It doesn’t get any more democratic than Google Analytics. The free tool is accessible to anyone with a Gmail account and comes with a ton of insights—that said, it’s not the easiest tool in the lineup.
Google Analytics doesn’t answer all of your questions automatically. However, looking at the demographics information can reveal which visitor actions will earn you money and which channels bring in the most traffic.
Just looking at traffic, on the whole, won’t tell you anything about your audience. However, segments, goals, and events add meaning to your data and tell a story.
It takes a little know-how and nuance to find the story hidden within the numbers, but the search engine giant brings plenty of tutorials to the table—and there are countless blogs and resources available across the web from various experts.
What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool offered from the search engine giant. Most marketers are at least somewhat familiar with the platform—you use it to see how much traffic you’re getting and where it does from.
But, most marketers aren’t making the most out of the tool. You can actually use the platform for conversion rate optimization—but it takes a little digging.
See, the tool provides all you need in order to improve your conversions and site performance—but the reports require an in-depth knowledge to parse those metrics from those that might not be relevant to your business.
It’s also worth pointing out that, you’re not getting any landing page builders or smart popups, just data. Lots and lots of data—which you’ll need to spend a significant amount of time learning how to interpret and use for better site performance.
The best thing about Google Analytics is that its free. Anyone can gain access to the platform and get started tracking their data.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that there’s a reason competing tools can charge so much—or charge something—for a subscription. A tool like Sumo or ConvertKit or Zoho PageSense comes with reporting tools that break through this massive pile of data.
With Google Analytics, you’ll need to do everything yourself—it does come with some standard reports.
Develop Consumer Personas
Google Analytics isn’t the easiest persona builder, but the data runs deep. Use audience reports to develop user personas based on different segments. You can then compare product and content views by looking at session activity—which should reveal which segments respond to which content.
All Data is There
The thing about Google Analytics is, the platform contains all of the data that relates to conversions. From behavior flow to landing pages and demographics, there’s so much to learn about your audience and your performance.
While you’ll definitely need to do some digging, Google Analytics is a must-have account for any marketing pro or website owner.
If you don’t have goal tracking set up in GA, you’re missing out on a large subset of data. And this data is important—goals allow you to see what percentage of users are signing up for a newsletter or buying an advertised item.
You can set as many goals as you’d like—from tracking shopping cart checkouts to how many people downloaded an ebook.
To set up goal tracking, go to the admin section in your navigation bar. Click goals and create new. You’ll then be prompted to choose from a long list of options.
Once you’ve made your choice and tagged your ad URLs (landing pages) you’ll be able to download your metrics from the GA platform. The best way to do this is to create a custom report.
And goals aren’t just limited to making a sale or getting a sign up. Here’s a look at some of the things you can track:
- URL destination
- Visit duration
- Newsletter signups
- Pages and visits
- Track AdWords Performance
If you’re using AdWords, analytics is essential. You’re probably already using this to track your campaigns. You’ll need to make sure everything is set up correctly—otherwise paid ads might track as organic traffic.
GA tracks a ton of information about your audience. As we mentioned, everything you need lives inside this platform. Click on audience in the left-hand sidebar to see demographics—the drop-down menu will give you a breakdown based on age, gender, and more.
You can also look at affinity reports to gauge user interests—is your audience made up of value shoppers? Hobbyists? Business professionals?
Additionally, you’ll probably want to know where your users are coming from. Is everyone based in the US, abroad, somewhere unexpected?
While demographics won’t reveal conversion rates, they will help you nail the optimization process. Buyer persona research comes into play heavily. While some tools automate the research process, combing through the demographics section can tell you a lot about your audience.
Audience reports allow you to access a wide range of audience report types that allow you to learn about who you’re connecting with. Measure active users based on their interactions with your website. Or, look at customer lifetime value—which will show you how much money each customer has generated for your business.
The User Explorer report focuses on individual users versus aggregated behavior. While aggregate behavior is a super important metric for optimization, individual behavior allows you to personalize the user experience.
This report tracks things like source/medium, date of last visit, campaign, and more.
Another goodie is Conversion Probability. This report measures users by likelihood to convert. One thing to keep in mind is, this report is only useful if you do more than 1000 transactions per month. If you fall below that amount, Google uses the last good model to generate data for the report. In other words, the more customers and interactions, the more accurate the data.
