We used to say that data was the future. Not anymore. Big data is here. It’s accessible, usable and transforming the marketing landscape every day. With every new keystroke and every new search option, we’re getting a better understanding of what users want and why they want it. The two biggest data gathering machines out there are Facebook and Google. As we’ve previously already discussed Facebook, today it’s Google’s turn. And for once we’re not going to look at SEO and that landscape is changing. Instead, we’re going to look at Google Analytics.
In some ways, this tool is even more powerful than Facebook, because Google doesn’t just get to pages where the like and share buttons are located. As long as Google continues to get nearly 90% of the search traffic, then (at the risk of slight hyperbole) it will be everywhere and know everything. And in that way you’re not just seeing how the social media arm of your marketing is operating. Instead, you can get a far broader overview.
The question is, are you using Google analytics correctly? Or, like most people, do you only really check out the vanity metrics, such as sessions, page views, users and other similar important sounding stats? If you’re the latter then you’re in for a surprise because by the end of this article I hope I’ll have convinced you that Google analytics can be so much more than that!
Find out which pages convert best and worst in terms of conversions
Take a look at your pages’ performance in terms of conversion report. You can get this report for any channel and use it to identify which pages convert well and which don’t. You should try running a report that analyses the individual page performances during a certain data range, where you compare organic sessions over several months or years.
Doing this will allow you to get an insight into if your pages are increasing in authority or are, in fact, decreasing. If you format it correctly so that you have the right data range, filtered by the organic segments, you can easily see which pages are contributing to conversions and which aren’t doing their job. From there it then becomes a simple matter of going to the offending pages and seeing what might be contributing to the problem you’re having. Of course, if you’re dropping across the board, then it might be time to see if you’ve got some sort of SEO issue going on.
The differences between mobile and desktop
More and more people use mobile versions of websites. For example, A study conducted on job seekers says that in last 5 years the percentage of people who use mobile phones to search for jobs has increased from 20% to 77%. That means you’ve got to make certain you understand not just the way your site is consumed on a desktop, but on phones and tablets as well.
Here Google analytics can be instrumental and not just because we can figure out how many mobile users are coming to our site. That might be interesting on a superficial level, but isn’t really going to give us any form of actionable insight. Instead, we want to look at how mobile users interact with our pages.
In order to do that, you need to get the report that uncovers mobile users’ engagement metrics. There are a lot of these to look at and all have their value, but for this article, let’s focus on bounce rates for mobile devices.
Just looking at the mobile bounce rate alone doesn’t give you too much context, though it’s not completely useless. For example, you can compare your pages to figure out in this way which page is producing the greatest number of bounces and then try to figure out how you might reduce that number.
The tool really comes into its own, however, if you compare the bounce rate of mobile devices versus desktop devices. If the former is high while the latter isn’t, then you’ve got a pretty good indication that that particular page might work well for desktops, but not look very good when viewed from a mobile device. From there it’s just a matter of getting on a mobile device and figuring out why that might be the case.
Get your own search data
Have you ever used the site search report data under the behavioral section in Google Analytics? If you are, give yourself a little pat on the back! Unlike most people, you’ve found a very useful aspect of Google Analytics. This section is frequently completely overlooked by site managers. And that’s a real shame because it’s a very useful page.
To get access to this report you do need to set it up. Once that is done, however, it’s a pretty easy tool to use. Google Analytics will track the search terms people use within your site and give you insights into why they visit your page, what they’re looking for when they do and how many of your visitors are resorting to the search bar. This then allows you create the content people believe they’re going to find on your site, thereby satisfying the needs of your visitors and getting them to stick around longer.
Alternatively, if you’ve actually got the content on your site, then this could be a good indicator it’s not quick enough to reach. In that case, you might want to give people the direct option of going to the page they’re looking from the menu, thereby making your page easier and more intuitive to use (and losing less of your audience in the process).
Really, this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are far more ways that you can use the analytics tool if you’re creative – ways other people might not even have thought of. Then you can use that information to modify and enhance your page and thereby your user experience. And all of that will naturally help you convert views into customers. And that has to be what it’s all about, right?
So take some time to study one of the best known but underutilized tools out there. It really is an absolute treasure-trove of information. All it takes is a bit of patience, a bit of reading and a basic comprehension of what the numbers mean. And those are vital skills for you to learn anyway because otherwise big data will bury you.
So good luck and good hunting!