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Archive of ‘Analytics’ category

Google Analytics: The Big Picture

Since I spend a lot of time in Google Analytics accounts, I can easily get bogged down by the all the data available. Occasionally, I need a reminder to step back and look at the big picture and the overall marketing strategy for each client. What exactly are clients hoping to accomplish and what actions on their web sites will lead to meaningful outcomes? Rather than looking at numbers that are subjectively judged as “good” or “bad”, they need to be viewed in the context of the client’s big picture.

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5 Google Analytics Performance Dashboards

Google Analytics Dashboards are a great tool for my clients who do not like logging into their accounts. They often become overwhelmed with the amount of data in analytics and prefer to see data at a glance.

I have a previous post on how to use the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery for dashboards. The gallery permits you to use dashboards created by other Google Analytics users.  But even that can be overwhelming with hundreds of dashboards to choose from.

Below I’ve listed five of my favorites for measuring performance with Google Analytics. Please note that I did start with some dashboards I imported from the gallery and modified them to be a better fit for my reporting needs. Each heading below links to a dashboard you can automatically add to your account as long as you are logged into Google Analytics when you click on the link.

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Organic Search Performance

How often are people finding you through organic search?  With this dashboard, you can see the behavior of people coming to your site through organic search results. And yes, it probably will primarily be Google for your organic source, but you can see other sources of organic searches such as Bing, Yahoo, or AOL. You can also measure how this source impacts the number goals completed and pages viewed.

Paid Search Performance (AdWords)

Advertisers will definitely want to see how their paid campaigns perform when compared to other channels, such as organic or email. It’s also valuable to drill into paid campaigns to compare them to each other. Are visitors performing a desired action in one campaign more so than the others?  Although this dashboard is for AdWords, it can be modified to also view other paid campaigns, such as with Facebook or Bing.

Social Media Performance

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How to Measure Display Campaign Performance in Google Analytics

When it comes to online marketing, measuring the performance of an ad on the Display Network is similar to measuring the performance of any other traffic source, such as Search Network ads. But what needs to be considered when viewing these metrics is that display ads are often better for branding rather than a direct conversion. When you analyze your data, it is important to keep this in mind when deciding whether your display ads are worth the investment.

In general, ads on the Display Network have a slightly higher bounce rate and fewer pages per visit than other traffic sources. Users who respond to a display ad often were not looking for your product or service at the time so their response is more passive than a visitor who is actively searching for something. As a result, your visitors are somewhat interested in what you have to offer but they are not actively seeking it.  As a side note with these ads, you want to write compelling headlines, but not click-bait headlines. With a click-bait headline, visitors click only out of curiosity, not necessarily a genuine interest in what you have to offer so it is probably not worth paying for those clicks.

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With the bounce rate, you may see a bounce rate for your display campaigns of 80% whereas the bounce rate for your other sources of traffic is only 50%.  Rather than focusing on that single number of 80% for display ads, drill into this and look at the specific placements, ad copy, and and targeting methods.  Google Analytics provides this granular data about behavior by each of these dimensions.  As you drill into your data, you might find there are several placements that are responsible for the highest bounce rate which you can then exclude in your Google AdWords campaign.

Also, as you review your Google Analytics data, give a little more credit to your engagement metrics, such as pages per session, for people who come from display ads. When people arrive on your site they’re passively searching somewhere else and they spend time surfing your site, it’s a good indicator of the effectiveness of your ads on the Display Network.

The value of this initial introduction, or branding, is seen when someone does make a purchasing decision. Because they saw your ad earlier, they remember what it is that you offer and are willing to visit your site again when it comes time to make a purchase. They may bookmark your site when they reach it through a display ad to revisit at a later date when it is time to buy. Or it could be they may not even remember you when they are ready to buy, but in doing an internet search at a later date, your brand does comes back to mind when they see your results again. Keep these factors in mind when you review the performance of your display ad campaigns.

