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Marketing Reporting Technologies: What are the Options?

Published March 17, 2017
Numbers may not lie, but how we present them can make all the difference. Data can easily become overwhelming for people who don’t love wading ankle deep in spreadsheets. That’s why part of a marketer’s job is finding the right way to report metrics that are clear, concise and informative. Fortunately there’s technology that helps our data tell its story.
Whether you’re measuring performance for a large or small business, accurate reporting is crucial. You need to start with a framework for thoroughly tracking how people got to your website, what they viewed, and what led them to convert (or hindered them from converting) into paying customers.
An overwhelming array of options faces marketers today. Of course, you can start with Google Analytics, the free go-to web tracking solution in use on millions of websites. While a properly configured Google Analytics setup will take most businesses a long way in monitoring online performance, it can’t solve all the problems faced by marketers.
How do you connect the dots to a transaction that occurred via face-to-face interaction months after an online form was submitted? How can you create a simple report template that makes sense to your CEO when a Google Analytics dashboard isn’t enough? In this article we’ll look at your different options along with how and when to use them.

 

Marketing Reporting Technologies

 

Google Analytics: Built-In Reports

A Google Analytics account is free and offers access to a wide range of data by default, including audience demographics, behavior, sources, and content. You can easily install the Analytics code on most websites by simply copying and pasting it into the right spot.

With custom configuration, you can also track conversion and revenue data. While tracking “thank you” pages for forms is relatively simple to set up, tracking revenue for ecommerce or SaaS sites can quickly become complex. Not every business model works well for full sales cycle tracking in Google Analytics, especially when a purchase takes place through an offline conversation months after the initial point of contact.

 

Google Analytics Dashboard

 

Dashboards allow you to see a quick snapshot of performance over a single timeframe, while segments and custom reports allow you to look at data on a deeper level than what is available in the default interface. For instance, you could look at top organic landing pages within a “blog” section of your site over the last six months.

Daniel Harris, Market Research Associate at Gartner Group’s Software Advice, uses Google Analytics heavily for measuring content performance and says, “Google Analytics custom reports are a quick way to do ad hoc analysis of trends.”

However, Analytics has its limitations in helping his team track to the point of final revenue. “Aside from quickly checking how a page or group of pages is performing, GA exports are of little use in content analytics. This is because we need to combine GA data with revenue data to get a full picture of content performance, and this can only be done in a dashboard, not within the GA interface (at least in our implementation).”

In addition, free Analytics accounts with high traffic volumes will sample data, meaning you may not see 100% accurate numbers when looking at certain timeframes or segments. Of course, at this point you can upgrade to Analytics 360 and avoid sampling, but the minimum pricing of $150,000/year is only realistic for enterprise level companies.

All conversion data is anonymous, which protects users but also inhibits the ability to tie in data from outside sources, like when a sale is closed from an online lead.

Finally, Google Analytics records data permanently with no option to “fix” data retroactively. If the tracking code wasn’t on a portion of your site, or if conversion tracking counted leads improperly, you can’t go back and correct the errors.

Understanding these limitations, let’s look at a few supplemental tools.

Supplemental Analytics Tools

To address the issues Google Analytics can’t handle, you can fill in the gaps with additional tools, which can assist with anything from competitor research to better conversion tracking.

Daniel says, “In addition to GA, our team also leverages BrightEdge. BrightEdge is a highly reliable tool, and I've found its reporting features for keyword volume to be on par with AdWords (and far more flexible). The BrightEdge data cube is also a great tool for benchmarking content performance against competitors.” Other useful tools for evaluating keywords and competitor data are SEMrush and AHREFs, which help provide perspective on the larger landscape of the web beyond your own data.

For tracking website performance, tools like KISSmetrics and Mixpanel can fill in the gaps in Google Analytics tracking. As we mentioned, Google Analytics keeps all personal user data anonymous, while these tools can tie actions to a specific person. For instance, you can look up an individual and see what pages they viewed, as well as connecting multiple conversion actions to that person. In addition, you can more easily add purchase data retroactively, associating it with an individual.

Implementing referral tracking into a CRM allows you to see what source led a user to a point of conversion. This way, you can look up a lead and determine if they found out about you via organic search, paid search, or another source.

Standalone Reporting Platforms

A standalone reporting platform can bridge the gap between the limitations of Google Analytics on its own and the need to integrate data from outside sources. By building a report within a platform like Megalytic, you can customize data on a level beyond what’s available in Google Analytics. In addition, you can upload spreadsheets and images to include data tracked in a CRM or another reporting platform.

 

Megalytic Example

 

Benefits above and beyond Google Analytics include:

  • Feature multiple date ranges within the same report
  • Apply different filters to separate widgets within a report (for instance, showing organic top pages and paid top pages)
  • Choose from different charts such as bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts, tables, and more
  • Integrate other sources like AdWords and Facebook
  • Add commentary in sections throughout a report
  • Create custom report templates that include client-specific branding

Referencing a recent report on analytics dashboard solutions, Daniel says, “Building reports and dashboards with GA data can be time-consuming and difficult. . . . For businesses without the advantage of a reliable system of record, and for businesses that haven't integrated their data warehouse for storing conversions/purchases/etc. with their GA implementation, services like those that Megalytic provides can be a game-changer, especially if valuable in-house resources are currently being dedicated to data integration."

Conclusion

As you review the options available for marketing reporting technologies, first consider your needs. What data do you need to track? How complex is the process of moving from to lead to sale? Next, review the platforms available to measure the data you require.

Finally, consider your reporting needs. What sources do you need to tie in? Who needs to be able to understand your reports? By tying platforms together and carefully tracking data, you can succeed with measurement and reporting that proves a return on investment.

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.
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.

 

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.