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A Virtual Page View (VPV) is a PageView in Google Analytics that has been tracked even though no page actually exists.

There are many examples of where it is necessary to use Virtual Page Views for Google Analytics:

  • A single page checkout process
  • A form that does not result in a success page
  • A one-page site

We won’t talk all the reasons for why you would always need to use a VPV, but we will write a post in the future for that purpose.

In the past, creating a Virtual Page View always involved development to the site, where code would need to be inserted into the site similar to the below which would force Google Analytics to create a new Page View with the VPV URL:

ga('send', { 'hitType': 'pageview', 'page': '/contact-us/submitted/', 'title': 'Contact Us Submitted' });

Whilst this was widely used, if you can’t get direct access to the site code, or get it added to the site via a developer, it could be a wasted opportunity.

Along came Google Tag Manager, and with it, the ability to add Virtual Page Views without needing access to the code of the site.

In this post we will discuss setting up a Virtual Page View with a form that does not result in a success page on our GTM Training Page, although the below method could fit into most reasons for needing a VPV.

6 Steps to creating a Virtual Page View with Google Tag Manager
  1. Create a DataLayer with the required Virtual Page View URL (Optional)
  2. Create new DataLayer Variables (Optional)
  3. Create the Trigger
  4. Create your Google Analytics Tag to record the VPV
  5. Test & Debug your Tags and Check in Google Analytics for data
  6. Publish
      1. Create a DataLayer with the required Virtual Page View URL

        We will be using Google to Tag Manager to push a DataLayer on to the site, and then grabbing the information back to pass through to the GA tag. This isn’t necessary if you only have one VPV to track, but can come in useful if you have a number across the site, with different triggers and different information, as it will create a DataLayer Event of VirtualPageView.

        Create a Custom HTML Tag and paste in the below code:

        'virtualPageTitle' : 'GTM Training - Contact - Thank You'

        This will force a DataLayer into your site (once the trigger has been created).

        If you have multiple VPVs to create, you can of course use the Lookup or Regex variables to create numerous URLs/Titles.

      2. Create new DataLayer Variables (Optional)

        As you are pulling the information from a DataLayer, you will need to create a DataLayer Variable (DLV) to get this information back from the site, or in this case 2 DLVs.

      3. Create the Trigger

        Next, you will need to create the Trigger to either fire the DataLayer, or if you are not using a DataLayer, your Google Analytics tag.

        In our case, we are using an event visibility trigger to listen out for a message popping up telling us that a form has been submitted.

        If you are using the DataLayer add the Trigger to your custom HTML Tag.

        Once the Element Visibility is triggered, it will fire the Custom HTM tag containing the DataLayer, which will in effect create a DataLayer event called VirtualPageView, which will hold your DataLayer:

      4. Create your Google Analytics Tag to record the VPV

        As you are creating a new Page View in Google Analytics, you will need a new GA Page View Tag, and you will need this tag to ignore the Page URL and Title and use the one you have created instead.

          1. Create a Goggle Analytics Tag
          2. If you are using the Google Analytics Setting, enable overriding setting on the tag
          3. Enter your Google Analytics Tracking ID (UA Code)
          4. Under More Settings > Fields to Set:
            • Set Field Name to ‘page’ and Value to the value of your VPV URL
            • Set Field Name to ‘title’ and Value to the Page Title of your VPV
          5. Click Save

        Create a Trigger for the Event VirtualPageView and add the GA tag on to this, or attach the Google Analytics Tag to the previous trigger you created if you are not using the DataLayer approach

      5. Test & Debug your Tags and Check in Google Analytics for data

        In preview mode, check to see that your data is being pulled into Google Analytics

      6. Publish Google Tag Manager

        Once you’ve followed the steps above, publish your container and you can now create Virtual Page Views for your site in GTM

      As well as Tag Manager Training, we also offer Analytics Training in Brighton and London. Contact Us for more information


The post Create & Track Virtual Page Views in Google Tag Manager appeared first on Propellernet.

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To even make the shortlist we needed to hit a Trust Index score (team survey) of 85%. Our score was 94%.

Part of Propellernet’s mission is to Make Life Better for our people (as well as our clients, our clients’ customers and our community, in case you were wondering). Every year, incredible energy and effort goes into maintaining and strengthening our people-first culture.

Some of the things brilliant initiatives that have launched over the last 12 months include:

  • Making every single one of our permanent employees a shareholder in Propellernet. This was announced in October 2018 and the process will be completed this financial year. We have always been proud to be independently owned but now everyone in the business will be an owner.
  • We are developing a coaching culture to enhance the way we work. We now have six certified coaches, focused on supporting employee autonomy, wellbeing, personal development and agency performance, with plans for more of the team to become certified coaches over the next six months.
  • We’ve upped the amount of sharing we do, most notably by publishing SUPERENGAGED, written by Nikki, our Managing Director. It details our employee engagement journey and also provides practical advice to help other businesses make their own journeys.
  • We’ve introduced flexible working hours, to help give our team a better work / life balance, and accommodate the various side hustles and passion projects they work on alongside Propellernet.
  • Our brilliant HR and admin team have arranged nutrition advice and workshops for us, set up 121 financial coaching with Simmonne Gnessen, author of Sheconomics, as well as arranging for some of us to qualify as Mental Health First Aiders.
  • Last year, when asked if they agreed with the statement, ‘This workplace is working to reduce its environmental impact’ only 72% of our people thought we were (down from 79% the year before). So we designed and implemented a specific programme to tackle this, focusing on recycling and our supplier’s sustainability credentials. We increased the amount of recycling per employee from 2.9kg per employee per week to 5.7kg, saving 960kg of CO2, compared to 490kg the year before.

