Before I explain, I want to invite you to attend a free webinar next week.

Free Webinar: How to Use Google Analytics to Make Effective Marketing Decisions – 4 Steps All Marketers Should Take, But Probably Aren’t

Wednesday, May 25
11:00 a.m. Pacific/2:00 p.m. Eastern
Read all the details »

It’s a given that you should be using Google Analytics on your website, but it can be pretty overwhelming with all the data in the system. What’s important to pay attention to and what should beginner GA users ignore?

It’s easy to get hung up on things like bounce rate, website visits, and other metrics that really don’t help you make informed decisions about your marketing efforts.

This webinar will focus on the top four steps that all marketers should take to get their Google Analytics accounts set up for receiving meaningful data.

Tracking Meaningful Data: What does Google Analytics do?

Now back to the question at hand here, “Why is Google Analytics important for my business?” It’s a good question, but let’s back up just a tiny bit first.

What exactly is “analytics”? Wikipedia’s first two sentences say, “Analytics is the discovery, interpretation, and communication of meaningful patterns in data. Especially valuable in areas rich with recorded information, analytics relies on the simultaneous application of statistics, computer programming and operations research to quantify performance.” [the italics are mine]

What does that mean? Very simply, it means taking your marketing data and making meaningful decisions about that data. If you’re doing any kind of marketing whatsoever (paid, social media, SEO, email, etc.), you’d better be measuring it to make sure it’s working for you. If it’s not working, then change it, stop it, or do something else.

If you’re using Google Analytics (or any analytics data for that matter – there are many) to generate pretty graphs for the boss, then you’re probably missing the boat. It needs to be a regularly-scheduled activity to review your marketing results, track them, and make monthly adjustments. It’s also very easy to get very lost in all the data that GA gives you.

What Google Analytics Data Is Meaningless to Track?

Some of the most obvious data that many people focus on are probably the most meaningless from a marketing decision-making perspective. If you can’t make marketing decisions based on the data, you shouldn’t pay attention to it.

Website Traffic – Raw website traffic is pretty meaningless. If you’re seeing an upward trend or a downward trend, what should you do? You have to identify where that traffic is coming from: organic, paid ads, social media, etc. If you track the sources individually, you can see overall trends.

Make sure you compare a time period to the previous year’s time period. Comparing this quarter to last quarter may or may not be meaningful. You may have seasonal fluctuations or other trends that are skewing the comparison. But if you compare the last quarter to the previous year’s same quarter, now you can see some real trends, especially if you’ve put some new marketing tools in place since then.

Bounce Rate – It used to be that a “target” overall bounce rate for your website should be around 40%. That means that 60% of the people stuck around and checked you out. 40% came, puked, and left. This is really a completely meaningless “metric”. Different pages will have different bounce rates. What if your home page has a bounce rate of 50%? Is that good or bad? What can you do about it? Hm.

Your blog posts may have a 90% bounce rate. Is that bad? Maybe, maybe not. Typically, people will read your post and leave without doing more, so bounce rate can be very high. Do you have a single, strong call-to-action on every blog page to do something?

If your landing pages or squeeze pages have a 90% bounce rate, then maybe you should be concerned.

What Google Analytics Data Should You Track?

I used to run an SEO Meetup, and one guy always introduced himself as having driven 12 million visitors to his clients’ website. So what? That sounds impressive, but traffic doesn’t pay the mortgage. What’s most important to track are conversions. Did your customer get to the end result that you wanted, like a mouse finding the cheese in a maze?

Google Analytics Goals

If you’re putting money into any kind of marketing, how many people are converting into leads or even customers? This is pretty easy to track in Google Analytics by using Goals.

Let’s say that you have a free download sign-up form. People fill out the form and click “Submit”. When successfully completed, they land on a “Thank you” page reading “Thanks for filling out our request…” They just got the cheese because they got the reward of your free download. Every one of those people is now a lead that could turn into a potential customer.

In Google Analytics, you can have up to twenty Goals. Each goal is that an anonymous visitor to your website completed some task, like filling out a download form. If you know that one in ten leads turns into a customer, we can even put a dollar value to that. In your Google Analytics Goals, you can assign a dollar amount to each completed goal, and it will track the potential value to you.

Google Analytics Funnels

Once you’ve finished setting up Goals in Google Analytics, take it a step further and turn on Funnel Visualization. Set up a typical path that people would take to get to the Goal with web addresses. As an example:

  1. Visit the Home page
  2. Navigate to the Download Request page
  3. Complete the form and arrive at the “Thank you” page (You got the cheese!)

With Funnel Visualizations, you see how many people got to each step in the process, and how many people left without completing the steps. If everyone is bailing out on step 2 above, then you know that you have a problem on that page. Maybe the form isn’t working correctly, it’s too long, it’s not compelling enough, or people can’t figure it out.

Ask some people to test it for you and see what feedback you get. Fix any issues and then measure it again to see if your conversion rate (percentage of people completing the task) improves.

This is how Google Analytics is valuable to your business. Traffic and bounce rate really don’t mean much, but conversions do. That point when an anonymous visitor puts up their hand and says, “OK, I’m in!” is a critical piece of information that you need to be tracking, because they can turn into dollars down the road.

I hope you’ll join us on our free webinar, How to Use Google Analytics to Make Effective Marketing Decisions, next week and see how this all works and how you can set it up for yourself.

If you’re looking for more info on GA, E-Nor hosted a three day webinar on advanced Google Analytics functions, including creating Goals and Funnels. Read more about it here.