Google Analytics, The PPC Show, Google Ads

Advanced Event Tracking in Google Analytics and A/B Testing with Google Optimize [Podcast]

Welcome to episode #68 of the PPC Show, where we interview the best and brightest in paid search and paid social advertising. This week I'm joined by Brandon Green, Director of Digital Acquisition at Telegraph Creative.

In this episode, Brandon discusses the power of event tracking in Google Analytics and how to use Google Optimize for A/B testing.

Learn about his early results and tips in this week's episode.

Listen to the Podcast



Brandon Green

Brandon is the Director of Digital Acquisition at Telegraph Creative.

Brandon has worked across many verticals within paid search, paid social, SEO, and also as an analyst. He loves the analytical side of digital marketing and solving complex problems for clients and proving to them that digital truly works.

Brandon takes every opportunity to talk about and teach digital marketing and it's use cases. If you have any questions about complex event tracking or how to track a certain user event, feel free to reach out to him via LinkedIn.

Read more about event tracking with Google Tag Manager.

Podcast Transcript & Show Notes

Google Analytics Resources

  1. How to Build Advanced Google Analytics Audiences [Podcast]
  2. 5 of the Best Google Analytics Integrations to Improve Customer Insights
  3. Tracking Conversions With Google Analytics
  4. 4 Must-have Google Analytics Reports for PPC Advertisers


JD Prater:                                Welcome to Episode 68 of the PPC show, where we interview the best and the brightest paid search and paid social marketers. I'm your host, JD Prater. This week I'm joined by Brandon Green, Director of Digital Acquisition at Telegraph Creative, to discuss the power of event tracking and Google Analytics, and how to use Google Optimize for A/B testing. Stay tuned as he shares his learning and tips for website testing. Let's get to it!

Before we jump into some advanced event tracking and some Google Optimize, let's just get a couple things out of the way here. So Alabama came in, swooped in on the number four spot for College Football Playoffs, man. What are your thoughts on it?

Brandon Green:                   Well, the first thing that I honestly have to get out of the way is, Roll Tide. That's the very first thing. And I just wanna really thank Gus Malzahn, at Auburn, for losing to a team that he just absolutely demolished. So, that kind of opened the door for us to just kind of swoop in.

And I also wanna thank Urban Meyer for losing big time this year, by 31 points. So, I mean, I just wanna to thank both of them for allowing Nick Saban, the greatest coach of all time, to really just go where he belongs, and that's the Playoffs and the National Championship.

JD Prater:                                Oh man, I'm glad you told us what you really think. Before the show, Brandon and I were talking and he compared Nick Saban to the Gary V of college football coaches, and I thought that was really funny. He was saying how when he was in college, he could always see that Nick was always staying out late. He was at the ... Not staying out late partying, but staying out late learning and coaching and watching film, I'm sure. So, I thought that was a really funny analogy.

Brandon Green:                   Yeah, he was constantly just at the athletic center. You could always see up there and see a silhouette of Nick Saban working in his office. He was just on his computer, watching film, doing whatever, and I'm not sure if he was quite like, wearing a beanie like Gary Vee does, or you know, touting K-Swiss shoes. But, he might, I mean, I couldn't quite see him, so he could be up there doing that.

JD Prater:                                Yeah, so K-Swiss shoes, man. You think Gary Vee is gonna resurrect that brand?

Brandon Green:                   I'm not sure. I remember last time I had on a pair of K-Swiss shoes, I think I also had on a Stone Cold Steve Austin tee-shirt, and I was running around my elementary school, giving people the Stone Cold stunner. And that's the only thing I remember about K-Swiss.

But then again, Gary Vee has done a lot. He has really, made a name for himself.

JD Prater:                                Oh man, that's good. That's really good. I like it. Oh man, that's funny.

All right, well, let's get into the actual, the meat of the show here. Thanks for entertaining my questions but, let's jump into some event tracking. What is it? How do we do it? And let's talk about some of those audiences that you can set up. So, let's get started with some event tracking in Google Analytics.

Brandon Green:                   Oh, exactly. So, event tracking is, very simply, just listening to what happens on a website. This can either be done through onclick handlers within the code itself, which I strongly recommend not doing, because they can be changed with an Inspect Element. But the best way to really set up event tracking is through Google Tag Manager.

