19 07, 2018

GDPR: What Is It? Does It Apply To Me? And So What?

By | 2018-07-26T13:56:06+00:00 July 19th, 2018|Categories: Beacon News, Ecommerce, Google Analytics|Tags: , , , |

If you work in digital marketing, you probably couldn’t help but notice the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) mania sweeping the internet earlier this year. Indeed, before the new regulations became enforceable in May 2018, there was breathless anticipation and countless “What You Need To Know” blog posts promising the low-down on all the important compliance implications.

Any new regulation is bound to create a few headaches as affected parties figure out the new landscape and work out the kinks. But, a law as sweeping as GDPR promised to be — impacting the very foundation of how e-commerce works — has the potential to thoroughly disrupt the status quo, and everyone’s comfort level along with it.

So, has our digital existence been turned upside down since May? Are we really living in a whole new internet reality?

Here, at Beacon, we were very much interested in the potential of GDPR to impact our ability to collect and analyze consumer data via Google Analytics (our preferred data aggregation platform). So, after a couple of months under the new regulations, as the dust has begun to settle, we decided to take a look around at the brave, new, GDPR-compliant world and see what’s what.

What Is GDPR?

Let’s start by defining what GDPR does. According to the European Commission website, the body that created the legislation, GDPR governs:

“the protection of natural persons with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data.”

In simple terms, the new rules aim to protect the personal data of all European Union citizens by explicitly granting them greater control over how their personal digital data is used and stored by others. GDPR applies to any company, person or entity that has the potential to gain access to personal data of EU citizens for non-personal use.

Yeah, But Does GDPR Apply to My Organization?

Because there are no national borders on the internet, EU residents (and everyone else) can easily access websites hosted in other countries. As such, the practical implication of GDPR is that it applies globally, no matter where your company or organization is legally headquartered.

If your website can be accessed by someone in the European Union — and if it’s up and running, it absolutely can be — then you should be paying attention. So, if you haven’t already, make sure your organization undertakes a review of how your site’s visitor data is collected, compiled and stored in Google Analytics (or, whichever platform you use).

What Does GDPR Impact?

There are three major areas of emphasis with GDPR: data collection management, data protection and visibility, and restrictions on data use.

The new regulations affecting data collection management require companies to get consent from consumers before collecting and storing their personal data. This means that when you visit your favorite online store, the retailer will have to ask you for explicit permission to track your shopping session and see what jeans you’re interested in buying. More than that, consumers have the choice to opt out or limit how their online behavior is tracked.

If you grant permission to track your shopping experience, or choose to share any other personal information — like your address and contact information when you sign up for a store rewards program, for example — the retailer has the responsibility of protecting that collected information from falling into the wrong hands. Not only that, because EU consumers have the right to request that their data be deleted, businesses have to know exactly where they store your personally identifiable consumer data in order to comply with any consumer requests.

In addition to requests to delete their data, under GDPR, consumers are enabled to exercise more granular control over what data is collected and how it is used. Consumers are empowered to rescind their data collection permission at any time they want. They can also request that your company turn over their data to a third-party or another retailer.

All of this means that, going forward, companies doing business online should have a sophisticated, flexible and responsive system of collecting and managing consumers’ personal data.

What Should I Be Doing?

To understand exactly what your company should be doing to accommodate these new consumer-centered protections, speak with your legal team. Your attorneys should be able to provide guidance tailored to your industry and circumstances.

If that entails a re-imagining of your data collection and management processes on your website, or through Google Analytics, give Beacon a call. We’ll be glad to walk you through the platform and recommend a course of action. Give our experts a shout at 866.964.5590.

17 07, 2018

Google Analytics: Understanding Your Audience

By | 2018-07-18T07:20:49+00:00 July 17th, 2018|Categories: Google Analytics, Higher Education, Web Development|Tags: , , , |

What Does the Data Tell You About Engagement?

The competition for students in higher education is fierce. With so many excellent options for undergraduate and graduate studies, colleges and universities spend a considerable amount of time and resources recruiting prospective students.

These efforts include email campaigns, mailers, deployment of recruiters to high school campuses, and many other marketing programs. But, one of the most effective tools in your recruiting arsenal is your website.

