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Google An effective Ads campaign during the crisis–is it possible?

Can we trust the current techniques of campaigning during the coronavirus epidemic? Will the automation tools work fast enough and provide the expected results? Or, in times of uncertainty, should we instead return to the times when we were looking at the screen 24 hours a day and watching, in real-time, how various figures change?

A very turbulent time has come for online marketing. Fast and controlled action is necessary. Despite this, however, we should not return to the old SEM practices. Below are the basic aspects to look out for in order to be able to respond adequately to the changing situation, and thus, to ensure the success of the advertising campaign in times of crisis. The case of each advertising campaign is different, so it is worth approaching each of the points individually, in terms of a specific campaign.

Note the bid adjustments

The bid adjustments determine how often ad data is displayed depending on where, when, and how a user searches for information. COVID-19 has put a significant part of the world in hibernation. Many potential customers work remotely at home; their lifestyle and behavior has changed, and so has the time of day when they use the internet. The metrics have most likely changed for your campaign as well, which is why it’s vital to verify your bid adjustments so that your ads run while your customers are online.

We can also expect changes in geographical coverage. A significant number of employees no longer commute to work; many people returned home from abroad, so searches will mainly take place from the cities where they live. Given that the rules on social distancing have changed, one can also expect changes in local searching. It is important to verify geographic bid adjustment and to make sure your pre-crisis settings work just as well in a crisis. You may need to allocate your budget.

 It is also worth noting what devices users use. It is possible that due to restrictions on moving around and spending most of their time at home, your customers use stationary devices more often than mobile ones. In such cases, it will be necessary to modify the indicated devices on which the ads are displayed.

Smart bidding–keep your finger on the pulse

It can be assumed that most of the bidding algorithms take into account data from the last 30 days. It is worth looking at them and assessing how the recent, unstable period affected your campaigns. If there was a big increase and then a fall (or vice versa), it is important to know if the tool makes the right decisions in this situation while at the same time not decreasing the effectiveness of the campaign.

The best way to predict the future is to look into the past. Check what the best day or week in the campaign looked like and compare it with the worst. This will verify if the Smart Bidding Tool was making the right decisions in these situations. Could it be that smart bidding acts too quickly or assumes that a good period would last longer than it actually did? It is impossible to give a simple answer to this type of question without a thorough analysis of a specific case, which is worth carrying out to make sure that the tool works in the way you expect.

Expect slower ad approval

During the current crisis, Internet search engines are overloaded to the limit. As a general rule, both Google and Bing approve ads within 48 hours, although this period is usually much shorter. Unfortunately, the outbreak of the coronavirus also affected the work of the support teams of both companies, which means that the time it takes to approve ads is longer.

For instance, the promotion may have already been launched automatically before the new ad was approved by Google. It is quite common practice among advertisers to pause old ads while starting new ones. Currently, however, it is better to wait until you are sure that new ads are already active.

Communication with the customer must come first

It is also worth investigating each of the conducted campaigns and checking whether they are up-to-date. The ad’s text should be adapted to the current situation and, above all, not mislead the recipients. For instance, there may be a situation in which the non-updated content of the ad will inform users about the possibility of a personal meeting at the company’s headquarters, while everyone is working remotely and there will be no possibility of meeting a representative. Similarly, if we sell products online, it is necessary to update the product shipping time or hours when telephone consultants are available.

If you make a promise in your ad that you cannot fulfill, your client may no longer be interested in the services or products you offer. Google also indicated in its campaign management guidelines during the epidemic that it should be assessed whether the content of the ads reflects the actual capabilities of the company. The best way to achieve success is reliable communication with the client, even if it would not be optimistic news.

“It seems very obvious to update ads, but the reality is very few advertisers are doing it.”

These words were said by Rik van der Kooi, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft, during a live broadcast for partner agencies. He pointed out the importance of updating the content that companies use in their ads. Currently, companies should primarily focus on communication with users so that after a crisis, they become customers of a given brand.

In uncertain times, people are looking for a source of consistency and certainty. Regardless of whether you guarantee customers a specific and reliable shipping date, free shipping, or free downloadable materials, when you display empathy for the difficult situation they have found themselves in, it will be remembered. In this way, the relationship with the customer grows and their trust in the brand increases. But this proves true only if you are able to keep your promise!

The hard time has come for online marketing, but that does not mean that all activities associated with it should be suspended. Evaluate how your ads work, whether automation works well and adapt to the prevailing reality. The coronavirus crisis is the time to strengthen your brand’s position and to talk to the customer one on one. Take advantage of this, and, when stabilization comes, you will start from a well-established and robust position.

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Mandatory parallel tracking for video campaigns

Parallel tracking has until now been mandatory only for search, Shopping and Display Network campaigns. It was an optional solution for the video campaigns. However, starting from June 15, 2020 this will change and parallel tracking will become the only option available. If you run video campaigns and haven’t used parallel tracking so far, make sure to read our article because you’re running out of time!

Parallel tracking allows you to reduce the time it takes to load a page after a user clicks on a Google Ads ad. Through parallel tracking, the customer is sent directly from the ad to the final URL, and all additional processes take place in the background. Advertisers and video campaigning agencies must therefore prepare within a few weeks for changes related to the obligation to use parallel tracking.

Parallel tracking advantages

Parallel tracking has been designed to improve site loading speed. The landing page is immediately displayed to users, while in the background the clickthrough of the ad is measured. At first glance, advertisers won’t experience major changes. However, parallel tracking minimizes the time it takes you to be redirected to your landing page, which results in an increase in conversions, a decrease in the number of lost visits, and thus an increase in ad performance.

Note: Parallel tracking is not available for hotel ad campaigns.

How does parallel tracking work?

Parallel tracking is done as follows:

  1. The user clicks on the advertisement
  2. Immediately he sees the landing page to which he is redirected

At the same time, Google Ads tracking tags and tracking URLs are loading in the background. If an advertiser uses more than one click tracking tag, additional redirects will also load in the background.

What does the situation look like when parallel tracking is not enabled?

  1. The user clicks on the advertisement
  2. The Google Ads tracking tag is loaded
  3. A monitoring link and an additional monitoring link (if any) is loaded.
  4. Only at this stage can the user see the destination URL.

Parallel tracking — everything for mobile devices

Google emphasizes that at the moment, site speed is more important than ever. This is relevant for mobile devices in particular. According to the latest Google research, around 53% of mobile site visitors leave the site if the page doesn’t load within three seconds. On the other hand, the average time of loading websites on mobile devices is as much as 19 seconds for a 3G connection and 14 seconds for a 4G connection. It shows how much there is to improve.

Advertisers who have used parallel tracking in their ads so far have reduced landing page loading time by up to 5 seconds and that’s a huge gain. It’s no secret that even the best prepared advertising campaign won’t bring the expected results if users have to wait a long time for the page to load.

Before you start

Please contact your click measurement system provider before using parallel tracking. Find out if your measurement system will be compatible with parallel tracking. Compatibility may change depending on the features enabled.

Incompatibility may cause clicks to not work as expected, and may even result in the content or layout of the landing page looking not as intended. The click measurement system vendor may require you to modify the tracking templates or make the necessary changes yourself. You can find more information about this here.

How to launch parallel tracking?

After making sure that the click measurement system is compatible with the parallel tracking method, you can proceed to enabling this option in your Google Ads account. Managers can do this in the following steps:

  1. Log in to your Google Ads account
  2. In the navigation menu, click “All campaigns”
  3. From the menu on the left select and click “Settings”
  4. Go to account settings
  5. Click “Tracking”
  6. Click the “Parallel tracking” switch to activate it on your account.

