197: Making Sense of Your Website Analytics with Jeff Sauer | Food Blogger Pro

197: Making Sense of Your Website Analytics with Jeff Sauer

Giving meaning to (not provided) data in Google Analytics, removing your own pageviews from your traffic, and making your numbers more accessible with Jeff Sauer. Listen now on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast!

Welcome to episode 197 of The Food Blogger Pro Podcast! This week on the podcast, Bjork interviews Jeff Sauer from Jeffalytics about making the most of your analytics data.

Last week on the podcast, Alexa chatted with Nick Brucker from Sparq Designs about common questions about influencer marketing. To go back and listen to that episode, click here.

Making Sense of Your Website Analytics 

We’re so excited to welcome Jeff Sauer from Jeffalytics back on the podcast. Jeff was actually on our podcast before, episode 76 to be exact, and he’s here today to continue that awesome conversation.

Jeff is a pro at making analytics data meaningful, which helps him and his clients make smart decisions about their businesses.

You’ll learn about some helpful tools that you can incorporate into your workflow, some important concepts to remember as you’re analyzing your analytics data, and how you can start to fully understand your readership and conversion numbers.

Giving meaning to (not provided) data in Google Analytics, removing your own pageviews from your traffic, and making your numbers more accessible with Jeff Sauer. Listen now on the Food Blogger Pro Podcast!

In this episode, Jeff shares:

  • How he started to work with analytics
  • How he helps makes numbers more accessible
  • What bot traffic is
  • Why you want to remove your own traffic from your analytics
  • How you can make sense of (not provided) information in Google Analytics
  • How you can use goals in Google Analytics
  • How to use Google Data Studio
  • The outcomes of his 90 day content marketing challenge

Listen to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast below or check it out on iTunes, Google Play Music, or Spotify:

Resources:

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for interviews, be sure to email them to [email protected].

We’d like to thank our sponsors, WP Tasty! Check out wptasty.com to learn more about their handcrafted WordPress plugins specifically made for food bloggers.

If you’d like to jump to the comments section, click here.

Transcript:

Alexa Peduzzi: In this episode I chat about ways to increase Amazon affiliate earnings, and then Bjork interviews Jeff from Jeffalytics about making the most out of your analytics data.

Alexa Peduzzi: Hey, lovely listener. You are listening to the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. How is it going today? I hope you’re having an amazing day because I’m currently sitting here with the sun shining, my windows open, birds chirping, so today is shaping up to be just the equivalent of the raised hands emoji. But let’s just start this episode, shall we?

Alexa Peduzzi: Today’s episode of the podcast is sponsored by our friends at WP Tasty who Food Blogger’s go-to resource for their plugin needs. Whether you are in the market for a plugin to optimize your recipes, a plugin to optimize your Pinterest pins, or a plugin to help you maximize affiliate income, WP Tasty has you covered. You can learn more at wptasty.com. For today’s tasty tip, I’d actually like to chat about the last goal I talked about just now, maximizing affiliate income.

Alexa Peduzzi: The fine folks at WP Tasty recently published a blog post called How to Increase Amazon Affiliate Earnings, and obviously, my interests were immediately piqued. I’m sure that a lot of you listening right now are Amazon affiliates, meaning that you belong to the Amazon associates program and generate income for your blog by promoting products on Amazon, but do you know how to actually optimize your post in order to maximize your affiliate income? Well, this article will teach you how.

Alexa Peduzzi: For example, they chat about how you can create a post that actually compares similar products so that your readers not only understand the differences between those products but also so they can see why your recommendation is so well founded and, well, the best. This article is full of seven different strategies to help you maximize your affiliate income, so if you want to learn about the other six, be sure to head on over to wptasty.com/earnings.

Alexa Peduzzi: And now the episode. We are so excited to welcome Jeff Sauer from Jeffalytics back on the podcast. He actually was interviewed in episode 76 as well. Jeff is a pro at making analytics data meaningful, which helps him and his clients make smart decisions about their businesses. You’ll learn about some helpful tools that you can incorporate into your workflow, some important concepts to remember as you’re analyzing your analytics data, and how you can start to fully understand your readership and conversion numbers. Without any further ado, Bjork, take it away.

Bjork Ostrom: Jeff, welcome back to the podcast.

Jeff Sauer: Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, we only have a select group of people that have been on the podcast twice. You are one of them, so first of all, congratulations on joining the two-time podcast club. It is rare air to be in here, so congratulations.

Jeff Sauer: Awesome. Thank you so much.

Bjork Ostrom: We’re going to be talking about analytics/analytics plus because this is going to be a little bit of a teaser. We’re going to be talking not just about Google Analytics but another Google product that you can use in connection with Google Analytics. It’s really, really powerful. But before we do I would love to hear your quick story, Jeff. If people haven’t listened to the first podcast episode, I’d really encourage them to go back where you talk a little bit more in-depth about your story, but just kind of the quick recap; who are you, what you’re about, and why Analytics. Why is this something that you really focus on and are passionate about?

Jeff Sauer: Awesome. I’ll try to give the brief version. I started out as a web developer, and I wasn’t very good at it, and then I decided, “Okay, well, I need to find something I’m good at,” so I started blogging and just using that as a way to create websites. I was pretty good at that, and then I got interested in SEO. I got interested in paid media, Google ads specifically. I eventually arrived at my favorite part of the entire online marketing ecosystem was analytics. It was learning about what happens when you have a website, what happens when you have a blog, what happens when you do SEO efforts and really understanding the numbers behind it, because the numbers don’t lie.

