5 Reasons Why the Dog Days of Summer are the Best Time for an Analytics Audit

5 Reasons Why the Dog Days of Summer are the Best Time for an Analytics Audit Ambition Digital 8 2018

Welcome to the dog days of summer, everyone! Time for vacations, barbecues, days at the beach, heading to your favorite mountain getaway, or jumping off the dock at the lake. Now that we’re well into the summer season, it’s not just hot: August can also get very sticky and grossly humid, which is why it earned the name the Dog Days of Summer.

If you work in a corporate office, an agency, or basically any kind of office setting, you may be used to things being a bit slow right now. People head out on vacation in droves, which tends to slow down any work that’s in progress, especially if you work in closely knit teams.

If you’ve already taken your vacation for the summer or if you’ve chosen to take your time off at another time of the year, it can also mean a rather empty office setting. And it can be kind of boring being one of the few left in the office while everyone else is out having fun.

If you’re an entrepreneur, unless you own a seasonal business like an ice cream shop, a landscaping or pool maintenance business, or any kind of shop near a resort area, things might be slow for your business as well.  

But I’m going to share with you why the slowdown of late summer could be the best time for you to take a good look at your web analytics and giving them an audit.


Why an Analytics Audit?

Now, a quick disclaimer: as a web analytics professional, I believe of course that you should always be paying close attention to your analytics, and making sure you’re measuring the effectiveness of any marketing initiatives you may have underway with complete accuracy, year round. It really should be done on a regular basis, just like anything else you do to keep your life in order –  getting the oil changed in your car, going to the dentist; or in business, keeping your accounting in order.

However… I get it: you’ve got enough going on, juggling all of your responsibilities as a business owner or marketing professional, and your Google Analytics account is….well, not at the top of the to-do list. And because people have a tendency to take a ‘set it and forget it’ approach when it comes to their Google Analytics account, they assume it’s always doing exactly what they want it to do.

But here’s a few reasons why it’s good to use summertime slow-down to audit your analytics setup:


Reason 1: The Start of a New Fiscal Year

Many companies work on a fiscal year of July 1st to June 30th. With July signaling a new year, it can mean the beginning of a new set of marketing plans to be implemented, and along with it new campaigns to launch, new budgets, and a new year of goals to meet.  

This clean slate of sorts is an opportune time for you to review and straighten out your web analytics with an audit, so that you start the new fiscal year with the confidence that you can trust the integrity of your data.


Reason 2:  Holiday campaigns

You know how every year we’re stunned by how early in the fall we start seeing Christmas decorations? Honestly, they’ve barely boxed up all the leftover back-to-school supplies before they’re stacking Christmas trees in the aisles!

Christmas starts in september
Three-ring binders and a Christmas tree, anyone? The holiday season rolls out in September for many retailers.

As marketers, we’re often accustomed to the fervor of the holiday season beginning months in advance, because that’s when all of the planning takes place. This time of year is when many retailers and other businesses are in high gear getting all the pieces in place for their holiday marketing campaigns. There’s only so much advertising inventory available, so they’ve got to stake their claim early. And because huge campaigns come with so many promotional elements to produce, it’s critical to get started months in advance.

For many retailers, holiday sales can make or break their businesses’ revenue goals for the year, and much of that is dependent upon the success of their marketing campaigns. Creating and executing a campaign that is successful in driving online sales or in-store traffic is heavily dependant upon knowing with complete confidence which tactics in your marketing mix are most effective in meeting your goals, and are yielding the highest return on marketing investment.

And although most of the planning takes place earlier in the year, when holiday campaigns are in high gear, retailers are keeping a close eye on their website metrics in as near-time as they can. This is critical for being able to pivot and adjust their marketing campaigns as quickly as possible to capture as large a share of the holiday spending pie as they possibly can.

So, if you’re one of these businesses that is dependent upon holiday revenue and your analytics account isn’t configured to collect and report clean and accurate data, you could be experiencing gaps between your online sales reported in your tools and the actual sales numbers, gaps in foot traffic estimates, and more.

Or, you could be seeing inaccurate accounts of which campaigns, media, or audience segments is driving the most revenue. You don’t want to be scrambling in the midst of the holiday rush trying to diagnose and fix discrepancies in your data. Or worse yet – making bad marketing spending and marketing strategy decisions based on inaccurate data.


