Google Analytics: Don't Get Lost in the Interesting

June 17, 2015 Mike Weisert

Google Analytics is a fascinating tool for business marketers that offers layer upon layer of data and insights. When you first begin using it, Google Analytics serves a default dashboard of a generic best-guess of what you want to view. While it’s interesting, it can be easy to get lost in the mountain of data available to you.

By using some of the more advanced tools Google Analytics provides, you can extract valuable, actionable data — information that shapes your understanding and behavior. Information you can act on. Information that benefits you and your company.

As a Strategist, I took some time reanalyzing Google Analytics to learn more about what kind of insights help me best anticipate, plan and implement. Here are some of the most useful ways I’ve found to use the platform - tools that show me what I need without getting lost in the interesting or mulling data that’s not actionable.

Bounce Rate
How many people came to your site and immediately left? Bounce rate is a clear indication of visitor engagement and interest in further exploring your site. While bounce rate will fluctuate by section, a general rule of thumb is to keep it below 50%.

Content Groupings
Content groupings allow you to create high level views of your website by section. They are quite easy to set up. In the admin panel, click on “Content Grouping,” and you can create rules to group content. You can fill in what the page title is in the title tag or the path (URL). You can also replicate the same rule in three different places, but Google only counts it once (the first one it matches, top to bottom). Keep in mind that it will only capture data going forward from the day you set it up.

Behavior Flow
The behavior flow report tells you how visitors are moving through a website: what pages they visit and in what sequence. You can watch as they step through your site and where they fall off — a good indication of which pages are underperforming and need improvement. To get the most of this report, you’ll want to pair it with content groupings.

You can toggle the flow report so you can see where traffic is coming from. If you’re using campaign marketing, or if you have tagged campaigns, it is a powerful way to see if the program is working and if people are coming to your site the way you intended.

Segmented Metrics
Without segmentation, you’re assuming that everyone visiting your website comes with the same purpose. We know that’s not the case. People might be looking for careers, or he/she could be a current client wanting more on your expertise in a particular area.

In nearly every report, you can filter the results by target audience. This helps you understand if your site is meeting the goals for the segment. This can surface problem areas for you to act upon.

You can segment metrics according to customer type, measuring, for example, the behavior of those who are actively evaluating your firm. You know they’ve visited your site multiple times. You know they’ve read an article on a particular area of expertise. You know they’ve looked at partner bios.

There are a few ways to set this up. At the top of most pages, you’ll see the “All Segments” button. Click on “Add Segment.” You can ask for all sessions greater than one, sessions within the last two weeks, or go into “Advanced” and create any kind of scenario.

You can also view some of the domains that have come to your site and which pages they visited. For instance, you can see that someone from Exxon went to your site, and moved from the home page to the bio of a certain partner, then to an article on your work in the oil and gas industry. You can use this to create basic customer personas.

Google Dashboards
I think of a dashboard as a single view that you set up to answer a complex question, for example, “What topics are my customers interested in?” Get the information you need by analyzing metrics such as: keywords being searched, most popular website content and frequently visited pages.

To create your dashboard, go to the “Customization” tab and set up the rules. Essentially, you’re setting up a report, and you can export this report to Excel if you choose. You can also aggregate multiple reports so they all show up within one tab.

You can also use segmented metrics in Google Dashboards (can you tell I’m a big proponent of segments?).

Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager is a very broad topic, so I’ll just touch on a few of my favorite features.

Similar to embedding a YouTube video in your site, your analytics code lives on Google’s servers and is pulled over whenever the page is loaded. It’s an enhancement for Google Analytics, not a replacement.

Tag Manager lets you implement custom tracking code and modify your analytics implementation without re-deploying your whole website. It also lets you move efficiently; if you start a new marketing campaign, it’s a simple, fast way for you to tag something quickly on a page without rebuilding the whole website.

Most modern websites use Ajax and custom animations for a more fluid user experience without refreshing the page. Since the page title and URL don’t change, you need an alternate way to track these interactions to understand how visitors are using the site.

Where do you apply Tag Manager? You can start with dynamic content such as accordions, video clips or mega menus.

Admittedly, my summary here barely scratches the surface of Google Analytics and its full capabilities and power. But the key takeaway is about seeing, creating and exporting reports that provide actionable insights. If you can avoid getting lost in the interesting, you can direct Google Analytics to distill the information you require.

Curious about what else we learned at #1NLab14 last year? Watch all of the session videos here, and stay tuned for more insights to come.

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Mike Weisert

At the time of publishing, Mike was a Senior Strategist at One North.

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