Posts Tagged ‘Google Analytics’
There’s no question that web analytics are vital, but even Shakespeare acknowledged that one can have too much of a good thing. In an environment where nearly everything that happens online can be measured, the challenge for marketers isn’t gaining the ability to measure even more factors, but rather the clarity to focus on measuring what matters.
How can you measure all of the sources that contributed to a conversion–not just the last click? Which Google Analytics (GA) metrics are most important? How can you take action on analytics reports? What can GA tell you (and not tell you) about your sources of website traffic? How can you capitalize on the Advanced Segments feature in GA?
Find the answers to those questions and many more here in 16 remarkable guides to web analytics from the past year.
The SEO’s Guide to GA 5, Part II: Top 3 Features for Setting & Achieving SEO Goals by Search Engine Journal
Dali Burgado details three key features of Google Analytics 5 (GA5) for SEO professionals: dashboard customization with SEO widgets (e.g., branded vs. non-branded search), custom alerts, and multi-channel funnels (see Pritesh’s post above). This last feature is interesting but would be much more useful if one could customize segment definitions to correct for the way Google gets search traffic wrong.
Writing that “When conversions take place over multiple visits rather than a single visit to a site, it’s really important to understand the complete customer journey and not use the standard ‘last click wins’ model of attribution,” Pritesh Patel demonstrates how to use Multi-Channel funnel reports in Google Analytics to obtain more detailed insights into the different interactions visitors have with your website before converting to a lead.
Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics: What to Track by Search Engine Watch
Sarah Carling notes that GA is incredibly powerful–but needs to be set up properly first. Much of it’s potential analytical power can’t be accessed “out of the box.” She then provides examples of and instruction for setting up three types of data you may want to track: customer segments (actually, visitor segments), goal and event tracking, and page categories (“If, for instance, you want to know if product category A or B is more likely to result in a customer creating an account or making a purchase, you can track this data”).
Contending that good marketers use analytics to measure the performance of their marketing initiatives, while “Great marketers use them to adapt, improve, and modify their marketing efforts,” frequent best-of honoree Pamela Vaughan shows to use analytics to improve in areas like focusing on popular blog topics, refining SEO strategies, improving landing pages, and more.
Okay, GA 5 isn’t “new” anymore, but the techniques outlined here are still intriguing. This richly illustrated post shows how to set up actionable dashboards and widgets to monitor a variety of specific custom metrics like non-branded keyword traffic, top actionable social content, page load speed, top converting keywords, top exit/bounce pages and others.
Capturing The Value Of Social Media Using Google Analytics by Google Analytics Blog
Noting that “Since social media is often an upper funnel player in a shopper’s journey, it’s not always easy to determine which social channels actually drive value for your business and which tactics are most effective,” Phil Mui steps through five different ways to gauge “social value” in GA, such as the Conversions Report, with which “marketers can now measure the value of each individual social channel by seeing the conversion rates of each social network and the monetary value they drive to your business.” Both goals and goal values need to be defined in order to use this report.
Expanding on the post above, Lars Lofgren steps through each of the six social reports provided by GA, explains how traffic gets tagged as social media, and shows how to use GA’s Social Source Graphs. He cautions in his conclusion though to “be careful. These reports only use the referring URL when assigning traffic to a social media site. So if the referrer gets corrupted in any way, your traffic won’t get assigned to the right network and all your data will be skewed. If you commonly use URL shorteners, it’s very easy for the data in your social reports to be incomplete.”
4 Google Analytics updates you should know by iMedia Connection
Dan Brooks discusses four components of GA 5, including real-time data reporting (one of the primary benefits of which is, as notes, that it’s “just kind of fun to watch”), search engine optimization insights (which requires integration with Google Webmaster Tools) and Google+ integration (useful for organizations getting traction on G+).
What Google Analytics New Social Reports Offer & What They Can’t by Search Engine Watch
Marshall Sponder points out that, though the newest iteration of Google Analytics does offer some useful advantages over older versions, it doesn’t always live up to expectations. For example, “Traffic networks are mixed up with traffic tools…Twitter and Facebook are termed networks while HootSuite, which is a tool, and WordPress, which is a blogging platform, are treated identically by Google, as being the same type of traffic—social media. While technically true, it’s incorrect to place these sources on equal footing.” In addition, custom configuration is required to take advantage of many of the more granular features.
