3 Reasons to Use Google Tag Manager

Does this sound like you?

Your developers, SEO and paid search teams have come together to build a website that is driving traffic in volumes and surpassing your most optimistic estimates. Plus, the reports you’re getting from Google Analytics tell a positive story of highly engaged users.

From Google Analytics, you are learning how users came to your site, what pages they visited and how they engaged with your content.

But this data only tells part of the story. You want to know more about what users are actually doing on your site. Google Tag Manager is a free, effective tool that tracks user behavior.

What is Google Tag Manager?

Google Tag Manager (GTM for short) is a free easy-to-install service offered by Google. GTM allows you to set up an interface to build “Tags” (also known as pixels) to track and evaluate visitor interactions on your site through Google Analytics as Events and Goals.

You will gain valuable information about your audience reach, visitor experience and navigation, and path to conversion.

Why Use Google Tag Manager?

Here are three top reasons to start using Google Tag Manager on your site:

  1. Streamline your tags: Adding and managing tags can be time-consuming and messy. With GTM, you do not need to re-code your site. GTM provides your development team with a block of code to add to the opening <body> tag of each page you want to track.
  2. Improve site function: Once in place, the GTM online menu interface allows you to immediately build, test and publish your tags within minutes. Because the tracking tags are not hard coded, your site load time, a critical component of the user experience, can improve and may reduce visitor site abandons due to slow load times.
  3. Benefit from versatility: The data from these tags is not just limited to Google properties such as AdWords and DoubleClick. You can also collect multiple third-party applications such as Comscore, Facebook and Marin. You can add further customization by using HTML and JavaScript-based tags, variables, and triggers.

How to Implement Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager opens up a universe of new data and analytics possibilities to uncover new insights into your website performance. Charles River Interactive (CRI) has developed an end-to-end strategic and targeted GTM implementation approach with our search partners. We lay the GTM framework with defined goals, naming conventions, and deployment stages. Instead of a flood of raw data, CRI lets your metrics tell a story about your audience and their experience on your site. This brings about actionable insights and solutions to improve your website and marketing strategies.

Helpful Tools to Learn Google Tag Manager

Interested in learning more about GTM and how to apply it? Here are some helpful tools and resources:

Interested in learning more about how to leverage Google’s tools for your marketing goals? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:

Google SERP News: Right rail ads are gone
How to Launch Smarter Campaigns with Google Customer Match

Google SERP News: Right Rail Ads are Gone

As of Monday, Google has confirmed a huge adjustment to search results: right hand rail ads are disappearing.

Last week, on Feb. 18, a dramatic increase in SERPs (marketing lingo for Search Engine Results Pages) with four ad positions, as well as a slow but noticeable decline in right rail placement, led many PPC leaders to question if the change was finally happening. Hinted at last December, when Google began beta testing four ad SERPs alongside Shopping PLAs across a very limited number of results, this update is a game-changer for search engine marketing as a whole.

Why is Google Removing Right Rail Ads?

Google claims the new layout will help searchers find (read: click on) more relevant and engaging content. But the change suggests an effort by Google to standardize the advertising ecosystem across all devices – mobile, desktop, and tablet – by serving the same number and style of ads in the top results. While this makes room for a variety of right rail results such as Knowledge Panels and Shopping PLAs on desktop, the effects on paid advertisers will be swift and global.

Google SERP Before

Google SERP Before

Google SERP After

Google SERP After


Top 3 Changes in Google’s New Ad Layout

So what do the changes mean for paid search? Here are the most dramatic potential changes:

  1. Cost-Per-Click Increases: With the number of paid advertisements decreasing, competition for those top spots just got hotter. The potential for a rise in CPCs across all SERPs is a possibility, as companies compete for an even smaller advertising space. Not to mention the effects of bidding for a top 4 spot, only to find oneself in spot no. 5, now at the very bottom of the first search result page.
  2. Higher Competition for fewer Ad Spots: While adding a fourth spot is good, total paid listings has decreased from approximately 10 to 7.   This puts even more pressure on appearing in those top four spots.
  3. Less Above-the-Fold Real Estate for Organic Results: An additional ad pushes all organic listings further down a page already chock full of PPC, Google My Business results and Local Packs. While overall organic strategy shouldn’t see any seismic shifts, there is opportunity to adjust SEO tactics to focus on long-tail term optimizations (in addition to more competitive ad-filled SERP keywords), so that your business can continually increase traffic from all positions in the search funnel.

