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Google Delays Chrome’s Cookie-Blocking for 2 Years

By Analytics, Insights & News, Privacy, SEO No Comments

Google announced the company is delaying its plans to block third-party cookies until late 2023 as it reconciles the challenge of protecting user privacy while still enabling advertisers to deliver personalized ads.

Chrome’s Engineering Director Vinay Goel said in a blog post:

We need to move at a responsible pace, allowing sufficient time for public discussion on the right solutions and for publishers and the advertising industry to migrate their services. This is important to avoid jeopardizing the business models of many web publishers which support freely available content.”

One part of Google’s rationale for pushing back its plan is centered around concerns that blocking cookies now might encourage tracking companies to use more controversial tactics like fingerprinting to gather browser configuration details.

Meanwhile, the company has faced backlash around both its use of cookies across the web and its plans to block them. In fact, earlier this week, the European Union said it is investigating Google’s plan to remove cookies as part of a wide-ranging inquiry into allegations that Google has abused its prominent role in advertising technology.

And, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google has separately pledged to give the U.K.’s competition watchdog at least 60 days’ notice before removing cookies to review and potentially impose changes to its plan, as part of an offer to settle a similar investigation. That probe stemmed from complaints that Chrome’s removal of cookies would give an advantage to ads on Google’s own products, like YouTube or Search, where Google will still be able to do individual-level targeting.

In the U.S., Google’s cookie-replacement plan was raised in a December antitrust lawsuit against the company brought by Texas and nine other U.S. states.

Google has been testing several new tools to replace various functions of third-party cookies, as part of what it calls a privacy sandbox. The first such replacement technology, dubbed federated learning of cohorts, or Floc, is intended to allow advertisers to target cohorts of users with similar interests, rather than individuals, in order to protect their privacy.

Acronym’s SVP of Performance Media, Gregg Manias reacted to the news:

“I’m not really shocked by this, we have seen over time that privacy search engines like Duck Duck Go blocked it, then we saw large publishers like New York times block it, then we saw competitor browsers like Firefox block it, I think the death of this plan by Google was last week when Amazon blocked FlOC right before prime day.”

Google, of course, plays a central role in the online advertising ecosystem as the company owns the dominant tools used to broker the sale of ads across the web. Cookies, small bits of code stored in web browsers to track users across the web, are widely used in the industry, including in Google’s Chrome browser, which has 65% of the market globally.

Acronym’s EVP of Analytics, Stephanie Hart added:

“Google needs a way to provide advertisers with the ability to target users and it doesn’t seem that the current version of FLOC is it. Google is having a difficult time balancing the demand from regulators and users for privacy against the need for revenue. The market will continue to evolve as Google develops solutions to this dilemma.”

Meanwhile, as the Search giant seeks to find a resolution, Acronym’s SVP of SEO, Winston Burton recently shared some of the other ways marketers can capture customer information through permission-based tactics, including content which, when done right, captures users’ interest at every stage of the funnel.

Google said it expects to complete testing of all of its new cookie-replacement technologies, and integrate them into Chrome before late 2022. Then the advertising industry will have a nine-month period to migrate their services, during which time Google will monitor adoption and feedback. The final phaseout of cookies will happen over three months in late 2023, the company said, adding that it will publish a more detailed timeline.

In the meantime, if you need assistance planning for these changes, please contact us. Our experts can help you navigate these ever-changing waters so you deliver the personalized experiences your customers expect in a way that still respects their right to privacy.

The Potential Impact of Google Allowing Users to Opt-Out of Tracking

By Analytics, Content Marketing, Web Analytics No Comments

Ahead of an upcoming developer conference, Google announced it will let Android users opt out of being tracked by the apps they download from the Google Play Store. 

This move mirrors Apple’s roll-out of iOS 14, which gave consumers the option to opt out of tracking via the IDFA, or device identifier that tracks consumer behavior across apps. 

According to the announcement, this will be launched via a Google Play services update in “late 2021.” 

Why is this important?  

Since Apple’s iOS 14 announcement in 2020, advertisers have been waiting to hear how Google will respond to its competitor. With all three major smartphone players (iPhone, Android & Samsung) using either the Google Play Store or Apple Store, this means nearly all social media app users will have the option to disable tracking.  

Considering that more than half of all worldwide web traffic so far this year was generated via mobile devices, the option to disable tracking will significantly impact first-party data.  

What is the impact on brands? 