Jeff Sauer: You can read a million articles about, “You do this one simple tip, and your blog is going to do this.” People lie with numbers all the time, and I’m just not comfortable with that. That’s just not my personality, that’s not my style, and so I wanted to be as close to the numbers as possible. It turns out that I enjoyed that piece more than anything else that I was doing, and I was better at it, and so over time I joined an agency in Twin Cities area and became a partner in that agency. We were doing work for all kinds of clients and doing all kinds of advisory and stuff like that. Analytics was always what I’d come to. The numbers don’t lie.

Jeff Sauer: When I left the agency, I decided I’m going to be focusing on my blog, Jeffalytics, full-time, and I’m going to teach people how to use this data because during my time coming up over the course of a decade showing numbers, doing this for clients, doing this for myself, it seemed like every time that I talked about numbers, even though I was excited about it, they didn’t lie. Everybody else would just look at me like, “What are you talking about?”

Bjork Ostrom: They’re not as excited.

Jeff Sauer: Yeah, they’re not as excited, or they’re talking a different language, or because I was so excited about it, people would either feel stupid, and I don’t mean that anything other than people would be like, “Man, I feel dumb. I don’t understand how these things work.” I realized that I can’t really excel if I’m the only one who knows the numbers, if I’m the only one who makes it accessible. I spent the last six or seven years of my life. I’ve focused on making numbers more accessible to people who are in the marketing position and basically any marketer who knows of their importance but gets scared of them. I want to make it more accessible to you, so you can use it in your day-to-day workings. It’s a flavor enhancer on whatever else you’re doing.

Bjork Ostrom: Yeah, that’s awesome. I can totally relate to that. I think a lot of people would assume that because on this podcast and because personally when I create content I’m talking about numbers a lot whether that’s income that you create from a business online or analytics, that I’m a numbers guy. I’m not necessarily a numbers guy. I’m not spending all my time on Google Analytics or books for accounting. As much as possible, I love to connect with people like you who do have a really concrete understanding of this.

Bjork Ostrom: For this podcast, we’re going to talk about how you can level up your game as it relates to Google Analytics and some of the other additional tools that are coming out from Google to help you make better decisions as it relates to your business, and that could be a blog, it could be an eCommerce site, any type of online business. The metrics behind the business are really, really important. You had said something that I thought was so interesting; the numbers don’t lie. You look at these numbers, and they’re going to report back to you really clear information about how you’re doing; whether you’re growing, whether you’re shrinking, whether people are engaged with your content, what content they’re engaged with. We can talk about how you can surface that and find some of that.

Bjork Ostrom: But before we do, one of the interesting things is that actually sometimes the numbers do lie. There are times when you don’t have this all set up correctly, and I think that would be a good place to start. It would be making sure that all of us have Google Analytics set up in a way that it’s reporting accurate data. Can you talk about why it might not be reporting accurate data sometimes and how we can go about checking to see if we have it installed correctly or not?

Jeff Sauer: Yeah, for sure. You’re right. Especially when it comes to blogs or eCommerce systems, these are two common types of websites that may get the tracking wrong. There’s a few reasons why it happens. The first is that when you sign up for Google Analytics they give you like a three-step process. They say create an account, put code on your site, and you magically have insights. It’s really this simple three-step process. It’s like they really skip over a lot of everything that happens, and you think that if you put this code on your site things will be magically happening.

Jeff Sauer: If you are on WordPress, you might even edit a template file and put some code on there because Google tells you to do that and think you’ve done enough. Sometimes you have, but then you might discover a plugin that says, “Oh, well, if you want to do Google Analytics and enhance it, all you need to do is install this plugin like MonsterInsights or something like that,” which is a plugin I do recommend that people use it from time to time. They might install that, and then they forget that they had the code on their site already, and now they’re double counting all their visits, and so metrics like bounce rate go down to zero, or they’re showing way more traffic than they actually have.

Jeff Sauer: There’s a lot of simple ways to get Google Analytics on your site. There’s a lot of flavor enhancers in there. There’s a lot of different plugins that might make it even better but, like you said, you could be double tracking. You could update your theme. Even though you put Google Analytics in the last theme, the new one might not have it, and so you might lose tracking. I’ve done that myself. I’m the guy who’s the expert in Google Analytics, and I’ve done that sooner than I would ever like to admit in a more recent time in a website that I had higher stakes than I’d ever want to say on a podcast interview.

Bjork Ostrom: I’m right there with you. We actually have a site that we run, WP Tasty, which we talk about on this podcast a lot. It’s WordPress plugins. It’s a really important site for us. It’s starting to pick up momentum. We’re getting more people visiting, more people interacting and purchasing the plugins. Just last month we discovered that one of the plugins that we were using it’s the exact thing that you were talking about where it provides additional tracking context. For us, it’s eCommerce, so it gives us eCommerce insights, so we can attach dollar amounts to visits and understand that within Google Analytics. But there’s an issue with the plugin, and we had realized that because some of the numbers weren’t making sense.

Bjork Ostrom: There were times when there would be more users than sessions, which doesn’t really make sense when you crunch those numbers, so we followed up with the plugin developer, and he said, “Oh, there was a bug. I need to update that.” He shipped an update. We installed that. But it happened, and it happens to other people. We’ve seen it with Food Blogger Pro members where they have incorrect information that’s being reported back, so we’re right there with you. If that happens to you, how do you know if the information is correct? How do you know if you have stuff set up correctly?

Jeff Sauer: There’s some telltale signs without having the visuals because this is a podcast. The first thing is you just hit it head-on. If you have more users than you do sessions, you’re probably double counting, or you have some kind of issue with what’s going on. It doesn’t look correct. It doesn’t pass the smell-test, meaning you look at your data, and it doesn’t look right. Then that is a problem. If your bounce rate is less than 10%, you probably have some kind of double tracking in place. If you installed something like Jetpack Stats, which I would recommend. Redundancy is always a good thing. You could use Jetpack. I know there’s other stats packages for blogs that people use often.

