges to get this data. But Microsoft Advertising makes this analysis easier by showing graphs directly within the interface.

By looking at Auction Insights by month, you can identify seasonality trends. Do other businesses increase their activity in search at the same time you do? You may also see responses to current events (such as how they adjusted their PPC efforts when COVID-19 hit).

See who’s bidding on your brand

Brand bidding is a frequently debated topic within the PPC industry, with many valid arguments for or against. But one benefit from brand bidding can be the auction insights report, particularly in spaces where companies frequently bid on each other’s name.

By accessing auction insights for your brand campaign, you can see a snapshot of the other companies who are bidding most aggressively on your brand name. You can also see which ones are likely allocating the most budget and the highest bids toward competitor bidding based on higher impression share in the report.

Start monitoring your auction insights

If you haven’t already made monitoring Auction Insights a regular task in your PPC management process, make a note to review this data. You’ll have the opportunity to identify core competitors and track their bidding activities month by month. Dive into these reports within your accounts and see what you find!

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5 tips for starting international PPC /5-tips-for-starting-international-ppc-338493 Fri, 31 Jul 2020 12:00:00 +0000 /?p=338493 Be ready to watch for nuances of your targeted regions and adapt your strategy on a regional basis as you begin to track performance.

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Expanding marketing efforts beyond your home country can be an exciting step. However, branching into new regions with PPC entails much more than simply copying your campaigns and changing the geographic targeting. 

Don’t rush into setting up international campaigns until you’ve thought out budgeting, channel allocation, account structure, localization, and unique regional concerns. In this article, I’ll expand on each of these points to help you establish a framework for beginning to target other countries.

Budget for different costs by country

CPCs and CPMs to compete in ad auctions vary widely by country. You can get a rough estimate for projected spend in Google search by adding your keywords to Google Keyword Planner and setting the region to the country you’re planning to target. However, these estimates can be off, and you’ll get the best idea of average CPCs/CPMs once you actually start running a campaign and see actual figures. 

In addition, costs for customer acquisition also will likely vary by country. If you’re just starting to advertise in a region that’s not familiar with your brand, you can often expect higher CPAs. 

However, you might find the opposite to be true if CPCs are lower in that region. I recently launched a LinkedIn campaign in Latin America for a client, and we found that CPAs were less than half of our averages in the United States due to significantly lower CPCs.

Also, pay attention to CRM data to measure lead quality. While they may be cheaper in a region, a lower percentage of prospects may actually be the right potential customers. You’ll ultimately want to look at metrics like cost per qualified lead and cost per completed sale to determine what CPAs to aim for in your campaigns.

Research top channels by region

Consider what search and social channels people use the most in the regions you’re looking to target. Targeting Google alone will exclude a significant number of users in several countries. For instance, Yandex covers 44% of the search engine market share in Russia, and Baidu has 66% of the market share in China

StatCounter is a good site to start for research (with the caveat that no stats are going to be 100% accurate), as well as talking to contacts on the ground in regions you’re looking to target. Representatives at ad platforms may be able to assist in providing stats on regional usage, as well.

Plan for account structure

Separating campaigns by country, or by overarching region, allows you to better control bids and segment out reporting. This tactic also prevents countries with cheaper CPCs and high volume from cannibalizing spend, giving countries that may have higher CPCs, but quality leads, a chance to perform.

Separate geographic campaigns also allow for more accurate usage of time-based bid modifiers. If you lump the Europe and the US into the same campaign, and lower bids during the night in the US, you’re effectively also lowering bids during the workday in Europe. Keeping those regions in different campaigns allows you to apply hourly bid modifiers without worrying about hurting performance in time zones several hours away.

You should also consider billing needs when deciding how to segment out accounts. Particularly for enterprise-level companies, payment often needs to come from different divisions by region. Using separate ad accounts may be necessary to ensure you can use different billing sources for each division.

Include asset localization

Make sure to localize copy for the people you’re aiming to reach. This work may entail translating keywords, ad copy, and landing page copy into another language. 

Or, you may be targeting people who already speak English but use different words based on regional dialects. For instance, if you’re selling diapers, you’ll want to refer to “nappies” when advertising in Britain. See how the wording on these example results pages vary for the same product category between Amazon US (“diapers”) and Amazon UK (“nappies”):

Be sure to adapt for regional spellings, as well. For instance, a call-to-action to “View Our Catalog” should say “View Our Catalogue” in Britain. Have a copywriter familiar with regional dialects scrub through your copy to look for words, spelling, and colloquialisms that might not make sense for the area you’re targeting.

Identify unique regional concerns

Simply copying and pasting a campaign over to another region (even after a localization process) may not prove effective. Different areas of the world may have needs for unique services and varying behaviors as they engage with the sales funnel.

For instance, a cybersecurity company may see interest in DDoS-related services surge after a particular country experiences attacks. Or a ski supply store may see sales pick up as regions approach their colder seasons.

Finding these concerns should entail a combination of talking with your contacts within the business who have experience in the region, as well as researching search trends by month and by region. Google Trends can be helpful to pinpoint overarching seasonal trends.

