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What data should you look at to decide marketing strategy? How do you use that data with a shoestring budget during leaner times? In this episode, Katie and Chris walk through common Google Analytics metrics that lend themselves well to marketing strategy decisions, and a KPI decision framework.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn
This is In-Ear Insights the Trust Insights podcast. AI Academy for marketers is an online education platform designed to help marketers like you understand pilot and scale artificial intelligence. The AI Academy features deep dive certification courses have three to five hours, along with dozens of short courses 30 to 60 minutes each taught by leading AI and marketing experts. Join Katie robear, CEO of in me Christopher Penn chief data scientist to Trust Insights for three of our courses in the academy five use cases of AI for content marketing intelligence, intelligent attribution modeling for marketing, and detecting and mitigating bias in marketing AI. The Academy is designed for manager level and above marketers and largely caters to non technical audiences, meaning you don’t need a programming background or background in data science to understand and apply what you learn. One registration gives you unlimited access to all the courses and invitation to a members only slack instance, access to new courses every quarter. Join now and save $100 off registration when you go to Trust slash AI Academy and use registration code pen 100. Today, that’s Trust slash AI Academy and use registration code pen 100. Today, in this week’s In-Ear Insights, we’re talking strategy data and what to do when you don’t have Oh, I don’t know, a million dollars worth of talent and hardware and software and code and all that stuff. So, Katie, what’s going on? What is the strategy on a shoestring?

Katie Robbert
Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about, you know, the current situation that a lot of us find ourselves in where businesses slowed down. Maybe it’s because it’s seasonal, maybe because there’s other things going on in the economy. But that doesn’t mean that businesses don’t still need to move forward and figure out their next moves. And so a lot of questions that we’ve been seeing is How do I know what to do? You know, when the world opens up? You know, we’re, as we’re recording this, we’re still in the middle of a global pandemic. And a lot of questions have been like, how do we know what our next moves are? Or what do I do next? And so it really started to make me think well, what resources do people already have or should already have, that will help them reset their strategy without having to spend a million dollars? And my go to and I think Chris, your go to is always will start with the data that you do have. And for us, that’s primarily Google Analytics data, and Google Analytics, you can have a free account tied into your website, it captures a lot of information about your prospects and your customers that can help you understand, here’s what I should do next. And Google Analytics doesn’t cost you anything other than your time.

Christopher Penn
True There is the minor challenge, though that it is, it’s kind of like a frying pan, right? In that if you don’t know how to cook, and you don’t know what you’re doing with it and things, it has limited utility it is it’s good. And you know, if someone gave me a nice cast iron pan for free, I would not say no to us. But if I didn’t know how to cook, I might, you know, duct tape to the front of the car something as you know, as a very small piece of armor, as opposed to using it for its intended purpose. So when something goes wrong, particularly with Google Analytics, I feel like there’s a lot of opportunity for people to misinterpret the data. So when you’re thinking about marketing on a shoestring now, we like to say if you have time, but no money, you have to learn it if you have money, but no time you have to buy it. What’s the balance? When you look at the average business, where’s the balance, acknowledging the fact that we are biased towards a heavier use of data than most?

Katie Robbert
Well, if you’re talking about balance, You know, we started this conversation saying like things have slowed down, that then makes the assumption that you have time. Google Analytics a lot along with a lot of other software systems have a lot of really good free training resources. There’s the Google Analytics Academy. So if you’re finding yourself with time, this is a great time to learn how to use Google Analytics properly, how to set up your accounts properly, how to set up Tag Manager properly, this is a great opportunity to do that. So that when you’re collecting data that kind of makes you scratch your head. You have a starting place to say, okay, that doesn’t look right. Let me try to troubleshoot it myself, because I’ve done a lot of this training on my own. You know that there’s a lot of communities where if you just drop in a question, somebody is more than willing to talk at you for hours on end about everything that you’re doing wrong, but within that, you may get some useful information. Not that I’ve had that experience myself.

Christopher Penn
Well, what I would say, well, in terms of communities, do you want to join analytics? Can you go to analytics for marketers go to Trust slash analytics for marketers, and join our free slack community where, if you’d like, we will talk to you for hours. That’s true.

Katie Robbert
But you know, the question about balance is you should as a company, you should have some data that tells you something about the health of your website, your digital properties, assuming you have digital properties. If you don’t, then you probably have financial data, customer data, transactional data, you should have some of that in some place. And I think that that’s really the starting point is, you know, trying to figure out what do you have?

