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Driving Your Business with Google Analytics

Published August 12, 2015
You’re tired of marketing in the dark. You don’t want to market by assumption or “gut feeling.” You want to make data-driven marketing decisions. But to do that, you need to get better at deciphering Google Analytics.
As you may or may not yet know, Google Analytics is your portal to understanding what is happening on your website—from trends in traffic, to content viewed, to the specific actions taken. All of this information can be pulled from Google Analytics to help you make key business decisions. But Google Analytics can be intimidating for those unfamiliar.
Fear not – anyone (yes, anyone) can learn to use Google Analytics with just a little help and explanation, and that’s why we’re here.
The post below will show you how to use Google Analytics to better understand what is happening on your website. Ultimately, what you learn from analytics should help you to stop making assumptions about your customers and drive smarter, data-backed marketing decisions.

 

Driving with Google Analytics

 

Identifying Trends

Using analytics can help you identify trends to inform your marketing efforts. Many businesses see customer interest increase or decrease based on seasonality. Google Analytics can show you when searches for your business niche pick up and when they drop.

To look for trends, set your desired timeframe for review and watch for peaks and drops in the graph. These points will show you when people are likely to be more or less interested in your brand.

To analyze seasonal trends, you’ll want to view at least one year’s worth of data. For example, the graph below shows organic search traffic for one year to a private college’s website. To access this report within the Google Analytics interface, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels and select Organic Search from the list.

We’ve also set the graph to show traffic by week instead of by day, using the selector at the top right of the graph. This setup allows us to look at the data on a big picture level, while still getting granular enough to note peaks in the graph.

 

One Year Stats from Google Analytics

 

On this graph, we can note a few trends:

  • Traffic picks up during the school year and drops off at the end of each semester.
  • Traffic drops off significantly around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
  • Searches peak right before the school year starts, as well as right toward the end of each semester. This data could reflect potential students searching for colleges at these times.

Based on this information, the college then should plan its marketing efforts around peak times when potential students might be researching the school. For instance, it appears that students are researching right at the end of their school year or near the beginning of a semester, attempting to finalize a last minute school decision.

Trends may also occur on a less macro level, such as by day of the week or month. In this next example, we see the registration cycle for a SaaS product over a two-month period.

We’re viewing conversions (Conversions > Goals >Overview) with a specific Goal selected. Also, note that here we’re portraying the graph on a daily level to show more granular trends.

 

Two Months Stats from Google Analytics

 

Of course, stats may vary over time, but we can make some general observations from the data:

  • Most conversions occur on weekdays, when people are in the office and more likely to be researching a B2B product.
  • Conversions peak around the beginning and end of each month, dropping off around the middle of the month.

From this data, we can determine that we should focus more heavily on marketing efforts such as paid search and social media posting around the beginning and end of each month.

Learning Your Customers’ Research Process

Besides learning when your customers are most likely to be looking for your company, you can also use analytics data to learn about how they are searching for your services. Ultimately, what they type into a Google search can be used to help you understand their process of researching a company with which to do business.

If you have connected Search Console to Google Analytics, you can view organic search queries directly in Google Analytics. Go to Acquisition > Search Engine Optimization > Queries. Note that you’ll only be able to see data for a 90-day period.

Once here, you’ll want to exclude your brand name, since most of the top queries will likely include your company’s name. To set up a filter, click “advanced” right below the graph. Within the options that appear, choose “Exclude,” select “Query” from the dimension dropdown, and set the next dropdown to “Containing.” Next, enter your brand name in the text box.

 

Exclude Branded Search in Google Analytics

 

Note that if people commonly misspell the name, you may need to add additional filters. Click “Apply,” and now you should only see non-branded queries.

Click the header on the “Impressions” column to sort by the most popular searches. Here, we can see queries for an HVAC company.

 

Google Analytics Organic Search Queries

 

Looking at this data, we can take away observations about how people are searching for a heating and cooling company:

  • Simply typing in “HVAC” is the most popular method of searching. In addition, two popular local searches include “HVAC.”
  • Those looking to repair heating units are more likely to use a term with some variation of “heating,” but many are using “furnace” as well.
  • Seven out of the top ten terms include town names.

Overall, we can see the need to optimize site copy around a variety of terms related to this industry, not just talking about being an HVAC company but also working in mentions of heating, furnaces, and air conditioning. In addition, we can see the importance of focusing on location mentions where possible in copy, since many consumers are searching for long-tail terms, including town names (like Poughkeepsie).

Learning from Customer Activity on Your Site

Next, you can make more informed decisions about marketing your business’s offerings by looking at where customers are going on your site. By seeing what pages they look at the most, you can determine what products and services they are most interested in.

To view the top pages, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. If you want to look at a specific subset of pages (in this example, academic programs for a private college), enter the appropriate portion of the URL into the filter box below the graph.

This method of filtering will, of course, vary from site to site. In the example below, we’ve entered “programs/,” which is contained in all the URLs specific to academic programs.

 

Google Analytics Program Pages

 

Here, we can see that the nursing associate degree program by far ranks as the most popular based on pageviews, followed by occupational therapy. Based on this data, we can report success on promoting the nursing program, while also identifying the opportunity to promote other programs more heavily. For example, if the college wants to promote the psychology program since the nursing program is naturally getting interest, we can recommend putting paid search and social efforts toward promoting psychology.

Conclusion

Google Analytics offers much opportunity to help you make more informed business decisions. Through website data, you can identify trends in performance to know when your best times are to advertise. In addition, you can learn specifics about your customers, knowing how they’re researching your brand, as well as what products and services they’re most likely to view on your site. Using this data, you can better plan your online marketing efforts.

This post has given you a start toward making data-driven business decisions. To go even deeper, check out the Google Analytics category on our blog!

ALSO IN THIS BLOG

When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:

 

 

It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.