This update will further decrease audience size, bringing higher CPMs and less qualified targeting via website data, in the same way Apple’s iOS 14 does. However, the severity of this decrease will depend upon whether this switch will be automatically pushed to users, or if this switch is simply an option users will have to manually turn off in settings. 

What action should brands take? 

First party data will be the name of the game in this privacy-first era. We recommend brands continue to find ways to leverage and foster first-party audiences, whether by creating a newsletter that requires email, a Facebook Store where shoppers interact, or leveraging video ads that can track people who watch most of the video or engage with your ad. 

If you’d like help identifying the best approach for your brand and your specific audience, please contact us. Our experts are available to help.

 

POV by Acronym’s Paid Media Team

Acronym’s Adobe Analytics Rockstars Take the Stage

By Analytics No Comments

As American Idol prepares to move to ABC next year, Adobe is auditioning rockstars for its own Analytics-themed version, which will take place during Adobe Summit 2018.

Analytics Idol should be familiar to Summit attendees, but this so-called pre-conference Analytics Rockstar Tour is new – and kicked off this week in New York with Acronym’s chief analytics officer, David Sprinkle, and director of analytics, Janelle Olmer, on stage.

The tour continued in Chicago on October 19 and it will be in San Francisco on November 1 before the finalists are determined. They will present their tips for a final face-off in Las Vegas in March.

Adobe calls Analytics Idol a “fun, fast-paced and informative session where Adobe Analytics users help their peers become rockstars by sharing their top tips and tricks.”

Olmer said Adobe asked Acronym to contribute tips based on work it has done with clients to leverage data to solve business questions.

Sprinkle and Olmer were invited to present after Adobe screened their tips based on “how innovative, practical, and valuable they [were] as well as how broadly they could be used by analysts at other companies in different industries,” Adobe said.

“We’re looking for tips that would help your analytics peers uncover new and deeper insights or perform their daily tasks more efficiently or effectively,” Adobe added.

Acronym’s tips included how to enable accurate reporting in any local currency using only a few new events, as well as how to determine the drop-off rate for online form errors.

“We were selected to participate when Acronym was recognized for outstanding use of Adobe Analytics and applying the tool in creative ways to solve business challenges,” Olmer said.

And, when voting was final in New York, Acronym’s rockstars came in second.

“A lot of what we presented was taking features that have been available in Adobe for a long time and using them alongside stuff that is new,” Olmer said. “Clients who are maximizing the value of Adobe Analytics are the ones who can leverage not just the new stuff, but also the old stuff. And, for clients, it’s important to have a partner who knows it all and is up to date. Adobe is making changes every month that can impact where you can be more effective with tracking and reporting.”

And, luckily for Acronym clients, Olmer, Sprinkle and the rest of the analytics team are always on top of these changes and ready to innovate.

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You Ask, We Answer: Introducing the Analytics Mailbag

By Web Analytics No Comments

Blogs are a funny thing. We write whatever we want, whenever we want, however we want – to an audience we’ve often never met. It’s almost as if we just assume people want to hear what we have to say. So what’s the funny part? People actually do listen. Oh, and they talk back too.

So now it’s time to bring you – the reader– to the forefront. Drumroll please…introducing the Analytics Mailbag! Send us your best analytics-related questions, problems and war stories – we want to hear what you have to say. And every so often, we’ll tackle your toughest (or maybe just most entertaining) questions and comments, right here on the Be Brilliant blog. What better way to talk about what matters most to you?

Anyway, let’s hit the mailbag, shall we? For this first issue, we’ve gathered some of the analytics questions we get asked most often. Here we go…

I just started using a web analytics tool. When can I expect to see results?
Wait just a second there. Having a powerful tool is great, but unless it’s a) implemented correctly and b) customized to your specific organization, you shouldn’t expect the world in terms of actionable information. Capturing the right data – and turning that data into usable insights – requires expert analysts who can turn out-of-the-box tools and data into meaningful solutions.

And remember, analytics is all about the “So What?” Tools are great, data is wonderful, but at the end of the day, it comes down to your ability to glean actionable insights and apply it to your business. That said, if your tool has been set up with your marketing goals in mind, and completely implemented correctly, you should have enough data in 30 to 90 days to make some basic recommendations. Trending data takes longer – maybe four to six months. But even then, interpret with care, especially if you have a highly seasonal business.

Smart analytics isn’t just about having the best tool; you want to be wiser, not richer.

So web analytics isn’t all about having the right tool?
Remember this ratio: Invest 20% in a tool…and 80% in someone who knows how to use it and can deliver actionable results. Smart analytics isn’t just about having the latest and greatest tool; you want to be wiser, not just richer. Bottom line: Tools + People = Insight.