Another area that can help you fine-tune your marketing efforts is acquisition reports. This is where you’ll see where users are coming from and look at their conversion patterns. For example, how does someone who found you on Facebook compare to someone who clicked on a PPC ad?
In this section, you’ll be able to better understand how users interact with your site. The behavior flow report, for example, lets you visualize the path users travel to get from one event or page to the next.
This is actually one of the more useful reporting features, as you can use this report to see which content is working and which isn’t connecting.
These days, mobile is non-negotiable. So, creating mobile responsive landing pages is a must if you want to compete in the digital landscape.
Knowing this, you might think you can create mobile responsive pages and call it a day. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Understanding the breakdown of your audience by device can give you some information that can inform your strategy.
If most of your traffic is coming from mobile, you may need to tweak your offers and your opt-in forms. Mobile users convert at about a quarter of the rate their web-based counterparts do—so, if you’re not catering to these guys, you’re losing money.
Analytics offers funnel analysis on your site and mobile apps. You can get enhanced e-commerce reports, which provide a snapshot of your business. View transactions—quantity, order totals, average orders
Additionally, you can receive a shopping behavior analysis report for further insights into your visitors’ shopping habits.
The benefit here is, you can see how many people continued from one page in the sales funnel. This is also where you can spot any problems with your checkout page or other drop-off points.
GA also provides product performance reports, where you can see how products perform from different points of view. Look at shopping behavior for a glimpse into the customer experience or check out the summary page which looks at sales numbers.
Google Analytics is free for anyone with a Google account. The platform integrates with all kinds of platforms and is really accessible. That said, there are some limitations–and Google knows this. You can upgrade to a paid plan, called Analytics 360 which provides even more advanced reporting.
Where Google Analytics is a free tool that anyone can use, Analytics 360 brings a lot more to the table. You’ll get a dedicated account manager, search marketing services, and more.
That said, it’s not a matter of deciding whether you want a “pro” plan or an “enterprise” plan. Analytics 360 costs about $150,000 per year—making it accessible for companies who are already doing really well.
Google’s suite of marketing tools are all cloud-based and can be accessed from any device that connects to the web.
All Google marketing tools are built to work with one another, so if you sign up for Optimize or run AdWords campaigns, you’ll be able to use your tools from one central location.
As you might imagine, Google has a wealth of resources aimed at helping you understand how their analytics platform works. While the platform doesn’t have the dedicated help center you’ll find with competing products, they do a fair amount of digital resources there if you need them.
Here’s a quick look:
The company has set up several blog posts and tutorials, as well as short posts outlining things that come up—various issues, penalty explanations, and so on. With patience, you’ll be able to learn anything about Google Analytics from setting up goals to segmenting your audience.
While the phone support is truly horrendous, the Analytics community really steps up to fill in the blanks. Here, anyone can pose or answer a question related to any of the features found in the lineup.
The community forum is divided by marketing tool—there’s a page for Analytics, for Data Studio, for Google Optimize. They’re all stored in the same central hub, so you can access the other platforms from the same place.
Training and Certification
Because Google Analytics is so ubiquitous and so expansive, the search engine offers digital training courses and certifications online. The digital training courses are free, as is certification, but individuals will receive a qualification while agencies will receive a badge.
Is Google Analytics Useful for Conversion Rate Optimization?
Google Analytics provides—likely—the most robust suite of data in the digital marketing game. That said, it’s more data collection tool than sophisticated analysis platform.
And that’s where it differs from the paid tools on the market. Even at the lower end of the paid spectrum, you’re looking at offerings with A/B testing made easy. Heat maps. Colorful charts with preset metrics.
GA brings way more data to the table, but you need to know how to set goals correctly, to track your AdWords campaigns, and customize reports. Without a significant time investment on your part, there’s a good chance you’re not making the most out of the platform.
Another point worth mentioning is—no matter what you choose to pay for, most marketing tools integrate with GA. Pairing the platform with a more accessible tool can bring the most important metrics to the fore—cutting back on the noise associated with trying to dig through the platform on your own.
Ultimately, there’s no real reason to not have a Google Analytics account. Its free and there are a million resources online that walk you through how to use the platform—both on Google and away from the site.