The last 12 months have been packed full of good stuff, all designed to help us live out our values and support and inspire our incredible people. But, we know we can do better. We’ll be sharing back the data we’ve got from the Trust Index with our team, chatting through where and how we can improve and working together to make Propellernet an even better place to work.

The post Propellernet named one of the UK’s Best Workplaces appeared first on Propellernet.

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At Propellernet, we seek to make life better for our clients, their customers, our team and the community, and part of this includes supporting our employees’ wellbeing. We actively encourage and support our employees to look after themselves, both at home and at work, and we’re proud to have consistently been named in the top 12 UK small and medium workplaces in the Great Places to Work awards for 5 years running.

We’re always striving to improve the wellbeing of our people, so much so that ‘wellbeing’ is one of our five company values, along with ‘creativity’, ‘innvoation’, ‘fun’ and ‘adventure’.  Last year we attended the Wellbeing at Work Event and it got us thinking about what employee wellbeing means to us, what we already offer and what else we could do.

At Propellernet, we have a range of benefits to promote employee wellbeing including a health cash plan that incorporates physical and mental wellbeing, there’s free breakfast and fresh fruit, subsidised weekly pilates and massages, coaching, Propel Days (where employees are given time to develop personally and professionally) and flexible working hours, to name a few. These all cover a broad range of initiatives across physical, psychological and social health wellbeing, but we felt there was a crucial element missing, and that was a program to support financial wellbeing.

Did you know:

  • The average credit card debt per household being £2649 in February 2019, with the average credit card interest rate in March 2019 being 19.81% (The Money Charity)
  • Money worries are the primary cause of stress, greater than health, relationships or career. These employees are 8.8 times more likely to have sleepless nights, 7.6 times more likely not to finish their daily tasks, and 5.7 times more likely to have troubled relationships with work colleagues (Survey: The Employers Guide to Financial Wellbeing)

These are all pretty sobering figures and when you start delving into the impact of financial insecurity on mental health it gets even more worrying. The inextricable link between stress levels, mental health and your employment is encapsulated in the flowchart below (Overstretch, overdrawn, underserved by Evans, Holkar & Murray 2017)

So, what did we do?

Having realised the scale of employee economic insecurity in the UK, we decided to seek the help of Simonne Gnessen, owner of Wise Monkey, Financial Coaching and author of Sheconomics. Her approach and ethos was immediately compelling, having spent over 10 years as a Financial Advisor, she takes that knowledge and works with clients to identify their psychological relationship and behaviours with money, and spot ways in which to overcome barriers and reach financial goals. We knew she could offer our employees the support they needed to understand the complex world of personal finance. Having kicked off the initiative with discussions about financial wellbeing during a company meeting and surveying interest across the company, we found nearly half (46%) of employees were interested in 1-2-1 coaching with Simonne, with at least 4% of respondents in the “Out of Control of their finances” scale of range.


By providing employees with the opportunity to work confidentially with a trained financial coach, they can begin to recognise and reframe their relationship with money and take positive steps towards achieving their financial goals and building a financially stable future. This contributes towards their all-round wellbeing as well as gaining new skills and knowledge they can use to build and sustain the lifestyle they want. Nearly 90% of employees surveyed following their 1-2-1 sessions had made positive changes to their finances, with nearly all interested in follow up sessions.

And as for Propellernet, by supporting all areas of wellbeing, our employees can bring the best version of themselves to work, so they can continue to develop award winning work for our clients.

For a wealth of practical ideas and tips on how to increase employee engagement and wellbeing in your company, visit www.superengaged.co.uk, where you’ll find a range of resources including a free sneak peek of SUPERENGAGED, the Propellernet playbook on employee engagement and wellbeing in the workplace.

The post Why You Should Talk About Money At Work appeared first on Propellernet.

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We all know that generating relevant, high quality links to our content can help it to rank better in search, but there is still some debate as to whether outbound links have a similar effect.

On one side of the argument, linking out to authoritative sources on a subject is a way of associating your site with other high quality domains – kind of like buying a house in an upmarket neighbourhood. Also, providing users with immediate access to additional info from sites Google knows are high quality and accurate should indicate that your site is dedicated to providing a great user experience. Finally, most low-quality sites won’t bother linking out to other sources of information – it’s more effort, and spammy sites are often more likely to be caught up in the old-school mind set of hoarding link equity rather than linking out to other sites.