And of these events ... I mean, you can really listen to anything. It can be just simple clicks, listening for form submissions, and even getting more advanced into how far along in a video somebody actually watched on your website. So, embedded videos, you can utilize the YouTube API, Vimeo, or Wistia, and kind of gauge what videos are people watching on your website.

And even along the lines of scroll depth. So just how far down the page are people actually scrolling? So, if you have a super long one-pager, you can see how far they actually go. So, if you have a newsletter signup at the very bottom of your page, if nobody's reaching it, then you know oh, okay, I need to move that up to the top.

So it's just along those lines. Just you really need to be able to track what goes on a website, because without it, you won't know what you need to change. And if people ask you questions, it's like, "Hey, tell me a little bit more about this button right here. How many people have clicked it from this location in the past month?" It's kind of embarrassing whenever you can't answer that question, especially in a rather large client meeting with your boss or CEO sitting across from you. So it's-

JD Prater:                                It's true.

Brandon Green:                   Yeah, it really is.

JD Prater:                                Well, cool. Let's kind of get into ... You gave some really, really good examples of how people can go in, set this up within Google Tag Manager, so we can focus on there, because I think that's really where most people are kind of gravitating towards. It seems to be where Google's pushing people, and I definitely agree, versus the actual hard coding of that.

So, whenever we're going through and you're setting up event tracking, are you mostly trying to solve a question that's already come up or are you trying to future proof it and say, you know what, you're probably gonna wanna know this, when you guys are building?

Brandon Green:                   Very future proof, is the way I would like to look at it, because I don't know what's gonna come up in the future. I don't know what people are gonna do on the websites. So I need to be able to gather as much data as I can, so I can look at it in the future and really make as many changes as I can, or get as many insights as I can off of what goes on the websites.

So, often times, there is a few moments where it's like, okay, we need to know this after the fact, so we go back in and set it up. But in that moment, that's where i kind of go overboard. I'm like, okay well I also need to set up tracking here, here, here, and here, because it's just kind of the way I think. It's like, okay I might as well just try to solve more problems in the future right now, in this moment, when I can.

JD Prater:                                Gotcha. What do you think is the biggest hurdle for people setting this up? Because I know that this is ... I would consider this a pretty advanced feature that I would say probably the majority of advertisers aren't taking advantage of, even though Google Tag Manager has it within its native kind of interface.

What are some of those types of blockers or things that people have to overcome to really start setting this up?

Brandon Green:                   The biggest one out of the gate is CSS. So a lot of stuff you do in Google Tag Manager is based off of a trigger for, this click element matches this CSS selector. So a CSS selector is really just a very specific way to dive down into one element on the page.

So if there's a button, it's a way to say, okay, this button is within this div of this certain ID, it's in an unordered list, a list item, and it's a link. So it's a very specific address. It's basically like the home address for a certain element on the page.

So, CSS selectors is a very large hurdle for most people, but a lot of people I've spoken to, and really talked them through it, given them a lot of resources to look at online, they realize, oh wow, it's really not that bad. It is super simple in a way, because it's just really just reading and regurgitating what I just read.

So, it's not super difficult but it is a hurdle, just because it's code. It's people opening up Inspect Elements and seeing just a huge amount of just nonsense. So it scares them away, but after just a few moments of looking at and deciphering what it actually means, people often just come back to me and say, "Oh, that makes a lot of sense and it's not scary anymore."

JD Prater:                                Gotcha. So you would probably just say, "Hey, I know this might sound advanced, this might sound scary, but guess what? Jump into it because that's the only way you're gonna learn."

Brandon Green:                   Exactly. It's just pull up something in your browser and look at CSS selectors, and just casually learn those over a few days and try to you know, set up a few events on a website. Maybe if you have your company website and you have Tag Manager installed, just try to single out a button and see if you can get that event to be sent back to Google Analytics.

And if you finally get it working, then just go full on. Just learn as much as you can, because it will make your life so much easier whenever you can sit down and set up tracking, rather than relying on a developer. Because we all know developers have a lot on their plate. They have a lot of problems going on that they have to solve. So if you pile on, who knows, like if you need 25 events on a website, they might take a little time to get to that. But if you can get that set up on your own really quickly, and know it's working, because you previewed it within Google Tag Manager, then it will make your life a lot easier, make their life a lot easier, and everything will just be so much more streamlined.

