If you have a business, it’s almost a given that you’re going to have a website. Many people think of their website as merely an online brochure that tells what they do, what services and products they offer, and where they’re located.
However, if you’re doing any kind of online marketing at all, such as:
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Paid placement (PPC – or pay per click)
- Social media
- Email marketing
You have to measure it. Assuming you’re at least putting some time – if not actual dollars – into your online marketing (and time is dollars), measurement is key.
- Is your PPC generating sales (not just clicks)?
- Is your email marketing campaign actually selling product or just getting looky-loos to your website?
You have to have data to make good marketing decisions about your business. If something isn’t turning a dollar, then don’t do it anymore, right?
“I have Google Analytics already installed on my website,” you might be saying. Awesome possum. Most people who have a website have GA installed. But do you know what to do with it?
I caution my students in my digital marketing training courses that traffic doesn’t pay the mortgage. I don’t care if a million people are visiting your website every month.
If they’re not buying your stuff, it’s completely meaningless. I’d rather have 1000 people to my website, and 250 of them buy my stuff than a million visitors who don’t buy anything.
Using Google Analytics for Marketing Intelligence
A brand new book just came out, which is aptly titled, “Google Analytics Breakthrough: From Zero to Business Impact“. This book is designed for the business owner or even the online marketing professional who wants to track their marketing effectiveness and make informed decisions about which marketing efforts are working for them, and which are not.
In the foreword, Avinash Kaushik, who is a marketing data analysis expert here in the San Francisco Bay Area has, what I think is a terrific statement:
It is ironic that we live in the most data-rich environment in mankind’s evolution, yet we are barely any smarter than we were when none of this existed 20 years ago…A part of it was our initial approach of taking all the data we could get our hands on and then puking it like crazy (as if the shower of reports and metrics by themselves could make people smarter). Having failed at changing anything beyond local maxima, I feel that people are ready to stop all the data puking.
What he’s suggesting is that Google Analytics gives us all kinds of pretty graphs, charts and reports to give to the boss to make ourselves feel important, but we don’t actually do anything with the mass of data, other than puke it back out.
How to Use Analytics For Business Owners
I just taught a marketing workshop last week, and we spent some time going through Google Analytics together. There is a vast amount of information, tables, charts, graphs, and other minutiae that can easily overwhelm all but the most seasoned marketer.
Most business owners and bosses don’t need to pay attention to most of this, but these are the shiny reports that typically attract our attention:
- Traffic (or “session”) reports don’t tell us anything other than someone anonymous visited
- Bounce rates don’t mean anything other than someone came to a page, puked and left. Blog posts typically have very high bounce rates. That’s OK–maybe.
- Unique versus return visitors is interesting, but again, doesn’t help us make decisions about our marketing
Instead, business owners need to set up a few fundamental tools in their Google Analytics system:
1. Set Up Views
You can have up to 25 views of your data. The first (and typically only) view that most people have is the default view which has all the raw data. Unfortunately, as we visit our own website, or edit the content on the website, we leave our own footprints behind that “contaminates” the data.
I had a friend who was getting several hundred “visits” to his website every month, but he whined that no one called him. Turns out he had his browser’s default page set to his website’s home page. Every time he opened his browser or a new tab, he’d record another “visit”. Oops.
We have to put filters in place (see next section) to clean this up. But you never want to filter on the raw data view. If you screw it up, you can erase all your data. It may be that you want to refer to the raw data to compare things later too, so set up a different view with the filters in place so you can compare data.
2. Set Up Filters
As the previous example illustrates, it’s important to remove your own footprints, and this is easy to accomplish with a filter. You can filter out your own IP address, your domain (if you have your own dedicated circuit to the internet) or your web guy’s traffic. Again, create a separate view, and apply the filter to the new view so you can always go back to the “real” data if you need to.
Furthermore, you’ll probably notice a bunch of referral visits to your website (a referral is a click from someone else’s website). Some of these referral visits may have weird names like free-buttons-for-websites.com, or seo-success-results.com. These are fake visits to your website and are a type of spam.
No one actually clicked on your website from them. They are injecting their domains into your GA data in the hopes you’ll go visit their website. Create a filter to remove this junk, but do it on the new view you created.
3. Set Up Goals and Funnels
This is the most important one of them all, because it’s the piece that’s going to help you determine if your anonymous visitors are turning into leads or even customers.
Let’s say you have a form for someone to fill out to get your newsletter. You can set up a Goal that the person filled out the form, then got to the “Thank you” page. The thank you page is the goal – they got to the “cheese” at the end of the maze (your website). By setting this up in Google Analytics, you can track how many visitors are turning into real leads, and GA will keep track of it for you.
Funnels allow you to visualize how people move through your site to get to the “cheese”. Where did they come in, where did they move to next, and where did they leave without getting the cheese? This is important data to help you measure how well your marketing and website is working for you.
I don’t have the room to get into the guts of this in this article, but hopefully, this gives you a high-level look at what you can do fairly simply and quickly to start putting some meaningful measurement in place.
Once you have that, you can evaluate your marketing efforts and make informed decisions about what’s working, what’s not working, and what needs to be tweaked.
So let’s all stop the data puking.
“Google Analytics Breakthrough: From Zero to Business Impact” will give you step-by-step instructions you need to successfully set this up and much more that you should consider.
If you’re a beginner, it takes you from the beginning as far as you need to go. If you’re a pro, the book includes a ton of detailed, advanced techniques you can use to track all kinds of events. Last year, I took a class from one of the authors, Eric Fettman, and these guys know their stuff. Highly recommended.