Online Authority Blog

Activate Your Silent Salesperson with Digital Retargeting

by Kelly Kubrick on October 31, 2016

Ever been tempted into a wine-tasting class because the offer of wine overrides your resistance? And then gleefully bought a case of the wine?  Me too. That’s what this post is about – offering your prospects content that is so irresistible, you’re able to entice them forward into your conversion funnel – willingly.

First published through the Canadian Home Builder’s Association (CHBA)

Now that we’re well past the era of questioning the value of including a website in the marketing toolkit, today’s business concern is ensuring the digital content produced contributes to the larger sales funnel.

Once a business has put its contact and product information online, the challenge becomes justification for continued investment in driving awareness and usage of the website. To date, low-hanging fruit included launching additional digital channels such as a blog, an email list and social media.

What happens when sources to stagnate?

Digitally, it used to be good enough to make sure you’d sorta-kinda made your website search engine friendly and populated your company’s social media account(s) profile pages with updates. But, if asked, your marketing team will likely admit that your website reach has stalled or that Facebook’s “people-reached” update performance indicator is declining. Now what?

As lead generation sources dry up, where will sales come from?

It’s no longer enough to merely hope that digital reach will continue to grow as it has in the past. What if you could efficiently reach new people likely to be interested in your business because they’re similar to customers you’ve had success with previously?

More importantly, what if you could reach that audience in a way that both personalizes your interactions, while automating them, so there’s efficiency of effort? The concept is called a ‘lookalike’ audience and is available through a combination of advertising networks – like Facebook – and your existing website.

Activating your silent salesperson

The consumer packaged goods industry talks about a product’s packaging as a brand’s “silent salesman”. When a consumer buys a product and places it on a household shelf, the packaging dutifully reminds buyers its presence.

There’s a similar concept in digital, called re-targeting, also referred to as re-marketing. Digital publishers provide their advertisers with a small piece of computer code, often called a “pixel” – similar to a cookie – that won’t affect your visitors’ experience or your website performance, that is unique to that advertiser. By publishing your pixel on your website, you activate your silent salesperson.

Put your digital content to work

Next – instead of merely launching a sales-oriented advertising campaign, you use that pixel to begin building a new prospect list through irresistible content. Using Facebook as an example, here’s a big picture visual of how re-targeting works:

Activate your silence salesperson - digital re-targeting cycle

With that cycle in mind, it’s time to get granular. An effort like this has a lot of moving parts, but done right, your marketing team gets access to a rich source of digital leads.

Ten Steps of Digital Re-targeting

Using Facebook as an example, here’s what your marketing team will need to do:

  1. Create a Facebook Ads account for your organization and generate your Facebook pixel from within it. Publish that pixel to all pages of your website.

2. Define a specific buyer persona, with unique interests, such as ‘eco-friendly living’, or ‘vintage motorcycles’ that your company wants to pursue. Research and quantify those interest groups on Facebook – called audiences – and then narrow that audience further by geographic – all of Canada? Or only one province / territory? and demographic ( age and gender) targeting.

3. Create a unique piece of irresistibly good content, written purely for that persona’s concerns, and publish it on your website. Provide enormous amounts of added-value information – imagine content that answers every question unique to that buyer persona, without the pressure of any kind of a sales pitch. Establish your subject authority while assuring the reader of your goodwill.

4. In parallel, create a digital advertisement that promotes the educational nature of your irresistible content, and run it on Facebook – but only show it to the unique interest groups identified in step 2.

5. As your advertisement is shown on Facebook, interested individuals will engage and click through to read your irresistible content, causing your Facebook pixel to activate.

6. You will have made your content even more irresistible by offering an additional piece of even higher-added value information – perhaps by providing a critical check list, a list of unique resources, a countdown calendar, or how-to instructions – unavailable anywhere else.

7. However, that additional content will only be accessible in exchange for the visitor’s forward movement into the sales funnel – for example, perhaps in exchange for an email address. Since most first-time visitors will shy away from giving you that information on the spot, because of the pixel, you let them go without worry.

8. After an appropriate interval, your marketing team runs a second advertisement on Facebook, only shown to (or ‘re-targeting’) to those who visited your irresistible content but didn’t convert to a lead. That second ad will offer a gentle reminder of the fabulous extra content they have missed out on, enticing them back to your content, this time with a higher likelihood to convert to access your higher value content.