To verify that your tracking configuration doesn’t accidentally have broken URLs, click “Test” next to the tracking template. If the URL doesn’t work, a red X will appear in the status column. For the tracking template URL to work correctly, all redirections and the tracking template itself must use HTTPS and be server-sided. Google Ads uses HTTPS every time the trace is invoked for the first time, even if it wasn’t provided.

Like we’ve already mentioned, all video campaigns in Google Ads from June 15,  2020 on will be automatically transferred to parallel tracking. However, you don’t have to wait until June and we recommend switching to parallel tracking yourself right now to be able to use all the advantages of this solution.

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Revolutionary changes to the Google Partners program starting in June 2020

Revolutionary changes to the Google Partners program starting in June 2020

On February 13, all current Google partners received a message saying that by the end of June 2020 the requirements for becoming a Google Partner will be updated. This change will also involve the way certificates are considered when awarding Partner status and agency specialization. If you run an SEM agency, make sure to read on.

From June 2020, as soon as these changes come into force, SEM agencies will have to put a lot more work into obtaining or maintaining Google Partner status. Some requirements are much harder to meet than before. From this summer forward, SEM owners will have to get used to the fact that existing Specializations will now be classified as Skills. And this is only the beginning of changes.

Certificate update

Currently, one of the requirements set by Google is to have at least one user in the team who has any of the Google Ads certificates. Since June 2020, the company will have to ensure that at least half of the authorized users have updated certificates. They can be obtained or updated only on the new Skillshop platform (formerly known as Academy for Ads). Thus, you will need to link Google Ads accounts to the Skillshop platform.

In addition, there will have to be at least one person specialized in each Google Ads service in the agency’s team. This means that the company will have to have at least one expert on search advertising, advertising on the Display Network, video advertising and advertising on Google Shopping. At this time, it is not certain how Google will verify the number of authorized specialists present in a given agency. Most likely, however, it will be checked based on the number of accounts linked in the manager.

Increased spending on advertising campaigns

Another big change is the issue of advertising expenditure. Previously, the agency’s quarterly spending had to reach at least $10,000 in all accounts it managed. Starting from June 2020, this amount will increase to $20,000, which is supposed to indicate the growing activity of the agency. This amount will have to be spent on advertising in the same period as before, i.e. 90 days.

This change will particularly affect companies that are just starting their business in the SEM field. It is them who will have the most difficulties in joining the affiliate program. For large companies that already have an established position on the market, this change shouldn’t be a big issue.

Implementing Google’s recommendations

The last and probably the most controversial change is the need to demonstrate the effectiveness of the agency’s activities in maximizing profits by configuration and optimal Google campaign management. This effectiveness will be assessed on the basis of the data contained in the “Recommendations” tab, but rejected recommendations will not affect the assessment of the agency’s effectiveness.

Also, partners don’t have to accept all recommendations or achieve a 100% optimization result in terms of new requirements for the Google Partner status. The threshold for the new requirement is 70% of the implemented recommendations.

This can be a significant problem for some SEM agencies that don’t always follow Google’s recommendations. It happens when they have a negative impact on the overall results of advertising campaigns or the relationship between the agency and the client. However, from June on, it will be necessary to obtain or maintain the status of a Google Partner, let alone a Premium Partner.

Examples of Google recommendations include:

  • Increase your budget (which can be problematic for a customer with a fixed or small budget);
  • Raise target CPA (in a situation where we have already set CPA in accordance with the maximum requirements of the client);
  • Use call extensions (which can also be troublesome when the campaign is carried out outside of business hours, when none of the employees are in the office).

Ethical dilemma 

These changes can cause a big moral dilemma among agencies. On the one hand, agencies are seeking to become a Google Partner. This status positions the agency to its potential clients in the category of an expert who can be trusted. On the other hand, however, each of the professional agencies wants to do their job so that the client can see real profits from the campaign.

Using Google’s Recommendations isn’t always is the best solution. The new requirements will mean that agencies will have to choose between what is best for the client and what is best in terms of Google recommendations and becoming a Partner.

A new “Client Partners” badge has been created for agencies that don’t want to choose between the automatic implementation of all Google Recommendations in their clients’ campaigns and the total loss of Google Partner status. It can be placed on your website instead of existing badges or coexist with them. However, this is not an official Google badge — it was established as an alternative to the Google Partner Program.

Placing the badge on your website tells clients that you put the reliable work on their campaign above maintaining the status of a Partner. It also means that you won’t increase your spending on the advertising platform unnecessarily. All information on how to join the program and obtain the “Client Partners” badge can be found here.

Google Premium Partners

As you can guess, the changes introduced in the affiliate program will also have an impact on the Premium Partner Status granted by Google. This title is awarded once a year to only 3% of the best agencies that already have the status of a standard Partner.

Google premier Partners status - what change in June 2020

The following factors are considered when choosing the best partners:

  • increase in the number of customers
  • maintaining the current number of customers
  • annual advertising expenditure

The evaluation is carried out by the search engine every year. What’s important, the Premium Partner status doesn’t exist in all markets around the world.

Of course, soon an effective implementation and compliance with the already mentioned Google Recommendations in accordance with the new requirements will have a huge impact on obtaining the Premium Partner status, as is the case with other partner agencies.

Companies that meet the requirements starting from June 2020 will gain access to the new Google Partner badge, new status and new opportunities to distinguish their agency from the competition. You can already check if your company meets the new requirements and prepare for their implementation.

All you have to do is go to the Google Partners Program tab and read the information it contains. Thanks to this, you will know if your agency can apply or maintain the status of a Partner, and if not, what steps to take to make it possible.

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YouTube masthead – COMING SOON TO YOUR SmartTV?

YouTube masthead

Back in 2015, masthead was a type of YouTube advertising available to only one advertiser per day, and the cost of this form of promotion was counted in hundreds of thousands of dollars. A lot has changed since then. The platform has moved to CPM model, which has significantly lowered the entry threshold, and recently the work on introducing masthead ads on TVs has been completed. Will masthead soon be a permanent feature of watching YT on TV?

YouTube is the undisputed hegemon of the Internet video industry. It is the second most popular search engine in the world (the first place has been occupied by Google constantly for years), used by over 2 billion unique users every month. The popularity of this platform had long since gone beyond computers and laptops. Currently, about 40% of all mobile traffic takes place on YouTube.

It was a matter of time when the world’s largest video platform would also be available on TVs, especially since YT is available via smartTV or consoles such as PlayStation or Xbox. The time of watching video on YT on TV has already exceeded 250 million hours per day (as of March 2019). This is a very dynamic increase of 39% in less than a year. It is impressive, especially as these data do not take into account the statistics of YouTube TV, Google’s online paid TV service.

YouTube masthead

Masthead on computers and mobile devices…

YouTube Masthead is the largest advertisement on the platform. It is always displayed in the browser at the very top of the service home page. In ads of the masthead type displayed on a computer or smartphone screen, the promoted video is initially automatically played without sound for a fixed period of time (maximum 30 seconds, not necessarily counted from the beginning of the material). Auto-play is activated only within a few seconds after the website is launched.

The platform offers two configurations of video size: panoramic or 16:9 ratio. The user can turn on the sound in the auto-playing advertisement (it is disabled by default). Clicking on a video or thumbnail during autoplay will take you to the video page on YouTube. Here, the video starts up again with the sound on.

