If used effectively, Google Analytics can give us actionable insights into our web traffic for free.
If you want to refine, rework, and better your digital marketing program then you need to have the ability to measure it. Other costly analytics software solutions exist in the market place today, Google even charges for an upgraded version of its Analytics software for larger companies, called Google Analytics 360. But if we use Google Analytics with other tools like Google Tag Manager and Google Data Studio we have a powerful set of tools that can help us measure and analyze just about anything related to our traffic and because it’s free, it’s widely used among organizations and companies on the web.
In conversion optimization, we use Google Analytics for our quantitative research. To understand why Google Analytics is excellent for this type of research we first must understand what quantitative research is and how it differs from the other primary type of research we do in conversion rate optimization, qualitative research.
Qualitative and Quantitative research.
Qualitative and Quantitative research helps us answer the where, what, and why of potential problems in our digital marketing projects: whether they be in our ad copy, our landing page, or other pages in the funnel process.
Following explains the differences between the two different research types and why Google Analytics is ideal for the quantitative variety:
- Qualitative research mainly uncovers why problems occur. In qualitative research we might first look at website briefly, trying to empathize with the user’s experience, trying to figure out what we might do if we were in their shoes and see what might go wrong through this process. Qualitative research also involves looking at customer reviews, performing customer interviews, and analyzing things like heatmaps, eyetracking studies, etc. that can help us better ascertain why an issue is occurring.
- On the other hand, quantitative research is more focused on trying to uncover what the problem is and where it’s occurring onsite. The reason conversion optimizers use Google Analytics for their quantitative research (the where and the what) is that analytics gives useful information such as landing page and exit page metrics, bounce rate, device and browser information etc. that can help us pinpoint where the problems occur and what those problems could be.
Five Different Reports in Google Analytics
In Google Analytics there are five reports that we can look at to utilize and organize the sorting of our data. Each report gives insight into different aspects of user data. These reports are as follows:
- Realtime Reports
- Audience Reports
- Acquisition Reports
- Behavior Reports
- Conversion Reports
Breaking down these reports in Analytics, each of these reports are made up of different subsections. Each subsection has a related page that details the information that corresponds with that section.
Realtime reports give dimensions and metrics in realtime. Because of this, this report is excellent for testing to make sure event and conversion tracking tags are functioning correctly.
The overview section of the realtime report gives a bird’s-eye view into what is going on a website in any given moment. This page lists how many users are on the site, the top sources that referred traffic to the site, what pages users are currently on, what percentage of users are active on each page, what device these users are using to access the site, as well as a map that shows the different location of each user.
In locations, the realtime reports breaks down further information on the location of each realtime user. This information includes a list of the countries from where the users come and another map that shows these locations graphically.
Traffic Sources details a bit more where each user is coming from and by what medium. This is where for example, we could track Facebook Ads and Facebook referrals. The traffic source lists six different mediums:
- organic traffic — coming directly from search
- CPC/PPC — coming from paid ads
- referrals — coming from other sites
- email — coming from email campaigns
- social — coming from social media
- none — coming directly to the site
Traffic source also details the source where the user is coming from. For example, given the Facebook example above, from the medium social we might find two sources, one from Facebook ads and the other from just normal Facebook referrals. Using UTM tracking codes, website owners can dial down so that sources can be as detailed or as generalized as we want to make them.
Content breaks down the pages that users are on, as well as the title of each page, and also gives the amount of users on the page in real-time. As with traffic sources, there is also the option to see how many pageviews occurred in the last 30 minutes.
Events track behavior on the site. With google tag manager, you can set up numerous events on your site that will populate here when a user takes an action. Here you can see the event category and the event action. For example, viewing a video might render the category as video and the action as played. Other options are labels (the name of the video played) and values (an integer assigned to the action).
While events have to do with any action taken on the site, the conversions subsection shows dimensions and metrics based on sales goals. A goal might track a sales funnel progression or a purchase, while an event tracks a specific action not directly related to incoming revenue.
As the other subsections, the conversions subsection show the number of people currently but it also shows things like how many purchases have been made, how many have entered the checkout process, depending on how you create these goals. Goals are set in the admin section under views.
The Historical Data Reports
While realtime reports show the here and now, all the rest of the reports show historical data so that conclusions can be made as to how a website is performing over months.
As there is so much information in these other reports, and because they just go deeper in what is included in the Realtime Reports it will help to just give a brief summary of each. As will be seen, and as should be expected, there is some overlap between what the Realtime Reports present in realtime and what these historical reports present over a longer period of time.
One thing to note is the calendar at the top right hand corner of all the historical reports that allows the analytics user to scrounge for information in different periods of time and the ability to look at data coming in hourly, daily, weekly, or monthly.
Audience reports answers the question, who are my users. It gives the amount of users, the amount of new users, the amount of times they engaged on the site (called sessions) and the bounce rate all within any period of time. It also gives information on demographics, browsers, operating systems, and devices used by the users.
The audience section has the ability to give very detailed information on the users of the site using google ad tracking and google user information including age, hobbies, gender, age, language, location, among other things. Also included in this report is the very useful subsection Users Flow which shows how users are flowing from one page to another on the site.
Acquisitions reports show where the users are coming from. It gives detailed reports on the history of referring mediums and sources as well as detailed information on google ads, search console, social and aligned campaigns.
Campaigns are created with UTMs or with Google Tag Manager. Campaigns can be set up with google ads as well as any other advertising source you want to attach them to.
Behavior reports reveal what actions users are taking on the site. Behavior reports detail entrance and exit pages, site speed, events, and how users are interacting with the site. It can also give detailed information on what pages were the most viewed and what users searched for on the site, which can help assess where users place their importance and give us new strategies on where to focus our conversion optimization efforts.
Conversion reports answers what are the results of users actions. Conversion reports are focused on goals related to revenue. In the conversion reports we can find information on sales funnels completion and ecommerce behaviors. We can view information on shopping and checkout behaviors and product performance metrics.
Here we’re just touching on the basics …
There is so much more to Google Analytics and functionality that hasn’t been covered in these two posts. Interpreting and filtering the information is a science in and of itself. But what is clear, is that Google Analytics is a relative goldmine for those who want to understand their customers better and that want to design a site for them that draws them in with the features and benefits of a product and service, clearly, with empathy, and leaves them to make a decision without friction and the problems with a site that lack optimization.