9. As you identify the right audiences and use the right creative to entice them towards consideration, the automated – yet more personalized than a mass-media buy – process repeats until a lead converts. This allows you to engage with the lead on an ongoing basis through your existing qualification process.

10. As you identify the audiences most likely to convert, Facebook then is able to give you access to ‘lookalike’ audiences – other people with profiles and behaviour that match those you’ve successfully converted – that you can now offer your irresistible content to. And the cycle repeats…

To access a lookalike audience on Facebook, organizations will need to have a Facebook Ad Account, which provides tools to create your pixel, advertising campaigns, and Audiences, including lookalikes. In Facebook, lookalike audiences can be modelled from ‘source’ audiences including specific on Facebook, people who’ve liked your Facebook page or your own customer lists.

To create these lookalike audiences, Facebook looks at the common qualities of the people in your source audience and then finds people who “look like” your source audience on Facebook for a country. Organizations can choose the size of the Lookalike Audience during the creation process.

This combination of using technology to target the interests of buyer personas you can uniquely help, without even knowing who they are – while using automation to re-target them later – can be a powerful tool to help drive your lead generation efforts.

Although tactically, this ‘silent salesperson aka pixel’ approach may feel very far from how you’ve sourced leads in the past, my hope is that you will consider adding re-targeting as an arrow to your marketing quiver. Any questions? Ask away in the Comments section below.

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Kelly KubrickActivate Your Silent Salesperson with Digital Retargeting

Six Dimensions of Digital maturity podcast episode with Mr Marketology

by Kelly Kubrick on October 11, 2016

What are the Six Dimensions of Digital Maturity?

Recently, I had the pleasure of chattting withJeff Beale, aka Mr. Marketology as part of his Marketing Strategy Sessions podcast and YouTube channel. Jeff and I discussed the Six Dimensions of Digital Maturity, the business planning model we first proposed at Digital Strategy Conference.

Watch our conversation on YouTube (20 minutes, 47 seconds) by clicking the video embedded below:

In this episode, Jeff and I discuss how the digital maturity model came about and how organizations can use it to their advantage. In particular, we talked about:Image of the Six Dimensions of Digital Maturity - the dStrategy Digital Maturity Model

My thanks to Jeff Beale for his interest in sharing the Six Dimensions of Digital Maturity the larger Mr Marketology community! Learn more at the Mr Marketology website, on Facebook, @mrmarketology on Twitter or Google Plus.

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Kelly KubrickSix Dimensions of Digital maturity podcast episode with Mr Marketology

Measuring digital diplomacy and digital advocacy

by Kelly Kubrick on April 6, 2016
Updated April 15, 2016

On April 20-21, 2016, Global Affairs Canada in partnership with the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy is hosting a conversation between foreign governments, academics and industry experts.

Entitled “#Diplometrics – Measuring up: Public Diplomacy & Advocacy 2.0 for Effective Results” the event is intended to explore results measurement for public diplomacy, advocacy and digital diplomacy efforts. As the event approaches, I found a handful of definitions for digital diplomacy:

  • “…the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and social media platforms in the conduct of Public Diplomacy (i.e. processes in which countries seek to accomplish their foreign policy goals by communicating with foreign publics)
  • “…the use of the Internet and new information communication technologies to help achieve diplomatic objectives”
  • “…more than a new tool in a used tool box…[it’s] a dialogue made possible by Digital Diplomacy which could replace the monologue of Public Diplomacy.”

I was intrigued as at Digital Strategy Conference, we defined social business strategy, one of the six definitions of digital maturity as: “the intent to facilitate interaction and collaboration in three directions: externally, with your community; internally, employee to employee; and between customers.” Immediately, I could see that being adapted for Digital Diplomacy –

In terms of advocacy or diplomacy campaign measurement, #diplometrics could be the “measurement, use, and impact of, social technologies to achieve diplomatic objectives”. Or is it broader than results measurement with social technologies, and needs to incorporate offline outcomes as well? To help answer my questions, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to moderate the Industry panel #Diplometrics. My panellists will be:

  1. William Carty – Manager, Public Policy for U.S. & Canada – Twitter Inc. and @WRDCarty;
  2. Kevin Chan – Head of Public Policy, Canada – Facebook Inc.;
  3. Colin McKay – Head of Public Policy & Government Relations, Canada – Google and @Canuckflack; and
  4. Donny Halliwell – Senior Strategist, Customer Success – Hootsuite and @DonnyHalliwell.

