Analytical Insights for Virtual Page Views

The more I use a Tag Management System (TMS) for tracking and defining analytical insights from digital advertising results the more I value the application. This growing love affair is enhanced even more for me when combined with the use of my data management tools. Google analytics and Site Catalyst can take you a long way in simple website analysis, but when you want to drill down to discover how to make more from what your digital advertising is doing, or to discover what you’re missing, you need better data management tools. In this case study I have a local real estate client with a website that provides users with information about select neighborhoods in the nations 11th largest city. The website developer used virtual pages for each information article in each neighborhood. There are five virtual pages included in each neighborhood, each of them have the same trigger/name. That makes analytical insights a little easier for tracking events, but I cannot rely on page views in Google Analytics (GA) or from Site Catalyst as the KPI. Instead I’ll have to write a custom javascript that calculates the depth of a page and then tracks the scrolling depth to trigger the virtual page views.

Analytical Insights for Virtual Page Views

After creating the script and installing all of the tracking through the tag management system, I can use Google Analytics and the Real Time menu option to view the events. This view provides at-a-glance analytical insights to what users are currently up-to on the site.
Real time event trackin

I’m trying to develop insights for virtual page views to help sales convince the advertisers to want their ads placed on this real estate website. A key to the insights of the website is in the Neighborhoods section. I want advertisers to place their ads at the top of these pages for a premium rate, mid-page for a little less of a premium charge and at the bottom for the lowest advertising cost. Site visitors scroll the neighborhood pages to read relevant information about the specific neighborhood they are interested in. If I drill down on the GA Real Time events I can see exactly what information (virtual page articles) the user’s are reading over the last 30 minutes.

Virtual pages with real time tracking

The event labels tell the story about the user’s scrolling and that translates to how far down the page they scroll. As you may be able to surmise from looking at the table and graph above, the further down the page an article is, the fewer views it received.

For deeper analytical insights I want to discover more than just the obvious, “what virtual pages were viewed; how far did the user scroll down the page.” Selling advertisers on the value of their ad position should be easy enough with just simple scroll tracking, but with this custom scroll tracking script I can discover more than simple virtual-page-view metrics.

What we can know, and learn from the user’s scrolling behavior:

  • Does scroll depth correlate to conversion rate?
  • How much time was spent scrolling from section to section?
  • If a user clicks to the neighborhood landing page what percentage of the page did they view?
  • What percentage of users click the call-to-action at the bottom of the page?
  • What testing can be done to increase scrolling depth?

Using my data management tools ( I can build a custom analysis table for discovering insights to each of these questions. Once I build the custom analysis data with the kpi collectors in the columns, it’s a simple matter of filtering the landing page for ‘/neighborhoods’ so the view data is precisely at the granular level I’m analyzing.

Custom analysis scroll tracking table

Developing the virtual page view tracking.

Within the script I have the opportunity to define the scroll depth by percentages. For this example there are five segments to the page (options.percentage ) so I’m tracking by quintile: 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, and 100%. In the script I will set the page depth to identify the first virtual page read at 20%. Here’s what I have for tracking triggers:

Any landing page in the ‘/neighborhoods/’ file of the website will fire the scroll-tracking-listener. The list of virtual page names in the neighborhoods are:

Housing = Fires at 20% page view

The Market = Fires at 40% page view

Living Here = Fires at 60% page view

Things to Do = Fires at 80% page view

Stats and Facts = Fires at 100% page view

To build these tracking events into the TMS I need to define four custom variables as shown below.

User defined custom variablesEach of these four variables are a Data Layer Variables and you will follow these five steps to create each one.

  1. Name the Variable (eventAction, eventCategory, eventLable, and eventValue)
  2. Select the Data Layer as the variable type.
  3. Define the Data Layer Variable Name (eventAction, eventCategory, eventLable, and eventValue)
  4. Select Version 2 for the version.
  5. Save the variable

Creating custom variablesOnce the custom variables have been created it’s time to set the triggers for the scroll tracking. For this real estate case study I only want to track page depth so I’m going to create two triggers. First I’ll set the Scroll tracker to fire on any page in the ‘/neighborhoods’ folder of the website. Second I will exclude the pixel depth tracking that is defined in the custom script that I’ll get to in just a few minutes.