How does the Google Ad Layout Impact Paid Search?

It’s estimated that 85 percent of clicks came from the top ads and only about 15 percent came from the side and bottom ads.  The data shows that right rail ads have a much lower likelihood of a click regardless of position, and the fight has always been for top three spots.

So now we’ll have an extra spot to bid for, as well as shopping PLAs and Knowledge Graphs on desktop (when applicable). Quality Scores and efficiencies will be more important than ever, and other factors such as search relevancy and ad copy, are expected to become increasingly more influential in advertisers’ ability to efficiently maintain position in the top four ad spots, while successfully driving traffic to their site.

Google is telling us loud and clear that good, relevant ads will be rewarded with coveted top positions for an affordable price. All you have to do is listen!

Interested in learning more in paid search and SEO trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:
How to Launch Smarter Campaigns with Google Customer Match
Optimizing for Voice Search



How to Use Snapchat for Your Brand

Snapchat debuted as an app with a reputation as a tween/teen alternative to more traditional channels like Facebook and Twitter.

Today, Snapchat has begun to emerge as a legitimate social network that brands and agencies cannot ignore. Consider these stats from Snapchat:

  • 60 percent of 13 to 34-year-old smartphone users in the U.S. are on Snapchat
  • 5 billion-plus daily videos views
  • Over 100 million daily active users

According to these numbers, Snapchat is growing up. And for smart marketers, it presents a key opportunity to reach a coveted demographic.

What is Snapchat?

Founded in 2011 by three Stanford students, Snapchat had a clear goal: Provide a social media platform where posts, pictures and opinions shared “in the moment” would not haunt a user’s online reputation forever. It promised the ability to be spontaneous and honest without those 2 a.m. college posts popping up during future job interviews.

How Does Snapchat Work?

Snapchat is a smartphone app that allows its users to take pictures and video, add filters, text and emojis, and share them directly with friends.

The key to Snapchat’s appeal – and success – is its short window: No post lasts longer than 24 hours, and some disappear in seconds. This is important because it builds an engaged audience. Users keep checking in so they don’t miss posts and because they can only see them once, they make it count.

Snapchat and Marketing: What You Need to Know

Snapchat provides advertising opportunities with their Discover section, which is populated by big name publishers like ESPN, VICE, Wall Street Journal and many more.

  • Targeted advertising opportunities: Recently, Snapchat has announced wider ranging advertising options that will allow digital marketers to target specific groups of people. This type of ad product will allow brands to directly engage with their target audience depending on a number of factors like location, interests, etc.
  • Compelling campaigns through My Story: Brands can use the ‘My Story’ feature to highlight a product or service in little bite size chucks with a reveal at the end and a strong call to action. My Story compiles a series of posts – or snaps – in chronological order to tell a story.
  • Comprehensive social media strategy: Brands can use their existing social media groups in Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to add more followers on their Snapchat page via posting the Snapchat user QR code as their profile picture or a straight up image post. (Be bold, make your Snapchat QR code your Facebook profile image and watch your followers jump higher.)

While Snapchat is still in the early stages of growth, I’m seeing more and more 30+, 40 + individuals creating and sending snaps to their friends and colleagues. With every image having a permanent home elsewhere, sharing “of the moment” images/video to friends creates more of an intimacy with your friends. However as the user base of Snapchat moves to an older demographic, having opportunities to deliver your message to where the attention is of your audience will further validate using Snapchat as one of your social media channels.

Interested in learning more in social media trends? Read more from our blog, View from the Charles:

The Rise of Mobile Chat Apps

Facebook & Twitter Unleash New, Exciting Features

Finding Trends in Your Bounce Rates

One of the most commonly used metrics in a Google Analytics report is the bounce rate. It’s a metric that can help you improve your website, by understanding which pages are not resonating as well with your visitors. But beware because bounce rate can be a bit confusing if you don’t fully understand how it works.