Reason 3:  Getting Ahead of the Curve

Taking a close look at your analytics when in the process of an audit leaves you with time in the earlier part of your fiscal year to also map out a plan for how to move forward if things need course correction. For example, if you need to involve the IT team to make technical changes to your web site in order to accurately collect data, getting on their radar before they’re swamped making their own productivity goals can assure you course correct technical measurement issues early as well.

If, when combing through your analytics you come to the decision that you need to make investments in other components within your marketing stack – say, a new email provider, leveling up your CRM system, or migrating certain responsibilities like ad buying from in-house to an outside agency, knowing this now, before your annual resources have been exhausted and your budget looks like road kill will help yield the best results from this year.

And if you work in government, non-profit, or any large corporation where it takes a long time to secure review and approval for additional marketing investments,  starting that process now can potentially put your new resources into action a.s.a.p. in order to help you make the best of this year’s goals.


Reason 4:    Bonus Points With Your Boss

If you’ve ever experienced the frustration of discrepancies between your marketing reporting from different tools, you know what a tight spot that can put you in with clients or internal stakeholders who are looking to you to assure them of how things are going.

Score points with your boss with an analytics audit
Yaassss! Score big points with your boss by heading up a web analytics audit.

Just think of how impressed your boss will be when she or he returns from vacation and you announce that you’ve used the office downtime to take the initiative to clean up your web analytics with an audit, so that the entire marketing team can shine. Bonus points galore!


Reason 5: Simply Because You Can

This slow(ish) time allows for focus that you wouldn’t have had if your were cleaning up your data house any time during the rest of the year.

Analytics is such an important part of marketing, and investing the time to clean up analytics with an audit can help you know for sure that your account settings and technical setup of your analytics are a hundred percent sound and on-point.

So if you know your web analytics are due for an audit and you’ve been putting off because of competing priorities, the summer slowdown is a great opportunity to get to check off one more thing on your longer-term to-do list.


Tame that Dog Now!

As a marketer, there’s probably nothing worse than you and your team putting many hours of blood, sweat and tears into planning a big campaign, only to have it not drive business – and without knowing why.  If your web analytics aren’t in order, you could be losing business, losing brand awareness, losing your money, and wasting your time and effort, all because of bad data.

If you need help getting a grip on your web analytics, Ambition Digital can help. Contact us today.

Google Marketing Live 2018 Update – the Ad Products

Nicky Rettke YouTube trends

I recently shared highlights of online trends discussed at Google’s Marketing Innovations Live, the livestreamed keynote address of their annual Marketing Live conference held in San Diego. Now I’ll cover the top product innovations that the search giant shared, and the cliff-notes version of what they mean for business owners and non-technical marketers.

At the center of Google’s revenue generation is its advertising products, so the underlying purpose of sharing research and trends in online behavior is the chance to highlight their new ad products. And as I mentioned in last week’s trends highlights, machine learning plays a key role in the latest technical innovations Google is using to increase the functions, features, and value of their ad and measurement products.

Highlights of the new ad product updates include:

  • Most notable is the change in the brand name AdWords to simply Google Ads, which was announced late last month. Along with the name change is the unification of multiple sub-branded ad products, including Double-Click, along with its shopping, video, Gmail, and display ad formats.
  • YouTube ad conversions have increased over 150% in the last year, globally. Muy impresionante, mi amigos.

    Google’s Product Manager of Video Ads Nicky Rettke shares significant boosts in YouTube’s conversion rates at the Marketing Innovations Keynote presentation
  • TrueView, YouTube’s brand for advertising options, is introducing three new ad types this year:
    • TrueView for Reach – for advertising goals of building brand awareness among a broad set of consumers
    • TrueView for Action – to optimize conversions on your web site. A banner ad appears on the bottom of a video ad throughout the video and remains after the video completes. The banners include a button with a call to action. And late this year, options will include banners with form ads to help generate leads.
    • Maximize Lift Bidding – for increasing brand consideration. “Lift” is marketing-speak for the incremental increase in a marketing result. “Consideration” is marketing-speak for the people in your potential audience who state they will consider using your brand or product (typically after being exposed to your marketing message).  So, this tool’s purpose is to maximize an advertiser’s increase in brand consideration as a result of this type of YouTube advertising. Like with many of the other new and existing Google ad products, it uses machine learning to reach the right consumers and help the advertiser accomplish this goal.
  • Responsive Search Ads, which simplify text-only search ad creation by mixing and matching multiple combinations of up to 15 headlines and up to 4 description lines, again using machine learning to determine which ones garner the best results according to the advertiser’s goal. No more worrying about being a professional ad copywriter in addition to running your business.
  • For small businesses, new easy-to-manage advertising options break down to four main options:
    • Smart campaigns (which I’ve detailed earlier) – to help small business owners easily get started with online advertising
    • Smart Shopping campaigns – to optimize bids on individual products and grow online revenue, or to drive store visits
    • Local campaigns – aimed at driving in-store traffic for brick-and-mortar businesses
    • Hotel campaigns – to drive room bookings for hotels and travel booking sites

