Tips and Tools for Tracking Social PPC

Ryan Kovach
Data Driven Marketing Specialist

2017 is proving to be the year of mending relationships between marketing, upper management, and sales. It comes down to one simple factor — data. Trackable, insightful data is finally a reality. Digital marketing has become a full-fledged industry, using reportable data to completely overhaul both marketing and sales.

(There is a lot to digest in this article, so we recommend bookmarking it for future use.)


The Blame Game: A Common Problem

Scenario: Upper Management wants to know what is and isn’t working, and they hate hearing “We’re not sure.” Your sales team is the first to point fingers when things start to go wrong.

Have you ever had an awkward meeting with your manager or supervisor over low numbers that you can’t seem to explain? What about a frustrating disagreement with the sales team about who messed up? These scenarios are not new. All marketers have been there in some capacity.

One of the biggest advantages that digital marketing has is the ability to track, inspect, and report on the success of your various marketing campaigns. Organizations can avoid playing the blame game. By learning exactly what outcomes your campaigns have, teams can get on the same page. In turn, this leads to better collaborations and better work. It allows everyone to focus on the real end goal: putting customers first.

If you are marketing in 2017 and not tracking your efforts, you’re doing a disservice to your business. Data allows you to understand what isn’t working so you can stop and change tactics. Data also helps you understand what is working, so you can do more of it.

The digital marketing community is vast and complex. There are entire industries whose sole purpose is to provide in-depth analytics, but for most businesses the solutions don't need to be as complicated.

In this article, we walk you through the steps to take in order to get your website analytics off the ground smoothly and efficiently. We will take you step by step through the process, from installing Google Analytics to creating custom presets, and help you take your organization to the next level.  

Even if you aren’t the one responsible for your company’s website analytics and PPC reporting, you’ll still want to give this article a skim. Understanding how digital marketing can benefit your company is a crucial component in overall success.  

If you are the person responsible for your company’s analytics, this article will provide plenty of helpful tactics that are sure to impress.


Good Ol’ Fashioned Pen and Paper

It might sound crazy coming from a digital marketer, but sometimes it’s best to start with good ol’ fashioned pen and paper.

Before you run a single marketing campaign, take a look at your strategy and your website. Map out the steps one must go through in order to become a customer. Whether you’re trying to collect leads or generate e-commerce sales, you need to understand what your sales funnel looks like.

Do people need to click a specific button? Enter info on a contact page? Watch a video? No matter the steps, each one is key to understanding the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns. You need to make sure you are measuring those going forward.

Each and every campaign starts with our team sitting down with pen and paper to make a comprehensive list of every action we would like to track on the website. Once you’ve mapped your list of actions, it’s time to get in the weeds with Google Analytics.


Google Analytics

 

In order to track the ROI (Return On Investment) from your digital marketing efforts, you’ll need to install an analytics application. Google Analytics is not only an affordable option (it’s free!), it’s also a powerful one.

Configuring Google Analytics allows you to track the ROI of traffic from your adwords campaigns, social media campaigns, email marketing campaigns, and more.

Clearly seeing and understanding the results of your efforts can be transformational for your business. You can shift away from strategies that feel like they’re working and start acting on strategies that you know are working.

Installing Google Analytics is pretty straightforward. Create an account, head to the property settings, copy your website tracking code, and paste it onto every page of your website by placing it between the <head> tags. If you’re unfamiliar with website code, you may want to consult a developer.

Once you have your analytics installed, the first thing you’ll want to do is set up goals. This is a major feature of Google Analytics.

Take a look at the important steps in your sales funnel. Each one of those steps will need their own specific goal inside of Google Analytics.

For example, the most common goal is the “/thank-you” page. You may not have recognized it at the time, but you have certainly seen these goals in action. Think back to the last time you bought something online. The majority of times after you’ve clicked submit, you are quickly re-directed to a separate thank you page. The main purpose of the page is to tell Google Analytics that someone who landed on this page has made a purchase or performed another action we hoped they would.