A higher education website has to be geared to many audiences and be able to accomplish a multitude of tasks — keep the campus informed about news and events, allow students to register and schedule classes, provide accurate parking information for visitor, and much much more. However, serving as a primary marketing vehicle for prospective students is one of the higher ed website’s main goals.

But, how do you know if your website is doing the intended job? Or, if it’s doing it well? How can you make sure that your visitors are engaging with your site and taking the actions you want them to take? Your website is not a grocery store. You can’t just follow someone around and see what they’re putting in their shopping cart.

Luckily, the digital nature of the internet allows you to track all sorts of interactions users engage in with your higher ed website. With a properly configured Google Analytics (GA) account, you can learn a lot about your target audiences — from how long they stayed on your site and how many pages they visited, to the geographic area from which they logged on and the device they used.

GA Device Analysis

One of the cooler things that GA can tell you is how many of your visitors use a desktop computer, a smartphone or a table device to access your website. Why is this important?

Not too long ago, device usage data was used to justify an investment in a responsive website design. A responsive design allows for a dynamic display of information based on the type of device you’re using to access the site and the size of your device’s screen. If you’re accessing the website from a smartphone, the elements of the webpage shift to accommodate mobile-friendly viewing. Logging on to the site from your desktop is often a richer user experience, due primarily to the advantage of a bigger screen.

Today, however, a responsive design is almost a must for a higher ed website — or, any website, really. With mobile devices set to overtake desktop devices as the preferred browsing tool sometime in the near future, many developers are recommending a responsive design as a default.

So, if justification for mobile-friendly sites is no longer necessary, what else is device tracking used for? Well, there’s a treasure trove of insights that can be discovered by tracking certain metrics along with device data.

You can compare the bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration data between desktop and mobile users to see if there’s a significant difference. If your bounce rate for mobile users is higher (as in the pictured example), it can be an indication that your site is not geared toward mobile users enough. That should lead you to audit the mobile experience on your site and make improvements to any discovered shortcomings.

GA Audience Analysis

What else can GA data tell you about your audiences? Setting up some custom tracking can help you segment your audiences, track their various click paths and evaluate conversion metrics.

There are certain pages on a higher education website that attract a specific audience. For example, the Admissions page is a good bet to be primarily used by prospective students and their parents. The Career Services page, on the other hand, is most likely to be accessed by current students. Enabling tracking on these landing pages allows you to track the different audiences and learn about their usage habit and interests.

You can also zero in on any problem pages from which a significant amount of users end up leaving the site. Fixing these pages could go a long way to improving the experience for all your users.

There are also some simpler factors that can help you better target your marketing efforts. The Demographics, Geo and Behavior tabs in your GA account allow you to track age and gender, geographic location, and repeat visits of your website users. This data provides a rich foundation for decision-making in several areas, including in what part of the country to spend your marketing dollars.

Beacon Knows Google Analytics

Want to know more about how your Google Analytics account can drive a more fine-tuned marketing program? Give our experts a call at 855.695.2408, we’d be glad to talk to your team.

13 02, 2018

The New Search Console: What You Need to Know

By | 2018-02-12T08:33:43+00:00 February 13th, 2018|Categories: SEO|Tags: , |

Google has released a beta version of a new Search Console experience to a limited number of users. Keeping up to date with new features is imperative for those who wish to adequately monitor indexing status and optimize the visibility of their websites.

The OLD Search Console

Google Search Console offers invaluable insight into how people are finding their websites. Search Console allows webmasters the opportunity to monitor and resolve technical website issues.

On average, Google changes its algorithm at least once a day. Granted, most of these updates are small and are geared towards weeding out spam and low quality content. However, recent updates have been more geared towards, featured snippets, job listings, chrome HTTPS warnings and more.

Due to the frequency of industry updates, Search Console needed a significant overhaul.

Get to Know the NEW Search Console

A short time ago, Google started a gradual roll out of the new version of Search Console. Scratch that. It isn’t just a new version. Search Console has been completely rebuilt from the ground up. This time ‘round, the report is purposefully focused on making it easier for users to identify and fix possible issues.

The most significant differences include Search Performance, Index Coverage, AMP Status, and (for those who post job listings on their site) a Job Posting report. Let’s briefly discuss each and the ways in which they can directly impact you and your website.