      Anthony Chavez, Product Management Director, Google Ads, shared data on mobile spending habits
  • According to Google’s research, more than half of all mobile phone users claim that they would not make a purchase from a web site that takes a long time to load. And driving better mobile ad results means assuring ad landing pages (the web pages that ads link to) load quickly.

Understanding that many small business don’t have a way of gauging load times, Google is introducing a Mobile Landing Page Speed feature within the Ads interface. This tool assigns a score from 1 to 10 based on a number of factors, including the expected conversion rate of a given landing page based on how long the page takes to load in a visitor’s browser.  

New Cross-Device Reporting

With analytics being closest to my heart, of course, I was interested to hear one new reporting feature that wasn’t among Google’s previous announcements: Cross-device reporting and remarketing. This feature uses aggregated, anonymized data from visitors who visit your web site multiple times across different devices. It then gives a consolidated view of how users are behaving on your site no matter the device they’re using when they visit, giving you a better understanding of your visitors and what they do at each stage of the conversion process.

Chaves outlines features of the new Cross-device reporting in Google Analytics

For example, a customer might spend $300 on your website on her phone any given day. She may later spend another $300 on her desktop computer. In analytics, this might look like two different customers, each spending $300.

And yet if another customer spends $600 one time on her desktop, she would be viewed as a customer with much higher spending value. Your GA reports can now show you that these two customer types have the same value, but with different purchasing habits, helping you make more informed marketing decisions.   

What These New Ad Features Mean for Small Business Owners and Non-Technical Marketers

I’ve shared previously that Google products can be less user-friendly than they appear on the surface, especially when the company is continually adding new tools and with new ways to use them. While this may seem like chicanery on their part, it’s somewhat understandable given that they have to make products that serve the needs of a spectrum of users, especially if they want to remain competitive. Google’s continued advances in machine learning and its application in ad creation, optimization, and measurement hold a lot of promise toward truly making their products easier to use and more effective.  

But ease-of-use aside, it’s often a better use of time an energy to bring in someone with experience and expertise using Google products, including Analytics, Tag Manager, Data Studio and others to measure marketing effectiveness. We’re still a long way off from computer programs being able to replace sound advice from a professional who can ask the right questions and properly advise you on how to use these products to grow your business.

If you’re looking for a human with deep experience in analytics and web metrics reporting, get in touch today.

And, feel free to leave questions about any of these product updates in the comments below. Do any of these product updates make you more likely to use them? If you’ve used Google’s ad products before, do you feel like machine learning has improved your conversion rates? Let me know!



Note: More detail on Google’s applications of machine learning in advertising can be found on the Google Ads blog.

Google Rolls Out New Smart Campaigns and Image Picker to Help Small Businesses with Online Ads

Google Smart campaigns

Google made several new rebranding and product update announcements last week for its analytics and advertising products, many of which are only used by large businesses. However, two of those updates announced are focused on making it easier for small businesses to join the online advertising game.

Smart Campaigns

Google Smart Campaigns is a new campaign type under the Google Ads suite that is aimed toward helping small business owners who don’t have their own marketing staff or expertise in managing online ad campaigns. This new campaign type uses machine learning that factors in audience behavior, location, device, and other signals to target advertising to the right set of potential customers based on the advertiser’s goal. These goals include phone calls, visits to the advertiser’s web site, and requests for directions.

And to make campaign management even easier, Smart campaigns are almost entirely automated, from the ad creative that appears to optimizing ad delivery. Introducing Image Picker

Image Picker

I’ve advised small business clients quite often to make sure they are posting fresh images in their online profiles. Not only do images go a long way to help customers get a feel for a business’ products and services, they hold SEO benefits if they’re properly captioned and meta tagged.

Google Image Picker Google Ads
The new Image Picker tool within Google’s Smart Campaigns suggests a businesses top images and creates ads using existing copy.

