How to use Google Analytics to define your marketing strategy
Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful but often underused tool. For content marketers, it can provide invaluable SEO and UX insights that can be used to inform your digital marketing campaigns.
This article will not be an exhaustive list of how to use Google Analytics to define your marketing strategy, but rather a starting point alongside some top tips to improve your insights using Google’s standard reports.
First things first, a note on terminology and report functions...
The difference between filters and segments
There are important, functional differences between filters and segments in Google Analytics. Both offer ways to dissect your website data, and they can often be used interchangeably.
Segments can be applied retroactively to your data, whereas filters cannot.
Segments are also not permanent - you can apply them and remove them as much as required. Note that granularity within segments can sometimes be limited, due to data sampling issues.
A Google Analytics filter, applied via View Settings, permanently changes the data collection, rather than just the data reporting.
Example uses include filtering out (internal) traffic coming from your office IP address. Filters in this sense cannot be applied retroactively, nor can you remove the impact of a filter once you’ve configured it. Because of this, you need to ensure you have a raw data view for every Google Analytics property.
The difference between Google Analytics’ metrics and dimensions
Another important distinction needs to be made between metrics and dimensions in traffic reporting. Metrics are quantitative measurements of data, e.g. sessions, whereas dimensions are a category or attribute of your data, e.g. age.
The acquisition report
The acquisition report details the sources driving your traffic, from organic to social, referrals and various paid sources.
Analysing your page and content types by source can be particularly useful in diagnosing underperforming pages, as well as identifying areas that your marketing strategy needs to focus on.
Questions to ask yourself with regards to the acquisition report include:
- What are your main traffic sources?
- What are your underperforming traffic sources?
At ESM Inbound, the first channel we review is organic, in order to determine the effectiveness of a client’s SEO and inbound efforts. Find out which pages are performing well here and ask:
- Which are your best performing service pages?
- Which blog articles are capturing the most search traffic?
Do the same for your least successful blog post and service pages.
Now, what are the conversion rates like for these pages? If your traffic-heavy pages are not converting, then your next marketing strategy should focus on UX and CRO, and any well-converting, low traffic pages may need an SEO and keyword review.
Cross referencing these pages with Search Console query data can help you identify ideas to expand your topic clusters, too. Is your content ranking for search terms that aren’t quite covered in the copy? If there’s clear search intent for queries you have yet to write about, use this insight to flesh out your marketing strategy.
Top tip: You can see some keyword data from Google Analytics but it's limited and often unhelpfully listed as 'not provided'. Using Search Console (and linking your Google Analytics and Search Console accounts together) will give you better keyword insights.
The behaviour report
The behaviour report offers marketers a wealth of information about what your users do on your website, what they are looking for, what they are unable to find, and so on.
Starting with the Site Content tab, look at All Pages. From here, sort the data by highest % Exit Rate. An exit is the ‘metric referring to the number of times visitors have left a site from a single page’. It’s unreasonable to expect users to stay on your website forever, no matter how great your content is! However, you can and should be monitoring your exit pages in order to reduce the number of so-called leaking pages.
Leaking pages are pages where you are losing traffic before the desired action (conversion, sale, interaction) has taken place, and are distinct from, for example, thank you pages or order confirmation pages. The latter two pages are at the end of a conversion journey and therefore it is expected and commonplace for a user to exit your site here - to then be re-engaged through email marketing at a later stage.
Look through your URLs with the highest % exit rate, are there any surprises here?
Top tip: If you’re seeing a high cardinality of URLs here, it may be time to exclude URL query parameters.
Assuming you have site search enabled on your website (you should), the site search report is another invaluable source of marketing strategy ideas.
The search terms report details the queries entered into your website’s search bar: these are what people are looking for on your website. There are multiple ways to view this data:
- Do you provide the services/products/information that people are looking for? How easy are these to find on your website? Do they need better signposting from the homepage or main navigation? Is a broader UX audit required?
- If you do not currently have content answering the entered queries, then it is time to create some!
- If you do not offer the services or products that are being searched for, and you currently do not offer suitable alternatives, this could be an opportunity for marketing to communicate with sales and decision makers at the company.
Another important report to analyse is the Search Pages within the site search report. These are the pages from which visitors search your website and can indicate where you need some serious CRO and UX work.
The conversion report
Similarly to reviewing your pages’ organic success, analysing your conversions and goals by URL can help direct your marketing strategy. Which pages are driving the most conversions? You can find this data under Overview > Goal Completion Location.
Next, dig down to source/medium conversion data: are your social media visitors converting more on one particular conversion type than on others, for example? What type of content is this? Where do they fall in the inbound marketing buyer's journey (awareness, consideration, or decision stage)?
The assisted conversions report can provide particularly valuable strategy insight with regards to your overall marketing practices. Here you can see the complete journey and individual touch points customers take before converting.
By using these reports in conjunction with each other, looking for patterns and trends, you can begin to strengthen your marketing strategies. A data-driven approach can skyrocket the success of your campaigns, and Google Analytics is just one of the many tools that belongs in your armoury.
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