On the other hand, if outbound linking provided a significant benefit to rankings, it would be a very easy signal to game – getting a link from the BBC is extremely tough to do, while linking to them is a 5 second job.

So, we set out to conduct our own test to see if we could boost the rankings of a range of websites, simply by linking to authoritative sites in their niche.


As is often the case with tests like these, we needed some ‘clean’ test sites with no prior history that could interfere with the results, and a couple of keywords with limited competition. This keyword needed to be rare enough that our very basic sites could rank for it, but not so rare that there were no other relevant, high quality sites on the subject that we could link out to.

Through a highly scientific process of picking interesting words at random and checking the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), we settled on the term ‘Kihlepa’, which is a small pig farming village in Estonia.

The SERP looked pretty promising – there’s enough info on it for a knowledge box entry, but it’s obscure enough for Google to think it’s a miss-spelling. Perfect.

The plan was to:

  1. Create 3 new domains with no previous history, set up as:
  2. Create unique content on each domain about Kihlepa – this content needs to be similar enough so as not to give one site an advantage, but not so similar as to trigger any duplicate content issues.
  3. Get these pages crawled and ranking for a couple of ‘Kihlepa’ KW variants
  4. Once rankings are stable, add in outbound links as follows:
    • Worst ranking domain = links to high quality sites
    • Middle ranking domain = links to lower quality sites
    • Best ranking domain = no outbound links
  5. Wait a couple of months for the value of these outbound links to take effect, test ranking results. Will we see the worst ranking domain make significant gains?

Welcome to Kihlepa: Population…?

Once the sites were set up (basic WordPress sites on clean domains), the next task was to write some unique, engaging copy for each page, while ensuring the basic facts were accurate, and the same across all domains. These included:

  • Location (Estonia)
  • Co-ordinates (58°23′43″N 24°14′39″E)
  • Height above sea level (162 meters)
  • Population (159)
  • Pig farm and number of pigs (yes, and 2,800)
  • Dandelion festival (yes)
  • Number of tourist accommodation options (6)

Unfortunately, as there is relatively little info out there on Kihlepa, we had to be slightly creative with a few of the ‘facts’ we used, but the basic numbers remained consistent throughout. It was also hard to find suitable images for these pages, so we just added some random examples of what we thought Kihlepa might look like, based on what we’d read about it:

Getting indexed

Once this was done, we set up GSC accounts for each domain and requested a crawl and index of each Kihlepa page, which resulted in all pages being indexed within a week.

To give the pages a bit of a boost, we also added a links to them from the Propellernet site, using the same anchor text for each. This eventually caused a fair bit of confusion internally, as well as a few calls from SEO agencies, eager to let us know that we had a mistake on our site.

How dare they? Home page links to single-page WordPress sites about obscure pig-farming Estonian villages is a crucial of our outbound linking strategy.



After a few months, the test sites had settled into fairly stable positions for the 3 main KWs we were monitoring:

As you can see, Test Site 17 is faring a little better than the others at this stage, though the differences between rankings are pretty small. It had crossed our minds that Google could end up grouping content under very similar domains together and just ranking one version, but all sites are ranking pretty well for ‘Kihlepa Facts’ so this seems unlikely.

Adding the outbound links

Next up, we added outbound links. It felt the fairest way to do this was to add the links in reverse ranking order, so that the site performing least well would have links to high quality sources added, the site performing second best would get lower quality links added, and the best performing site would be left to battle on alone without assistance. This way we could see whether the presence of outbound links was sufficient for the poorest ranking sites to leapfrog those ahead of it.

We chose the outbound link targets based on the three keywords we were trying to rank for, and added these in appropriate places in the pages:

You can thank me later for all the traffic Wikipedia.


Results! (sort of)

These links were added at the start of January and left to work their magic for 2 months. After this, I re-tested ranking positions. I’ve colour-coded the sites to show which had the links added, with Test Site 16 in green having the high quality outbound links added, Test Site 15 in yellow having the lower quality outbound links added and Test Site 17 in red having no links added.

Main ‘Kihlepa’ keyword:

  • All sites improved rankings
  • Test Site 16 (with the high quality outbound links) improved the most, and the outbound links appear to have pushed it out of its previous fluctuations in and out of the top 100 rankings, and more in line with the other domains
  • However, the other sites also improved fairly significantly with both Test Site 17 (no links added) and Test Site 15 (lower quality links added) improving enough to make the top 10

‘Kihlepa facts’ keyword:


  • There was not much movement in the KW ranks after the links were added
  • Test Site 17 (no links added), the best ranked of all the sites when links were applied dropped slightly and then recovered
  • Test site 15 (links to lower quality sites added) jumped slightly from position 3 to position 2
  • Test Site 16 (high quality links added) also improved slightly, but remained below the other 2 domains, and below its previous best ranking point.
  • With these sites occupying the 3 of the top 5 positions in the SERPs, there was not a lot of room for them to improve. However it’s interesting to note that Test Site 17 was unable to overtake 2 very similar sites positioned slightly above it in the SERPs with the addition of some high quality outbound links.

