In our ever-growing digital world, we now have access to an entire ocean of data right at our fingertips. This offers significant benefits to marketers.
It allows us to harness this data and use it to drive our marketing campaigns. Re-targeting, social media, paid search and targeted email campaigns are all examples of data-driven marketing. However, with advancements in technology enabling web analytics programmes to record the success of marketing campaigns, leadership teams are putting increasing pressure on marketers to measure the impact of their marketing.
Where did it all start?
Google Analytics was introduced back in 2005, when Google acquired a company called Urchin Software and launched their first web-based analytics programme for free. Although Google significantly increased the size of the analytics market, they also caused incredible upset within the industry. Paid-for analytics programmes could not compete on such a large scale. Today, Google Analytics is the most popular tool in a digital marketer's holster, with estimates suggesting that over 57% of the 10,000 most popular websites use Google Analytics.
But what is Google Analytics?
For those that don't know Google Analytics (GA): it is essentially a free tracking tool that Google provides. It measures website performance and tracks metrics such as page views, visitors, users, bounce rate (which we will cover later) and breaks them down by audience and customer journeys. This is only a tiny portion of what GA has to offer. The analytics platform provides a near endless stream of data and opportunities for marketers to exploit.
And how does it work?
Without getting too technical, GA works as a simple three-stage mechanism: data collection, data processing and reporting. Data collection is where GA basically gives you (the user) a tracking code which is deployed on a website.
The tracking code, browsers and cookies enable GA to collect all the data on your website. It processes the data according to the configurations you have made in GA, such as filters and goals.
Finally, GA creates downloadable reports from the finalised data.
How do I set it up for my website?
If you are a new user with no prior experience of GA, head over to http://www.google.com/analytics/. From here, click 'Start for free' and you can complete your website details. Once completed, click 'Get tracking ID'. You will need to add this ID to every page of your website.
Alternatively, if you already have GA set up but need the tracking code to place on your website, go to https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/ . Click 'admin', then 'tracking info' (found under the property column), then 'tracking code' and in the top left-hand corner you will find your tracking ID.
There are various ways to implement the tracking code - it is all dependant on the platform you use. For first-time users we suggest downloading the 'Monsterinsights' plugin for WordPress. Once you are set up and have given MonsterInsights access to your Google Analytics account, you will be able to view reports from inside WordPress.
If you have basic coding knowledge, you can bypass the plugin option and use a programme called Google Tag Manager that will allow you to place script directly on your website and have more control.
After the tag or plugin has been installed, visit 'gachecker.com'. You will see a tick mark in the left-hand column which shows if the tracking code has been placed on every page of your website or not. Once the tracking code has been finalised and it starts to collate data to your GA account, we recommend taking part in the Google Analytics Academy Beginners course. This will help you navigate GA and get a better understanding of how the programme works.
How do I use Google Analytics?
Once you're all set up with GA collating data and creating reports on your dashboard, it should look something like this…
Evident by its name, 'realtime' reports show what is happening on your site at that moment. It will tell you how many users are currently on your site and will break them down in terms of location, traffic source (Organic, LinkedIn, etc), content (what part of the website they are on), events (custom events created, for example, button clicks or downloads from the user) and conversions (goals that the user completes, for example, how many times the contact form is submitted).
Again, obvious from its name, audience reports provide more clarity on the audience that is viewing your website. Without going into too much detail (there are sixteen subsections): GA breaks down your audience in terms of active users (daily users vs monthly users), demographics, interests, behaviour (new vs returning users), technology (browser, network), lifetime value (revenue per user), to name a few.
This section focuses on traffic source, identifying how users got to your website. It includes: all traffic (which channels and sources users entered your website from), Google Ads (taking data from Google AdWord campaigns), search console (SEO purposes: landing pages and queries), social (social data: landing pages and referrals)
This part allows you to identify how the user has interacted with your website. It explores various metrics such as page views, average time on page and bounce rate.
This last section of GA provides you with information about the goals you have set. For example, it shows you metrics such as goal value and conversion rates, but also which route your customers took on your website to finally complete the goal.
What is a metric and dimension?
All reports are made up of dimensions and metrics, but identifying the difference between them can be tricky. In simple terms, a metric is a count - it is a quantitative measurement of your data. A dimension is a characteristic, or an attribute of your data. For example, the dimension would be the city and the metric would be the total number of pages viewed. In GA, rows represent the metrics and columns represent the dimensions.
Example metric meanings:
According to Google, a session is defined as a group of user interactions that take place on a website within 30 minutes. A lot of interactions can take place in a single session, from viewing a page to signing up to a newsletter or completing a transaction.
A bounce is calculated as a session that only triggers one event - a user opens your site and then immediately leaves. So, your 'bounce rate' is the percentage of visitors to your site who leave after viewing only one page. A good bounce rate is considered in the range of 40 - 50%.
GA defines a user as anyone who visits your website, whether they are new or returning users. When someone new visits your website, an analytics cookie is fired to record them as a 'new user'.
Unique page views:
This is the number of times a page on your website was viewed. However, this data isn't reliable, as one user could have viewed a single page fifty times before he left the site. Therefore, marketers tend to look at unique page views, which aggregates one user's page views in a single session - making the data more credible.
Ecommerce conversion rate:
The e-commerce tracking rate is the number of sessions that resulted in transactions. Focusing your efforts on increasing this particular metric as is a great way to increase your bottom line. For investment marketers this is evidently not as simple as in other industries.
As you can see, GA has a lot to offer marketers, from its ability to break down your audience to understanding how your audience interacts with your website. Although many companies don't see the value in web-based analytics programmes, it is evident that they can significantly increase your online presence and performance.