Originally, the masthead was only available to one specific advertiser per day, who paid a flat-rate fee for the entire display day. According to data available on the web, in 2015 you had to pay as much as $400,000 for one day of displaying an ad! Currently, YouTube policy in this area has changed. Mastheads are now displayed in seven-day blocks where advertisers can bid for space based on displays (CPM – Cost Per Mile).

…and soon on TVs as well

The dynamically growing time of watching YouTube on TVs has not escaped the attention of the platform’s owners. In September 2019, beta tests of masthead advertising on TV screens began. Initially, YT has been conducting a test campaign in selected markets. On November 21, 2019, Anish Kattukaran, Product Manager of YouTube Ads announced on the official Google blog that the mastheads “have just been made available globally to all advertisers in the CPM price model“. From now on, advertisers can choose on which devices the masthead advertisement will be displayed (you can choose the TVs only, excluding computers or mobile devices).

Masthead on TVs will have an autoplay function and will be muted by default, just like on computers. If no action is taken by the service user, after a few seconds the advertisement will automatically extend to the full screen.

Masthead is a format that is being increasingly used by advertisers. Until recently, however, it was only available to customers in a form targeted at computer and smartphone screens. The ability to advertise on “television” YT has been available for a relatively short time, which means that it will take some time before it is standard on YouTube. You also have to wait to see how these types of ads will take on specific markets. At present, negative voices are often heard, indicating the urgency of this form of promotion.

How to include masthead into your advertising activities?

Having advertisers in mind, YouTube has provided a special section on its website where you can see how a masthead ad will look like on your computer, smartphone or TV screen. The tool is free and available at the address.

A company that will want to use this solution has a relatively simple process ahead of itself. Of course, the video material must be provided first. Google recommends an image aspect ratio of 16:9. You also need the header text and (optionally) CTA content, which is a call to action. If a profile uses a video wall, it is recommended to provide a playlist ID. These resources should be sent to your account manager or YouTube Technical Specialist at least two working days before the campaign begins. Detailed technical specifications are available at this address.

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Gallery ads – Overview of the possibilities

gallery ads

The Google Marketing Live 2019 conference, held in May last year, brought a lot of news to the giant from Mountain View offer. One of the innovations, which started in the beta phase at the end of last year, are Gallery Ads. This is a big shift, as until now Google has allowed visual ads practically exclusively through Google Display Network.

On August 5th of last year, Google published information that Gallery Ads is now available in beta version in eleven languages, including Polish. Other languages include English, German, Japanese, French and Spanish[1]. However, not all users of Google Ads can take advantage of this solution immediately, as Google is enabling this option on individual advertising accounts progressively. Therefore, it is a good idea to sign in to the client panel and check if Gallery Ads is already available.

Gallery Ads – key facts

What do we know about the new type of advertising? Some important facts have already emerged during the conference:

·         They are directed to mobile devices and will be displayed at the top of the SERP.

·         The advertiser can place from 4 to 8 graphics on one advertisement.

·         The text for each graphic can have a maximum of 70 characters.

·        Notably, Google allows you to add three different headers, which may include CTA[2]. However, these headers will not change when moving the graphics[3].

·       Ads will be charged in the CPC model, but only after the user clicks on the ad or scrolls to at least the third graphic[4].

Similarly to Discovery ads, Gallery Ads will be published in the form of a carousel to enable consumers to view graphic creations smoothly. It is estimated that such an advertising format may increase the number of interactions even by 25%[5]! For now, Gallery Ads do not assume the possibility of using video creations, you can only rely on graphics.

Gallery Ads – for who?

The range of companies that can use this advertising format is extremely wide, we are talking about both B2B and B2C entities. Basically, companies using visual content in their promotional activities will benefit from it. In the case of B2B companies, Gallery Ads can be used to present their results, interesting digital products and promising numbers that will impress the potential customer.

B2C companies, on the other hand, have a much greater scope for showing off their products (eCommerce, restaurants, car manufacturers, dealers, travel agencies) and provided services (hotels, workshops, SPAs, gyms, hairdressers, medical clinics, auto detailing companies) in a very attractive way. Another advantage of Gallery Ads is at stake here. By being able to present several products, services or experiences (or several aspects of one product/service) in one advertisement, you can achieve a truly convincing effect.

Gallery Ads – Facebook track? 

A similar advertising format has been running for some time on Facebook and Instagram and has proven its worth on both platforms. The companies that use such ads have often noted a significant improvement in ROAS and a decrease in CPA costs. No wonder that Google also wants to offer a similar product. There is one more important aspect of why Gallery Ads are eagerly clicked.

People consume visual content much faster and more willingly. Since the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text[6], it is natural for Google and other Internet platforms to move from text to visual advertising. No wonder, that Google, especially on smartphones, where we need information immediately, is putting its trust in this direction. The wide range of usage of the new ads makes it possible for the great majority of Google Ads users to use them.

How to launch Gallery Ads?

It’ s time for the most important information for advertisers. As we mentioned earlier in the text, these ads will not necessarily be available in your account. To check this, log in to the Google Ads customer panel, go to the “Ads and Extensions” section, and then look for “Advertising from the ad gallery”.

If the gallery ads are already available in your account, when you select this option, an editor will appear in which you will add all the components of this ad, and these are:

·         Final URL address

·         Display path

·         Three headers (maximum of 30 characters each)

·         Carousel of images

After completing all the fields you can move on to the approval of the advertisement.

Gallery Ads are a natural complement to GDN. Clearly, Google prepares users and advertisers to use visual content. Who knows, maybe in a couple (dozen or so) years, text ads will be gone? Young people are already more willing to search for the information they need on YouTube, so we can conclude that the future is much more promising for visual advertising. Time will tell, in the meantime, it is certainly worthwhile to familiarize ourselves more closely with this advertising format and – at least for testing purposes – include it in promotional activities on Google.

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How to select key performance indicators in performance marketing?

KPI

Brandon Sanderson once said that it’s not the goal that matters, but the way you get to it. This may be true at some level of generality, but if you want to measure the effectiveness of your actions, you need an indicator that will tell you if the actions you take are delivering the desired result. A requirement for a reliable assessment is the selection of appropriate performance indicators (KPIs). Simply collecting data without interpreting it later is worth nothing at all.

At the very beginning it is worth pointing out that marketing goals are not always the same as sales or business goals. A strong brand supports sales, but when you conduct branding activities, you will not measure their effectiveness by the number of products sold or leads generated. Of course you can try, but you will quickly come to the conclusion that your campaigns are ineffective, especially if you look at the last interaction in the customer’s purchasing path.

You can choose the goals depending on the stage in the marketing funnel where your customers are, or the micromoments, which are their intentions. Let’s discuss both models below.

Marketing funnel – stages in the customer’s purchasing path

funnel

The sales funnel is a visualization of the user’s path from the first interaction with the brand to the purchasing stage and beyond.

  • The first element on the path in most models is brand awareness and reach, meaning the moment when the customer acquires knowledge about the company, realizing its existence.
  • The second element is the interest, where the customer is considering a possible purchase of a product or service.
  • The third stage is the desire, which is the state before the transaction is finalised, a critical moment for most businesses. In some types of campaigns we can talk about a warmer lead.
  • The penultimate stage is the purchase. Contrary to what many marketers think, this is not the last stage.
  • The last stage is the loyalty, meaning the customer’s willingness to recommend the company to acquaintances and to buy again.

The marketing goals for each stage will be different. Measuring the effectiveness of all activities with the same measure may result in drawing wrong conclusions and giving up forms of promotion that are actually effective.

