One of the goals of every marketing department is to effectively make decisions that will allow you to utilize ad dollars as efficiently as possible, and especially here in the world of search marketing, data is what drives decision-making. The more data you have, the better decisions you can make.
Sometimes the data is there, but is difficult to comprehend or sort through. Being able to understand and rationalize that data is often the biggest obstacle. A few choice reports and features in Google Analytics can help make sense of all that data you worked so hard to track, and guide you to start making better use of your marketing budgets.
Hopefully your company as a whole, or at least the marketing department, has a few goals that have been chosen to help determine the success of ad initiatives. It goes without saying that if you don’t have goals established, it’s going to be very difficult to determine if your work is worthwhile. So step one, if you don’t have goals to help determine how things are going, set up a meeting, grab some coffee and nail those down.
Now that you have your goal metrics or key performance indicators (KPI’s) established, what threshold will you set to help determine whether a campaign is successful or not? Will you be solely focused on conversion volume, or is cost-per-conversion a bigger factor? Knowing your ideal cost-per-conversion will help drive strategy and help determine if your efforts need tweaking and are worth continuing.
Whatever your analytics platform may be, there are ways to quickly analyze all of the data you are recording to help you make better decisions. Yes, you are getting X amount of visits each month, but where did they come from and what are those visitors doing once they get to your site? Now that you’ve recorded this data, you’ll want to narrow down on the traffic that is doing what you want, and figure out how to maximize results there moving forward. Here, I’ll go through a few features in Google Analytics specifically to help you make better and faster decisions based on your data.
One of the quickest ways to sort through data on a regular basis is to schedule reports. Whether you need to look at the data each day/week, or you need your boss to see certain metrics regularly, scheduling and emailing select reports is a great way to do that. It will trigger you to look at the data more often, and since you hand-picked the report, you know it will quickly give you the information you need. You can indicate the recipients, day of week, how often the report will be emailed, the file type, etc.
A lot of the default reports within Google Analytics may not give you the exact data on which you need to zero-in. Some of the reports may eventually lead you to that data if you dig around for a while, but that’s really time consuming and even when you do find your data, it’s really hard to find it again the next time you need it. This type of situation is when Custom Reports or Shortcuts are most useful.
With Custom Reports you can create and save a report with the exact dimensions, metrics, filters, etc. that narrow the data down where you need it. Note that these reports aren’t typically shared across all logins for that profile, so you’d have access to it but others may not. You can always schedule and email it to others, or send a link to share it so coworkers can save it for future use as well.
If you do eventually find the data you need through a traditional report and want to be able to find it again, you can choose to make that report a Shortcut (see below) and Analytics will create a shortcut to the report configuration you just arrived at. Thankfully, all customization will be saved for you, including any advanced segments/filters, secondary dimensions, sorting choices, etc.
Similar to the Shortcut feature, you can save a report as a dashboard widget. Dashboards quickly allow you see multiple different reports at a quick glance, all in the same view. You can either create a widget from scratch in your dashboard, or save a report you are viewing as a widget. For the latter choice, you will be able to click on the widget and it will direct you to the full report for further analysis, if desired. One great thing about dashboards is you can include up to 12 widgets, they are fully customizable, and you can create multiple private or shared dashboards. This comes in handy if you need dashboards to quickly view data you use often for internal reporting purposes, or if you need to create dashboards everyone can see, that are tailored to certain departments. For instance IT may want to review data such as top browsers, site speed, and devices used most often to access the site, while the PR team would rather see information such as how often news releases were viewed and from what source. This will help satisfy everyone’s requests without you having to pull reports right and left.
If you want Analytics to alert you when certain things happen, here’s where you have the option to set that up. There are already automatic alerts that Analytics will send (you can see those within the Overview section), but you can also set up custom alerts to be more along the lines of what you need. An example would be if you wanted to be alerted that your traffic from Facebook to a certain section of your site has dipped below a certain amount. Those are events you can try to closely monitor on your own, but this feature lets Analytics do the work while you are busy making strides in other areas.
No matter the data you need to hone in on to find out where you are being successful and what needs to be taken back to the drawing board, Google Analytics has many options to help make your life easier. Figure out what you want to measure, then what thresholds equate to success, and then take the time to set up these helpful reports; your future self (and boss) will thank you.