Understand Google Analytics: Six Simple Ways to Get Powerful Insights
It's easy to forget what a phenomenal tool Google Analytics really is. And it's free! For business owners and marketing directors Google Analytics is a treasure trove of insights to help you manage marketing. Here are six tips for understanding it and gaining valuable insights.
Measure the quality of website visits, not just the quantity of them
To optimize the performance of digital marketing campaigns it's essential to understand not just the quantity of site visits that a campaign drives, but also the quality of them. For example, if your email campaign drives a lot of site visits but few of those visits convert, how valuable is that campaign really?
You can assess visit quality by comparing visits that come from different sources using the Google Analytics segment report. Create one segment showing visits from one campaign source, like email, and compare that to another segment from a different source, like paid search. Then compare the quality of each type of visit by looking at conversions and also average numbers of pages per visit and the duration of visits.
Beware reporting gaps from cookie clearing and cross-device activity
Google Analytics relies on browser cookies to track user activity and measure returning visits. When a user clears their cookies and returns to your site, they will appear to be a new visitor. Additionally, a user may visit your site on their desktop computer at work, then their tablet at home with the occasional smartphone visit as well. It’s unlikely that Google Analytics will recognize all these visits as coming from the same user. This reporting gap is not a huge problem, but it may skew your reports for "new" versus "return" visitors.
Use benchmark reports to show how your site measures up
Want to see how your site compares to industry averages? Benchmark reports in Google Analytics offer that. One particularly helpful report enables you to compare traffic volumes to your site from different sources (“channels”) versus industry averages. Other interesting comparisons are pages-per-session and average session duration.
Page loading is not the same as page viewing
Increasingly we want to know more about website visits than simply whether a user visited a page. For example, we might want to know how much of a page a user actually viewed. This kind of tracking is called “active view reporting” and Google Analytics doesn’t offer it. What Google Analytics measures is simply page loading. So keep that in mind.
Track POS systems, not just websites and apps
Google Analytics can track data from any internet connected device including kiosks and point-of-sale (POS) systems. I’ve seen clients use this feature when they combine e-commerce sales from their website with in-store sales tracked via a POS system. But setting up tracking for a POS system is slightly different than for a website or app. You can read more about this at the Google Analytics site in the help section.
Data Studio- Too much data and not enough insight?
Data Studio, a product related to Google Analytics and sometimes used in conjunction with it, promises to “unlock the power of your data with interactive dashboards and beautiful reports.” But beware big data with little insight.
I recently studied a Data Studio site analysis that had over 30 pages of these “interactive dashboards and beautiful reports.” I studied it because a client could not make heads or tails of this sea of data. What they actually needed was a single page executive summary of actionable insights. I believe Data Studio is a powerful and useful tool, but without thoughtful use, it can overwhelm you with data when what you want is clarity and insight.
Want to learn more about how to use Google Analytics to manage your marketing? Let's talk!
This post was written by John Walker, principal consultant at J. Walker Marketing. Contact John today to discuss your marketing challenges. John@JWalkerMktg.com.