The New Search Console’s Index Coverage

The Index Coverage Report provides detailed information on who well Google is indexing the pages on your site.  Page status is reported in any of these four categories; “valid”, “error”, “warning”, and “informational/excluded”.  Here’s the best part. Google has done their best to present errors in a transparent way. Simply click on any URL listed with an error and you’ll be given links to the appropriate diagnostic tools to remedy the issue. And, the user can download or export the information should it require a deeper look.

Search Performance Report Gives You More

Similar to the previous Search Analytics report, the Search Performance report in the new Search Console shows you how often your site appears in search. But, now you get 16 months of data. Get info on clicks, click through rate, and average position.

New AMP Status report in Google Console

This too, is a report designed to help the webmaster identify and fix issues that relate to AMP pages. This report not only identifies URLs with issues, it’s a one-stop repair shop. It tells the user what’s wrong and lets you fix it.

BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE! You can test it, too. One can only assume that Google will be placing more and more weight behind AMP pages. They’re actively encouraging website owners to address AMP issues by making it extremely easy to do so.

More Emphasis on Job Postings

In the summer of 2017, Google launched Google for Jobs as well as new mark-up specifically for job postings. It’s fair to say that they see gold in them there hills. The emphasis on job postings continues with the Job Postings report. Not only can one check to verify that job postings are indexed correctly, but data is available on your job listing results, too.

In Conclusion

Google has continued to work towards their goal of producing the best user experience – period. Thanks to Google’s updates to Search Console, webmasters can stay on top of these changes to align their online strategy with Google’s core values.

 

15 01, 2018

Mobile-First Indexing & the Rear View Mirror

By | 2018-01-18T12:26:17+00:00 January 15th, 2018|Categories: SEO|Tags: , , |

Google is all about improving the user experience.  Lately, that means adapting to the changing methods through which users consume online information. In other words, Google will be moving towards mobile-first indexing.

What does it mean for your online business? What do you need to do – if anything – to ensure that you’re out in front of this change? So that you don’t get caught in the competition’s rear view mirror, let’s discuss what’s meant by the term “mobile-first indexing” and the ways in which we can address it head on.

What is mobile-first indexing, exactly?

Up until now, Google had indexed pages with a nod toward desktop first. Going forward, your rankings will be based upon the mobile version of your site first and foremost. Don’t confuse this with a mobile-only index. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’ll still rank. However, your rankings may be adversely affected by the change. Conversely, those who present a rich, improved mobile experience, will likely see better rankings for mobile as well as desktop versions of their website.

 How quickly will mobile-first indexing be implemented?

We’re told that Google will roll this change out very slowly. This stands to reason as no one wants to see a seismic shift of any kind in the online business landscape. And, if your customers’ mobile experience is similar to that of desktop (for example, you’re already responsive), you probably won’t have to do much  to ensure that you’re ready for the change.

However, things can move faster than originally anticipated. And, with every change comes opportunity. Even if you’ve got a responsive site and you’re ranking well for primary keywords, this is a great time to check the elements that will affect your rankings once Google shifts its focus more towards mobile.

If you’ve been maintaining two sites, one for mobile and one for desktop, you may wish to consider a website redesign – a move to a single, responsive website. If this is beyond your budgetary capabilities, all is not lost. Step one is to make sure that content is consistent on both desktop and mobile versions of the site. Verify that the mobile version is crawl-able and includes the required alt tags for images. Some of the more significant things you’ll want to check include:

  • XML sitemap.: Make sure sitemaps and robots.txt files have accessible links.
  • Structured data markup on mobile and desktop.: Make sure they’re the same.
  • Metadata: Check to see that both versions are roughly the same. They don’t have to be identical, however they shouldn’t deviate in meaning.

These are just a few of the items you’ll want to address. Your best bet is to contact your digital marketing people and let them know of your concerns. They’ll know what to do. If they’re unsure, call us. We can help.

It is believed that Google will roll out this new mobile-first indexing over a period of years, not weeks or months. No need to be alarmed. However, now is the time to plan for mobile-first indexing. After all, objects may be closer than they appear.

 

13 09, 2017

Improve Your Site Search with These SEO Principles

By | 2017-09-01T09:55:13+00:00 September 13th, 2017|Categories: SEO|Tags: , |

While just about every e-commerce website I’ve worked with optimizes for Google search, it amazes me how many underestimate the value of effective internal site search. If you’re not dedicating some effort to improving your internal search, you’re losing business.