Google Analytics: Understanding Traffic Sources by iMedia Connection
Arden Kaley steps through the details behind the high-level traffic sources reported by Google Analytics (direct, referral, and search), then explains the importance of using Google’s URL Builder to create custom, trackable URLs for different digital marketing activities, and how to use the tool.
3 Steps to Measuring Your Social Marketing Campaign with Google Analytics by Social Media Club
Similar to the post above, Yola Blake supplies detailed instructions on how to create custom UTM codes (including medium, source, campaign name, etc.) for tracking specific marketing campaigns, concluding “Now, you are able to track the performance of the marketing message and pinpoint each sale (or other type of conversion) as a result of the tweet directly in Google Analytics.”
4 Shortcuts for Analyzing Social Media Traffic in Record Time by Social Media Sun
Eugen Oprea details four “shortcuts” for efficiently analyzing social media activity using GA, including instructions for building custom dashboards (“Dashboards are really important because they can provide you information at a glance, without spending hours digging through reports. In Google Analytics you can setup up to 20 dashboards that can provide insights about your visitors”).
Measuring a Mobile World: Introducing Mobile App Analytics by Google Analytics Blog
JiaJing Wang outlines three GA tools for mobile app analytics: Acquisition (and user metrics such as downloads and new users); Engagement (metrics such as retention, crashes and conversions); and Outcome (metrics such as app sales and in-app purchases). While not likely to be needed by most b2b marketers, these new tools may be valuable to b2c brand marketers investing in mobile app development.
8 ways to use Google Analytics beyond keywords by iMedia Connection
Casie Gillette recommends eight ways for marketers to act on GA data, among them: generating blog ideas (“Take a look at which posts drove the most visits and engagement, had the lowest bounce rates, and (of course) which posts were shared the most”), social targeting and attribution, and landing page testing.
3 Hidden Optimization Tips in Google Analytics by Conversation Marketing
Aviva Jorstad offers step-by-step instructions for using “three advanced tips that will help you unearth hidden optimization opportunities with Google Analytics,” such as seven “simple” (though your definition of that term may vary) steps to increase conversions from organic search traffic.
Google Analytics Advanced Segments Comprehensive Template Collection by Penguin Initiatives
***** 5 STARS
Contending that “Advanced segments in Google Analytics are one of the most powerful tools for gaining immense insight into your visitors,” Andy Forsberg provides more than two dozen copy-able advanced segment definitions, for everything from tracking searches of different keyword lengths to “user behavior” segments like Explorers (new visitors who viewed more than three pages) vs. Fans (returning visitors who viewed multiple pages).
As online marketing processes have evolved, the number and sophistication of software tools to support specific functions has exploded. Every discipline within marketing and PR has its own tools, among them:
SEO: backlink tools (Backlink Watch, SEOmoz, Majestic), keyword research tools, page optimization tools, SEO plugins.
Social media: social media monitoring (Radian6, Sysomos, SM2), social media management (HootSuite, SocialOomph, Buffer), Twitter tools, etc.
Web analytics: Omniture, WebTrends, Google Analytics, Clicky, and more.
All are very helpful, even essential, but most are designed for practitioners, that is: they help a specialist in a particular discipline do his or her job more effectively. Not only are they tactical, each focuses on supporting one functional silo or another. Not surprising, since this is how digital marketing is managed today—as a set of largely disconnected specialties. So much so, companies utilize different tools, resources, and in some cases, even different agencies to manage web visibility for brand, SEO, social media, PR, and paid advertising.
And of course, search has evolved—it’s no longer just 10 blue links. Today, web presence goes way beyond a company’s website. News and social links are as vital as are other points of visibility. What’s missing is the larger strategic picture needed for top-level decision-making and for managing digital marketing and PR in a coordinated manner. We’re all missing this because there aren’t tools to help us do it. Or are there?
A “Eureka” Moment
A couple of weeks ago, we blogged about the web presence optimization (WPO) framework. This model (evolved from a 2010 post) came about from KC Associates’ (KCA) client consulting projects. Operating as a cross-functional team, each consultant knew that a framework for optimization is useless unless there’s a way to track and measure gaiting factors that can be adjusted in order to move the optimization needle. So the group took a long, hard look at the tactical tools each consultant uses with a more creative mind of how they might be repurposed for WPO.
