Google Analytics is a powerful tool, but it is often overlooked or underutilized. At the surface level, for example, Google Analytics can show you how many people are visiting your website (visits); how long they are staying there (average visit duration); and how they are discovering your site (traffic source). On their own these statistics, can serve as good benchmarks for month over month, or year over year comparisons, but Google Analytics can provide much more useful information.
Google Analytics’ greatest power is its ability to pull all the individual pieces of data together to deliver important analysis and interpretation. Features such as segmentation and filtering allow you to manipulate the data and gather useful information for answering questions and making decisions.
The following are some examples of how Google Analytics data can be used to help make business decisions.
Should we create a mobile version of our corporate website?
Using Google Analytics, you can find out how many users in the past have viewed the site using a mobile device. Log in to your Google Analytics account and select the last 6 months (or 1 year if available) as the date range. Navigate to Audience > Mobile > Overview. Here, you will see a table showing the number of visits coming from a mobile device (“Yes”, in the Mobile column), and the number of visits not coming from a mobile device (“No”, in the Mobile column).
In the example above, 6.67% (or 8,712 visits) of all website visits in the selected time period, are coming from mobile devices, and visits from mobile devices have a 32.43% bounce rate. If you compare the data between mobile and non-mobile visits, you see that the data from mobile visits is actually slightly better than the non-mobile visits. These stats suggest that creating a mobile version of the corporate website may not be necessary at this time because it is not hindering mobile visitors from viewing the site.
However if you saw that 30% of website visits were coming from mobile devices and these mobile visits had a 60% bounce rate, it would suggest that mobile visitors are finding it difficult to navigate the corporate website on a mobile device. With such a high percentage of visits coming from mobile visitors, it could be beneficial for the company to create a mobile version of the corporate website.
Should we continue our newspaper ad campaign in Calgary?
Pretend you have an online company, based in Vancouver, BC and you decided to run a newspaper ad in the Calgary Herald. The campaign started on June 1 to target potential customers in Calgary. It is now the August 15 and you need to decide if you want to continue the advertisement in September.
As the newspaper ad is offline, it is impossible for Google Analytics to track visitors who decided to visit your website as a result of seeing the ad. However, there is an indirect way of measuring the potential influence of the advertisement. Using Google Analytics, you can compare visits originating from Calgary during the ad campaign period to the period prior to the campaign.
Log in to Google Analytics and select the date range corresponding to the duration of the ad campaign (June 1 to August 14). In the date range box, select “Compare to Past” and this will automatically select an equivalent number of days prior to June 1.
Navigate to Audience > Demographics > Location. You will see a map and a list of countries below it. Directly below the map is a row labeled, “Primary Dimensions”, click the “City” link.
The list below should now display website data broken down by city. Browse the list for Calgary. Under the Calgary item, there should be two rows indicating June 1 – August 14 and the comparison time period (January 17 – March 31). Assuming there are no seasonal business sales cycles or other major promotions in Calgary during the period, the change in the number of visits can be attributed to the newspaper ad. If there is a large increase in visits coming from Calgary, it suggests the ad is helping increase awareness of the company in Calgary. If there is no change or a decrease in visits, it suggests the ad is having little influence in generating awareness in Calgary.
If your business website is e-commerce enabled and Google Analytics is configured to track online sales, you can click on the Ecommerce link located directly above the map. If you scroll back down to the Calgary data, you’ll see a Revenue column, which is an even better indicator of whether the newspaper ad is providing an increase or positive return.
Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can help you make business decisions. The examples above are only a sample of possible questions you could address.
When faced with a new decision about your digital strategy:
- The first step is to understand the data that is available in Google Analytics.
- The second step is to ask a question.
- The third step is to determine what data is required to answer the question.
- The fourth step is to segment and manipulate the data to find an answer.
One of my favourite stories my father used to tell me when I was a girl was about a scientist and a grasshopper.
The scientist used the grasshopper to conduct an experiment.