‘Kihlepa weather’ keyword:

  • Each test site dropped in visibility shortly after the outbound links were added
  • All 3 test sites then recovered to a position higher than their pre-link level
  • Test Site 16 (high quality outbound links added) and Test Site 15 (lower quality outbound links added) dropped in a very similar pattern, with ranking positions mirroring each other almost exactly
  • Test Site 17 (no links added) was less impacted, with a slight drop and recovery



In some respects, we did see an improvement in performance after adding outbound links to high quality, relevant websites. Taking Test Site 16 in isolation, the results look pretty positive:

The main ‘Kihlepa’ keyword has improved significantly, ‘Kilhepa Facts’ has maintained its strong position and ‘Kihlepa Weather’ has improved its already strong rankings further. In addition, the very similar performance of the Test Sites 15 and 16 (the two with outbound links added) might indicate that the links are having an impact.

However in the context of the overall test, the results have to remain inconclusive, as the performance of Test Site 17 (essentially a control subject with no links added at all) also improved, often in line with Test Site 16 (high quality links), so it’s difficult to tie improvements back to this single factor.

Making a better test


Part of the problem with this test was that the competition in the SERPs was pretty thin, thinner than we expected in fact. Within a very short amount of time, our test domains were dominating the SERP for the ‘Kihlepa Facts’ keyword, making it harder to ascertain any concrete improvement in rankings.

This was also a pretty small-scale test of something that has many variables, and as such, more data points would have helped in mitigating anomalies in the results. It would be interesting to try this with more domains, a slightly more competitive subject and a larger keyword set.

However, while the results were inconclusive, it’s also worth remembering that the value of outbound links is not just based on potential ranking improvements, but on user experience as well. Your site is unlikely to be able to provide enough in-depth info on every facet of your subject to satisfy every user without becoming bloated and unfocused, so it makes sense to link to other resources that might help provide additional information to your users.

In addition, the high quality sites you are linking to may well see the referred visits from your site and decide to investigate your content, and maybe even link to it as a useful resource themselves in the future.

With this in mind, and despite the inconclusive results of this test, we’d generally advise clients to link out to high quality authoritative sites in their niche to provide a better experience to their users, and if this helps improve rankings, it’s a welcome bonus.

If you have questions on anything raised by this test or on external links in general, get in touch.


BONUS – Hat tip to SEO Monitor for some pretty great PPC tactics

So while checking the SERPs as part of this test, we started noticing a pretty damn well-targeted PPC ad, asking us by name (sort of) how the Kihlepa experiment was going.

It’s a pretty great idea, and I’m not 100% sure if we’d been identified as a potential client first and then had ads targeted to the test we were running, or if there’s something more automated going on in terms of finding domains that contain terms like ‘test’ and then serving ads, but it’s a great approach.

With most tests like these being run on deliberately uncompetitive search terms, it provides a really low-cost way of getting ads in front of SEO Monitor’s ideal audience of search agencies.

Bravo SEO Monitor, we are now looking at a trial of your rank checking software, so job done!

The post #TechnicalTests: Do outbound links help content rank better, and how much does the quality of these links matter? appeared first on Propellernet.

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Explain exactly what SEO PR is, they said… and put some gifs in it.


I’m a PR person who crossed over to the world of SEO a few years ago – I started working in PR in London about 10 years ago, working at some brilliant agencies, before moving to Brighton where I now work as a PR consultant at Propellernet. So, what is SEO PR?

In a nutshell – it’s PR, just with a different objective.

It’s still about creating genuinely interesting, newsworthy campaigns and content that are pitched to media to secure coverage. We use the same creative techniques and tactics as PRs, but we use them to deliver more than just coverage.

The Measurement Problem

One of the things I found challenging with traditional PR was how difficult it was to measure – increasing brand awareness, driving conversation, building buzz, maximising exposure… yeah, all great, but how do you properly measure those things? Obviously, only a handful of people still use AVE (advertising value equivalent) to measure the value of a piece of coverage, but what do other commonly used metrics like circulation, estimated coverage views, likes, comments, shares, sentiment analysis or key messaging penetration actually do for a brand?

Enter SEO PR – a data-driven, properly measurable form of PR that can provide ROI. How? By boosting a brand’s visibility by getting it higher up the search results in Google. So, when ‘Sally’s Cakes’ moves from position nine to position two on the first page for the search term ‘unique wedding cakes’, we can accurately report back to Sally on the additional traffic, sales and revenue that have come from that. Bosh.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not going on an offensive against traditional PR. SEO PR and PR are fantastic friends and they complement each other brilliantly. One shouldn’t replace the other – they should work together.

To explore what SEO PR is more, and to make it a bit more interesting, here’s a nice list with some gifs:

Five Ways SEO PR Is Different to Traditional PR

  • Double page spreads are lovely, but essentially pointless

This is probably an obvious one – but the main objective of SEO PR is to increase rankings on search engines for a range of key words or phrases. Google is ruddy powerful, but as of yet, it hasn’t progressed to sending its creepy crawlers to the local shop to pick up a copy of The Times. Whereas a double page spread would be a massive win for a traditional PR campaign, the only coverage that matters for an SEO PR campaign is online.