For example, see below how searches for “heater” peak at opposite times of the year for the United States vs. Australia. If you’re selling heating units, you’ll obviously want to take into account the weather by region when marketing internationally.

Next, think about user behavior in different regions. I’ve found that in some cultures people are more responsive to talk to a salesperson sooner, while in others they may be more likely to want to simply read content first. You may need to refine your sales funnel and how much content you’re offering people at the top and middle of the process to see what works in each area. 

This step may take some testing to determine what works best. At the end of the day, don’t assume that your perfectly refined funnel in one region will translate perfectly to another region.

Start planning your international campaigns

Ready to take the next step beyond marketing in your home country? Take these steps to build your plan for expanding into international PPC. Think through the nuances of the regions you’re targeting and the assets needed to adapt. Finally, be ready to watch the data and adapt your strategy on a regional basis as you begin to track performance.

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SMX Overtime: How to manage and optimize B2B accounts /smx-overtime-how-to-manage-and-optimize-b2b-accounts-331843 Tue, 31 Mar 2020 16:34:29 +0000 /?p=331843 PPC pro and SMX speaker Tim Jensen offers guidance on the effectiveness of specific channels for a B2B audience and types of assets to focus on by channel.

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In the “How to Manage and Optimize B2B Accounts” session at SMX West, attendees asked questions about the effectiveness of specific channels for a B2B audience, new market strategies and what types of assets to focus on by channel. In this article, I’ll answer these questions to provide some guidance for those wanting to build a better B2B strategy.

How has Quora compared to other PPC channels in terms of performance? Where does it fit in your paid media marketing mix?

While the volume is lower than other major PPC channels, Quora audiences tend to be highly engaged in “real” conversations, often for highly niche topics with many related to B2B markets. For instance, you’ll find several discussions around software comparisons for various markets.

Personally, I’ve had the most success with Quora for generating top-of-funnel visitors to later retarget cross-platform with lower-funnel assets. When promoting blog content, I’ve found Quora visitors tend to show a higher average session duration and pages/session than other channels. However, there are several options for reaching people further along in the buying process, through features like retargeting and customer list targeting.

If you haven’t tested Quora Ads yet, I’d recommend:

  • Setting up the pixel on your site and beginning to build a retargeting audience you can test.
  • Searching topics/questions for discussions related to your industry, your brand name, and competitor brand names. You can then try topic targeting (higher volume but can be hit or miss how specific you can get based on the industry) or questions targeting/retargeting (more specific but tougher to get volume) to get a feel for how people respond. 
  • Segmenting Quora traffic in retargeting audiences for other platforms (using UTM parameters) to test how these individuals perform elsewhere.

We are creating a new market with a new engineering service that no competing company offers in the same way. What recommendations do you have for audience and keyword targeting given few folks know about our new service?

This can be a tough situation. First of all, think through the persona of the person you’re selling to. Are there factors such as job title, industry, etc. where you can narrow down your target audience?

Next, develop a story around the problem you’re solving. People may not be aware of your service, but if you can present a problem in a way they can identify with, chances are they’ll also be interested in hearing about the solution you have to offer.

Try social channels such as LinkedIn and Facebook to target the audience personas you’ve set up with the messaging about the product. They may not be searching yet, but you can get in front of them in other ways. You may even come up with different targeting “buckets” to test, possibly broken out by industry or job role, and then measure responses based on each audience.

You could also test display ads targeting specific placements that people in your target market are reading. For instance, you might be able to identify engineering publications that allow ads via the Google Display Network. In addition, trying a custom intent audience built with URLs for these publications may help widen reach.

On the search front, there may not be much activity, but be sure to have campaigns in place preemptively for any related terms before you start promoting yourself on social media. In addition, make sure you have brand campaigns in place to capitalize on anyone who searches for your brand after hearing about it.

Is content a good tactic for all channels? Or is this channel-specific?

Promoting a piece of content such as a buyer’s guide can work well particularly in a social media context, where people are likely to be less receptive to an immediate “sales” message but may be open to reading a resource they find valuable. Display ads can also be effective for promoting content pieces.

Search is often a different context, where people are indicating direct intent and are actively looking for a solution. However, for expensive B2B products with a long buying cycle, offering people a content resource from an upper/middle-funnel search query can still be relevant.

More so than thinking about the effectiveness by channel, I’d focus on the user’s buying stage. For ads where either the audience targeting or keywords indicate higher funnel intent, a content resource is often a softer sell than immediately pushing a demo/trial. For retargeting lower in the funnel or high buying intent keywords, people may be more ready to buy, and you’re better often pushing a sales-focused CTA.

Can you give any examples of B2B brands advertising effectively in a more “fun” and personal format vs. the typical sterile ads?

Zoom capitalized on everyone’s annoyance with conference calls to produce this video about a Video Conference Call in Real Life. It’s funny, but anyone who’s participated in conference calls can identify with the pain points brought up in the video. Seeing the sponsorship by Zoom might make people take a second look at how Zoom can help solve those pain points.