Brand awareness and reach

According to the Google CEE and IPSOS report published in September 2018, the e-commerce client is characterized by being spontaneous and enjoys direct contact. On the other hand, before he or she starts looking for specific products online, has brands offering the solutions he or she needs in the back of his or her head. This means that brand awareness and reach have a strong influence on purchasing decisions.

A strong brand has a significant impact on the company’s sales results. Big brandy is aware of that and that’s why they spend huge amounts of money on advertising in the press and television year after year.

If your budget is limited, you can take advantage of alternative forms of promotion that the Internet provides. Video advertising on YouTube and Facebook, programmatic, content marketing… these are much cheaper channels than TV advertising and have the same goal – to reach the largest possible audience with the broadcast message.

You can of course give up branding and focus on prospecting actions from the very beginning. Just remember that prospecting campaigns do not sell by themselves, they only increase your online exposure. By creating a Google Ads search network campaign or Facebook Lead Ads, you only make it easier for the user to reach you. Whether they will take advantage of your offer is a completely different matter.

The indicators you should pay attention to when running reach campaigns are: reach, engagement and frequency. These are data available in most advertising panels. Reach will tell you how many people have seen your creation. Engagement will tell you if users are paying attention to your creation. Frequency will tell you how often you reach a unique user with your message, that is, how many times one person has seen your advertisement.

Google Ads also allows you to measure conversions when they are displayed. This works in such a way that if a user sees an advertisement at any stage of his path, the system will consider that it has positively influenced his decision and will assign the merit of the graphic advertisement for causing the sale. The precision of this type of data may vary, but it can be treated as an auxiliary tool to assess the effectiveness of advertising activities. To access the conversion after display, you need to create a target via the conversion tag from Google Ads. Targets imported from Google Analytics do not have this functionality.

Another, although more expensive, solution is Brand Lift campaigns. These are special campaigns on YouTube enriched with questionnaires with previously prepared questions. After the end of the campaign, the system selects two groups of recipients: users who have seen the advertisement and those who have not seen it. Then both groups display the same set of questions. This may be a question of the following type: Where would you buy a smartphone in the first place? In Company A, Company B, Company C or Company D? This allows you to check whether people who have seen the advertisement are more responsive to the mention of your brand than people who haven’t seen it. At present, a weekly budget of $5,000 is required to launch a Brand Lift campaign. The campaign must last at least seven days.

Interest

The easiest way to keep track of the increase in interest is to follow the number of subscribers to the mailing database, the growth of the Facebook community, YouTube channel subscribers or blog readers. It is also worth knowing whether your advertisement makes customers more willing to engage in the content available on the site.

The easiest indicator to measure interest in the offer will be the number of sessions in Google Analytics. The session is a unique visit and lasts 30 minutes by default. In the settings you can extend the maximum duration of the session to 4 hours, which will be sufficient for most portals. Nevertheless, you should have in the back of your head that each session is limited.

Many people working on improving engagement focus on bounce rate and average session duration. These are not the best indicators. First of all, a high bounce rate doesn’t always mean something bad. A high rate of single-page visits is very often in the case of e-commerce stores, because customers after becoming familiar with the product description and its price do not feel the need to further explore the site.

The average session duration is also imprecise because it does not count the time spent by the user on the last page. Analytics is not able to collect data from a pageview that was not followed by another interaction. If someone spent 5 minutes on three tabs on your site and left the page, in GA you will see the session duration of 10 minutes (i.e. time without data from the last subpage). This is a big problem, considering the fact that we spend the most time statistically on the last page, because there is the information we were looking for.

The solution to the problem may be choosing other KPIs. If you want to collect more real bounce rate data, you can use the Countdown Timer rule in GTM. It will cause that after a specified time the system will automatically send a signal to the GA server.

Another way to measure engagement is to measure the scrolling depth. Tracking scrolling in Google Tag Manager is very easy to set up and requires only selecting the appropriate variable types (selecting all three from the Scroll category) and a specific rule (Scroll depth). It is worth noting that GTM allows you to track both vertical and horizontal scrolling. When you manage to set scrolling as an event, you can go a step further and define it as a goal in Google Analytics, where the conversion will be scrolling e.g. 80% of the page.

Another KPI can be subscription to a newsletter, download an e-book, telephone contact with customer service, visiting a stationary store, generating a discount code, downloading and registering in a mobile application, etc. These are all interactions that indicate that the customer is interested in the offer, but has not yet decided to make a purchase. All interactions should be set as events in Google Analytics, Firebase or another tool that you use to study user behavior to help you draw conclusions.

Desire

Desire is the stage where the customer is determined to make a purchase. In e-commerce stores, the measure of effectiveness is the number of baskets abandoned. In the service sector, companies examine the quantity and quality of leads provided by marketing.

By monitoring the quality of traffic from different promotion channels, you will be able to determine which actions cause an influx of converting users and which only burn the budget. Of course, the problem may be on the shop, sales process or offer side and you have to check it before you change your campaign settings.

Remember also that in the model based on a sales funnel, interactions related to the shopping cart or contact form take place only after the customer gets acquainted with the brand (awareness stage) and after the interest phase.

If you decide to base your strategy specifically on this model, know that each step requires a different form of advertising and different performance indicators. If you record an ad spot on YouTube, do not measure its effectiveness by the number of abandoned baskets. If you write an educational article, do not measure its effectiveness by the number of leads generated. Their long-term goal is to make you sell more, but in the future (closer or further). Other types of campaigns are used to generate sales.

Purchase

Favorite stage of every entrepreneur, marketer and salesman. The final goal of advertising activities and the basic efficiency indicator – purchase. Here the choice of KPIs is simple and comes down to measuring the quantity of products or services sold.

If you handle all previous stages with appropriate forms of advertising and optimize their performance based on appropriate performance indicators, the number of incoming customers should systematically increase.

Loyalty

Often forgotten or ignored stage in the marketing funnel. It indicates the customer’s readiness to recommend the company and make new purchases. One of the ways to measure loyalty is to measure the number of purchases made by the same users and to monitor the company’s mentions in social media and opinions on services such as Google My Company.

Of course, this is only a theoretical model that illustrates the complete path of the customer. In practice, the user does not always pass all stages of the path. Otherwise, no new business would generate sales from the very beginning without investing large volumes of money in brand recognition and educational materials. We know this does not happen in real life.

When we make purchases in a random neighborhood store, it is very unlikely that we have ever heard of it. We do not always educate ourselves before buying a specific thing or service. Sometimes the purchase is spontaneous, dictated by the need of the moment. For this reason, it created an alternative way of modeling purchasing intentions, named micro-moments. 

Micro-moments

micro moments

Micro-moments are the motivations of users who are currently looking for information on the web. These motivations are temporary and situational, and largely determined by external factors. According to Google, every customer’s interaction with a brand is unique, but most of them can be attributed to one of four micro-moments:

I want to do – they are people looking for educational materials to do something themselves. How to bake a sponge cake? How to replace the battery in the phone? How to fix the door lock? When it comes to behavior, this moment resembles a stage in the marketing funnel called interest and can be measured by the same performance indicators. The consumer is looking for information to be able to do something without your help. At this point it is not ready to buy, but if you give him a value, next time you will have more confidence and more likely to benefit from the offer.

I want to know – a micro-moment similar to the previous one, with the difference that it is focused on obtaining information. It can be a query about the weather, news from the country or the world, cinema repertoire, bus schedule etc. A person seeking information is not a customer who wants to buy something. Perhaps the customer came to the site to look around, check prices, delivery methods, read reviews, view photos. This entry is valuable because it can result in sales in the future. The micro-moment also resembles a stage in the marketing funnel called interest and can be assessed using the same performance indicators.

