When you own your business you quickly realize that you not only need to be proficient in the services and products you sell but you also need to understand how to advertise and market your business.
While you are building organic SEO or even to compliment your organic SEO, you probably want to look into PPC (pay per click) advertising. These are ads that run on search engine pages and display networks that you pay for when someone clicks on your ad.
The major player in PPC is Google Ads.
What is Google Ads?
Google Ads is Google’s online advertising program. It allows you to run PPC ads on Google’s Search results pages (Google.com) and the Google Display Network (ads running on third party sites). You can sign up and get more information here: Google Ads
Google Ads are based on the keywords or phrases about your business. Think of these as the search terms someone would use to find services and products related to your business.
This sounds simple but picking the correct keywords and bidding strategy can be time consuming and expensive. Especially, if you do not have the experience or time needed to figure these out. Often it might be better to hire someone to do this for you.
In my research, I found a new offering from Google Ads designed for small business that is mostly automated called Smart Campaigns.
What are Smart Campaigns?
Smart Campaigns are a new offering under the Google Ads umbrella. They are a reworking of Google’s Express Display ads and according to Google are 20% more effective.
They are intended to be easy to set up and manage. Google is targeting small businesses that do not have the time to manage a Google Ads Campaign.
Smart Campaigns are ad campaigns that run automated based on some simple setup options. Google picks, via their AI (artificial intelligence) algorithms, what keywords to use based on the industry category of your business and the products and services you want to promote.
As with Google Ads, Smart Campaigns integrate with Google My Business, Google Maps and Google Analytics. You will get statistics on where the clicks originated from. These could be Google Search, Display Network or Google Maps.
How to create a Smart Campaign
Once you create a Google Ads account you will have the option to create a Smart Campaign. In the Google Ads dashboard click on Express Campaigns and then Create New Campaign. Note that Express Campaigns and Smart Campaigns are the same thing.
Next you need to select your Main Advertising Goal. Your options are:
- Get more calls – includes clicks and phone calls
- Get more visits to your physical location – highlights you address information
- Get more website sales or sign-ups – focuses on clicks with no option to add a phone unless you add it to your ad text.
I chose Get more calls because (from some research…) this option shows both my website and a linked phone number (for mobile users to call directly). Click Pick Goal for the option you want.
Next select the business you want to advertise. This is where you can click New Business which sends you to over the Google My Business to setup or you can select your business if it is already in Google My Business.
Next you will need to determine the location you would like to advertise. You can choose a radius around your business or a specific area like city, state or country. I chose 20 miles radius around my location. Google also lets you know your potential audience size.
Next select the business category and services you want to promote. You pick a general category and then some more specific services. Google uses these options to select the keywords and phrases for the campaign.
You can use Google’s product or services suggestions or you can create your own.
Next you will create your ad. Google will show you how your ad will look on both the search network and the display network when you click on “See How Your Ad Will Appear”. For this example, I left what Google suggested but you can change them as you need.
On the same page you can set or select the landing page that clicks go to. Here I am using the main page of the website but you could use another page or a custom landing page or blog article. Really any page can be used.
If you selected phone calls above you will get the next option. It allows Google to track phone calls to your business. Google will create a local phone number and forward those calls to your business number. This allows Google to include more information about incoming calls like the time, location, and duration.
Next you set your budget. You set a daily budget but that equates to a monthly budget. Some days you will pay more but you will not spend more than your monthly budget. It also shows estimates of clicks and impressions.
Just click through to finish up and now you have a live Google Smart Campaign. You can pause your campaign if you are not ready to go live. This gives you some time to look at your campaign and get comfortable with the interface before spending any money.
You now have a complete Google Ads Smart Campaign running in about 30 minutes.
Pros and Cons of Google Smart Campaigns
Keywords and phrases – These are picked for you and may help you figure out new keywords. The Smart Campaign I setup for Severin Web Design included 182 keywords and phrases. Google Ads shows which keywords got impressions and which got clicks. You can also disable keywords and phrases as needed.
Easy to set up – When first thinking about using Google Ads I expected to spend hours in front of the computer setting this up. It took about an hour to set up my first campaign since I read the help for each step. The set up for this article took about 30 minutes.
Ease of Management – As a small business owner your time is very limited. There are only so many hours in the day and we wear many hats. Saving time is helpful. Reporting, keywords and charts are available right on your dashboard. This makes is easier to judge the performance of your ads at a glance. If needed, you can drill down further into the reporting.