The new Image Picker tool within Smart Campaigns will help small businesses easily get started with advertising online by simply leveraging their top images posted. The tool suggests three images to use in ad creative, or the advertiser can upload their own. It then uses these images, along with copy selected from the Google My Business profile, to create the ads. As the ads run Smart Campaigns tests combinations of images and copy, optimizing placement based upon which ones perform better.

Smart Campaigns is now available all across the US, and will be rolled out globally throughout the rest of this year. More information can be found in the Smart Campaigns support documentation.



Images courtesy of Google.

Take the ‘Summer School’ SEO Basics Class!

Kelly Heard SEO Basics class with Ink and Mortar

Hot town, summer in the city….you might as well get yourself into an air-conditioned studio and learn something new!

I’m happy to announce that I will be teaching another SEO Basics class! Here are the deets:

Wednesday, June 28th

6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

at the Ink + Mortar studio in Old City

123 N 3rd street, 2nd Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19106

The class is part of Ink + Mortar’s six-class “Summer School” series, an offshoot of the design studio’s ongoing “Back to School” branding and business class series that has been named “Best of Philly” by Philadelphia magazine.

What You’ll Learn in SEO Basics

The SEO Basics class is perfect for business owners, bloggers, web masters who wear many other hats, and other busy people who need to know more about search engine optimization to keep their web sites visible, but don’t have the time (or, let’s face it – the desire) to self-educate on all of the ins-and-outs of SEO.

We’ll cover how online search works, some of the technical and content-based methods for optimizing a web site, how to find the right keywords to target your customers and properly use them throughout your site, proper link building strategies, and much more.

Why You Should Register Soon

Class sizes are limited to 8 students, and this limited group size combined with the intimate setting of the Ink + Mortar studio allows me to get very hands-on answering student’s questions. I really enjoy teaching them, and I hope you’ll like the class too. Register for the SEO Basics class soon to reserve your seat before they’re all gone.

And, you know, not to brag, but the last time I taught the SEO Basics class one of the attendees called it “life-changing” for her. Just sayin’…☺

We’re Part of the “Best of Philly”!

Ambition Digitals Kelly Heard teaches Best of Philly SEO classes for Ink and Mortars Back to School

We are happy to announce that our partner design firm Ink + Mortar’s “Back-to-School” classes have been named “Best Personal Branding Help” in Philadelphia magazine’s “Best of Philly” guide for 2016.

And while we’ve always felt that Ink +Mortar’s Creative Director Sharon Taylor is a bit of brilliant in her own right, it’s quite an honor to be a part of the series of classes that Sharon curated for business owners learn the basics of running a visible, successful business in today’s world.

If you’re looking to take your business to the next level with convenient, information-packed classes, be sure to sign up for the Back to School mailing list and be among the first to know when Ink + Mortar offers them again.



Learn Google Analytics and Google AdWords in the “Back to School” Series

Kelly Heard Back to School classes Google AdWords Google Analytics

I’m looking forward to two classes for which I’ve signed on to teach as part of Ink+Mortar’s upcoming “Back to School” class series for business professionals: Google Analytics Fundamentals and Intro to Google AdWords.

Described by Ink+Mortar’s Sharon McMullen as “curated classes to bring your business to the next level”, the Back to School series is comprised of eight different courses which start September 17th and run through mid-November. Classes will be held right at Ink+Mortar’s studio at 16 N 3rd Street.

Google Analytics Fundamentals

The Google Analytics Fundamentals course is a great introductory class for business owners, managers, directors or executives who really need to know how their web sites are performing but simply don’t have the time to slog through all of the learning material available for Analytics in order to make sense of all the data in the tool. This top-level learning offers insights on what data is available, how to compile it into reports that are most meaningful to your business, and how to interpret key data on your site’s performance.

Intro to Google AdWords

In the Intro to Google AdWords course, I’ll be giving an introductory view of how the AdWords auction works, creating compelling ads and ad extensions, managing your bids and budgets, how to measure ad performance to optimize your campaigns, and other industry best practices. Similar to the Analytics class, this will be a great overview for business owners, managers, directors, and executives who need an expedited, yet practical learning of AdWords without having to dedicate hours to the task.

Taking Time to Teach

Those with whom I’ve worked know that I’m something of a numbers geek with a passion for many things Google (I currently hold several Google certifications). I also love to teach others what I know, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity to join the others in this series, and look forward to seeing you there.

For more course information or to register, visit shopinkandmortar.com.