Christopher Penn
I’m actually going to pull a you and say, actually, that’s it. That’s not the best starting point. The best starting point is To have a plan and a strategy that that looks at, what is the goal you’re trying to achieve? If there’s no actual gold, and you know, for example, if you run a roadside coffee shop stand in the middle of nowhere. And all the other people who come in are the locals who live in the town. And, you know, there’s no internet access, whatever, you don’t really need to Google Analytics, right? You just you need to be putting out flyers on trees to remind people you exist. But more importantly, and I think this is important, because what goes along with what you said, If you make a list of those metrics from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel operations wise, ask yourself at each stage, you could just just do this on a sheet of paper. Can I measure this in Google Analytics? Can I measure this in Google Analytics? Can I measure close sales? Can I measure you know shopping carts filled whatever it is in your business, and you have to work until you get to a point where you say yes, so like for us, we’re a b2b business. We can’t measure sale in Google Analytics of like our consulting services, we can actually measure a lead that’s been generated from someone downloading a white paper. So for us, we have to figure out what are the things we can measure? And then what are the things that are beyond that measurement, we have to do inference. And if you don’t have that map, you run the risk of trying to try to measure things you can’t measure, which we’ve had a lot of conversations with, you know, prospective customers saying, Well, how do I measure this? Well, you can’t, or you measure too much of the wrong stuff. And you’re like, here’s my dashboard with 500 widgets and dials and, and things and your stakeholders go, I don’t see why this is important.

Katie Robbert
So Chris, from your perspective, how do you solve that problem?

Christopher Penn
It really is like the gap, that sheet of paper and you start mapping, you know, from the top of the funnel to the bottom of the funnel, here’s the data I have, like you said, here’s what we have. Here’s what we know. Can I measure this in Google Analytics? If this is the tool that you’re going to use? Can I measure this in Google Analytics? Yes or no? To your point about learning, the things you can measure, you say yes, the things you can’t measure, you say no, but it’s a good chance. For many marketers, there’s gonna be a bunch of I don’t know if I can. And I think that’s the best place to start your learning journey from a professional development perspective is there’s gonna be a whole bunch of I don’t know, is filling those I don’t know it was go learn that specific thing. Go to Stack Overflow, go to Google Analytics forums, go to analytics for markers and ask, Is this something that you could measure in Google Analytics? And if it is great, if it’s not, how could I start to pick away at that?

Katie Robbert
So to bring it back to the original topic of strategy on a shoestring. One of the reasons why we brought this up was because there’s, you know, obviously, with the caveats and assumptions that Google Analytics is set up correctly, that you know how to use it, so on and so forth. Let’s pretend for a second that you’re using a Google Analytics account that is collected correct. data, and it’s set up correctly, there are a lot of, there are a lot of reports that you can pull out of Google Analytics and a lot of reports you can generate using Google Analytics data that will help you understand where to go next, you know, taking a look at your benchmarking, for example. It’ll help compare you to other similar kinds of companies, similar kinds of websites, and it will help you understand, here’s how I’m doing with each of my individual digital channels. Here’s what I need to do next, here’s where I should spend a little bit more money to compete. Here’s where I should pay a little bit more attention to make sure that I’m competitive. That’s one of the reports that I think that people who have enough data, you know, a year’s worth of data at least should start with just to see how do I stack up? What do you what are some of your favorite reports, Chris? Hmm.

Christopher Penn
Well, I don’t Look at a whole lot in Google Analytics anymore. I spend a lot of time in Google Data Studio. Because that’s very often where we’re trying to present information to stakeholders that delivers usable insights they can look at, okay, the grid, our green hour, in terms of, of stuff that’s built into Google Analytics. There’s some things you can’t get in other applications. benchmarking is definitely one of them. So are the demographics and interests being able to see like, what who is our audience? Like what other attributes what are the things they might be interested in? to use that to align topically with what it is republishing? If I see there’s a whole bunch of people who are on our on our blog, for example, that are interested in movies and TV, right? Maybe I should be using fewer cooking knowledge analogies and more movie analogies if that’s something that’s of interest to the audience, one that I think is super, super underrated and unused. underused is the cohort analysis report. This looks at a group of data Like users, biometric like retention, meaning they come back to your website or conversions, and shows it to you over, you know, days, weeks, months, etc. And I find this import so underused, because people don’t know how to interpret it, because it really doesn’t have the best UI. But if you know how to interpret it to tells you how much of your audience you’re just not getting back. You know, that tells you a lot about in particular your content marketing, how compelling is your website, if your website has a 99% loss rate, meaning that 1% of visitors come back week after week. That kind of indicates you’re not doing a really good job of bringing people back to where you want them to be. And that, to me is a big red flag that a lot of your marketing efforts may be a waste of money. If you’re spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours on on your blog and infographics and 99% of it never comes back. I don’t know that that’s something that you want to be spending a whole lot of time on them?