If a B2B marketer has tried all the channels you mentioned and still hasn’t seen success, what should they try next?

No PPC channel in and of itself is the end-all solution for B2B marketing. If you haven’t been successful after extensive testing of channels, you may want to take a step back and revisit how your brand presents itself to users.

Does your messaging clearly present what problems you can solve for customers? Are you using wording that customers can relate to, or do you stick with corporate jargon? How user-friendly is your website? Interviewing your current customers can help give you more launching points into areas you can investigate.

Do you have a clear methodology for explaining your product? A simple explainer video can go a long way in providing an overview of a complex product.

Once you’ve worked through your branding, your creative, and your messaging, you may then end up coming up with enough ideas to revamp how your brand is presented from the ground up. Then you can follow that process up with refreshed campaigns across channels.

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How to get client buy-in to try new PPC tactics /how-to-get-client-buy-in-to-try-new-ppc-tactics-328605 Mon, 03 Feb 2020 20:29:54 +0000 /?p=328605 Walk into your conversation with a clear plan including budget, testing timeline and KPIs along with case studies and competitor information when possible.

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Ever heard any of these phrases before?

“Nobody searches on Bing.”

“People don’t click banner ads.”

“We ran Facebook ads once, and they didn’t work.”

“LinkedIn is too expensive for us.”

All of us have heard similar responses when pitching new PPC tactics to clients. A channel that just might be the next best source of leads isn’t even tested because the CMO hesitates to try the unfamiliar.

New PPC tactics could include:

  • Running ads in a new channel. For instance, expanding into Microsoft Advertising when you’ve only run Google search.
  • Trying a new ad type (video, carousel ads, lead ads, etc.)
  • Incorporating a new audience (lookalikes, customer match, etc.)
  • Targeting a new geographic region

Sure, you may know why you want to try a particular tactic for your client. But how do you articulate that in a way that will convince them to be willing to test? In this article, I’ll talk about how to make the case to your client and get buy-in.

Establish ground rules for testing

If your client is hesitant to try a new tactic, present a clear plan with a budget, a timeframe and KPIs to help meet their concerns.

Perhaps they’re concerned about wasting money. Determine the minimum spend to achieve statistically significant results, and ask if they’re willing to spend enough to determine whether or not the tactic will work for them.

Of course, this amount will vary based on the client’s industry and the types conversions you’re tracking, but you should be able to determine a rough estimate based on overall cost per lead goals and previous experience with the type of campaign you’re pitching.

Next, set a firm timeframe that will allow you to get enough data. Take into account the average sales cycle, as well as any seasonal trends. You want to run long enough to give leads time to move through the funnel for a fair analysis, as well as to avoid any performance anomalies connected with a brief timeframe.

Finally, establish the KPIs (key performance indicators) you’ll use to measure success. These might include metrics such as cost per lead or ROAS.

Be realistic when presenting KPIs, particularly when a new channel entails a different strategy from existing campaigns. For instance, you might be running search ads with the main goal of driving quote requests, while your new Quora campaign might focus instead on driving whitepaper downloads. It would be unfair to judge the Quora campaign based on quote request metrics. You should set expectations based on the stage of the funnel and the goal for the user.

Present case studies

Showing proven examples from other businesses, particularly in the same industry, can help make your case. For instance, a B2B software company may be unconvinced that Facebook is the right route to test. But showing them an example of how another software company increased qualified lead volume 25% through Facebook ads may be convincing.

If you don’t have good case studies of your own, try the following resources to find examples related to the industry, platform, or type of campaign you’re pitching:

For instance, if your contact is skeptical about the worth of Microsoft Advertising, you can present these stats about the reach of the Microsoft Search Network and the higher buying power of the audience.

When possible, find data specific to the client’s industry. For instance, you might be suggesting that a college try promoting its study abroad program on Quora. You can back up your pitch with this data from Quora’s industry insights.

Be as relevant as possible to the use case of your client, and show them that they don’t want to miss a large potential audience in the space you’re suggesting.

Show competitor ads

Whenever possible, show examples of competitors doing what you’re suggesting. Most clients won’t want to be left behind when their competitor is already on a certain channel or using a specific tactic.

I’ll add a caveat that you shouldn’t necessarily be in every channel only because your competitors are there, but showing their presence can help your client take a channel more seriously. You may also glean ideas on tactics you aren’t currently using.

For instance, if you’re only focusing on immediate leads, but competitors are offering guide downloads, you can show those ads to make a case for testing top-of-funnel assets.

If you’re pitching expansion into social channels, search the Facebook Ads Library for competitor brand pages to see their recent ads. You can also show spend levels to demonstrate how much they’re investing in the channel.

For LinkedIn, visit the Ads tab on any brand page to see recent ads.

For other channels, visit competitor sites to enter their retargeting audiences. Be ready to grab screenshots of ads as you see them to help make the case for display or other channels you might be pitching.

