Marketing professionals would scoff if you told them you pulled your marketing strategy out of thin air. But if you aren’t using data and insights to guide your plan that might as well be what you do. To truly create a relevant and successful digital marketing campaign, you need to analyze current and historical data to inform your strategy and help set objectives. Following are six key data elements you should look at in Google Analytics or other analytics platforms.
Note: We use Google Analytics the majority of the time, so the report and metric nomenclature used in this post will mirror that used in GA. Most analytics platforms use similar terminology, but some terms may vary slightly.
This data should be analyzed from a bird’s eye view to get a true sense of how your traffic is trending. Depending on how active your site and digital marketing campaigns are, six months should be the shortest time frame in which to view this data. If your business has a great deal of seasonality, you’ll also want to view year-over-year data to understand if the trends you are seeing match previous years, or are anomalous.
Is traffic trending upward? This is obviously what you want to see, but is not always the case. Look for any spikes or dips in overall traffic volume. These are areas where you’ll need to dig in to other reports to determine what caused these changes.
Look at the various channels or sources driving traffic to your site. In Google Analytics, you can look at this data from a number of different reports and views within the Acquisition section. “Overview” will offer the broadest view. Make sure to check the timeframe you are viewing. If you set it at six months for the overall traffic view, you’ll see that same timeframe here. But you can expand or reduce the timeframe to see a broader trending view or more specific timeframe respectively.
“Channels” will show more details about the larger buckets of traffic sources—organic, direct, paid search, email, social, referrals, etc. Look at bounce rate, pages per session and average session duration for each channel to determine which are performing the best and which need your attention. If email is sending a great deal of traffic, but have a high bounce rate, you need to consider where those users are landing when they get to your site, and what they are doing. Maybe you’re not sending them to the right pages. Or maybe you are not providing the right offer or information based on the email content.
Regarding bounce rate: anything above 50% is a red flag and a potential opportunity for improvement. Unless, however, you’re looking at blog posts or single content pieces, which often have higher bounce rates because users are higher in the funnel. They are often new users unfamiliar with your brand or products, or not ready to make a purchase immediately. They read or view the content and move on. Still there are opportunities to lead them around the site with additional content pieces and familiarize them with your brand and products, so that you are top of mind when they are ready to make a purchase.
What percentage of your traffic is coming from a mobile device? What sources are sending the most mobile traffic? And how is your site rendering on those devices? This information can be found in the “Audience” section of Google Analytics.
Understanding how many users are accessing your site via mobile devices will help you understand how to display and organize content, what content to deliver and how to get in front of more users. Mobile users are often looking for a specific item or bit of information, possibly an address or phone number. Or they may be researching products while in a brick-and-mortar retail environment. Knowing this will help you plan and structure your digital campaigns to provide the right information to them at the right time.
Besides your home/index page, which is often the highest trafficked page, what other pages are users landing on first when they get to your site? And what happens when they do land—are they bouncing right away or navigating to other pages? This information can be found in “Behavior” under the “Site Content” report in Google Analytics.
Understanding if specific category, product, blog or other page is receiving the most traffic can tell you a lot about your users, and thus how you market your brand and site. But don’t just look at the basics of traffic volume and bounce rate. Dig into each landing page to understand which sources are driving the most traffic to each page.
For example, if you are a clothing brand, maybe one of your top landing pages is a specific shoe product page. Just knowing this doesn’t tell you much, but if you see traffic to the shoe page is driven mostly by a link from an influential blogger, you now know that endorsements from popular people are very important. Having a well-planned and executed blogger outreach and brand advocate campaign is going to be very important to your marketing efforts.
Naturally, conversion rate is going to be important to every business, and it’s a number that you will always want to be growing (or at the very least, maintaining constant as you drive more traffic). But it’s the details of the conversions that are important.
What times are you seeing the conversion rate increase or decrease? If you see the conversion rate is higher between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m., you may want to increase paid search spend or send emails during those hours.
What sections of the site are converting better than others? Going back to our clothing brand example, maybe your summer dresses category page sees an increased conversation rate in early October. This is certainly odd with winter fast approaching, but it may indicate that your customers are making purchases for tropical vacations they plan to take in the middle of January. You’ll need to confirm this insight through customer surveys, focus groups, social data mining or other audience research efforts, but it provides a foundation for creating these types of research initiatives.
Understanding the steps users take before completing a goal is of the utmost importance. This information can be found in the “Conversion” section of Google Analytics. Look under “Goals” to dig into the data found in the “Goal Flow” section.
Here you can see the specific pages users visit, and how they move through your site, before completing a desired action, typically a sale or completion of a lead form. You can highlight paths through various pages to see where users drop off, either by exiting the site or moving on to a new page.
If most users visit a specific category page, move on to a product page, then move back to the category page without making a purchase, you may not be providing them the correct information on the product page. This tells you that there are major improvements you can make to your site, and this may be your priority before deciding to send loads more traffic to the site via paid campaigns. Conversion rate optimization testing should be at the top of the list of tactics of your overall digital marketing strategy in this case.
Google Analytics and other analytics platforms can reveal challenges (let’s call them opportunities!) that you didn’t even know where there. Taking the time to dig into this data will help you decide where you should focus and what your priorities are. It’s not as easy as turning on a paid search campaign and driving tons of traffic; if that traffic is unqualified, or reaches a site that is unusable, you will have wasted money and you’ll end up back at square one. Making the investment—with time and money—to analyze this data will arm you with the knowledge to build the most successful digital campaign for your brand.