Given their backgrounds, I’m intrigued to learn more: William played a key role in the development and passage of US legislation in technology, telecommunications, cybersecurity, privacy, data security, public safety, energy and healthcare. Kevin has academic and Canadian federal government chops. Colin has been an advocate for both Open Government and privacy, which is quite the balancing act. Prior to his role at Hootsuite, Don operated the Twitter handle @BlackBerry with over 4 million followers and BlackBerry’s corporate Facebook pages with over 30 million fans.

Over the course of the day, we’ll hear from industry and policy experts all working to pin #Diplometrics down. Looking forward to it!

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Kelly KubrickMeasuring digital diplomacy and digital advocacy

Can we diversify Canada’s economy through digital policy?

by Kelly Kubrick on April 4, 2016

On Tuesday April 19, 2016, Canada’s Digital Policy Forum (CPDF) will host stakeholders and policy makers to discuss improving Canada’s performance in the development of its digital economy. The Forum proposes that “inevitably, any sound strategy for economic diversification must be a digital strategy.”

At Digital Strategy Conference, we defined digital strategy as “the process of identifying, articulating and executing on digital opportunities that will increase your organization’s competitive advantage.” If you expand ‘your organization’ to incorporate Canada, we can extrapolate that organizational-level thinking to economy-level thinking.

If digital enterprises empower and drive growth, the CPDF Diversifying Canada’s Economy Through Strong Digital Policy Forum asks what kinds of policies and institutions are needed to encourage and scale that growth. How can we best enable digital innovations? The day is set up to:

  • Establish the current cyber-security threats and attack environment (behold the recent hospital system held hostage);
  • Discuss the potential for user-generated data to impact us socially, politically, and economically;
  • Ask if data from our devices be brought out of the private domain and used to serve the public good, without compromising privacy or safety?
  • Learn from Sweden’s model for exploiting the opportunities of digitalisation
  • Debate if government and the private sector are capable of collaboration and cooperation at speed, or if our  competitive skills will merely erode further?

As co-author of the dStrategy Digital Maturity model, I’m looking forward to hearing from industry such as Google and Intuit – and from academics and policy makers such as the Information & Communications Technology Council (who recently released Digital Talent: Road to 2020 and Beyond), the Social Media Lab, a multi- and interdisciplinary research laboratory at Ryerson University and at the Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University and Sweden’s Digitalisation Commission.

If digital readiness interests you, consider participating in the dStrategy Digital Maturity Benchmark Survey. Intended to help organizations understand the dimensions needed for digital readiness, as with the Forum, understanding how we can build digital capacity at an organizational level can also serve to help us identify capabilities and gaps in advancing our national competitiveness.

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Kelly KubrickCan we diversify Canada’s economy through digital policy?

Communicators: take note of changes in digital analytics

by Kelly Kubrick on January 14, 2016

How have analytics changed?

Four years ago I participated in IABC Ottawa’s “Networking in the New Year” event, where communications professionals can speak informally with specialists in different fields. In 2012, I spoke about web analytics. I’m returning this year, and I will do the same. Which begs the question, has anything changed? Most definitely.

The bar is higher on what can (and should) be tracked

By January 2012, our community was

  1. Articulating more complex tracking requirements – instead of merely tracking website visits, there was increasing demand to measure the impact of social media / earned media efforts; while
  2. On the paid media side, measurement of remarketing (or retargeting) campaigns were at the bleeding edge of reporting requirements; and
  3. Google Tag Manager didn’t exist.

Website tag management emerges

This last item is critical, and links directly to item 1 and 2. “Tags”, in the context of tag management systems are used on your website to help you measure traffic and optimize your online marcom efforts. Examples of these website tags include:

  • Your website’s digital analytics tracking code i.e. your Google Analytics or your Adobe Analytics tracking code;
  • Conversion tracking tags (Google AdWords conversion code or the Facebook pixel); or
  • Remarketing (or behavioural retargeting) tags to target previous visitors.

