Digital Marketing has changed. Where once marketing experience and wishful thinking about ideal customers drove spend, now it’s becoming easier and even standard practice to use your company’s data to enhance marketing decision making. Marketers drill in on specific user behavior, test landing pages, and obsess over Click Through Rate (CTR) and Return On Ad Spend (ROAS).
These processes are often discussed and blogged about in the micro view: “How to get more out of campaign settings in AdWords”, “Two things to look for in Google Analytics reports”, etc., as if these are all separate topics. What’s ignored all too often is the high-level strategy itself.
Let’s examine how to actually leverage existing data in Google Analytics to increase revenue using Google AdWords. This is a four-part process that can work for any industry by combining the best functions of Google Analytics and Google AdWords.
Limits of the AW Remarketing Tag
AdWords offers a simplified remarketing tag that can be implemented on websites. We’ve come to think of this tag as a last resort. This was the original way to pump users’ behavior into AdWords campaigns in order to show remarketing banner ads to users who match a specific behavior.
However, it’s incredibly limited from a data collection point of view. AdWords tag audience options are very simple (Example: Users who have visited URL “/xyz”). It works in a pinch, but we consider this is an outdated approach for identifying valuable audiences.
Behold Google Tag Manager & Google Analytics:
GTM Saves The Day / Universal Analytics
With Google Tag Manager installed on your company’s websites, audience potential grows enormously. The standard Google Analytics Pageview tag includes a special button to enable the collection of data for remarketing audiences in AdWords or DoubleClick.
Check the Enable Display Advertising Features button to start collecting.
If you don’t have Tag Manager yet, you can enable remarketing in your Google Analytics Property Settings:
Now you are collecting user behavior for remarketing. Let’s go further. Event tracking can track user interactions on the page beyond loading the page. (Learn how to configure Custom Dimensions)
- Push user-submitted form data into a Google Analytics Custom Dimensions. LunaMetrics did this recently in a case study for Teach for America to create audiences to remarket to.
- Collecting User-ID from your database and push into Google Analytics as a Custom Dimension.
- Push data from a marketing platform like Marketo or Salesforce.
For example, LunaMetrics fired a popup on our blog to encourage email subscriptions (Form submission method #1 above). We asked users to choose which tips they would like to receive: GA, GTM or SEO/SEM:
By firing an event back into Google Analytics when a user selects a topic of interest, a custom dimension can be populated as our users self-identify and we can use that data later when building an audience.
Get Fancy with It
There are a lot of ways you could get wild with this:
- Find your best performing audiences manually. Who converts? What do you know about them?
- Prove that your marketing Personas are accurate by pairing them with audience segments (Newspaper examples: Heavy Readers, etc).
- Use R or Big Query to develop data-first audiences based on behavioral characteristics.
Segments are where Google Analytics truly shine. Instead of simple audience targets like the last page someone visits, or any URL that contains “SEO”, GA segments let you choose from nearly every dimension in Google Analytics to hand-craft an audience. Now that you have some data from Step 1, you can build segments that reflect your audiences. On any Google Analytics report, click Add Segment at the top of the report and you’ll see an awesome menu of options:
Google Analytics comes prepopulated with many useful segments, like New Users, Converters, and more. Additionally, you can create you own by combining dimensions and metrics that you care about.
- Device – Phone Model, Browser
- Geography – Users visiting from certain regions.
- Source – Users visiting from Facebook links or from LinkedIn
- Site Events – Users who watched a key video or downloaded a PDF
- Self-Identified – Those form fields flow into custom dimensions, and allow us to segment by interests, company size, monthly budget, or any other data your business needs and can easily collect!
Web visitors who are 35-44 years old using iPhones in wealthy areas who watched your latest blog video and identified themselves as small business on a form? Now we’re talking. THAT’s an audience!
Don’t forget to create audiences that you will exclude as well. For example, if you are building an audience to drive general site users to a specific video, create another list of users who have already viewed that video. Drive those users to the next step in your funnel
Follow Google’s instructions to segment your Google Analytics data.
Lastly, Enhanced Ecommerce users and Google Analytics 360 customers can use Shopping/Checkout Behavior Funnel reports or Custom Funnel reports to create valuable segments. Once properly set up, this allows you identify valuable groups of users like, “Users who added something to cart, but didn’t convert.”
When segmenting, it’s important to know the advertising limits. You’ll need to have at least 100 users (or cookies) on a display remarketing audience list and 1000 users on a search remarketing list for Google AdWords, so don’t get too granular.
Segments are valuable inside of Google Analytics for reporting and ad-hoc investigation. For this reason, we recommend starting with a segment, and finding the ones that are most valuable. Once you’ve created a segment that you want to remarket to, you’ll need to turn the Segment into an Audience and share it with the correct AdWords account under the Property Settings inside of Google Analytics.
Make sure Google Analytics and Google AdWords are linked. That’s an important step here.
Once that’s complete, you’ll be able to see our GA audiences in AdWords. In AdWords, use the left-hand nav and find Shared Library > Audiences. Here you’ll see Google Analytics audiences and some automatically-generated AdWords audiences as well (Yours will have real numbers under Search, YouTube, Display):