Conversions aren’t the only thing impacted by a properly optimized site search (although it certainly is the most important). Internal site search can provide clues that have implications across the board and help you effectively manage your bricks-and-mortar business, too.

Here’s a short list of SEO principles that, if employed, will help you get the most from your internal site search (and boost conversions!):

Set up site search tracking in Google Analytics. It’s simple and you can do this right inside your current Google Analytics account.

Step One: You need to determine the query parameter your site search is using. Simply perform a search, any search, on your site. Look at the URl of the results page and identify the designation immediately following the question mark. For the example below, I went to a popular outdoor clothing and equipment site and did so.

As you can see, it’s a “q” in this case.

search-query-parameters

Step Two: Go into your Google Analytics account and click Admin, View Settings and scroll to Site Search Settings.

google analytics search query parameters

Step Three: Under the heading Site Search Tracking, simply click the slider to the “on” position. Look for the heading Query parameter and add the character that designates a search in your URl. In this example, it was “q”. Click the Strip query parameters out of URl button and save.

This will enable you to view the terms visitors searched on your site within Google Analytics.

Add often searched query terms to your keyword research. Once you know what people are searching while on your website, you’ll not only gain insight into ways to optimize your search terms for products and/or categories but you’ll get great ideas for new products.

NoIndex your search result pages. If someone performs a generic Google search hoping for a quick answer and lands on your internal search page instead, it may not result in a good experience. Google thinks it is less likely to. That being the case, it makes sense to block them.

Never display “No Results Found”. It serves no useful purpose to you or the user. If the item they’re searching for is out of stock, consider displaying related products. If the term is completely unrelated to any of your products, serve up a list of your best selling items with a blurb that reads “We couldn’t find the item you’re looking for. Perhaps you’re interested in one of the best sellers below.”

Don’t pass up a chance to ask for a sale. Proper use and optimization of your internal site search has been done to dramatically improve, even double in some cases, conversions. A designated Google Analytics Partner since 1998, the digital marketing team at Beacon has a wealth of knowledge regarding internal site search and ways in which it can be leveraged to improve your bottom line. Questions? Email me or call a Beacon team member at 1.866.585.6350. We’re ready to discuss ways in which we can help y make your online business more profitable than ever before.

3 08, 2017

Redesign Tips: Make Sure Google Analytics is in Tip-Top Shape!

By | 2017-08-04T10:36:57+00:00 August 3rd, 2017|Categories: Google Analytics|Tags: , , |

With your upcoming redesign, you’ll be addressing new priorities and objectives. This will require you to rethink the ways in which you’re tracking various goals and events. You may even need to update to the latest GA tracking code type if you’re not already using it.

Google Analytics needs to be addressed from the earliest planning phase. If not, things could get ugly but quick. If you don’t have a sound Google Analytics plan in place before you re-launch, you may experience a tracking lapse and lose valuable data.

Even with the best planning, it can be easy to forget small but important details. And since I’d hate to see things go south on you, I’d like to share some tips to help ensure that your redesign goes off without data related hitch. So, here goes….

Tip #1: Assess your objectives and tracking needs.

There is no more important step than knowing what you need to track (and why). Without a tracking strategy, you can check off the rest of the items on your list and still end up with sub-par analytics. Relate website analytics to the business objectives, and allow that to drive the tracking strategy.

For many Higher Ed clients with whom we work, this means gaining a clear understanding of objectives per audience type. While prospective students are typically the most critical audience, you cannot forget to account for current students, alumni, etc.

In the world of eCommerce, the tracking strategy involves taking a look at what happens that might or might not lead to a purchase. Are the calls-to-action effective? Is the product page template driving people to add to cart and buy? The tracking must help answer such questions.

Tip #2: Create a reference of all potential tracking elements.

This is not just a simple list of what you wish to track. Rather, it is a helpful planning tool (which can also be utilized any time that tracking updates are needed). This document should help answer question such as:

  • What should be tracked as an event? Virtual pageview? Goal?
  • For which interactions will you need a custom dimension?
  • What page elements are tied to each tracking element?

