Author: Eric Erlebacher
There were three themes to the 2013 Google Analytics Summit: Access, Empower, and Act. In this post, we’ll give you the quick-and-dirty lowdown on all the feature updates.
What Data Can Show You:
- How to maximize effectiveness of budgets & bids.
- Optimizing campaign performance – whether it is paid, organic, or offline.
- User Experience – always be improving.
Google Tag Manager (GTM) – “The purpose of GTM is to help you deploy dynamic tags across all of your properties without touching the HTML – Babak Pahlavan, Google Analytics Director of Product Development. Google Tag Manager has been out for over a year now, and regularly serves over 500 Million hits each day.
Upgrade to UA from 3rd Gen “async” Analytics – Until now, you needed a fresh install (i.e., create a new property) if you wanted to enjoy all the new features that come with Universal Analytics. No longer! In the next few weeks, 100% of GA users should be able to upgrade from asynchronous (3rd-generation, or ga.js) tracking, to the newest version of GA with Universal Analytics.
Measurement Protocol – Cross Device Measurement – We’re all familiar with the growing trend of mobile devices and ecommerce behavior. The reason Measurement Protocol is so important is that it removes the tracking from the client side and instead traffic is measured on the server side.
Why is this important? In the majority of analytics setups when someone visits one of your properties, whether it’s your website or your app, a session is created and the browser drops a cookie. Ultimately, there’s no easy way to see if it was the same user who saw your website on the mobile phone was the same person who saw that site on the desktop. With measurement protocol we are now allowed to use the user-ID which allows us to connect multiple sessions and look at the user instead of disjointed, individual sessions. The data already tells us this story with direct traffic. Despite it being a very popular last-step in the conversion process, direct traffic conversions do not tell you much about your marketing efforts. In reality, the user interacted with multiple touch-points throughout the conversion funnel. With larger marketing agencies/programs, you will have a number of different campaigns, each within the following media: radio, print, large-format print/display, television, video ads, display ads, remarketing/retargeting, product listing ads, and so on and so forth.
Cross-device conversions reporting with AdWords – If you are involved in paid search campaigns, you are interested in cross-device tracking. You want to know – nay, need to know how people are interacting with your ads and ultimately your website in order to have successful campaigns. With this new feature, you can now see reports for Google logged-in visitors, and how many times they’ve seen your display ad or have clicked on a paid link. Before, these just appeared as disjointed visits, leaving the big picture obscurred. Combining this information with the wealth of data that Google Analytics provides about your site, we can get a true look at the big picture.
Google’s working to give people access to the segmentation and insights that allow them to provide a better experience for their users. Supporting this line of thinking, they have rolled-out a new way of arranging the reports you are already familiar with, calling it the “ABC Report.” This powerful new reporting-scheme breaks down traffic sources into three groups: Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversions. This isn’t as much a new feature, as it is a smarter way to view existing information, which is still a very important tool.
Although it’s just a new report, this report has some oomph behind it, and here’s why. You can now see, on one page, the aggregated conversion funnel of your entire site. Instead of looking at seemingly misplaced metrics, you are looking at a story. Like all well-organized stories, the story of your site has a beginning, middle, and end. Here, Google Analytics is calling the beginning, the “Acquisition,” the middle, the “Behavior,” and the ending, the “Conversion.”
Acquisition – This report highlights three metrics. Visits, % New Visits, and New Visits. These are what some call “vanity metrics,” others call them “soft metrics,” but I lovingly call them “dumb metrics.” Why are they dumb? They aren’t dumb; people are, for relying only upon these to drive decisions. Harsh, I know, but the reality of it is that looking only at this phase tells you nothing about the success of your site. Even if you have a difficult-to-measure conversion like brand awareness or information dissemination, visits alone do not tell you enough to make smart decisions about your site and your marketing. That brings us to…
Behavior – Alright, now we’re getting closer. The behavior report lets you dive one layer deeper into the funnel, allowing you to see such important metrics as Bounce Rate, Pages-per-Visit, and Average Visit Duration. Be careful though! These metrics are a double-edged sword. Why is that? Let’s look at the metric average visit duration as an example. Do you want this to be high, or low? Maybe somewhere in the middle? What’s a good number? These are difficult but important questions to be asking yourselves. The answer depends on context. For the support section of your site, I would say a high Average Visit Duration is bad. You want your visitors to be happy, and to keep people happy, you need to help them find their answer as quickly as possible. For the blog section of your site, however, I would say that the opposite is true. For unique-and content-heavy sections of sites such as blogs or other information-rich pages, a high Average Visit Duration would be a very good thing. This is why it’s important not only to look at these reports, but perform visitor and user segmentation on a regular basis.
Conversions – Finally, we have the homerun of analytics. If acquisition-level metrics are “dumb,” conversion-level metrics are MENSA-certified geniuses (or genii, technically). Here, we look at Transactions, Revenue, and Ecommerce Conversion Rate. Have you ever presented a dataset to a room full of glassy-eyed, slack-jawed stakeholders? I have. It’s not fun. Even the most uninterested and data-phobic people can appreciate dollars and cents. “Oh, what’s that you say? Organic search – while not directly responsible – assisted other marketing sources for more than $1,000,000 last month? Hmm, maybe we should take another look at this data.” Then, if it were me, I’d look at the content that these converted visitors were looking during the sessions prior to purchase. Don’t even get me started on conversion rate, it’s one of the most impactful metrics you have. We’re planning a huge post next month on Conversion Rate Optimization.
There are two types of segmentation. One, is user-level segmentation, which lets you look at things such as Lifetime Value (LTV) analysis, Cohorts or groupings, and sequences across sessions. All three of these are commonly overlooked details of how people use your product, whatever that may be. This information tells the story about what kinds of customers you have. This data provides you with insight into how you can acquire more of those types of customers, and teaches you how to reach them with your messaging.
The other type is session-level segmentation. This is the more basic level that most analytics users will already be familiar with: advanced segments and in-session sequences.
Enhanced Demographic Information – Google may have taken away organic search keyword data, but they have opened up a lot of other useful datasets to those who know where to look. By adding a small line of code to your tracker, you can enable Google Display Network (GDN) and remarketing support. For the first time ever, you are now allowed to see engagement metrics segmented by demographics such as age range or gender. You can even go as far as looking at the category interests Google has inferred about their users. This is an incredibly powerful dataset that can now be made available. If you are using remarketing or display advertising, you must implement this feature.
Unfortunately, at this time, Universal Analytics does not yet support this connection, though the GA development team have been alluding that something is in the works.
With this information, we find out how to immediately improve the performance of our site. For example, users who make it to the checkout cart but dropout at this point are 17% more likely to convert than the average visitor. That means if you can get them back to your site (retargeting, cough cough), there is an excellent chance they will convert. Furthermore, you can use the demographic data mentioned earlier to find which types of sites or categories you want to select for your retargeting campaigns, further improving the effectiveness of your overall marketing efforts.
Sources: Forrester, May 2010 Shopping Cart Abandonment, Advertise.com “10 Ways Remarketing will Boost Your Product Sales,” Google Analytics
Finally – and this is my favorite update – Google Analytics released the Analytics Education program, which enables instructional training to be viewed from directly within the Google Analytics UI. Believe me, you’re gonna need this with all of the changes, updates, and new features on the horizon for GA.
We hoped you enjoyed this article! Please let us know your thoughts about where analytics is headed, and how it can help you make smarter business decisions.