Website tags are different from campaign tracking tags

For those of you familiar with campaign tracking tags such as Google Analytics’ “utm” codes or Adobe Analytics campaign tracking codes, note that they are different from the website tags above. It’s unfortunate that the terms overlap, but each accomplishes different things.

Prior to website tag management solutions, inserting website tags was a messy, inefficient coding effort requiring information technology resources. Then the inevitable would occur – organizations lost track of which tags were where, whether they were up to date or not, and who actually ‘owned them’. Not good. Thus, tag management solutions proliferated, including solutions like Google Tag Manager, Adobe’s Dynamic Tag Manager, Ensighten, and Tealium.

Website tag management: imagine never losing your keys again

bowl-for-keys
Today, tag management solutions are much better known – they have gone from an outlier technology concept to a critical tool in organizations’ digital toolkit. It’s exactly what we all need – a better way to facilitate the business discussion around determining what should be measured, while reducing the need for technical involvement for implementation.

How? By storing all those tags in one container in your website code instead of scattering different tags all over the place. Imagine that glorious moment when you successfully organize scattered key sets into one bowl at the front door. No more frantic searching as you try and get out the door.

Now, the business owner(s) can manage their tags centrally, outside of your HTML using a friendly interface. Other benefits include simplified tracking of video, social buttons or other interactive elements on your website. If your organization hasn’t looked at tag management solutions, I’d add it to your 2016 measurement plans.

Vanquish referral spam

The second big change since 2012 is the acceleration of referral spam clogging all our analytics reports. Consider this the second item on your organization’s analytics to do list in 2016: tackling the deeply frustrating problem of referral spam or ghost spam. What is referral spam? It’s garbage traffic that’s inflating your website traffic reports.

Example of referral spam - notice the 100% bounce rate with zero session duration time?

Click to enlarge example of referral spam: notice the 100% bounce rate with zero session duration time?

To give you some sense of how bad the problem has gotten, I was involved in a website launch in late November 2015. Not quite two months later 32% of the visits are is spam – fake traffic that could inflate our numbers and impact our marcom decisions. How can do we know that?

Fortunately, we followed best practices and set our digital analytics up with multiple data views. We use our primary decision-making data view to measure net visitor traffic (excluding ourselves and referral spam) and we can contrast it to our unfiltered data view capturing gross visitor traffic. This gives us a much cleaner – and more reassuring – view of our real audience numbers and their activities on our site.

Be sure you’ve got the same set up at your organization so that you can better measure the real impact of your communications efforts. Speak with your digital analyst or analytics team to ask them if and how the issue is being addressed internally. Like you, they’ll want to ensure ongoing trust in your organization’s data.

Web analytics broadens to digital analytics

One last important analytics change occurred only two months after the 2012 Networking in the New Year event. To acknowledge the proliferation of digital data sources, the Web Analytics Association (WAA) formally changed its name to the Digital Analytics Association (DAA):

“As more digital data streams became available, the responsibilities of the analyst broadened and the term “web analytics” became known as the study of data collected exclusively on websites…account[ing] for the analyst’s changing role of weaving together data from multiple sources and channels.”

As a long-time member, I heartily agreed with the change. To truly leverage the opportunities of digital, we in marcom need to take advantage of all of the data on offer. Data is a critical output of your digital initiatives and is what differentiates them from their offline equivalent. Knowing that, have you got a handle on your data strategy for 2016?

What’s on your 2016 analytics list?

I look forward to seeing the IABC Ottawa crew on January 28th and to discussing analytics. Bring your questions and concerns or feel free to ask any advance questions in the comments below. See you soon!

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Kelly KubrickCommunicators: take note of changes in digital analytics

Introducing MyLiberty.Life: online shopping for quality incontinence products

by Kelly Kubrick on November 20, 2015

Early in my career, I joined The Voyager Company, a digital publishing house that produced CD-ROMs. Our sister company produced the famous Criterion Collection, on laser-disk. Together, we published the media that was a precursor to DVDs, now rapidly being replaced by stream media. As there were no obvious sales channels for our products, we pounded the doors of book stores and record stores in hopes they would carry our product.

We also sold our catalogues over the Internet. I remember one particular day when our technical team called us into a meeting to show us a ‘database’ they had built to house the content for what had been 300+ static HTML product pages. They showed us how we could update the pricing for the entire catalogue with a single command. It was like hearing the Alleluia chorus break over my head. This would revolutionize selling online!

