Google Analytics, the free website tracking tool provided by search behemoth Google, is beloved within SEO and webmaster circles. But to most marketers outside of the digital niche, Google Analytics seems cumbersome and impenetrable.
Although Google Analytics is used to track website traffic and conversions, its implications reach far outside the digital medium.
Local SEO expert Adam Henige, managing partner at Netvantage Marketing, which operates a Grand Rapids office, recently shared insights about the implications Google Analytics has on cross-platform measurement and how strategically gleaned data can positively impact the bigger bottom-line picture.
People can learn more about Google Analytics from Henige on April 14 in Grand Rapids at the American Marketing Association of West Michigan’s luncheon. Henige will be presenting on “Getting More Out of Google Analytics” at Calvin College’s Prince Conference Center, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. People can register online.
What exactly does Google Analytics track, and what else does it do?
Using code snippets inserted on specific areas within a website, Google Analytics tracks virtually every aspect of a website’s user activity. This includes the source of the traffic — whether users came from searching specific keywords, typing the domain address in directly or from a link from another website or social network. Understanding exactly where website traffic is coming from can prove invaluable for brands that want to track the success of campaigns they’re running — whether those campaigns are digital or otherwise.
Google Analytics also tracks the behavior of users on the website. This includes the percent of new versus returning visitors, how long visitors spend on the site, how many pages are viewed, which pages they visit and in what order, on which pages visitors exit the site and a several other engagement factors.
Ecommerce stores — or websites that sell products from a web storefront — can use Google Analytics to set up conversion tracking on products, so merchants can see exactly how much they’ve sold from a site, as well as the path customers took that led to the sale.
The best part for marketers is that Google Analytics is completely free to use.
“I remember back in the day, we had to subscribe to ClickTracks,” Henige said. “It was a very manual process. But Google Analytics today provides far more resources than most of the paid tools did back then.”
Cross-channel ROI tracking
Henige said there are few, if any, industries that can’t use Google Analytics to unearth valuable marketing data. And that data tracking is by no means limited to digital campaigns.
“So many small businesses spend money on campaigns, and at the end, they don’t know what happened,” Henige explained. “In a brand-awareness campaign, for example, you’re going to see the increase in traffic for branded terms or direct traffic. You can also drive people to a specific landing-page URL from offline campaigns, and you can tightly track that traffic.
“If you’re running a TV campaign or print campaign, there’s money that goes into that and the cost of measuring that is practically zero, if you just create a funnel and track the data.”
Henige said metrics don’t have to be complex or tied to expensive campaigns to provide valuable insights.
Companies can track “even something as simple as a contact form to collect leads. There’s always some way to measure whether or not the campaign was effective.”
Managing and interpreting data
In Google Analytics, custom conversion tracking can be set up to track specific actions made on the website — such as clicking a certain link, submitting forms or performing other specific actions. Google Analytics’ dashboard can also be programmed to automatically generate custom reports at certain time periods, which can help to streamline the reporting process.
But beyond these more complex tracking tools, gleaning insights from Google Analytics doesn’t have to be that complicated. Henige suggests exporting reporting data into Excel, a feature available from Google Analytics’ dashboard.
“Most people are used to doing things in Excel, so why not take advantage of it?,” Henige said. “You can use Excel to manipulate the data and compare the timeframes, so you can get an idea of what’s going on. To me, that’s the missing link. Once people get it in that format, where they’re comfortable with it, interpreting it gets easy. Or, you can find the shortcuts in GA where your key metrics are and bookmark them. For the world we work in, most of the standard reporting works.”