At a very high level


There are over 400 messages in my LinkedIn inbox that are unread. A good quarter of them are solicitations for feedback about someone’s project, someone’s book, someone’s this or that. (I will eventually get to those messages, just not soon) Almost all of those solicitations ask for feedback “at a very high level”.

That’s such an interesting ask, such an interesting request. What exactly does “at a very high level” mean to you? To me, it means something stripped of all of its tactics and execution details, all of its campaign strategy, and left only with a little bit of grand strategy and overall perception.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you had a web page that you were working on. What kinds of feedback might you receive?

Lowest Level of Feedback

I’d move the red button 14 pixels down and change the phone number to be (XXX) XXX-XXXX format. That should help conversion by a couple of percentage points.

Low Level of Feedback

The red button needs to be moved, and the format of the phone number standardized. Conversion should increase by about 2%.

Moderate Level of Feedback

The page layout needs to be improved. Clean things up and standardize them and conversion should increase a little.

High Level of Feedback

The website isn’t working as well as it could be. It’s messy. Clean it up and conversion should increase.

Very High Level of Feedback

The website probably isn’t going to do what you intend it to do.

As you work your way up from tactics to strategy to grand strategy, details get lost, little details that can point you in the right direction. The most valuable marketer on your team is going to be the marketer who can operate at a very high level (so as to be efficient and focus on the most dire problems), but when everyone else is stuck and there’s a burning problem, that marketer can jump from very high level to very low level. Such a marketer can then find the problem, fix it, and resume their high level work.

That’s what I hope you aspire to be as a marketer, and one of the reasons why, even at senior levels and in strategic roles, you still need to polish and perfect your marketing skills (particularly in the areas of creativity and technology). You should have an operational understanding of what’s going on so that you can lend fast, insightful assistance at every level of your organization.

What do you think? What’s your take?

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How to get started with Google Tag Manager

Ever had a situation in which you updated your website and forgot to put your Google Analytics tracking code back on all your pages?

Ever installed a new piece of marketing technology like a CRM system and gone in to tag pages, but forgot a few one-off pages that were still important?

These are problems that a tag management system can solve, and fortunately for the budget conscious, there’s a terrific, free one at your disposal: Google Tag Manager. Tag managers are useful utilities that should be in the toolkits of any digital marketer. Here’s how they work, conceptually.

Think of all of the different website tracking codes you have on your website. You have Twitter tags to identify and associate with your Twitter account. You have a Google Authorship tag to verify your ownership with Google. You have Google Analytics tags to track visitors. You might have marketing automation and CRM tags to help score leads. You might have advertising tags like AdWords or AdSense to monetize your site or remarket to your audiences. That’s like having lots of papers strewn all over the top of your desk, and when you go to find something, it takes you a while.

Cluttered Desk

Now imagine putting all of those papers in a folder. When you want to find something, you just locate the folder, open it up, and there’s your stuff. The rest of your desk is uncluttered and ready for you to work on. That’s what a tag manager does: it provides a digital “folder” for you to keep all your website tags in one place. One of the great benefits of a tag manager is that for any page on your website, all you need to do is put the “folder” on the page, and all of your individual tags and services magically go along with it. That helps you solve leaving tags off of certain pages, or not applying tags consistently to all your pages.

To get started with Tag Manager, go to (hereafter GTM) and sign up for a free account. You won’t pay money, in exchange for telling Google all of the third-party tag-based software that you run on your website (which they already know anyway). The first thing you’ll do is get your “folder” from GTM and copy the container code to place on your website.


You’ll next create a new tag:


And for simplicity, you’ll want to start by using Google Analytics with GTM:


The next thing you’ll need to do is to create a firing rule.


GTM is different than regular Google Analytics because you can specify firing rules. This allows you to run tags on some pages, all pages, or pages meeting certain conditions. For example, suppose you were using Facebook’s website retargeting advertising feature, and you wanted to advertise only to people who put an item in your shopping cart but did NOT check out. You’d set up a firing rule to run the tag only inside the cart and not run on the checkout confirmation page. For now, because this is Google Analytics, we simply want to run it on all pages.


Hit save and publish to make your changes live.


This is another useful feature of GTM – if you screw something up, you can rollback to previous versions very quickly without having to edit your website.

The next step after this is to go to your website, and replace your existing Google Analytics tag with the GTM container from step one. Here’s the good part: for any future tags you implement, you won’t ever need to go change your “folder” again – you’ll just remove your existing tags as you create them in GTM, and put any new tags you receive from future services into GTM and publish them – no more touching your website!

This is a great advantage in larger corporate environments where you have to engage your IT department to get things done on the website. By using GTM, IT only has to deploy one tag and then never touch it again, while you as the marketer can make changes to your heart’s content, add new services, test things, even set up conversion metrics, all without having to pester the IT department.

That’s the barebones introduction to Google Tag Manager. If you have more than one tag on your current website, I would strongly encourage you to read up on it and get started using it. You’ll find all kinds of wonderful uses for it. If you want someone to do it for you, I do consult through SHIFT Communications, and would be happy to chat with you about it.

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Do content marketing reruns work?

I’m glad to be back from vacation after a week completely off the grid. Talk about a drastic change in lifestyle, going to a place where devices don’t even work (thus removing the temptation to “just check in”). I recommend it heartily.

Before I left for vacation, I thought I’d run an experiment using reruns on social media to power my social media postings for the week. Instead of my normal routine of a new blog post each day plus a welcome message (2 links back to my website per day), I went to five reruns plus a welcome message (6 links back to my website per day). Each rerun was a link back to a past popular post of mine from the past two years.

Now, going into this, the logical hypothesis would be a 300% increase in website traffic, right? I literally tripled the number of direct links back to my website. In fact, it should be even more, because my audience has changed and grown in a year. Last year on Twitter alone, I had 7,000 fewer followers:


So with an audience that’s bigger and triple the number of links, let’s see what the results were:


Cue the womp womp trumpet, please. Yes, folks, you read that correctly. I had 43% LESS traffic this year compared to the same calendar week the previous year. The traffic source that drove the loss? Organic search traffic, where I had half the visitors from last year.

It’s been shouted far and wide that Google loves relevance, freshness, and diversity of content. Re-runs with no new content paint a bulls-eye on your butt for freshness and diversity, and in the world of the content shock, someone will always be creating more relevant content today than content you made a year or two ago.

The bottom line? Re-runs didn’t work for me in this particular test case. My site took a beating on organic search traffic by my taking my foot off the gas for a week. Does this mean re-runs won’t work for you? Of course not – as always, you need to test for yourself. However, go into that test with a modified hypothesis, now that you’ve seen at least one test case where the result fell far short of the hypothesis.

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