Simply put, goals are a way to track the actions people take on your site. Once they’re set up, you’ll be able to see which types of traffic lead to your intended actions.

Combine this feature with UTM links (more on that below) and you will have yourself a basic analytic stack that gets the job done!


UTM Links

Knowing where your traffic is coming from is absolutely crucial. That’s why UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) links are such an incredible tool for marketers. Also, they’re free!  

What are UTM links? These special bits of text are added to the end of any regular link, telling Google Analytics where the link came from. Simple, but powerful.

If you’re spending any amount of time marketing online, you’ll want to get real familiar with these special links.

Creating these fancy UTM links are very straightforward. Google has put together this resource that makes it incredibly easy.

Just click here.

As marketers, our job is to test new tactics every single day to try and find something that sticks. Each one of those tests should have an associated UTM link so that we can tell Google Analytics how effective that specific strategy performed.

This allows you to easily compare the value of your Facebook ad spend versus your email marketing efforts versus your Adwords spend, and so on.

Just hop into Google. Click Acquisitions. Drop down to Campaigns and then compare your data.

Here’s what a UTM link looks like:

Normal Link: symposialabs.com

UTM Link: symposialabs.com/?utm_source=facebookad&utm_campaign=ribbon-cutting&utm_medium=instagram-post

All of those bits of text beginning in “utm_…” are called parameters. They are how Google Analytics sorts your data.

This might sound confusing but trust us, it gets easier!

There are three main parameters that you need to pay attention to.

Medium = The overall medium for a specific marketing effort (i.e. Social Media, Email, Guest Blog).

Source = The specific source within a medium that tells us where the traffic will be coming from (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Newsletter).

Campaign = The specific campaign that this effort was a part of (i.e. Monthly Promo).

Pro Tip: In order to avoid using links that are extra long and unappealing to the eye, use a URL shortening tool like bit.ly or Google’s URL shortener. This won’t change the way Google Analytics interprets your UTM link, but it will make it look better aesthetically if your links are customer facing.


In order to help make things easy, we've put together this free UTM link generator template for you to use. Just click the button below, and make yourself a copy. We have found this template to be incredibly helpful. It has made it easy for us to be consistent in the way we name our campaigns, which is helpful when your looking at your data for insights. 


Once your campaigns have ended, it’s easy see within Google Analytics which UTM link performed best. Just follow these steps:

  1. Log into Google Analytics

  2. Click Acquisition

  3. Click Campaigns

  4. Find your specific campaign, then scroll to the right and sort by your “Goal”

  5. Compare and contrast the data.

  6. That’s it!

Now that you know how to track and view your campaigns, it’s time to set up Facebook Pixel.


Facebook Pixel

Many businesses have attempted Facebook advertising, but fewer have taken the next step towards advertising effectively on Facebook. The first step is installing the Facebook Pixel.

The Facebook Pixel is very important. It allows you to build lists of people who have been on your website and performed specific actions. Then you can serve “retargeting” ads directly to those people inside of Facebook.

This is incredibly powerful.

Even if you’re not ready to advertise on Facebook today, it’s important to at least get the Facebook Pixel set up as soon as possible.

Here’s how:

  1. Jump into your ads manager and click on the little hamburger (three lines) in the top left

  2. Click “Pixel”

  3. Click “Create New Pixel”

  4. Name it (i.e. “My Business’s Facebook Pixel”)

  5. Copy and paste the snippet of code and email it to your developer to place in the <head> tags of your website

  6. All done!

The Pixel puts all of your website visitors into something called an “audience.” As an advertiser, serving ads to that audience is one of the lowest hanging fruits out there. The sooner you install that Pixel, the larger an audience you can serve ads to in the future.

Again, even if you might never run Facebook ads, do your future self a favor and take the 15 minutes to set up the Facebook Pixel.


Setting Up Facebook Custom Conversions

The concept of Facebook custom conversions is advanced, but setting them up is actually straightforward. If you’ve successfully installed your Facebook Pixel, setting up custom conversions is a piece of cake. Once complete, you really start to see the power Facebook holds.

