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You’ll get expert advice on topics to help grow your business today.
What is Google Analytics? Many people, even digital marketers, are intimidated by the numbers and terms like ‘regular expressions’ and ‘tracking code installation’. In this beginner’s guide, we are going to breakdown the importance of Google Analytics for a digital marketer’s tool belt.
We will also introduce you to the important parts of managing a Google Analytics account to make the most of your time and add real value to your digital marketing efforts. Even if you are using an agency to manage your marketing endeavors, it’s still beneficial to know the basics of Google Analytics.
If you hope to monetize your website, or even if you just want to measure who is visiting your website and how often, this is the best free tool out there. Plus, Google is one of the giants in the internet space, possibly only rivaled by Facebook, and they have a lot of data on internet users. Because of this, there is a lot of credibility behind their website tracking platform, Google Analytics.
If you care about improving your website to cater to your audience, Google Analytics can help you gain visibility into what your audience likes – essentially telling you how to improve your website through their actions or non-actions, which are all trackable.
Google Analytics can track many things. For example, you can find out:
These are just a few of the metrics that Google Analytics can track, and you can even customize the metrics that GA records with custom variables. If there is anything that happens on your site that you want to record, Google Analytics probably has a way to record it. The number of variables you can track on GA is endless. It can get really overwhelming if you don’t have a measurement plan.
Start by asking yourself what your business goals are, and then convert them into digital marketing metrics, or KPIs (Key Performance Indicators).
You don’t want to be measuring metrics that have nothing to do with your business just because someone else is tracking so-and-so data.
Set up Google Analytics under the Google account that you use the most, or whatever you consider to be your most important account. You can give others varying levels of access.
You can add different websites to your Google Analytics account through ‘Properties’ under ‘Admin’.
You will want to figure out which actions happening on your website bring value, and track the actions by setting up goals or events. Setting up these goals is important to get the data flowing into your system as soon as possible so that you can start reporting and analyzing important actions that are or aren’t happening on your website. By doing this, you can gain insights and improve the value you are getting from your website visitors.
What are the types of goals you can track? You’ll want to track actions that bring value to your website. What are the actions that you desire your visitors to do? It can be as simple as a purchase if you sell tangible products, but many sites/businesses are not this simple.
Conversions are the most important, and there is usually a ‘thank you’ URL that only visitors who convert can view, once they have done so. This can be after a form-fill, an email newsletter sign-up, or a download of an asset. You’ll want to create a goal based on the loading of this ‘thank you’ page in order to have Google Analytics record these conversions. This is just one of many types of conversions. Others include:
You can literally track any kind of action you want if you can place a value on said action.
You can set up a conversion for staying on your site for more than one minute if you think that brings a certain amount of value to your website.
Google Analytics has a great campaign URL builder tool.
Quite simply, a campaign URL builder allows you to append tracking parameters onto a campaign to help indicate the attributes of that specific campaign, so that you can better segment and analyze the web traffic that is coming to your site.
Auto-tagging gives that ability over to Google for your Google enabled ads. This relieves you of any work. Each click is paired with a unique GCLID, or Google Click Identifier, and all the attributes that Google can track will be done automatically to appear in your Google Analytics reports. This is nice if you don’t need to send your data to another platform, like a CRM, that needs certain data transmitted in a specific format.
The advantage of building out your tracking parameters manually is to be able to control the parameters, as well as the labels you put to the parameters. Naming the parameters in a way that help you understand what the marketing campaigns are doing allows you to customize the labels that segment your audience.
You can either build your own tracking parameters manually or use a campaign URL builder. You’ll want to use a campaign URL builder for all other marketing efforts not within the Google realm to be able to pass the data that you need.
What are the typical tracking parameters available?
For attributes that are standard, make sure you put the correct name. For example, if traffic is from Facebook, use Facebook, and not FB or else Google will think it is some random medium that it does not recognize and group your medium into ‘other’. Then you end up having Facebook traffic that isn’t being correctly recorded as such, because of the naming convention you used.
Google has a new way of visualizing your data called Google Data Studio.
Via Search Engine Land
Google Data Studio is a part of the Google 360 premium Google Analytics platform. When presenting your data to decision makers, it’s crucial to make the data relevant and easy to understand, which is where Google Data Studio is making its mark.
With competitors like Tableau connecting to GA and visualizing data at high levels, Google is trying to take back some of that market share by mainstreaming a more user-friendly data visualization tool.
Real-Time Reporting is exactly as it sounds. Here, you can view the activities on your website going on at that moment. This is a great view for testing conversions, or for new tests that you’re running for a website. For example, to check to see if a specific page is loading properly and recording, to see if a conversion that you just set up is reporting, etc.