  • DA is queen

Domain Authority (DA) is a measure of how authoritative a site is. Scores range from 1 to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank. It’s worked out using a variety of factors including the number and quality of inbound links. The BBC has a DA of 96 for example. So, when it comes to creating that all important media list, a site’s DA is one of the most important factors to consider. Obviously, all sites need to be relevant to maximise potential pickup, but sites that may not be chosen for a traditional PR media list could well be key targets on an SEO PR list because they have a high DA.


  • It’s all about the links

Google has a complicated algorithm that determines where your site ranks for different search queries. It’s written by unicorns and goblins and it’s updated daily. No one knows exactly what’s in the magical algorithm, but we have a bunch of brilliantly talented fairies and dragons here, who are great at puzzling it out. We know that securing organic links to your site from a variety of authoritative sites with a high DA will help to boost your site’s ranking, and hence visibility, which should in turn lead to more clicks and conversions.

It’s like a really clued up, foodie friend giving you a recommendation for a great new restaurant. Google sees a link from an authoritative site as a strong recommendation for your site, so it makes your site more visible in the search results.

So, like PR, coverage is definitely what it’s all about, but if a campaign generates 50 pieces of coverage and only 2 links, from an SEO PR perspective, it’s not been a stonking success.

All links are not created equal though…

There are two types of links: Followed vs no follow – a ‘followed’ link means Google will ‘pass on the authority’ from the site that’s linked to your site. Great. A ‘no follow’ link essentially makes the link invisible, so the authority isn’t passed on. Not so great. You can’t have a followed link if you’ve paid for the coverage or have remunerated the journalist or blogger in any way either. This is because it’s against Google’s guidelines – if you choose to disregard them, Google could issue heavy penalties which drastically affect your site’s visibility, so paying for wires or paying bloggers aren’t options in SEO PR.

Homepage links: A link to your homepage isn’t as valuable as a link to a strategically created content hub that contains internal links out to key product categories. If you’re a brand-new site or company and you don’t have a single link coming to your site, then of course homepage links are great… but their value diminishes over time. So, if you’re only ever securing links to your homepage, you’re missing out on opportunities to increase your rankings for a range of different keywords, which means it’s very likely you could be missing out on extra visits from consumers, and missing out on additional sales.

Links in isolation: Just concentrating on links and nothing else is also not a good idea. If your site is poorly set up or you don’t have a well-informed content strategy on the go, the value of any links you secure is reduced. To maximise your site’s ranking, you need all three to be singing in harmony: solid technical foundations, a strategic content programme, and the cherry on the cake – link building activity that’s based on opportunity and keyword analysis.

And as luck would have it, we’ve got a wealth of experience and expertise in putting those wheels smoothly into motion, so if you need some support with your SEO PR, get in touch.

  • Your pitching window can be vast

Unlike PR where you typically have a small pitching window to sell in a timely piece of news, a big focus in SEO PR is to create truly evergreen content that can be outreached over a large pitching period. This means we love ideas that would be of interest to a wide variety of sites because it means we can keep pitching for months.  A recent example of this was our award-winning Music Mapped campaign for Celebrity Cruises. We’re currently standing at 156 pieces of coverage with 139 links, and although we’ve now stopped pitching, because it’s an evergreen campaign, it’s generating additional pieces of coverage and links all by itself! To read more about the campaign, have a read of our blog post here.

  • It’s properly measurable

Everyone loves a bit of ROI – it helps to give clients reassurance and confidence when you’re pitching in campaign ideas and it means you can directly attribute SEO PR activity with wider business success. Before starting a campaign, we see how a brand is ranking for a set of keywords. Based on that, we can then calculate the additional clicks, traffic and revenue that are generated from rank increases after implementing a cracking SEO PR campaign, which is a definite win for us and for our clients!

To see more about how our SEO PR campaigns have generated links, coverage and revenue for our clients, take a look at some of our case studies here: https://www.propellernet.co.uk/work/

The post What Is SEO PR? appeared first on Propellernet.

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Undoubtedly, the UK is going through one of its most politically turbulent times, certainly in my lifetime. Given that many of us turn to Google (and its anonymous, non-judgemental, resourceful search box) as a source of knowledge, explanations and reassurance during troubling times, it feels quite pertinent to explore Google data to understand a bit more about how we’re all feeling about the B-word right now.

Before I delve into the research, I’m keen to flag the unrivalled insightfulness that Google represents in circumstances like those that we, as a nation, find ourselves in right now. While social listening can be a great source of insight, most of us adopt a persona on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram; we show off the best elements of ourselves and our lives and scarcely talk about the negatives or the things that are troubling us. Equally, surveys, interviews and focus groups can all uncover a wealth of data, but that data can be skewed by research bias; participants giving unnatural answers or trying to answer research questions in the ‘right’ way. With the best intentions, of course!