For example, SEO backlink tools can provide detailed lists of the precise backlinks to a competitor’s website. This can be quite valuable to an SEO consultant, but it’s mind-numbing overkill for a VP of marketing.
However, a graphical comparison of the type and quantity of backlinks pointing to the firm’s website and the sites of close competitors may be very enlightening (e.g., discovering that competitor A has twice as many media links and three times as many social links pointing to them)—particularly if these measures have changed significantly in a short period of time.
This simple change in thinking was truly eye-opening.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
First and foremost, the WPO framework provides the strategic and structural approach to the unified management of web visibility. And WPO metrics that support this framework provide the critical measurement necessary to enable the overall coordination of these disciplines to improve presence optimization and performance.
The set of 100+ WPO metrics that the group developed for KCA clients is driven by data collected by a host of off-the-shelf tools as well as some custom developed sources. As a collection, the attributes of these metrics differ from what most other tracking and measurement tools are set up to provide in six distinct ways:
- • Focus on management, not execution. WPO metrics are designed to support management decision-making (e.g., where should we devote more resources) rather than tweaks to specific tactics. Put another way, they are about the “what” rather than the “how.”
- • Provide a unified view of results. They provide leaders and team members with an overall picture of press (media outlets), social, website (organic search), industry (e.g. associations, research organizations) and paid web presence. The tactical tools available tend to focus on one or two of these areas.
- • Include competitor metrics. An organization’s digital marketing results don’t exist in a vacuum; it’s critical to be able to view results in the context of competitive activities. Competitive benchmarking is vital to developing strategy and allocating resources.
- • Reflect the value of owned, earned and paid presence, not just the company website. What customers, analysts, journalists, bloggers, and others have to say about you is sometimes more important than your own content. WPO metrics show the value of all of your points of web presence, whether it’s your content or something produced by a third party.
- • Are actionable and NOT “everything but kitchen sink.” Too many tools try to report every possible detail, rather than just what’s important. The result is data overload and analysis paralysis. It’s confusing and too much to absorb, and therefore doesn’t get acted upon. Best-practice WPO metrics focus only on measures that support concrete action.
- • Identify clear priorities. While WPO metrics cover a lot of ground, not every measure matters all the time. For example, if your media share-of-voice remains about the same from one month to the next, but your AdWords conversion rate drops by half, WPO metrics focus on the latter result.
WPO metrics won’t replace tactical, execution-level tools, but they will help guide decisions about which functional tools to use and how to coordinate the tasks of different disciplines for a larger purpose. They fill a critical gap by giving marketing executives, and everyone on digital marketing and PR teams, a unified view of web presence that reflects a more integrated optimization effort.
One of the most valuable features of Google Analytics is the ability to drill into detail on traffic sources; not just how much traffic came from search or social media, but how much came from each specific search engine or social networking site.
First off, by definition, direct traffic is all visitors who “arrived at your site directly (by typing the url) or via a bookmark.” Technically, there are other possible sources for direct traffic as well such as clicks on links within an Outlook email signature or Word document, but direct entry in a browser address bar or bookmark click account for the bulk of direct traffic.
Second, direct visitors fall broadly into one of two groups: let’s call them “old friends” and “new friends.” Old friends may include, among others:
- • Current customers (for example, clicking on a bookmarked link to your support page or user community area)
- • Partners (channel, technology, implementation services, etc.)
- • Vendors
- • Investors
- • Employees (accessing the site from outside the corporate network, e.g., from home or on the road)
- • Media and analysts already familiar with your company
“New friends” are (generally) predominantly sales prospects, but also include potential future employees, media who are new to your company, prospective investors and/or partners, vendors and other influencers. The “root” sources for this traffic may be online or offline.’
Online Direct Traffic Sources
PR / media relations: media exposure builds brand recognition. Visitors may type your URL into their browser address bars based on seeing a company profile, product review, news release pickup, subject matter expert quote or other mention in industry media.
Social media: social networking and content sharing also builds brand awareness and credibility. A click directly from Twitter, Facebook or another social media site will be recorded in Google Analytics as a social media visit of course, but there’s now question that some percentage of direct visits are inspired by exposure through social bookmarking and other social media activity.
