The world is divided into two groups of people
The first group has Google Analytics wired into their website. They have dashboards set up that they check daily. They run weekly and monthly reports and pour over the data with confidence and enthusiasm. They advise managers in their organisation of changes that should be implemented in the website and in services in general based on the insights from this data. And then they see the fruits of their labour reflected in the reports they run next month.
The second group also has Google Analytics wired into their website. This group logs in every so often and pokes about in the back-end in a desultory fashion. They look at some graphs which seem to be going in the right direction and print them out and send them to some people who examine them in a somewhat confused manner. Nobody changes anything as a result of insights gained from the data.
I’m going to guess that you are in the second group. Most people are. Google Analytics is extremely widely used and very powerful but it’s very power can make it seem confusing. Even if you are confident interpreting what it is telling you affecting change in the rest of the organisation can be tricky.
Here are four simple things you could do differently that should help
1. Never look at Google Analytics unless you have a question that needs answering.
Google Analytics is a reporting tool. It tells you what happened and when. It reports an awful lot of things. Most of these things aren’t relevant to you right now (possibly ever). Decide what it is that you want to know and your journey into the data will be smooth and pain-free.
2. Decide what you think the answer should be before you look
Have you just run a marketing campaign? Did it go to plan. Logically then lots more people should have visited the service you were promoting right? You would expect to see sessions and probably pageviews increase. You would expect to see lots of people visiting your site via Facebook (if that’s where you ran the Campaign) and so on.
Decide what you think success would look like and then you are looking for a yes/no answer: did it happen as I was expecting?
3. Be clear about what the link is to the organisation / service objective
It’s nice when people visit your website but there has to be more to it than that. If you sell things then, presumably, the service objective would be to… er… sell more things.
In other walks of life (say local government), perhaps you hope that people will be less likely to phone you if they’ve gone online (and so will save you money) or will be able to do something new that will help them in their lives.
If you can’t see the link to the organisation / service objective then you’re going to find it hard to do anything useful with the Google Analytics insights. If that is where you are, put the analytics book down and go and talk to the service.
4. Understand what you will do with the answer
Essentially you can recommend three broad things as a result of what the data show:
- carry on doing the same thing (because what you are doing is working)
- do something different (because what you are doing is not working)
- stop doing anything (because what you did worked so well the job is done)
Make sure you know will actually make that decision in your organisation. If you know what the link to the service or organisation objective is And then understand what information they are going to want from you.
Some people might simply want an email saying
“I’ve had a look at the website stats, things aren’t going to plan. Unless we do something different you’re not going to meet your service target. I suggest we switch our focus to Twitter for the next few weeks”.
Some people (like me) will want a graph for every step of the way
“ Before we started the campaign visits to the page looked like this: [GRAPH]. We have been running the Campaign for four weeks and visits have changed like this [GRAPH]. As you can see the few people that have used the service came via Twitter [GRAPH] so I recommend we switch our emphasis to Twitter for the next few weeks. I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that your service target is for lots more people to use this service [GRAPH]”
And some people just love the numbers instead (accountants especially).
Every journey starts with a first step
These steps will not turn you into a Google Analytics ninja overnight. But they will mean that your relationship with the platform starts to become more productive. Gradually, step by step, it will become less confusing and more useful. And before you know it you will be well on the way to joining that hallowed group of people making analytics work for them and their organisation.