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The Ultimate “New World” Guide To Google Analytics + Google Tag Manager For Direct Response Marketers

If you’ve been in direct response marketing more than 5 minutes, you know tracking is the key to success.  You know how to set up goal tracking, funnel visualizations, and UTM links so I’m not going to focus on them.

The purpose of this guide is to make sure you’re aware of the seismic shift that’s taking place in the “new” online marketing world and understand where the cream of the crop media buyers separate themselves from the pack.

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I’m going to let you in on a little secret; the best media buyers in the world don’t get to the top because of super special skills with media buying (I’m referring to pushing the buttons on an ad network).

They have access to the same platforms, the same traffic, and the same talent as you.  In regards to Analytics, they set up their goals, funnels, and UTM tags the same way, too.

The difference is the best of the best find a way to consistently solve problems and improve performance for their clients.  They don’t say “I’ll run the traffic, you make the sales,” they partner with their clients to improve the BUSINESS while optimizing & scaling their campaigns.

And they need DATA to do this.

Now you may be saying to yourself “I know my CTRs, CPCs, and CVRs so I’m data driven”...that’s not what I’m talking about.

Every media buyer BETTER know those numbers and the levers they can pull to change them...but to reach the pinnacle of the profession, you need to IMPROVE THE ENTIRE BUSINESS.

In a world where ad prices are rising and robo-agencies are providing media buying for a fraction of the price, you need to provide value above and beyond driving clicks….and that’s what this guide is all about.

The key to adding extra value to your clients is collecting as much data as possible, extracting insights from it, and telling them how it can be utilized to tweak their funnel AND use it on the ad networks.

This process has allowed me to build a business I love improving companies’ acquisition efforts and NEVER making sales calls (all referral business)...and it can do the same for you.

Chapter 1 - Clean Data Is A Must

Before you can make any game-changing recommendations you need to ensure that you are receiving the cleanest, most trustworthy data possible.

Most media buyers think the information they’re getting in their analytics accounts is clean and trustworthy by nature...but it’s not, and there’s 3 main reasons why:

Losing sales data to referrals like these--.png

  1. Frankenstein Websites: With the rise of the SaaS industry, there are now more third party tools available than ever to quickly build an online business:

    Ecommerce tools like Shopify for your physical products, marketing software like Leadpages and Clickfunnels, event booking sites like Eventbrite and course hosting software like Thinkific make business owner lives easier.

    Unfortunately, these third party tools cause a huge headache when it comes to getting clean data because they are COOKIE MONSTERS.

    Cookies are the tool we use to track individuals across our businesses.  They store information about WHERE the visitor came from and what they did on the site...which we use to analyze the traffic sources are producing the most conversions & scale our campaigns.

    The issue with third party tools is two-fold:
    1. First, depending on which plan you bought, your cookies need to be passed via subdomain or cross-domain tracking...and LOTS of companies don’t have this setup which means cookies get lost and that important user data along with it.

    2. Second, even if the cookies ARE being passed correctly, most companies end up seeing referrals from these tools rather than the marketing sources they came from.

      In conclusion, in order to effectively utilize third party tools, you need to take the bite out of the cookie monsters.

  2. Improper Deployment - The trick with analytics platforms is that they can fool you into thinking everything is setup correctly because data is flowing through.  In the Google Tag Manager era, this is even more true because a GA pixel can be deployed on all pages with the click of a button... but looks can be deceiving.

    Your deployment needs to not only put your pixels on each piece BUT ALSO be setup to correctly pass your cookies back and forth between pieces.  This requires customization on your deployment so the generic “UA Tag - All Pages” won’t get the job done.

  3. Removing Ghost & Bot Traffic - The final obstacle to clean data is eliminating as much “spam” traffic from your analysis as possible.  In order to truly understand how humans are behaving on your site, it’s vital to make sure you are only evaluating the behavior of actual PEOPLE...and this is something that slips through the cracks of MOST of the analytics accounts you’ll encounter.

Before you can trust ANY data you’re seeing from an account, you need to take care of these issues because you need trustworthy data.

You don’t get to the top of the heap by playing it safe, sometimes you need to put your reputation on the line...and to do that, you need certainty that the data you're basing your argument on is correct.

I recently put my butt on the line with a client asserting that we needed to alter a few pieces of the funnel to get to the economics he wanted.

That WAS NOT a comfortable conversation as he felt I was attacking a funnel he built AND was working (the hardest business to change is a successful one).

Thanks to having confidence in my data, I stood my ground and said this would work.

I was under the microscope for a month...but then we beat the previous monthly sales record by 50%.  And it's all thanks to clean data.

Chapter 2 - Master The Area Between Conversions

Online ad costs are on the rise and they aren’t going down anytime soon.  

There’s only so many levers you can pull to get your click/visit costs down so you better be a stud at helping clients improve their funnels...and that’s where analytics come in.

Most analytics conversations focus on conversions, conversion rate, and the traffic sources that brought them...but these are FACTS.  What you need is CLUES as to what can IMPROVE these numbers.

The cream of the crop gather as much information BETWEEN conversions to better understand which actions are causing buyers to buy.

Event Flow.png

They look at visitor behavior to understand where people are getting hung up and provide recommendations to remove those bottlenecks and have a “funnel breakthrough.”

In the old days, this required lots of manual implementation to send Google Analytics event data into the account for analysis.  This meant you HAD to have a developer to implement this stuff and a new version of the site had to be pushed to get the functionality.

Well, Google Tag Manager changed that game.

Now it’s possible to use GTM to implement all kinds of event tracking scripts on your site extremely quickly and efficiently with no coding ability required.  

