Using Google Analytics as a starting point for marketing analysis
No one loves Google Analytics, but it provides fast and valuable insights when getting started with a new client. We cover what metrics and dimensions help with just that.
Whenever I start with a new client, I have two goals. (1) Get a general understanding of what the marketing team is doing, and (2) identify low-hanging fruits: quickly-gathered insights that can help me prioritise what to do first.
But there is so much data you could be looking at. Companies’ data stacks are more and more complex. There’s a steep learning curve of reading documentation and speaking to internal stakeholders until you understand which data sources to look for what.
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And here enters Google Analytics. I won’t get into the demerits of it, but it’s a great choice for an initial analysis for multiple reasons:
It’s ubiquitous. I’m yet to meet a business who doesn’t use Google Analytics in some capacity.
It’s inflexible. Which is a bug and a feature. Metrics like “sessions” and “new users” are calculated (roughly) the same across all clients / implementations.
There’s a lot out of the box. Attribution, source naming and segmentation are some of the features you don’t need to set up to be available.
In this article, I will cover three critical “where” questions Google Analytics can help you answer and how to interpret them.
What to look for in Google Analytics
Google Analytics can help you answer three critical "where" questions about your client’s website visitors:
Where do users come from: what sources, marketing campaigns, referral sites
Where do users first enter your website: the landing page, like the homepage, or a content piece
Where do users convert*: on what page do they decide to sign up, subscribe or start a trial
*assuming conversion events have been set up.
Armed with the answers to these three questions, we can identify some early opportunities or follow-up questions.
Question 1: Where are users coming from?
By pinpointing the sources of your traffic, like social media platforms, search engines, or industry-specific referral websites, you can better understand where to focus your efforts for maximum impact.
Usually, the best route to growth is to double down on what’s already working. I call it the “pour gasoline on the fire” strategy.
For example, if a significant portion of your traffic comes from a particular industry forum or influencer partnership, investing more in targeted content for that audience can increase conversions.
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Question 2: Where do users enter from?
Once you’ve looked into where users come from, you can segment it further by landing page.
When one source/campaign has multiple landing pages, it’s common to have one to two pages that perform much better. For example, they could have a higher conversion rate or users that spend more time on site. If you’re able to reroute more of that traffic to the best performing pages, then you’ve got yourself a win.
Looking into landing pages is no less useful even when you can’t reroute the traffic, as the case with organic search. In this situation, high converting landing pages tell you about who your most valuable user and what is their intent.
There are a few recommendations to make if an organic search landing page performs much better. For example, build more pages about that content (to rank for other keywords) or to find traffic sources to distribute this content further.
It’s the pairing of what the users want (based on high converting landing pages) + where users find out about your product (based on traffic sources) that can give you the easiest marketing quick wins.
Question 3: Where do users convert?
This is dependent on (1) what your conversion funnel looks like, (2) if conversions have been set up on Google Analytics. To simplify, we’ll assume your conversion event has some friction (e.g. purchasing / needing a credit card) and therefore most conversions don’t happen on the landing page.
Identifying what pages drive conversions can help you define the ideal journey for a new lead. After they enter from a certain source in a certain landing page, where should that lead do next to understand the value of your product and convert?
For example, pricing pages usually get a lot of conversions. Adding a pricing comparison modal to your advertising landing pages can take the user further down the funnel. Or, perhaps, sending users to industry-specific customer stories after they’ve entered from an SEO blog post
In conclusion, Google Analytics serves as an excellent starting point for growth analysis, helping you uncover valuable insights and identify areas for improvement in your client's marketing strategies.
The three critical “where” questions related to traffic sources, landing pages and conversion pages. By themselves, the three questions don’t answer much. But once you start joining the dots and segmenting further, you can make data-driven decisions that lead to early wins or follow-up analyses.
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