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How to be a Google Analytics pro: 4 tips from Tactic Lab

Don't just scratch the surface of what Google Analytics can do.

Too many organisations just scratch the surface of what Google Analytics can do. Here, Sydney-based digital analytics specialist, Tactic Lab, reveal their top hacks for content marketers.

Google Analytics is free (though it may take some time and skill to customise and use). It is powerful.

“Sure, we do Google Analytics!” the company hears from many a business. Yet when they go to take a look, it soon becomes clear that these businesses have barely entered into the Aladdin’s Cave of the service. Meanwhile, only a pinch of time and effort away, a rich repository of data awaits them. Once unlocked through customisation, Google Analytics can open up a whole new world of understanding into how audiences are interacting with your content, which can then be fed back into strategy, reporting and return on investment. Here are Tactic Lab’s top 4 tips:

1. Customise Google Analytics to capture ROI

Anyone who sets up a Google Analytics account gets immediate access to its default settings. It is the most basic configuration of the service there is. Fair dinkum: the overview of website data it gives you isn’t terrible. Far from it. For instance, in default you can see how most users arrived at your website, their approximate location, what device they accessed it on, what pages were visited and in what order.

The main problem with Google Analytics’ default settings however, is that they give you little to no insight into your website’s return on investment. With ROI being a pivot point around which most businesses turn, this fact should be the cattle-prod for any content marketer to start customising their account settings.

Here, Aisling Wallace lists the following as just a few of the insights you can crack open through customisation:

  • User actions on a page – These can be a PDF download, a Facebook link click, email signup, video play, and more.
    Ecommerce transactions – For businesses, this will most often relate to online store purchases. For associations, this could be around online donations.
  • Advertising costs – Google advertising costs can be imported into Google Analytics by linking accounts. But you can also import advertising cost data from social media platforms like Facebook. Through integrating this data, businesses can use Google Analytics as a single central hub to measure their ROI.
  • Aggregate data – You can bundle your website content into categories that make sense for the business. The ability to group content or channels can be one of the most useful for content marketers, since there may be whole areas of the website which may be outside the scope of their work.
  • Offline and cross-device interaction – This feature works in the service of content attribution and broad user journey mapping. Through it, you can link online and offline user behaviour – as when a user registers for an event online and then shows up on the day. This requires a lot more setup than the other reports, and is only relevant for some industries.
  • Demographics – You can opt-in to the broad ‘slicing and dicing’ demographics function offered by Google Analytics. It is only as accurate as the Doubleclick cookie estimates but it a good place to start when looking at your different audiences. You can find out what demographic Google thinks you are here.
  • Remarketing – A feature that works in tandem with Google AdWords and/or Doubleclick (a separate service), this attaches a cookie to site visitors so that you can serve them retargeted ads on other places on the web.
  • Custom user data – With the audience your website attracts, you can capture additional non-personally-identifiable data about your visitors (eg. their membership level) and thereby slice and dice them into meaningful segments for analysis and campaign optimisation.
  • Campaign goal-setting – This feature enables marketers to set up specific goals for a website – whether that’s enewsletter subscriptions, publication downloads or donations.

2. Assign values to content goals

One of the biggest challenges facing content marketers is around attribution. Proving return on investment for the work that your team is doing: it’s tough. Google Analytics makes this easier.

“Perhaps the strongest recommendation we can give content marketers,” says Wallace, “is adding value to your goals, and matching this with Google Analytics data.” If one of your goals is pdf downloads, then when a user does download one, that is without a doubt a valuable action. Why not put an actual dollar value on it?

Now, this value can just be an estimate, says Wallace, and requires no complex algebra. Instead, you can get at it by asking asking yourself (or your client, or your boss): how much is this action worth to the business?

Through assigning values to content goals, suddenly, your reporting is able to convey an actual fiscal return for the business. To the c-suite, that’s a much more compelling argument.

3. Create quality reports

On that topic of reports, Google Analytics does auto-generate a default suite. You can download them and show them at your next company meeting. However, they will be unlikely to cut-through in their default format.
Wallace recommends that marketers “pull the data out into customised reports, clustering the data to reflect the customer journey”. To do this, she points to another Google service which has emerged to serve this need. Called Google Data Studio, it can transform dull spreadsheets into eye-friendly charts, graphs and story-driven visuals and, more importantly, help you relay data that your c-suite will give a fig about (and not a jot more). It is moreover fully integrated with Google Analytics – meaning all report data is dynamic and synced in real time.

Interested? Visit the walk-through page.

4. Use the data to inform your content strategy

So. That’s quite a lot of data you can gather.

“Ask ‘Can I track that?’, and the answer is almost always yes,” says Wallace. “It is so easy to get carried away and end up with more data than you’ll ever practically need.”

To draw meaningful data from Google Analytics (and avoid drowning in an ocean of irrelevance), you have to be clear about your content program’s core activities and KPIs. Here, the goals feature (listed above) comes in handy, as it lets marketers match goal completions with traffic source. If you’re getting the majority of your event signups from Facebook advertising, for instance, then you have a clear motivation to amplify the ad further, or use it as a model for a similar future campaign.

Other Google Analytics features can also help with putting money where the payoff is sweetest. Say your attribution reports are telling you that Facebook has delivered the year’s cheapest cost per acquisition (CPA). At the next budget planning meeting, you can say with confidence: “Our Facebook game is incredibly strong when it comes to delivering dollar value. Look at these numbers! We should invest more next year.”

Google Analytics data can inform your content strategy and calendar too. Using the ‘content grouping’ feature, marketers can render an up-to-date and reliable picture of which topics and/or content types are contributing most to business goals.

To run an example, imagine you’re a multinational pet product company. As part of your content marketing, you have a blog covering topics ranging from pet care, to nutrition, to play, to grooming, to health. For the next few quarters, your business goals are primarily around sales. Through parsing the data with Google Analytics, you discover that while it is the ‘play’ category that gets the most website traffic, it is ‘health’ that generates the most return on investment. With this insight driving confident decision-making, you do a tweak of your content calendar, expanding the ratio of this high-performing category.

Here are our favourite metrics to look at to find out if your videos are performing the way you want them to.
All the data in the world is useless if it’s not easily understood.
For a better way of measuring content performance; think vision.
Pharmaceutical Society of Australia