How to use Google Analytics for effective marketing

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Many people know that Google Analytics provides insight into website visitors' behaviors. Marketers use it to monitor the effects of ad campaigns and how a site's user experience impacts conversion and retention.

The volume of dimensions and metrics available in Google Analytics may seem daunting. However, we've narrowed down the ones we feel are most beneficial for ecommerce store owners.

What is Google Analytics (GA)?

Google Analytics (GA) is a web-based data service that tracks website traffic. It's a platform offered by Google that allows you to pull reports with statistics for marketing purposes and search engine optimization (SEO). It's free to use by anyone, whether you have a Google Ads account or not, and contains several analytical resource tools.

Google Analytics Home

Google Analytics is a valuable tool that gives insights into what's working and what needs improvement within your marketing campaigns. 

It integrates with your Google Ads account, Search Console, YouTube, and Google+. So you get all the statistics from the various channels in one place without complicated technical work.

Is your Google Analytics setup correctly?

Before you can extract any information from the tools on Google Analytics, you must ensure that your account is set up correctly. Without the proper setup, the statistics will be flawed or won't show up at all. 

There are four steps to take for the correct setup:

  1. Add the Google Analytics code to every website if you're with Shopify; watch this video on setting up conversion tracking on your store.
  2. Setup your conversion goals.
  3. Track your marketing campaigns through URL builder.
  4. Add ecommerce tracking.

Key Metrics you should pay attention to

There are four main sections on the GA dashboard. 

  • The audience section allows you to explore who your customers are and any information about their demographics, location, retention, and device technology.
  • You can see how your customers got to your site from the acquisition tab. You can view which channels they came from and compare various social media platforms for effectiveness. 
  • Behavior shows you what your customers do on your website. It displays the pages they visit, how often, and how long they stay on a page. These metrics help you understand the overall user experience.  
  • Conversion tracking helps you understand if your visitors take the actions you want them to take. By defining your funnels here, you can see how well the site encourages activities over time. 

We take a closer look at each section, and which metrics can help you enhance your marketing strategy.

Audience

Analytics Audience

Number of users and sessions

With this metric, you'll see how many unique individuals have visited your website over time. The number of times users actively engage with the site is called the sessions. So, for example, if there are 200 users and 400 sessions, then you can conclude that each user visited the site twice on average during a specific time.

Average session duration & pages per session

The average session duration is the time visitors spend on the website in a single session. The pages per session are the number of pages a user views during a single session.

The ratio of new vs. returning visitors

In the same panel, you can compare the two metrics side-by-side. Click on the “Select a metric” link, and on the drop-down menu, choose “New User.”

You can evaluate how well your campaigns drive existing or new traffic with the information provided here. These stats are essential since returning visitors can indicate an increase in lifetime value, and unique visitor traffic can indicate growth.

Bounce rate

A bounce rate shows the percentage of users who visit only one page on your website and leave without doing anything else. A high bounce rate could indicate a technical problem or content not sufficiently addressing your visitors' needs. 

Other reasons for a higher bounce rate include a page with no internal links or call-to-action and poor user-targeting marketing campaigns. 

If the figure is too high, segment your website users to see if you can discover the underlying issue. For example, on the overview page, you can see how well your site performs for mobile vs. desktop traffic or on different browsers.

Acquisition

Acquisition

Paid vs. organic sessions

Paid traffic is self-explanatory; it's the traffic you get from paid advertising you run through Google channels. On the other hand, organic users come from non-paid sources by clicking on the listing, particularly on the search engine results page (SERP). You'll find this information under the “All Traffic” section on the dashboard.   

The Organic Search stats show the effectiveness of your SEO strategy, and if it's low, you need to take a close look at your content. The Paid Search metric shows how effective your ad campaigns are. Both are important, but the organic stats are crucial to the long-term sustainability of your site. 

Other metrics you can study include:

  • Social: This shows you which social networks drive traffic to your site.
  • Direct: Here, you can see if any of your visitors came directly to your website. They would have typed your URL in the browser or clicked on a bookmark or email link. This traffic is a strong indicator of the strength of your brand.
  • Referral: When visitors click on a link on another site to get to your website, it's a referral. 

Google Ads

If you’re using a Google Ads account, you need to link it to your Google Analytics account so that you can access detailed metrics about your ads. This information can help you analyze customer activity on your site after they click an ad or create an impression.

In addition, the “Search Queries” option is useful when you need more in-depth data, such as conversion or click-through rates. 

Search Console

The Search console gives you more granular data on your organic searches. For example, you can analyze the queries to see which have good positions but low click-through rates or discover which landing pages have high click-through rates but poor positioning.

Behavior

Google Analytics Behavior

Average time on page

To help you understand how good the user experience is, you can examine the amount of time they spend on a page. This figure will show how well your marketing campaigns target relevant audiences. 

The longer the time spent on a page, the higher the engagement. You can study this metric for individual pages to see which content performs better or worse.

Site search queries

You can inspect the site search data from your website and track queries by looking at the keywords entered in the search bar. It shows you what content users expect to find on your site. It also gives you insight into which search terms lead to high engagement.

Landing pages

The landing page metric narrows down which pages receive the most traffic. In addition, it can help you determine content quality, marketing campaign effectiveness, and user experience.

Newsletters

You can determine the success of your email campaigns by setting up email tracking in your Google Analytics account. For example, you can break down the traffic by features such as demographics or browser type.

Conversions

Conversions

Goal conversion rate

Typically, ecommerce goals include a purchase or user registration. However, other sites could have objectives such as users downloading a piece of content or visiting a certain number of pages. 

Tracking the conversion rate (CR) over time allows you to evaluate how well your marketing efforts lead to goal-specific conversions. Together with other metrics, you'll be able to understand what factors affect the success or failure of conversion rates.

The limitations of Google Analytics

Even though Google Analytics is an invaluable tool for obtaining information, it does have some limitations. It's significantly limiting for large companies with strict access control and permission systems. 

Google Analytics (GA) doesn't provide a lot of control over multi-user access and won't be appropriate to share the dashboards with a large number of analysts. Another thing is that you can only query some dimensions and metrics together. 

Larger organizations integrate GA data into third-party apps such as Snowplow, Heap, or Mixpanel. This collaboration with other software allows the company to draw more valuable insights into its statistics. 

However, most businesses will need a cloud data warehouse for this type of integration to take place. The cloud provider must have extract, transform, and load (ETL) capabilities to extract the data from Google for analysis. 

Google Analytics - a marketers treasure chest

We've covered the most valuable metrics for marketers, but Google Analytics has much more information under the hood if you need it. In addition, there are layers in each section that you can explore to give you even more insights into customer behavior. 

You want to avoid spending so much time looking for magical data that you forget to implement simple changes that will improve your sales figures. Instead, use the information from the top-level data and once you've made those adjustments, only then dig deeper.

Jo Vucic

Jo Vucic

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