Admit it. The very first time you got a look into the Google Analytics data for your organization, you felt a little tingle. All those visitors! Precious data on how they got to your site. Neatly laid out tables showing your website’s most popular pages. It was as close as a marketer can come to replicating the feelings of unwrapping presents as a child on Christmas morning.
But as months went on, the luster of what was thought to be invaluable marketing data began to fade. Visitor counts never seemed to fluctuate. The five most viewed pages of your website never changed from month to month. Sources of traffic rarely changed. Preparing monthly Google Analytics reports now feels like an exercise in redundancy rather than learning.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Like the hammer or the wheel, Google Analytics is one of the most powerful tools ever created. But like any good tool, however, the realization of its potential is reliant upon the skill and knowledge of the wielder.
Fortunately, cultivating the ability to extract deep insights and intelligence from Google Analytics doesn’t require enrolling in night school or attending expensive seminars. Here are three things you can do in Google Analytics to ensure that your website reports are more informative, incisive and actionable!
For most websites, total visits are a decent KPI. If all things are equal, getting 200,000 visits is better than getting 20,000 visits.
The problem is that not all visits are created equal. One visit from a prospect who contacts your B2B organization as a lead beats ten visits from people who glance at your homepage and immediately leave.
Every website has choices and options that represent the accomplishment of real-life business goals. For a hospital, it might be simply views of the page for a service line promoted in a recent direct mail campaign. For an engineering firm, it might be downloads of a newly released white paper.
Goal tracking allows you to specify and track desirable website actions in Google Analytics. By correlating the completion of desired goals with visits to your website, you can more effectively determine the quality of visitors you are drawing. Knowing that a recent campaign caused visitors to increase while goal completions did not move allows you to make better decisions regarding budget expenditures.
Always Be Segmenting
As a marketer, you’re employing a variety of channels to drive people to your website: social media, e-mail, search marketing, public relations, traditional advertising. Often times, these tactics are operating at the same time. If a recent campaign causes visits and goal completions to significantly spike, how can you tell which channels were most responsible for success?
The answer can be found through advanced segmentation. By clicking the “Advanced Segments” button at the top of virtually every Google Analytics report, you’ll be able to filter your data and identify trends occurring in any of the following:
* New visitors
* Returning visitors
* Paid search traffic
* Non-paid search traffic
* Mobile traffic
* Tablet traffic
Is the goal completion percentage of visitors who arrive via paid search higher than all other channels? Maybe it’s time to consider doubling the PPC budget! Is the bounce rate (the percentage of traffic that leaves the site immediately upon arrival) for mobile traffic twice as high as any other source? Perhaps it’s time to consider investing in a mobile-friendly website.
You’re not just limited to Google’s default segments. By clicking the “New Custom Segment” button, you can define your own advanced segments! Want to know see how a recent trade show impacted traffic from New York? Create a custom segment that measures visits only from that state. Curious if the browsers that people use impact their likelihood of buying from your e-commerce site? Create advanced segments for Internet Explorer, Firerfox, Google Chrome, and compare the goal completion rates!
By creating advanced segments and skillfully slicing your data, you’ll be better able to unearth trends and insights that might not be visible from the 30,000-foot all-inclusive view of website traffic.
Look Beyond the Pageview
At its core, Google Analytics data is predicated on pageviews. Stitching together each page viewed by an individual comprises a visit, and it is through analysis of which pages are viewed that we can assemble the profile of a typical website visitor.
Websites today, however, offer significantly more rich and dynamic experiences. Visitors can watch videos, play games, download white papers, contact live chat support, and much, much more. Simply measuring hops from one page to the next only partially constructs the profile of today’s online consumer.
Fear not. Event tracking in Google Analytics allows you to capture the myriad of user interactions comprising the online experience: downloads, mobile ad clicks, Flash elements, AJAX embedded elements, video plays – the list goes on!
Through Event Tracking, Google allows you to define the category, action, label and value of an online user interaction. Marketers wishing to track plays of a newly created customer support video might define the category of this interaction as “video”. Actions could be defined as “play” and “pause”, while label might be defined as “customer support”.
Events can be tracked and analyzed across virtually all Google Analytics reports. Marketers can measure the correlation of events to goal completions. Advanced segments can define which visitors are most and least likely to perform a specific on-site user interaction.
While many marketers will be able to determine which user interactions they would like tracked as events and define classification schema, in most cases, the implementation of Event Tracking on a website itself will need to be carried out by IT or web development teams. Those interested in learning more can read the Google Event Tracking Guide for Developers.
We’d like to hear from you! Do you currently analyze goals, track events and used advanced segments in Google Analytics? How has it helped you? What other techniques do you use to make Google Analytics work harder?
@NeilAndrewJames is certified in Google Analytics and Google Adwords and is the digital strategist for Minneapolis marketing firm, Russell HerderTweet