Create a Page View event:

  1. Name the trigger, Scroll Tracker
  2. Set the trigger type to ‘Page View.’
  3. Define the trigger to fire on a Page URL that contains the web site folder.
  4. Save the trigger

Create the pixel depth filter:

  1. Name the trigger, “Scroll Distance.”
  2. Set this to a ‘Custom Event’ trigger
  3. Fire on the ScrollDistance event name
  4. Set the eventAction to not contain Pixel Depth
  5. Save the trigger

Filtering the events

The only thing left to do is the creation of the tracking Tags. I want to track these events in Google Analytics (GA) so I will create one Tag to send the custom variable data to GA. I will set the calculations and data layer information in a custom HTML tag with a java script.

Setting the GA Scroll Depth tracking:

  1. Name the GA Tag “Scroll Depth”
  2. Choose Universal Analytics as the Tag Type
  3. Select track type to ‘Event’
  4. Set the category, Action, Label, and Value to the custom variables created earlier.
  5. Set the Fire On to the “Scroll Distance” trigger created earlier
  6. Save the TagSend the data layer to Google Analytics

All that’s needed now is the Tag containing the custom java.

You can get the scroll tracking script here.

Create the TAG for a custom HTML and paste the script.paste the custom script to an html tag

  1. Name the Tag “Scroll Tracker”
  2. Select the Custom Html product
  3. Paste the scroll tracker script into the html
  4. Select the Scroll Tracker trigger created earlier
  5. Save the TAG

Leave a Comment

Filed under Data Science

How to retarget and remarket

How to retarget and remarket provides steps and strategies for the digital advertising opportunity. Retargeting and Remarketing are often considered to be the same thing. they aren’t. Retargeting is the practice of sending many different advertising offers, calls to action, copy, etc. to the same visitor. Remarketing is the practice of sending the same advertisement to the visitor over and over again. Retargeting is the best approach to use if the key-performance expectation is to drive direct response conversions such as downloading a whitepaper report, registering for an email list, purchasing a product or service, and so-on. Remarketing is best used for branding where the frequency of the advertising is measured by the lift to the website’s ‘Direct’ traffic in number of sessions gained. It is easy to understand that remarketing is simple since it requires the least amount of strategy and preparation. While retargeting is the more sophisticated of the two processes.

How to retarget and remarketRemarketing optimization:

  • The first step requires a lot of early emphasis on testing (A/Bn and Multivariate). Through statistically designed experiments using or Google Analytics the advertiser tests ads to identify the optimal brand message.
  • Once the advertisement that drives the desired increase to ‘Direct’ traffic sessions is found then the remarketing campaign should begin.
  • A remarketing pixel is placed on every page of the advertiser website to maximize the opportunity to deliver the ads to the maximum number of site visitors.

Retargeting optimization:

  • Segment the audience to create relevant ads based on their interests and matched to specific products and services. One of the most powerful aspects of retargeting is the ability to personalize the advertisers retargeting ads based on the products and services a person is interested in. Tailoring the ads based on the web pages they visit and how they interact with the advertiser’s site will make them more likely to click-through and convert. For example, someone who visits the pricing page is going to be ready to purchase sooner than someone who has just visited their blog.

Consider this simple 4-objective strategy as a starting point to the drill down from and to help identify the optimal retargeting strategy for the advertiser.

