What can Google Analytics do for you? Let’s take a look at the potential benefits it offers for your business.
Understanding the business opportunity
The key to informed planning and decision-making is having reliable data. There are plenty of ways to do simple things like count clicks or visitors, but Google Analytics enables you to measure many more things in much more detail and answer much more sophisticated questions. If it seems complex and daunting to start with, that’s because Google Analytics offers you so many options. Once you’ve an idea of the questions you’re interested in, Google Analytics will almost certainly help you find the answers.
For example, you might be assuming that new visitors are finding your site by typing in its URL or searching for the company name. But is that in fact the case? Google Analytics can tell you exactly what search terms have led people to your site, and give you an idea of which keywords should be used to optimize your site’s copy.
Smart businesses aren’t just waiting for visitors to find them; they’re using social media to drive people to their sites. But how effective is this tactic for you? Google Analytics can tell you, so you can judge whether you’re getting a good return on your investment in social media. It can also tell you exactly which links in your marketing emails have brought in traffic and conversions, so you know what’s working for you and what isn’t. With this sort of detail, it can then enable you to calculate how much you’re spending on marketing per customer per channel, helping you target your spending as effectively as possible and reduce your customer acquisition costs.
Once visitors have found your site, how are they using it? Which pages are clicked on most? Which are leading to successful sales or conversions? Flow Visualization reports enable you to see and analyze the path a visitor takes on your site, so you can see where they came from, which pages they moved through, and where they left the site. You can use In-Page Analytics to see in detail what people are doing on a page, and use Event Tracking to measure activities like downloads, video and animation plays, gadgets and Ajax embedded elements. All this enables you to build up a detailed picture of what your users are looking for and what they like – and in turn what is making you money.
On the technical level, you can use reporting tools like Site Speed, Alerts and In-Page Analytics to improve the working of your site and identify potential glitches such as slow-loading pages, poorly-placed content and excessive load that could lead to poor site performance and a frustrating experience for visitors.
You can also build up a picture of who your visitors are. Audience reports provide insight into their age, gender, geographical location and language, as well as their interests (notably, the categories of websites, apps and videos they’ve visited). You can see whether they’re new or returning users, how often they’ve visited before and how recently.
You can analyze the custom data you’re most interested in. This enables you to find out, for example, whether the users who view videos on your site are the ones who go on to purchase more of your products. All this will help you understand your users’ needs better, improve their experience of your site and services, and make sure you’re reaching the audience you want as effectively as you can.
These days, of course, visitors are increasingly likely to be using multiple devices, including smartphones, tablets and games consoles as well as computers. The Universal Analytics features enable you to keep track of visitors even if they’re using multiple devices. This provides you with a more accurate user count and a better understanding of how people interact with your business. In addition, if you’ve produced mobile apps, you can collect data from these and integrate it with your Google Analytics account to get the complete picture.
The depth of Google Analytics means you’re not just looking at static reports, either. Thanks to its interactivity, you can easily set up Content Experiments to test variations of your pages and learn which designs bring you the most conversions. From ad keywords and the photo on your landing page to complete marketing plans, Google Analytics is designed to help you compare different approaches and assess what works best. You can create custom dashboards and reports tailored to the needs of specific teams within your organization, with automated alerts called Intelligence Events to let you know when something out of the ordinary happens, such as a spike in traffic from a particular referring site. You and your colleagues can even add notes – shared or private ones – on the reporting graphs. We’ll show you how to cover all of these scenarios in this playbook.
How to use Google Analytics to measure business objectives
Understanding exactly what works and what doesn’t allows you to target your spending and effort where it’s doing the most good. One commentator, Martin Wong, notes that Google Analytics offers advanced e-commerce metrics such as revenue per paid click, which enables you to see which paid-per-click keywords are making or losing you money. His tip: every month, cut out non-performing keywords. This tip alone, he concludes, can save you 20-30% of your marketing budget.
Another feature, tracking the shopping cart abandonment rate of your e-commerce site, enables you to see where potential customers are leaving your site before finishing a transaction. By identifying and fixing weak spots, you can boost your conversion rate and increase your bottom line without buying more ads.
It’s a simple equation: reduce guesswork and you make your spend work harder for you, substantially reducing your customer acquisition costs as a result.
The odd sale here and there doesn’t on its own make for a sustainable business, but repeat sales to loyal customers will. Google Remarketing enables you to target customers who have already visited your site or bought your products and therefore already know your brand and (with luck) even like it. If they visited your product page but didn’t add items to the shopping cart, you can try a targeted ad offering discounts for those products. If they did buy, you could possibly offer them related products.
You need to ensure that your ads are relevant to what you know the visitors were looking for, a Google Analytics course can give you vital guidance on where to direct your follow-up activity most productively. Because it gives you a great amount of detail about your visitors’ interests and how they behave, you can target your remarketing activity at those most likely to buy (or buy again).
Once you’ve set up Event Tracking in Google Analytics, you can see those visitors who are interested enough to click on a call-to-action button, a drop-down menu or your website’s chat box. Remarketing to these highly-engaged visitors has a much better chance of successful conversion than simply “all visitors”.
The same applies to people who have visited top sold items, spent more than one minute on the page but haven’t purchased yet: targeting these means you are likely to catch people who are very interested in a product, but were still shopping around. In the same way, people often browse on mobile devices when they get the chance, but stop short of buying because they lack the time or because they don’t feel comfortable doing so on a mobile device. Once you’ve identified visitors who used a mobile device to spend some time on your site without buying – particularly if they spend time on a specific product page – you can then remarket to them on desktop devices.
A recent buzzword is “growth engineering” – or “growth hacking” for those who want to sound more maverick. All marketing is aimed at increasing the number of users you have, but traditional strategies – such as social media, email and content marketing – focus on attracting new users to a site or app, while growth engineering focuses on keeping them there and turning the casual user into a brand advocate.
This is important because a large part of growth engineering involves data mining and trend analysis in order to build up a rounded picture of what users are doing at every step of the way. This understanding is then used to evolve strategies for not only retaining these users but converting them into enthusiastic buyers, and testing these ideas in practice.
The key difference between traditional marketing efforts and growth engineering, as one specialist puts it, is the focus on getting users to stay, convert and return time after time to use your product. Growth engineers focus on testable aspects of a site where the data will tell them what is or is not working, so they can optimize the user experience and increase conversions.
You’ll have spotted how Google Analytics is an invaluable tool in this kind of development, thanks to its capabilities for mapping users’ paths through a site in detail, identifying what appeals to them, measuring the effectiveness of “sale funnels” and testing different conversion strategies in a clear and precise way.
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