What’s the most important metric? Traffic? Revenue?
Trick question! Rather that hone in on a single metric, try to take more of a holistic view that encompasses multiple goalpost and data sources. This includes your “soft” conversion points too. Submission of a lead gen form, video views, white paper downloads, engagement with click-to-chat features – these are great indicators of how well your site is engaging with people.

What are the main differences between B2C analytics and B2B analytics?
B2B analytics presents a host of unique challenges. For example, in B2B, longer sales cycles with multiple touch points can make attribution difficult. Add in the fact that a lot of B2B sales are closed offline, and it becomes even harder to tie back money in your pocket to online efforts.

This is another perfect example of why you can’t just rely on a tool to solve all of your web analytics needs. A lot of tools are geared more towards the B2C realm, meaning it’s crucial that you have the right people setting up your analytics solution and deciphering the data for the best insights.

At the same time, there are also a lot of similarities between the B2C and B2C realms. After all, the ultimate goal of a website – in both B2B and B2C – is to help users complete their mission, whatever that desired action may be.

Okay, one more question on metrics. I’ve heard you say people should stop paying attention to their “Top 10s” metric. Really?

Look at your biggest movers to spot trends before they really emerge.

My favorite rave: Stop looking at Top 10s because they don’t tell you anything! Top 10s never change. It’s like the medal count at the Olympics; chances are China and the US are going to come out on top. Instead, look at your top movers – the pages/products/keywords that have experienced the greatest amount of change in a given timeframe. That’s where you’re going to find the big trends – before they really get going! – even when they occur outside of your normal focus area.

Any other major traps to avoid? 

Two things:

Get your implementation right. We’re not kidding. The amount of million-dollar implementations we see that are truly, truly terrible is astounding. Why pay all that money for a tool if you’re only going to use it for counting visits?

Don’t use stats like a drunk man uses a lamppost – for support, rather than illumination (from Mark Twain, not me!). You really do have to develop thick skin. It might hurt, but don’t be afraid to use web analytics as a mirror for revealing what needs to improve.

Lastly, how do I maximize the value of my web analytics investment?
Think of web analytics as a three-step recipe: Implement. Optimize. Capitalize.

Like we’ve said before, start with the best, most accurate implementation you can possibly find. Then, test, test, test – optimize with both A/B and multivariate testing to achieve measurable improvements in performance. Lastly, capitalize on your investment with savvy analysts who can turn data into action. And when in doubt, remember that analytics isn’t something you “set and forget.” It requires ongoing governance and care, so for the best results, schedule regular audits to ensure your data is as accurate as possible.

Again, let us know what’s going on in your analytics world. Whether it’s a question you have, lesson you’ve learned or story that just has to be shared, just fill out the form below or email kwd at acronym.com to get into the mailbag.

Till next time!

Landing Page Testing: Bounce Rate Isn’t Your Only Friend

By Web Analytics No Comments

Optimized landing pages are a critical component of analytics. After all, there’s nothing more annoying for customers than searching for a specific product only to be directed to a homepage that has nothing to do with their search term. So, why not improve the user experience and tailor content to their needs?

Help your customers find exactly what they are looking for in as little time as possible.

Optimized landing pages help you engage your customers and guide them through your site’s conversion funnel. It’s simple, really – you help your customer find exactly what they are looking for in as little time as possible.

Of course, when it comes to building landing pages, everyone seems to have a different opinion of what works and what kind of layout will resonate best with customers. This is where testing comes in.

Testing eliminates the uncertainty of guessing and hoping things will work out down the road; instead, you let your customers – along with hard data and numbers! – decide for you. A/B testing, for example, presents visitors with multiple versions of a page and helps determine new layouts. Once A/B testing identifies a winning page, you can move on to multivariate testing: that is, identifying the individual page elements – ranging from images and calls to actions to headlines and buttons – that have the greatest impact.

But before you start, you need to choose a success metric to use as a barometer. Oftentimes, bounce rate is the go-to indicator of success – but it doesn’t always tell the whole story.

For instance, many people seem to believe that if a new page has a lower bounce rate, that means fewer visitors are leaving your site and are therefore more engaged. Success, right? Well, not quite yet. What many forget – or refuse to acknowledge – is that the new page is naturally going to have a lower bounce rate; after all, you built this page with specific, targeted offerings and fewer calls to action. And with fewer links to click on, it’s more likely a visitor to that new page will move beyond the entry point.