Talk to the right stakeholders

Particularly in large companies, the person overseeing communication with an agency is generally not the final decision maker for spending ad dollars. If the CMO is thoroughly unconvinced that any channels besides search will work, they may still shut down a plan to test social ads, even if you can convince the marketing manager who’s your main contact.

If a specific decision-maker in the company is creating a barrier for new tests, you can approach the challenge in two ways. First, you can ask for an audience directly with that person. Prepare a presentation with your plan for testing and data from similar clients.

Show the limitations of sticking with the current ad channels and the challenges to growth. Tie to existing corporate goals if possible and show that you’re helping this person meet the benchmarks they’re judged on. For instance, “You’ve set a goal to grow sales 50% this year. We’re reaching the limits of what search can drive, and we need to fill the funnel using other channels to help you achieve that goal.”

As a second option, you can help empower your contact with the right resources to make the case to their boss. Provide a writeup they can share, incorporating the rationale for testing and the specific resources needed.

At the end of the day, some stakeholders may not budge, but many people will give you a chance if presented with a rational case. And you can document that you made your case if you receive complaints about current campaigns not driving enough lead volume.


Don’t be afraid to pitch a new tactic simply because you think your client might turn it down. A new channel, type of targeting, or ad format just might help improve their bottom line.

Walk into your conversation with a clear plan including budget, testing timeline and KPIs. Have case studies ready, and include competitor information if possible. Finally, make sure the stakeholders who actually make the decisions are in the room, or empower your client to bring the necessary information to those people.

Tim Jensen will be presenting the “How To Manage And Optimize B2B PPC Accounts” session at SMX West on Feb. 19.

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5 audiences you should exclude from your PPC campaigns /5-audiences-you-should-exclude-from-your-ppc-campaigns-325874 Mon, 02 Dec 2019 20:17:29 +0000 /?p=325874 Negative audiences help reduce wasted spend and prevent shoppers from being retargeted with products too many times.

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With the blurring of match type accuracy, PPC has become more about audience targeting than ever before. Ad platforms offer almost infinite ways to slice and dice audiences to reach the perfect customers for your brand.

As you build an audience strategy, identifying the people you don’t want to target is just as important as finding the people you do want to reach. Negative audiences help reduce wasted spend, ensure people see the right messaging at the right stage of the funnel, and prevent weary shoppers from being retargeted with products too many times.

In this article, I’ll share five audiences you should consider excluding from some or all of your PPC campaigns.

Job seekers

If job applicants are coming to your outdoor gear site simply to look for open positions, chances are they’re probably not in the market for a new backpack. So you don’t want to waste retargeting spend showing them ads for your latest sale.

You can generally identify these people by building a URL-based audience for the Careers page on your site. If you link to a third-party site for job applications, see if you can pixel that site, or track clicks to that site as a Google Analytics event to then build an audience for exclusion.

Current customers

Current customers fall under the PPC industry’s favorite “it depends” category. Depending on your business model, you may want to exclude current customers from all campaigns.

You can create the audience for exclusion by uploading a customer match list of emails associated with customers. In addition, if your product offers a web-based login, you can build a retargeting audience based on people who have accessed pages that would indicate their status as a paying customer.

In some cases, you may want to continue to target existing customers. For instance, some software clients I work with have opportunities to upsell current customers on additional features. You may want to segment customers so they aren’t included in campaigns related to Product A, which they already pay for, but include them in campaigns related to Product B.

Along the same lines, e-commerce brands often find value in recurring revenue from people who bought in the past. You can segment past purchasers into their own audiences to see how these individuals perform and bid accordingly.

Support seekers

If people are browsing support pages, they’re more than likely existing customers looking for help using your product, not shopping for your product. You can build retargeting audiences based on URLs associated with the support section of your site and exclude these from campaigns.

Of course, nuances apply, as in other instances, where you may want to target existing customers in some cases. For example, people looking for support with one product could be upsold on an additional add-on. Or if you offer premium support you can promote that opportunity through remarketing.

Past converters

Your strategy for targeting or excluding past converters (not necessarily customers, but people who have engaged with a conversion action such as submitting a contact form) will also depend on your business goals. As one example, say you have a multi-step funnel for working people up to the point of sales.

At the initial point of contact, people are offered an asset in exchange for their information. After submitting the form, you can then add them to a retargeting list based on hitting the “thank you” page for that asset.

Next, you exclude them from the asset campaign, since they already have the asset in hand, but add the audience to another campaign where the call-to-action is to schedule a product demo. You can then ensure you’re not duplicating messaging for something they’ve already seen (annoying them and likely wasting your money) but instead moving them to take the next step of raising their hand for interest in your product.

Retargeting audiences in non-retargeting campaigns

If you’re running dedicated retargeting campaigns, make sure you’re not also still reaching the same people in other campaigns. This setup allows both data and ad messaging to stay properly segmented by audience.

For instance, you may be running an interest targeting campaign on Facebook. People who come to your site from that campaign are added to a retargeting audience and served separate messaging, but also still fall under the original interests audience. You’ll want to add the retargeting audience as an exclusion in the interest targeting campaign to keep from duplication.