I want to buy – this is a person entering the site with the intention of making a transaction. As you can see, this is just one of four reasons why a customer can visit a site. To measure effectiveness, you can use the same indicators as for the stages of purchase and desire in the marketing funnel.

I want to go – these are usually local searches when a consumer searches for something in his location. Pizzeria, hospital, hairdresser, neighborhood shop, the nearest gas station. According to Google data, nearly 25% of queries of this type end with interaction with Google My Business. If you have a local point of sales, it would be good to set up a business card on Google Maps. There you will find statistics on how customers find your business card and what they do when they find it. If you link your Google My Business profile to Google Ads (by adding a location extension), additional data about visits to the stationery store will appear in the Google Analytics account integrated with the advertising panel.

Micro-moments are easier to understand and quicker to master than a strategy based on a marketing funnel. They also require less sophisticated advertising campaigns. If you run a local business or are just starting your promotion on the web, you can start by optimizing your campaigns for them. The most important thing is to know what is the goal of your activities and how to measure their effectiveness in the most objective way. The rest is a consequence.  

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Discovery Ads – Overview of the possibilities

Discovery Ads

Google is not slowing down when it comes to expanding its advertising offer. Recently, the advertising portfolio of the giant from Mountain View has expanded with Discovery Ads. It is an advertising format whose effectiveness will be supervised by, among others, artificial intelligence algorithms. What are Discovery Ads and why you should be interested in them? Read more! 

In late 2016, Google launched a new service called Feed. It was basically an update of the application, which focused on combining bookmarks in one place to make it easier to keep up to date with news on various topics, such as sports, news, entertainment, etc. In July 2018, the feature that allowed users to follow topics of interest to them was significantly improved. In September 2018, another change took place. Google Feed became Google Discover. The goal of Google Discover is to guide users through the information and content they are looking for, even without having to enter a specific search query.

How does it work? Google Discover shows users a summary of the content chosen based on their interaction with Google services and the content they have chosen to follow. However, this is not a typical news feed. Discover can display older information if the algorithm finds it interesting for the recipient.

As you can read on the platform page, “In Discover you can receive the latest news on topics of interest to you, such as your favourite sports team or news site, without having to search for it. You can choose the types of information you want to see on the Discover tabs in the Google application or while browsing the internet on your phone“.

The application was appreciated by users. At the end of 2018, Discover boasted over 800 million users. Such a large audience could not go unnoticed by the Google advertising staff. As a result, a new advertising format was created – Discovery Ads.

Discovery Ads – what do you need to know?

First, Discovery Ads were created to allow the search engine to monetize the traffic that takes place within Google Discover. It should be mentioned, however, that Discovery Ads will not be limited only to the space occupied by Discover. They can also be displayed in Gmail (in advertising tabs, where they look the same as regular ads) and YouTube (in the home feed, where they look like native ads in a channel with large images displayed). However, they will not be visible in SERP (pages with search results).

Since Discovery Ads are not available in the traditional search network, an advertiser should not focus on specific queries and keywords, because they simply will not be. Who our ad will be displayed to depend on your interests, activity on Google Discover and YouTube, as well as downloaded applications from Google Play. In our opinion, Discovery ads are ideal for building brand awareness and I would recommend this strategy to advertisers who want to use this format in their campaigns. 

Discovery Ads simultaneously limit the possibility of action and, on the other hand, create completely new opportunities. Since they will not respond to specific inquiries, advertisers wishing to use this format will have to devise a completely new advertising strategy, built around creating brand awareness, communicating the company’s activities (they can work perfectly well in CSR activities) and inspiring customers (for example, by showing them possible applications of the product or color combinations).

Discovery Ads format

When you run the Discovery ads setup panel, you have the possibility to add:

·         one URL address of the target page,

·         at least one painting,

·         logo,

·         and a maximum of five headers and five descriptions.

Google will then use its artificial intelligence algorithms, namely machine learning, to display the best combinations of headers, descriptions and graphics to potential customers. Advertisements shall appear in places with the highest efficiency and in an optimal combination of the above mentioned elements. On this occasion, it is worth mentioning that users who use Discovery ads will be able to present one static image or decide on the form of a carousel, which allows moving multiple graphics within one advertising creation.

How to run Discovery Ads?

A new ordering system was designed for the new format. You can run Discovery Ads through the Discovery campaign panel in Google Ads. After logging in to Google Ads you go to tab Campaigns. In the next step you choose the goal of the advertisement and go to the panel of campaign type selection. Select the “Discovery” option, which should be visible at the very bottom.

In the next steps, you choose the locations where the advertisement shall be displayed, the language and goal of the campaign, on the basis of which the billing shall take place. At this point it is worth noting that Discovery Ads are charged in the CPC model. After completing the next steps (daily budget, types of target groups – based on their geolocation and interests, etc.), you can go to the creation panel of a new Discovery Ad. You provide the URL of the target site, send at least one horizontal image and one logo.

Technical requirements

The platform also sets a series of requirements for the advertised content. The graphics accompanying the advertisement may not include Call-to-action. The advertisement should be legible and specific – it cannot mislead the recipient. Similarly, the so-called clickbaits are prohibited. Finally, image quality is also important – the graphics must be sharp and meet Google Ads standards. What is more, Google looks very unfavorably at graphics imitating a clickable button (e.g. with a cursor indicating where to click).

You can upload up to 15 images for one creation. The minimum resolution of the horizontal image is 600 × 314 and 300 × 300 for square images. For ads displayed on YouTube, the recommended resolution is 1200 × 628. You can also upload square images, measuring 1200 × 1200. In addition, files should not exceed 5 MB. For logos, a square image in the above-mentioned resolution of 1200 × 1200 shall be the best choice.

Up to five different headers (up to 40 characters) and up to five descriptions (each up to 90 characters) can be placed for testing purposes. The preview shows what the target advertisement will look like. Underneath the advertisement there is a button with CTA, it is the only place where you can invite the recipient to undertake a specific action. However, here too, you have limited possibilities, because Google only allows you to select a specific button from a list that includes eleven proposals.

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Swirl, Virtual Try-On, Beauty Try-On – VR and AR ads on Google and YouTube – Overview of the possibilities

At the beginning of last year, Google announced major changes in the advertising formats available on Google and YouTube. The largest search engine in the world is moving towards 3D and augmented reality. The goal? To help the customer familiarize himself with the product as well as possible before making a purchase decision.

3D in marketing is nothing new. The automotive industry was one of the first to adapt it to its needs. It was on the websites of car manufacturers that you could see 3D models of offered cars, which – due to 360o rotation – could be seen from all sides, without moving from the computer screen.

Google decided to follow the same path and introduced 3D advertising, known as Swirl. These ads are designed primarily for mobile users, but can also appear on the computer screen. The creators of this format wanted to enable customers to familiarize themselves with the product as accurately as possible without having to go to the manufacturer’s website. Already during the viewing of the advertisement, you can precisely watch the product and learn additional details related to this.

Google will help you develop a Swirl ad

To encourage customers to use the new format, Google offers help to those advertisers who do not have 3D models created in their resources. In such a case, you can use the support of Google production partners who will create a model suitable for advertisement. One of such Google partners is NexTech AR Solutions, which is cooperating with Google to introduce a series of 3D advertisements for its customers. The company predicts that the year 2020 will be a breakthrough period for this new form of promotion, during which interest in this form of promotion should significantly increase.