Of course, everyone who runs paid ads for a site wants to see conversions in AdWords or goal completions in Google Analytics. It makes sense. When you are using cold hard cash in your marketing, you want to see results. But when you look at completed goals with display ads, look beyond just the straight conversion metrics. Make sure you set engagement related goals which include pages per session, mentioned above, or time on site. This is also when it makes sense to have a goal value set for valuable behavior that is not revenue-generating.

Remember that your metrics for display campaigns are going to be different than your metrics on your search campaigns with fewer clear-cut conversions. This is a campaign type that is still worth using because it can attract people who have an interest in what you offer and it could get you to the top of their mind when it is time for them to make a decision about their purchase. So go ahead and try the Display Network but keep these differences in mind when reviewing your results in Google Analytics.

The Awesome Powers of Google Tag Manager

*This blog post was originally published by RSO Consulting.

If you’ve ever looked at your website analytics platform and wondered where your conversions are coming from or who is clicking on your links, then you’re probably going to be a big fan of Google Tag Manager. Not only does it save you time, but it also makes it really easy to gather exactly the types of data you want.Close-up of web analytics dashboard

Google Tag Manager is a free program that provides you with snippets of code (JavaScript and non-JavaScript) to put on your website pages. Instead of waiting weeks or months for developers to hard code, Tag Manager generates the code for you. All you have to do is embed it onto your website, and Google makes this incredibly simple, too.

Once your tags are in place, they send information to your website analytics platforms like Google Analytics or Facebook. Let’s say you want to know the number of users who are clicking through to your purchase page, and you want to know which page the clicks are coming from. You can place conversion tracking and analytics tags on your pages, which then sends this very data to your analytics platforms for assessment.

Or let’s say you only want to know when a visitor clicks on a certain button. You can set up your tags to “fire” only when a specific action is taken. Google Tag Manager gives you lots of flexibility to set up your own parameters, so you can get refined data about your website visitors.

It’s also a great accompaniment to Google Analytics. Whereas Analytics is fantastic at delivering statistics about how many people visited your website, which pages were visited or which web browsers were used, Tag Manager lets you dial in on more specific behavioral data. You can even generate user IDs, so you can gather data about specific visitors.

All of the information you can glean from Tag Manager helps you make better marketing decisions, such as where to spend your ad dollars, what type of content resonates with your audiences, and how to improve your website for an even greater user experience.

Three Strategies to Understand Visitor Intent with Google Analytics

When it comes to your website, your visitors are the ones who are in charge. With Google Analytics, you can use that data to learn what it is visitors want to accomplish. As you analyze this information, you can see if there’s any disconnect between what somebody is coming to the site for and with the site has to offer them. Here are three strategies to understand visitor intent with Google Analytics. (more…)

How to Use Google Analytics to Optimize Your Website

Google Analytics not only provides a picture of the good things happening on your site which include sales and lead generation. It can also point out the things that are not working well that need to be changed. Below are five steps for optimizing your website based on data available in Google Analytics.

Identify pages with the highest bounce rates

In the Site Content section of Behavior data, you can view your landing pages. View which pages are the common entry points to your site. Are those pages designed to receive new visitors? In other words, will a new visitor know what your website is about if they land on one of these pages rather than the home page? If you see a high bounce rate, it could be that it is not a good introduction for people who are new to your business and there is some room for improvement. Pay special attention to landing pages with a large number of visitors and a significantly higher bounce rate than the other pages on your site.

Analyze goal performance

The easiest way to see how you are doing on your site is to look at your goals in Google Analytics. However, rather than looking at just the raw numbers or the absolute percentages, examine what’s been happening over time so you can see if there’s been an improvement in site performance. So yes, you will still want to look at conversions as a number on it’s own, but make sure you do watch for trends over time. And give extra attention to any spikes and conversions that may be related to a new marketing activity that you started or perhaps an update that was made to your website.

General site performance

The Site Speed section under Behavior is more relevant to the website developers then to the marketers. However if you are involved in decisions about the design, it is helpful to know if an image-heavy page seems to be causing a slow load time. With short attention spans, you are losing potential customers who lose patience and visit another site. The good thing is that this is one of those problems that can be fairly easy to fix and it’s very clear-cut.