Keywords – Yep keywords are also a con for me. You cannot add specific keywords. You can only add services you are offering which Google uses to create the keyword list. I have read that too many keywords is not a good thing. This could use up your ad budget on ineffective keywords.
Less Control over Campaign – Often with the ease of use and easier management it is a trade off that you lose some control (Google picks your keywords and bidding strategy) over your campaign.
Less specific matching – In my research, I have found that Google apparently uses a broad matching strategy instead of an exact match strategy which may cause clicks you do not want.
We have covered what Smart Campaigns are, how to quickly set up a Smart Campaign and what some pros and cons of Smart Campaigns. They are definitely easy to set up and they do give you some options to select and change later.
I will run a Smart Campaign or two to test over the next few weeks or months. If they work out, Google Smart Campaigns could save my business much time and money. That’s really how you learn and a big part of being an entrepreneur.
Have you used Google Smart Campaigns? Did they work out for you? Are there pitfalls we should look out for? Subscribe and let me know in the comments.
Thanks for reading! Kris.
You have gone through the work to build your eCommerce online store, awesome travel blog, or your business brochure site. At this point, you are probably thinking how can I tell if my site is being used effectively, whether my sites content is engaging, or are my eCommerce landing pages working as they should. As a blogger or small business owner, you want to know information about visitors to your website. You want to know what pages they visit most, how long they stay on your site, what is your bounce rate (percentage of visitors who stay on your site for a given amount of time), and many more metrics.
To analyze this information you need to start collecting data about your website.
There are a number of metric collection tools on the Internet that can collect this type of data including SE Ranking, Woopra, and Google Analytics. We recommend Google Analytics to our clients. In fact, we will usually include this option in most of our eCommerce or web design proposals. We feel it is that important to you and your business. Google Analytics has been the de facto analysis tool for years, includes many data points and is free to use. Plus, if you need more analysis metrics you can also upgrade to their paid Google Analytics 360 tool for enterprises.
Although this article is not about what Google Analytics can track, here are some basic stats it will show you. Google Analytics gives you statistics like the number of users and sessions over a period of time, your website’s bounce rate, the average session duration, where those visits originated, and much more. It is a very powerful tool plus it integrates with other Google marketing tools like Tag Manager and Google Ads. If you want more information about what Google Analytics can do find it in Analytics Help.
Now that I have convinced you to integrate Google Analytics with your site so you can start collecting that precious data, how do we do that.
Get Your Google Tag Manager ID
We need two pieces of information first. Your Google Tag Manager ID for Google Analytics and a couple of snippets of code. Not to worry, we can find both in the same place once we do some setup. You will need to create a Google Analytics account and a Google Tag Manager account if you do not already have these. Then you will need to link the two accounts within Google Tag Manager. We then need to create a Google Tag Manager ID (Tag) that links to your Google Analytics Tracking Code. This way you can manage your Analytics code through Google Tag Manager.
We aren’t going to cover how to do this in this article but here is a walk-through from Google on how to link them: Deploy Google Analytics with Tag Manager.
Why use Google Tag Manager? Google Tag Manager gives you a central location to manage not only your Analytics Tracking but also your different ad campaigns including Google Ads, Twitter, Bing Ads and many more. Google integrates everything together under their Google Marketing Platform and gives the site owner a great set of tools to work with.
After you have linked your Google Analytics ID to Google Tag Manager you just need to open Tag Manager for your site and jot down or copy the Google Tag Manager ID for your websites Analytics tracking. The image below shows where you can find the ID. The ID will look something like GTM-XXXXXXX.
We will need the code snippets for two of our options below. These can be found by clicking the ID link. This shows a popup dialog with the exact code snippets we will need. Google also displays suggestions about where to add them in your website.
Add Google Analytics
I will show you three ways to add Google Analytics tracking to your WordPress website. This can be done by adding code snippets to a child theme’s header.php file, a child theme’s functions.php file or using a WordPress plugin.
Why a Child Theme?
You could add Google Analytics by adding the code snippets above directly to your theme’s header.php file. This might be fine if you wrote your own theme but, if you have a free or premium theme from one of the many theme vendors you probably should not use this method due to theme updates. When a theme author sends out an update your changes will be overwritten. In these cases, make sure you create and use a child theme. Documentation on creating child themes can be found in the WordPress Codex here: WordPress Child Themes. Using a child theme is considered a WordPress best practice.