  1. A visit to the homepage only, the retargeting ads should be focused on highlighting the business to keep top-of-mind advantage in the eyes of this bounced traffic. These ads will be the most general, and the goal should be generating awareness and driving them to an optimized landing page.
  2. A visit to service/product pages, this means they’re starting to consider making a purchase. These ads should be tailored around the specific products or product categories they were looking at. This will create excitement (and combined with a great feature-benefit, or offer) it will entice them to come back to the advertiser’s website.
  3. A visit to read the advertiser’s blog, they’re trying to make a decision about whether the company will meet their needs. This type of retargeting ad needs to feature a strong offer in the call-to-action, something like a free 30 day returns, or one-on-one demo. The purpose of this ad is to ensure they have all of the product information necessary to make a purchase. The landing page for this advertisement must provide the benefit of purchasing from this advertiser.
  4. A download of content or register for more information, this visitor will purchase through an email nurturing campaign. A well developed and systematic nurturing campaign that entices the visitor to engage and interact through a series of emails each with additional content and customer case studies. Show them how they will benefit from using the advertiser’s service/products.


technical data for retargeting and remarketing

Very few advertisers and marketers know how to read technical reports. Click here for help.

2.) Add a conversion pixel to stop advertising to (and wasting money on) people who have already purchased or signed up. Chances are the advertiser already has a drip-marketing campaign in place that is designed to retain and resell to existing customers. The last thing you want to do after someone has converted is continue to retarget them with the same offer. It’s like when you give money to one of those street charity people and then you turn the corner and there’s another one. Pretty soon you’re having to cross the road to avoid them because you’re sick of saying “I’ve already given you money!”

  1. By adding a conversion (burn) pixel to the post-conversion page (thank you page) the advertiser can either stop or change the ads that consumer is shown.For example, if a visitor downloads an ebook from the advertiser, invite them to join a webinar on the same topic. Or, if they’re already a customer, show them offers for complementary products to cross-sell them, and offer them maintenance packages or upgrades.
  2. A conversion pixel will not only keep the advertiser’s customers happy but will also save the advertiser money they can allocate to more productive digital advertising needs. After all, what’s the point in showing a retargeting ad that contains an offer someone has already converted on?

3.) Limit the Frequency to avoid annoying potential customers. In order to achieve the highest conversion-rate on your retargeting ad you need to show it the right amount of times. But what is that magical number? This is something you need to test ( or Google Analytics) to be certain but as a general rule most people will behave in a similar fashion based on where they are in the buying cycle. As defined by the Analytics and Data Science attribution models.

Consider this strategy while helping the advertiser thinking about how often to show retargeting ads:

  1. Overexposure will generally result in decreased campaign performance because of banner blindness (where consumers ignore ads) and can result in a negative association with the advertiser. Watch for peak conversion performance and drop off points.
  2. Showing ads approximately 17-20 times per month will usually result in optimal performance for most verticals.
  3. The number of ads to show will vary based on what the advertiser provides, who shops for those items and how long the potential customer will be receptive to the ads. It will take experimentation, trial and error to find the optimized frequency. For example, selling clothing for consumers versus software for businesses you’ll want to change the frequency the ads are shown. This is something the advertiser will have to play around with to find the right number for each service/product.

4.) Keep the advertiser’s ads fresh and exciting to encourage clicks. Just because someone hasn’t converted on the retargeting ad doesn’t mean they’re not going to. There’s a big chance that the offer or benefit in the ad just didn’t resonate with them.

  1. If someone doesn’t convert on the retargeting ad after the first 10 days, chances are they’re not going to convert on the 30th either. Plus, the longer it’s been since the last time they’ve visited your website, the less likely it is that they will be interested. See the conversion models from Analytics and Data Science to identify conversion length and path analysis.
  2. The best way to convert people who have been retargeted for a while is to change up the ads. When the advertiser changes the benefit, offer or combination of the two the ads will be fresh and they’ll stay top-of-mind in the consumer’s eyes.

Consider these ideas when consulting with the advertiser about keeping the advertising fresh.