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, calls Google data “the most important dataset ever collected on the human psyche”, and I’m inclined to agree with him. It’s obtained in-the-moment, with no artificial research context to give a bias and because our searches aren’t seen by anyone else, we don’t need to project a better version of ourselves. In fact, we turn to Google to scratch a real itch, be it seeking answers to a question or finding a community of people who agree with us. In work-mode, I use it regularly to get a deeper understanding of the motivations and attitudes of the population and it feeds content and campaigns within Propellernet day-in, day-out.

So, on to Brexit…

We want all the information. And Benedict Cumberbatch. And we’re anxious.

At the time of writing (05th April 2019), Google’s top suggestions when you type ‘Brexit’ into its search bar were as follows:

  • Brexit news
  • Brexit delay
  • Brexit second referendum
  • Brexit latest news
  • Brexit the uncivil war
  • Brexit anxiety
  • Brexit party
  • Brexit date
  • Brexit news today
  • Brexit odds

A number of those searches are very broad and very much information-seeking, but already you can see some interesting behaviour materialising. ‘Brexit anxiety’ being a top search term indicates how much stress and mental anguish the chaos is bringing to the population, while ‘Brexit the uncivil war’ highlights the popularity of Channel 4’s recent film (which featured Benedict Cumberbatch).

Will Brexit cause a war?

We’ve already established the prevalence of ‘Brexit anxiety’ as a search term, but using AnswerThePublic.com, we can look at some of the longer-tail terms around Brexit and identify real concerns. Besides asking whether Brexit will happen/be stopped/be delayed, people are searching in ways that indicate fear around specific consequences of Brexit:

  • Will Brexit affect me?
  • Will Brexit affect flights?
  • Will Brexit affect house prices?
  • Will Brexit cause a war?
  • Will Brexit affect pensions?
  • Will Brexit affect the Euro?
  • Will Brexit cause riots?
  • Will Brexit affect travel?
  • Will Brexit affect my private pension?
  • Brexit cancer drugs
  • Brexit canned food
  • Brexit cancer treatment
  • Brexit organised crime
  • Brexit likely shortages
  • Brexit is making me depressed

While questions around travel, house prices and pensions might be expected, those around wars and riots really highlight the extent to which the uncertainty is driving real fear into the population.

What about our Toblerones?

As well as asking how Brexit will affect them as individuals, people are looking outwards and searching for information on how Brexit will affect businesses, industries, institutions and pockets of people:

  • How Brexit affects Tesco
  • How Brexit affects banks
  • How Brexit affects NHS
  • How Brexit will affect law firms
  • What Brexit means for farmers
  • What Brexit means for USA
  • What Brexit means for international students
  • Brexit for small businesses
  • Brexit for students
  • Brexit for Polish
  • Brexit Toyota
  • Brexit Toblerone
  • Brexit and travel insurance
  • Brexit and mental health
  • Brexit and interest rates

The above searches reflect a mix of terms that will have been driven by news stories (Toyota’s threats to halt car production in the UK, farmers having to deal with milk lakes in Northern Ireland and Toblerones shrinking in size as chocolate becomes more expensive to produce) and pure curiosity about certain entities. Of course, curiosity around the NHS likely stems from the prominence of NHS funding in the Leave campaign messaging.

Is Brexit good for the UK, or is it a farce?

Looking at the full breadth of questions around Brexit, there are plenty that indicate support for the process, and plenty that suggest an anti-Brexit stance.

Pro-Brexit search terms include:

  • Why Brexit is good for business
  • Why Brexit is important
  • Why Brexit will be good for Britain
  • Why Brexit is good for the economy
  • Why Brexit will be good
  • Why Brexit is good
  • Brexit is good for UK

In terms of individual volume, there are more anti-Brexit search terms being used – though that’s not to say that the total volume of searches for these terms outweighs that of all the pro-Brexit terms. They include:

  • Why Brexit is not good
  • Why Brexit is a bad thing
  • Why Brexit is bad for the UK
  • Can Brexit be stopped
  • Can Brexit be cancelled
  • Can Brexit be reversed
  • Can Brexit be stopped now
  • Can Brexit be revoked
  • Can Brexit be overturned
  • Can Brexit be reversed now
  • Brexit is a shambles
  • Brexit is a farce
  • Brexit is a mess
  • Brexit is a disaster

The final four on the above list highlight a behaviour that fascinates me; people literally typing a statement into Google, probably in the hope that they’ll find content and/or a community that holds the same viewpoint as them. We so frequently turn to Google for an answer to a question – and this, likely, frustration-driven statement search is so different.

