An Analysis of Google Analytics Features
Google Analytics is a free, but incredibly powerful tool that can provide you with a wealth of detailed data about your website or sites that you can then use for marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) purposes. Analytics is available to anyone with a Google account. The program includes quite a few innovative features – some that were included from the first Analytics release, and others that have been added more recently. Understanding these features, their use and their purposes can help you take better advantage of Google Analytics’ power.
Many companies that maintain an online presence use Google’s Adwords program to generate traffic to their sites by posting ads next to relevant search results pages. Analytics can help you determine exactly which keywords or search phrases are generating the most traffic – as well as which generate traffic that converts the best into actual paying customers.
Google Analytics can also help you track your bounce rate. Bounce rate simply refers to how many visitors leave your site’s home page without clicking through to other sections; it is calculated by dividing the number of visitors who view a single page by the total page entries. Bounce rate can be an effective measure of success for campaign landing pages where a call-to-action is required, such as downloading a coupon, filling out a registration form or clicking on detailed content links.
Clients can now create up to 20 customized dashboards on Google Analytics. This allows you to develop unique widgets and formats that are the most effective for various sites, pages and situations, while still using the same analytics login to quickly access site performance statistics that relate to your existing agendas.
Instead of requiring you to view a long menu of keywords to target trends, Analytics now allows you to evaluate a keyword cloud. This cloud helps you visualize priority keywords based on criteria you select, such as bounce rates, total visits and pages per visit.
Data from Google Analytics used to be delayed by up to 24 hours. In other words, a visitor to your site would not be reported until the next day. Now, however, Analytics offers real-time reports, allowing you to monitor your site’s traffic virtually as it arrives. You can then target and tweak the most effective pages, referrals, keywords and regional locations driving the traffic to help improve your site and its promotional activities.
Site speed monitoring is another standard feature of Google Analytics reporting, so it requires no additional code to be added to the sites studied. You can use these site speed reports to track the average web page load time; this is an essential piece of information since a slow loading page can be severely penalized in both paid and organic rankings on major search engines. Even a one-second delay can result in significant conversion reduction.
Google Analytics’ site speed monitoring tools allow you to view page-load time from a variety of perspectives, such as from any user interaction event, from different browsers or even from different countries. This data is available in the Overview and Page Timings reports, allowing you to see which pages being loaded are having the most critical impact.
Studying these varying perspectives on page load time can help you take effective and very specific measures to enhance your site performance as necessary. This can prove invaluable for your marketing campaigns both for the short and the long term. For example, if some pages display longer load times in certain browsers, your webmaster can investigate potential causes to streamline how these pages are delivered to minimize such browser issues. Or, if certain ISPs or key geographic areas are displaying high page load times, you may decide to deliver alternate page versions that are more compatible with lower bandwidth.
Using the menu search tool in Google Analytics makes it very easy to target the proper report and correct profile without scrolling through hundreds of options to find the right one. You also have the ability to navigate through multiple profiles while maintaining the settings of the same report.
Google Analytics now includes the new Google Webmaster Tools that can help you gather data more effectively. Webmaster Tools provide data on average positions, clickthrough rate and impressions, just to name a few covered areas, helping you get a better handle on which Google property drove your site’s traffic. Although the ratio reports collected by Webmaster Tools can contain marginal inaccuracies and are currently limited to certain features of Google Analytics, they do provide enough details about lost data due to search updates and relative trends to be an extremely valuable weapon in your arsenal as you fight to increase your site’s total traffic and traffic value.
Google Analytics' new social reports give a detailed history of which social network source and action took place among visitors while on a site. This gives you an easy way to tell how many of your site’s visitors “Liked” or “+1'd” a particular piece of content, as well as how many pages were browsed to prompt this particular action. In addition, social media plugins like “AddThis” and “ShareThis” can pass on social interactions information when integrated with Google Analytics with minimal changes. Because the average consumer communicates on one or more social networks, companies of all different sizes now recognize the need to increase their focus on analyzing social media interactions to optimize their marketing strategies.
Flow Visualization recently became available to Google Analytics users as well. It includes two reports. One is Visitors Flow, which can be used to visualize the "flow" of site traffic. The other is Goal Flow. Designed to be an improvement to the original Funnel Visualization reports, Goal Flow reports simplify the evaluation of a conversion funnel by helping businesses target the step at which page people are typically abandoning their carts. Since many ecommerce sites include several pages before the consumer reaches checkout, Goal Flow analysis can help streamline and improve this process, improving your total sales conversions.