Therefore, it’s important to get the whole picture of what’s going on on your site by expanding your view to include other key metrics, such as the conversion rates of particular actions on your site, returning visitors, page views per visit, and continuation rates in a scenario funnel. Bounce rate isn’t your only friend in the usability world, so go ahead and friend the others – the more the merrier!

norma berry

5 Ways to Create a Data-Driven Culture

By Web Analytics No Comments

Analyze a campaign? No problem. Optimize a conversion funnel? Sure thing. Sell the value of search and analytics to the CEO? Um…what?

Let’s face it: getting buy-in from key stakeholders can be difficult at best, downright daunting at worst. But more and more, it’s becoming a task marketers need to be adept at, especially in an economy that demands accountability from every dollar. Moreover, stakeholder buy-in is a critical factor for success – organizational support and resources often play a key role in determining the effectiveness of a campaign or engagement – and therefore needs to be an integral part of the marketing toolbox.

With that in mind, here are 5 ways you can start creating a data-driven culture today:

1. Tie Data to Revenue.

It’s much easier to get stakeholders’ attention and buy-in when they understand how changes in a particular variable can affect their bottom line. Web analytics – like any other marketing channel – must consistently prove its worth, so be sure to present data in a way that clearly demonstrates its contribution to ROI.

2. Paint the Big Picture.

A caution: don’t place too much emphasis on single session data in isolation. Instead, show how an analytics view that ties together multiple sessions and a more holistic perspective can provide the most accurate insights. After all, while isolated sets of data can seem as different as apples and oranges (when compared to one another), they may in fact be telling the same story if they’re both rolling down the hill, so to speak.

3. Avoid Analysis Paralysis.

Build custom reporting dashboards so that stakeholders see only the metrics important to them and can make decisions accordingly. Too much data can equal information overload, clouding key trends and preventing decisive action.

4. Unearth the Holy Grail.

Discover that “one thing” stakeholders have been unable to successfully measure for years…and find a way to track it. Once you’ve helped them with their Holy Grail, they’ll be much more willing to look at other data you have to offer.

5. Share Your Successes.

Promote instances where analytics was used intelligently to drive ROI and smarter business decisions. Be sure to also spotlight big wins – a little publicity can pay huge dividends.

As digital marketers, we’re in a unique position to help create and grow a data-driven culture. In many cases, the numbers speak for themselves; it’s more a matter of communicating these successes and bottom-line benefits in a way that resonates with decision-makers. So don’t be shy. Search and analytics flourishes the most when stakeholders are all on the same page, and with a little persistence – and a clear voice – you’ll be well on your way towards getting the buy-in you need to succeed.

If you need any help or have any questions, contact us at [email protected]

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Real-Time Reporting: Does Anyone REALLY Care?

By Web Analytics No Comments

My Dad always told me the secret to happiness was “to have all of the things you need and a few of the things you want.” But can the same be said for web analytics tools?

In order to measure the intricate behaviors occurring on your website, you really do need insight. But where do you draw the line between what you “want” and what you really “need” in a web analytics tool?

For the purpose of this article, let’s focus on one such feature: real-time reporting. (Debating over all the features teetering on the line between “want” and “need” could take ages).

Where do you draw the line between what you want and need in a web analytics tool?

Now, I’ll be the first to admit I thought “real-time reporting” was the coolest thing since sliced bread when it first hit the market. I mean, I could see live data flowing straight into my tool – no data delay! I could put my finger on the pulse of my consumer! No more waiting for a day or so to see my web stats – it was all there NOW!

But real-time reporting is a a bit like Hypercolor t-shirts and Tamagochis in the 90’s – they seemed pretty awesome at the time, but once you got to play around with them, they weren’t half as awesome as you first thought. (Although, just for the record, Hypercolor “awesomeness” is reversely proportional to the number of randy boys in your high school with hot hands!)

In the same vein, “real-time data” has been revealed to be a costly and underused feature. Even when utilized, it often only provides limited actionable insights.

So why do we want real-time data so badly?

I call it the “Christmas Complex”: you’ve invested blood, sweat, tears and bucks into a campaign or website and you want to see results now – just like presents on Christmas Day. But you need to ask yourself: What is truly actionable about real-time data?

Any strategist worth their salt will tell you it’s risky to make any sort of optimization effort after only looking at a little bit of data. It takes time for trends to emerge; you risk missing them by reacting quickly to every little bump in the road.