Industry presence: listings in industry-specific directories, trade show sponsorships, industry association memberships and other similar industry presence links can lead directly to referral site traffic or build brand recognition that leads to direct visits.
Offline Drivers of Direct Visits
Face to face meetings and other “business card events”: the most prominent source of these direct visits is trade shows, but other venues may include Tweetups, conferences at which a company executive or subject matter expert speaks, social media breakfasts or happy hours, business networking events or anywhere a representative of your company is able to give out or exchange business cards with prospective buyers.
Printed media: yes, people do still use media like print advertising, direct mail and sales collateral. In fact, in a crowded online world, a well-crafted direct mail piece can make your company stand out–your prospects’ “real” mailboxes today are likely far less crowded than their email inboxes. An ad in an actual printed publication, a clever direct mail piece (more creative than a simple letter or postcard), or even a leave-behind or brochure handed out at a trade show can often lead to a “direct” website visit.
Old-fashioned word of mouth (WOM): while so much attention today is lavished on social media marketing (and not unrightly so necessarily), the fact is–people still talk. Particularly at the executive level. Whether at a breakfast, mixer, phone call, golf outing, conference or other event, executives and subject matter experts talk. If you’ve captured their interest and are relevant to someone else’s needs, your name is likely to come up. There’s no way to measure the effect precisely, but equally no doubt it affects those direct visit figures.
The segment of direct traffic worth optimizing for is of course prospective buyers. While it’s impossible to separate out this group with precision, it is possible to quantify and analyze the behavior of this group roughly be creating a custom segment in Google Analytics that excludes certain pages more likely to be visited by non-prospects (e.g., the media page, careers pages, and support area of the site) and known customers based on their network name.
Optimizing for direct traffic then requires a mix of online and offline tactics. Utilize best practices in social media marketing and online PR. Be active in industry groups, trade shows, conferences and local events where you can meet people in real life. And considering that paper production is actually up 180% in the past five years, don’t completely over traditional marketing channels like trade media advertising and direct mail.
gShift Labs is the first (at least that I’m aware of ) integrated software package for managing web presence optimization (WPO). Given that WPO is the fusion of SEO, social media, interactive PR, and online reputation management, that’s a tall order. But based on a good look at the product, gShift has a great headstart on meeting the challenges of this discipline.
Unlike pure SEO management tools (e.g., Web CEO, SEO Powersuite), social media monitoring tools (e.g., Radian6, Alterian SM2), or inbound marketing suites (e.g., HubSpot), gShift isn’t a point solution, but a single integrated tool to manage all aspects of WPO.
What sets this software apart is its approach as much as its functionality; the people behind gShift understand that SEO, online PR, social media, PPC advertising and other tactics are each pieces of the larger web presence puzzle. They aren’t silos, but tactics that need to be used in a coordinated manner to maximize and optimize an organization’s online presence. gShift is the first software built from the ground up with that approach in mind.
gShift enables marketers or agencies to track unlimited websites, web pages, social media accounts, external pages (e.g. media mentions), competitors and countries. The only limit is on keywords tracked, which is the basis of gShift’s pricing (see “Limitations and Concerns” below).
The software doesn’t provide a way to automatically segregate branded from unbranded search keywords (which would be nice), but this can be set up manually using “Campaigns.” Campaigns are gShift’s method for creating different keyword groups to track (e.g., by product line, country, competitor, etc.). The ability to show country-based rankings (e.g., U.S. results for a company.com site, Canadian results for a company.ca site) is helpful.
gShift automatically tracks organic vs. paid vs. mobile (an increasingly important segment) traffic and goal conversions for each. Yes, you could do this from Google Analytics (GA) as well (in fact, gShift pulls a fair amount of its reporting data from GA) but gShift presents it all in one spot, attractively graphed out.
Backlinks remain a key component of SEO. gShift displays backlinks by site, backlinks by page (very helpful), backlinks by competitor, and even provides a list of “recommended backlink” sources. For your website, gShift will display your top backlinks by authority and referral visits, along with changes in backlinks over time.