However, this is not the end of support for companies willing to launch a three-dimensional promotion. Brands that have already created 3D models can easily create an advertisement using the 3D/Swirl component in Google Web Designer. The campaign can be launched through the Display & Video 360 platform. More information can be found here. Google has also introduced a new editor on its Poly platform (poly.google.com), which will allow advertisers to edit 3D models before publication in the form of Google Swirl advertising.

One of the first companies choosing this form of promotion was the tycoon of the fragrance industry, Guerlain, which used this format to advertise the Aqua Allegoria fragrance. The advertisement was not limited only to the possibility to turn the bottle. During the interaction with the object (turning), additional buttons are being displayed, allowing to get more information about the product. The creation can be viewed at this link

YouTube Virtual Try-on/Beauty Try-On, so YT extends reality

YouTube is not idle either. The platform decided to introduce an AG (Augmented Reality) solution. The novelty was launched in mid-2019. The new form of advertising is called Virtual Try-On or Beauty Try-On. The name is not accidental, this form of promotion is intended to be used primarily by beauty advertisers to promote cosmetics.

How does this advertisement work? When it starts up, the smartphone screen displays the image from the front camera, so the client can see himself on the screen. She can, for example, choose the colour of her lipstick that interests her. Once the shade is selected, it will automatically be applied to her lips, so she can try out if the colour matches her, without having to visit a store. At the same time, the user can follow the YouTuber participating in the advertising campaign to get advice, product reviews and other information while ” trying” on. It is worth noting that virtual product samples work in the full range of skin tones.

Under the panel allowing you to choose a specific colour there is information about the producer and the name of the product, including the price. You can also go directly from the advertisement level to the producer’s store through the “shop” button located in the lower right corner of the screen.

This time the pioneer turned out to be MAC Cosmetics company, which used new AR ads to present a new model of lipstick. Google claims that during the test campaign, about 30% of people among the group to which it was displayed decided to launch the AR platform, who spent on average over a minute with “virtual lipstick”. However, there are no detailed data. In the beginning, the advertisement could only be launched through the internal YouTube network of influencers, famebit.com.

First effects and link to the test

Since mid-October 2019 AR Beauty Try-On has been available for brands worldwide in beta version. Beauty Try-On will be combined with YouTube Masthead and TrueView ads. NARS Cosmetics is one of the first brands to display TrueView and Masthead ads with Beauty Try-On feature. According to YouTube data, the ad has already reached more than 20 million women, each of whom has tried more than 2/3 of all available shades on average.

If you want to test AR Beauty Try-On, open this link on your smartphone. Right below the video you will see a “try it out” button. When you click it, the front camera of your smartphone opens. After pointing it at your face, you can check the different shades of lipstick that Youtuber is talking about. The recording does not stop during your “tests”, so you “try on” a new lipstick and listen to information about it.

To order an AR Virtual Try-On advertisement, contact your account manager or YouTube technical specialist, it is ordered in the same way as a traditional YT masthead or TrueView advertisement.

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eCPC – does smart bidding really work?

ecpc

In the second half of 2019, a new possibility to choose the enhanced CPC (eCPC) settings appeared in Google Ads. With this change, you can choose whether you want eCPC to optimise your advertising rates in terms of conversion numbers or conversion values, without increasing your assumed advertising budget. With this recent change, it is worth considering whether the enhanced CPC is actually a step forward and smart bidding should be the industry standard or whether manual actions are still better? Let’s check it out!

Generally speaking, a company advertising in Google search engine has two options for setting advertising rates. It can either be done completely manually, on the CPC (Cost Per Click) model or combined with the smart bidding strategy, which is offered by the eCPC model, by name – enhanced/improved (not to be associated with effective CPC which is the calculation of cost per click on the CPM model). However, is it really a step forward and manually managed campaigns will soon go down the drain? It turns out that not necessarily, or at least not immediately.

How does eCPC work?

The enhanced CPC is designed to set advertising rates to optimise the number and value of conversions (e.g. the value of the shopping cart or the value of other actions resulting in conversion). In simple words, eCPC increases the rates set by the user in situations where the probability of sale (conversion) is higher and reduces them when the probability of conversion is lower. Currently, eCPC can be applied to practically any kind of promotions in the search engine, from Google Ads, through video (YouTube), to Google Display Network. 

When rates are optimized for conversion, the enhanced CPC adjusts the rate every time an advertisement qualifies for display and the click is likely to lead to conversion. It is also possible to set eCPC to maximize conversion values. In such a case, eCPC takes into account not only the probability of the conversion but above all, its predicted value. When selecting the first option, Google focuses on generating numerous transactions, regardless of their value. In the second case, the algorithm focuses on the higher value of conversions (e.g. higher value of the shopping cart).  

It is worth noting that eCPC constantly analyses its actions and “learns” to work more and more effectively. To this purpose, it leaves some traffic for standard maximum CPC rates and compares the two sets of results, adjusting its work to the results obtained. According to Google’s recommendation, the first results should be visible after at least two weeks. Google ensures that the eCPC model will be more effective or at least as effective as a traditional manual CPC. 

The algorithms when assessing the likelihood of a transaction occurring, take into account such factors as browser location, browser type, user demographics, time of day, day of the week, as well as the history of your Google Ads account

eCPC in practice

Does practice confirm Google’s promises? It turns out that in many cases it does, but it is not without drawbacks. Let’s consider a hypothetical case of an online store offering sports shoes. The owner sets the maximum rate at 1 GBP per click and selects an enhanced CPC. The Google Ads algorithm draws attention to an auction where the advertisement achieves good results. However, the minimum bid eligible for this auction is 1.20 GBP per click. In this case, eCPC will ignore the set maximum rate per click and run a rate of 1.20 GBP to ensure that the advertisement is displayed. Your advertisement is actually displayed, people are clicking it, shoes are selling. You have just achieved more revenue.

However, an increase in revenue does not necessarily mean an increase in profits. The price of shoes has remained the same, which means that you have earned less on every pair sold, and the cost of advertising (clicks) has just increased by 20%. In the original version of eCPC, the algorithms were allowed to increase your advertising rates by up to 30%, after the update, there is no specified threshold. Google’s algorithms are supposed to try to keep the rates close to those specified by the user

In most cases, the search engine delivers on its promises regarding the eCPC model. According to IgniteVisibility.com data, such eCPC tactics have improved Return on Investment (ROI) for 70% of users. There are a lot of pre- and post-running eCPC statements on the network. Here are examples of results:

  • Insurance company: 38% increase in conversions, over 27% decrease in advertising costs
  • Mobile applications company: almost 20% increase in conversions, 9.7% cost reduction. These results appeared within “a few weeks” since the launch of eCPC. 
  • Taxi company: the increase in conversions by almost 12%, decrease in cost by over 35%. In this case, it took a month to achieve this result. 

Does this mean that eCPC is the perfect solution without defects? Unfortunately not, let’s take a closer look at it.

When will eCPC fail? 

First of all, eCPC will not pass the exam for campaigns with a small number of conversions (less than 15). If you manage an ad account with a small number of conversions, eCPC algorithms are likely to simply increase the cost per click and keep the volumes of conversions at the current level. This is because there is not enough information on which Google’s artificial intelligence can build traction and therefore improve its results. 

Secondly, using the eCPC model, however, deprives some measure of control over your campaigns. Of course, you don’t immediately become an incapacitated observer who’s unable to take any action, but experienced marketers appreciate full control over what happens to their advertising account. And eCPC takes some of that control away. 