Adding Google Analytics – Child Theme’s Header.php
Once you have your child theme setup, it’s not too difficult to add the code snippets that Google Tag Manager gives you. Open the header.php file found in your child theme’s folder. If you do not have one you can copy the header.php file from the parent theme’s folder and change it. See the screenshot below where I have added the two snippets. One is directly after the <head> element and the second is immediately after the <body> element.
This solution although functional and works is not an optimal solution. As a best practice we as developers should abstract this from our presentation layer. Also, this may cause difficulties when moving your site to another theme or when you have to remember where you put that Google Analytics code when Google changes to another iteration of tracking tech.
Add Google Analytics – Child Theme’s Functions.php
Another solution could be to add a couple of hook callback functions to our child theme’s functions.php file. Simply add the following code to your child theme’s functions.php file and replace HEAD_FROM_GTM_INTERFACE with the first code snippet from Google Tag Manager. Then replace BODY_FROM_GTM_INTERFACE with the second code snippet from Google Tag Manager. You can add these anywhere in the functions.php file.
It really is that simple to do. Again, remember to use a child theme in these cases.
This solution is a little better than our first example but it still has some drawbacks. It does help with abstracting out from our presentation layer. We will still need to remember that we put this code in place.
You will also notice that the second code snippet is not added immediately after the <body> tag but within the footer element. This will work for most websites but you may lose data if a visitor exits your website before the footer section loads. This issue is on the change list for WordPress core and will be addressed in a future release. You can check on the status here: New action on body open.
Add Google Analytics Using a WordPress Plugin
Another solution is to install a WordPress plugin or write your own plugin for this functionality. We will not cover writing your own plugin for WordPress in this article. That would take at least another lengthy article to cover thoroughly. We will cover installing a WordPress plugin and setting up Google Analytics with it.
For this tutorial we will use Google Analytics by WebKinder. It is a lightweight plugin that gives us the functionality we need without to many options to worry about. There are numerous other Google Analytics plugins with a similar setup. Most will show Google Analytics data in your dashboard. I like to view this data from within Google Analytics but some use cases may require it. It really comes down to whether the plugin options fit your or your clients needs.
Installing the plugin
In your WordPress dashboard go to Plugins|Add New.
Next, search for “Google Analytics WebKinder”.
Then click “Install Now” and then “Activate” – this lets you use the newly installed plugin.
Go to Settings|Google Analytics in your WordPress Dashboard.
You only need to set two options in the Google Analytics setting page. Make sure you check Use Google Tag Manager instead and add your Google Tag Manager ID we recorded earlier. Remember it is in the form of GTM-XXXXXXX. Then click Save Changes and you are now collecting Google Analytics data.
What are the other options?
- GA Tracking Code is used when you are not using Google Tag Manager to manage your Google Analytics.
- Anonymize IP’s was added as a requirement for the European Union’s GDPR changes. One of their privacy requirements is to anonymize user data. This way we won’t know our visitor’s IP address.
- Track logged in users – depending on how you use your website you may or may not need to track logged in users.
- Do not track any visits from this device – This allows you to not track visits from your device.
How to Check Google Analytics
Google Analytics provides you a couple of ways to do this in the help topic Check if a web page uses Analytics. Google Analytics says to log in to our Analytics account and check your real-time reports. If you are on a page on your site you should see at least one active user. It also explains how you can view the pages source code in Chrome and check for each code snippet.
We have found a useful tool, GA Checker. Just enter your site’s URL and click “Check Your Site”. GA Checker will walk your site and check all of your pages and show you a table listing the type of analytics that are installed on your website. This way you do not need to check each page’s source individually. That could be a huge time saver depending on the size of your site.
Let’s Wrap Up
I have shown you three ways to add Google Analytics to your WordPress site. I have included why one option might be better than others but, it will depend on your use case or requirements. We recommend to our clients to use a WordPress plugin as it is simple, straightforward and does not add plugin bloat to your site.
The article also lists a couple of ways to make sure Google Analytics is installed on your site.
Hopefully, this will help you get the data you need to analyze the performance and effectiveness of your website.
Let me know how I did or if I have missed something by letting me know in the comments.