Jump into your ads manager and click on the little hamburger again in the top left.

Click on custom conversions. Then, create custom conversions.

On this page, you can create “custom conversions” that match the goals you laid out in Google Analytics, i.e. “/thank-you”. This impacts three key areas:

  1. Tracking — When you create custom conversions, Facebook will show you how well each ad does at reaching those goals.

  2. Optimizing — Now that Facebook knows what these actions look like, it begins optimizing them. For example, showing your ads to people more likely to take those specific actions.

  3. Retargeting — When you create custom conversions, you’re also creating pools of people who have performed those actions. You can include (or exclude) these people in your future ad campaigns.

Once you have Custom Conversions all set up, it’s time to build a few presets that will help speed up the reporting process.


Making Customized Presets Within Facebook Ads Manager & Google Analytics

If you’re looking to save time (who isn’t?), making customized presents are a great way to go.

By its very nature, Facebook advertising can be quite confusing. There are hundreds of metrics to choose from and, unless you’ve taken the time to master all of their nuances, it can quickly feel overwhelming. Because of this, customizable presets are a great way to see only the metrics that matter most to you and your business. Navigate to your ads manager. Click columns, and scroll down to customize.

For most campaigns, we pay attention to these core metrics.

  • Amount spent
  • Results
  • Cost per result
  • Impressions
  • CPM
  • Frequency
  • CTR (click-through rates)
  • Relevance score
  • Any “custom conversions” you have set up

It’s all right if you’re not familiar with all of these metrics. Most are useful for auditing the effectiveness of a campaign. The most important metric is always ROI.

There are also endless combinations of presets within Google Analytics. Visit the Google Solutions Gallery for free templates.

For beginners looking to track social PPC efforts, we like to use something simple that captures all the metrics we need from a high-level view. We like to make sure we are tracking:

  • Where users are coming from
  • How often they return
  • If they find what they’re looking for
  • If they a purchase was made

One of our favorite free templates can be found here. There is a bit of a learning curve here, but it has everything you need to monitor your social efforts. You can even break down how people behaved on desktop, mobile, and tablets.

Remember... 

The best insights are found when you really look under the hood, but most often the best reporting is the simplest reporting. Always look to answer the question, “Is this working?”


Let's Wrap This Up!

The beauty of digital marketing comes from the ability to track and report on all of your efforts. If you are responsible for driving results and adhering to a strict budget, relying on intuition, hope, and luck in your marketing efforts are luxuries you can’t afford.

Social PPC can be one of the most cost-effective strategies to deploy in 2017 and moving forward, It’s essential to put the right pieces to help track and report on your efforts. If you follow the tips and tools above, you and your team will be well on your way to uncovering the marketing campaigns that work.

If you're team doesn't currently have an in-house digital marketing person, feel free to get in touch with us. We have a team of experts who are well versed in this world. We are happy to help in whatever capacity that may be. Just click the button below and we'll set up a time to chat.

Timothy Haines
Social Media Omnipresence: Just Because You Can, Doesn't Necessarily Mean You Should

Kristen Haveman
Digital Marketing Manager

As Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park, “…your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn't stop to think if they should.”

Surely we aren’t speaking of toying with evolution here, but it feels accurate.

“We should obviously be on Facebook, right?” The answer is projected as the question is being asked. It’s as though that particular platform is the default for every retailer, every B2B business, every non-profit, every community event. While Facebook proves time and again its power, the fact is not every organization needs to be in every place.

For example, many B2B businesses can achieve conversion success by focusing their digital marketing efforts on places like Google and LinkedIn. Facebook is not always the basket for all the eggs.

This is not to say that a platform like Instagram can't be a powerful tool for B2B companies like Hootsuite. The popular social media management dashboard utilizes Instagram for recruitment and brand awareness. Theirs is the kind of account with photos you might scroll past in your feed and mistake for a friend’s personal account. It’s fun, friendly, and it personalizes their team and their business.