Well – it didn’t quite, but it helped build the foundation for my continued work in ecommerce. In 1997, I joined a small team at Time Warner’s interactive division, Time Inc New Media, to develop alternative revenue streams for digital advertising sales for Time Inc’s magazine assets. What an amazing era; we launched countless businesses – Fortune Database, an online community to support participants in Dr Andrew Weil’s “8 Weeks to a Healthy America” eating program, an affiliate program to drive subscriber acquisition for PEOPLE Magazine, an online customer service for our core magazines and more.

Back then, ecommerce technology was expensive and not particularly elegant. Today, things have changed, and for the better. What has remained true is that if you have a product that can be showcased online for buyers unable to find those desired products easily, you might want to consider ecommerce. Which is why, I’m very pleased to announced the launch of a new ecommerce venture for myself and two partners.

What began as a debate over likely trends in the marketplace over a summer lunch has become a Canada-wide company selling – wait for it – incontinence products. All online, all home delivery, all discreet packaging. The numbers are compelling: 10% of the population admits to being affected by incontinence and if asked about the occasional “leak” the number jumps to 50%.

Daily, we’re uncovering stories describing the need: those stick handling conversations with aging parents, runners looking for eco-friendly washables, grandparents indulging new family members with a monthly diaper delivery service, or simply those who would prefer not to deal with the teenager working at the drug store.

We’ve embraced the need for information, a bit of humour, good sense and a simple shopping experience for Canadians looking for discreet solutions for parents, for spouses, for special needs kids. Men, women, young adults and kids – My Liberty has options for all.

The product mix is changing rapidly through research and science; including an Australian line of products indistinguishable from regular underwear. We’re selling everything from liners to pads for women to guards for men, briefs (also known as adult diapers), cleansing and skin care and state-of-the-art washables in swimwear and bedding solutions to help reduce bed wetting burdens for young and old. I shake my head at the things I’ve learned in the last few months…!

We also provide a straight-forward, informative email newsletter to answer product questions and insights for consumers and caregivers, all with a comfortable, non-clinical approach. If you have a moment to take a look at https://MyLiberty.Life, I’d love to hear what you think; my partners are as eager for feedback as I am, so bring it on.

I realize it’s a rather unexpected category, and not likely on your radar, but if you know of anyone who might be interested in learning more, please consider sharing the website or newsletter with them? I’d really appreciate it. Alternatively, if you know of organizations/facilities we should be talking to, just let me know.

Thanks so much –

P.S. Feel free to check My Liberty out on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook out as well.

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Kelly KubrickIntroducing MyLiberty.Life: online shopping for quality incontinence products

Digital Strategy Conference: Our Journey Comes to a Close

by Kelly Kubrick on August 31, 2015

Thank you for participating in Digital Strategy Conference

Although Digital Strategy Conferences are no longer being produced, we invite you to continue learning how to increase your organizations’ level of digital maturity using the dStrategy Digital Maturity Model.

In 2013, the journey began with a model and framework for understanding the six key dimensions of digital maturity.

The goal of Digital Strategy Conference was to provide inspiring examples of digital strategy; while the goal of our Mapping Digital Maturity workshop was to provide a process for establishing your organizations’ level of digital maturity by giving you benchmarks from industry.

We met those goals and so did you.

Since then, hundreds of organizations and over 1,000 attendees from across sector and industry have helped their organizations increase competitive advantage and/or succeed in delivering on its mission.

Who Attended:

Senior directors and managers from across the organization responsible for planning, managing or integrating digital initiatives, along with their digital team.

Successful digital initiatives are due to the effort of high functioning teams, therefore, we encourage a team approach to your conference education.

Today’s opportunities for business improvement using digital processes and technologies extend across the organization. In addition to sales, marketing and communications, Digital Strategy Conference informs and educates those responsible for internal communications, social business and workforce management.

What you learned:

  • Digital strategy definition and models
  • How to assess digital maturity
  • Data strategy fundamentals
  • Performance measurement and digital analytics essentials
  • Content Strategy – content, technology and experience
  • Paid, Owned and Earned Media – the pillars of digital marketing
  • Case studies and applied learning from peers and colleagues

Thank you all

Today, our journey comes to a close. We thank to the entire #dstrategy community for its contribution, enthusiasm and support since we first proposed Digital Strategy Conference.