Bjork Ostrom: And for those that aren’t familiar, Jetpack is the add-on for WordPress sites, and it has all of these different things as a part of it. One of the things that you can do is track stats and metrics like you would Google Analytics. It’s kind of a competitor, or maybe it would be a complement to Google Analytics. What you’re saying is that it’s helpful to have both because then you can say, “Are these generally the same?” If they’re way different, chances are something is wrong. But you’re saying there’s not an issues having two types of analytics installed on your site and collecting that because it allows you to compare and contrast, but we shouldn’t be worried about those messing each other up.

Jeff Sauer: Yeah, they won’t compete with each other. There’s something to be said about Jetpack slowing down your site or Google Analytics potentially slowing down your site, but they’re both free tools. I look at it when they’re both free they’re not really competing. You can use them. You can send the data to each other. But yes, there are some nuances to whether or not you might want to use both. A general blog where things are loading relatively quick, and you pay extra for a quality host, you’re not going to have many performance issues, and it’s not going to make or break things. For example, my search traffic has gone up significantly, and I have both on my Jeffalytics website.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Jeff Sauer: I don’t see any correlation between two stats packages and any of the other ancillary metrics going down.

Bjork Ostrom: One more question with that. The numbers won’t be exactly the same, right? They’ll be generally similar, 5% difference, 10% difference. What could you expect as a difference between the two?

Jeff Sauer: This is the part where I don’t want to get too technical and make everybody fall asleep. They collect stats in a different way, Jetpack does versus Google Analytics. Because of the way they collect it, you could get some very wide discrepancies actually. Jetpack may include bot traffic whereas Google Analytics may not. Jetpack is primarily, from my understanding, collecting it from your server, so they’re collecting it on the server side versus Google Analytics is run on the client side, and so they have different processing things.

Jeff Sauer: I would say Google Analytics I know the team members. I’ve met them. I’ve had beers with them. They are very smart, and they’re singular focus on analytics, and data quality and collecting things. I think Jetpack the stats piece is actually like a throw-in amongst other stuff they have. It’s not their primary focus. I trust Google Analytics because that’s the business they’re in. Actually, getting the stats right is the whole way that Google made $138 billion last year. It’s a big part of their core DNA.

Bjork Ostrom: Proof is in the pudding I feel like would appropriate.

Jeff Sauer: Exactly. They’re never going to match. The value of the redundancy is that if you can look at an individual page, and Google Analytics are saying there’s a thousand page views or saying that there’s one page view, but Jetpack is saying there’s 10,000, and it looked like they’re coming from different places, and they look like they’re not the same person over and over again, then there’s a chance that you have Google Analytics installed wrong.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Is there’s a Chrome extension that you can get that allows you to look and see, or is that for Google Tag Manager, which would be a little bit more of an advanced analytics?

Jeff Sauer: There’s absolutely one that I recommend that everybody install if they’re curious about this. It’s called Google Tag Assistant. It’s a Chrome extension like you said, and you can install it. And then once you’re on a page, if you click on the Tag Assistant, it will tell you which Google advertising and analytics tags are firing and how often they are. If you’re firing twice to the same account, it will give you a little warning window saying, “You’re firing twice.” If Google Analytics isn’t even on there, you’ll notice that it’s not on there.

Jeff Sauer: Now, this is something where you might just check it every time you update a theme or every time that you make a major change and see if it’s working. That’s the simplest tool. It’s not the one the pros necessarily use for auditing things, but it’s the easiest way for somebody who’s just casually interested in this to just double check. Just go to a few pages on your site and just see if Tag Assistant says that Google Analytics is firing, and it’s doing it one time.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. That’s great. We’ll link to that in the show notes as well. There’s a couple of other things that don’t necessarily have to do with inaccurate … Well, I guess it does have to do with inaccurate data or maybe data that you want to be updated, or tweaked or enhanced a little bit. One of those areas is bot traffic. You had mentioned that when you were talking about the difference between Jetpack and Google Analytics. Can you explain what bot traffic is and maybe why you should be filtering that out? Just quick overview of how to do that. We can link to the blog post that you have on that as well.

Jeff Sauer: Yeah, absolutely. Bot traffic is a complicated thing to go through a complete definition, but the easiest definition I can give is that it is non-human traffic. It is a computer, or an application or some kind of crawler. Something that’s not a human and doesn’t have actual human behavior that visits a page whether it’s a search engine crawler just trying to index the context for you, which is a positive thing, or it could be a spam bot trying to find holes in your WordPress system. That could be something. Generally speaking, the bots that show up in your analytics are bots that execute on the JavaScript code, meaning they actually try to perform actions on your website like a normal user. They’re trying to simulate it to a certain extent.

Jeff Sauer: The problem is when this gets to be more than, let’s say, 5% to 10% of your traffic or even 1% depending on your comfort level, you will see that the bots perform completely differently than a regular person. For example a bot might go to the same page and never click beyond the one page. They just view one page and they’re done versus a human will browse, they’ll scroll, they’ll go and look through your site. They’ll actually use a human behavior. If you want to track what the people who are actually interested in your site are doing, you’d want to filter out the non-humans or the people who just come and go from your website or who do behavior that isn’t really something that’s going to benefit you.

Jeff Sauer: You’d want to filter that out of your data so that you’re making decisions based on real people, your real audience because your real audience they’re going to help with the advertising. The number of pages they view are going to impact your ads, or they’re going to become affiliate links. They’re going to do everything that you do to monetize your site. They’re going to become email captures that you can continue to market to over and over again. You want to optimize around those people. If you have your data polluted by what seems like people but it’s really just a computer that isn’t going to do what you want it to do, that isn’t going to submit their email address to your account, then you can’t make as good a decision. Your decisions are based on something that’s not real.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. It’s technically accurate, and that it is traffic, but it’s not the traffic that you care about. It’s not humans, it’s not people, and so you want to filter that out. You have blog post on that. Essentially, there’s an area in Google Analytics where you can go in and turn that off. Google Analytics is smart enough to catch most bot traffic, and so you can turn that off. We won’t talk through exactly how to do that, but we’ll link to that in the show notes. Anything you’d add to that in terms of turning it off, or how to do that or with the blog post? Walk people through that.