Start refining your audiences

While this article offers five examples of potential negative audiences, you may brainstorm others as you think through your marketing approach and the people you do (or don’t) want to see your ads. Stop wasting money on the wrong people who won’t convert, and focus your spend toward the right audience!

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Getting started with Google Tag Manager /getting-started-with-google-tag-manager-322581 Tue, 24 Sep 2019 19:41:52 +0000 /?p=322581 Here's how you set up a GTM account, create your first tags and triggers, and use the platform to streamline your tracking setup process.

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Ever put in a development ticket for what you thought would be a simple tracking code update? And then waited weeks for the task to be completed?

Google Tag Manager (GTM) saves marketers and developers alike by allowing you to set up tracking codes for analytics and ad platforms through one simple interface. In this article, I’ll walk through setting up a GTM account, creating your first tags and triggers, and using the platform to streamline your tracking setup process.

Understanding Google Tag Manager hierarchy

The account is the top level of GTM hierarchy. If you’re managing GTM from an agency login, you’d generally want to create one account per each brand you work with, and a container for each website that brand uses. You can access multiple accounts via the same Google login.

A container includes a unique GTM code, which you should add across the site you want to track.

Within each container, you’ll then set up tags that fire tracking codes on your site. Triggers define when tags will fire. Variables are functions you can use on a more granular level indicate when tags will fire.

Setting up your account

To start setting up your account, go here and click “Start for Free.”

You’ll then see a screen where you create an account.

Enter the relevant info into the fields and select the platform. In this article, we’re talking about using GTM for web, but you can also set up accounts for apps and AMP (Google’s framework for mobile pages).

Click Create, and you’ll see the GTM code, which you can then add to the site. If you’re comfortable editing your site’s source code, add the first code within the <head> and the next code right after the opening <body> tag, or send the codes to a developer to install.

Depending on your CMS, you may also be able to set up GTM via a plugin. If your site is on WordPress, try this Google Tag Manager for WordPress plugin.

Setting up tags

GTM includes several built-in tag templates for major analytics and ad platforms. These include Google products, such as Analytics, Ads, Optimize, and Surveys, as well as several third-party platforms, such as AdRoll, Microsoft Advertising, LinkedIn and Quora. If a tracking tag doesn’t have an existing template, you can also use a Custom HTML or Custom Image tag.

To create your first tag, click “Add a new tag” from the Overview screen. 

Now you can start defining criteria for your tag.

In the top field, add a name. Be sure to think about naming conventions that will allow you to keep track of several tags easily. I like to start with the name of the platform associated with the tag, followed by the type of tag and unique criteria.

For instance:

  • Google Ads – Conversion – Brochure Download
  • Google Ads – Conversion – LP Lead
  • Google Ads – Remarketing

Clicking within the “Tag Configuration” box allows you to choose your tag type. You can scroll through to find your desired tag, or you can click the magnifying glass to search by name.

Once you select your tag, you’ll see fields customized based on the associated platform. You can then fill in the criteria.

Generally, for each template, you’ll need to pull an ID number from your analytics or ad platform, and then you can use the additional fields to adjust what you want to track.

Have the code for a tracking tag, but don’t see a template? Choose a Custom HTML tag type, and paste your code into the box. 

Setting up triggers

Next comes the Triggering box, where you can choose a trigger that will cause your tag to fire. Triggers can be based on a number of actions such as pageviews, clicks, element visibility, form submissions, time on site, custom events and more.

Choose the trigger you want and then use the fields to specify criteria.

For instance, this pageview trigger will fire when the /thanks URL is viewed. You can also add multiple conditions, all of which will need to be true before the trigger fires. For instance, you might want to only fire a tag if a certain page is viewed and a user completes an event on the page.

Enabling variables

Note that a limited amount of variables appear in your options by default when setting up triggers. If you want to delve into more precise customization, be sure to enable additional variables in the interface.

Navigate to the Variables section and select “Configure” by “Built-In Variables.” You can now select the additional ones you’d like to add. For instance, you might want to target clicks for buttons that all have the same CSS class. You can check the box next to “Click Classes” and you’ll now see this variable as an option.

You can also create custom variables from the User-Defined Variables section. One common use is the Google Analytics Settings variable, which holds your Google Analytics ID to be used whenever setting up an Analytics tag. Custom events are also useful to target specific actions on the site that can’t be otherwise pinpointed with the default variables.

Going live and testing

All changes you make within GTM occur in a draft mode that doesn’t go live until you submit it. You can preview your setup on your site by using the Preview button on the upper right. You’ll see a bar at the bottom of your browser window letting you know when tags fire. 

Once you’ve confirmed your setup appears to be accurate, click “Submit” to make everything live.

After deploying tags on your site, you can also test for proper installation with Google Tag Assistant. Install the Chrome extension and navigate to the site. Click the Tag Assistant icon, and select “Enable” for your site.