I once worked for an organization that wanted to make up for a lack in digital marketing budget by jumping onto every social media platform available. Of course, you should aim to reach the audience where they are. But what you don’t want is to find that you’ve wasted precious resources chasing after teens on Snapchat when your intended audience is already engaged with you, right where you are. Saturation isn't the key; great content on the right platform is.

Keep the vision of your goals in focus. Research where your audience is. Discuss with your team what your resources are, and use your findings to allocate your digital marketing efforts.

Catch you on LiveJournal.

Timothy Haines
Welcome Aboard: Life Lessons and Joining a Digital Team

[Originally in an onboarding email]

Welcome aboard! A few pieces of encouragement and advice as you head into your first full week:

You'll do a million different things – and there are lessons in all of them.
Even the most mundane tasks will come in handy somewhere down the road. If starting my own business has taught me anything, it’s that nothing happens without the details. Life runs on phone calls, appointments, and logistics that are not always exciting, but the lessons they provide could become the most important.

Excellence outshines speed.
Triple checking, proofreading, pausing to consider how to make your work its most exceptional – all of this is worth the time and energy it demands. Whether it’s losing time to redo your work or regretting the route you took, the real world never fails to make us pay for moving too quickly. Your best work will always eclipse your fastest results.

One of the most important things that you'll ever learn is how to teach yourself.
Don't be afraid to ask Google, to watch YouTube videos, to tinker and to experiment. That's how we figure stuff out. There is no shortage of information out there so if you find a better way of doing something, share it! We are always learning.

We have a lot to learn from you.
You are bringing fresh perspective to the table. Don’t be afraid to share your ideas or how to think differently. The great thing about working with a team is that new ideas and feedback can actually shape the way we do things.

Remember that what we do matters.
Sometimes what we're doing will help someone sell a car. Sometimes it will help a non-profit reach people in Rwanda with clean water. Whatever the service or product or message, we're making an impact on someone, somewhere. The business owner and the consumer are individuals with their own personal stories. Even if all we do is make someone’s day a bit better by responding to them quickly or sending them what they need in the mail, it all matters.

Timothy Haines
Designing for a Mobile Landscape
testblogpostimage-05.png

Ashley Navarre
Graphic Designer, Symposia Labs

It's no secret that people spend hours a day on their phones. Of Facebook’s 1.15 billion daily active users, 56.5% log in only on a mobile device. With information being displayed on small screens, designing clear content for an easy experience is crucial.

A major challenge many companies face is their customers’ aversion to commitment. Until they have experience with a product or service, the average customer is still “shopping around.” Your job as a designer is to focus on connecting a customer’s needs to a business driver. Use design to tell the brand’s story and you’ll connect them to the brand itself, not just a product or service. That’s the relationship. That’s how the door is opened to commitment. Build trust with branded content.

Business design is vastly differently than it was even a decade ago. Designing requires looking at the business as a whole and from many angles. 80% of consumers are more likely to evaluate brands they follow on social media. Creating specific solutions for the brand as opposed to showcasing an isolated product or service, can help a company flourish.

The model for mobile success relies on design skills and experimenting. Simplicity, fluidity, and minimalism are three focal points to drive the best results for most businesses.

Cut the fat and give the customer a well-designed, clear experience.

Timothy Haines
What I Now Know: A Student's First Year in Digital Marketing
laptop.jpg

Faith Bischoff
Marketing Assistant, Symposia Labs

When you hear the word intern, what are the first words that come to your mind? Busy work, coffee runs, unpaid hours, paperwork filing, grunt work, lowest on the totem pole, etc.? Without further knowledge of the company an intern is working for, these are all safe to assume apply. However, none of these apply to an intern at Symposia Labs, a Digital Marketing Agency. This past summer I had the pleasure of coming on board to the Symposia Labs team as their Marketing Research Assistant. I had no idea what was in store for me or what expectations I would be held to. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of respect, accountability and faith I was given as soon as I stepped into the office.

