Five ways to get greater insights from Google Analytics
You know the way it is with using Google Analytics... nearly all businesses have it installed, but far fewer have customised it correctly for their business AND have a structured approach for using it to improve their online marketing.
I think many business owners and marketers know that because of this and the lack of skills to interpret the data, the obvious potential of using Google Analytics to review and improve online marketing is missed by many organisations. The reason for this missed opportunity is not a technology problem. As Avinash Kaushik has pointed out, in his 10/90 rule of managing analytics, that's because this is largely a people issue, i.e. how to provide People with the right processes, tools and KPIs to drive performance.
Those most aware of the challenge and the solution are often Analytics consultants who have worked in multiple businesses to assist them in this process. So, I was pleased to see new in-depth advice available in Successful Analytics: Gain Business Insights by Managing Google Analytics, the latest book by Brian Clifton. You may know Brian as the author of Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics which he wrote after his time as the first head of web analytics at Google EMEA, drawing on the experiences of many analytics consulting projects.
After reading his new Successful Analytics book, I thought it would be useful to give my take on some of the best advice for managing analytics Brian that gives in his book. The main takeaways I took from the book were:
1. You need to carefully customise your Analytics setup
Returning to my first point in this article, customisation of Google Analytics is often missed, so businesses don't have the right goals or events setup in Google Analytics so that they can see the value generated by different types of website visitors and the content they browse. For example, it's common in business-to-business marketing to not have a value attributed to Google Analytics goals for outcomes such as leads generated, but without this, you can't work backwards to readily see which content is responsible for prompting leads and which digital media channels are most valuable in achieving this.
2. A STAG audit will set you on the right track
To get started with customisation, it's not always essential to get a consultant in since Google has extensive help systems and learning content in the Google Digital Analytics academy. Agencies can help here also. With the right type of Google Analytics audit template like that available in our toolkit, you can review which customisations are needed, and which are missing.
Brian's new book has a detailed advice on this in chapter 3 where he explains his STAG or Site Tracking Assessment and Guidelines process. Related to this there is a 15 checkpoint Scorecard which I think would work really well for agencies too, for example when setting up new sites or taken on new client accounts. Data Quality is also reviewed in depth in Chapter 4 too.
3. Ask the right questions
Taking the smart decisions using Google Analytics and more generally in managing digital marketing is, in large part, about asking the right questions. Others will likely ask these questions of you too, so it's best to be prepared. Successful Analytics takes a similar approach with regular tables throughout the book summarising the questions to ask.
4. Integrate customer, campaign and sales data. Use attribution.
Arguably the biggest change to Google Analytics over the last couple of years isn't the interface enhancements or new reports rather it's the launch of Universal Analytics which now includes capabilities to integrate data from other sources. This may be customer data such as demographics or campaign data. Brian explains all the options so you can see which is relevant to you. The importance of campaign tracking and attribution are also covered in these sections.
5. Build a capable digital insights team
Brian ends the book with a detailed review of the options for structuring an insights team in different types of business. He starts by looking at the 'dream team' of ideal roles and responsibilities in a large organisation and then looks at which of these skills are important in a smaller team. This goes into the details of what job descriptions and the interview process should look for. However, the analytics skills needed by non Insights team marketers aren't covered which would be interesting to see also.
Dave Chaffey is a digital strategist and CEO of Smart Insights, who is author of Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. Smart Insights specialise in sharing advice on Strategy and Planning for digital marketing including customisation of Google Analytics for each business.