As more and more marketing efforts migrate into the digital space, business owners and marketing executives have grown to expect quality data and reporting for every campaign. This expectation has become increasingly important as the ability to track and measure your marketing now provides owners with more insight into one of the most important metrics: ROI.
Leading the way in the world of marketing measurement and reporting tools is Google Analytics. Yet unfortunately, many business owners and marketing executives are failing to fully utilize this tool to gain insight and effectively measure their business and marketing activities.
To help provide a better understanding into Google Analytics, we’ll explore some of its most powerful reporting tools that provide actionable data owners can use to stay ahead of the competition and make smarter, more informed decisions for their marketing campaigns and their business.
1) Using Google Analytics To Gain A Competitive Edge
On the simplest level, Google Analytics tells marketers how visitors are interacting with a site, how they’re finding it, and which elements they’re most responsive to. And while the Google’s platform and reporting may be digital, it can be leveraged to be much more effective when combined with real world business objectives, such as analyzing your competition and gaining an edge.
There are a number of best practices to employ to outplay competitors while adding voltage to a campaign’s power.
- Identify opportunities with Kaplan and Norton’s Strategy Map:
This age-old Harvard best practice takes entrepreneurs beyond their own business to assess and respond to rivals. By identifying rivals, profit-draining components, and industry predictions, marketers can evolve in advance of their competition to maintain an advantage.
Google Analytics can be utilized in the following ways to identify these types of opportunities:
a) Using Adwords to analyze the difficulty of attaining rank for a particular keyword. Which of your competitors are already ranking for this particular keyword? What strategies can you employ to improve your business’s ranking?
b) Checking which competing websites customers and prospects are visiting by using a variety of tools and methods as shown here on MarketingLand.com.
c) Employing Google Analytics’ Real Time Report to gain a clearer understanding of your target audience’s online activity: Find out where your customers, are going online, what site’s they’re visiting and how they’re engaging, which keywords they are responding to, and what time of day they’re most active.
d) Understanding who your audience is by using Google Analytics’ Destination Page tool: Draw up demographics and assess which targets are most responsive and active on your business’s website.
- Evaluate Return on Investment Versus True Marketing Value:
Assessing a campaign’s success according to return on investment is somewhat limited, but nonetheless, absolutely necessary.
As marketing costs are often considered to be expenses, what tends to go unnoticed, is many digital marketing strategies achieve more than mere profits or “hard numbers.”
Brand recognition, loyal followers and viral campaigns may not deliver instant, measured profits, yet their value is indisputable; which is why Google Analytics’ results need to be viewed through a broad lens that assesses not only cash-producing conversions but awareness and loyalty as well.
Inside the Visitor’s section of Google Analytics, use the following reports to see if your content is compelling enough to keep visitors on your site and if they come back for more:
- Length of Visit
- Depth of Visit
2) Going Beyond The Basics: How To Use Google Analytics’ Data To Make Better Decisions
At its core, Google Analytics is a basic data collection tool designed to offer page views, average visit durations, and the number of visits every page receives. This certainly gives marketing teams plenty to work with, but there other tools and insights available in Google Analytics that business owners and marketing executives can use to make better decisions for their business, or individual campaigns.
- Solve issues early and build on already successful strategies
The Solutions Gallery has recently been revved up to offer a broader spectrum of solutions to create value for every aspect of a business and its website’s management team.
For those working on an SEO campaign, Custom Reports can be set up to send email alerts the moment traffic, duration and referrals dwindle. Algorithm changes, slow page loads, and diminishing visits that could potentially end in disaster can be quickly rectified by helping owners and digital marketers identify and fix issues. Reports about positive events allow management teams to see what’s working and repeat or build on their efforts to add value to existing strategies.
Remember: one-size-fits-all reporting does not work. Know your audience and what makes them tick. Show each audience (website tech, chairman, content creator, etc.) exactly what they need to see to assess the progress of a marketing effort and make more informed decisions.
- Understand your customers and their interests
Business leaders predict that content marketing will boom in the coming year (as it has in 2013). The Google Analytics Site Content tool will thus become a key feature in the battle against increasingly stringent search engine algorithms.
The Content Drilldown tool offers overviews of larger site segments, which can be viewed according to specified time periods. And individual pages such as landing and exit pages are analyzed using the Site Content Section.
Both tools are overtly focused on assessing which articles and images are receiving the most interest, but on a more profound level, they can be exploited to offer more value – such as spotting clunky interactivity that can hinder a customer’s intuitive experience and severely shrink profitability.
- Provide a seamless site experience
Advertising moguls might balk at the concept of casting aside their creativity in favor of establishing adequate website response times and loading speeds; but these are common issues that can quickly funnel away profits.
The virtual world offers thousands of ways to spend money, and clients are often fussier about ease of use rather than brand loyalty. Google Analytics Site Speed tells business owners and marketing executives how slow their servers are to HTTP requests and downloads. Today’s internet operates at lightning pace, so servers that need more than ten seconds to react need to be taken back to the drawing board.
Google Analytics’ Page Timings tool helps to troubleshoot blameworthy pages and elements. Additionally, there are free tools available online to help you identify speed issues and fix them. WebPageTest.org is a great example (which is primarily developed and supported by Google), and PageSpeed Insights for Chrome (also by Google) is another excellent resource for discovering what is slowing down your site.
- Turn your website into a lead generation machine
In a perfect world, every keyword, video, image, and subscription offer generates interest and conversions from site visitors. The Google Analytics Events Flow section helps site managers to achieve this objective by delivering statistics about all actions and the types of visitors who are most responsive.
When a campaign element is not generating the desired interest, the Google Analytics Experiment page offers suggested changes that could improve results. Information is collected about a specific page and what visitors are choosing to do when failing to respond to an event. Working from this vantage point, it becomes possible to control the evolution of the troublesome page to generate interest and drive conversions.
Google Analytics is a shrink-to-fit application that can be as generic or specific as desired; and while its toolkit is comprehensive enough to fuel massive return on investment, it can only be as effective as those who use it.
To brush up on your Google Analytics and reporting skills, or learn about new features and better ways to use existing ones, pay close attention to the official Google Analytics blog. Or, for a more advanced guide to Google Analytics, I highly recommend Avinash Kaushik’s book Web Analytics 2.0.
Interested in learning more about using metrics to gain a competitive advantage? Check out our free webinar replay, How To Analyze And Crush Your Competitors' SEO Strategies!
All the best,
Chris is an SEO & Analytics Manager at Stream Companies, a Philadelphia area advertising agency.