Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable Aspects of Google Analytics

Jen Saunders

Definitively knowing the drivers of your conversions and engagement is crucial for business growth, and this is a challenging task for most organizations to not only master, but get comfortable with. Whether you hire SEO experts from Google-Partner agencies, or you have an internal team in charge of tracking and studying your analytics, getting comfortable with the tasks at hand are important if you expect to make full use of the many technologies supporting the best web professionals in the industry. Data can be intimidating, but once you delve into it from the perspective of an ally as opposed to approaching it with reserved trepidation, you will be able to extract information to determine which strategic efforts pay off. These can range from design changes to promotional initiatives that encourage web traffic to engage your landing pages that convert to paying customers.

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Why Being Good Isn’t Good Enough

Unless you are working with a Google-partner digital growth marketing agency, you should really master Google Analytics because being good simply isn’t  good enough. The digital realm is inherently data-driven. Track-ability is ingrained in its nature and there is a plentitude of solutions for those who are not afraid to step beyond the basics and delve into advanced analytics. Using configurations like Custom Metrics, Custom Dimensions and Event Tracking allows you to collect specific data. Setting up advanced filters while studying user behavior in Event Tracking will allow you to get a much more accurate view. It is also valuable to segment data and analyze by audience and channel for custom reporting. Don’t be afraid to dip your toes in the GA pond; there aren’t any piranha in there.

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Trust Google Analytics Data, It Doesn’t Lie

Many business managers I’ve encountered have confessed to not trusting data. When running SEO audits for multiple new clients (who prior to my involvement had the raw data smack in their faces), I would ask why they made certain decisions in their marketing efforts. The answers were consistent: “these numbers just don’t feel right” or “there has to be a mistake”. Remember, the landscape of digital users is fragmented; you have data rolling in from multiple devices and a variety of channels. Many hire SEO experts because this mish-mash of data can be intimidating, but if you have the time and the will to learn, you must first trust the data or everything you do will be in vain. Get in better touch with your consumer audience; learn what their pains are, where your needs come to play, and how your buyers find you. Once you truly understand their behavior, you can set yourself up to trust the data at the essential level, and then confidently move into deeper data that is more specifically focused.

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Don’t be Hesitant to Jump Inside Your Buyer’s Heads

As previously mentioned, understanding your consumers will help facilitate deeper trust in data. Once you acclimate, take it a step further and really know all audience segments; don’t be hesitant to jump inside heads at a digital level. The temptation to focus on measuring engagement and conversion is common, but it is extremely valuable to add website visitors to this short list. Even minimal glances at visitor data can deliver tons of valuable information such as geographic location, interests, demographics, level of engagement, and more. Segmenting should be a primary practice in your digital marketing strategy, going above the common age, gender, (etc) metrics to a more sophisticated tactic for breaking down audiences.

One useful supplement to use in addition to GA for breaking down audiences at a more comprehensive level isAdobe’s Segment IQ–it has a live feature called Segment Comparison for Analysis Workspace allowing one to discover variances in cohorts of target audiences through an automated analysis that hones in on all metrics.

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Man-Up Your eCommerce Analysis

Most eCommerce marketing managers use Google Analytics to discover nagging questions to conversion issues, retention challenges, and user-experience quandaries. Magento is the most popular eCommerce platform, and recently it acquired RJMetrics in order to improve segmentation, gain advanced insights in merchandising, better understand a customer’s lifetime value, and much more.

Don’t be Afraid to Make Advanced Analytics Simple

There is always the tendency to make things way more complex than they need to be. As human beings, many of us get stuck in a trap where we undervalue things that appear too easy, so we puff up our chests and make them much harder. But Google has made leaps and bounds in simplifying their analytics. For example, the Google Analytics app grants machine-learning driven insights. Now that Google RankBrain uses machine learning and artificial intelligence, it is highly valuable to extract analytics from mobile search aimed at this technology. Though it sounds heavy, in reality it is straightforward and should be treated as such.

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Invest in a Google-Partner Digital Marketing Agency

Many businesses managers and even enterprises balk at hiring a digital growth marketing agency for a number of very common reasons. Some of these include:

  • Uncertainty in measuring ROI
  • Trust issues
  • The idea that hiring internal teams gives them more control
  • Fear of being mislead / lied to
  • They think contracts translate to poor service

If you want the best results, working with an expert digital agency is the way to go. But rather than sit on the fence over the above points, get proactive and put these to bed by interviewing SEO agencies with the right questions. Ask to see a sample SEO report and have them pull Google Analytics data from the same time frame to ensure the data is accurate. Is the report completely transparent? If so, you will have no problem in measuring your ROI.

Ask the agency for a list of current or past clients, and make some phone calls. Inquire if the agency was open and honest in all aspects of the relationship. Hiring an internal team is often more expensive not only in paying salaries, but the time it takes in onboarding the right people. A boutique agency will offer white-glove treatment and use exceptional communication and collaboration skills with clients, always giving them the amount of control they wish to have in each project.

“Contracts”: it is such a red-flag word, and it shouldn’t be. If your agency has contracts this is indicates something highly positive. Thorough marketing agencies have an onboarding process in which they invest tons of man hours doing market research, running audits (content, SEO, PPC), doing competitive analysis, and setting up analytics and a number of other tracking tools. If a client (for whatever reasons) decides to bounce three months into the project, the agency loses money. Rather than hightailing it away from agencies with contracts, stop for a minute and reconsider WHY they have them. A standard  six-month contract is actually a good sign that the agency invests considerable research and strategy into their client’s campaigns thus offering high-quality work, versus just jumping into the pool with a run-of-the mill floaty so they can look hipster while keeping their heads above water. 
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About
Jen Saunders is the Director of SEO for WEBITMD bringing more than 15 years of search marketing experience. She spent 13 years in Europe earning her PhD while looking at lots of old neat stuff. Jen enjoys simple things, like trees, sunrises, and the delicate lull of a 16th century harpsichord. Jen enjoys meditating and studies Buddhism. She is a certified master scuba diver, dolls make her nervous, and she enjoys craft beer. Jen has two cats, Chairman Thaddeus Whiskers and Lord Joffrey Gaius Pitty-Paws. They are her heirs.


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