And finally, as we mentioned earlier, passing the torch to eCPC algorithms can increase the cost of advertising at any time and by the minute. This should be taken into account when planning advertising activities and to calculate whether the profit after raising these costs will still be acceptable. If not only a one-time transaction is important to you, but also the opportunity to get a loyal customer who will come back with new orders – most likely it’s worth a shot.

Teach eCPC Micro-conversion

A good way to “learn” Google’s algorithms how to work is to use micro-conversions, which are one-time, completed actions from the client. These can be such behaviours as:

  • A certain amount of time spent on the site
  • Number of products viewed
  • Number of subpages opened per page

In the majority of cases, a customer who has viewed several products in your e-shop has a better chance of buying something than a person who closed the site after 10 seconds. On this basis, you can “teach” eCPC algorithms which clicks are valuable. After some time, this will translate into displaying ads at a higher rate for those people who have a better chance of making a purchase. As a result, the number of transactions will increase and after some time you will be able to move to ROAS.

eCPC – the future of Google Ads and your company?

There is no one universal answer to whether an enhanced CPC is better than manual control over your account. It is true that the manual rate-setting guarantees predictability and consistency of campaigns and their costs. On the other hand, there are a number of case studies where the improvement of campaign effectiveness after the introduction of eCPC is clearly visible. The safest way to do this is to carry out a series of tests that will show whether eCPC is defending itself in the case of your campaigns. If this turns out to be the case, it is worthwhile to implement at least part of your advertising campaigns in the eCPC model. 

Probably in the near or distant time horizon, Google will strive to promote the eCPC model. Apart from other issues, it will give the search engine better control over the advertising expenses from which it profits. Therefore, it is worth at least familiarizing ourselves with this system and treating it as an integral part of advertising campaigns. When it becomes a standard, this will not mean a revolution in advertising campaigns.

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Cross-Device tracking in Google Analytics using User-ID

cross device tracking

Google Analytics is one of the most popular tools for monitoring website traffic. However, it has some disadvantages and they are serious. To understand them, you must first understand the basic principles of metrics, organizing the information within it, and these are:

cross device tracking
  • user
  • session
  • event / hit

Most of the services assess the ranges by the so-called unique users (uu), so the number of people visiting the portal in a particular period of time. In fact, Google Analytics stock is not able to recognize unique users. This is due to outdated technology based on cookies. 

The mechanism works in such a way that every time a user visits the portal, GA checks if there is a previously assigned cookie in his browser. If not, the system saves the new file in the browser and records the new user’s visit. If it is, the system records the visit of the returning user.

A cookie lives a maximum of 2 years, which in itself can be problematic and can disrupt statistics. Add to this the fact that the files can be deleted manually at any time, or even completely block from saving cookies in your browser and the matter becomes much more complicated. To top it all off, today we use many devices during the day and thus many browsers simultaneously. A computer at work, a smartphone and a home laptop are three “unique users” for Google Analytics. 

What about the rest of the labels, then?

GA sessions are a list of user actions within one visit, which makes it impossible to examine multi-channel tracks. Analysing single sessions may give an insight into the most frequent behaviour of visitors to the site compared to selected dimensions, but on their basis, we will not be able to analyse the full user track. 

The last metric in Google Analytics is an event (or hit). It is a single action on a page. The most common interaction is the page view, although it can also be scrolling, clicking a button, adding to your shopping cart and all other events you want to follow. Please notice that in the free version of Google Analytics there is a threshold value of ten million hits per month, beyond which the system starts to sample data. A set of hits from one visit is called a session. 

Events, as you can see, are the metrics least exposed to measurement errors, but relying only on them blocks the drawing of far-reaching conclusions, because on their basis only we are not able to look at the data as a whole even within a single visit. 

User-ID function

cross device tracking

The giant from Mountain View is aware of these problems and in response to them it has introduced the User-ID function into its tool. The User-ID allows you to assign sessions from different devices and browsers to a specific person based on unique User-IDs instead of Client-IDs. 

The downside of the solution is the need to assign a permanent identifier to each visitor, which without any form of registration may be impossible. The point is that the visitor to the site must leave some “fingerprint” after which we will be able to identify him/her. 

One of the unique ideas I’ve come across so far was the idea of storing the ID in a cookie, which the broadcaster would first have to sneak in an email. According to this concept, the customer opening the email automatically reloads the image in the content, unconsciously “pushing” the cookie into his browser. When he enters the site after such an operation, GA reads the value of the file using the Google Tag Manager. An interesting idea, but with some risk.

We have no guarantee that the user will read the message on all their devices. Without this data will still be affected by an error. An additional risk is that incorrect implementation of User-ID will put our vigilance down and decisions made on the basis of incorrect data may result in unpredictable consequences. 

Without User-ID, our Google Analytics will have to rely exclusively on cookie technology, which, as demonstrated, is not ideal. Apart from combining sessions, the User-ID function has a dedicated set of reports, useful for analyzing Cross-Device tracks.

User-ID reports

In the User-ID view there are 3 reports available only from this level (Recipients > Different devices), and these are: 

  • Device overlapping – the report shows how many and which devices were used by users interacting with your site. This allows you to compare engagement and conversion rates for phones, computers and tablets and check the flow of users between devices.
  • Device Pathways – the report shows the last five types of devices used by visitors before the conversion. This will give you information on user behaviour depending on the devices they are using.
  • Harvesting devices – report on the relationship between conversion rate and harvesting device. Thanks to it, you can check the percentage of users converting on the same device, changing the device and not converting at all. 

Thanks to the data you will find out which elements of the page should be improved, which campaigns bring the most “caloric” traffic or what interactions from various devices lead to at a particular stage of the path. 

For example: if you see in Google Ads reports that mobile does not convert, but in the User-ID view you can clearly see the trend that most people switch between devices in the evening and convert on the desktop, with no such relationship visible the other way around, is it worth to attract customers this way or to give up mobile devices completely and focus only on computers and laptops? Perhaps you reach most customers with your advertisement during working hours, and those who return log on from a desktop device and make the conversion? Without this first interaction on your smartphone, conversion would probably never happen! This may mean that it’s worth maintaining your mobile advertising. 

This is just one example of using reports from various devices in marketing activities. It is also good to check if logged-in users behave differently from non-logged-in users. With reports from the User-ID view, you can detect and evaluate the relationship between devices and the engagement you will use for your next marketing activity. 

How to enable User-ID reporting in Google Analytics?

cross device tracking

You must have editorial privileges at the service level in Google Analytics. If you do not have them, ask the administrator for adequate accesses. Then go to Administration, Tracking Information and User-ID. 

Accept the rules for the service and move on. Then the wizard will display a window with gtag.js codes and Universal Analytics, which should be pasted in the proper place.

Finally, the system will suggest creating a new display, dedicated to the User-ID service. This is necessary because the data we are interested in will not appear in the classic GA display. This will be the place where you can see information about users with the assigned identification number.

Obtaining a User-ID from a website 

Each website is unique and there is no one single way to obtain an ID. Also, remember that not every data can be one. Google forbids the use of data that allow an easy identification of a person, such as e-mail address, PESEL, telephone number, first and last name, etc. It would be ideal if the User-ID consists of a sequence of random characters. 

The most frequently used and the easiest method is to push the User-ID to the data layer. Some additionally store the identifier in a cookie using a custom JavaScript variation. Another method is to select a web page’s HOME element that stores data about the user’s name, identification number, etc. This is a task that is recommended for an experienced programmer or webmaster. 