He began by placing the insect in a metal box and telling it to jump. The grasshopper jumped.
Then the scientist picked up the grasshopper, removed one of its legs, set it back down in the metal box and asked it to jump again. It did.
The scientist then removed another leg and repeated the steps. Again, the grasshopper jumped.
The scientist removed a third leg, then a forth. Each time telling the grasshopper to jump. But each time, having to say it more than once, and with increasing volume.
Upon pulling the 5th leg off, the scientist set the grasshopper down and shouted at the top of his lungs “JUMP”. It did. Feebly.
Finally, once the 6th leg was plucked off, the scientist set the grasshopper down and said “Jump. Jump. JUMP!” until he was red in the face. The grasshopper did not jump.
Excitedly, the scientist reached for his notebook and proceeded to write his conclusion “The loss of all legs caused grasshopper to go deaf”.
I used to laugh at such a ridiculous conclusion. But now, such ridiculous conclusions are made at disturbing frequency in the land of all things Web. The reason might be attributed to too much data, not enough context. A common complaint from the wise Avinash Kaushik. Unhelpful piles of data with no one to correctly interpret them.
Or perhaps the reason is convenience. It’s convenient to conclude that no one is clicking “Buy My Book” on your website because people just aren’t interested in the book. Rather than, people aren’t clicking on it because the button is too small, or is hidden at the bottom of an internal web page. Or perhaps people ARE clicking on it, but can’t finish the purchase because no one conducted a usability test on your website – and there’s actually an error preventing people from completing a sale.
Ah… conclusions. They can be so wrong and so damaging. They can also make you deaf.
As all 62-million of us continue on our learning curves of Google+, here are a few “good-to-know” points that you may find useful or fun. We start with personalized search (the hot topic of the month), then talk hashtags and doctored photos. Let’s get started.
You’ve likely heard by now that Google has introduced personalized search for logged-in Google users, called “Search Plus Your World“. This means when you conduct a search on Google, the results you see will be based in part on what you’ve shared on Google+, what others in your circles have shared, and from your personal search history. Personalized search results on Google are not new, but the emphasis on G+ content and profiles is. This places a lot more importance for brands to establish and build a business page on G+. If Google is going to rank G+ content over everything else in search results, businesses would be smart to invest some time there, and fast.
For the record, there is a way to turn personalized search off. Read all about that here.
If you’re like me, reluctantly placing more trust in Google than in Facebook, especially in light of this recent Facebook development, then you may have content of a private nature in your G+ profile that you’re only intending to share with a limited audience. Trouble is, if you use the same Gmail account to log into other Google accounts like Analytics, Webmaster Tools, or Adwords, you run the risk of others inadvertently tripping into your G+ account. There are ways to get around this, of course, by not sharing access to GA using your own Gmail login, but you would be surprised how many people do just that. Don’t. Here’s how to share access to GA without sharing your personal login.
On a completely separate note, G+ now includes auto-complete for common #hashtags. Watch it in action here. Hashtags are useful for grouping content and making related content more discoverable.
And to wrap up on a fun note, search #funwithphotos on G+ to see how you can now add text on top of photos. Here are a few for inspiration.
If you’re still feeling a little in the dark about Google+, especially with regard to its relevance into the foreseeable future, I encourage you to read this comprehensive FAQ article by Marketingland. It links to multiple articles on G+.
Google Analytics is a website analytics tool that allows you to track the visitors on your website. It is an invaluable tool to help you measure the success of your online marketing plans and strategies. It’s free too.
Do you have Google Analytics installed on your website? If not, you should.
For more advanced users, Google Analytics can be used to measure the performance of advertising campaigns. If you have a Google Adwords campaign, Google automatically tracks your campaign’s performance if you link the two accounts together. (Instructions on how to link Google Analytics and Google Adword accounts).
However, if you want to track the traffic on your website that is coming from Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, links in email campaigns or third-party website banner ads, you’ll need to take a couple extra steps to make sure Google Analytics is tracking the traffic correctly.