You should now be able to see what tags are firing on your site, as well as if there are any errors. Click on an individual tag to see more details about errors and any recommendations to fix your implementation.

Start streamlining your tracking

Once you’ve set up your GTM account, take the time to play with setting up tags. A global Google Analytics tag, a Google Ads remarketing tag and a Google Ads conversion tag are good ones to start.

Once all your ad platforms’ tags are represented, you can now make simple adjustments if changes are made to the site (for instance, if Thank You page URLs change) directly through GTM versus having to change hard-coded tags on the site.

When you’re ready to move beyond the basics, you can learn about additional actions you can track. On Nov. 13 at SMX East, I’ll be talking about how to amp up your user engagement with Google Tag Manager, through tracking actions like scroll activity, video views and PDF downloads.

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Simplifying Google Analytics configuration with Google Tag Manager /simplifying-google-analytics-configuration-with-google-tag-manager-320002 Mon, 29 Jul 2019 17:40:48 +0000 /?p=320002 Using analytics through GTM allows you to simplify the code in place on your site and quickly set up advanced features like cross-domain tracking.

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Google Analytics is a crucial part of any online marketer’s toolbox. Getting analytics data starts with a proper installation of the tracking code. Thankfully, Google Tag Manager makes this process simple, even when modifications to the Analytics code are required.

Google Tag Manager (GTM) allows you to deploy Google Analytics tracking without adding any further code to your website. Extensive configuration options allow you to tweak the setup based on your needs.

In this article, I’ll cover how to set up Google Analytics through GTM, along with some tips for customization based on your needs.

Installing a global Google Analytics tag

Navigate to your desired GTM account and container. From the Overview screen, select “Add a new tag.”

Next, click within the Tag Configuration box to choose a tag type. Select “Google Analytics: Universal Analytics.”

Leave the “Track Type” dropdown set to “Page View.” Next, under “Google Analytics Settings,” choose “New Variable.”

Now, you’ll create a variable that includes your unique Google Analytics Tracking ID. After a one-time setup, you’ll be able to reuse this variable in any future GA tags. You can also customize settings for the variable under “Advanced Configuration,” or override settings within a specific tag by checking the “Enable overriding settings” box.

Find your Tracking ID (you can locate this quickly by going to Tracking Info > Tracking Code within the Admin section of your GA account) and paste it into the respective field in GTM. Name and save the variable.

Now, return to editing your tag and select the GA variable you created.

Next, click within the Triggering section to choose which pages you want the tag to appear on. To deploy globally wherever your GTM code is in place, select “All Pages.” Submit changes to push your tag live.

Event tracking

Events are incredibly useful in Google Analytics to track any interactions that aren’t registered by default. Some possible actions include clicks on elements within pages, scroll activity, file downloads, video views, and form submissions.

To fire an event, choose “Event” from the “Track Type” dropdown when creating your GA tag. Next, fill in the fields with the appropriate parameters for your event.

For instance, in this example, we’re tracking a whitepaper download. Our fields include:

  • Category: “Whitepaper”
  • Action: “Download”
  • Label: “Blue Whitepaper”

Also note the Non-Interaction Hit dropdown. By default, when set to “False,” the event will count as an interaction, meaning the session won’t be considered a bounce if the user completes the associated action. If you set this dropdown to “True,” a user could complete the action but still count as a bounce if they leave the page before doing anything else.

Cross-domain tracking

If you’re using the same Google Analytics account across multiple domains, you should enable cross-domain tracking to ensure that users are being tracked properly when going from one domain to another. Otherwise, they’ll be seen as separate visitors to each domain.

First, under “More Settings” for your GA variable, open the “Fields to Set” section. Type “allowLinker” for Field Name and “true” for Value.

Next, further down in the “More Settings” options, click the “Cross Domain Tracking” dropdown. In the “Auto Link Domains” field, insert all domains you’d like to track, separated by commas.

If you’re using a form that takes a user to another domain upon submission, you’ll also want to choose “True” in the “Decorate Forms” dropdown.

Save the variable and submit to push live. You should now see unified reporting across domains, eliminating duplication of user counts if the same people visit multiple sites with your GA tag.

Enhanced link attribution

Google offers a handy Page Analytics Chrome extension, which allows you to visualize click data for links on your site. You can see how many clicks occurred on each link, as well as what percentage of total clicks for a page went to each.

Unfortunately, by default, this report groups together counts for any links going to the same URL. So if you link to the same URL from both a top navigation bar and your site’s footer, each link will show the same click count.

Thankfully, a simple setting change allows you to differentiate between clicks on different elements. When editing your Google Analytics variable, look for the “More Settings” option below where you entered your Tracking ID.

Within the options that appear, click “Advanced Configuration.” You’ll now see a dropdown labeled “Enable Enhanced Link Attribution.” Select “True” here.

Once you’ve saved and published this change, you’ll now see unique counts for each link in the Page Analytics report.