Katie Robbert
I agree with that. And, you know, let me sort of rephrase the question that I asked you, you know, because you would said, you don’t spend a lot of time in Google Analytics, you spend it in Data Studio. I guess my question was more what data from Google Analytics Do you find to be the most useful and whether you look at it directly in Google Analytics, or you pull it into a visualization tool, such as Google Data Studio, is your own personal choice. Obviously, we recommend Data Studio since you can do a little bit more data blending and visualization. One of the things that I think is very telling is the source medium report. I find that you know, the, knowing what channels are working for you is really important. But specifically, what source and what medium is helpful. So let’s say you know, you get the social channel is really hot. It’s doing all the converting for you. But what if you’re running six different kinds of social? You don’t know which platform is actually doing the hard work. So I find that the source medium report is a really telling reports like, Oh, well, Twitter’s doing all of the work, Facebook’s doing nothing. And Instagram every once in a while pops up its head, but we’re putting all of our money into Instagram. So what’s going on?

Christopher Penn
Yep, I completely agree. And you can slice that in a couple of different places. You can do it for a traffic acquisition, you can do it for goal conversions. And my personal favorite use of that information is doing a customer journey mapping with it, which is not something you can do Google Analytics, you have to have code that pulls the data out of the API, and then mixes matches it. But yeah, you’re right, because the other problem that you’ll run into if your analytics is not configured properly, is you’ll get Miss attribution. So an awful all the time you will see for example, in Google Analytics, mail is becoming From a website, it is treated as referral traffic. Now, I would say it’s patently obvious. That’s an email application. Same for When you use source medium, you can see that and you can recoat it if you need to, you know, manually with it when you’re pulling data out for offline analysis, but within the application itself, unless you fix that, as part of the default channels, you maybe make drawing incorrect conclusions. We ran into that with a customer of ours where, you know, they were pulling in hundreds of thousands of visits, that were all being coded as referral traffic. But when we dug up, that’s all and stuff, and it was just getting mischaracterized and we fixed it. And they’re like, Oh, actually, email is the most important channel. Like, yeah, yeah, it is, but your analytics was misleading you.

Katie Robbert
I agree. And I think that, you know, again, sort of going into this conversation with the assumption that things are set up correctly. For the sake of argument, Chris, for the sake of this conversation, because setting up Google Analytics correctly is a whole different conversation for the sake of this conversation. Let’s assume that it’s set up correctly, and it’s collecting data correctly. You know, I think that when we think about, okay, we’re in the middle of a slowdown or the middle of a pandemic, how do I know what to do next? All I have in front of me is my Google Analytics data. I think starting with some benchmarking, perhaps some of the built in attribution tools, if that’s all you have access to if you don’t have access to other code that can do you know, a Markov chain model or something like that. I think one of the mistakes that a lot of users make is they look just at those high level stats like number of visits to my website, bounce rate. Well, what does that really telling you is it you know, I can say well, I had more visits this month and last month. But I don’t know why I don’t know what to do about that. I don’t know, just looking at that metric, what did I do differently? And so you can start to dig into those metrics within your Google Analytics account to figure out what was different? Did I put more money into paid search and back off of email? Or, you know, vice versa? So I think that, you know, there’s a lot that you can do to figure out your next moves in Google Analytics. What are some of the mistakes you see people making Chris when they’re just trying to figure out what to do next with their data?