  1. Change the benefit: A benefit is something that the customer perceives as valuable and as something that will help them accomplish their goals or relieve their pain. For example, if you were the owner of a cleaning business and someone visited your website but left without sending in a request. The following are different benefits you could highlight in various ads:
    1. Flexible times: “Come home to a fresh house every night – we clean while you’re at work!”
    2. Making your life easy: “We clean so you have time to relax”
    3. Giving you more time: Spend more time doing the things you love (not cleaning)
  2. Change the offer: The offer needs to be compelling enough for someone to click it. If you have an irrelevant offer or an offer that isn’t worth their time, they’re not going to click it. Encourage people to visit your cleaning website (and convert):
    1. Free Trial: “First clean is on us”
    2. Discount: “20% off when you buy a cleaning package – this month only!”
    3. Free product with purchase: “Free cleaning products when you purchase any cleaning package”
  3. Many marketers and advertisers try to lure abandoned visitors back with coupons or discounts. This can be risky as some customers may deliberately abandon their carts to search for future discounts. When retargeting switch between showcasing benefits or offers to see which performs better for the advertiser. ( or Google Analytics)
  4. Remind the advertiser that customers don’t always follow a linear buying pattern. Just because they’ve visited the website or downloaded the ebook, doesn’t mean they’re ready to convert. Giving them more information will assist them in their purchasing journey.
Programmatic marketing concept for retargeting and remarketing

Programmatic marketing concept for retargeting and remarketing.


5.) Send every ad to a dedicated landing page using the UTM guidelines to enhance the opportunity to identify and test performance. Each retargeting ad needs to send traffic to a unique landing page that has the same look and feel of the ad that was clicked. When people click an advertisement the landing page confirms they have been directed to the right page. Make sure every landing page has a single call-to-action. Having a single call-to-action will make it easy for the visitor to focus on it and not get distracted by anything else and this will maximize conversions.

  1. Ensure the advertiser understands the landing page is essentially an extension of the banner advertisement. They’ll want to provide the same messaging in the headline and call-to-action without over doing it with irrelevant information.
  2. Never send advertising traffic to the home page of a website. There is no bigger waste of advertising spend than to waste traffic on the home page. Every ad requires a unique landing page with a relevant call-to-action.
  3. Use a dedicated tracking UTM for each ad + landing page campaign.
  4. If using pixel tracking, use a unique pixel for each ad + landing page campaign.
  5. Never use the same tracking pixel or UTM for multiple ad + landing pages.


Retargeting is an easy and profitable way to increase an advertiser’s conversion-rate and ROAS so long as you know how to coach and consult with them for how to do it.

Send me examples of your best retargeting and remarketing campaigns and be automatically entered for your choice of either a free site audit or PPC audit for your advertiser.

Leave a Comment

Filed under For the Sales Team

Proving Digital Campaign Performance to Client Objectives

Proving digital campaign performance changes the agency go to market strategy

Three main ingredients for proving digital campaign performance to meet client needs are Tag Manager, Google Analytics, and UTM parameters. If you’ve ever heard it said, or maybe you’ve even said it yourself a few times, you cannot turn a big ship on a dime, think tugboat. It has become a manager’s crutch, this comparison of the large ship turning to the company improving its quality service. They all cling to the analogy when defending the inability to affect change in the business traditions and routines. One small but powerful little tugboat can intercept the bow of the ship and turn it. It can turn that huge ship at will, and take it however far it needs to set the ship on the right path.

My tugboat runs on Tag Manager variables for fuel, it uses Google Analytics for establishing the bearing (navigation), and UTM parameters as its engines. When all of these ingredients are working, I can drill down to the granular levels with my data aggregator and show a client precisely what segment, from which source, converted each specific goal. Not only can I drill down and show it to the client, but the client can later, when they get back to the office, verify my results and my recommendations with their own Google Analytics data. It’s time to say goodbye to presenting disassociated data results and embrace the client’s data wrangler of choice, Google Analytics.