Jeff Sauer: Yeah, it’s one of those things where there’s the simple solution which is just clicking that button, which we cover in the post. And then there’s if things don’t work after that, then there’s some more complex stuff which you have to read the article or watch a video on how to do it because it is more technical.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. The last thing that I want to talk about in terms of accurate data within Google Analytics is this idea of tracking yourself. Can you talk about what happens with that and why we want to remove ourselves from being tracked within Google Analytics?

Jeff Sauer: Yeah, for sure. For example, whenever I launch a new course or a new product, and I’m guessing this is very similar with you as well, I test the shopping cart many times.

Bjork Ostrom: Over and over and over.

Jeff Sauer: Like a zero dollar coupon code or a 10 cents just in order to make sure that it works because when I sell it to real people, I want to make sure that the functionality is there so that we don’t lose people. This is my general rule of thumb. If one person tells you something’s broken, then there’s 10 to 20 people who are having that exact same problem who are not speaking up. They’re just leaving.

Bjork Ostrom: It’s kind of like when you see a mouse in your house. If you see one mouse, there’s actually 10 to 20, not just one. The same thing as an issue with your website. If one person says something about it, there’s probably a lot of people experiencing that that don’t go through the pain of letting you know about it.

Jeff Sauer: Yap, exactly. It’s so easy just to leave. That’s what people end up doing. They just leave, or they don’t do anything at all. If your cart doesn’t work, if you don’t test that stuff, then they’re going to be gone. If you don’t get to 10 results, then you’re not going to get anybody telling it to you, so you might have it broken, and you’ve alienated your entire audience. I do a lot of cart testing. Everybody should do cart testing. Even if it’s an affiliate link, you should test everything just to make sure it works. Anytime I send out an email I click on it. Every time that I do any marketing I market to myself first, and I say, “Would I actually buy this thing? Would I click on this thing?”

Jeff Sauer: And then, if I can’t even sell myself on it, then that’s a problem, and you go back to the drawing board. But once you have sold yourself, then you can go to other people. Now, this generates activity that is similar to a bot, and that is it’s human activity because I’m doing it, but it’s not real human behavior. I’m using a 100% off coupon, for example, or I’m just going straight to the sales page, and I’m not dwelling on it at all. I’m just clicking.

Jeff Sauer: That’s going to screw up your metrics if you do three cart tests. It’s going to take your eCommerce data and say that you made more money than you actually made. It’s going to do all kinds of stuff with your goals. It’s going to take your bounce rate and maybe lower it. It’s going to do all kinds of stuff that is significant to the point where you don’t trust your data if you’re included in it. What I do is I’ll look at my IP address during this time, and I’ll block myself, or there’s other more advanced methods for blocking yourself, but the easiest way for anybody who’s doing a test during a certain period of time is just to find out what your public IP address is and then do a filter in Google Analytics to make sure that any traffic from that IP is not showing up in your main reporting view.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it.

Jeff Sauer: Now, this is probably going to get a little bit too technical, but I have to caveat this because people screw this up all the time. You should have three views in your Google Analytics. One is your reporting view, which is what you trust, and it’s the clean data. One is a unfiltered view where you don’t have any filters at all, and that allows you to see what the data would have been for your test because that way you can make sure that your tests are working.

Jeff Sauer: You’re just not adding it to your reports. And then the third one is a test view which is to put your filter in the test view to make sure that it doesn’t break everything. Because if you don’t do that, you may lose everything. It’s irresponsible on a podcast to tell you to add a filter without saying you should add that filter to your test view first before you make it on your live site.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Super helpful and people can dig into that if they want to. Like you said, the hard thing with a podcast is you can’t go through the process of doing a Google Analytics tutorial because it’s one of the worst mediums to walk people through a user interface, but with all of this stuff we have blog posts. The great thing about podcast you can just make a note of it, you can go back to it, and when you have the time, you can really dive deep into that.

Bjork Ostrom: One of the things that we’ve used in the past is the Chrome extension. I like to use Chrome. It makes it a little bit easier. It’s an analytics opt-out plugin from Google Analytics, so essentially it blocks all of the analytics reporting whenever you’re using Chrome. Is that something that people can consider if they want to have accurate data on their own, or are there going to be issues with installing that and using that just across the board with all of your browsing?

Jeff Sauer: I don’t see there’d be any problem with that, especially in that particular case since it’s from Google and sponsored by Google. I actually don’t use that. I’m not familiar with the plugin, so I don’t know if you can choose it on per site basis. But yeah, if you can opt yourself out for your own site, that’s definitely a good solution.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. I think what it does it’s less for accurate analytics. It’s an extension essentially for I think people that want to protect their privacy, so then what happens is you nuke your data across all Google Analytics sites or across all sites that are using Google Analytics, so then it’s like, “Well, they also don’t have accurate information.” That’s one of the things that we’ve done in the past. We can link to that extension as well if people want to check that out and look into that.

Bjork Ostrom: The last thing that I want to talk about in terms of accuracy of information is this idea of keywords. Google used to be really helpful and interesting because you could see all of the different words that people were using, the ways that people would search and get to your site, and now there’s this not provided or something like that where it doesn’t actually tell you what it is. Are there tools that people can use outside of Google Analytics to have a better idea of the keywords that people are using and how they’re getting to their site from a search perspective?