What is a Bounce Rate?

Bounce Rate is defined as the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page. It’s one of those metrics in Google Analytics that you’ll prefer to see a lower percentage.

Several factors can contribute to a website or a specific landing page having a high bounce rate. For instance, visitors might leave the site if there are site usability issues. Or upon landing on the page, they may realize this is not the content they were seeking, again causing the bounce.

Alternatively, your visitors may have found the exact information they needed and do not have an interest in looking at any additional pages within the site. So it’s important to realize that a high bounce rate is not necessarily a bad thing. Some pages are meant to have high bounce rates. If a visitor is looking for a specific piece of information – and they have found it on your site, they could take their information and leave. It doesn’t mean that your site didn’t have enough interesting content, but maybe they found an answer and have no desire (or time) to remain on the site. Contact Us pages typically show a high bounce rate, as visitors get the information that they were looking for and then leave.

Finding Trends

We did a bit of digging in Google Analytics for one of our clients to see exactly which landing pages were generating a lot of visits from organic search, but were also producing a high bounce rate.

The first step was to set an advanced segment for organic sessions, and export 3-6 months of landing page data from Google Analytics. We then sorted the pages by highest total sessions and compared these pages to highest average bounce rate. For the purpose of this research, we only looked specifically at landing pages that had a bounce rate of 60% or higher. Bounce rates around the 50% mark are considered typical for most sites; while bounce rates less than that are viewed as good.

After looking at the data in Google Analytics, we were able to see a trend for specific pages that were generating traffic from organic search, but also had a high bounce rate. As we started to group the pages, we noticed that they predominantly fell into three distinct categories. The first group of pages were targeting users with an interest in a specific topic; an interest that may not carry over to other pages on the site. The second group of pages lived on the company’s blog. And, the third group of pages were within a section that had a lot of external links, which were likely distracting visitors and sending them off the site. Outlining any trends you are seeing with pages that have a high bounce rate is the first step to performing a bounce rate analysis.

Another thing to look into when dealing with high bounce rates is the average session duration. In the example of the blog posts performing well from an organic search standpoint, but having high bounce rates, we took a step further and looked at the average session duration. The average session duration for a lot of the blog posts were around 45 seconds, which suggests that these visitors were reading the posts and then leaving the site. Again, this may not necessarily be a bad thing…especially if you have a smaller site and are looking to boost up a specific piece of content.

There is often confusion around sites with external links that open in a new tab. The short answer to this is that if someone clicks on an external link in a new tab, and then does not interact with your site for 30 minutes, they will be considered a bounce – even if the tab is still open. Therefore, external links can contribute to a higher bounce rate if your visitors are clicking off and never coming back (or coming back too late). Adding event tracking to your outbound links can help you gain a better perspective on how many of your users are clicking on external links or just closing out the site.

You should also have a clear understanding of the differences between bounce rate and exit rate. A bounce refers to visits with only one interaction, while an exit can occur after several interactions. An easy way to differentiate is to understand that Bounce Rate is based only on sessions that start with that page; while Exit Rate applies to the page in which visitors are leaving the site after several interactions.

Next Steps

Now that you’ve got a clear understanding of how to interpret your bounce rate and have identified trends you are seeing in your data, you can determine which pages need your immediate attention. Overall, the best way to improve your bounce rate is to find ways to encourage visitors to remain on your site and engage with more content. You may want to add more internal links to your pages that have high bounce rates, or create more compelling content that encourages your visitors to stay engaged. Just don’t waste time adding or altering content on pages that you would expect to have a high percentage of bounces. Look for trends in your bounce rates and then focus your efforts on where they will matter the most!

Knowledge Graph and Social Profiles. What Do They Mean for Search?

Earlier this year, Google started including brands’ social profiles within its Knowledge Graph panel. In the past, this feature only applied to famous people, such as actors, musicians and politicians. What does this mean for brands that Google will now pick up their social handles?

Branded search results are hugely important; this addition of social profiles makes it clear that:

• If your brand is already active in the social space and has a great presence, it will have even a better visibility in search results.
• If you haven’t had the time to build out your brands’ social profiles, this is yet another reason why you absolutely should. ASAP.