Written by Thomas Bosilevac, Founder MashMetrics

Google Analytics (GA) is a great tool to understand what is going on with our website user behavior…or is it?  Out-of-the-box, Google Analytics might actually be telling you the wrong picture.  Just like any great tool, a powerful analytics tool takes some tweaking in order to collect data exactly how your marketing performance team needs it to.

As our websites have changed, so has Google Analytics.  Make sure you have adopted these 5 GA Best Practices to add value to your client.

1- Install Onsite Event Tracking

SCENARIO:
Your team creates countless PDF reference materials as well as short and mid-length videos for your client’s new partner program.  You send out the email to the landing page with most of the links.  Initially, things are looking great.  The email has the best Open Rate you have seen, as well as a decent click-through.  Once on the site though, it appears that folks are really not that engaged.

Here is what the user actually did:

  1. The user opens the page, and clicks on the 3 PDF’s they are interested in
  2. Later, having the tab still open, they watch one of the Partner Enablement videos
  3. Even later, they like the content so they click on the AddThis Share button share it away…

PROBLEM:

Look on the bright side, perhaps everyone IS downloading all the new materials as well as watching the Videos… but did you setup On-page events within Google Analytics?  OOPS!  Users may be coming into the reference area and engaging, however, because neither downloaded files (even links to drive.google.com or dropbox.com) or Video Performance are not seen traditionally tracked by Google Analytics you will not see any of these interactions.  

WHAT GA REPORTS:  (1 Session, 1 Pageview, 1 Bounced Session, 0:00 Time on Site!!)  

SOLUTION: Tracking on-page events such as offsite clicks, Downloaded Files, Video Progression and more allows you to view the “Micro-Moments” users are engaging with on your website.  While a macro-goal may be to sell products, there are many micro-goals that take place to detect this activity.

2- Configure both Macro and Micro Goal Sets

SCENARIO:

While your clients most likely have Goals set-up for their online purchase(s) or Form Submit, are those REALLY the only interactions we care about?  In order to really see if our copy, design, audience and more are really capturing the minds of the visitors we certainly need to look at more than PageViews, Visits and other broken metrics below, Time on Page and Bounce Rate.

PROBLEM:

Taking the scenario above another step, even if you DID setup all the onpage events stated above, that activity is likely being hidden in the Events Area of the Behavior reports.  Only to be found by Indiana Jones himself.  Without using proper goal sets, activity is hidden and compartmentalized causing too much friction to really report on.

SOLUTION:
Google Analytics allows you to configure up to 20 goals, split into 4 Goal Sets.  Use these to create various categories of “events” you want users to do on your web properties.  The example that MashMetrics, a Professional Web Analytics agency in San Diego and Tango Code Partner uses is:

Goal Set 1 – KPI’s – these ARE your key performance indicators

Goal Set 2 – On Page Activities – off-site clicks, social media shares, general form submits, downloaded files, etc

Goal Set 3 – On Page Engagement – time on page, scroll activity, video performance

Goal Set 4 – Visitor Engagement – users viewing >3 pages, 5, pages, 10 pages, more than 3 minutes on the site, 10mintes

You can now quickly report on this behavior by Landing Page, Channel, Device and more to look at overall Macro and Micro goals of your website.

3- Taking note of how Time on Page / Bounce Rate works

SCENARIO:

Let’s recreate the same situation above where a user comes in and engages with the new Partner Enablement Landing Page.

  1. User clicks on email into Landing Page at 7:30am from his cell phone at the Subway station.  Opening the page and clicking on 3 downloaded files he is interested in and then runs to his office.
  2. Having the tab still open, He is sitting taking a break downstairs at around 12:30 and he returns to the mobile tab and immediately starts “Analytics Strike Back: The AI Empire Returns” video for a good 35 minutes while returning to the office (it is a “working lunch”)
  3. Back at the office, he loves this parody, so he decides to reconnect on his corporate Wi-FI and clicks “Share” to all his invites on LinkedIn.

GA REPORTS::  (1 Session, 1 Pageviews, 1 Bounced Session, 0:00 Time on Site!!)  