Google Tag Manager offers an extensive integration with Google Analytics, allowing you to configure anything from installing the default code to covering advanced tracking scenarios. Setting up Analytics through GTM allows you to simplify the code in place on your site, as well as easily allow access to tweak settings without requiring development updates. You can quickly set up advanced features like cross-domain tracking.

If you haven’t done so yet, make GTM a part of your workflow for setting up Google Analytics implementations. Explore advanced options to customize as needed. You’ll save time and reduce friction with developers.

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4 website actions you can track with Google Tag Manager /4-website-actions-you-can-track-with-google-tag-manager-317652 Mon, 03 Jun 2019 12:00:18 +0000 /?p=317652 There are limitless actions you can track to improve data gathering. Here is a step-by-step guide with website actions important to digital marketing measurement.

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Google Analytics offers a wealth of data via the default installation, but many actions aren’t tracked by default. Getting additional tracking in place often entails digging into technical documentation and working with backlogged development teams. Google Tag Manager can help fill in the gaps, expanding the activity you can track on websites while not requiring backend website access or coding knowledge.

In this article, I’ll walk through setting up GTM tracking for four website actions important to digital marketing measurement. If you haven’t yet set up GTM, start here to work through Google’s instructions for creating an account and adding the simple code snippets to your site. Once installed, you’re ready to start setting up some tags and triggers to obtain better insight about your users.

Form submissions

Ever needed to track a form that doesn’t go to a thank you URL after clicking submit? GTM includes a built-in form listener that identifies when a form submission takes place so you can fire a conversion tag.

Start by creating a form submission trigger. Go to “Triggers” from the lefthand navigation and click “New” to start building a new trigger.

Next, choose “Form Submission” as the trigger type.

Now, you’ll see the options appear for customizing your trigger. First, checking the “Wait for Tags” button will ensure that the form doesn’t submit until any associated tags fire. Next, the “Check Validation” button will ensure the tag only fires if a form submission is successful.

In the first dropdown under the checkboxes, you can choose when to enable the trigger. In this instance, we’ve chosen to enable it only for a particular landing page URL.

Finally, you can choose to fire the trigger for “All Forms” or “Some Forms.” This option is particularly helpful if you want to track multiple forms on the same page using separate conversion tags. For instance, you might have one form for downloading a whitepaper and another for contacting a salesperson.

Once again, you can choose from a wide array of variables to specify which form you want. In this instance, we’ve selected the “Form ID” (the HTML ID attribute associated with the form).

Finally, once you’ve saved the trigger, you can then associate it with the tags you’d like to fire when a form submits. These might include a Google Analytics event tag and ad platform conversion tags.

Note that this trigger won’t work with all forms, so you should use GTM’s preview mode to ensure that your tag is actually firing on a test submission. If the default form trigger doesn’t trigger, a couple potential alternatives are tracking a custom JavaScript event that’s set up to fire on form submission or tracking clicks on the “Submit” button.

Button clicks

GTM’s click trigger can track clicks on just about any website element you want. Some examples of button click actions to track include:

  • Purchase links leading to third-party seller sites
  • “Add to Cart” actions
  • Links to social media profiles
  • Click-to-call buttons
  • Subscribe buttons
  • PDF downloads

First, you’ll need to set up a trigger to pinpoint the click(s) you want to target. Next, you can set up event tracking to fire a custom event into Google Analytics when the click happens, or associate the click with an ad platform conversion tag.

Create a new trigger and select a trigger type of Click – All Elements. You can then specify which clicks to track using as many parameters as you’d like. For instance, you could track a Download button with a specific ID only on your landing page URL.

Finally, associate the trigger with the tag(s) you want to use for sending data back into Google Analytics, Google Ads or other platforms.

Video views

Every piece of user engagement on your site can offer clues to how interested visitors are in your content. If you include embedded YouTube videos on your site, GTM can track how many people choose to watch, along with watch time and when they drop off.

To set up video tracking, you’ll first need to enable a few variables that aren’t turned on by default. Within your GTM account’s workspace, select “Variables” from the left sidebar.

On the screen that appears, click “Configure.” Now, scroll down to the “Videos” section, and select the variables you’d like to track.

After choosing your variables, create a trigger with a YouTube Video trigger type. Now, select the action(s) you’d like to track. For instance, you might want to fire a Google Analytics event anytime someone starts or completes a video, or when they watch up to a certain point. At the bottom, you can choose to fire the trigger for all videos on your site or for select videos based on criteria you specify.

In this example, I’ve set up a trigger tracking any views of 90% or more for a YouTube video embedded within a landing page URL.

Next, I set up a Google Analytics tag with a “Track Type” of event, defining the parameters I’d like to fire into Analytics when the video is viewed at 90%.

Finally, I’ll associate the tag with the previously created trigger, save, and publish.

For a more advanced setup that will fire events for all video-related actions via a single tag, see Simo Ahava’s excellent solution, which incorporates a custom variable.

Scroll behavior

Testing a long landing page and wondering how much of the “below the fold” information people view? Want to know how many people read your blog articles beyond the first few paragraphs? Scroll tracking can help answer these questions.