The first thing I want to show the client when proving digital campaign performance is the actual events that have taken place on their web property from the beginning of the campaign to the present.

proving digital campaign performance event tracking

These events are built out in the Tag Management System (TMS) as needed using regular expressions, java, javascript, and custom html. These events result from visiting with the client’s web property. I comb through their website, page by page, following every link (internal and external) to discover what it is the client is asking visitors to accomplish when they come to the site. IS the client selling products, services, or generating purchase transactions? Do they provide downloads, videos, and are their forms to complete and submit? Are there links for social networks, click to call, the web-developer, or the BBB, etc.? I make a note of every possible engagement with the visitor and then I code those events in the TMS. When I later research the client’s industry I look for relevant revenue data such as IRS, Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Small Business Administration to find as much insight for the revenue data as possible. From that research I can estimate the value of each event. It is very important to estimate value. Even though it is not accurate, it is close and as you will discover later, close is not just good enough, it is perfect.

Besides identifying the website and user engagement events, I look for goals. Goals are different than events. Goals identify conversions of purchases, and registrations or form submissions. The key element here is the so-called thank you page. The thank you landing page provides a conversion point that signals the user required input was successfully accomplished. In other words, we have a successful conversion. This is the place for PPC conversion tags, and where I can also use the TMS to register a goal conversion. When it comes to providing statistical results for attribution models, budget optimization by channels, etc. there is no substitute for goals. Events are valuable, but goals are the better source of fuel for the tugboat.

proving digital campaign performance to specific goals

My data aggregator can put the goals in a heat-map table like the one shown above. This provides at-a-glance insight to not just where the client is at right now, but where they are going too. Is the channel improving, or is the channel conversions running lower? You can also begin to see the value of the channel in real dollars and not just a total number of completions figure. All clients enjoy seeing revenues, especially when revenues are increasing. Not like the example above where the Goal Value revenue is down 40% for the period. Oh my… that’s a different article topic altogether — “What to do when a channel falls 99%?” (See the google/cpc row above) Anyway, I will stay on the tugboat here, and go fix that catastrophe after posting the article.

Another of the aggregator dimensions proving digital campaign performance is to see the conversion by page performance as shown below.

proving digital campaign performance by locations

There are many insight stories that can be discovered when using these two primary dimensions together. In the channels data I can easily identify that there is one channel that has driven the revenue down in the period. I can identify that there are significant increases in conversions from all other channels, and just two channels with a drop in conversion rate. This helps me to narrow down which copy, or creative needs attention and obviously, in this case, the PPC budget dried up. In the locations dimension I can see how the engagement copy performed. At a glance I can see that something happened to blanford and meritage in the builders section and mountain-bridge in the community section. Perhaps the lost PPC campaign was primarily focused on these conversions? At the very least, we can see the impact and know where to address immediate changes.

All of the data processed by my aggregator comes directly from Google Analytics (GA) data repository. It’s simple task to link the TMS to a GA account. Once linked, all of the conversions are set up in GA and all of the events data are sent to the GA account too. While you can ask the client to share their existing GA account, I find it more valuable to generate my own – fresh data collector – GA for each client. I’ve never seen a single client with the attributions models built out, or to have goals and goal values correctly built in their accounts. It is even rarer to find the client filtering out spam bots, or to have developed their branded keywords filters. the priority is proving digital campaign performance, and there are a few dozen, or more, administrative and reporting setups and customization that I require and the clients do not provide.

With that, the TMS and GA are linked and working together, we have the fuel and we have the bearing, now we need to add the engines. The UTM parameters are the tugboat engines. By adding these to the links of the client campaign you can cause your entire agency to change the way it goes to market with digital advertising. These UTMs are a true eureka experience for a data scientist proving digital campaign performance. I’ll warn you though, if you’re working in one of those organization that has convinced itself that it’s too difficult to turn a big ship, your tugboat may need to be a patient but persistent little boat.

Tag management systems plus google analytics and UTM parameters are tub boats

Tugboat assisting a large tanker ship in to or out of port

What’s so special about these UTM parameters when proving digital campaign performance? In one word, reports. But, I would really say it better in two words, analysis, reports. By adding just 5 UTM parameters to the campaign link you add 120 additional variations to data mining and insights gathering — per link. All of this additional analysis without needing any pixels placed, without needing to touch the client’s website at all, no special database creation or sophisticated application development. Sounds almost impossible, doesn’t it? One last thing that has to be mentioned too is that every last little bit of the information shared in the campaign reports can be 100% verified by the client using their own Google Analytics account. The only difference is that most clients do not have the scientific background and knowledge to know how to use their data beyond the out-of-the-box standard charts and tables provided by Google.

