Google Tag Manager Course (Analytics Academy)

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Sometimes I take my advice and take Google Analytics Academy courses. This time it was something I was with which I somewhat familiar: Google Tag Manager.

When I ran into the issue of Cross-Domain tracking (tracking between a main website and a commerce/application portal, for instance), I found that learning how to use Tag Manager was a more efficient alternative to learning JavaScript and manually editing code on two sites.


I learned that with the help of internet research. However, it wasn’t until today that I looked into some more advanced featured (like tracking and creating reports with custom dimensions.

After learning about some of these functions, I’d have to agree with “Analytics dork” Greg Zguta that with GTM, “There is a corresponding learning curve and the high end of that curve feels more like the realm of a developer than a marketer or communications professional.” However, as more sites are using it, it certainly can’t hurt to learn it. Zguta later provided some tips for those starting out.

While I’d leave the heavy coding to real developers, I think the step necessary to implement cross-domain tracking have become so simplified that it is not hard to believe it will be an ability those in communications/public relations/marketing will be expected to have.

I think the predictions of Arik Hanson about the skills communicators will need to have by 2020 is right on track.

Chuck Hemann, then at WCG (and who spoke at Newhouse), believes that “[t]he time has long since passed where the PR pro can claim ignorance on how to gather, analyze and develop insights from data. There isn’t an expectation that he/she will be a data analyst, but if he/she isn’t comfortable working WITH a data analyst then they will be left behind.

I think this is becoming more and more true in the corporate world. As competition in higher ed (and amongst independent schools) is projected only to increase, it won’t be too very before those skills become vital for us as well.

Google Analytics Beginners (Academy Courses)


I’ve heard from some readers that my blog posts about analytics are beyond the reach of many beginners. Worry not, everyone was a beginner once. I learned a lot of the basics of GA from the Analytics Academy videos (which are now officially recommended exam study guides). The course is led by Justin Cutroni (Digital Analytics Evangelist at Google) who wrote a book on the topic (new edition out this September). Once you go through the course material I’d recommend his book (and blog) in addition to Avinash Kaushik’s books and blog (Occam’s Razor).

If you need a hand, I’d recommend using Tag Assistant (Chrome extension)…and also you can ask me via the contact form.

Once you’ve gotten to more advanced areas, I would highly recommend reading Jim Gianoglio’s posts and taking his advanced/implementation course (even if it means traveling to NYC). I hope this is of some help.

Google AdWords (Re-) Certification!

Screen shot 2015-07-05 at 9.45.53 PMHi all,

As I’ve mentioned before, livelong learning (or, professional development) is incredibly important to me. I recently reviewed for and earned my AdWords (re-) certification.

In my case, I passed the Fundamentals and Display Advertising exams. I’m currently putting my knowledge to good use at FCS. I’ll update here with anything shareable. I wouldn’t want to help our competitors so it’ll likely be generalized tips.

Google Tag Manager for Cross Domain Tracking and more

In some cases learning a new software/service/technology can take more time than its worth. This is not one of those cases. The time it took for me to learn out to effectively use Google Tag Manager (GTM) for the initial purpose of unifying analytics information across different websites (in my case, our website our database/admissions/SaaS) was well worth it. Manually editing the tracking codes on each site may have been the quicker route, but this service enables the editing of a container on a single website that hosts multiple snippets.

Now, with one code insertion, I have 11 tags on our site that includes multiple GA installations, link click tracking, scroll tracking, and more. If we were to add another site, in order to track across domains I would have to insert just one code and not have to edit it in the site code ever again.

While this is most useful for enterprises with dozens of accounts, it allows me to additional tracking features (like event tracking, scrolling) without having to learn the necessary javascript to add the code myself.

It’s telling that Google now lists using GTM as the first option in setting up cross domain tracking. While some would say it primarily shifts the implementation work out of the CMS and into GTM, once a person learns a few macros, rules and maybe some regular expression it can make things like event tracking, adding additional code (ex. AdWords remarketing) and future changes much easier.

Google Analytics Custom Segments for Schools

Over the last year I presented at a an industry conference about what Google Analytics can do for independent schools and higher ed.

With a running time of just over 20 minutes, my joint presentation with some great folks at WhippleHill barely scratched the surface.

I wrote earlier about why higher ed and private schools should look more deeply into their analytics to pull out actionable insights.

An incredibly helpful option to make that a faster process the ability to cut out the clutter is looking at segments. You can can compare important segments of your website visitor population across views. For instance, by looking at Site Content (under Behavior), once you have your segments configured, you can easily compare how current parents use the site differently than, say, prospective parents, using different conditions to be as precise as your website allows.

For those just starting out, I would highly recommend looking at resources offered by Avinash Kaushik (Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google), specifically one of his collection of solutions (aptly named Occam’s Razor Awesomeness, which includes segments), his blog, and for the eager beavers like me, his book Web Analytics 2.0, a treasure trove of tips and solutions.