Check the Reverse Goal Path report

In a previous article, I wrote about how the User Flow through a website might not be that meaningful for many sites. If there is not a clear path through your website to reach a conversion, it is hard to know what you are measuring other than the end result. However, you may still want to check the Reverse Goal Path report to see the pages a visitor navigated before converting on your site. It can be helpful to know which pages are the common steps followed by people who eventually complete a desired action

Look for drop offs in your conversion funnel

Once you set up goals you can see how people travel through your site to complete them with a Funnel Visualization report (found in Goals section of Conversions). With this report, you can learn which pages have a high exit rate in the funnel and brainstorm ways to improve them.

Website optimization is all about using data to make your website more attractive to visitors and make visitors more inclined to complete a desired action on your website. Looking for ways to improve your site using your analytics and qualitative data such as customer surveys is an ongoing process.

And always remember that no matter how great you may think your website is, you are not the customer. If you can stay curious about what it is your website visitors want, it’s easier to get rid of your assumptions and to be more open to creative ways for improving performance. There can be room to change your overall copy, your images, your navigation, your offers, your landing pages etc. The bottom line is if you adopt a mindset where your website is not a one-time project, you will increase the ROI with the channels used to send you traffic.

 

How to use Self-Referrals and PayPal Referrals in Google Analytics

A self-referral in Google Analytics means that your website is indicated as a referral source to your website which could have something to do with your installation.  Like with spam referrals, it’s frustrating to site owners if it happens a lot because it throws off your data as a whole.  You don’t know the true source of that great conversion traffic.

 

A lost referral is similar and occurs when there is a third party tool involved, such as PayPal for collecting payments off your website. Once you send visitors off your site to complete a task, like a purchase, the website where they complete the action is the one that receives credit for the conversion. I call it a “lost referral” because you don’t know if the originating traffic source was organic, paid, email or something else because Google sees the visitor coming back to your site from PayPal and assumes PayPal should get the credit for the conversion. Google Analytics also records that return visitor as a new session even though they only left your site for a moment to process payment.

 

You use the Referral Exclusion List as seen below when you do not want traffic from an external site to be a referral source or record a new session when the visitor returns from that site. Using the PayPal example, you would add http://www.paypal.com to your Referral Exclusion List.

 

But this isn’t a perfect solution, although it does at least prevent a new session from being created when the situation described above occurs.  Simply adding a website to exclude list does not enable you to see what site visitors do on the third party site.  You want to see the full journey the user took which is when you would set up cross-domain tracking AND add the site to your exclusion list.

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To have a picture of the full user path, you need to implement cross-domain tracking if the back and forth happen across website properties where you can implement tracking code. Cross-domain tracking then would allow you to track your website visitors to the third party site and requires assistance from your web developer for this set-up.

 

Note that once cross-domain tracking is set-up, you may still have conversions credited to your own website because of cookies. Returning visitors who were tagged with a cookie before you set up the exclusions and cross-domain tracking will still have conversion credit given to the original referral.  Expect to see this in the short-term after making this change, but this shouldn’t be a problem long-term.

 

When you don’t have access to the outside website property and cannot implement cross-domain tracking, with as a solution such as PayPal, you will instead edit the Website Payment Preferences on their website. In these preferences, you will turn ‘Auto Return’ to on and enter the URL of your ecommerce post-purchase page, such as http://www.website.com/ordercomplete.php.  A the end of the URL for your post-purchase page, include ?utm_nooverride=1. Doing this gives credit to the original source of traffic rather than giving PayPal the credit for the purchase.  This Website Payment Preferences screen was a bit tricky to find in PayPal’s help files, so go directly to this link to make this change rather trying to hunt for it.

 

You can start addressing referral issues by going to the Admin area of Google Analytics and adding relevant sites to the Referral Exclusion List.  Then, if you have web properties that you can add tracking code to, you will want to use cross-domain tracking to properly record the shopper’s journey. With PayPal, follow the above steps. Every vendor is going to be a bit different so check their help files or contact customer support to ensure you have this set up right. Especially if you are using multiple digital marketing channels to sell products or services, you want to give credit to the right place so you know what to do more or less of.

