Anyone can set up an ad campaign that eats through a budget and gets clicked on too many times. But a lot goes in to making sure that there is a positive return on this ad spend. This is done by analyzing data from past users and adjusting based on the results. A key piece of making sure these course corrections are for the better is understanding what the results mean and how they are being tracked. When it comes to online shopping, or ecommerce, the goals are straightforward. However, many businesses are looking to generate leads online and ecommerce sites often have secondary goals, such as driving sign-ups for email lists.
These goals are tracked using a combination of Google products such as Analytics, Tag Manager, and Firebase, for apps. It is important for businesses to use these platforms to understand the full picture of what users are doing on their sites. These three products vary in their complexity, with Analytics being the simplest, but with a little bit of practice and online support from Google’s own help documents to endless blogs and how-to videos by independent sources anyone can grasp the basics of these tools. In Part 1 of this series we will look at Google Analytics and how it is used measure a site’s online presence.
Google Analytics is a tool for tracking user behavior on a given site. When an account is created, a small bit of code is provided which is then to be installed on every page of a website. This code collects data from every user who goes on the website and sends it back to Analytics were website owners can view a comprehensive view of user behavior. The platform is segmented into four basic “lenses” through which data can be viewed, Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversions; plus, a real-time look at what is happening on the site.
The Audience tab provides a breakdown of users by a number of demographics including age and gender, location, device usage, new or returning users, interests, and custom variables that can be created to further splice audiences based on a user’s preferences. If you don’t already know who your target user is, this is a good place to start. While the information is limited (Google will never know everything about any given user), basic demographics such as age, gender, and location can go a long way when optimizing a paid campaign or tailoring content for a specific audience.
Acquisitions refers to how users of a site arrive there, tracking what channel they came from and other information attributed by UTM parameters on links. “UTM” stands for Urchin Tracking Module and refers to five parameters which may be added on to the end of links to further identify the source of traffic.
This gives website owners the whole picture of where their traffic is generated; from a top-level view of basic channels all the way down to specific campaigns, ads, or keywords. This helpful for informing what kind of content to generate in the future; if a certain style of ad or langue used to describe a product or service is performing well and bringing in a lot of traffic, it’s a good sign that something is being done right. Try to recreate the success and don’t be afraid to try new things. With the data being gathered by Analytics strategies can be adjusted and fine-tuned as necessary.
The Behavior tab gives insight into what users do once they have landed on a website. Individual pages can be singled out to find what pages users are coming from and where they are going afterwards. Or get a view of behavior across your entire site as pictured below.
Site owners can become too familiar with their own website and become blind to roadblocks or other factors that influence how users interact with the site. They know the path and actions they want users to take and that becomes all they see. Diving into the Behavior section of Analytics while having the website up in another window is a great practice for putting yourself in the shoes of a user and gaining some perspective on what it’s like to use your site.
Finally, there is the reason why the rest of this information is even important at all: Conversions. Conversions can be anything; any action a website owner wants to track, whether is an ecommerce purchase, a form fill, or even landing on a specific page. The important thing is that these conversions align with one or several of company’s business goals. This section naturally tracks the number of goal completions on the site or a given page, but also shows the source of the traffic and has some different tools for measuring attribution. For those who are unfamiliar with attribution, there is a problem faced by advertisers which stems from the fact that users rarely convert on their first visit to a website. If a user clicks on a paid search ad one day, goes directly to the site the next day, and converts after clicking an organic social media link the day after, it hardly makes sense to give all credit for the conversion to just social media link (this model is known as “last-click attribution”). There are several different models for conversion attribution and Google Analytics has tools for comparing them. It also has a page for looking at top conversion paths; which is shown here.
This shows the order and frequency of platforms used before a conversion occurred. This tool can help a site owner learn a bit about their conversion funnel and where certain steps can be made to support it. For example, the most conversions came after a user visited the site directly four times until finally converted on the last visit. However, if there were remarketing campaigns running, perhaps they would have only visited the site once or twice before being driven to convert by a CTA on remarketing ad.
The natural question to ask now is how conversions are created, or how Google Analytics knows which actions on the site should be counted as conversions and what they are called. While Analytics has the capability to create simple goals using page destinations or time spent on the site, this will be considered in greater detail in the next part of this series about Google Tag Manger. Tag Manger is a separate platform by Google which is endlessly customizable in its ability to create tags that trigger on most any conceivable action on website. Google Analytics can then use these tags to create more advanced, complex goals than it could in its own platform alone.
Mastering Google Analytics, or even becoming familiar with the basics, is an excellent way to understand more about your website and the digital consumer in general. From learning about who the users are to what they do on your site Analytics is sure to enrich your understanding about the usability and utility of your website. By itself, it is a comprehensive web analytics tool that has become a standard for measuring site behavior, but when uses in tandem with other Google products such as Google Ads and Tag Manager, it becomes the centerpiece of complete and strategic web presence.
Stay tuned for Parts 2 & 3 where we will look into Google Tag Manager and Firebase.