If there are multiple people involved in the project including web developers, this reference document helps get everyone on the same page.

Tip #3: Use Google Tag Manager for all tracking elements.

Anyone involved in a redesign knows that web developers never have enough available time. Google Tag Manager can greatly reduce the need for web development resources and make the digital analyst’s time more efficient. In a 2016 Beacon survey, we found that two-thirds of higher education institutions were using Google Tag Manager. Based on our projects over the past 12 months, that percentage is growing rapidly.

The best aspect of implementing Google Analytics for redesign through Google Tag Manager is the independence gained by not having to submit updates to the web development team. Sync up with the redesign launch’s timing so that you can make necessary changes for the live site.

Tip #4: Utilize goals, site search, etc.

Believe it or not, we have come across quite a few websites that under-utilize these features (or are not using them at all!). Imagine not having any site search data. How would you know which content is difficult for your users to find? And what if you had no goals and were guessing at your website’s effectiveness?

These all need to be configured when building out the tracking for the redesign test environment. That allows for time to test and validate these tracking features before the redesigned site goes live. Speaking of testing and validating…

Tip #5: Test and validate all of your tracking!

The live site is not meant for testing. You are dealing with a new site that has new tracking elements. While the designers and developers are putting the finishing touches on the redesigned site, utilize the reference document to test and validate all tracking that you have implemented in Google Tag Manager. This gives ample time for you to make any necessary updates and retest.

Once the website is launched, you will need to repeat the same exercises from the pre-launch testing and validation. During both pre and post-launch, the Real-Time reporting in Google Analytics can help with pageview, event, and goal tracking. Also, be sure to check for session continuity during your testing. For the rest of your tracking instances (and to double-check behind Real-Time reporting) utilize the many standard reports provided in your Google Analytics view.

A Final Tip

Start with a Google Analytics audit. I encourage you to reach out to a Beacon team member at 1.888.995.7672 with any inquiries. Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding your website redesign and proper Google Analytics set up. And once your new site is live and information is flowing with no interruption, there is one thing you simply must do. Walk across the street to your nearest watering hole and have a congratulatory drink for a job well done.

19 06, 2017

19 Engagements on an eCommerce Site You Should be Tracking

By | 2017-08-07T16:07:54+00:00 June 19th, 2017|Categories: Google Analytics|Tags: , , |

For our client Soffe, we completed a Google Analytics Migration from the old classic GA code to the new Universal set up through Tag Manager. With this upgrade Soffe went from having very little engagement data (event tracking, virtual pageviews, goals and ecommerce info) for their eCommerce site to now having lots of great information that they can use to continue to improve their site and learn about their customer behavior. Not only are they now able to use all the great features in GA that is offered with the Universal Code but they also have been upgraded to enhanced eCommerce.

I wanted to use them as the example of engagement areas on an eCommerce site that you should be tracking if you are not already. So here are some areas you should be tracking.

Engagements to Track on an eCommerce Site

  • Contact Interactions:

o   Phone calls

o   Chats

o   Contact form submissions

o   Email address clicks

  • Cart Page Interactions:

o   Deleting a product

o   Applying a coupon code

o   Getting a shipping a quote

o   Paypal checkout

o   Move to wishlist

o   Update Cart

  • Product Detail Page Interactions:

o   Add to cart

o   Add to wishlist

o   Social Sharing

o   Review submissions

o   Size Chart Views

  • Other Interactions:

o   Email Sign Up

o   Video Views

o   Outbound Links

o   Account Logins/Creations

As mentioned before, these are just a few engagements on Soffe.com that we tracked. If I shared the full list with you, it would be super long. With that said though, there are many areas of an eCommerce site that should be tracked and if your GA set up is missing areas of engagement on your site, then give us a call!  We can help set up your site to be fully tracked in Google Analytics.

Not sure if you’re site is set up well or is missing some areas of tracking? Request a FREE assessment.