Analytics and AdWords – Not Always Perfect Together

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If you are advertising on Google AdWords, connecting it to Google Analytics is a must so you can view what happens after someone clicks on your paid ad. Getting to your site is nice, but seeing an action that may result in revenue is more important.

What can be a bit confusing initially when using the products is seeing different data in Analytics compared to AdWords for the same day. If searchers clicked on your ad 100 times on Monday, you would expect to see 100 visits to your site from AdWords on that date in Google Analytics, but that is not always the case. Most of the time, those numbers will vary. Although a small difference may not seem that important, you still want to know what your marketing budget is doing for you so you allocate it to the right channels and/or make necessary adjustments to your landing page.  Let’s take a closer look on how those two products work together so you understand what these different metrics really mean.

First ensure you understand how metrics are defined in Google Analytics. A click in Google AdWords is when someone clicks on an ad. This action is recorded immediately and invalid clicks are removed.  Google Analytics has all the activity that happens after this ad click.

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What is User Explorer in Google Analytics?

In the last couple months, you may have noticed a new Google Analytics feature under Audience called “User Explorer”.  This presents a new way to analyze individual-user behavior on your website.

Each row in the User Explorer table represents a single user and the metrics for that specific user.  Anonymity is still in play so you will see a set of numbers (Client ID) to represent a unique visitor. This Client ID is generated randomly by Google based on device and browser information and persists across multiple sessions. And of course, it is good as long as people do not clear their cookies.

When you click on a row, you will see information showing when the user was acquired and through which channel. The top of the table will have additional metrics, such as the total number of sessions, session duration, and revenue for ecommerce sites. You can also filter session information by pageview, goal, ecommerce and event information.

When a new feature becomes available in Google Analytics, it is not always clear exactly how it should be used, including the User Explorer report.  Below are a few use cases for this type of data if you do want to learn more about your individual users.

Segment by bounce rate

Segments are a powerful tool in Google Analytics. One way to use a segment is to separate out high bounce traffic to determine if a particular type of traffic is the most inclined to bounce from your site. If you apply this segment, then look at User Explorer, you can see if individual users tend to bounce from the same pages. Perhaps a single traffic source is responsible for the bounce rate for a segmented group?

Sell more to buyers

Once a visitor becomes a customer, you naturally want that customer to convert again.  With the User Explorer report, you can learn how the high-dollar customers interact with your site. Once you examine that data, you can personalize the experience for your lower-dollar customers and provide the type of content you have learned the high-dollar customers enjoy.

Remarketing

Remarketing is a great tool from Google that works when used carefully – not overdoing it or repeatedly showing the same ads to people.  With individual level data in the User Explorer, you can see if someone made a purchase but did not buy the complementary item as you had hoped. You can then remarket to specific people for the specific items you want them to come back and purchase.

Market to personas

If you believe women over 55 who live in New York are your primary customers, you can create a segment for that demographic and apply it to the User Explorer to look at the purchases or goals for this specific base of consumers. What are they doing on the site that is different from other types of visitors?

Constant visits to the order status page

If you have a page that shows order status or delivery information and your buyer is checking that page multiple times a day, you may want to setup a feature where buyers would have the option to receive a daily email with status updates. Don’t assume this is a feature that all customers want, but could be a good optional feature based on your findings.

Drilling into paid search

Paid search can be tough to do the right way and many advertisers may see a high bounce rate, at least initially with a new campaign. Use the User Explorer report to study sessions in detail for visitors who come through a paid channel to determine whether your landing page may need some changes or the campaign needs new copy.

Although it still doesn’t provide information about the specific person that marketers would love to have, User Explorer does offer more information about the types of individuals on the site and can help site owners provide a more personalized experience, identify weak points in the customer experience through the site and identify trends in behavior.  As always, none of this data matters unless you can use it in your overall marketing strategy, but it is at least worth exploring.

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