For your competitors, the software identifies their target terms (anchor text in backlinks), top backlinks and ranking. From a pure competitive research standpoint, gShift isn’t quite as robust as a tool like SEMRush (which provides AdWords keywords and click costs in addition to complete target organic keywords), but it does offer significant integrated functionality nonetheless.
The ability to track external pages is another nice feature. gShift enables you to set up external pages to track in different categories: Press Releases, Blogs, social media accounts, videos, and shortened URLs (e.g. bit.ly URL links). It also finds and shows you “other pages in your pool,” referring pages you may not know to track. The software displays traffic, conversions, bounce rate, social shares and search rank on assigned keywords for all of these pages. Again, most of this data (other than search rank) could be pulled from GA, but gShift makes it much easier and faster to track these metrics.
SEO is a core element of WPO, and gShift covers this pretty well. It provides daily rank checking (but charges weekly—see “Pricing” below), with comparison to the prior day’s, week’s or month’s rank highlighted in green (improvement), yellow (no change) or red (decline). The tool offers page-level auditing (specific page+keyword combination), showing what’s done and supplying recommendations for optimization improvement across a wide range of attributes (meta tags, keyword density, alt tags, headings, code fixes, etc.). Helpfully, gShift also rates the relative difficulty of each recommended task.
For any given keyword, gShift will show the top ranking page on your site by search engine (though it won’t identify the page with the highest internal gShift score for that keyword, which would be another nice feature). gShift has partnered with WordStream for its integrated keyword research functionality.
In addition to the keywords you are tracking, gShift will display recommended keywords from GA as well as all keywords that have produced at least one goal conversion. What’s more, gShift recently announced capability that gives search marketers a pretty good idea of what’s behind the “not provided” keyword data in GA, by showing you which pages are being accessed along with the top keywords driving traffic to those pages.
gShift features extensive social media tracking capabilities as well, pulling analytics from Twitter (e.g. number of mentions and retweets), LinkedIn and YouTube all into one spot. For your videos on YouTube, gShift displays rankings for those videos on specified keywords with YouTube’s search function as well as Google rankings for those videos by keyword phrase.
Again, most of these social media metrics are freely available, but gShift saves the time and effort of tracking them all down from their native sources. gShift currently provides about 75% of the data available natively from the top social networks, with more metrics on the product roadmap (e.g. expanded LinkedIn metrics are anticipated to be added within the next 30-60 days).
The power of gShift lies in its efficiency for reporting (GA-type site data, social media metrics, and ranking plus performance of external assets like guest posts or news releases all in one tool), its SEO improvement functionality, and its actionable on-site and off-site metrics. Reporting is flexible; gShift enables administrators to add explanatory or analytical text comments to virtually any metric within a report.
Few (if any) other SEO and/or social media management tools provide the type of detailed data about a blog post, web page, external article or news release that gShift does because other tools don’t “ask the right questions.” Competitive tools tend to be more siloed, while gShift takes a web presence optimization-centered approach.
gShift Labs co-founders Krista LaRiviere and Chris Adams come from a digital marketing and software development background. In the early 2000s, they developed the Hot Banana web CMS product, which was acquired by email service provider Lyris in 2006.
gShift aggressively updates the product with new features. Among plans for coming releases are “engagement signals,” which will display, for example, how many people have commented anywhere (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) about a specified blog post or other piece of content.
gShift’s closest competitor is possibly SEOmoz, a powerful SEO suite which just recently added social monitoring. From a straight SEO standpoint, it’s hard to beat the deep functionality of SEOmoz. However, what gShift may lack in depth in this area, it makes up for in ease of use and overall user experience. Put another way, gShift is arguably a better tool for marketers looking for reporting on site and external asset performance, and optimizing those assets for improvement. SEOmoz provides more raw technical data for hands-on webmasters.
Limitations and Concerns
Backlink checking is limited to the “top” 500 backlinks for any site, page or competitor. For internal site pages, that’s generally more than sufficient, but home pages on even moderately popular websites can have far more than 500 backlinks. There’s no way to know what’s missing (other than using a separate backlink checker tool).
The internal keyword tool shows monthly volume, but doesn’t indicate ranking difficulty—a key oversight. It does little good to know how popular a keyword phrase is without also knowing if it’s feasible to try to rank for that phrase. This should be high on gShift’s list of features to add, but for now, users will have to utilize a separate tool or technique for this function.
