Getting Comfortable with Google Analytics

5 minute read
Mark Hansen avatar

Not everyone is destined to be a Google Analytics expert, but armed with a little knowledge and access to a few standard reports you can learn more about your audience, their interests and how they engage with your brand.

Understand Your Customer

The work you’re doing – whether it’s a new ad campaign, an app or a fresh website design -- is for your customer or the potential customer you're trying to reach and engage. You need an understanding of your target audience by learning about their demographics, interests and buying habits.

The Audience reports in Google Analytics are great for helping you to understand your audience, offering valuable insight into how they can be reached, how they consume content and what their engagement is with your brand. The Audience reports in Google Analytics provide a detailed breakdown of:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Affinity Categories: Categorizes visitors based on their lifestyles -- technophiles, music lovers, gamers, etc.
  • Other Categories: Categorizes visitors based on the content they consume and how recently/frequently they’ve consumed that content

Use this information to paint a clearer picture of who your site is currently reaching.

For example, in the screenshot below, we see our audience is predominantly males between the ages of 25-44 who identify as being interested in real estate. Based on this information we can make certain choices about the content we’re creating, the communities we engage in, who we approach for guest posting opportunities, the cultural references we make and the problem they are coming to our site to solve.



Once you have this understanding of your audience, use Google Analytics to create an advanced customer segment that pulls out this customer’s data [purchases from males aged 25-34] to see how those customers find your site, what they’re reading before making a purchase, what their conversion cycle looks like and what they’re viewing.

Advanced customer segments can be used to group visitors who share common characteristics -- from details about where they come from, the browser they use or the types of pages they view. Creating an advanced segment based on this user will help you use key psychographic data so you can optimize for their experience and attract more of this type of customer. KISSmetrics has a great post on using advanced customer segments for more information.

Drilling Down to Answer the Questions

Google Analytics contains data that can inform future decisions and help answer some of the many questions you may have.

Questions like: 

What social sites bring the most engaged customers?

We're being told to use social channels, but do you know which are most important for your company? Use the Referrals report to identify your most engaged networks, tying site activity to where it came from.This is supremely helpful in understanding that just because you receive a lot of engagement from Reddit, doesn’t mean it's worth your time if it doesn’t convert.

However, if you see LinkedIn traffic is coming and staying on your site, you can make an informed argument to increase time spent there (and decrease time on Reddit). That’s where your audience is located.

Below is a Referral report.You can use it to see which social sources are bringing the most engaged traffic.You can see that that Bounce Rate for LinkedIn is 16 percent, compared with 53 percent for Reddit.While you may be getting a lot of traffic from Reddit, the traffic from LinkedIn is actually reading your content and getting engaged.


Learning Opportunities

How are offline campaigns contributing to website activity?

While campaigns across traditional mediums such as TV, print and direct mail may be more difficult to track, you can show how offline efforts translate into web traffic and conversions. First of all, look for increases in direct traffic and brand name searches around the time of a particular campaign. If a TV ad was successful in boosting brand awareness, more people will be likely to search for your company’s name or directly access the URL. Next, go a step further by creating custom URLs for offline pieces such as direct mail.

In this example, custom URLs were forwarded to URLs on the site tagged with custom tracking parameters, which then shows up in the “Campaigns” section of Analytics, with specific ads clearly labeled.


Who’s coming back to the site? 

The New vs. Returning visitors report will tell you how many people are coming back to your site a second time, as well as how engaged those people are. You can help identify these returning visitors, as well as strategies to convert them after they return.

In this example, you can see that returning visitors are spending twice as much time as new visitors but also converting at about the same rate. This fact should spur a process of planning a way to better convert these returning visitors, perhaps through a remarketing campaign, as well as special offers shown on the site to those who come back. Looking at the pages people come to when they return should help provide guidance on where to focus these efforts.


Get Comfortable With Your Data

While you may never become a Google Analytics expert, a little knowledge can help you make more informed decisions. Tie your business objectives to analytics goals that are measurable and which you can track. Know what metrics you want to watch -- be it higher ranking for a specific search term or beating out a certain competitor -- and build custom reports to speak to those. 

Does all of this take time? Yes, but it’s an investment in your company's success. Make sure that keeping up to date on analytics doesn’t fall by the wayside. The more you know what is happening on your site -- tying it back to goals and plans -- the stronger your expertise will grow.

About the author

Mark Hansen

Mark Hansen is the Founder and President of Megalytic, the leading solution for agency analytics reporting.

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