When the programmer passes the user ID to the data layer, go to the GTM container and enable preview and debug mode. Refresh the page and switch to data layer view in the console to find the userId parameter. Check if the parameter has been assigned a certain value. You will need to pass it to the variable data layer in Google Tag Manager. To do so, go back to GTM container, go to Variables tab and create a new Data Layer Variable. When assigning a name in the field, remember that the letters are case-sensitive. 

Updating Google Analytics Settings Variable

The Google Analytics Settings Variable in GTM is used to transfer the most commonly used GA settings to multiple tags. Thanks to this, all tags will inherit the change, without the need to modify them separately. 

In GTM container go to Variables and select your GA variable. If you don’t have it yet, create a new one (in User Defined Variables). Go to More settings > Setting fields. Enter the user ID of userId.

An additional advantage of anchoring the User-ID in the GA variable (instead of a tag) is that the system assigns a user ID to all hits, not just impressions. This will later give you the opportunity to analyse the visitors’ behaviour in more detail. 

Finally, check the list of requests sent to Google Analytics using GA Debugger. If a user ID is included among the parameters, make sure that the User-ID value in the (&uid) column reads correctly. Also verify the GA reports in real-time in the User-ID view. Remember that this will only display statistics for visits containing the (&uid) parameter.

Combining data from CRM via Measurement Protocol with your own user ID

cross device tracking

If you have managed to configure the User-ID function in Google Analytics correctly, your next step should be to combine the data in your company’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system with the data stored in GA, via Measurement Protocol. This is not necessary, but reasonable.

By integrating the data you will get fuller statistics on all interactions, the impact of marketing activities on online and offline user behaviour, etc. The data collected in this way can be used for segmentation and reporting. Additionally, with the integration you will be able to build advanced remarketing campaigns in Google Ads, Display & Video 360, Search Ads 360, etc. 

It is important that the User-ID in GA coincides with the customer ID in the CRM system. This will enable communication of both systems. The only problem that may occur here is when your CRM does not create user-IDs that can be intercepted with GTM. Then you will have to look for an appropriate key, on the basis of which you will be able to relate customers to GA sessions.

Most CRMs recognize customers by their e-mail addresses or telephone numbers. Unfortunately, the CID cannot be any personal data that can be easily identified, otherwise we would violate the terms of use of Google services. There are two solutions: pseudonymization of personal data or choosing another key. A popular method in this case is to push the Client-ID or User-ID (or both) from Google Analytics directly into the CRM system when the user performs a specific action (e.g. sends a contact form).  

The operation is not complicated and comes down to:

  1. Placing a hidden field in the form, containing the user’s CID, which will be downloaded automatically and sent together with the message content. 
  2. Preparing the CRM system to receive and save the CIDs in records. This way each lead will be able to be assigned to a specific user and his GA session.  

When we set up the forwarding of an ID from GA to CRM, we have to go back to configuring the Measurement Protocol. Measurement Protocol was created by Google to enable the transfer of raw information directly to the Google Analytics server from any programming environment. The first historical way to transfer data was to manually import a CSV file in Administration (Data Import option), which allows combining data generated by offline systems with online data collected by GA. In order to automatize the process, Google launched a protocol that works analogically. You can include user metadata in the file sent to GA to improve segmentation and use it for analysis and remarketing. 

Once the protocol is configured, create a custom dimension in Google Analytics. This will be a “slot” for data from CRM, because the main function of the built-in User-ID dimension is to use it in reports about different devices, and we will need it to import data. To avoid collisions, it is recommended to create a custom dimension that stores User-ID value for use by external systems. Remember to leave the value set to “User” when selecting a range, because the data relates to a unique user and not a single session or event. 

Remarketing using data from CRM

You already know that based on the data sent to GA you are able to segment users and thus create advanced remarketing lists. The more data you send, the more segmentation possibilities you get. In addition to standard user data, such as value and number of transactions, lifetime customer value (LTV) or the stage in the sales funnel where the customer is currently located, you can also send less obvious information, such as occupation. If necessary, you will be able to create remarketing lists consisting, for example, of people from a specific business only. 

If you need prospecting advertising, Google Ads is able to create a lookalike group that you can use in your GDN campaign. Of course, these will be customers with a profile similar to people on your list, but only in terms of the data that Google is able to identify, not from the information you have submitted via Measurement Protocol. Remember also that within one MCK account you are able to send letters to multiple Google Ads accounts, which allows you to use them in a more creative way. 

Theoretically, you can use the data from the CRM system to direct to a customer list, but userId-based member forwarding is currently only available in the United States, so we won’t be doing this. Let me just mention that ads from such a list can be displayed on Google, YouTube and Gmail services, but not on the advertising network. 

User-ID and Google Attribution

Some time ago, there was information about Google’s work on a new tool for measuring Cross-Device conversion – Google Attribution. The tool is currently in beta phase and is available on some Google Analytics accounts. How does it work and will it replace the User-ID function in the future? 

To understand the mechanism of Google Attribution, you need to discuss another functionality introduced some time ago under the name of Google Signals, which is also currently in beta. Google Signals is Google’s answer to the problems with cookies. Following the social media model, it was decided to try to identify users not by cookies, but by the Google Accounts to which users are signed in. At first sight this is not a bad idea. Anyone who has a Gmail or Android phone account is automatically a Google Account holder. The question is, how many people are signed in on all their devices to one account?

The problem is that you don’t necessarily have to be signed in to your Google account to watch YouTube video or use the search engine. This is different on Facebook or LinkedIn, where we can’t do much without signing in to our account. Another thing is that one person can have several Google accounts (e.g. another account on a business phone, another on a private phone), which can further disturb data. 

And how does Google Attribution beta work at the moment? Apart from automatic channel separation and including all interactions in the data-driven model (instead of the last 4 interactions, as in Google Analytics), the tool does not show any Cross-Device data. Additionally, Google Attribution has a tendency to assign a relatively large share of conversions to campaigns on the search network, i.e. favouring the Google advertising system. 

In order for Google Attribution to replace the User-ID in the future, Google would have to come up with a mechanism that would allow each user to be assigned a permanent ID, by which they could be recognized regardless of the device and browser they are on. As far as I know, at the moment Google has not discovered such a mechanism.

Of course, there are competitive solutions for Google Analytics on the market. Facebook, for example, released some time ago Facebook Attribution, a tool to analyse the results of marketing campaigns on the basis of conversion events, offering 7 different attribution models:

  • Even Credit
  • Last Click or Visit
  • Last Touch
  • Positional 30%
  • Positional 40%
  • Time Decay 1-Day
  • Time Decay 7-Day

One of the functions of the tool is to generate reports about different devices. Facebook Attribution uses a data-driven model, assigning a specific value to each point of contact on the conversion path based on the total number of displays, clicks and visits. As reported by Facebook: “By constantly logging on to Facebook, we can directly assign actions to real people.” This means that Facebook Attribution recognizes users by their accounts to which they are logged in, not by their cookies or IDs. Facebook Attribution also allows you to install click and display tags in external media such as Google Ads. It’s definitely worth making a few texts to get your opinion on it as an interesting alternative to GA.

Nevertheless, every year Google is improving its tools, adding more and more useful features to support Cross-Device analysis. It seems that cookies are slowly getting out of hand, and Google itself will soon focus on collecting data in alternative ways. Perhaps in a while the User-ID will be replaced by a newer, easier to implement technology. Currently there is no real alternative and probably will not be for a long time.