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Google Analytics in 2018: 3 Quick Wins to Truly Harness Its Power

In 2018, Google Analytics will remain the most powerful web analytics tool on the internet.

Following its acquisition of Urchin in November 2005, Google launched Google Analytics, a web analytics tool soon to become the most widely used of its kind, currently boasting between 30 to 50 million website users worldwide. Today, Google Analytics is often marketers’ first port of call when looking to gauge traffic online and draw meaningful insights. With the New Year knocking at our door, here are three low-hanging fruits that can yield exponential results in 2018, relative to the little set-up time required.

Google Analytics in 2018

 

Few, if any other freemium services, can crunch large data sets as efficiently as Google Analytics. Its smart cloud infrastructure, tidy layout and user-friendly features enable novices and experts alike to make detailed observations and data-informed business decisions. Analytics can provide an in-depth overview of the buyer journey from the moment user interest is acquired, to how users engage and transact. Such audience insights can help you better understand client profiles and preferences, measure the effectiveness of your promotional efforts, or signal website weak points for instance.

But surely, harnessing Analytics’ full power would require a thorough understanding of its mechanics? Correct. A good starting point is Google Analytics for Beginners, a free course by Google Analytics Academy. As a proponent of incremental learning, I advocate dedicating as little as half an hour a day to go through Google’s courses and you’d be an Analytics expert in no time!

Enough with the intros, get to the point… Fair, as promised here are your quick wins below:

 

1. Understand Dimensions and Metrics

Your ability to understand ‘what’s really going on’ in Analytics is reliant on your understanding of dimensions and metrics. Think of dimensions and metrics as the building blocks of your reports in Google Analytics.

Dimensions: These are visitor attributes such as gender, age, city, source/medium, browser, device category and operating system. An example being: a woman, age 29, from Manchester, who arrived on your site via an organic Google listing, found through the search query ‘bacon butty‘. She browsed your site using Mozilla Firefox on her desktop PC running on Windows.

Metrics: These are the numbers used to measure one of the characteristics of a dimension. Think of metrics as answering, “how many” or “how long,” as in “how many visits” or “how long a visitor was on the site”. Examples of metrics are: Sessions, % New Sessions, New Users, Bounce Rate, Page / Session and more. In fact, many more. It turns out there are more than four hundred different metrics… explore away at Google’s Dimensions and Metrics Explorer and get back to me next year. Just kidding, worry not, you won’t need to learn that many from the off, but you could do with understanding the most basic ones. See below:

 

Key Acquisition Metrics:

Pertaining to how user attention is captured.

Traffic: a fundamental measurement of site reach and growth.

Sessions & Users: show how effective your marketing is in generating traffic.

% New Sessions: measure how many of your website visits have come from first-time visitors and how many have come from returning visitors.

Channels: the paths or processes that led a visitor to your site.

Page Views: self-explanatory, the number of views for each page.

Entrances: occur when a visitor enters your site and starts a new session.

 

Key Behaviour Metrics

Pertaining to how the user behaves on your site.

Bounces: The number of visits to your site that contain a single image request.

Pages per Session: gives you an indication of users’ degree of engagement with your content.

Average Session Duration: the length of time users spend on your site in hours, minutes and seconds.

% Exit: (number of exits) / (number of pageviews) for the page or set of pages. It indicates how often users exit from that page or set of pages when they view the page(s).

 

Key Conversion Metrics

Pertaining to how users have completed a goal.

Goal Conversion Rate: shows the % of visits that resulted in a conversion defined by the goal.

Goal Completions: the number of visitors who have completed all elements defined for a given goal.

Goal Value: allows to measure the economic worth of each conversion.

 

Let’s delve a bit more into one metric so you get the gist. ‘Bounce Rate’ designates the number of visitors to your site who have navigated away from it after viewing one page only. Not to be confused with ‘Exit Rate’ which denotes the number of times a page was the last one in the session. Regardless of whether the session started on that page or another. You can explore the difference in a bit more detail here. Surely, any session ends somewhere, and in an ideal scenario you would like it to end on a particular page that advances your commercial goals. For example, at checkout completion for an ecommerce site, or at the ‘Thank You’ page after a form submission.

A high Bounce Rate is often a sure sign that the page fails to capture user interest. See average bounce rates for different site types. The Bounce Rate is generally a function of site speed and usability, layout, design and/or the clarity of your message. But it could also be a consequence of the type of traffic you are attracting, the sources of traffic and the pages visitors are landing on. Spotting a problem is the first step to its resolution and each metric allows you to explore different phenomena. If you are unsure what a given metric implies, hover over the question mark icon next to the title and an annotation will pop up explaining in brief. If still unclear, there will be a link with a more detailed explanation. Quite useful.

Some metrics may be of high relevance to your business aims and objectives, and some may be of no relevance at all. Understanding dimensions and metrics would allow you to attribute meaning to every number shown, and determine which matter to you the most. Watch the video below for a quick walk through of dimensions and metrics:

2. Set Up Goals

After learning what dimensions and metrics stand for, you are well equipped to understand what Google Analytics is showing you. Now let’s optimise Analytics to work for your business. Goals are one of the most essential tools in Analytics as they allow you to measure conversions on your site. A goal represents a completed activity that contributes to the success of your business, often referred to as a conversion. Examples can be user engagement through a form, a subscription to your newsletter, a downloaded file, a completed purchase and so forth.