Jeff Sauer: Yeah, absolutely. There is a third party service called Keyword Hero that I use myself and I highly recommend. I really love it. What it does it uses machine learning and your Google Search Console data which is a complementary product to Google Analytics. It tells you how you’re ranking organically, and it tells you an approximation of how much organic search traffic, impressions and clicks are coming from different queries.

Jeff Sauer: They’ll mine the data out of your search terms report in Google Search Console, and they push it into Google Analytics as if your keywords were working all along. They do it in a very seamless way, and it’s really nice. I use it on my site, and I use it in a lot of my presentations. It’s awesome because it makes it look as if you had your keywords all along inside Google Analytics.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome.

Jeff Sauer: It’s very easy to set up. It’s just a couple clicks. You verify that you own the Google Analytics account, you verify the Search Console, and then they’ll create a new view. It doesn’t even hurt any of existing stuff. It’s a brand new view, and they’ll allow you to go through and monitor what’s happening based on keywords.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s great. It’s called Keyword Hero.

Jeff Sauer: Yeah, Keyword Hero. Exactly. It’s better than the native reports for Search Console that come in there because it has a dimension of sales and the dimension of goals, so you can see what keywords had what sales and what keywords had what goal conversions, which isn’t possible with what’s inside Google Analytics without Keyword Hero.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s really interesting and actually a great lead into the next question that I want to ask you about. As we think of leveling up our Google Analytics using it for more than just the standard data, one of those important things is goals. Can you talk about what goals are, how they work, why they’re important, and why we as bloggers, business owners, content creators should be using goals and how we should be using them?

Jeff Sauer: Absolutely. When you look at the evolution of being a blogger, my own and yours as well and everybody who’s listening, you start out with a blog. The first course is always hello world, and it’s just putting yourself out there just seeing if this thing can work. Then eventually as you write you get better at writing, you find your voice, you get an audience, you form a community. All these good things happen as you stick with it. It takes a long time to get to that point. You’re basically building up this asset, and it works really well.

Jeff Sauer: Well, eventually, if you want to take this from a hobby pursuit into something that is more professional, more full-time, or a career, you need to start looking at this thing as like, “Okay, well, for a hobbyist, it’s the number of posts you put out there.” That’s an important metric and that you get comments, or that somebody shared it or something like that. I mean, it may bring you revenue, but it’s not measurable.

Jeff Sauer: In my evolution and in a lot of people’s evolution you start to say, “Okay, well, what is really the point of this blog as a business? What is the point for this as a business? Is it to get more people to click on my affiliate links because that’s an income source? Is it to get more people to stay on the site to view more ads because the more ads they view, the more we get compensated? Is it to get people to come back over and over again? Is it to sell a product? Is it to actually eCommerce transacting on the site or sending to your store or somewhere else?”

Jeff Sauer: Those are all valid purposes of website that are beyond just being satisfied that somebody commented on. An amateur metric is more surface level just, “Hey, this is cool. This is fun.” The pro metrics are, “What is helping me accomplish my business goals? What’s creating value for my business?” Google Analytics has a feature in their tool that allows you to say what’s important for your business, and you can train Google Analytics to recognize those. It doesn’t always have to be revenue-related, but I’m just going to say revenue-generating events because it’s pretty encompassing, and that’s usually what people want to focus on. It’s things that fuel your economic engine.

Jeff Sauer: You train Google Analytics to recognize those good things that are happening. When that’s in place, now suddenly all your reports light up, and they say, “I got traffic,” or, “I got a bunch of people coming from Facebook.” That’s nice to know, right?

Bjork Ostrom: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeff Sauer: “I got a bunch of people coming from Facebook who bought,” or, “I got a bunch of people coming from Facebook who turned into something else.” And then you can see the outcome of that traffic from Facebook. Instead of being just satisfied that Facebook brought people to your site, now you can start to say, “Facebook brought people to my site. They became better customers. I should do more of that.” For example, part of the reason I was really excited to be coming on this podcast again is because we had an offer the last time where people would go to my site, and I could see in my analytics that people who came in from this podcast were high-quality awesome visitors, and they helped me.

Jeff Sauer: If I didn’t have goals configured, if I didn’t know my analytics, then I might just assume that this didn’t really lead to anything. Now, I don’t only take podcast episodes because of that. Podcasts have many other benefits, but when you’re running a business and when you’re going pro, you have to think about this. You have to think, “Well, some opportunities are better than others. I can’t possibly do everything. I can’t drink from the fire hose all day. I’m going to place my bets better.”

Jeff Sauer: The only way to know if you’re placing bets in a more effective way is by playing the odds, and you play the odds when you have numbers. If you don’t have numbers available, you can’t do that. That’s essentially what analytics is to me. It’s not a complicated piece. It’s how do I make better decisions, and how do I collect the right data so that I can say, “Yes, immediately,” or say, “I’m not sure about this.”

Bjork Ostrom: The podcast being a great example where you say, “Hey, I know that if people listen to this.” And we talked about this offer. You can go and see, “Hey, people actually went and followed through on the offer.” Another example of how people might use it would be if you have email lists, so you could set up a goal where you track every time that somebody coverts to a subscriber, and you might be able to then see, “Hey, a lot of people that come from Pinterest, for example, those people have a higher or lower probability of signing up for my email list,” and therefore you can say, “Okay, I’m going to shift my strategy. I can see that this goal, which is really important for me, which is email signups, it has higher probability if somebody is from Pinterest and they come over, so I’m going to place more time on growing my Pinterest traffic because that is more valuable traffic.”