We wish you all the best and much success on your future initiatives.

Andrea Hadley and Kelly Kubrick, Co-founders, Digital Strategy Conference and Workshops

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Kelly KubrickDigital Strategy Conference: Our Journey Comes to a Close

Planning your ‘less talk, more action’ digital transformation

by Kelly Kubrick on May 13, 2015

First published on the Digital Strategy Conference blog, authored by Barret Murdock.

In 2014, Canada Science and Technology Museums made the news when a large outbreak of mould had been discovered in their Ottawa location. Brian Dawson, their Chief Digital Officer, explained how while it may have not been the best way to get on TV, it was this challenge that highlighted the need to to stay up-to-date in a culture that is in constant flux and that requires organizations to continuously battle the threat of digital irrelevancy.

“Digital Irrelevancy is Canada’s Biggest Threat”

Culture has become globalized – anywhere in the world one can receive information instantaneously from common sources such as Google and Wikipedia. This can present a problem because region-specific information and history can be overlooked by these global websites. Brian Dawson suggests that this is particularly true with Canadian history – if Canadians are not active digitally and on the web, then who will tell our stories?

Canadian Science and Technology Museums want to tell the story of science and technology in Canada and they have begun to offer a variety of digital opportunities to open up this public dialogue.

Examples of this are:

  • The creation of educational video games like Ace Academy, where the player goes to flight school and experiences a series of first world war missions
  • Digitization of their collection and giving the public open access to the data.

This free reign on information definitely carries a risk, but Dawson indicates that maintaining their collections relevancy in a digital landscape required a structure where enthusiasts can easily use the collections data in their personal projects. This collaboration with the public also includes crowdsourcing – asking the public to share their individual stories through text and videos, as well as encouraging social media contribution through hashtags.

Driving these initiatives, Canada Science and Technology Museums have formed Innovation Teams comprised of a wide range of experts specializing in areas relevant to a given project.  Teams work in four week cycles, during which they assess and integrate both user and stakeholder feedback. This process ensures that their projects are up-to-date and that the museums remain relevant in this digital age.

The Canada Science and Technology Museums took some negative media attention and used it as an opportunity to self-evaluate and  initiate positive, digital development throughout the entire organization.

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Kelly KubrickPlanning your ‘less talk, more action’ digital transformation

Welcome to Digital Strategy Conference Vancouver 2015!

by Kelly Kubrick on April 3, 2015

First published on the Digital Strategy Conference blog on April 2, 2015.

Ready for round 5?

Wow – five? It’s our fifth Digital Strategy Conference already. So glad you could join us! Get ready to learn from over 40 top marketers and digital experts from across North America in Vancouver’s UBC Robson Square,  here to share their organizations’ experiences in tackling the ever-evolving challenges of digital. From May 11-14, we’ll explore topics including digital fluency, the intersection of social and community, content strategy versus content marketing, and digital’s potential for filling the sales or lead generation pipeline.

No hype. Real world case studies

Be prepared to take lots of notes as we hear real-world case studies on specific ways that organizations are taking advantage of data to improve business results. Not hype. Real-world.

Our agenda aligns with the Six Dimensions of Digital Maturity, the foundation of the dStrategy Digital Maturity Model, a framework and business planning tool designed to help you assess your organization’s current level of digital maturity.

New this year: Mapping Digital Maturity Workshop

Interested in learning how to assess your organization’s digital processes and their state (ranging from ad hoc to optimized)? For the first time in Vancouver, we’ll be offering our “Mapping Your Digital Maturity” workshop. Join us for a very practical, hands on workshop to dive into the dStrategy Digital Maturity Model on May 11, 2015 – the day before Digital Strategy Conference Vancouver 2015 kicks off.

We continue to believe that digital impacts horizontally across function, and that its lessons can be leveraged across sector and industry. Please take advantage of the experience and insights shared by the conference speakers. This is your chance to hear lessons learned, recommended approaches and landmines to avoid.

Shared perspectives increase insight

Share those insights when you get back to the office – the more perspective our collective community can bring to digital, the better.

You’re among friends, so ask questions, lots of questions. Tweet your thoughts, introduce yourself and network like no one is watching. I look forward to meeting you!