You likely will sometimes want to be able to retrieve specific data details, such as the number of people downloading a PDF, how many individuals viewed a site video for more than thirty seconds and the like. Events like these can now be easily tracked without influencing other metrics. Before the event tracking feature, users interested in creating a virtual page view could only do so using special code to track goal site interaction that did not deliver a new URL. This resulted in inflated numbers in Google Analytics.
Events Tracking provides a much more advanced means of accomplishing this goal. The feature is especially useful for analyzing how visitors go about browsing your site, allowing you to see how often visitors click on links to download product brochures or interact with AJAX and Flash elements. You can even set up event tracking to provide a more detailed look at how visitors behave on different pages.
Multi-Channel Funnels are consecutive reports that can help provide marketing information about the exact funnel that led to a conversion. For instance, a person may visits a particular site initially from an organic search listing, then from a paid search ad, then from a link in Facebook and finally from a link in an email. With many analytics platforms, the credit for the conversion would be attributed to the final funnel via an email link used for a marketing campaign.
In addition, the new Multi-Channel Funnels can generate multiple reports to allow you to view an extended "browsing trail." Google Analytics currently displays every interaction a person had with a certain site within the past 30 days before the actual conversion. Therefore, departments can take credit for their assists to conversions using these reports, and can better determine which marketing activities have the highest return on investment and which ones may need to be abandoned.
Website owners have specific agendas when visitors choose to shop for their products or services. The Site Search feature in Google Analytics allows clients to see what visitors are actually searching for in order to speed up the process of conversion.
Experiments lets businesses test which version of a landing page leads to the most value in terms of metric reports or goal completion. Unlike multivariate or standard A/B testing, you can now take advantage of a more well-rounded approach to content testing by using up to five full versions of a single page that are each sent to visitors from a separate URL.
Content Experiments in Google Analytics allow you to use a random sample of visitors to compare how different web pages perform, to determine the percentage of visitors that are grouped within the experiment, to decide which objective will be tested and to monitor how an experiment is doing via email updates. Content Experiments offer a better way to test because only two versions of a page are analyzed using A/B testing, which does not include diverse testing combinations of several components on a single page.
Advanced Google Analytics
The latest features provided by Google Analytics for users who wish to track site activity without affecting a website's performance use the Advanced Google Analytics plugin since page loading speed and website performance are critical factors for effective SEO. Individuals who use these main features of Advanced Google Analytics can execute such functions as tracking visitors in asynchronous mode; choosing between domains and subdomains; using the anonymization feature to remain unidentified on internet protocols; and disabling frontend administration tracking.
Advanced Google Analytics also supports Event Tracking to generate data about external links and downloads. This feature will enable you to track affiliate performance and generate affiliate statistics directly in your Google Analytics account. Since Event Tracking is a segment of real-time metrics, you can automatically view events on a dashboard within your Google Analytics account.
Using Custom Variables in Advanced Google Analytics
It usually takes some time for custom variable reports to be generated. You can access those reports from Audience = Custom = Custom Variables on a Google Analytics Account. By using Custom Variables in Advanced Google Analytics, you will be able to:
- Track visitors as a guest or a registered member.
- Easily monitor popular authors and editors.
- Track visits as a quick way to determine the most frequently visited categories.
- Identify performance over time by tracking visits per publication.
You will naturally want to find the root cause of any sudden fluctuations in your site traffic. You may occasionally lose track of exactly when you launched a marketing goal, such as the time frame when you last used a site redesign or a seasonal display ad campaign or who was even responsible for their delivery. It can be time consuming trying to find these answers through past emails or within various departments in the same office; setting up custom variables in Google Analytics can automate this process for you.
Using Annotations in Google Analytics
Annotations is an uninterrupted logbook feature in Google Analytics that can save hours of frustration for all online marketing and website design actions. You can use it to recall events which may have caused conversions or visits to decrease or increase – particularly useful if you are dealing with multiple webmasters, marketing teams or agencies.
Google Analytics Intelligence is an algorithmic engine that automatically monitors and highlights any significant changes within a website's traffic in an easy-to-use format. At any time, you can view your Intelligence reports or create a custom alert to ensure that you are instantly updated on any unexpected or sudden changes in a website's metrics. This state-of-the-art detection technology can pinpoint exactly what factors you need to handle, ensuring that you can quickly take any necessary actions instead of wasting time sifting through piles of data first. Analytics Intelligence detects statistically outstanding anomalies in your site’s web traffic patterns and automatically posts alerts daily, weekly or monthly depending on your settings. It also allows you to create custom alerts, such as for a conversion from a seasonal campaign.