Bjork Ostrom: It’s not even tracking goals for the sake of tracking goals. It’s tracking goals so then you can see as it relates to that goal what is the most valuable type of traffic. Let’s say that you have a blog, you’re content-driven. What are examples of maybe just two or three different goals that people could be tracking? We’d use the email signup as an option, and you can go in and configure that in Google Analytics, so you can say, “Hey, anytime that somebody converts to my email list, anytime they hit this landing page, we’re going to use that as a goal URL, and that’s going to be when somebody goes to that page. The goal is accomplished, and it’s going to show as a goal in Google Analytics.” Are there other examples of what people could potentially track if they’re a content site?

Bjork Ostrom: We have eCommerce as the example. That one makes a lot of sense, but other examples that you could throw out that might be worth considering for content creators?

Jeff Sauer: Yeah, absolutely. I wrote an article on this that we can link to as well. I call it the ACES metrics. I developed this framework called ACES, and it basically is any online business usually goes through the same path when it comes to monetizing what you have. The first one is acquisition, so acquiring traffic. It’s things around how many visitors to my site, how many people are going to my YouTube channel, subscribers. Not even subscribers necessarily. It’s the peer surface level. They’re first time seeing me, so it’s new eyeballs really. That’s the A.

Jeff Sauer: C is capture intent. The ones who may do something down the road, capturing their information, capturing their intent. The metrics that I use for that the goals are number of email subscribers absolutely is amazing. But when we talk about subscribers, there’s other ways to measure it as well. YouTube subscribers is a good example even though that’s not a blog. YouTube subscribers is a great metric, and it’s very much correlated to YouTube views and monetization of that channel, and so I think that’d be really relevant to a lot of people on this podcast.

Jeff Sauer: And then also capturing intent can be remarketing capture, so capturing somebody into your audience list as somebody who might be interested in something down the line, so based on what they viewed, you can capture their intent that way. It doesn’t always have to be primary. It doesn’t always have to be user generated. They can still become captured as a result of their behavior.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s good.

Jeff Sauer: Then we have E which is educate and nurture. Now, depending on how expensive and how much commitment goes into the product or the service that you’re selling to somebody, if you’re end-game is to generate revenue, it could be that you don’t really need to educate people at all, or you don’t need to nurture them versus if you have more expensive big ticket things like an online course, or a membership site, or something that is more down the funnel. You might need to have several emails, and so I call it the E, the educate and nurture. Basically, the metrics you might have are how many people are in your educational sequence, how many people are taking up your offer to go the sales page after they’re in that sequence, how many people are unsubscribing. It could be a negative metric. How many people are leaving there.

Jeff Sauer: These metrics, as you can probably tell, you’re not going to necessarily measure that in Google Analytics itself. You can measure how many people click from an email back to your website in Google Analytics, but some of these things I pull from the actual email marketing platform, or I might pull from Google Ads if I’m doing remarketing from Google Ads or Facebook if I’m looking at my audiences. The final one is S which is sales and leads. It’s basically somebody expressing intent that they want to buy. It doesn’t always mean that it’s buy, buy, buy because you might have a business that thrives on leads. Then you have to actually sell the lead on the service.

Jeff Sauer: It could be affiliate links which is not clicking through on that. It doesn’t necessarily mean they bought, but it’s giving you a better chance. It could just be pure play eCommerce. Depending on what your objectives are, your goals end up become tailored towards that. A lead might be fill out your lead contact form. A sales obvious it’s the people who bought, and the credit card transaction was completed, and then an affiliate link might be an outbound click to the affiliate page.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. One of the things that you had mentioned that is actually really interesting and related in maybe a little bit of a lead into the next topic is not being able to track all of that stuff within Google Analytics. There’s all these important things along the way. Depending on what your business is, we should be tracking those things. Some of those you can track as goals within Google Analytics, others you can’t.

Bjork Ostrom: But there’s this new tool, and I have zero experience with it and zero understanding of what it does, so this is maybe the best and worst case interview scenario because these questions are all going to be genuinely me asking questions about how it works. But there’s this new product, I think it’s new, from Google called Google Data Studio. What is that, and how can we be using that as online business owners?

Jeff Sauer: Let me give you the quick and dirty. Google Analytics has been around since 2005/2006. They always have this dashboard feature which people thought would be the perfect thing where they could summarize everything they see in Google Analytics in a few different widgets, and then they’d have this magic dashboard that showed them the pulse of their business. And then two weeks after that was released everybody is like, “Okay, this is super underwhelming. I’m not sure I can really use this.” I have taught people that this cool, but it’s sort of a false positive because you can’t do much with this dashboard.

Jeff Sauer: Well, a couple of years ago Google introduced a premium, a very expensive product called Data Studio that you had to pay for that would give you the ability to make really high-quality dashboards, but you had to pay for it. And then a couple of years later they realized nobody was using it. They made it available for free. Basically, I would consider it part of both Google Analytics suite as well as the G Suite, so you can actually combine it with your Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Presentations using the same file system as the G Suite, but it also connects seamlessly with a lot of Google products.

Jeff Sauer: It’s very well positioned because it connects a bunch of different Google products into one spot, so you can make a Google Sheet with all of your data, and then you can pull it into Google Data Studio and visualize it. You can use Google Ads reports, you can use Google Analytics reports, you can use Search Console, YouTube. All the Google products that are out you can connect them into one dashboard, and it truly is fulfilling on the promise that a dashboard and Google Analytics had years ago. But, basically, because it’s not in Google Analytics, it’s not constrained to the same limitations of Google Analytics.

Bjork Ostrom: Got it. Can you bring in other third party data, or is it only Google data that you can bring in?