Lets use an example to illustrate how to track an online campaign.
For example, I want to advertise on LinkedIn. I want people who click on the LinkedIn ad to go to www.mywebsite.com.
First, I need to create a custom link (with information attached to it) that tells Google Analytics how to categorize visitors that come from this specific ad.
Here’s how to create the link:
- Go to Google’s URL Builder
- Enter the website URL you want visitors to land on when they click the link. In this case, www.mywebsite.com.
- Enter the field information in Step 2. In this case, I would enter:
Campaign Source: linkedin
Campaign Medium: banner
Campaign Content: ad1
Campaign Name: product
If you are creating multiple custom URLs, make sure the field information is distinct for each URL you create.
- Click the Generate URL button.
- Copy and save the custom URL. It should look something like, http://www.mywebsite.com/?utm_source=linkedin&utm_medium=banner&utm_content=ad1&
With the custom URL, I can now go to https://www.linkedin.com/ads/ and create my ad. In whichever platform you’re advertising on, paste the custom URL you generated in the field that asks where the ad should link to.
Once the ad campaign has launched, go to the Traffic Sources section of Google Analytics to see how traffic from this campaign is interacting on your website.
This information can be used to judge the quality of the traffic and whether it is providing a good return on investment.
At Magnify Digital, we see many clients come in with Google Analytics installed on their websites, but that’s it. Just installed. That’s like having a Porche parked in your garage and never driving it. There is so much Google Analytics can do, but if you’re not sure what to do, it can be intimidating. Interestingly, the three biggest and most common pitfalls for users of Google Analytics (GA) are:
- Drawing erroneous conclusions
- Installing GA incorrectly
- Not tapping into GA’s full potential
The Skinny …
- The mantra all GA users should live by: No metric in a vacuum. In other words, the meaning of the data is in the context.
- Apparently, 2/3 to 3/4 of GA code is not installed the right way. That means, you may not be getting accurate or complete data. So what can you do? Check to see if your code is correctly installed by using SiteScan (a free diagnostic tool that will scan your site and email you a report) or WASP (which stands for Web Analytics Solution Profiler). WASP has free and paid versions.
- Google Analytics can do phenomenal things. The trick is understanding the potential. Here are just a few examples of how to get more from your GA:
- Set up goals and track them. If you don’t have goals, GA is basically just a hit counter… which is neither valuable nor meaningful. There are many types of goals. For example, a goal could be downloading a pdf, filling out a form, visiting a specific page, watching a video, etc.
- Learn about segmentation, secondary dimensions and filters. These processes will distill data, making interpretations easier, faster and more accurate.
- Tag stuff. Want to know how many visitors watched a video on your site, or downloaded a PDF – tag or track it. Learn how here.
- Tag links. If you want to know how many visitors came from a link provided in an email blast, tag the link. Banner ad? Tag the link. Here is a valuable resource on how to do it.
You launched a new PPC campaign two weeks ago. You see the traffic to your website has doubled since the campaign started. Conclusion: the PPC campaign is worth the $50/day you’re spending on it.
Or.. maybe not. Let’s say the point of the PPC campaign is to get more people to participate in a contest you’re running. Therefore, the goal to measure is how many visitors get to the “Thanks for entering our contest” completion page. When looking at the measurement of this specific goal, you see that 90% of the new traffic from PPC is actually bouncing, in other words – leaving, meaning you’re paying for people to come to your site and leave. Suddenly the stats seem less impressive.
You’re trying to drive people to one page on your site, to watch a video. If they do just that – but that is the only page they visit, GA is going to register that visit as a bounce. (A bounce means only one page was visited before the user left your site) However, in this case, the objective was to have the visitor be on this page only and watch a video. Therefore, not all bounce rates are created equal.
To say this list is barely scratching the surface is an understatement. But it’s a start. The point is if you have GA installed on your website, and you’ve done nothing to truly leverage this amazing tool, it’s time.
Tags: Google Analytics