Defining goals allows Analytics to then show you important information such as the number of conversions, the conversion rate on your website, and the ability to see which marketing campaigns result in the highest number of conversions for your business. By tracking such actions, you can uncover which ads, keywords and campaigns have the highest ROI (return on investment), and invest more wisely in future. After all, how can you evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns without defining your desired outcome?

Google Analytics 2018 - Dimensions & Metrics, Goals and Custom Dashboards

In Analytics, goals are divided into two types – macro and micro goals. Macro goals correspond to the primary aim of your website. For an ecommerce site, a macro goal will be to sell online. Micro goals correspond to the secondary activities users frequently complete prior to purchasing. Micro goals can be viewed as important relationship-building activities that lead up to the primary site aim e.g. selling online.

By defining macro and micro goals, you would be able to measure the value of your site and its performance based on other means. Conversion rates help you compare how users interact with different platforms and demographics, as well as marketing channels. Moreover, you’d be able to see multichannel funnels and goal flow data i.e. the path the visitor took across multiple visits to your site towards conversion. Conversion path data is generated by each goal conversion and transaction recorded by Google Analytics. The goal flow report can help you visualise and pinpoint where visitors might have issues with a key step throughout a given process. For example, a glitch at the checkout stage that leads to unusually high drop-off rates. Identifying issues and rectifying them can help increase conversions for that goal.

At Pixel Kicks, we recommend setting up goals for the important activities on your site and evaluate how effectively your site contributes to the success of your business. Irregardless of the industry you’re in, I advise defining at least three goals, although the larger your organisation, the likelier you are to have more goals of relevance to your company performance. Watch the video below to learn how to set up goals in Analytics:

Additionally, here are written instructions on how to set up goals in Google Analytics.

 

3. Create Your Custom Dashboard

Every Google Analytics account comes with its default dashboard that may well suffice. Still, dashboards in Analytics are really meant to be created and customised to best serve your purposes. A dashboard tailored to your needs and liking would allow you to easily access and view the data you want, depicted in the manner you want, all in one place. The gains being the convenience and time saved by not having to manually collate every metric you deem important whenever the need arises. Instead, take the time to set it up once and reap rewards from that point onward. Of course, there’s always the benefit of an overcomplicated chart comprised of vanity metrics no one understands, to ‘impress’ your colleagues. Until your boss asks you what that is…

You can have up to twelve widgets per dashboard. Here are the types of widgets you can include in your dashboard:

Metric: displays a simple numeric representation of a single selected metric.

Timeline: displays a graph of the selected metric over time. You can compare this to a secondary metric.

Geomap: displays a map of the selected region, with the specified metric plotted on the map. Hover over the map to see the actual metric values.

Table: displays up to two metrics describing the selected dimension, laid out in tabular format.

Pie: displays a pie chart of the selected metric grouped by a dimension. Mouse over a slice to see the specific metric values.

Bar: displays a bar chart of the selected metric grouped by up to two dimensions. Mouse over a bar to see the specific metric values.

 

Watch the video below to learn how to customise dashboards in Analytics: 

Additionally, here are written instructions on how to create and customise dashboards in Google Analytics.

Conclusion

Without a tracking platform such as Google Analytics in place to scrutinise your web traffic, it can be difficult to know what digital marketing strategies and tactics are working, and which aren’t. This is especially true on the individual page level. By being able to assess how each micro goal performs, you can make nuanced tweaks to improve your strategy and tactics to reach your macro goals. The whole purpose of understanding your traffic is to make informed business decisions. Not acting on your discoveries in Analytics compromises your time spent on the platform. To quote business author Beth Kanter: “Data without action is trivia“!

 

Bonus Quick Win: Filter Out Irrelevant Traffic

Oh, what the heck, it’s Christmas, here’s a bonus one… To enhance the quality of your analyses, it’s advisable that you filter out data stemming from internal sessions i.e. traffic from your own IP address. This is especially important if a significant percentage of your total traffic is in fact internal company traffic. This can skew reports and paint an inaccurate picture of your web performance. You can add a filter to exclude any traffic from your IP address. To find out your public IP address, just Google search: “what is my IP address?”.

Additionally, you can filter out spam to keep your data accurate. Roughly 4% of traffic on the worldwide web is said to be spam. Seemingly a small percentage, over time this can result in quite a few irrelevant page views. You may have implemented tools to block spammers already, but adding a filter to sieve quality traffic from spam will be worthwhile in the long run. To do this, simply apply the segment to eliminate spam referrals by Analytics Edge. Watch the video below to learn how to set up basic filters in Analytics: 

Additionally, here are written instructions on how to create and manage view filters in Google Analytics.

 


Pixel Kicks is a full Google Partner and Manchester’s highest-rated digital agency. Find out more about our Paid Advertising services.

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