It’s hard to believe that we’re nearing the end. With the business of the holidays looming just around the corner, it’s important to start putting plans in place to set your business up for success. One way to do that is to make sure you’re using Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is a vital tool for digital marketers, SEO analysts, and webmasters alike. For the ability to really understand how effective a digital website campaign has been, to review SEO performance, or to find out how well users are interacting with your new website, Google Analytics (GA) is the go-to tool.
However, you can easily get lost within GA if you don’t know what you are looking for. With so much data available at your fingertips, it can be pretty difficult to know where to look to find the most important metrics.
Without being able to analyze your website traffic, how will you be able to effectively assess your current marketing strategy and know-how to move forward? Through using Google Analytics, you can uncover massive amounts of data about your website and your users, gaining valuable insights that can be used to enhance your marketing strategies.
In this article, I’ll fill you in on key steps to using Google Analytics to make sure your 2018 digital marketing plan is successful.
What Matters Most
You need to know how to choose the best marketing metrics right from the start. Below I’ll be reviewing some core components of Google Analytics, such as Traffic Channels, Site Content, User Behavior, and Audience Demographics.
Direct: These are visits in which users have navigated directly to the URL by:
- Typing in the domain directly to the URL bar
- Clicking on a bookmark
- Clicking on a link in an email which isn’t tagged using tracking parameters
- Clicking on a link in a mobile messaging app
Organic Search: These are visits from organic (unpaid) search results. Month on month and year on year increases to organic traffic represents a strong SEO strategy. The results of this report are determined by the medium of organic traffic such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo.
Social: Visits from social platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)
Email: Traffic from tagged links clicked in email messages, whether mass email marketing or individual messages. You can add a tracking link to the URLs in your emails by using Google’s URL Builder tool. You can further segment this traffic by ‘campaign’ if you have tagged your links. This way you can see which email campaign(s) were the most successful over a period of time
Referral: Traffic coming from users clicking a link from another site, excluding major search engines.
Paid Search: Traffic from PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns such as Google AdWords. You can also link your AdWords campaign to Analytics for more efficient reporting within Analytics, under Acquisition.
Other Traffic: Google defines “other traffic” as traffic coming from online advertising outside of search and display, such as cost-per-view video advertising. Occasionally you will have undefined traffic in this report which GA will eventually filter out to the appropriate channel.
Display: Indicates traffic from display advertising, such as Google AdWords remarketing campaigns.
Here’s a screenshot below with an example of different channels:
Within the site content section of Google Analytics, there are four really insightful sub-sections to look at: All Pages, Landing Pages, Content Drilldown and Exit Pages.
With All Pages, you will find a list of all the pages on your site that have been viewed during a date range that you specify. If any of your pages are missing, they either haven’t been viewed in the specified date range, or the tracking code isn’t installed properly on that page.
You can break the data down by the page, page views, unique page views, time on page, bounce rate, exit rate, entrances or page value. I’ll go into a bit more detail on these metrics here:
- Pageviews are how many times the page was viewed; this can be the same user multiple times in one session.
- Unique Pageviews show how many unique sessions there have been for a page.
- Average Time on Page is the average time spent on the page over a chosen date range.
- Entrances calculate how many times a page was the entrance page to the website, meaning the first page that the user viewed.
- Bounce Rate is a percentage calculated by the number of visits in which a person leaves your website from the landing page without browsing through other pages.
- % Exit is the percentage of pageviews that were the final page before a user left the website.
- Page Value is calculated using eCommerce, dividing the total ($) value by the number of page views for the page, so you can disregard this if you do not run an online store.
In Content Drilldown we see the same data as in the All Pages report (with the same user metrics mentioned above), but this time it is broken down by sub-folders.
This section will show how well organized your site is, and how well people are interacting with your content when navigating through your site. You can see the folder images next to the page path to determine whether this is a page or subfolder. As you can see below, the homepage ( / ) is the main folder, with the icons underneath representing subfolders of the homepage. By clicking on the links you will reach a more detailed breakdown of the corresponding pages within the folder selected.
This report is particularly useful as it can also show underperforming or low-value content or content that may be appealing to visitors that you were not originally aware of. Here’s a screenshot from the Content Drilldown report.
Landing pages are the only pages in the content reports that show you a conversion rate. This is because multiple pages can be viewed within single visits before a conversion happens, but there will only be one page that a visitor lands on. So, if someone landed on your services page prior to navigating through your sub-service pages, before completing a conversion, the services page will count as the page which generated the conversion.
You can segment this data by adding a secondary dimension such as the ‘Source or Medium’ on the Landing Page report. This will allow you to gain a better understanding of the pages which perform well through mediums such as organic traffic, referral traffic or paid advertising, or specific sources such as Google, Yelp or Google AdWords. Being able to recognize which pages are gathering the most conversions is vital when analyzing marketing performance.
Exit pages are the final pages viewed within a visit. Usually, you tend to see your contact or checkout pages high up this list, which is ideally where you would like to see the ‘user journey’ finish.
Monitoring this report is key to understanding which pages could use improvement in order to keep users on your website and drive them towards completing a conversion. This will always be a highly beneficial analysis when considering your digital marketing plan. Keep an eye out for pages high up the list which may have error messages such as ‘404 Page Not Found’; fixing these are ways to quickly improve the user journey and overall website performance.
Be aware of who your audience is. It’s one of the key rules for getting better conversions.
The audience section in GA is a very important section to take note of. It is here where you can really dig deep into user statistics for your site, and therefore gain a deeper understanding of the type of people who really engage with your content, buy your products, or inquire for your services.
The broad overview of the audience tab helps you gain an initial understanding of users’ behavior so you can form the hypotheses to help your conversion optimization strategy. Then you can start to dig deeper, mining the different reports for more audience insight.
Within the audience section, you can answer questions such as:
Do Bounce Rates vary significantly between desktop and mobile visits?
If you have a much higher bounce rate for mobile visits than desktop, despite having a similar visit count for both, you should consider revising the mobile experience for users.
Which segments account for the highest Goal Conversion Rates?
Are female New Yorkers aged 25 – 34 buying most of your products? You can use this kind of data to help target your audience through digital advertising more efficiently.
In general, once you’re able to better identify the demographic and device segments that demonstrate a high conversion rate on the site, then you can target that specific audience via AdWords / Bing Ads or social media advertising campaigns.