What drove visitors to your website? ‘All Traffic’ is a report that can be broken down by ‘Channels’ and ‘Source/Medium’ – one of my favorite reports to see how different advertising platforms’ performance compares to each other. This report also breaks down your traffic from social networks, and you can tell whether you paid for this traffic or not.
Combined with Behavior and Conversion data, Acquisition reports can breakdown where your digital marketing efforts are excelling or lagging.
Pages/Session gives you an indication on how deep visitors are going into your website. This information can also let you know which marketing efforts are better at doing this than others. Is it worth it to shift ad spend towards campaigns that drive traffic deeper into your website? Is that valuable to your business?
You can also view how long visitors spent on your site. Engagement with your visitors is important. Are you providing them with valuable content? Is there a specific amount of time that is the minimum threshold you want a user to stay on your site?
This report can identify which marketing campaigns are sending qualified or poor traffic to your site. You can even set conversions for pages/session and time on site to help you better track the best traffic.
Finally, you can see where people exit your website. It can be very valuable to know when a user decides he’s done with your website. Why did they exit at this particular page, and is this a common occurrence? If the pages are common or show a trend, is there something that you can improve to keep the user on the site?
Multi-Channel Funnel Reports are especially useful when analyzing the pathways to conversions, especially when they involve multiple touchpoints. Conversions are the holy grail of paid advertising goals, so this report should be of great interest to you because it highlights the intricacies of how a conversion happened – which can be more involved than just a single campaign which drove the last click.
Search attribution is a more common topic in modern digital marketing, and it covers a holistic view of how visitors convert, taking into account the entire buyer journey, the multiple touchpoints (which can include video and display ad impressions), email marketing campaigns, paid advertising efforts, retargeting, and direct traffic.
Quite simply, conversions being attributed to whatever campaign caused the last click is outdated and inaccurate, because the cause of conversions are multivariate.
As you can see, once you have advanced and multi-layered PPC strategy and great SEO rankings, the journey of your user can follow various paths to conversion. Understanding the most common paths, and how to enhance the customer experience based on the flow of the user through your digital touchpoints, can be the rising tide that lifts the conversion boat.
In lieu of referral data that has since been axed by Google, you can find the keywords from which users are coming to your site and optimize for low performers. Enable Search Console and configure the data for your Google Analytics account.
Via Neil Patel
Just who are the visitors that are coming to your website? The importance of the buyer journey and buyer personas cannot be underestimated or overlooked any longer, especially when you are working within the digital marketing world.
Cognitive overload makes it harder than ever to break through the noise of stimuli on the internet, especially the ads, which are increasingly blocked out by users.
You can’t just stop at demographic, interest, location, device, and language data these days. While these attributes are important, the advanced technology of today’s advertising platforms allows you to target and cater to very specific audiences.
For example, Pinterest – a humble social media platform – started their advertising platform with over 400 interest categories with which to target users. Now, Pinterest has unlocked over 5,000 interest categories for advertising publishers to play with. How can a digital advertiser even begin to take advantage of all these interests, if you do not know anything about your audience?
Sure you can test, test, and test, as is the modus operandi of a diligent digital marketer, but these are fast times at digital marketing high school, and you can’t be left behind doing the minimum anymore. Advanced algorithms and machine learning are allowing marketers to build in depth buyer personas, and the information on users will only increase and become more accurate.
In 2015, Facebook knew more about us than our own relatives based on a few likes. Audience targeting is getting better indefinitely. If you don’t know your audience, you will lose in the digital marketing race.
Via Digital Clarity Group
Device reporting and analysis can be low-hanging fruit to improve performance. Using conversion data, see if there are any discrepancies between mobile and desktop conversions, and optimize accordingly. Especially with the explosion of mobile usage and the shift away from desktop, the behavior of your audience will be dynamic, and understanding these trends will be crucial in staying ahead in the digital marketing space.
Via Neil Patel
Aside from getting an accurate view of search attribution for conversions on your website, understanding and applying your customer lifetime value to your digital marketing efforts is one of the holy grails in marketing.
Imagine if you could know the exact value each channel contributed – in terms of dollar value – based on statistically significant predictive models using the lifetime value of your customers, culled from years of analysis of thousands of customers.
We might not get there this decade, but Google is trying their hardest. Google is starting to allow visibility on how different channels compare in terms of the lifetime value of customers that they acquire.