Tea bags, felines and The Eagles

Despite these testing times, there’s some humour to be found online. Many individuals have tried to come up with analogies to explain or highlight certain elements of Brexit and people are seeking them out via Google. The most prominent are:

  • Brexit like a cup of tea – driven by comedian, James Acaster who attempted to explain Brexit on the BBC show, Mock the Week
  • Brexit like a cat – following the news that France’s minister for European affairs named her cat “Brexit” because of its indecisive nature
  • Brexit like a kebab shop – this one comes from Facebook user, Ian Black, who nailed it (in my opinion!) with an analogy many us can relate to, no doubt:
  • Brexit like a night out – also inspired by Ian (above)
  • Brexit like a cake – Copywriter and former newspaper columnist, Gary Bainbridge has achieved internet fame for his food-themed analogy which you can find via The Poke
  • Brexit like Fyre Festival – this one comes from numerous sources but is well summed-up by Simon Nixon of the Times who suggests that, ‘Like the Fyre festival, Brexit was sold on lies and will be a disaster’
  • Brexit like millennium bug – one for the Brexiteers, this analogy comes from Conservative House of Lords member, Peter Lilley who said that ‘No deal would be more Millennium Bug than Armageddon’
  • Brexit like leaving a nightclub – Ian, again!
  • Brexit like hotel California – another politician-driven comparison, this one comes from Greece’s former finance minister and Eurozone critic, Yanis Varoufakis who said of the EU: ““You can check out any time you like, as the Hotel California song says, but you can’t really leave”.

I really like how these analogies – and their prominence in Brexit long-tail searches – highlight the importance of creative storytelling around complicated matters. The metaphors have landed in our brains to the extent that there’s a high volume of us seeking them out, likely to relay to a friend or family member.

To conclude

There’s lots more Brexit sentiment to be uncovered from search behaviour, but I’ve pulled out some of the stuff I found to be the most interesting or significant.

Beyond Brexit, there’s plenty of sentiment to be uncovered from search behaviour for all kinds of industries. Consider your audience; their hopes, their fears, their pain points, their secret searches. Use AnswerThePublic.com or plain-old Google suggestions to surface the long-tail searches that these triggers are driving. And then create content to help.

All data taken from UK-located, English-language searches, via AnswerThePublic.com

The post Searching for Brexit: What Search Listening tells us about the UK’s attitude to our pending European divorce appeared first on Propellernet.

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It’s been another excellent week for the team here at Propellernet, with two awards nominations, one win and some rather happy faces.

Our Music Mapped campaign for Celebrity Cruises took home Best SEO at The Drum Marketing Awards and narrowly missed out on receiving Most Effective Use of Content at The Drum Search Awards.

We also discovered this week that the campaign has also been nominated for Best Use of Content at the CIPR Awards, and we’re so excited to see it gaining recognition.

The Best SEO accolade highlighted the campaign’s innovative approach to search. We’re always on the look out for fresh, smart ways to improve results for our clients, in an increasingly challenging industry.

Music Mapped was a campaign with a mission; to secure a high number of links and pieces of coverage, from a range of new and international online publications. But not just that – we also wanted to create an evergreen piece of content that could continue to draw interest and links even after we’d finished pitching.

So we created the Music Mapped tool, based on the pain-staking lyrical analysis of over 200,000 songs, to find mentions of destinations, not just in the title but within the body of the song. The final tool allows users to delve into different musical genres, or click through each country on the map to find the tracks that mention each destination. This provided us with incredibly rich data and a huge variety of angles and stories to pitch to a range of sites in multiple countries.

As it stands the campaign had secured 156 pieces of coverage, from 15 different countries, and 139 links. Coverage highlights include publications like Forbes, Mental Floss, Huff Post France, Spanish CN Traveller, Shortlist and The Culture Trip. To top it off, we also secured offline print coverage, have generated a storm of interest on social and received five pieces of broadcast coverage, including a 20-minute slot on a US radio station and the map inspiring journalist Dolly Alderton’s weekly playlist on her podcast The High Low, all of whom picked the story up naturally.

We’re incredibly proud of the campaign and the results it’s achieved. And with more nominations in the pipeline, fingers crossed for another win for our collection!

The post Music Mapped Wins Best SEO at The Drum Marketing Awards appeared first on Propellernet.

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Machine learning is improving at an incredible rate, but for the time being, this alone cannot replace human insight and understanding.

Over the past couple of years, Google has rolled out a variety of new features within Google Ads that use machine learning to improve performance, such as:

  • delivering more relevance with responsive search ads.
  • drive more foot traffic with local campaigns.
  • Increasing return on investment with Smart Shopping.
  • maximising conversions or conversion value with Smart Bidding.

Smart-bidding is extremely time efficient and effective, and we have seen great results across different smart bidding strategies.

How Does Smart-Bidding work?

For Smart-Bidding, Google Ads uses a wealth of signals to adjust bids. Signals are identifiable attributes about a person or their context at the time of a particular auction and include/combine the following:

  • Device
  • Physical location
  • Location intent
  • Day of week and time of day
  • Re-marketing list
  • Ad characteristics
  • Interface language
  • Browser
  • Operating system
  • Demographics (Search and Display)
  • Actual search query (Search and Shopping)
  • Search Network partner (Search only)
  • Web placement (Display only)
  • Site behaviour (Display only)
  • Product attributes (Shopping only)

Google Ads also have these signals in the pipeline:

  • Mobile app ratings
  • Price competitiveness (Shopping)
  • Seasonality (Shopping)

It’s interesting to see that Seasonality is going to be a signal for Shopping, this will no doubt be a driving factor in consumer behaviours around events such as Black Friday, Christmas, and so on. However, Google Ads won’t (currently) be able to take the ever-changeable and unpredictable British weather into account; in 2019 the UK saw the hottest February ever on record,whereas in February 2018 thousands were snowed in by ‘The Beast from The East‘.