Kelly Kubrick
Co-Founder and Chair, Digital Strategy Conference

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Kelly KubrickWelcome to Digital Strategy Conference Vancouver 2015!

How to remove referral spam from your Google Analytics reports

by Kelly Kubrick on March 5, 2015

Referral or “ghost” spam is ‘bad’ traffic that can inflate your digital analytics reports and make it appear like your website is receiving more visitors than usual. It’s often characterized by very high bounce rates with one second or less session duration, and 100% new visits. To learn more, see the “Vanquish Referral Spam” section in this blog post.

I realize this probably looks overwhelming, but it looks worse than it is…and once you get into a groove, it’ll go faster. The first major clean up is always the worst, but once you start doing this monthly, you’ll be getting excluding a handful of spammers at a time.

Step 1: In Google Analytics run and export an extended time frame of the Referrals report:

  1. Change the calendar to an extended period e.g. 2 years
  2. Go to Reporting > Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals and expand the number of rows to 500
  3. At the top of the report, click Export > XLSX

Step 2: When that report launches in Excel, click the 2nd tab, called Dataset1

  1. Click Data > Filters, which will enable you to filter the data to sort through it faster
  2. In Column G, Avg. Session Duration, click the little down arrow to open up your filter options. Click “Sort Smallest to Largest”, which will bring all the 0.00 second session duration to the top of your list
  3. Review the resulting sites listed in column A, and delete any that are legitimate referrals as we only want to identify the spammers
  4. You should end up with a list of spam sites. If you’re unsure of a particular referral, check the “pages per visit” metric. If it is 0 or 1, and has a session duration of 0.00, it’s spam – see the featured image above for examples

Step 3: When you have a final list, cut and paste column A into Notepad (or a similar no-formatting tool)

  1. Format the groups into a single line of text separated by vertical pipes|no spaces between each, so you get something like”
    “traffic2cash.xyz|best-seo-offer.com|www.event-tracking.com|semalt.semalt.com|www1.social-buttons.com|buttons-for-website.com|share-buttons.xyz|net-profits.xyz|free-social-buttons.xyz” FYI – that text string above is 182 characters; you can check using something like http://www.lettercount.com/
  2. Add one more character – a backslash before every period, so the above now looks like “traffic2cash\.xyz|best-seo-offer\.com|www\.event-tracking\.com|semalt\.semalt\.com|www1\.social-buttons\.com|buttons-for-website\.com|share-buttons\.xyz|net-profits\.xyz|free-social-buttons\.xyz”
  3. Create groups of about 10-15 referral sites. Don’t go much bigger than that as each final filter text string cannot exceed 256 characters, including the vertical pipes and periods. The amended string above is 194 characters – again, checked using http://www.lettercount.com/
  4. Save that file somewhere close by…

Step 4: Go back into Google Analytics > Admin > Account > All Filters and click + Add Filter

  1. For Filter Name, because you’ll be creating multiple filters, use a standard naming convention like “Exclude spam referral 1 of 10 – created 5Nov20XX”
  2. Click Custom > Exclude > Filter Field = Campaign Source
  3. In Filter Pattern, cut the 1st of your referral spam groups from Step 3, item 4 above
  4. Apply the filter to the TEST views only (so that you can see if they are working)
  5. Click Save
  6. Repeat for all remaining groups
  7. Annotate (need instructions how to do that? see this post: what you’ve done in TEST

Step 5: A week or so later, go back in and check your data in your TEST view

  1. Run the calendar for the last week
  2. Compare Reporting > Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals between Test and Master views
  3. Assuming all is well i.e. that you see a decline in referral spam in Test, apply the filters to Master
  4. Go back into Google Analytics > Admin > Account > All Filters
  5. Click the name of the filter to edit it, and add it to Master view using the Add > to “Selected Views” tool
  6. Click Save
  7. Annotate what you’ve done in Master
  8. Pat yourself on the back!

Once you get the worst of the spam cleaned up, you can make a reminder to yourself to keep an eye on your Referrals traffic, and potentially add/edit new filters monthly. That’s why it’s important to add the ‘created date’ to the filter name, as you’ll be able to run the data as of that date next time thus saving yourself guesswork on what you’ve already excluded.

Have fun…!

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Kelly KubrickHow to remove referral spam from your Google Analytics reports