Lifetime value can bring a new perspective to different types of campaigns. For example, it might seem like a certain campaign has a negative ROI, but when you consider the value of the customer over their entire life, it might make sense to run certain campaigns without a positive ROI in the short-term for the long-term gains. It’s the next level of digital marketing.
What are users doing once they get to your site? What pages are the most popular? Which pages are visitors entering and exiting from? How is your site ppeed? If you can find out which pages have high bounce rates or aren’t converting, you can gain insight on how to improve. Bounce rates above 70% should be worrisome.
By looking at the ‘All Pages’ section, you can see how various pages on your website perform against each other. Analyzing the different ways users interact with your pages can help you figure out what content your users enjoy.
You can even get visibility on how users move from page to page on your site. This is like viewing the customer journey, but specifically for your site. You can get a better idea of common touchpoints and sequential touchpoints by looking at this report to see how users navigate your site. Is there a pattern that you can capitalize on? Do users only view a few pages and bounce? Perhaps the organization of your website can be tightened up?
Under ‘View’ and ‘View Settings’ you can turn on/off site search. Find out the search query parameter that your website uses to identify a search going on on your site.
For example, if I searched ‘google analytics’ and this appears, then I know my search query parameter is ‘s’ and I would enter that in. Whatever is before the ‘=’ sign is the search query parameter.
Now you can see what users are searching for on your site, which is valuable information on what your audience wants.
Knowing regular expression language is important for configuring your data. If you want to include or exclude certain aspects of your data, understanding this language and how to apply it to Google Analytics is crucial for mastering GA. This is literally the knife that slices and dices the data to your liking.
Understanding the difference between metrics and dimensions can warp your brain, but truly knowing the difference and how to manipulate each can help create customized reports that can exceed the value of basic Google Analytics capabilities.
Remarketing is a huge part of pay-per-click advertising, and learning how to create custom segments based on Google Analytics data is recommended to maximize how you make digital marketing work for you. Remember, marketing 101 is all about segmenting your audience appropriately.
Once you create custom segments, you can then create custom audiences for targeting. Custom segments are also available in the Google Solutions Gallery, along with templates for reporting.
Google Analytics is really cool in that there are a lot of templates for reporting that people share for the rest of the world to use. You simply go to where they’re all shared, and import which one(s) you’d like to use.
These reports will be automatically imported to your custom reports, and you can start using them. You don’t need to set up reports by yourself if you find a report that suits your needs, and there’s tons of reports out there, so use them!
Sign in to your Google Ads account, click on the tool icon in the top right and go to ‘Google Analytics’. If you already have a GA account, it will prompt you on connecting them. Easy!
Now you can monitor your Google Ads campaigns through GA and take advantage of the different ways you can slice and dice the data in order to get the most out of your paid advertising campaigns.
Cohort Analysis allows you to understand more deeply why traffic trends exist, instead of just relying on metric totals or vanity metrics. You can start to understand how certain metrics perform over date ranges to find any fluctuations that need explaining. You can also compare any segments of users to find differences in performance to help you understand why.
This is a new setting within Google that gathers more data on users that have opted-in for more personalized ads. Google Signals has the ability to de-duplicate users across devices to develop a holistic view of how users interact with your website. You have this new setting, once you activate it; it is being rolled out to everyone right now.
Basically, Google has better data on users who have opted into having better ads targeted towards them, and Google is giving this data to advertisers when they activate Signals.
It creates better demographic and interest data on a user, enhances remarketing, and increases cross-device activity related to a user through new beta reports.
While A/B testing for statistically significant results can be arduous – and possibly meaningless – because of sampling issues (1000 conversions monthly is apparently a statistically significant level for results), you still need to test website aspects to incrementally improve engagement.
Enter Google Experiments, that allows you to create variations of landing pages to test without the hassle of passing a dissertation review.
The Experiments section is housed within the Behavior section, and you’ll go here to start an experiment. You’ll want to choose a metric to compare performance of the different landing pages.
Via Neil Patel
After you place some code at the top of the pages that you’re testing, you’re all set.
Running your website is like running a factory, and you just can’t be at your factory all day to monitor everything that is happening. Google recognizes this and has created a helpful way to monitor your website based on subjective thresholds for different variables that you can set – namely, custom alerts.
You can set custom thresholds for metrics like conversions, and if they drop a certain percentage over the previous week, you can be alerted. This helps you focus on other tasks until suspicious fluctuations become a cause for concern. This can save you time, plus you can still stay on top of your website performance!
If you care about improving your website at all in meaningful ways, Google Analytics is a must. It can take a short time to learn about the basics of Google Analytics, but a lifetime to master the art of website data tracking.