Christopher Penn
So you hit on a really important point. And it’s, it’s something that we talk about a lot with what we call the three what’s framework, right? Any given data point has three what’s what happened, which is the analysis. So what was your insights? And then what next? And because people don’t operate with that general framework in mind, you get an awful lot of just what happened and you get Avinash Kaushik calls a data puking where people just puke data all over the place. And it doesn’t mean anything. If I was running a business from scratch, I would take a look at each stage in my marketing operations funnel and find an trackable number. Ideally, you know, like Google Analytics for each major stage. So, awareness, maybe it’s new users to the website, right? engagement is returning users to the website. action of some kind subscriptions, the newsletter or form fills the lead forms, pick one number for each of these major stages. Put it on a Google Data Studio dashboard. And then each week, or however often we need to ask those three questions. Okay, new users to the website was up 15%. So what is that important? Maybe it is maybe it isn’t. We ran a big email campaign that week. Maybe that’s important. Hey, we got some new people we haven’t reached previously. Now what? What do we do with that information? If to your point, if that was something was under our control that was sustainable. Great, let’s do more of that, because that is an important number that we agreed upon. Let’s do more of that. If it’s not something we have control over, like, we got mentioned in a Reddit thread that just took off. Okay, well, you know, there’s, you don’t have a ton of control over that. Can you in terms of what next? Can you retarget that audience to bring them back if they are, in fact valuable. And I would do this for each stage. And again, this is not something that requires extra software, you can literally do this on a sheet of paper and a crayon just mapping these things out. I don’t recommend actually putting Google Analytics data in crayon, but map it out, and then put it in a Data Studio dashboard or something so that you can just see those numbers, the change from period to period and be able to ask yourself, hmm, that looks weird. Like that’s that doesn’t look right. Why is that the case? When we do a an event, like we did the event last week, on natural language processing, got a whole bunch of new people in the audience. By the way, if you’re listening for the first time, welcome. So what we’d like new people, particularly if they’re interested in what we’re interested in now what we now have to figure out what percentage of our content needs to still be about that topic that they originally were interested in us for. Right? If we talk about natural language processing on a webinar, and people sign up for our newsletter, and they never see it again, they’re gonna feel it’s kind of a bait and switch, right, as opposed to now if there’s a big chunk of audience that likes that, we got throw that in. When we were at the MAR tech conference, we’ve started working in more marketing technology content, because so we had a huge influx of audience for that. And so we have to make sure that that’s in the mix. So I would say in terms of what do we do with this stuff, that’s that’s what it comes down to is figure out your KPIs. Which remember the numbers you get bonuses for, and then figure out the so what and then what? But that requires a plan.

Katie Robbert
It’s true, it does, um, you know, but again, it’s It doesn’t have to be overly complicated if you just start with something simple, like, I want to know which channels are driving traffic to my website? Great. That’s a great place to start. Because if you don’t have a lot of money, you don’t have a big budget this year, you may want to figure out where should I be spending my money? So the question is, which channels are driving traffic. So then you can go into your Google Analytics data and start to figure out month over month, which channels are performing the best, so that when you’re resetting your strategy, you can start to figure out okay, I should probably spend the little bit of budget that I do have on this and less on this. And then you know, you can measure it using your KPI map and you can put that data into Google Data Studio where it automatically refreshes. And that is a very simplistic way to start to reset. reset your strategy moving forward when You don’t have a lot of resources, you don’t have a lot of budget, but you do have time.

Christopher Penn
And like hiking, right? If you have a compass, you do not need a perfectly calibrated compass that is exact on magnetic north and also calibrates true north, and tells you everything down to the millimeter, right? You just need to know the general direction that you’re going. So one of the things that we see people do wrong, is they get analysis paralysis, right? They try and get such so much data and get so refined instead of saying, at some point to stop and make a decision. And I think that’s a good topic for another episode is what is the minimum amount of data you need to make a decision but know that in Google Analytics, again, with that big assumption that it’s all configured correctly. There is a point after which you’re doing too much analysis and not enough action. It’s an opportunity cost. If you’re spending 10 hours a week in Google Analytics. That’s probably overkill for a smaller audience. ization, right gets five patents an hour or two and take that remaining nine or 10 hours and actually do stuff take action on the insights you gain from it. So I think that’s a really good place to, to wrap up. To summarize, if you have time, but no money, invest in professional development. But before you do map out what you can and can’t do, what you do and don’t know, and how well that maps to your business outcomes, and then build your plan from there that will guide your training that will guide what you put out in terms of the reporting you do. And most of all, what actions you’re going to take because analysis without action is just a distraction. If you got any follow up questions on this episode, please leave them over at Trust You can find this episode and many others in the podcast and please feel free to join our free slack group analytics for marketers over Trust slash analytics for marketers will talk to you soon want help solving your company Data Analytics and digital marketing problems, visit Trust today and let us know how we can help you

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