Analytics numbers describe complex human behavior and you need to compare and contrast them with a variety of other data to get a true picture. Analytics do offer the easy exporting of data into PDFs and Excel files, but sometimes it is better to create a custom spreadsheet that specifically addresses your organization’s online marketing data to review performance and compare data from one month to the next.
Start by creating a weekly or monthly report in the spreadsheet application of your choice. By creating a regular report you can see how your marketing efforts interact over time. You can measure other marketing media:
– E-mail – Traditional media (print, radio, TV, direct mail) – Blog (RSS feeds) – Social media – Online advertising (paid search, banner ads) – Looking at traffic, cost, conversions, influential patterns, and more can give an aerial view of what is working and how all the marketing is integrated together. For example, one online marketing medium may seem to have a very high cost per acquisition, but when compared to other channels, the volume of quality conversions from this traffic source is much higher compared to lower-cost channels that it justifies the larger expense. Artful interpretation reveals the dangers of myopically focusing on the wrong metric such as a cost per action instead of seeing a solid conversion generator.
Continual evaluation will uncover bugs and burnouts. Most web marketing efforts start slow and build. No matter how experienced you are, you should always be evaluating and optimizing. A reliable channel may lose its fire and need a copy change, or may have a broken link. By creating these reports, you can uncover the marketing efforts that work best together and make sure the efforts give maximum payoff.
Again, using Google Analytics as an example, the Content Overview menu is a great place to learn what works and what doesn’t. You can see which pages bring in the most eyeballs, and study them. Understand what messaging makes the copy work (is it attracting search engines, does it communicate value well, does it have a helpful video and a clear call to action?), and employ this on other pages for maximum impact.
Click on the Navigation summary to see how people are moving within your site. This data can help you figure out the flow of your website and where people get stuck. To see which landing pages work best, look at the Entrance Sources and Entrance Keywords. Realize that people enter the site through many surprising doors. One travel writer who had written a review became a top listing when people Googled “Harvey’s Bristol Cream Museum.” The writer started getting calls from people all over the world who were interested in wine tourism and wanted to buy tickets to tour the museum! Moving the link from a buried section of the website onto a more obvious page increased traffic to the landing page, and reduced bounce and conversion rates for the writer.
A favorite Google Analytics functionality that helps online marketers is called Site Overlay. This feature allows you to review all pages of your website (as long as they have tracking code on them) to see an overlay of which items get clicked. You can also see which links achieve your conversion goals. The overlay shows data in boxes: the larger the box, the higher the activity. It is a nice visual way to see behavior over all of the pages at the same time. Sometimes a simple observation of a link low on a page getting tons of traction can prompt an easy optimization to move the link higher on the page to serve users better. The overlay allows you to see what users want so you can deliver more of it. When you modify the website, you can see almost instantly whether a change like a bigger button or a text link converts better.
Site search is an analytics feature that will show you what, when, and where people are searching within your site. This only applies if a website has a search feature. If you see internal search terms coming up again and again, that is a sign that you need to make information on that topic easier to fi nd. People will often start to search for something internally once they are deep in your site and aren’t finding what they were expecting.
This search feedback is also insight that can help you improve online marketing or search marketing efforts based on phrases your audience looks for. If you are a lending company, your search feedback may show more people looking for the term borrow money. This could lead to changes in the phrases used in the website copy, website navigation, overall marketing messaging, and so to serve your audience by speaking to them in their language. Internal site search terms might point to the need to create new content and new goals that capture lost traffic. For example, if owners of a pet store in Clifford, Kentucky, keep seeing internal site searches for Clifford the Big Red Dog pet products, perhaps those store owners might consider selling some of that merchandise online. Although most of their customer base is local, people online are searching for product they want to buy. Why not sell it to them? Internal site search is your users’ way of telling you directly how to improve your site.
Event tracking refers to events that don’t create a new page, such as viewing an embedded video, downloading a file, playing a game, and more. These events can be crucial to track, especially if the video is a key part of your conversion goal’s sales funnel. For example, if through event tracking you learn that 86 percent of people who played a given video converted to your goal, then you’d want to make sure as many people as possible saw the video. Without getting too geeky here, it may be better to track these events using event tracking rather than virtual page views because you can get more details. Check the Google Analytics help screen to get more details on this and what approach will work best for different cases.
Arguably, the most important sections in the analytics report relate to goals. As mentioned before, there may be lots of little steps users take before they convert to your biggest goals. A bridal shop owner could find that users who convert usually check out some wedding dress tutorials, upload their dress size and preferences, and look at 30 wedding dresses that fit their selection criteria before buying the one they like. Each step in that process is a goal that is part of the sales funnel. You can use the Funnel Visualization report to see how many people enter each step, how many fail to convert and where they go to next, how many people convert, plus the value of each conversion step. When you are starting out, you’ll want to measure all the goals (sales, leads, e-mail signups) to capture as much data about what users do on the site.
Over time you’ll discover which goals are important and which steps in your funnel need to be changed or optimized. Because you want as much data as possible, there is a temptation to make the user click on a variety of links to load a new page to capture each decision (A-line dress, size 12, with sleeves, etc.). While every dress variable is vital to the owner from an inventory point of view, exhausting the patience of a busy user doesn’t convert to buying a dress. Instead of demanding the user click on a new page for each section, the owner might create check boxes or pull-down menus on a single page and then capture that data when the pages are created dynamically. Every click you demand of your user increases the chance the user will get frustrated and exit. The art of managing your sales funnel is to get to the big conversion with the user taking as few steps as possible.
If the website has an e-commerce element, Google Analytics will integrate with your online store to show you what is selling, how people fi nd those products, and more. Go to your Google Analytics profile and click on the e-commerce tab under the left navigation to get details. If you are using Google AdWords for your PPC ads, you can get detailed data that dovetails easily with Google Analytics. Not only will you see which ads brought the most traffic but which ads converted to e-commerce purchases.