GTM contains built-in variables to track scrolling activity. Just as with the video variables, you’ll need to enable these before you can use them.

Under the Configure menu accessed from the Variables section, you’ll find the “Scrolling variables” toward the bottom of the list. You can also use the “Visibility variables” if you’d like to measure when a specific element was viewable on the page.

Next, set up a trigger with a type of “Scroll Depth.” You’ll see fields where you can specify the points on the page you’d like to track, either by percentage or pixels. You can supply multiple numbers separated by commas.

Once you’ve saved your trigger, create a Google Analytics tag with a “Track Type of Event.” Add in the event criteria you’d like to populate into your Analytics account.

For this example, we’re using a dynamic variable for the label: {{Scroll Depth Threshold}}. This will auto-populate the depth to which a user scrolls on the page.

Finally, associate the “Scroll Depth” trigger you previously created and save the tag. You’re now ready to publish your scroll tracking setup!

Start tracking

I’ve provided four examples to get you started, but there are limitless actions you could track using Google Tag Manager. Take some time to browse through the tags, triggers, and variables and play with various configurations using the preview mode. You’ll be able to improve data gathering and make tracking setup easier when you take the time to develop a solid understanding of GTM.

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Here’s how to use Google Tag Manager’s new Trigger Groups /heres-how-to-use-google-tag-managers-new-trigger-groups-315011 Fri, 05 Apr 2019 17:54:46 +0000 /?p=315011 This update offers a new way to manage how often, and under what circumstances, a tag will fire in GTM.

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On March 26, Google announced the release of Trigger Groups in Google Tag Manager. Trigger Groups allow you to require multiple triggers to activate before a tag fires. This update increases the capabilities of an already powerful platform, used by many digital marketers to streamline deployment of tracking tags.

In this article, I’ll show how to set up trigger groups and offer three practical suggestions for using them in your GTM account.

Setting up a Trigger Group

To create a new trigger group, navigate to Triggers within GTM and click the “New” button.

Click within the Trigger Configuration window to select a trigger type, and choose Trigger Group. This option is all the way at the bottom, but you can also use the search feature to find it quickly (click the magnifying glass).

Next, in the box that appears, click “Choose a trigger” to select the first trigger you’d like to include.

You’ll now see a window showing all currently available triggers. If you need to make a new trigger, click the plus symbol in the upper right to directly enter the trigger creation process. After you add one trigger, click the plus symbol by the Triggers section to select more.

Finally, once you’ve added all of your desired triggers, you can choose to define additional conditions for when the trigger group will fire. By default, the setting is on All Conditions, so it will fire once all the triggers have fired. However, you can add new criteria (such as limiting it to specific pages) by selecting “Some Conditions.”

Uses for trigger groups

So, how can you use trigger groups in your GTM account? While the number of available triggers and tags allows for endless configurations, here are three practical ideas.

Tracking shared thank you pages

Some sites are designed so all lead forms land users on the same thank you page, regardless of which landing page the user came from. In an ideal scenario, unique thank you pages, or direct tracking of the forms themselves, would be the best solution for tracking. However, often limitations prevent getting the setup you want, whether due to a content management system or lack of developer support.

Using a trigger group, you can combine a trigger for a referrer of a specific landing page URL with another trigger for a pageview of the thank you page.

This setup allows you to pinpoint users that reached the thank you page after submitting the form on the referring landing page.

Once this trigger group is set up, you can now use it to fire conversion tags for ad platforms or trigger a Google Analytics event.

Tracking engaged users

Trigger groups open up new possibilities for tracking users based on multiple points of engagement with a site. For instance, you might offer both video and blog content on a page, and want to pinpoint users who take the time to both watch and read.

To track someone who is exceptionally engaged, you can create a YouTube trigger for individuals who have watched an embedded video, and a scroll trigger for individuals who have scrolled through most of the content on a page. In this example, I’ve created triggers for people who watched 90% of a video and scrolled 75% down.

Next, combine these into a trigger group.

You can now use this trigger group to fire a tag when a user completes both of these actions. The tag could fire an event into Google Analytics, which you could then use to build a remarketing audience. Or you could fire a Facebook Ads event to create an audience in that platform.

Tracking multiple clicks

If your page includes various opportunities for users to interact with a page, such as various form fields or different buttons, you can track users that have clicked multiple elements. For instance, if you offer multiple levels of subscription packages, you might want to segment people based on the subscription they select before also tracking if they submit a form.

In this example, I’ve created a trigger to track when someone clicks a “Deluxe” package option.

The next trigger tracks when the user completes a form submission on that page.

Finally, combining the triggers into a trigger group will let you track those people who have clicked the Deluxe option and also submitted the form.

You could then proceed to create separate triggers and groups for other levels of packages, and fire separate conversion tags for each.


As an advocate of getting as granular as possible for tracking digital marketing efforts, I’m excited to watch Google continuing to release new features for GTM. Trigger groups are an impressive step toward allowing marketers to build more complex tracking setups.

I’m looking forward to seeing additional features over the coming months to improve an already great product.

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