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Increasingly, companies both large and small are realizing that web analytics are an essential tool in optimizing their digital offerings, understanding their users, and utilizing data-driven decision making to stand above the competition.
And yet, most companies also feel they could do even more to capitalize on the world of information now at their fingertips. A 2018 digital trends study by Adobe and Econsultancy found web analytics to be one of the top priorities for companies, with 51 percent of respondents indicating plans to increase their analytics budgets for 2018.
Why are these companies focusing on analytics? At a high level, web analytics:
- Can identify how people are finding your website
- Provide granular data on customer behavior
- Give you the data needed to make informed decisions
Let’s take a closer look at how you can use web analytics to grow your business.
Determine a Measurement Plan
Before you start on this journey into web analytics, you had better know your destination.
The sheer amount of data and information available can be overwhelming instead of empowering if you don’t think first about your digital marketing strategy.
First, define your key performance indicators (KPIs), then create a plan to implement your tracking, and finally determine how – and how often – to handle reporting.
“A measurement plan is key,” said Trevor Martin, Manager of SEO for BrainStation. “That will help you set up your own goals for your business, and determine what actions will help you achieve those goals.”
As just one example, the public TV broadcaster PBS recently embarked upon a Google Analytics campaign with a focused goal. They wanted to allow the producers of each TV program to see only their show’s performance, and to track such key site elements as registrations and video views. As a result of the campaign, PBS managed a 30 percent increase in traffic, a 30 percent boost in registered users, and the broadcaster created two new video portals based on newly discovered demand.
Setting Up Goals
Once you have a roadmap for your analytic exploration, it’s time to create goals to measure whether you’re meeting – or missing – your target objectives.
A goal is a completed activity – or conversion – that helps your business, whether it’s a customer purchasing a product or a user filling out a contact information form.
Goals can be divided into four types: destination, where a user visits a certain location; duration, which seeks to keep user sessions lasting beyond a specific amount of time; pages/screens per session; and event, where a user employs a very specific interaction (for instance, an ad click or a social-media share). There’s also a fifth conversion tracking method called Smart Goals, which automatically assesses your website and determine which visits are the most valuable.
If you want to dive deeper with your goals, Google has tutorials to help you set up Flow and Funnel reports (which provide more information about the user journey), to manage goal sets, and to understand best practices for assigning goal values.
Segments, Audiences, and Customer Match
Segments allow you to divide the mass of visitors to your website into smaller groups, giving you a deeper look at underlying demographic trends in your users.
For instance, one segment could look at people of a specific age, gender or geographic location, or you could congregate a group of users who visited a specific page on your site or who purchased a specific product. Up to four segments can be applied at once and you can compare the data side by side. You can also build new segments.
One of the best applications for isolating subsets of your data is using those segments to build and analyze potential remarketing audiences.
Those are the users you want to target with AdWords campaigns based on their likelihood to convert, based on their past behaviour on your site.
Further, Google’s Customer Match tool lets you use your online and offline data to get in touch with customers across platforms including Gmail and YouTube with advertising campaigns based on the information you already have about their consumer habits.
Google Tag Manager, UTM Codes, and Google AdWords
Google Tag Manager will let you efficiently update tracking codes on your website and organize them into containers, which is especially helpful for smaller companies who don’t have a developer on-hand to continually make changes.
Meanwhile, UTM codes – a brief snippet of code added to the end of a URL – allow you to find out more about how users found your website. UTM codes can help you appraise the effectiveness of your digital strategies, as well as identify opportunities to better leverage certain channels for more traffic.
Finally, it’s definitely worth linking your Google Analytics and Google AdWords accounts, so you can gain a clearer view of the ROI of your advertising and give you a better understanding of your conversion funnel.
Dashboards, Data reporting, and Decisions
Creating custom dashboards will allow you to probe multiple metrics at once, compare reports or share your findings with others.
Data reporting is an art unto itself, with data visualization tools – including Tableau – allowing you to take your raw data and tell meaningful stories about your company’s digital offerings that can empower your employees and effect change in your organization.
That’s important because, ultimately, all of the information you’re gathering about your business is only valuable if it informs what you do next. Adopting data-driven decision making is therefore the most crucial part of the entire process.
Fortunately, once stakeholders begin to see web analytics at work, most are excited by the opportunity to act upon the lessons in the data.
“A lot of people don’t fully understand it until they actually see it in action,” Martin said.
“Then, once they realize that the data is there and that it’s shedding light on their business and revenue, all of a sudden they realize how important data-driven decision making is.”
Header image designed by Sebastián Soto Vera.