Google Analytics: getting your house in order
Google Analytics is a fantastic free tool that gives you so much data and information to interpret how people are finding your website, and how they’re using it.
This post gives you three tips on you can make the most of it (for free). Getting your GA setup optimised for how you do business is one of the most important things you can do if you’re trying to measure effectiveness of different channels and activity, make decisions about budget and measure ROI.
1. Set up some goals
If you don’t already have goals set up in your GA account, then this is the first thing you should do. Ask yourself what do you want people to do once they visit your website; what does the ideal visit look like? If you’re an ecommerce business, the obvious goal is to buy something. If you’re selling something less straightforward; perhaps it requires a consultant, a free trial, a test drive or an indicative price, then your goals will be slightly different. They’d be form submission, a completed quote or a contact page visited or clicked. If your site is a blog or a content hub, then perhaps your goals are centred around engagement, so again, goals reflect that behaviour and a minimum time on site or pages visited would look like a valuable visit to you. Once you have created your goals, this allows you to interrogate the data in Google Analytics in a more meaningful way. You can see which channels are driving the more valuable visits. For example, social media may be driving more visitors to the site than any other channel, but if none of those visitors do what you want them to do on their site, are these visits are as valuable as you thought they were? Referrals may send fewer people to you site, but a far higher proportion of them completed an action that you care about. This gives you the next level of granularity to help you plan your next step (like how can I get some more referral traffic/how can I improve conversion rate of my social media visitors?).
Why would PR care about that?
As an industry we’re growing up and are taking more responsibility for the actions taken beyond a piece of coverage, and seeing whether our activity led to more people firstly coming to your website, and secondly taking the desired action either then, or on a subsequent visit (see this piece on why PR is happy about attribution). We may not have sales-led objectives, however a goal we’d be looking to influence can still be measured, for example a white paper download, a newsletter subscriber or a form submission.
2. Start tracking all of your inbound urls
If you have a lot of inbound links to your website, then it’s important you give them all a unique code so you can identify them individually in Google Analytics. This enables you to:
Understand performance of each bit of marketing activity you do, and therefore the value of that activity and how much interest or engagement (or goal completions!) it facilitated
Directly compare channels, campaigns and even publications against one another
Filter and manipulate the data in Google Analytics within its existing reports
Creating links is very, very easy. Here’s the Google URL Builder where you can do that. For example, if you have a page that you’re planning on sharing in an email newsletter, on Twitter and LinkedIn, as part of one campaign, you can create three unique links from the same page url.
The source, the medium and the campaign name are all variants that you can cut the data by in GA. I’d do this for each page I’m sharing on multiple platforms. So if I wanted to see how all of the “blog” activity is doing, I can filter by the campaign name “blog” as they all have that in common. If I wanted to see how LinkedIn is doing for me as a channel, I’d filter by “linkedin” and it would filter all of the content I’ve shared on LinkedIn. It’s also advisable to save all the links you’ve built so you have an archive, and somewhere to refer back to when you’re looking for them again in Google Analytics. Just a standard spreadsheet will do the trick. Because, critically, if there has been no traffic at all from a campaign link, it won’t appear in GA at all. And you’d definitely want to know about that. Plus as the Google URL Builder doesn’t store them for you, you’ll want a record of them to ensure you’re keeping the naming conventions consistent.
Why would PR care about that?
As the boundaries between PR, marketing and SEO campaigns are merging ever closer, that involves an increasing number of links being used and shared. Most of the time, we’re working across more than one element of the PESO model. If we’re running a paid social campaign to promote a trend report, or linking to a content hub from a press release or earning links from coverage, we want to be able to what each one of those links is contributing to the campaign we’re running.
3. Enable your Search Console report
The Search Console report is another free report in Google Analytics which can be really useful. Before it will tell you anything, you’ll need to activate it, but don’t worry, this is very easy to do. It’s tucked away in your Google Analytics Acquisition report, and it’s called "Search Console”. This gives you data from Google’s organic search channel, including keywords used, landing pages and devices used. The report is nowhere near as comprehensive as some of the others in GA, but there are some important things this can tell you:
How many times your brand (or some misspelling or iteration of it) has been searched for. This is great to look at and see the trend over time, and also to plot against brand awareness activity, like PR coverage, to see if there’s been any uplift in awareness during key peaks of activity. If you already run PPC ads, then Google AdWords will already give you this information, however if you aren’t this is the next best thing.
What kind of non-branded terms people are using to find your site. Are they product related? Are they questions that indicate that person is researching the category and may be ready to buy soon?
There are a couple of caveats that come with this report. It can only go back the last 90 days, so you can’t go in and look at year on year trends in this report. Also, in the queries report, you’ll see a line called “(not set)”. This means the keyword used has somehow not been identified by GA. Depending on what % of your total searches this makes up does dictate how reliable the rest of your data is - the lower the % the better.
Why would PR care about that?
The data in this report firstly informs our approach. If it tells us that some people are finding your site through a generic query or question, we know there’s a pool of people who want an answer to that query. This could spark campaign or content ideas. The second reason we’d care is more reactive. As above, we can see how many people have searched for your brand, which is great. Also, if our activity has an objective of a product launch, awareness or a rebrand then we could see evidence of whether we’ve been successful or not here, as these queries should show up in this report.