Six easy ways of adding extra information into Google Analytics

As soon as Google Analytics is installed on a website, it will start to compile enormous volumes of data.

How many visitors, how often they visited, how they got to your website, what they looked at, how long they spent looking, their location when they looked, their device, their browser etc. etc.

But this is only the start of Google Analytics’ ability to collect and collate information. The scope for capturing and uploading additional information is vast. Some methods of capturing additional information, such as e-commerce reporting and event tagging, require technical input, but not all.

Here are 6 easy and non-technical ways of adding or collecting useful information that doesn’t require any coding expertise:

Goals

Goals are used to count visitor actions and have their own reporting section that makes them easy to track. For example, you can set a goal to count how many times a brochure is downloaded or how many people sign up for a newsletter. Your objective might be to increase engagement on your website, in which case you could set goals to record the number of visitors who spend longer than a certain amount of time, or look at more than a certain number of pages.

Annotations

Context is the key to understanding and making good decisions based on your data. Within Analytics you can easily add diary notes to record events, such as when marketing e-mails or press releases are sent out, trade fairs attended, adverts published, website redesigned, website down for maintenance etc. that affect website traffic. These events are visible in many of the graphs and help you instantly make sense of variations in traffic.

Campaign Tags

Campaign tags enable you to create links back to your website which, when clicked, upload useful information into your analytics account. They are often used in marketing emails or in adverts to appear on other websites. You can define up to 5 pieces of information to be uploaded. These are used to categorise and uniquely identify the links, so you will be able to keep track of how successful each one is.

The next three methods are all easy to set-up integration options that import data from other commonly used Google products.

Google Webmaster Tools

Like Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools is a free on-line product. It provides a level of insight and control over how Google indexes your website and how it is displayed in the search engine results. It also captures useful information about which pages of your site appear in the results for which search queries and how often they are clicked. There is an option within Webmaster Tool to have this information automatically updated into your website’s Google Analytics account. Once the accounts are connected a set of very useful Search Engine Optimization reports become available.

Google AdWords

If you advertise using Google AdWords’ you can easily link this account to your Google Analytics account and report on your advert’s performance within Analytics.

There is also an option to turn on auto-tagging, and this will automatically create meaningful campaign tags (see above) that relate to your AdWords’ campaigns. This helps you identify which adverts are most effective and also enables you to report on them alongside other marketing campaigns.

Google AdSense

If you use Google AdSense to place adverts on your site, this can also be linked. So data about which Adverts were clicked and how much revenue generated is fed directly into Analytics and integrated with the existing data telling you more about who clicked on those adverts. Although, be warned, it currently converts and reports all values into US Dollars, which isn’t ideal, but does not make the information any less relevant.

Better data, better insights

 

How to give meaning to your website statistics

Have you ever dived into Google Analytics, extracted lots of interesting information about your website visitors, but ended up with no more idea about how to improve web traffic and conversions than before you started?

If so, it is very likely to be because you are missing a vital ingredient. The ingredient that, when applied to your numbers, turns them from being interesting but abstract statistics to useful information that you can base decisions on and grow your business.

What you are missing is a frame of reference: a context that will help you relate the data to the real world.

How do you put your website statistics into context?

Here are three examples of how you can give meaning to your website statistics:

Event diary

Keep a diary of events and activities that should have influenced your business. You can even add these into Google Analytics as annotations to make their affect easier to spot.

Comparing the relevant statistics from your website traffic to a when the marketing email was sent out, the trade show was running, the adverts were placed etc will help you understand and quantify the impact these activities generated.

Connecting different data sets

Another way is to match up different sets of data within Google Analytics.

For example, a report that shows where your visitors come from is interesting, but a report that shows where visitors come from along with the average time on site for those visitors is empowering. It tells you where the visitors who are most interested in you come from and, hence, which of the sources of traffic are likely to generate the best returns if developed.

Historical comparison

You can also use history as your context. Rather than just looking at a metric, such as visits, for the past 30 days, look over the past 12 months and compare it to the previous 12 months. This will highlight any long-term trends and seasonality, and indicate whether the latest figures show a change or are a reflecting a seasonal pattern.

Context Puts You in Control

By looking at your data in context you will start to gain insights into the factors that affect the behaviour of your website visitors. You stop being a powerless observer, wondering why things are going on, and move to a position where you know how to influence the outcome.

Four steps to help you get real value out of Google Analytics

Are you new to Google Analytics?

It is a mammoth system. There is a huge amount of data and it is presented in quite a complex way.

You can easily to spend hours clicking round looking for information that will provide some insight into how to improve the results from your online business. But whilst you might end up with some interesting facts about visitor numbers, you may well find yourself none the wiser about how to improve your website’s performance.

So where to start?

A structured approach can literally pay dividends; here are four steps to help you get real value out of Google Analytics:

1. Ask yourself: what am I trying to achieve?

Forget about the data for a minute and focus on your business. What are you trying to do? What goals do you want to achieve, or problems need to be addressed?

You need to be very specific. For example your objective might be to generate more sales. But before you can use Google Analytics to help, you need to break this down into the components or goals that are likely to lead to more sales.

For example you might decide the best way to generate more sales is to:

• Increase the number of visitors to the website.
• Increase the proportion of visitors who buy something when they come to the website.
• Get more value from your advertising budget.
• Encourage more visitors to sign up to your newsletter.
• Target the geographic markets where there is most scope for growth.

2. Prioritse: don’t try and do everything at once.

Once you have identified your goals, keep things manageable and choose the one or two most important to focus on. This makes success much more likely. It will also be easier to link cause with effect as you pursue different activities to achieve your goal.

3. Identify the information and reports that give you insight into the areas you have identified.

The information you need might be in the standard reports or, more likely, a custom report will be more useful.

It might be that not all the data you need is collected. There are plenty of ways of capturing additional data with Google Analytics.

For example you can link your Google Analytics account to your AdWords or AdSense accounts. You can get much more information on how your website is showing up in searches by integrating your Google Webmaster tools accounts. You can use link tagging to track the success of links you place in online adverts or promotional emails. Online stores can capture extremely useful information by configuring Google e-commerce. Creating goals makes it easy to keep track of all sorts of visitor activity, and if goals do not capture what you want then the chances are event tagging will. And, on top of all this, it is even possible to integrate data from external systems.

4. Take Action

Once you understand what you want to achieve and have the data and reports in place to measure it. It is then time to make those changes to your website or launch that marketing campaign.

Immediate Results

The beauty of Google Analytics is that information is collected fast, some of it instantly. If your changes worked maybe you can make further improvements, if not, at least you will know very quickly, and you can put things back as they were or try something else.

Google Analytics is jam-packed with information that harnessed properly can help your website and business thrive. But to be of value, the only way to start is by answering that one simple question:

What am I trying to achieve?