Any coach of a sports team at the start of a season will tell you that he wants his team to reach the championship. Reaching that pinnacle means benchmarking your team’s performance.
In the digital marketing world, managers who use Google Analytics are starting to feel a bit more like a sports coach. In September Google introduced a new benchmark reporting feature for its Google Analytics solution.
This benchmark reporting enhances decision making on analytics results.
In actuality I should write “reintroduced." Benchmarking has a brief history in Google Analytics lore. It was available when Google Analytics first arrived to the marketplace in late 2005.
A key concern was that not every benchmark segment had a significantly significant volume of data. So it was possible to benchmark an increase in the percentage of new visitors against too few data points. The result was that users did not feel confident in how their results matched up to their competitors.
Google eliminated that version in 2011 and has since worked to develop a robust benchmarking system. For the new benchmark feature Google Analytics users have the option to share data anonymously. Those who do so can view the reports.
Another factor is the ubiquitous usage of Google Analytics — consultancy firm Lunametrics note that Google Analytics appears on anywhere from 10 million to 25 million websites worldwide.
Thus the end result is a flexible three-part selection for the user. Users can select from over 1,600 industry categories, hundreds of geographic regions, and seven ranges based on the amount of traffic a site receives. These three selections ensure that your neighborhood coffee shop is being benchmarked properly against other neighborhood shops, not Starbucks.
The benchmark report consists of two main features. The first is the appearance of reports according to three specific dimensions: channel, location, and device. Benchmarks based on these dimensions appear in the metrics table and in a trend graph that is adjustable by date. The reports are accessed in the “Audience” section of the reporting interface.
The second feature is a color indicator within the report metrics table. The indicator in each cell display a strong red color (below benchmark) or a strong green color (above benchmark), with lighter shades in between. This system is designed for quickly highlighting which acquisition and behavior metrics that are higher or lower than the benchmarks the user sets. Users can compare sessions, page per session, average session duration, and bounce rate.
The benchmark report contains most of the settings of a standard Google Analytics report, such as selecting a date range or setting a standard email alert. Some settings, like adding a second dimension in the report table, are not available.
But most of the settings available, however, seem sensible and should fit the comparison needs in an analysis well. A few benchmarking ideas that can be aid a business strategy include:
- An online newspaper benchmarking how well readers consume its content compared to its industry trends (pages/session, average session duration)
- A startup retailer’s ability to attract new visitors (percent new sessions)
- A site’s ability to attract Android users (device benchmark)
- A site’s percentage of visitors from a selected region (location)
Benefits of Benchmarks
Benchmarks are useful in narrowing decisions that are really important to the end user. A decline in a metric may be less critical if every competitor in an examined segment is also struggling. User will be better able to focus on the metrics that are lagging behind industry standards and focus on the solutions that ultimately will lift a firm’s competitiveness.
Information from a benchmarking report can also enhance decision making for other analysis such as reviewing content marketing performance or reporting segments such as enhanced e-commerce.
Overall, benchmarking is just one more way for firms to increase their competitive advantage over the competition. The right combinations of decisions from the benchmark trends will certainly make your team feel like the championship rings of digital marketing are within reach.