JD Prater:                                Yeah, definitely. It really seems like there is kind of this, I don't know, somewhat of a movement, if you will, around the rise of the technical marketer. Where it's no longer just understanding data or driving performance, that kind of stuff. It's really like there's this other side, like you should be able to figure this part out. At least, I kind of feel that in the last year. It's like, no you need to understand Google Tag Manager. You should be able to do this yourself. You shouldn't have to always rely on a developer to go in and insert this type of code for you, so it seems like you are definitely leaps and bounds ahead, so congratulations.

But yeah, let's shift gears a little bit and kind of get into it. So, how can we set up some audiences? So, talk to me about setting up audiences based off these event that you've got, maybe even goals, and then I really want you to dive into some of the Google Optimize for us.

Brandon Green:                   Oh, yeah. When it comes to setting up the events as audiences, just events alone, not goals, that's really where you just go to like, the Admin and go to Properties and then just pull up the Audience Definitions. And in there, that's where you can just really do anything you would possibly want.

So if you wanna say, people that have came to the website from a certain UTM parameter. If it a source medium of Facebook, CPC, or even a campaign, you can define that. You can say of those people, how many of those people watched 90 percent of the video. And if that's all you want, that's where you can save that audience and then send it back to, for instance, AdWords. Or you can send it off to even Google Optimize and build an audience to do whatever you might want to do with it. Because this is so open-ended, you build the audiences you need to solve the solutions that you need to have. So any problems you have, you can build an audience to help you solve it. And the really important thing about setting up a lot of these events, is so you can segment these audiences in any different way that you would like.

So, if you have scroll depth tracking on your website, and you notice that people are scrolling to the bottom of the site, and they aren't filling out the newsletter signup, or if they aren't contacting you through the contact us form, then you can really set up an audience based off of those. But also, if people are coming to your website and they're watching 95 percent of your video but they aren't converting, then you can set up an audience for those.

And one way that I really think that audiences should be used would be for E-commerce websites. So if people are coming in and they're watching, for instance, a product testimonial video, or if they're adding something to their cart but they're not purchasing, this is where you can set that audience up and utilize it within Google Optimize. And I have to note that audiences can only be utilized in Google Optimize 360, but it is an incredible feature that you definitely need to try to take advantage of.

JD Prater:                                So with these types of audiences that you're creating with this advanced kind of event tracking, so example you were talking about with E-commerce sites. You know, watching a certain video and then hitting the add to cart but maybe didn't purchase, are you able to then use those audience for Google AdWords remarketing?

Brandon Green:                   Oh, absolutely. See where you can really import any of those audiences that you've previously created in Google Analytics, straight into AdWords. So you can create really any combination of ads that you would like, with any creative types and serve them up to those people within those certain audiences. So like you said, if people are watching a video but they're not converting, you can really take that product and really show it to them one-on-one.

If they're coming into the websites and they're looking at a certain product category, but they haven't quite decided which product to buy, this is where you can really show a product category and then bring them back to that page and help them along in the process.

And another really important thing is being able to go into the User Explorer and really look at what people are doing. Now since you have all of these events set up, you can open these User Explorer tabs and really follow somebody through the website. So, you can use this, along with retargeting to figure out okay, where are they stopping? What's causing them to purchase? What is really hindering the conversion? If somebody's watching the video but then they're deciding, okay, I don't wanna purchase anymore, what in that video that you have on the E-com site, is really hurting them?

Or, if everybody tends to open up an expansion on the website and read a little bit more about their product, that's where you can look in that and really decide, okay, what in this might this user really like that is causing them to purchase? Because a lot of the people are looking at that, and then they're purchasing. And all of these other User Explorer tabs I'm looking in, most people who don't purchase, they never open that.

So that's where you can look at it and see the features of the product, and really call it out in the ads. If you have search ads running, that's where you can really just call out those features that they are kind of engaging with, and just kind of pushing them over the edge.

