When you log into Google Analytics, do you have a browse through the different graphs and reports, look at the numbers and see how much traffic you are getting? Before you know it you can get overwhelmed with the volume of data and information, spend too much time slicing and dicing the stats and come out none the wiser. Well that has certainly been me over the years.
Without a clear focus of what you are looking for, the data is meaningless.
Here is how to use Google Analytics effectively. It starts with a question or a hypothesis.
Before even logging into your Google Analytics dashboard, you need to have a question or hypothesis that you want an answer to. This makes it clear what you are looking for when you do delve into the data.
A hypothesis is a statement that you believe to be true and you want to use Google Analytics to prove or disprove it. This is the way scientists work, a hypothesis provides structure and guidelines to their experiments, allowing them to stay focussed on an objective and not get sidetracked down some black hole (excuse the pun :).
So you need to become a scientist in order to use Google Analytics effectively.
Using A Question
A simple question that many businesses would have is;
“Where are my online enquiries coming from?”
This is perfectly fine, however the more specific your question can be, the better your answer and insights will be. “Where have my online enquiries for service ‘X’ come from this month, versus last month?”
This question gives you a clear focus. You would firstly set up your timeframe to be this month compared to last month, then go directly to the Goals report and assuming you have an enquiry goal set up for that specific service X, you can answer this question definitively.
Deciding Whether A Marketing Activity Is Working For You
A real benefit of Google Analytics is being able to know if a specific marketing activity is working for you or not. For example, if you have been using a Facebook page for your business, a question might be:
“Is my posting on Facebook bringing me visitors to my website who are actually a potential customer?”
Firstly, you can see all traffic that is coming to your website via Facebook who are only in the location that you service. To determine if they are actually a potential customer, you can look at the following metrics for that Facebook traffic;
- Time on site – If a person who comes from Facebook and stays for 1 minute or longer, they are more engaged and theoretically more interested in your product/service, or business.
- Pages visited – You can see what pages have been visited the most. There may be a specific product or service these visitors are more interested in. However if the pages are only to a blog post of a cartoon you drew, this means they are not necessarily a potential customer.
- Conversions made – this allows you to see if traffic from Facebook that you are generating is tangibly adding to your bottom line, or moving your business forward.
If none of these metrics are showing you that these Facebook visitors are engaged and actually a potential customer, then either your Facebook strategy needs to be altered, or your efforts may be better spent on other marketing activities.
Notice how in those metrics don’t just look at volume of traffic from Facebook. If we were to look at this only, it would be a possible huge red herring, leading us to believe our Facebook marketing efforts are working great guns for our business, but in fact you may just have drawn such a funny cartoon in that blog post that it is being shared like crazy (in which case I would suggest you continue to create amazing cartoons, try and theme them around your product or service, and have your logo branded as a watermark. Afterthought: This is in fact a great idea!)
Using A Hypothesis
Hypotheses work in exactly the same way, but instead of a question, it is a statement that you believe to be true and you want to use Google Analytics to prove or disprove it. Scientists do this, it provides structure and guidelines to their experiments. Here is an example of a hypothesis statement that a business might use:
“Most of my e-commerce sales are coming from my monthly email newsletters I send out to my database”
You would then log into Google Analytics and go about proving or disproving this statement through the data. To do so, you would…
Go to your transactions report and see how many transactions have occurred via the email channel versus other channels such as organic search, social and referral.
(Assumption made: your links are trackable in the monthly email that you send. In some cases GA can tell if it has come from your email anyway.)
Become A Scientist By Asking Pertinent Questions You Want Answered
To summarise, it is really important to have a question or hypothesis statement that you want to find out the answer to. In some cases the questions are simple and you do them in your head as you go. But if you find that you are logging into Google Analytics and aimlessly looking through the graphs and numbers, looking at the overall traffic volumes and using that as your only measurement, then it’s time to take a step back and create a question or hypothesis first.
This will save you so much time, keep you focussed on what you want to achieve from the session, and give you real insights that you can use to make good decisions for your business.
I hope that helps next time you think about diving into Google Analytics. You are a scientist after all.