The use of mobile devices is increasing in staggering numbers as more and more consumers opt to do their shopping, gaming and social interaction on the go. Mobile Analytics helps you measure the impact of mobile devices on your business. Additionally, if you decide to create one or more mobile apps, Google Analytics offers Software Development Kits for Android and iOS that you can use to measure how people use these apps.
An extremely valuable feature of Google Analytics that many people overlook is Advanced Segments. Advanced Segments gives you the ability to see more than just how long a visitor stays on your home page or how he or she clicks through your site. By using this program’s features, you can measure and segment users according to the device they use to reach your site (such as a tablet, a smartphone or a laptop) and exactly what keyword brought them to the site. You can then decide which areas you need to focus your marketing efforts on more strongly. Advanced segments can also filter data more specifically to the question a visitor is trying to ask, such as by region, About Us or Home page visits or by how many visits to particular pages resulted in a checkout.
Because building advanced segments can take several steps to complete, you can skip all of the steps you went through initially by producing a shortcut for a report. The shortcut tool is a very new feature located on the top navigation bar that allows you to save a report as is and provides a convenient link on the left hand navigation bar to quickly retrieve it.
Featured Applications in Google Analytics' Application Gallery
The Google Analytics Gallery contains application solutions for analysts, marketers, IT teams and executives, providing exciting new ways to use and optimize the features offered in Google Analytics as a whole. The following featured applications are considered to be among the best due to their effectiveness and the rapid results they deliver to the companies who use them.
- Tableau Software
Tableau Software allows clients to easily analyze, view, understand and share data reports. Over 10,000 organizations using Tableau in the office and on-the-go and have seen rapid results with this application.
Formatted for large screens, Ducksboard is a real-time dashboard that helps you visualize and monitor your data on one page. Ducksboard also conveniently connects all of your SaaS apps and generates a stunning presentation of your company’s progress.
- NEXT V5 for Excel
For web and social media analysts that collect and analyze data from sites like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook through Google Analytics, NEXT V5 is an extremely useful and powerful tool. Instead of using complex Excel workbooks, it enables you to enhance metrics with integrated business intelligence functions.
- GA Data Grabber for Excel
This user-friendly analysis and report automation tool eliminates manual data processing work, saving you considerable time in the process – especially if you track many different sites. GA Data Grabber works in Excel, and is useful for automating regular KPI reporting.
SkyGlue performs three essential functions: it automatically tracks all HTML interactions, it seamlessly connects each visitor's interaction sequence and it allows you to group a single visitor with other visitors that have similar behavior patterns.
Used as a visualization interface for data, Chartio can drastically enhance your Google Analytics account’s connectivity by vividly pairing real-time business and web analytics databases on one screen.
UserReport enables you to gather demographics details, such as marital status, ethnicity, gender, age or income, as well as satisfaction ratings, directly into Google Analytics reports to determine the bounce rate and other metrics based on these factors.
- Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager is a free tool that combines website analytics, conversion tracking, remarketing and other tags by combining them with a single snippet of code from a web interface. In addition to allowing you to manage tags more easily, this tool lets you easily add and update tags without having to completely rewrite site code.
These are just a few examples of the many tools and applications available to clients who use Google Analytics. Many companies now use these types of features to study in detail which sections of their sites are the most active. One highly effective way of doing this is to use conversion and advertising analytics to increase sales.
Using Conversion and Advertising Analytics to Increase Sales
You can find out how many customers you are attracting, how much they are buying and exactly how they are interacting with your site with a range of analysis features that use Conversion Analytics to track buying trends at certain times of the day or on certain days of the week. This can give you insight into how best to allocate your promotional budget; for example, it can indicate when you should raise your pay-per-click bids and when you should adjust your ad copy or special offers to match your customers’ behavior patterns.
It could be said that advertising analytics works hand in hand with conversion analysis since using analytics for advertising will help you learn how well your social, mobile, display and search ads are working. This can be accomplished by linking your website activity to all of your marketing campaigns to get a 360 degree view of how to best improve your advertising performance.
In order to stay abreast of their consumers' searches, many companies use social analytics to examine when customers tend to search – and more importantly, when they tend to make purchases. The reports generated by this data can help you better understand your customers’ purchase patterns, thereby enabling you to better optimize your marketing strategies.
Additionally, you can research which keywords visitors use to find your site, and can explore how visitors click through your ecommerce portals to make a purchase. Rather than simply monitoring page views, you should track events on your site related to any major features it contains, including widgets, embedded video and maps. You can even configure Google Analytics to track enterprise-wide data across multiple domains. With continual use of Google Analytics, you can study the results of your online and offline marketing activities to a degree that was never possible before, helping you manage and grow your business more effectively and efficiently.