Adding Metadata to Optimize Web Content for Social

As I mentioned in January, I added metadata (microdata, og tags, and Twitter Cards code) to the Friends’ Central website.

While our CMS has some limitations that does not allow us to take full-advantage of these opportunities.

Mike Petroff (from Harvard) provides a great overview of the importance of optimizing website content for social, including Buffer’s research on the impact on engagement of using Pinned Tweets (which expand by default to show a Twitter Card or attached media).

Using Campaign Tagging to Tackle Dark Social

While “dark social”, the default/misattributions of unknown traffic as “Direct” or a similar term, isn’t very new (coined in 2012, which is ancient by web standards), tackling the issue of finding the true referral of as much traffic as possible in a systematic way is a fairly recent endeavor. Keeping analytics campaign information standardized in a large organization can be difficult, to say the least. Google has helped by providing a handy do-it-yourself link-builder but LunaMetrics has gone one step further can created a customizable Google Sheets document (with an explainer) that has more information that can easily be shared across an organization so that everybody knows, for instance, the landing page URL (and vanity URL) for every part of a campaign.

I’ve already added the document to my collection of tools to simplify and keep track of my work.

Quaker Works alumni magazine is out!

This news is slightly late but our alumni magazine is out.

Thanks to the hard work of Clare Luzuriaga, our Assistant Director of Communications, all the Art Direction and Design was done in house this year. I was happy to contribute with photography, an alum profile, and by co-writing two features. I’m biased but I think it’s a great look into the life of the school (and its alums).

The Benefits of Consuming a Balanced Media Diet

As I come upon the 9-month mark as the Digital and Social Media Specialist, I’ve thought about how I’ve adjusted to stay up on local news that may affect us from the local giant Main Line Media News Network (Main Line Times, Main Line Suburban Life, Main Line Media News, etc) to the regional Philly Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine, and local NBC, CBS, and Fox affiliates.

In addition to (trying to) stay in the know about what’s happening locally, I’ve made a concerted effort to ensure I have a wider worldview by reading the New York Times, WIRED, and the (Atlantic) Wire.

While it’s good to generally be well-informed about what’s happening outside my own backyard because what’s decided far away can affect me (like Pope visiting Philadelphia in September), it’s important to be aware of what’s happening far from home professionally.

If you look at the homepage peer institutions like Westtown School, Shipley School, and Germantown Friends School you’ll see areas of commonality (a homepage image slide, similar L1 links (about/welcome admission/admissions, program/academics, campus life/news, etc). This is because our schools provide similar services and our audiences are generally interested in getting to similar pages on our websites (Upper School Curriculum, College Matriculation lists, what alumni are doing, etc). As long as our site is on par with our peers, it generally isn’t a priority to improve it. .

However,  by looking at subsites, like, one can find great examples that schools can emulate (

Additionally by going beyond the award lists, into what individual schools produce day-to-day, one can come across great examples of marketing content to emulate, like Chicago Booth School’s videos.

While schools of our size aren’t able to reproduce the technical quality of these videos, can attempt to capture the essence of a school or student experience like this example from Hebron I produced last year.

Likewise, whereas we don’t have the digital strategy staff that Harvard does, reading what Digital Content Strategist Mike Petroff has to say about measuring digital engagement on Medium led me to his “Best Practices for Tracking Campaigns in Google Analytics” document which informs not only a report I’m working on but how I can explain sometimes complicated ideas in a more succinct way.

Since entering the higher ed digital/social media field four years ago (times goes by quickly) working at Mount Allison University, there has been an explosion in the number of possible sources. I keep Higher Ed Live (now owned by mStoner), CASE blog, EduGuru (now part of Converge Consulting), Social Media for Colleges, Luna Metrics, Google Analytics Blog and more in my feedly list. Especially in such a fast-moving field, it’s important to stay current and have a larger perspective in addition to being aware of what’s happening locally (like Westtown’s award-winning website, which is informed by standard on writing for the web).

Evertrue Community App @FriendsCentral

Soon after we launched our new website, a number of people here at FCS discussed the possibility of a new service we could offer alumni/ae. Leading up to and at Reunion, we shared the FCS Alumni/ae Community App (powered by Evertrue) with reunion classes.

Last night, we introduced the app to the entire alumni community and have already seen a significant response. While the company has been in the news for its social donor management tool (including in the New York Times), our focus was on providing a useful service to alumni/ae that colleges and school across the country use (Brown, Colgate, Boston University, Sidwell Friends, Philips Exeter, and peer institutions including Shipley, and Germantown Friends).

The efforts of others in at our school (especially the Development and Information Technology offices) made this possible and I hope Friends’ Central alumni/ae find it to be a valuable resource.