So, this is where you can use a lot of the events kind of manually within the User Explorer. Just dive through it. Just look and just see what you can find. And then use that data to really help with retargeting, since you already have those audiences set up to retarget off of. So it's just kind of, going hand in hand with each other, using one to compliment the other, and how they all kind of just fit together, snug, and it creates just a retargeting goodness.

JD Prater:                                Cool. Yeah, now so let's ... Talk to me about using Google Optimize within those A/B tasks that ... You're finding this information, you've got event firing, and you're learning that certain actions are leading to a conversion and you're like, man but I kind of wanna test this. How would you go about setting that up within Google Optimize?

Brandon Green:                   If you use Google Optimize for A/B testing, it's really important to really first see what you need to test. Like we were mentioning before, if people aren't making it to the purchase but they're watching a video, then that's really your starting point. Just getting as much data as you can.

And a great example is, for instance on an E-com site, if people are going through and they're engaging with content, they're engaging with a certain product, they're engaging with a certain product type, category, this is where you can go into Google Optimize and really ... I wouldn't exactly call it A/B test. This is where you can set up the percent of visitors to target at 100 percent, and then pull in the audience for that certain product. So that's the very first step.

So you're saying, people who watch this video or engage with this product, I want to show this certain thing on my website that I'm about to change to them 100 percent of the time. So, a great example would be, a carousel on your website. So, if you constantly have products moving back and forth in the carousel, this is where you can really take something and make it dynamic. So if people are engaging with a kayak on your website, but they're not purchasing, if that audience comes back to your website, the very first slider on that carousel can be a kayak. So that's the first thing they see. It's kind of a one to one.

And if people are engaging with a product video about boots or something like that, that's where you can kind of have creative within that carousel that drives them back to that product category page. So it's kind of helping them along the process. And you can share this up to really any combination of people that you would like.

So you can say, they're returning visitors to my site. They are also really engaging with this video, but they came from this certain campaign. So you can piggyback off of everything you've done previously to really get that audience as tailored as possible and then show them exactly what they want immediately whenever they come back to your website.

Because a lot of the times, people come back to the website through the home page. Because we've all done this. We've looked at things on the internet. We've went out somewhere and we've kind of looked into a certain website's product pages. We've dove pretty deep. But then whenever we come back, we don't quite remember what we were looking at. We just come back because we remember the domain name. So, whenever they come back to that, you kind of want to spark that memory in them that says, this is what you were looking at and this is how you can get to it even faster than having to search for it, or go through all the plethora of category product pages we have.

JD Prater:                                Gotcha, gotcha.

Brandon Green:                   And I've found that doing that really helps out with conversion rates just because it makes it easier. It makes them really find what they want a whole lot faster.

JD Prater:                                Nice. So it's just like a much better user experience and a really cool case study that you did there. With Google Optimize, how do you like using it? I mean this is more high level question. How do you like using it and playing around with it as kind of a newer product from Google?

Brandon Green:                   Oh, I like it. It's really good. Of course there's other things out there, like Optimizely. There's Visual Website Optimizer. If you knew nothing about it and I just opened up a tab and let you play in it, you would figure it out in just a few minutes. It's one of those things where I guess Google had a lot of UX research on it, and they just figured out a very easy way to use it.

JD Prater:                                Nice. Okay, cool. Well, I think we all got some homework, then. I'm sure there are more people that have experimented with setting up events than there are with Google Optimize. At least from the people that I've talked with.

Let's go ahead and round out talking about those events, and you were talking about this new date constructor, and how you can look at it and kind of understand as well, like how long it takes users to fill out a form. Yeah, walk us through that, because that's pretty interesting whenever you can start tracking how long it takes to fill out a form. And then how you would go about using that information to make optimizations.

Brandon Green:                   Oh, yeah. For the people that aren't really that privy on Custom JavaScript Variables and Google Tag Manager, that is really where you can grab anything you want. So you can grab something from the navigator, the window, the document, anything you can really reach out with JavaScript, you can get it.

And with the new date constructor, that is where you can have a JavaScript Variable that has a function contained within it. So, this is where you can really have something set up that whenever somebody inputs something in the very first input field of a form, I wanna really grab the date, right then and there. So you can assign this to, for instance, a variable that says, "Start form."