Proving Digital Campaign Performance Parameters

Here’s how you set up your advertising to track and provide the deepest level of true-click-through performance analysis. I’m going to use the project I am currently working on as an example to better illustrate the method. The UTM parameters that can be tracked with a GA account are:
  • Source
  • Medium
  • Content
  • Keyword
  • Campaign
Source: This should be the advertising agency. If you are managing the advertising for the company you work for then the source would be your company. Even if you are purchasing the advertising from a vendor, the source is your agency/company. This will help you filter the advertising results from all other sources of traffic in the aggregator.
Medium: For this parameter I track where the advertising was published. Sometimes the publisher is a network and the actual advertisement may be seen on multiple websites, but for the analysis I want to use this parameter as a means to evaluate the publisher in aggregate and not the granular effect of each website in their distribution lists.
Content: This parameter provides the analyst with the ability to discover how the actual ad copy, creative, call-to-action, etc. performs. Sometimes the content is a text ad, sometimes it’s a banner, and sometimes the content is a video. I can get even more granular with this parameter. For example if I am experimenting with three text ads I can use this parameter to identify each one e.g., text-ad-1, text-ad-2, text-ad-3. This parameter can identify the specifics that your analyst will need so they can answer with precision and accurately, when you ask, “How many conversions did that monkey driving the Tundra through the jungle video get?”
Keyword: If you are fortunate to work with an SEO and PPC provider who will use your UTM standard (I envy you) this parameter can contain the keyword, the adgroup name, the modifier such as keyword-phrase-someKeyWordorPhrase-exact-match, etc. This can be very insightful when used in combination with conversion tracking and attribution models. Think budget allocation by return on add spend.
Campaign: Sometimes I chose the client expectation (coupon redemption, form registrations, white paper download, etc.) and sometimes I use the experiment name (click-to-call-1, click-to-call-2, graphic-1, copy-2, etc.), and sometimes it’s seasonal (superbowl, friends-day, thanks-giving, etc.). I’ve found that the campaign parameter when placed in a table sorted with the Source and by Medium can be a powerful way to reinforce the performance of the agency so I make the campaign name carry the significant communicator the client will resonate to.

When used correctly the UTM parameters can produce quick reference to analysis of the advertising performance. As shown below, the aggregator created table is filtered to Source/Medium (Your Agency/Publisher) and the Goal tracking is filtered to show results for Goal Set 4. For this client, Goal Set 4 is any add to cart user action. This table includes the site summary information to the goal set proving digital campaign performance. Alternatives to the site summary are site-usage, goal sets, and ecommerce.

proving digital campaign performance by agency and publisher

A line chart is also available or viewing the graph above the table information. These charts can be designed to color code a date or date range for specific events such as the day(s) your client ran radio, TV, or print ads. The line chart can visually identify significant lift from any events that have been set up in the event-calendar including known changes to Google Algorithms, site down times, etc.

proving digital campaign performance with keywords

These three components, Tag Management system, Google Analytics, and UTM parameters combined will prove the advertising performance the agency produces to meet the client objectives. They allow the analyst to easily filter and illustrate the specific data to the conversion goals, site metrics, and campaign summary reports. Setting the conversions and events is accomplished with the TMS and GA, the performance metrics are established and measured in the data aggregator. The reports are eye-candy and brand the agency. Perhaps the best achievement for using these three components is that the client can verify all of the charts and table data with their own GA accounts. Never again will sales have to outwit and over justify reports from third party vendors and publisher provided programmatic reports.

  1. Clean and repeatable data
  2. Deep data mining and additional insights
  3. Performance directly attributable from each campaign to client objectives
  4. Clear and insightful analysis, charts, and tables
  5. Verifiable results the client can access from their own account data

Leave a Comment

Filed under Data Science, For the Sales Team