Jeff Sauer: Yeah, you absolutely can bring in third parties. There’s this thing called connectors, and you can connect into over 100 different third party providers, for example, Facebook Ads, for example, Quora ads, Bing ads. I’m mostly speaking about advertising. You can pull an SEMrush data. You can pull in Google my business data. There’s all kinds of different places you can pull in from, and you can make dashboards all for that. And then there’s Google Sheets which is sort of the universal connector. If you can make a spreadsheet, which I think we all are capable of doing, that can be visualized in Data Studio, and then you can just update the data in there manually, or you can use APIs and stuff to fill that in automatically as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Wow, that’s really cool. It actually relates to us. We started using this service called Databox, which is essentially a dashboard company where we’re starting to try and bring all of our data in to one central spot, and we’re doing all those things: Google Ads, Facebook Ads, Google Analytics. But it sounds like Data Studio might be able to do that for us and to do that pretty well, so something for us to make note of and look at. I just pulled it out. On our end you can see there’s all things like YouTube channel reports, and Search Console report, all of these reports that they have that are kind of pre-built.

Bjork Ostrom: The only one that I have right now is welcome to Data Studio, start your report, so I have some work to do there. But for you personally, how do you set that up, and how do you use Data Studio, and what would you advice be for somebody who’s early stages with moving forward with that?

Jeff Sauer: What I would say is Data Studio is really powerful, but it can be overwhelming at first because you see all these things you can do, but sometimes you won’t have the data, or you’re not far enough along to utilize a big report. The first thing you can do, I would say, is to try to replace what you’re doing in Google Analytics, or take a off-the-shelf template and just see what happens when you connect your own data. For example, there’s pre-defined Google Analytics template. If you’re the administrator on your Google Analytics account, you can just click on a button and then connect to GA, and it will pull in this data into Data Studio with your own report.

Jeff Sauer: That’s how I recommend most people get started. It’s just to try the most basic item. Now, if you don’t have the right access to Google Analytics, you could even try it with Google’s demo account. They have like a demo piece of data that you can use to take a look at, but that obviously is not yours, and so as quickly as you can you’d want to look at your own data. That template gallery is really nice. Now, the thing that you’ll learn about the template gallery over time is that it’s purely meant to be a generic representation of everyone. When you’re appealing to everybody, you’re appealing to nobody in my opinion, especially in the online space. And so you’ll quickly say, “Okay, this is cool. It’s a nice little widget, but what does it do for me?”

Jeff Sauer: I personally have actually started to create templates that are really specific to online businesses. It’s basically blogs that sell stuff, you know, basically what my model is, what your model is, what most people have the model of. I’ve built an ACES template where you can actually build up the whole A-C-E-S in Data Studio. It’s like a one click and you have ACES, and then I built one out-

Bjork Ostrom: That’s-

Jeff Sauer: Oh, go ahead.

Bjork Ostrom: I was just going to say this is a good example of like it’s a little bit of content marketing inception where it’s the product, but it’s an example of you now being able to track goals as it relates to this. As I understand it when we were chatting a little bit before, this is something that people if they want to get started with Data Studio, they can actually download the template that you’ve created and then import that in. Can you talk about how people can access that and use that if they’re interested in picking that up?

Jeff Sauer: Yes, the ACES template it’s basically just a blog post that I have in my website, and then there’s a call to action where if you click on it, it’ll take you to a landing page saying, “You can purchase the template and install it on your account.” And then there’s another one for a year in review report, so basically you can compare your 2018 to your 2017, and it’ll just do all the work for you. It’s a four-page report telling you how you’ve trended in a bunch of different areas. I’ve created these things. Yeah, you would use it just like any other digital product that you can sign up for. But I think for this podcast what I’d love to do is make these available. They’re paid products, but I’d love to be able to make them available to your listeners.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome.

Jeff Sauer: If they just want to check it out and play around with it, I can create a special landing page, and they can just go there and check these things out and just no commitment. Just click on it, play around and see how it works.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. Do you know what the URL would be for that? We’ll link to it for sure.

Jeff Sauer: Let’s call it datadrivenu.com/foodbloggers.

Bjork Ostrom: Okay.

Jeff Sauer: There’s a link page up there for you with those two templates free of charge, and then there’s videos that accompany them that show you how to make it work on your site, and then also I do have a premium course called Data Studio Mastery. If you liked those things and you had some gaps that you wanted to fill, it’s like a four-hour course where it just teaches you from the beginning to the end how this stuff works.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. That was datadrivenu.com.

Jeff Sauer: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: That Y-O-U?

Jeff Sauer: No, U just the letter U.

Bjork Ostrom: As in university.

Jeff Sauer: Yes, exactly.

Bjork Ostrom: Cool. That’s great. We’ll link to that in the show notes as well. I want to make sure that we talked about that when you’re recapping it and talking about how people could use that because I think it’s really, really powerful and something that a lot of people would be interested in checking out. That’s Google Data Studio, something that we’re going to be looking into for sure, and it sounds like there’s a lot of potential there.

Bjork Ostrom: The thing that I actually want to wrap up with, Jeff, that I thought was so interesting actually relates not necessarily specifically to Google Analytics, but it’s just a quick little case study of how you as a content creator did a challenge and this experiment that actually resulted in this big increase in traffic to your site, and it was, as I understand it, the 90-day challenge where you created 90 pieces of content in 90 days. That also included videos, right?

Jeff Sauer: Yes.

Bjork Ostrom: Can you talk about what this was, how you went about doing it? I think it’s helpful to inspire people to think about different things that they can be doing. Obviously, for you, you’re writing about more technical things using Google Analytics and the Google tools to better understand that. You’re speaking to marketers. But I think it’s helpful to have these different perspectives of how people are approaching content, so I would love for you to talk a little bit about what that 90-day experiment was like and how that went.

Jeff Sauer: Yeah, for sure. I was inspired by one of my friends, Miles Beckler, to do this. Basically, it’s a 90-day no compromises challenge. If you miss a day, you have to start over at the beginning. His challenge is just videos on YouTube, but my copywriter was like, “Well, I want to get our blog up and going again,” because we had some trouble. Basically, as things picked up with the business, blogging became a secondary item, so it’s like you blog to get noticed, and then once you get noticed, you stop blogging.