So it logs that date, and then once they submit the form ... And you can have this to where it is pretty much just straight JavaScript. So if somebody submits the form on submit, then also have a function run that grabs the end date, whenever they submitted the form. And whenever this happens, you can subtract the end date from the start date to get the overall time it took that person to complete the form. So this is where you can really dive in and figure out exactly how long it takes people to start the form and finish the form.

So, if people are taking two minutes to fill out a form, then oh my goodness, you know that there's some things wrong. But if people are filling out the form super quickly, then it's like, oh okay, well I've done my job here. This is awesome. And you might not think this is super valuable, but this is another thing you can really kind of build an audience off of.

The people that are coming in and they're taking forever to fill out the form, you can build an audience off of them and then serve them ads later on once you fix the landing page, because if the form was kind of not so great, then once they come back and see that you fixed the problems that you have, they might kind of turn it from a one-time buyer to a multiple-time buyer. Because I've been on some websites and oh my gosh, the form was just way too much. Or websites that like, make you create an account to buy something online.

So it's just really being able to just fix problems that you have on your website and help those users that have been there before see that you fixed a problem.

JD Prater:                                Gotcha. Yeah, this is one of my favorite things within, like Facebook. So within Facebook, if you're running a Lead Gen Ad, something like that or a Lead Ad, I think that's what they call it. You can create an audience that says, anyone that's opened the Lead Ad but hasn't completed it, target them. So, it really kind of helps you hone in your messaging, hone in on user behavior, because it's fantastic that they offer that but again, now you can apply that exact same principle onto your website.

So imagine all of those people that have come to your website. Maybe you have a sign up form, maybe you have like a whitepaper download as an example. How many of those people have started to fill it out and then maybe got distracted? Maybe your form sucked, whatever it is, right? And now you can retarget and create audiences based off of that, so.

I think those are really cool use cases that you provided us today, so thank you so much for sharing. Some really cool information around events, goals, setting up audiences, Google Optimize, getting into Google Tag Manager, don't be afraid! Don't be afraid of Google Optimize. Get in, play around, and learn this.

So, thank you, again for sharing all that knowledge, but before I let you go, we gotta jump into a lightning, fill-in-the-blank fast ... I don't know what we're calling this. We need to come up with a better name, but yeah. Anyway, I got a series of questions I'm gonna throw at you. I'm a give you about 60 seconds to answer each one. You ready to go?

Brandon Green:                   I'm ready.

JD Prater:                                All right, man. So, let's just say this afternoon, you said it was raining right now, and let's just say you've got all the time in the world. You're not doing a podcast. No internal meetings, no client meetings, right, and you've got some time blocked off just for yourself. What are some of the places that you turn to to learn about the industry or where do you turn to to keep up with all of these really cool things that you guys are doing within Google Analytics?

Brandon Green:                   Yeah. One area that I love to read is PPC Hero. They have just an incredible amount of information on there, along with an incredibly great tutorial on how to do it. So they tell you the value behind solving these problems within AdWords or within the Google Display Network. You know, how to do certain things, but then they show you step-by-step the exact way that they've done it and how you can do it on your own. So that's the first one.

Another great one is really LunaMetrics. I like going out into LunaMetrics and seeing what they've done, looking at all of their GTM recipes, and seeing if there's any way to expedite what I do by just importing the recipes that they have out there. Because there's no reason for me to be spending a long amount of time setting up tracking whenever I can simply just take their JSON file and merge it into my container and bam, it's done. That is so helpful, having something like that out there.

And another one is Simo. We all know who Simo is. Simo Ahava. He has a blog that is kind of advanced, but you'll find some really great topics on there on how to solve some pretty unique problems. And I've had so many problems solved just by googling the problem and Simo pops up and it's like, oh okay, well I'll go see how he fixed it.

And it's just great having resources like that out there and I definitely recommend, if you haven't, go out there and check out some of those blogs and see if they can help you out. Because they've definitely helped me out.

JD Prater:                                Cool, cool. And I'll make sure to link to all those in the show notes for all of you guys looking to learn more about that. So, next question for you, man. Let's say you got a new hire and you're coming on board at Telegraph. What are some of the skills that you look for?

