Why you might want to keep blog comments on

MarketingProfs B2B Forum

My good friend Chris Brogan is the latest in a series of bloggers who are turning off comments. That’s a personal preference, and I respect that choice.

Here are three reasons why comments are staying on any property that I have responsibility for, as a sort of counter-perspective.

1. Rent vs. own: Chris makes the valid point that many conversations are happening on social networks. That’s unquestionably true. However, as I’ve said for years, you own nothing in social media. All those conversations that people are having about your content aren’t yours, and if Facebook goes the way of MySpace or Twitter goes the way of Friendster, all those conversations go away. If you intend to do things like mine your conversations and comments for insights, owning the data makes that much more convenient. This blog has survived the rise and fall of MySpace, LiveJournal, Xanga, etc. and the rich comment history remains – data I can use for future research.

2. Comment spam is controllable. On here I use Disqus. At work I use Livefyre. Both are excellent at controlling outright spammers and self-promoters. The catch is, it does take up a couple of minutes a day to moderate them and respond, but that’s a small price to pay for their excellent services.

3. Comments feed your database. Take a quick look:


In comments, you get digital identity information like name and email address. Now, let’s be clear: you can’t just subscribe every commenter to your newsletter. That’s bad, and in some places, illegal. But you do have that database, and you can use in other ways. Export all of the email addresses from your blog comments and now you have a custom audience you can show social media advertisements to – and you KNOW it’s on target because they commented on your blog.

Can you take your Facebook conversations and show them Twitter ads, or vice versa? Nope. Email is at the heart of social advertising, and if you’ve got something like a keynote talk, a book launch, a product launch, or any kind of big announcement, you want the email addresses of your best fans – your commenters – to be able to reach them with digital advertising tools. You can’t reach your fans on one platform from another platform in social media.

Before you go “No more comments!” – a perfectly valid choice and strategy – understand what you might be giving up.

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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 Google.com/tagmanager (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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Marketing sophistication and the Art of War

Sun Tzu said in the Art of War, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Today, knowing yourself and your competitors when it comes to digital marketing is easier than ever. With freely available tools, you can quickly ascertain the sophistication of a company’s digital marketing capabilities, from your own company to competitors to prospective customers.

Let’s look at an easy way to get started. Assuming you’re using the Chrome browser, head to the Chrome app store and install these two free extensions, BuiltWith and Ghostery.

Ghostery tells you what kinds of marketing and tracking tags a site is running – who else is getting visitor information about you. Generally speaking, sites who are thinking about analytics and monetization have more stuff installed. For example, here’s Chris Brogan’s site:


Note that there are relatively few extensions running on it, just a handful of software packages providing tracking. (I should clarify that in no way do I think of Chris as a competitor, opponent, or enemy, I just needed a non-work-related site to compare!)

Now compare to all of the stuff running on my site:


All of these tools are gathering data about your visit. What does this tell you about these two sites? The primary message is that I measure more stuff than Chris does. That’s neither good nor bad in itself; however, if you were looking to sell analytics tools to either one of us, you’d be faced with two very different potential customers. I might be more receptive to what you’re selling because I understand the value of analytics, but one or more of the tools I’m already using might solve my analytics problem, and thus you’d be trying to do a competitive sale. Chris Brogan might be less receptive to your initial pitch but might have greater need because the relatively small handful of tools he’s using leaves more opportunity.

The second tool, BuiltWith, requires you to manually assess each site from a little button in the Chrome toolbar. Let’s take a quick look again. First, Chris Brogan’s site:

chrisbrogan_com_—_Building_the_Digital_Channel_-_Beyond_Social_Media 2

Note that it picks out that he uses InfusionSoft for marketing automation and runs WordPress with its stats module. He also uses Shareasale and Avantlink for revenue. This tells you something about his business model and what he’s promoting. His website is a direct commerce engine, powering his business; we know this because InfusionSoft is a higher-end small business marketing automation system.

Now compare with my site:


I’m using lots of analytics tools to measure my audience but doing relatively little with them. There’s an entry-level marketing automation system, LoopFuse, which indicates that I’m not running this website as a business, just a personal blog. I’m studying my audience carefully, but not investing heavily in the tools I’d need to make the website a full-time business.

From a competitive analysis perspective, who constitutes the greater “danger”? Without a doubt, Chris Brogan, in the sense that he’s taken the time to invest heavily in his site to make it a real business. My site is personal in nature and while I measure lots of stuff, I’m clearly not intending to do much with it at the moment.

Once upon a time, in the era of Sun Tzu and the ninja of old, you would need to send spies into enemy encampments to understand what was going on. Today, just install a couple of browser extensions and know what you’re looking for – we’re all giving away our secrets right on our homepages.

Check out your own site. Check out your competitors’ sites. See what they are telling you!

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