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9 ½ Reasons Why Google Analytics is Awesome!

May 19, 2014

how to use google analytics and get a google analytics certification

1. It’s Free

Yes! Free like Zilch, Zero, Nada… You’re welcome!

A similar software will cost you a minimum of $30K a year and Google gives it to you all for no money… Sure, there must be a catch.

Yes there is. First, it comes with no support whatsoever. Need help to set it up? You’re on your own. Something is wrong with how the data is collected… (sound of crickets in the background). Of course you can always spend the money you just saved to hire someone to help you.

Second, Google will be collecting data about your business. Their terms and conditions express clearly that they are not collecting personally identifiable information. So they will not steal customers from you. Just be aware that the data is consolidated and allows Google to spot trends in a vast array of industries and these trends are shared among their clients… That means your competition.

If you still want to use Google Analytics but need support and none of the data sharing, go for the paying version here (be ready for a sticker shock).

2) More Bells and Whistle than a Circus Parade

Everything you always wanted to know about your “Audience”, their “Behavior” on your website or mobile and the “Outcome” of their visits is available right out of the box.  As long as you tag your site properly.

Example: Audience demographics can be reported from the DoubleClick third party cookie installed on millions of browsers. That represents not only great and reliable help for understanding your target market, it will also assist you in retargeting dropouts browsing other sites.

At each level, you can assign goals aligned with your business targets and measure your progress.

When you are ready to measure your progress, customizable dashboards let you create  precise reports for specific people in your organization.

When there is a bump in the road (important metrics for your business dip abnormally), customizable alerts will fire right into your email.

This amount of data flowing daily into your account can be overwhelming; fear not, you can create shortcuts that let you go directly to your favorite reports.

3) Segmentation Galore

Let me say it loud and clear: all data in aggregate is useless.  Data segmentation is the only way to get to the very substance upon which all great business are built: understanding a particular segment of customers to serve them better than the competition.

Google Analytics lets you slice and dice every report (and save them) so you can find the answer to vertigo inducing questions such as “What is the best day to run a flash sale for customers that found us via search, stayed at least 2 minutes on the site and live in the Chicago area?”

4) “In God We Trust, All Others Bring Data”

Sound business decisions should be based on data. But when it comes to design, user experience, text or the type of image used on a site, the information collected can often be inconclusive and does not lead to informed decisions.

This is when, the dreaded Hippo (HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion) shows its ugly head: “I like yellow buttons”, said the CEO, so all buttons should be yellow”

Google Analytics lets you set up and run Experiments on your site or mobile as easily as pulling a report. Results are insightful, sometimes a little surprising (after all the CEO was right) and statistically significant as long as you let the Experiment run for at least 2 weeks with enough traffic.

You can assign existing Goals to the Experiments to insure that the “yellow button” will not only out click the “red button”, but also generate more sales.

5) Customization with a Better Fit than a Bond Street Tailor

There are 3 methods to highly customized reporting via Google Analytics. The first way is report customization which allows you to build reports from scratch, on top of the plethora of reports already available, using all available metrics and dimensions. Creating custom reports is a fun process, so go ahead and make some. Templates built by analytics experts are also available online.

The second method is through the use of “Custom Variables”. This way plugs Google Analytics into external systems such as your CRM to augment your data with personalized information. The scope can be users, sessions or page views and you pass demographic or customer information that is stored in your system.  At the session level you can track if users have been adding to their cart or visited specific pages on the site.

The third method is “Events” tracking. While there is some overlap with Custom Variables, Events tracking goes much deeper into the tracking of everything under the sun. With Event tracking you can pass any type of data to Google Analytics including clicks on links, errors triggered by user interactions, videos viewed, input in boxes, zoom on maps, etc… If you have a multimedia site and a shopping cart, Event tracking can tell you if people watching over one minute of video are more likely to put an item in the cart.

6) Google Tag Manager

In the past, tracking everything “as needed” meant a lot of IT involvement to update  scripts, data layer, test the change and move to production. Adding a simple Javascript Push could take a couple of weeks.

Enter Google Tag Manager: the ultimate Google Analytics sidekick.

What it does is replace all your tags with a single piece of code called a container that mere mortals like Marketing people can maintain remotely.

Example: You need to add a third party cookie to track a new retargeting campaign on Facebook, just add it to the container, test and if all looks good publish the new version. This will take you less than 15 minutes.

It will involve some training and initial help from the IT team (you will be de-tagging the site after all) but once it is set up and with a good QA process in place you will be in control of data collection. Did I mention it’s also free?

7)  Sync with Adwords

Yes,  Adwords is the most powerful online advertising tool in the universe. But it can also be bloated, sluggish and clunky. Sure, you will come up with the answer to “What is the cyclicality of impressions related to this particular paid keyword in Kansas?” but it’s going to take you a whole lotta searchin’ and clickin’…

Now if you sync Adwords with Google Analytics (a very simple task), a data rainbow will appear in the sky and most information from your search campaigns will magically appear in your analytics reports. Best of all, reports will update faster (there is a 24 hour lag in Adwords) and all the new data points will play nicely with the other metrics and dimensions in Google Analytics.

8)  Sync with Google Webmaster Tool

The Google Webmaster Tool is yet another free tool from Google that will help you optimize your site so you can get free traffic instead of paying for it (you would think Google would be broke by now…).

As its name implies, this application was originally built to help webmasters shape up their code and maintain their web sites. Now it has become a rare glimpse into Google organic traffic since the company moved to “secure search” to ease some privacy concerns expressed by users.

To get a peek behind the veil, you have first to verify your site in the Google Webmaster tool and sync both accounts.

Go the reports and focus on the volume of queries. It is crucial to see for what type of organic search your site is showing up. This report will help you optimize your content and link building efforts.

9) Real Time Reporting

Google knows that you can’t wait to see if the campaign you’ve launched one hour ago is already showing encouraging signs of success (the yellow loving CEO just emailed about it).

Real Time Reporting is like a mini live version inside Google Analytics. It shows you how many users are currently on your site, where they are coming from and what pages they are going to. If you are tracking site errors using Events – and you should –  this report will become as precious as a canary in a coal mine.

Warning! You are going to be glued to your screen, just don’t forget to go to lunch…

9 ½) Multi-Device Tracking

There are more mobile users than desktop users browsing the web today. But wait… Sometimes it’s the same person jumping back and forth between devices as the day progresses. How do you know you are not adding him/her many times over to your count of users, page views, etc…?

Surely you need some smart tracking to follow his/her scent. The new version of Google Analytics dubbed Universal Analytics or UA, is doing just that. It introduces a User ID that associates multiple sessions and activities into a unique ID and delivers the result in a Cross Device Report.

Holistic tracking between desktop, mobile and tablet is not the only vast improvement delivered by UA. New levels of customization are also available. If you have not updated to UA, now is the time to do it.

For more business insights and strategies, sign up for our free management newsletter, Moving Ahead.

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About The Author

Frederick Buhr created one of the first full service web agencies in Europe in 1998. Until 2013, he served as Vice President eBusiness for RailEurope, the global distribution system for 50 European railroads. Recently, he served as advisor and acting CMO for Wanderu.com, the meta search engine for inter-city bus and rail travel. Frederick is now VP of Digital Marketing at Zubie, a leading wireless based telematics application connecting cars and drivers. In addition to being a ground transportation expert, Frederick is Google Analytics certified and Adwords Advanced certified making him a Google Partner.

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