Brandon Green:                   I just look for somebody who is willing to learn, because as we all know, this industry is constantly changing. There's something new that's coming out. Facebook has a new ad. There's just always something new. So it's people who are willing to stay up-to-date on their own, without anybody having to push them. Because if somebody's having to push you to constantly learn more, then you're not really ... I just don't feel like you're really wanting to be in this industry, because there's something new almost every day.

So just reading the blogs. Staying up to date. Seeing what Google's up to. Seeing what Facebook is up to. What's something new on Instagram? Pinterest ads? Okay! Well, there's always something new and just being able to stay up-to-date on your own and have the willingness to learn on your own.

JD Prater:                                Cool, cool. Great advice, man. Let's move into some like, G.A. So we talked about event track. We talked about setting up goals and audiences, but outside of those, what's an underutilized feature in Google Analytics that you think people are missing out on?

Brandon Green:                   The one thing that I've noticed that a lot of people just do not use is the User Explorer. It is so valuable just to see what people do on your website and follow them through. I know it's not real time, but just bear with it. I mean, you're seeing where people are coming from. So, you're seeing if they're coming from a referral source. You're seeing if they're coming from organic. So once they land on the website, you're able to just follow them through and see how they engage with it. See every page they view. See every event that happens. See whenever they complete a goal.

So you're getting inside the mind of that user and that is so valuable, because once you really look at that, you're able to see things that you haven't seen before. You're not making educated guesses. You're looking at what people are doing and you're kind of figuring things out as you go along with them. It's like you're sitting there beside them.

JD Prater:                                Really cool.

Brandon Green:                   It's kind of fun, to be honest.

JD Prater:                                Gotcha. Yeah, and within Google Analytics, if you go under the Audience tab and then right underneath, maybe four or five down, is User Explorer. At least that's what it is on mine. Just like, the normal Google Analytics. So, if you're looking for that Audience on the left hand side, Audience and then User Explorer. It's like right about Demographics.

All right, man. Two more questions for you, and then I'm gonna let you go. So, let's go ahead and start with the Playoffs. So we talked about Alabama sneaking in, number four, but there's three other teams that they have to contend with. Yeah man, what do you think? Who's gonna win it all, or who's gonna be in the Championship game?

Brandon Green:                   Well, the very first game of the Playoff is Clemson and Alabama. We are getting a lot of our players back so, I mean, just the logical person in me, I think we're gonna win. I don't know by how much, but given that it's Alabama, they have Nick Saban. They're getting a lot of players back and they were beat by Clemson last year. So I think we're gonna be pretty angry. So we're gonna get by that first game.

And on the other side, we have George and Oklahoma. I don't wanna say I'm more scared of Oklahoma than Georgia, because Georgia's in the SEC and we all know that the SEC is the best. But, on that side of it, I'm thinking Oklahoma's gonna pull that out. They are looking pretty good. Baker Mayfield, no matter you think about him, he is a great football player. So, I'm thinking it's gonna be Alabama, Oklahoma, and all the other teams are pretty amazing, but that's what I'm thinking. I'm not giving final scores because I am not Paul Finebaum.

JD Prater:                                Gotcha. All right, well there you heard it. OU, Alabama ... you know, I'm from Oklahoma and I am a Big 12 fan so I'm gonna go on limb and say, I'll take Oklahoma, you take Alabama, and then we can have a conversation in mid-January.

Brandon Green:                   That sounds great to me.

JD Prater:                                All right. All right, man, well last question for you is, let's just say this whole digital marketing thing just doesn't work out and tomorrow you gotta get a new job. What's a fallback job for you?

Brandon Green:                   Oh, gosh. A realistic fallback job or just any fallback job?

JD Prater:                                I will leave it to you, man.

Brandon Green:                   Well, I would say a great fallback job, if I couldn't do digital marketing anymore, it'd probably be just a normal everyday Formula One driver. Just being able to hop in those cars whenever I want. Just, if I couldn't do this, I would probably just wanna be a Formula One driver.

JD Prater:                                All right. Well, there you have it. Brandon the Formula One driver. So, thanks again for coming on the show and sharing your knowledge with us. I really appreciate it, man.

Brandon Green:                   Yeah, no problem. I had a lot of fun. Thank you for having me.

JD Prater:                                All right, until next time. We'll see you later.

Brandon Green:                   All right, have a good one.

AdStage Team