In my opinion, gShift’s pricing is a tad high (for the SMB market) and the model is unnecessarily convoluted. The software is priced on the basis of “keyword rankings” (KRs). A KR is one keyword, on one website, in one country. And each keyword rank is automatically checked on a weekly basis, so a single keyword consumes four KRs in a month (or five in some months, one would suppose).
gShift’s baseline Small Business package (500 keyword rankings at $99 per month) sounds pretty reasonable, until you realize how quickly that can add up. 100 keywords, checked against one website in one country consumes 400 KRs per month. Add all of those keywords to one other country and that’s another 400 KRs. Check 20 of those keywords against three top competitors and that’s another (20 x 3 x 4 =) 240 KRs. In order to really make inroads into the SMB market where this product fits best, the pricing should ideally be somewhat lower and a whole lot simpler.
While gShift Labs doesn’t necessarily provide the single best tool specifically for SEO management, or backlink checking, or keyword research, or social media monitoring—it is the only software currently available that combines pretty darn good functionality in all of these areas in a single platform.
gShift Labs is the first software vendor to approach SEO, online PR and social media as parts of the integrated whole of web presence optimization. Small to midsized businesses in the B2B space who want to maximize their online footprints and opportunities to be “found” when prospects are searching for what they offer should definitely evaluate gShift Labs.
FTC Disclosure: gShift Labs provided no compensation in any form for this review.
One of the great advantages of online marketing is that it’s measurable to far greater degree of precision and richness than older media like broadcast and print. The depth and breadth of measurement afforded by online tactics can also be a weakness however; not everything that can be measured needs to be, and many metrics are mere “noise” with little value in terms of insight or actionability.
How do you filter out that noise and focus on the measures that provide real guidance for improving online business results? Which tools and plugins are really useful for extending the capabilities of Google Analytics (GA)? What common analytics mistakes should you avoid? How can you use GA to track visits to a Facebook page?
Discover the answers to these questions and others here in eight of the best guides to web analytics of last year.
5 Simple Google Analytics Tips You Should Be Using by The Daily SEO Blog
Detailed instructions for five helpful GA tips; most of these are pretty basic, though setting up expressions for searches and filters is a fairly advanced technique.
Google Analytics Enhanced with SEO Site Tools by Wisdom IT Solutions
A concise explanation of how to use Google Chrome and the SEO Site Tools plugin to view social media statistics in GA.
Tad Chef follows up on his fantastic initial list of 30+ Google Analytics tools and resources with this new list of tools (e.g., TrakkBoard), how-to articles, mobile phone apps, add-ons, plugins and resources. This will keep data junkies busy for a while.
6 cool things YOU can do with Google Analytics Custom Variables by Distilled Blog
Six ways to use GA’s custom variables feature to track metrics like cumulative actions (e.g., how does the conversion rate for frequent blog commenters differ from other visitors?) and ecommerce shopping cart drop-offs. Interesting, but definitely not for beginners.
The 9 Most Common Google Analytics Mistakes by Timberline Interactive
While a few of the mistakes that Tom Funk identifies here are specific to ecommerce sites, most apply more broadly as well, e.g, failing to test, failing to properly tag non-Google paid search campaigns, and one I’ve seen a few times—failing to track on-site search. This last area can be a rich source of data for keyword targeting, future content development and navigational changes to improve the user experience.
The Power User’s Guide to Google Analytics Hacks, Tips and Tricks by WordStream
***** 5 Stars
17 SEO and web analytics experts including David Harry, Vanessa Fox, Ian Lurie and Bryan Eisenberg share some of their favorite tips and hacks in this extensive online guide to GA, for example: how to track engagement and goal conversions by keyword.
In his usual highly detailed and richly illustrated fashion, Marty Weintraub steps through how to create a KPI-tracking dashboard (to track, for example, conversions by referring site) using Woopra, a moderately priced, real-time web analytics package.
How to Add Google Analytics to a Facebook Page Tab by SitePoint
Alyssa Gregory lays out a quick and relatively easy three-step process for adding Google Analytics tracking to a Facebook page tab, while noting that Google Analytics is now the analytics package of choice on 56% of all websites.