PROBLEM:
As you can see from what Google Analytics reports on, the reported metrics are far from reality!  Google Analytics only fires upon Page Load traditionally  (or when a user clicks on one of the events you may have setup above).  In the above example, while a lot of additional interaction was going on, without setting up events, you will be severely under-tracking your engagement.

Furthermore, Google Analytics measures your session duration very archaically.  Since it only is detecting Page Loads, it can only measure Site Duration from the Time you first arrived at the site, to the last activity it sees.  So even if you clicked on 3 pages quickly to find the long post that you read through for 15 minutes, your Session Duration would not count that last activity.  Bummer right!

SOLUTION:

In order to help eliminate this issue, we suggest sending Google Analytics events every 15 seconds.  Make sure you set these up as Non-Interaction events so it does not affect your Bounce Rate.

You can also setup what is commonly referred to as “Adjusted Bounce Rate”, in which you DO send an Interaction Hit to Google Analytics at a set interval (we recommend 45 seconds).  This hit will re-calculate your Bounce Rate to be defined as:

  • Users who only saw one page during the session
  • Users who did not have the page open for 45 seconds

NOTE:  Due to the fact users keep their tabs hidden for an extended period of time, make sure you add logic that assure the page is “visible” when the timer is going off.  

Want to see these features and much more, with no effort, and FREE, visit MashMetrics to receive a Free Enhanced Google Analytics setup.

4- Content Groups / Custom Reporting

SCENARIO:
Here we go again, another client content audit to foresee the next quarterly content strategy.  We need to look at 200+ URL’s, categorize them, remember when they were posted … argh again!  Here is the current process:

  1. Go to the All Pages report and download a report on the last 90 days of activity (activity being the best engagement metrics we have!)
  2. Sorting those into various categories to view heuristics on what worked, and maybe even breaking down into the channel that worked best
  3. Combining that data with other information such as Publish Date, Author, Etc.

PROBLEM:
Having data all over the place is becoming more and more common.  The more we can combine this information, the faster we can get done with reporting and onto finding and providing insights to our clients.   Google Analytics is very URL friendly, but our business is not.

SOLUTION:

By using Custom Dimensions you can track things like Content Categories, Author, Publish Data and store it right in Google Analytics.  This allows you to create reports such as:

Most common content Categories
Most popular Authors
Most successful Posting Day
…. All within seconds!

5- UTM Tagging Framework

SCENARIO:

We might have already scared you enough, so we will keep this simple.  Users share your content, you promote your content, and Channel reporting is the only way you can see what is driving that traffic in.  (We are going to set cross-channel attribution aside for a long moment)

PROBLEM:

Without ensuring that your marketing team adheres to a consistent UTM (link tagging) strategy, your strategy may be looking more like a “Direct” marketing campaign than a digital one.  With the proliferation of users sharing links across apps, devices, emails, txt, etc … without using a link strategy chances are a majority of the “quality” traffic coming in from strong referrals are showing as Direct traffic within Google Analytics.  

SOLUTION:
While at first documenting and creating all these URLs may be daunting, it really is an extension on what should be an already followed best practice: marketing strategy/scheduling.  While you are deciding which channels, messages, tweets, posts to launch also document the following generic categories:  

  1. How are you sending it (utm_medium): email, display, social sharing, vanity URL
  2. Who is sending it(utm_source): dripio, hubspot, emailsig, pinterest, linkedin
  3. What is being sent (utm_campaign): 2017_summersale, 2016fallcat, onboardingdocs

Use the following URL Builder by our trusted friends at Google to make sure your link sharing is being tracked correctly:
https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/

Google Analytics used to be a nice install the script and run process.  Over time you may have set-up a goal or two and even (tried to) filter out employee traffic (barely worth the illusion).  Over time not only has user behavior evolved but so has Google Analytics, however, it can not guess the above for you.  As with any tool, there comes a time where an investment of time and resources needs to be made to your primary web analytics tool.  While there are others such as KissMetrics, Chartbeat and more than have certainly met some of the above demands “out-of-box”, the investment should still be placed first in the resources and time, not the tool.
For more information on how you can start reporting on this information and more, usually within 72 hours, go to www.mashmetrics.com/tangocode today!

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