 

 

12 06, 2017

New Variable Configuration in Tag Manager

By | 2017-06-06T12:05:15+00:00 June 12th, 2017|Categories: Google Analytics|Tags: , |

If you’ve been using Tag Manger, you probably know how easy it is to forget about setting certain fields in each of your Tags, such as Cookie domain, cross domain tracking, etc. We’ve run into a couple instances of companies that have set up Tag Manager Tags for their websites and forgot to set all the proper settings in their tags. For one company in particular this caused their GA to show a large amount of self-referrals because their subdomains were not tracking properly. Luckily, that shouldn’t be an issue anymore for anyone using Tag Manager. Why you might be asking? It’s because now you have the ability to set up a Variable Configuration which can be used across all of your tags and contain the settings that need to always be in place to keep your website tracking properly.

This new Variable Configuration is called Google Analytics Settings.

variable configuration settings for tag manager

Within this variable configuration you can set up things like – cookie domain, cross domain tracking, ecommerce tracking, content groups, etc. Before this new variable configuration, you had to manually set these up in every.single.tag. Now you can set it up here, then use it when you set up new tags.

tag settings

Of course, if for some reason you don’t want to use it or shouldn’t, then you can always select the box to override the settings. When you do that, you’ll have to manually set up whatever fields you need though.

So tell me, have you used this new variable configuration for tag manager yet? Do you think it makes it easier to make sure all the proper settings are in place for each of your tags?

6 06, 2017

Don’t Forget about Google Analytics when Redesigning Your Website

By | 2017-06-06T10:52:29+00:00 June 6th, 2017|Categories: Google Analytics|Tags: , |

Are you planning to redesign your website soon? Have you already laid out the changes you want to make and have a timeline in place for getting the redesigned completed and launched? Is Google Analytics tracking code migration a task that is on your redesign list? If you answered yes, then I can tell website tracking is important to you. If you answered no, then you could be making a HUGE mistake and causing your team undue stress!! So this post is for you and I highly recommend you read on.

Make It A Priority

We have worked with many clients here at Beacon who have redesigned their sites. Some have worked with our development team and others have their own team. In house, Google analytics code migrations are always accounted for and known as a TOP PRIORITY before a site goes live. However, when we’ve worked with outside companies for development we’ve run into many instances where Google Analytics is a last thought. I’m actually working on site redesign right now where I get constant updates on when the site is planning to be launched live and yet the tag manager code hasn’t even been added to the site nor is eCommerce tracking in place. Despite sending numerous emails and having multiple phone calls, it just doesn’t seem Google Analytics tracking is a priority for the development team working on the site nor the PM managing all of the agencies. In all honesty, I’m very worried this site will be launched with no code in place or launched with the code in place but give me no time to get everything set up and tested before the site goes live. Either scenario is not good, which is why I wanted to write this post.

In a perfect world, all codes for GA (such as Tag manager container scripts, data layers, etc) would be added in the test environment so that GA can be fully set up and tested before the site goes live. Then when the site is ready to be pushed live, you switch out the UA ID variable, hit publish and you’re done.

What Can Go Wrong

In a not so perfect world, if the codes are added to the site after the site goes live it could potentially cause issues with codes conflicting, loss of tracking for a period of time and other problems. Let me share with you some examples of issues we’ve seen:

  • We’ve had GA codes conflict with other codes on a page which has caused pages to break.
  • We’ve seen checkout break due to codes conflicting. This is a BIG Problem for eCommerce site not just because people can’t check out and they are losing revenue now but they also could losing a lifetime customer.
  • We’ve seen websites go live with no tracking and therefore no visits were tracked for days which in turn messes up YOY data and keeps you from seeing if the site has any potential issues with SEO or usage.

While these might sound like easy fixes, they have not been. Which is why I would highly recommend making GA Code Migration an important step in your website redesign. Whether you’re in the midst of a redesign or just considering it, now is the perfect time to add Tag Manager to your site and move away from hard-coding GA. If you don’t have a large complicated site, then it takes no time for a developer to add the container code and any data layers needed for tracking. It’s much faster than adding hard-coded snippets to different elements on a site.

Start Planning Now

So with that said, don’t let GA tracking be an afterthought in your redesign process. Don’t let it fall through the cracks and miss out on tracking visits and engagements on your new site. Talk about it when you first start meeting to layout the redesign process. Make sure you have a GA specialist in your meetings who can tell you what codes to add, when to add them and get it tested before you push your new site live.

I promise you, making sure the code is in place and working correctly before a site goes live, keeps you and your development team sane and saves everyone from many headaches and the potential for lots of stress if it’s added afterwards.

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