Companies like LunaMetrics have created libraries of free GTM “recipes” to help us coding-illiterates get the functionality we need without ever learning a single line of Javascript.

Now you have the ability to see the percentage of a video viewed, the amount of time a visitor was truly active on your site, which buttons they clicked on AND HOW EACH ACTION CORRELATED TO CONVERSION RATE.

Scaling Ideas.png

By gathering this type of information, you can show your clients how the content at the 2 minute mark of their VSL is strongly correlated to conversion and suggest testing a version that moved up the information.

This gives you an opportunity effect the FUNNEL RATIOs which is becoming THE MOST IMPORTANT SKILL A MEDIA BUYER CAN HAVE.

Yes, you need to understand how to plan and buy media but the road to profitability ISN’T through cheap clicks...it’s through more efficient and profitable businesses.

Heros are the acquisition experts who reduce cost to acquire a customer, LEGENDS are the people who help a company generate EXPONTENTIALLY MORE.

GTM will help you send the event data, GA will help you collect it...it’s up to you to pull out useful insights to make a difference to your clients.

Which is what we'll talk about in chapter 3.

Chapter 3 - Extracting Insights To Scale

Lots of people ask, "Why should I use GA when there’s tools like Improvely & ClickMagick out there?" ...GREAT QUESTION.

These tools do a better job of gathering information about your individual users (using Personally Identifiable Information) and specialize in the work of internet and affiliate marketers...so WHY GA?

And the answer is simple...GA makes scaling easier.

Google Analytics is an amazing tool because it allows you to tap into the massive data stores Google collects all-day, every-day.  Google sees what people are searching for, what websites they’re visiting, what videos they’re watching, and even their buying behaviors.

Scaling Ideas.png

What Google Analytics can do that other analytics platforms CAN’T is provide insights into common threads between your customers….and THAT is the key to scaling.

Anybody can find success with search campaigns and niche audiences...the real challenges comes when you have to move outside of the “pull marketing” realm and into “push marketing.”

You need to be able to identify bigger audiences that have unconscious interest in your offering so you can increase your sales volume while staying below your blended CPA target.

Google Analytics provides insights into the affinities and current priorities of your converters to help you reach more people like them.

In conclusion, other tools can help you with tracking and trimming DOWN, but GA is the only one that gives you solid data-backed ideas for scaling UP.

But when you start going after broader targeting, you need to get your Campaigns dialed in QUICKLY (or you'll waste a lot of money) and that's exactly what chapter 4 is all about.

Chapter 4 - Optimizing With Pre-Sale Conversions

Ad network algorithms are a media buyer’s best friend because they help us optimize our campaigns without having to manually push a lot of buttons....but no matter how smart they are, they still require data to optimize.

Average Joes put their pixels at all of the post-sale purchase points and hope the funnel converts well enough to accumulate sales data quickly.  I call this “Hope and Prayer” marketing.

The Best of The Best, however, don’t allow luck to play any role in the process.

Average Joes vs Best Of Best.png

They use pre-sale & post-sale optimization points to create what I refer to as a “pixel funnel” to help their ad networks learn what quality traffic is QUICKLY while their sales data accumulates.

They use Google Tag Manager to send event data into GA and determine the correlation between a particular event and conversions (see Chapter 2).  Once they determine which action are “money events” they fire their advertising pixels every time those events appear in the dataLayer.

This allows them to guide their advertising networks through the optimization process WHILE they tweak their funnels and increase their revenue.

Example:
If you know that 4% of your website visitors end up buying, optimizing to clicks or sales page views means you’ll be telling your ad network that 1 out of 25 is acceptable...but you can do better.

For instance, you may find that 1 out of 6 people who watch 50% of your VSL convert while 1 out of 3 people who watch 75% of your VSL convert.

By using the amazing power of Google Tag Manager and the dataLayer to fire advertising pixels, you can optimize your campaigns to focus on website visitors who complete actions 4 & 8 times more valuable (respectively) than a simple site visit.

What This Does For You:

While your competition is out there hoping and praying that their clients’ funnels convert well enough for them to make money, you’re the one steering the ship.

You’ve given the ad networks all the data it can handle to get analyze all of the traffic at its fingertips and put your ads in front of the people most likely to convert.

I’ve found using pixel funnels can speed up my optimization time by nearly 30% ...but that’s not the only perk.

I’ve also helped my clients see which actions are the best indicators of success and actually CHANGE THEIR FUNNELS to improve their results.  

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"While others just wing it, John is a master at using data to scale a business. 
How do I know?

John has taken our business from a high six figure business to soon to be a multiple million dollar business much quicker than I could have imagined by his use of data and paid media."

David Dutton
Co founder of ReplaceYourMortgage.com
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Now I’m not just a media buyer, I’m a trusted business partner and know I’m not going to be replaced by someone who will buy ads for less...because I’m helping them create BETTER RESULTS.

I’d imagine this guide wasn’t like any Google Analytics or GTM guide you’ve ever seen and there’s a very specific reason for that...this is how these tools are used for MEDIA BUYING.

Your job is NOT to be an GA or GTM master, you need to be a Conversion Tracking Master...because you don’t get paid to pull reports, you get paid to produce results.

These are the tools the “new age” of media buyers utilize to generate better results for their businesses.

They do everything required to gather & analyze the data and figure out HOW TO USE IT to improve both their clients’ funnels and their campaigns.

If you’d like some more guidance in getting all of these techniques implemented correctly and understand how to utilize them, I created Conversion Tracking Masters to walk you through all of the steps.