Closing the Loop: Making Google Analytics Work for You

First, do you have Google Analytics set up on your website? If not, take a moment to go read up on how to do that here or here. The process is relatively simple. However, if it’s beyond your ability or time bandwidth, we would be happy to talk with you about how we can set it up for you.

Now that you have Google Analytics set up, you can go into your dashboard and start gathering all kinds of data about your website and how people are interacting with it. If you’re like most of our clients, the deluge of information can be overwhelming so let’s break it down into the most tactical and critical items.

Data to Watch

The Three Big Numbers

These numbers give us key insights into how much interaction there is with your site in a specific period of time. We may choose a week, or a month, or a time when a marketing or ad campaign was running.

  1. Unique Visitors – In general, we say that this is the number of devices that visited your site. So if a person is going to your site on their laptop and then on their smart phone, this will be listed twice (unless they are logged into Google when doing so, then Google will filter it to one.)
  2. Site Sessions – This is how long that unique visitor spent on your site, in total per visit. So maybe they spent a long time just on the home page or landing page. Or maybe they looked around on different pages. Either way, this is the total time they were on your website in that visit.
  3. Page Views – This tell us how many pages are hit in that period. So you can see if one page is more popular or more commonly visited in a time frame than other pages.

Other Interesting Areas To Explore

  • Audience Demographics: This can reveal interesting information, but it requires a website visitor to be logged into Google when they visit your site so it’s limited in its scope. It’s a place to start to get familiar with the type of information Google is capable of providing.
  • Location: This is an enlightening place to explore, especially if you are a localized business, providing goods or services to a specific area. By logging IP addresses, Google Analytics can let you know if you are receiving traffic from that local audience – or if you need to make tweaks to reach that area.
  • Source: This tells you where most of your traffic is coming from. It breaks down into those from organic search, social media pages, etc. From there you can also dig deeper to find out the keywords being used to find you via organic search or which social media platforms in particular.
  • Behavioral Flow: This shows you how people are navigating around your website. Most people tend to land first on your home page. Is that true with your website or are they finding a campaign landing page or other page first? Then where do they go? Ultimately, are they getting where you want them to go?

It’s Never Perfect

In fact, no data is ever perfect. We use what’s given to use to make inferences. And over time, as we are tracking data, we can make even more informed inferences based on what we see.

The Need for a Filter

One of the first things we do for our clients, after Google Analytics has been on their site for a week or so, is start to filter out irrelevant hits. Irrelevant information may include 1) bots, 2) spammers, or 3) any hits that aren’t in your target market (such as outside the US, if you are US only business.) We do this manually by checking for trends or groups of hits and filtering them out if they seem to be in these categories. This helps us narrow down our information and make better inferences from the data provided.

Doing Something With That Data

Start with the Why

When all the data is coming at you, it can be easy to lose focus. Step back and consider what the purpose of your website is and what you are trying to accomplish. Then, figure out which action correlates with that goal. There may be a way you want people to interact with your website or a page you want them to end up at. Ask yourself, “what am I trying to get people to do here?”

Setting Up Goals

Once you know your goal, you can utilize the Goal tracking function on Google Analytics. Keep in mind, you don’t need to be using Pay-Per-Click or other paid options with Google to set relevant goals within Google Analytics. Don’t get tripped up with that.

If you’re wondering how to set those up, here is a breakdown of the steps. We recommend setting up Custom goals.

Here are some examples of Destination goals you may want to track:

  • A non-profit website – If your goal is donations, then a Confirmation page
  • A B2B webpage – if your goal is to get a prospect on the phone, track your contact form or contact page.
  • E-Commerce Website – if your goal is to make a sale, then track your purchase page or confirmation of a sale page.

You can also track length of time spent on your website or the number of pages looked at. This is especially useful if you are looking to education or inspire. For instance a non-profit or political campaign site may want to track Site Session information.

Tracking

Once you know what you’re looking for, you can start watching over time to see if your marketing efforts are working toward those goals. You should be checking this data routinely. We recommend doing so at least monthly. Also be sure to watch to see that the data looks accurate. Major ups or downs could be bots that need to be filtered – or could be a result of marketing action you’re taking. Try to make some inferences based on what you know to inform the data you see.

A Google Analytics Life Preserver

Don’t get lost in the flood of data that can come at you when you open your Google Analytics dashboard. Stay focused on those critical numbers discussed above – especially the ones that are relevant to your ultimate goals and bottom line. Then set up Goals to help you watch those numbers.

If you’re still feeling like you’re drowning in this data, we are happy to throw you a lifeline. The clients that work with us to manage their Google Analytics receive monthly reports from us in which we give them the data they need, and we present a report with some of those findings. They get the information they need to make strategic decisions – while staying afloat in so much data. If you’d like to discuss this with us, or anything regarding marketing technology, drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you!

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