How-to: Use Google Analytics to Solve the Facebook ROI Mystery

Today’s post is by Hanapin Marketing‘s Sean Quadlin.

analytics facebookAs someone obsessed with making sure that my clients are getting an optimal return on investment, Facebook’s inability to track conversions has always baffled and annoyed me. It’s sort of like that person that you fell in love with exclusively online – the less information they give you, the less you should trust them. For me, “my webcam is broken” is the equivalent of “conversion tracking isn’t yet available.” WHAT AREN’T YOU TELLING US, FACEBOOK?

Whenever I tell people thinking about getting into Facebook that it doesn’t support conversion tracking, they’re always surprised (as they should be). Luckily, Google Analytics offers a simple and free way to ensure that your money isn’t being wasted.  Here’s a step-by-step rundown of how to set up Analytics to prevent your campaigns from wasting your money.

First, you need to have goals enabled in your Google Analytics profile.

If you follow the steps in the Google help article, you’ll be that much closer to making sure that Facebook isn’t robbing you blind. Determining what exactly you want as your goal is important, so if you don’t have these set up already, think about why you want people to come to your site.

Do you want a lead? Track the URL of your thank-you page following completion of your form. Are you trying to get people interested/invested in your brand? Track Visit Duration or Pages/Visit.  Trying to get someone to download a white paper or watch a video? Event tracking should be right up your alley.

(Passionate and hopefully not-too-annoying side note: Whatever you decide to track, please track something. I co-hosted a webinar recently where a majority of the attendees were tracking CTR as their main metric in an account. If you’re doing that at the moment, please stop. Track what happens after the click.)

Once your goals are set up, all you need to do is tag your URLs. Google offers a free URL builder for you to use online. Here’s all that you’ll need to include: 

google analytics url builder

Your source is facebook, your medium is cpc (unless you’re using ppc in other engines; all you have to do is remain consistent), and your campaign name is whatever your campaign is named. You also have the option to add in terms or content. I personally use Content to plug in the name of my ads so I can tell which is converting better because, as I said before, clicks and CTR aren’t everything.

If you only have a handful of URLs to tag, it should be simple enough to go in there and manually create them. The larger your Facebook account is, though, the more onerous tagging URLs will become. You can create a custom spreadsheet that incorporates Google’s necessary info along with anything else that your tracking system needs to tag in a URL. (Here’s a free version if you’re interested in one of those.)

Once your goals are set and your URLs are tagged, it’s time for you to start measuring just how effective Facebook is for you. It’s like calling in Nev and Max from Catfish for your online lover/broken-webcam-faker.

The amount of data that’s now available within Google Analytics might surprise you. Under the Audience tab, you can look at All Traffic and see how facebook/cpc stacks up against other Source/Mediums.

audience google analytics

Once there, switch from the Site Usage tab over to Goal Set 1 to see Goal Conversion Rate for each of your sources.

goal conversion rate GA

Now you’ll be able to track conversion rate for your PPC traffic from Facebook.

conversions facebook ppc

That’s the quickest way to see your performance, but the best way to see your Facebook data is to create a custom report that tells you all of the things you want to see in exactly the order that you want to see them. If you have any nerdy tendencies (like I do), this will appeal to them big-time.  Custom reports are amazing. I have my Facebook reports set up to show me unique visitors, new visitors, time on page, bounce rate, and goal completions for Facebook traffic, but the best part about custom reports is the customization. (No duh.) You can set them up to do whatever you want them to.

I also have all of my URLs tagged, so that I can track where Facebook PPC traffic landed and see which campaign is driving goal completions. Applying AdWords-type metrics like CPL and conversion rate to Facebook traffic sounds so mundane and obvious, but the results can really be surprising.

Once you settle on your very own custom report and decide how you want to look at it (including sorting and filtering and segmenting), you can create a Shortcut in Analytics to get back there in a flash. It says it’s in beta, but Shortcuts are so cool that they’re bound to stay for a while.

GA shortcuts beta

With Shortcuts you can check in on Facebook in just a couple of clicks, whereas before you were just watching CTR and the lame-ish Facebook stats that the main interface shows you.

The thing is, there’s a good chance that you’ll find out your traffic from Facebook is quality stuff. I’ve found that some of my cheapest leads come from Facebook, and they also convert for my client on the back end. But there have also been hiccups along the way, and I wouldn’t have been able to diagnose them without the help of some work-around conversion tracking.

sean quadlin hanapin marketing

 

- Sean Quadlin is an Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing and a writer for PPCHero.com.  When he’s not at the office, you can find him in the company of his beloved TiVo.

Sean Quadlin

About Sean Quadlin

Sean Quadlin spends his time optimizing, strategizing and pontificating as an Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing and a blogger at PPC Hero, focusing primarily on lead generation. He has a particular fondness for Microsoft Excel and the English language. He studied English at Northwestern University. When he's not at the office, you can find Sean watching a surprising breadth of both high- and low-brow television.
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4 Responses to How-to: Use Google Analytics to Solve the Facebook ROI Mystery

  1. Tim says:

    Sean – are you aware Facebook just released a conversion code you can add to your site? http://www.facebook-studio.com/news/item/conversion-measurement-a-win-for-direct-response-marketers I’m just testing now on one of our accounts, and I’ve seen mixed reviews from the PPC community due to the limitations present in how it measures both view-through and clickthrough windows, but I’m curious to see how this new feature could help reporting from FB ads.

    • Sean says:

      Hey Tim,

      I have seen that, and I’m guessing you can tell how stoked I am about the possibilities that it opens up. (This article was written just a couple of days before the new feature was announced.)

      I share the skepticism of many in the community, however. Facebook seems particularly interested in pushing the optimized CPM bidding option, which makes me very nervous. Based on how they handle ad split tests (declare a winner seemingly immediately) I doubt that they have our best interests (or really any of our interests) at heart. Let us know what you come across in your testing!

      Thanks for reading.

  2. Chris E says:

    Thanks for the great article! Had a question: If the goal is set up as you mentioned, wouldn’t this be “double-counting” conversions if you’ve already set up a goal to track sales or leads? In addition you can segment conversions by source. in GA: Traffic Sources>All Traffic> Source Facebook? I see how it would be great to segment out conversions from paid traffic though.

    • Sean says:

      Hey Chris,

      If you already have a goal in place, there’s no need to set up a different one. Thanks for helping me clarify!

      At the moment, I’m tracking goal completions in Analytics in addition to Facebook’s new conversion tracking (so I can watch them and see the differences between their counting). And you can see conversions by source like you mentioned, but if you add in a tagged URL to be able to track source and medium you can get a much clearer picture of your Facebook PPC.

      In one of my screenshots above, you can see that there are differences between types of Facebook referrals. I always tend to have however much info that the different systems will allow me to, which is why I like this level of detail. Thanks for the questions!

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