Things your web team didn’t tell you about Google Analytics.

Photograph: Monkey seems to whisper into the ear of another monkey.You have a lovely shiny website. Your in-house team or your external contractors wired it up to Google Analytics account and handed over to you (in marketing, digital or comms). They may even have muttered something mysterious as they left.

But there are some things they didn’t tell you.

They (probably) don’t actually know much about Google Analytics.

Now some of my best friends build websites and I promise you that they know a lot of clever things. (I am already wincing in anticipation of their outrage as they read this, but let me explain).

Your web team definitely know some things about Google Analytics. They installed the tracking script. They made sure it worked and, I imagine, they can talk with great confidence about bounce rates, pageviews and unique users.

Which is the sort of thing webby people care about.

But that’s not even half of what you can find out about your users. Analytics tells you who is visiting, how they got there, and what they do on the site. And it blends those data so if you want to know “these people that signed up for our newsletter, where did they come from?” it will tell you that.

Google Analytics is an immensely powerful tool and your web team probably knows how to get the most out of it for web things. But there is so much more.

They are oblivious to the joys of Campaign Tagging

One of the many fascinating things about Google Analytics is that the useful stuff doesn’t happen on your website. It happens in Google’s data centres.

The tracking script your team installed collects a bunch of stuff each time your users visit a page and sends it off to Google who turn it into useful reports for you.

But the tracking script is limited by what the user’s web browser will tell it. And that is limited by what it knows.

One of the areas that is a real problem is “referers”. Essentially the Google Analytics script asks the browser, what page brought you to this site ? But the browser often doesn’t know, especially if the user clicked on a link in the Facebook app or in an email (like the ones you send out to get people to your site).

So you are missing some crucial data.

But don’t call your web team, they can’t help you.

The solution is in your own hands. You need Campaign Tagging. Essentially you add some codes to the end of the links you share. The tracking script sees these and uses them to understand where the user found the link.

It’s all handled away from your website so your web team is quietly oblivious.

They are unmoved by the awesomeness of attribution modelling

Create some goals (you know, the things you want people to actually be able to do on the website) and Google Analytics will tell you amazing things about your users.

It will tell you which pages are really helping get people to the goal and which pages are really causing a problem.

It will tell you which marketing channels are really working for you and which are a waste of time (and money). And it’s pretty sophisticated. Let’s say you run an advert on facebook which brings people to your website but they don’t go on to buy your thing. Should you give up on that advertising channel? What if those people come back and are more likely to buy next time? You could be cutting off your nose to spite your face.

Google Analytics will give you the answer to this.

But, I’m afraid, your web team probably won’t.

And if you want a little help, give me a call.

Image credit: Can you keep a secret? by jinterwas used under a Creative Commons licence

the 5 most important things I learned about comms in an emergency

(I forgot to add this at the time, I’ve put it here for completeness, apologies if it is clogging up your RSS feed)

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I published a piece over on Comms2Point0 looking at some of the key things I have learned about delivering comms in an emergency for a category one responder.

Read The five most important things I learned about comms in an emergency now.