Bjork Ostrom: Sure.

Jeff Sauer: It’s very, very common in the blog universe. You probably know that as well. We needed to renew commitment to blogging otherwise it was just happening inconsistently. Then every time we wrote something that would bring traffic, something else would become out of date then it would reduce traffic. We were basically just treading water at about 10,000 people a month as a result or just in general. And then we did this 90-day challenge and basically 90 blog posts and 90 YouTube videos in 90 days, which is insane. It took me about 45 days to record all the videos, and then it took my team about 120 days to do all the write-ups, editing. I had a team of four people working on this project manager dedicated to it, everything.

Jeff Sauer: It was our whole first quarter of 2018. The funny thing is at the end of the 90 days our traffic was up like from 10,000 to like 12,000 or something like that, so it wasn’t significant. But over time things started happening. We figured out a production process, so instead of taking a week or two to do a blog post, if I had time and if I didn’t give up on it, we could go a blog post in a day. Instead of week or two to do a video, it could be done in a day. We just got rid of all the junk, and we went right to a wrap and creation process, and we can get stuff done. We improved our production time significantly.

Jeff Sauer: If that was just the silver lining of this, that would have been good enough like, “Hey, we spent 90 days focusing on getting better at process and we did.” But since then, we’ve actually reduced our blogging to about once every week or two again for many reasons, but the traffic has started to work better because we’re more targeted, we’re more keyword-driven with our posts. Instead of just posting the post, we are very surgical with what type of keywords we’re going to go after. We use kwfinder.com to do that, and we figure out exactly what keyword has the right volume. We like to catch things on the upside, newer trends that are coming along. We can basically rank within a couple of weeks to a month for a keyword that we’re targeting based on our formula.

Jeff Sauer: We make a really, really comprehensive video that we publish on YouTube and then a post that’s somewhere around 2,000 to 3,000 words that really is better than anything that’s out there. We just beat every result that’s out there for that topic, and we just give them a better option. It’s worked extremely well. Queue one traffic barely increased. By the end of queue two, traffic was up a little bit mostly because we hit the GDPR trend, and we’re making videos about that. And then by the end of the year, it was about 30,000 a month, so we were just gradually going.

Jeff Sauer: And then at the beginning of this year something happened. I don’t really know what it is. I wish I could give you a more definitive answer. We shot up, and now we’re at 50,000 a month. That same content a lot of it it’s from that 90-day challenge. We’ve been publishing a lot less. It’s just riding the wave, and really we got a lot of momentum going because of that 90-day challenge.

Bjork Ostrom: That’s awesome. The other thing that’s really interesting with that is that this is really targeted type of content. It’s not like a chocolate chip cookies recipe where hundreds of thousands of people are searching for it. These are really targeted things around marketing and Google Analytics. The people that are coming are I would assume they’re a really good match for the type of people that you’re interested in working with or that would be interested in your products. The correlation to that it’s a different business model than a lot of people think about that listen to the podcast where it’s advertising related, you know, the more people that come, the more you get paid from advertising.

Bjork Ostrom: For you, it’s products in service-based, and so the alignment there is really tight. It could have a potential 5X or whatever it’d be on the number of courses that you’re selling or the number of people that are purchasing things. The impact of that is so strong. The reason that I wanted to share that or have you talk about it is because I think it’s important to get out of the routine. Sometimes we think, “Okay, I’m going to post once a week, twice a week. I’m going to continue to do that forever.” But maybe you need to shake it up and try something a little bit different. I thought your 90-day challenge was a great example of that and obviously how to read positive impact on your site and on your business as well.

Bjork Ostrom: I feel like that would be a good note to wrap up on, but before we do, Jeff, can you talk about where people can follow along with you if they want to check out some of your courses and if they want to follow you on social. Where can they find you and follow along with what you’re up to.

Jeff Sauer: Yeah, absolutely. jeffalytics.com is the name of my blog. That’s where you can see the posts about these topics. If you’re interested in anything that we talked about here, I often have a more in-depth blog post. We know that the podcast is not the greatest way to show analytics data, so check out the blog, and you might find me in a search result anyway if you’re searching for something.

Bjork Ostrom: For sure.

Jeff Sauer: I have four Google skill courses at the moment, and they’re teaching very valuable skills around the Google ecosystem, so ones on Google Analytics, ones on Google Ads, ones on Data Studio like we mentioned and ones on Tag Manager. Those are at my new home called datadrivenu.com. It’s basically courses that’s helping you become more data-driven.

Bjork Ostrom: Awesome.

Jeff Sauer: Those are the two websites. Then, as far as social goes, I do have a very active Facebook group for my students, but most of my time is spent on creating that content and putting out videos on YouTube as well.

Bjork Ostrom: Great. Jeff, it was so fun to have you on the podcast again. Thanks so much for coming on.

Jeff Sauer: Thanks for having me.

Alexa Peduzzi: And that is that my friend. Thank you so much for tuning in to this week’s episode of the Food Blogger Pro Podcast. A quick note before we wrap up here. If you’re listening to this episode on Tuesday April 9th and you’re trying to access the show notes at foodbloggerpro.com/197, you’ll notice that Food Blogger Pro is actually down for the day. That’s because we’re in the middle of migrating our site to WordPress after running our business on another customer management systems since we started.

Alexa Peduzzi: If you want to learn more about that migration process, you can check out episode 195 of the podcast, but otherwise, all show notes for this episode will be available from April 10th to infinity. Whenever you want to access them, they will be there. If you have any questions about any of that, be sure to email us at [email protected]gerpro.com. Otherwise, we hope you enjoyed this episode with Jeff, and we’ll see you here next week. But until then, make it a great week.

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