Symposia Labs is a company that values their hardworking employees, has a strong foundation and mission, and culture that people can naturally fit into. It is a company that understands the true value of a positive work environment and those within it.

Before I started working for Tim and Symposia Labs, I had some experience in the “real world.” I had been a lifeguard for five years, a waitress, and intern, but none of these jobs really tested or overwhelmed me. I always jumped right into whatever task needed to be done and I did it with ease and without much challenge. That all changed when I started working for Symposia. I was challenged because I needed to learn how to self-manage, and to learn the in’s and out’s of the digital marketing world - a world that I was intrigued by, but knew very little about.

Symposia Labs has taught me how to work in an environment that exceeds the four walls of our office. I’ve learned that what I do affects my coworkers, our clients, colleagues, competitors and more. Symposia has made me feel valued, as the young college intern that I am, through being given a multitude of responsibilities that have a significant impact on our company. This kind of responsibility and pressure is something I had never experienced before.

A majority of interns my age fly under the radar, do not get paid, and run errands before they get the chance to even touch content or work in the field they want to, and that is the complete opposite of what Symposia has given me. From day one I have been managing email and print campaigns, completing URL audits, attending and managing networking events, leading workshops and presentations on how to mange social media, updating our company’s website, doing market and competitor research, and much more. I have learned how to master these tasks and find new ways to improve as I have moved forward in this position, and that is something I will never get from a 50-minute lecture or an internship that utilizes my time by having me fetch a latte with no foam.

Symposia has opened my mind and helped direct my path to what I want to do with my career in the marketing world. It has taught me what it means to be held accountable, to contribute, and to truly be a part of a team. I could not be more blessed as a student to be working my own hours, having an office just five minutes from campus, enjoying the ability to telecommute, working with incredible and thoughtful people, and to do what I love. I am thankful for all that I have learned over these past months at Symposia Labs and I cannot be more excited to see what lies ahead.

Timothy Haines
Surprises from the Middle of the Brain: A Fit for Each Size

Kristen Haveman
Digital Marketing Manager, Symposia Labs

The never ending debate of Creative vs. Data is a rabbit hole many of us have found ourselves headed down. Clashing opinions can turn to noise as you look for that one true answer to this ongoing question. From my experience, the reason why this answer seems elusive is because it may not exist.

I’m not a data expert. I can research, I can track, I can calculate leads – but I cannot tell you the why behind many bumps or declines in a campaign’s action. When A/B testing results surprise me, the numbers aren’t what pull me in. At all.

For me, creative content has always come organically. I enjoy tearing down and rebuilding a paragraph, word by word. The whole process makes sense to me, even when it doesn’t. (Which is in itself a sentence other ‘creatives’ might relate to.)

The same could be said of left-brainers. Like a chemist closely observing test tubes in a lab, every team needs their analytics guru. Data specialists may as well wear lab coats in my opinion.

But there is a sweet spot that neither side can always expect. It can’t be calculated while one frame of mind smothers the other.

Here’s an example. Our team was working on an email campaign for a client. The language had to be very specific. The intended audience was not going to respond to flowery copy, eye-catching design, even traditional buzzwords. As a copywriter, I couldn’t use my usual tools, making this a particular challenge. The finished product looked like somewhat dolled up plain text emails.

And the results exceeded expectation.

The message was received clearly because every part of it was curated so specific to that audience. The readers responded to their version of the perfect balance of creative and data. It may not have been what either side of my own brain found 100% pleasing, but it spoke to the right balance in the context and generated incredible leads.

Every campaign, every detail, every goal, is different. There is no one-size-fits-all, but there is certainly a fit out there for each size. It just takes the right balance, and the fine-tuning to get there.

Timothy Haines
Letter to My Younger Self
TimB&W2.jpg

Dear 15-year-old Tim,

You've probably locked yourself in your room again to play Roller Coaster Tycoon until 3:00 AM. Take heart! You have purpose. Someday you'll start your own business and discover a passion that will be the perfect combination of technology, sociology, and education. On your way there, please remember a few things:

Don't Be Afraid to Fail: Just because you didn't make it past level three of swimming lessons doesn't mean that you can't become a good swimmer. Many will tell you that starting your own business is a mistake. They'll tell you that you're taking the wrong route, doing things in the wrong order, and being unrealistic. Ignore them. Do it anyway. Don't be afraid to fail at the things you love.

