16/02/2018

Web Analytics

Web Analytics

Solid web analytics is a corner-stone of any successful website, whether this is for lead generation or transacting sales online. Without it, you may be relaying on little more than instinct or guesswork. You may also not be taking advantage of digital’s greatest asset – being measurability.

Foundations

Like many things in life, such as painting and decorating, good web analytics begins with sound planning and preparation. Putting in place solid foundations will pay dividends, even if this means that you don’t start collecting data as soon as you might like. But what are these foundations, and just why do they matter? What better place to start than looking at what it is you want to learn and measure?

Requirements

Defining requirements for your web analytics may seem an unusual place to start. On the face of it, many of the metrics are familiar and seemingly straight-forward to interpret. Well, to some degree that’s true, but not always.

For example: The bounce rate is the bounce rate, and a high bounce rate is bad, right? Well, not necessarily! A page, or pages, where the only available action for the visitor takes them to another website will most likely have a high bounce rate. The intended action is actually to leave your site, so a high bounce rate, coupled with other metrics, may equate to success for that page.

Key requirements considerations are:

  • Timing
  • Frequency
  • Website objectives
  • The visitor goals
  • Defining success and failure

In a separate post, I look in more detail at defining Web Analytics requirements. This includes the impact it may have on your website structure and the way that you implement your web analytics.

Tambopata sunset

Implementing Google Analytics

Within the online world, Google Analytics is essentially ubiquitous. There are many good reasons for this, not least of which are:

  • It’s free
  • It’s simple to implement
  • It’s intuitive to use
  • It’s constantly developing

The basic Google Analytics tag is very easy to implement, and if done correctly, should have no discernible impact on your customer experience. It loads asynchronously (it doesn’t prevent other items on the page from loading) and is a single piece of javascript.

Once implemented, your site will start collecting and reporting data almost immediately, though there will be slight delay.

The basic GA tag will meet numerous standard needs straight out of the box, but there are variations and extensions, such as tracking order values, shipping costs and tax, tracking click events, building audience pools and much more besides. In a separate post I look at some of the more detailed aspects of Google Analytics website tracking.

Off-site tagging

Adding Google Analytics tracking code to your website is a big part of the journey, but is only half the story. In order to really start to understand what digital activities are working, ensuring that all traffic drivers into your website are “tagged” is vital.

What does “tagging” involve in the world of web analytics? Tagging digital channels and activities is ensuring that when a user clicks through to your site, you have the best chance possible of understanding what it was they clicked on. In business language, this is passing through information from your digital marketing activities in order that you can report on them in Google Analytics. In technical terms, this is done by appending query string parameters to all links that you control that point into your website.

In a more detailed post on the subject of tagging media for Google Analytics, I take a longer look at the media to tag, and some of the key considerations.

Configuration

Running reports out of Google Analytics is pretty straightforward, and there are myriad online resources, with one that I would immediately recommend being Occam’s Razor. However, there are several important things to note that directly impact the value that you get from your analytics.

Junk traffic

It’s part of online life that your site will be subject to what I’m going to refer to as junk traffic. This traffic can arrive in large quantities, and is generally unsolicited and unwanted (though search engine bots/ spiders are very definitely wanted). This traffic will skew your reporting, and needs to be filtered out.

Goals and funnels

Most websites have one or more key commercial objectives, whether that’s buying product(s), subscribing, downloading something, or even making a phone-call. Your Requirements phase should have identified these, and they now need building into Google Analytics.

Dashboards

Businesses can thrive through the use of web analytics data, or drown in it. A key way to ensure that you swim rather than swim is defining dashboards that quickly and easily report your most important Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These will also have been defined at the outset.

Automation

Google Analytics has the facility to automatically generate and distribute reports in various formats including PDF and Excel. This can be a great way to quickly and easily communicate key stats.

Integration

While very powerful and intuitive, Google Analytics does have its limitations, particularly when it comes to processing data in a way that you might do with, for example, a pivot table in Excel. The charting options are equally limited, though Google Data Studio takes this to a much higher level.

If your organisation brings data together from multiple sources to create business wide dashboards and reports, a useful solution is getting an Excel plug-in that will extract data directly from Google Analytics and put it straight into Excel.

Beyond Google Analytics

Google Analytics is immensely powerful, doing what it does very well, but it is relatively standalone. Other web analytics packages exist that have better integrations, better analysis capabilities, sophisticated automation, and extend into behavioural modelling, propensity modelling and much more besides.

My experience

I’ve been implementing, configuring and using Google Analytics since 2006, during which time it has developed beyond all recognition. I’ve used it extensively across B2B and B2C on sites varying from a few hundreds sessions per month to those with hundreds of thousands.

I have built dashboards, filters, segments, custom reports, content groups, run attribution and more besides.

I don’t profess to be a hands-on expert, and I don’t pitch myself as a web analytics guru. I’m someone who has the breadth and depth of experience to understand the whole picture, to identify what’s missing, what’s working well, and what needs adjusting.

If you think I have the skills you need, then I’d be delighted to chat.

If you’d like to know more about me or my experience, and how I can help your business, please get in touch. I’d love to chat.