For many of our clients we see the impact that the first few warm, sunny days can have on the volume of sales of items such as swimwear. However, when these long awaited for first days of summer will be is anyone’s guess, and if they are closely proceeded by a patch of cold, wet weather, or are much earlier than the previous year, will the smart bidding strategy be able to bid accordingly? At present, the answer is no, and even when the seasonality signal for Shopping rolls out, Search still won’t be able to account for this.

A work-around with non-smart bidding was to have a weather-based script but these don’t work particularly well with smart bidding strategies which work best when not interfered with. Furthermore the nuances of weather and temperature can make it hard to get the set-up of such scripts right. For example, a 15⁰C jump in temperature one day to the next would have a different impact in search behaviour than a steady rise in daily temperatures. So here human insight is very much required for the set-up. There are also paid for weather-based tools but unfortunately these don’t work with the smart bidding strategies (yet).

Automated Bidding Strategies are really effective and time-saving for high volume campaigns, and the automated bots that run them are extremely quick to learn. But the robots aren’t taking over all of our jobs just yet, thanks to the human insight needed to navigate the nuances of the ever-changing factors such as the British weather. So, whilst testing and embracing new technologies can save time and drive great results by automating hundreds of tasks, human insight is absolutely still required to ensure our clients are bidding on the relevant key words, whatever the weather.

The post Mind & Machine: Human Insight in a World of Automated Smart-Bidding appeared first on Propellernet.

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For advanced users of Google Tag Manager, there may be a time when you will need to create a Cookie to fire on a site without the use of a developer. There are various reasons for this, but the most common one is to capture some information from a user on particular part of the site, and to release and record that information elsewhere on the site.

Specific examples are:

  • A user has entered the site with a specific value in the UTM parameter
  • A Specific form has been submitted
  • To capture the value of a specific form field
  • A specific link has been clicked on the site
  • To fix duplicate transactions issues in Google Analytics
  • To trigger a specific action (e.g. a popup) for returning visitors
  • To create custom dimensions in Google Analytics

In this post we will discuss how to record the value of a Tracking Parameter.

6 Steps to creating & setting a Cookie in GTM

  1. Create the variable that will be recorded by your Cookie (optional)
  2. Create a Custom HTML Tag which holds your Cookie JavaScript
  3. Create a Trigger which fires the Cookie
  4. Create a 1st Party Cookie variable to import the Cookie value back into GTM
  5. Test and debug your Cookie Tag
  6. Publish
Create the variable that will be recorded by your Cookie (optional)

Whilst it might not always be necessary to store a variable in your Cookie, more often than not it is; the first thing you should do (if you haven’t already!) is to create the variable you want to be stored in the value of the Cookie. In this case, we’re storing the Query Key ‘Source’:

Create a Custom HTML Tag which holds your Cookie JavaScript

Paste the code of your Cookie into a Custom HTML tag in Tag Manager.  Your Cookie code will depend on what you are recording, although it should look something like this:

var cookieName  = "website_source"; 
var cookieValue = "{{URL - Query - Source}}";			//pull in the value from a variable or constant here, true, false etc
var cookiePath  = "/";

var expirationTime = 86400;                          	//time the cookie should expire in seconds
expirationTime = expirationTime * 1000;                 //Convert expirationtime to milliseconds
var date = new Date();                                  //Create new date
var dateTimeNow = date.getTime();                       //What is the current time in milliseconds

date.setTime(dateTimeNow + expirationTime);             //Set expiration time

var expirationTime = date.toUTCString();                //Convert milliseconds to UTC time string

document.cookie = cookieName+"="+cookieValue+"; expires="+expirationTime+"; path="+cookiePath;  //Set cookie


And it should look like below:

Create a Trigger which fires the Cookie

Now that you have the core of your Cookie created, you need to tell GTM when to fire it. In our example, the Cookie should fire when the URL contains ‘source=’ in the parameter query string, for example:


Create a 1st Party Cookie variable to import the Cookie value back into GTM

Although GTM has created the Cookie, it cannot extract the value of the Cookie unless you create a 1st Party Cookie Variable. This is a built-in variable that returns the value for the first browser Cookie with the name you specify in the Cookie Name field.

Test and debug your Cookie Tag

As with every tag you publish in Tag Manager, you should always test it before publishing. To do this, click ‘preview’ in GTM, head over to your site and make the trigger fire the tag you created. For cookies, you should be able to check if it has worked in one of these two ways:

  • Study the Cookies of your site. We us the ‘editThisCookie’ chrome extension which works well, but other tools can do this too:

  • Look at the variables in the GTM Preview Debug Tool. If this has worked, the 1st Party Cookie variable you created earlier will now have a value:


Once you’ve followed the steps above, publish your container and boom, you can now track your visitors behaviour in the browser.

The post How to Create & Set Cookies with Google Tag Manager appeared first on Propellernet.

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