Moreover, having real-time data available is an enormous and costly undertaking, one that demands massive capacity in support during peak load times. It’s a bit like energy companies: most of the time they only run at 50% capacity, but they need the extra capacity for those times when everyone uses their AC. It’s not the most efficient way to be allocating and investing in resources (for electrical companies or Web tracking tools), but like it or not, these associated costs get passed back to you in monthly usage fees from your web tracking vendor. Therefore, if real-time data isn’t essential to your business, you can likely
save significant money by opting to go without.

Of course, there’s always a “but,” so let’s cover it here: Real-time data can be critical to the success of certain sites, such as media and current event sites, because these guys care about what happens on their site on a minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour basis and optimize accordingly.

It can also be useful as a QA tool, to make sure campaign data is coming in correctly without having to wait a day to see your test clicks. But as long as you know about a campaign 24 hours in advance, real-time reporting isn’t really necessary.

Invest 10% in a tool and 90% in people who can interpret what it says.

What is necessary though, regardless of the tool you use, is having experts able to glean actionable insights from the data you collect. You know what they say: “Invest 10% in the tool and 90% in people who know how to interpret what it says.”

Your data is a story waiting to be told. It can tell you what customers want, what compels them to act and what language resonates with them. In short, it’s the keyword and customer intelligence we marketers strive after in our quest to better reach customers. But a tool alone can’t turn data into intelligence. Only expert analysts can do that.

At the end of the day, successful analytics isn’t dependent on a tool; it’s dependent on having the right people, people who know how to use it and extract valuable insight. A much-hyped feature like real-time reporting might sound flashy and grab your attention, but it’ll ultimately pale in comparison to the value of the human touch and the power of intelligence expert analysts can deliver. So if I had to decide where to invest, I’d choose grey matter over real-time data any day.

Mining for Gold: Bounce Rate Edition

By Web Analytics No Comments

I recently attended a webinar given by Google Analytics Evangelist Avinash Kaushik called “Little Changes, Large Results: 5 Things Marketers Can Do Now.” I have to admit that I walk away from most webinars or conferences not very impressed. I’m happy to say that this one was different!

One of his tips was particularly salient: Pull bounce rate reports on high impact pages.

In terms of low-hanging fruit, I consider bounce rates to be the winner, as they can quickly reveal the quality of traffic coming to your website. By definition, bounce rate measures the percentage of people who saw only one page of your site and didn’t get any deeper. In other words, it’s when a visitor enters and exits on a page without engaging with your site. Avinash envisions this from a visitor’s standpoint as, “I came, I puked, I left.” A bit vulgar, but very true.

As simple as bounce rates really are, there’s still some confusion on the term and how to pull the data. First of all, bounce rate is not the same thing as exit rate. While bounce rate measures single page view sessions, exit rate measures the percentage of people leaving your site on a particular page. A page is an exit page if it’s the last page a visitor views before leaving your site completely. Again, these are two very different concepts that shouldn’t be mixed up.

Secondly, given its definition, bounces rates should really only be pulled on landing pages (or entry page URLs) – not on all pages. It kills me inside a little bit when I see a bounce rate report pulled with the group “Page URL.” The data’s not entirely accurate. And because no one wants incorrect data, make sure you use the right group. Better yet, write it on a post-it and stick it on your cubicle wall so you don’t have an angry me coming after you.

Alright, so now you’re staring at your nice little bounce rate report – which shows your site’s top entry URLs – and you see that four out of the top ten landing pages have a bounce rate of over 80%. Now what? The answer lies in segmenting your data and further customizing the report. Analysts are “mining” all the time. We stare at data all day (half of which is useless). The importance and glamour comes with finding the story. What can we garner from this data to make it actionable? We dig, dig, and dig until we find that shiny piece of gold. To better understand your customers and figure out why they are bouncing, you need to analyze the traffic sources of these high bounces and the keywords that drive people to these pages.

Looking at the bounce rates of your traffic sources and referring URLs allows you to see what sources bring in relatively bad or unqualified traffic. Moreover, customizing the report by keywords can reveal the intent of your customers: They came to your site looking for something…but they left right away because they couldn’t find it. Maybe your landing pages weren’t optimized for the keywords your customers were searching for, or maybe your landing pages needed improvement and better calls to action.

Your analytics tool provides you with so much data – it can be overwhelming at times. If you want to stress a bit less and pick that low-hanging fruit…rest assured, it’s bounce rate to the rescue! With keyword intelligence and bounce rates right at your fingertips, you’ll be headed in the right direction. Good luck with the mining and here’s hoping you find that piece of gold!