Five tips for getting value from Google Analytics
It’s a common problem: you’ve got Google Analytics tracking on your website, but you’re not getting the insights to inform key decisions or enhance your customer journey. But how do you make your data start to work for you? To get real value from your data you have to be able to trust it, know how to get the information you need and adopt a structured approach to how you use it.
There are lots of opportunities to uncover with GA and there’s a lot more to share, but these 5 tips are a great place to start.
Tip 1: Start with governance
We’re all keen to dive straight into the numbers but getting the ground work right first will save you a lot of hassle down the line. Sorting out your governance will give you reliable, consistent data so that you can be confident in decision making and save time avoiding workarounds in the future. Good governance will also allow you to align your measurement strategy across multiple departments.
So, what do you need to do?
Start by assessing the types of data you’ll be collecting through Google Analytics and make sure that your collection method is robust.
Think about who the data is going to be shared with – is the relevant data easy for them to access?
Keep track of security – who has access to the data and the collection methods?
Focus on privacy – what type of data are you collecting? Is there any personally identifiable information? How will it be used?
Integrity – is the type of data you’re collecting being used for the intended purpose?
Finally, consider how you will present your data to make it clear and useful to those who need to access it.
Tip 2: Get to know your reports
First of all, get a feel for traffic and engagement through the Audience Overview report (find it in Audience > Overview). This is where you’ll find information on your overall pageviews, sessions and users, as well as bounce rate for the overall website, sessions per user and pages per session. Use the graph and date range selector to look for changes in these metrics over given time periods. Use the Mobile Overview report (Audience > Mobile > Overview) to see what’s happening by device.
Demographic reports – If you want to find out more about your website visitors then Google’s demographic reports are a good place to start. Just be aware that the reports are only as good as the number of users who log into Google and agree to Google’s ad personalisation, so you’ll see percentages which tell you how many of your users actually fall into each of the demographic reports. These reports will tell you about your visitor’s age, gender, as well as a range interest categories.
User journeys and site content – To understand where visitors enter your website, the key report to look at is the Landing Pages report (Behaviour > Site Content > Landing Pages). This report will tell you which landing pages get the most traffic, which drive the highest conversion and revenue, and the bounce rate for each entry point on your website. To compare where people are leaving the website, there’s also an Exit Pages report (Behaviour > Site Content > Exit Pages), and to understand the pages in between you can use the All Pages report (Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages). This report is a little different from the other two as it counts Pageviews rather than Sessions, but if you want to know how many sessions included a particular page, the Unique Pageviews metric will give you the number.
Sampling – You’ll need to watch out for sampling in your reports, particularly if you’re using the free version of Google Analytics. Look for the badge next to the name of the report – if it’s green then sampling hasn’t been applied. If it’s yellow, hover over to see the sampling rate. Some reports are sampled to speed up processing time, and here you can choose to sample at a lower rate for greater precision. If you’re using the free version of GA then default reports won’t be sampled, but as soon as you modify them by adding a secondary dimension or a segment, your report could be sampled. Try to use a smaller date range to reduce the number of sessions – this can sometimes remove sampling.
Tip 3: Explore your segments
Segmentation is a powerful feature of GA, allowing you to isolate and analyse subsets of your data. Drilling down to look at segments of your data helps you to understand differences in performance between types of users or sessions, or what caused a change to your aggregated data. The tool comes with a lot of useful predefined segments such as Mobile Traffic, Direct Traffic, New Users etc. but it’s easy to set up your own too.
There are a lot of preconfigured options for building segments (go to + Add Segment > + NEW SEGMENT to see them). These cover demographics, technology, behaviour, date of first session and traffic sources, with several options within each category. As you select options, you’ll see the summary pane on the right-hand side showing the number of sessions and users included in the segment.
The advanced segment builder gives more flexibility, allowing you to include multiple conditions based on user and session level behaviour. Within each filter you can use AND or OR conditions, for example:
Device Category contains Desktop AND Default Channel Grouping contains Organic Search would give you only users who are on desktop and came to the site through organic search.
Device Category contains Desktop OR Default Channel Grouping contains Organic Search would give you all users who are on desktop (regardless of channel) and all users who came to the site through organic search (regardless of device).
Tip 4: Track Success with Goals
Goals are great for tracking a range of objectives on your website. You could use them to track registrations, newsletter sign ups, downloads, video plays and anything else that’s relevant to your website. You can even assign a monetary value to a goal, so if you know that a newsletter subscription is worth £50, then you can report on that revenue directly in GA.
The important things to know are:
Goals are only recorded once per session, even if the user completes it more than once. So they aren’t ideal if you want your users to complete an objective multiple times in a session.
You can set up to 20 goals in a view. If you need more you’ll have to create a duplicate view.
If you need to track the number of times something happens within a session, you can use events. An event will track once every time someone performs the required action, regardless of the session.
There are four types of goals that you can create:
Destination – e.g. user reached a booking or registration confirmation page
Session Duration – e.g. user spent 5 minutes or more in their session
Pages/Screens per session – e.g. 3 or more pages viewed
Event – There are lots of events that you can define, e.g. downloaded a PDF form, watched a video, clicked a link.
Tip 5: Drive continual improvement through measurement cycles
Without a plan it’s easy to find yourself continuously pulling reports without getting a chance to drive progress and innovation through the data... and we’ve all been there. A great way to combat this is focus on measurement cycles to drive action from the data.
Measure: Start by making sure you have everything you need for measurement and set up additional tracking if you need to.
Report: Put the information into a readable format so that it can be used to help inform decision making.
Analyse: Look for deeper insight, e.g. using segmentation, looking at user behaviour etc.
Test: Try different solutions to the problem or opportunity you’ve identified during your analysis. Test the solutions to take opinion out of the decision-making process.
Improve: Repeat the process and keep optimising to improve overall performance.
The 5 tips we’ve explored in this post are a great starting point for managing and driving value from your analytics data, and there are hundreds of tools and features within Google Analytics to generate deeper insight once you’re ready to take it further.