Never Stop Learning: The best part about your future career is that it will never cease to evolve. Marketing moves at the speed of light, so make sure you keep up. Stay hungry. Read books and articles, listen to podcasts. Learn from your peers and predecessors. Talk to people who are smarter than you and don't be afraid to say "I'm not sure" out loud. There's joy in the discovery.

Make It Personal: There are those who will say, "It’s business, not personal." They are wrong. As a small business owner, you'll wake up every morning earlier than you want to because you believe that what you do is a gift. You'll work sometimes while on vacation because you consider your clients to be part of your extended family. Your passion is what fuels you, so it’s natural to be heartbroken when you let your team down, just as it’s important to celebrate when the team succeeds. Knowing when it’s time to move on is essential, but don’t be afraid make your work personal. It is.

Be Honest at All Costs: There are those in the advertising and marketing world who believe that lying is acceptable, that stretching the truth is unavoidable. Don't be one of them. Clients would rather hear "I'm not sure" or "that was my fault," than stories and fairy tales. Honesty will cost you, but it will always be worth the price.

Know When to Say “No”: Just as some relationships and partnerships will succeed, others will not. There are times when walking away from something you’ve started is not only okay, but necessary in moving forward. Develop an appreciation for the power of “no.” Be honest about your constraints. Time is not limitless, and you’ll find doing a few things well is more rewarding than doing many things half-heartedly. In business and in life, know that more opportunities and exciting ideas are yet to come. Whether it’s a person, a project, or simply an idea you’ve held onto tightly, go with your instincts and know when to part ways.

You Can't Take It with You: When you enter the startup world, you'll get sucked into long days and late nights. You'll become obsessed with "doing" and you'll sometimes forget about the "living" part of the equation. Remember that no matter how many awards you receive or how much money you make – you can't take it with you. There are weddings, new arrivals, and lazy afternoons at the beach I’ve regretted missing. Make the time – you’ll never regret spending it with family and friends.

Timothy Haines
15 Signs That Your Digital Marketing Agency Deserves a Red Card
Red Card

Flimsy digital marketing agencies aren’t always easy to recognize. They come decorated with empty buzzwords, unbacked methods, or senseless deliverables. Yes, you want followers. But you need customers. Yes, you hire agencies for their expertise. But they should be able to communicate why Best Practices are just that.

Fret not. Refer to this list we’ve composed of red cards. If two or three of these sound familiar, we have advice. RUN!

 Your digital marketing agency deserves a red card if...

1. You don’t have ownership of your web domain and hosting.

2. You’re missing a username or password to anything.

3. Frequent references to Hubspot.com and Seth Godin are made.

4. You can’t answer the question “How many phone calls did we receive?” or “How many people took action (clicked, purchased, emailed)?” with data from the advertising campaign.

5. Someone created a Facebook page for you then pretended you didn’t need an advertising budget.

6. You’ve never actually seen your Google Analytics and you don’t know how to log into it.

7. You’re preached to exclusively about vanity metrics such as Facebook page likes.

8. You’re told this or that is good for SEO by someone who isn’t actually an SEO expert. (Hint: Designers and developers are rarely SEO experts.)

9. You can’t easily edit your webpage content yourself without advanced training, or worse - you have to pay your developer for every update.

10. Your email newsletter and website are not mobile friendly.

11. You’ve never heard the phrase “Limited keywords are allowed by Google” used in a sentence.

12. You’re working with any “We’re a news media company but we've also mastered the Internet” sort of organization.

13. Someone just offered to rent or sell you an email list.

14. The followers you're attracting don't look like potential customers, donors, stakeholders, or supporters.

15. The words “viral video” are used without air quotes or eye rolls.

Brian Workman