Setting up a Google Ads account requires a substantial amount of time and effort. The hard truth is that none of that means anything unless you stay on top of things with Google Analytics.
For the campaign to work over time it is imperative to track the actions of the visitors, evaluate the quality of the website, the content and the ads and optimise continuously. That is what Google Analytics is all about.
We presented all the elements of setting up and running a successful Google Ads account in a series of dedicated posts:
- Part 1: Enrolment and campaign structure
- Part 2: Keywords, ad text and ad extensions
- Part 3: Optimising the landing pages
- Part 4: Managing conversion tracking
- Part 5: Working on continuous optimisation
In this post we will present the basics of Google Analytics, so that you can use this free tool and benefit from it.
Defining Google Analytics
What we need to define is the term ‘Analytics’, since we all know what Google means. According to the Cambridge Dictionary analytics is:
‘A process in which a computer examines information using mathematical methods in order to find useful patterns.’
For our work as digital marketers we can more appropriately define analytics as:
‘The outcome of systematic analysis and statistics’
Emphasis to be given to the word outcome. Google Analytics itself is neither data nor statistics. It is a valuable tool that enables marketers to make informed decisions.
The schematics of the process are: Data → Information → Knowledge
The knowledge we acquire from the Google Analytics Reports enables us not only to make decisions based on facts but also to continually update our knowledge of those facts and arrive at better decisions. Better decisions for the website equal better results for the charity.
The technology behind Google Analytics
A major technological breakthrough that enabled Google Analytics was the development of the Java script tracking code. No need to get into coding, but it is interesting to know that Java script is a programming language that resides in the visitor’s browser and tracks actions. The information is collected and sent to Google via the tracking code. The process is as follows:
Collection → Configuration → Processing → Reporting
The two stages that are important for a marketer’s job are
Collection is done by Java Script and Processing is Google’s process of Big Data.
Using Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a valuable tool enabling marketers to find answers to their questions. With Google Analytics Marketers can
- Understand what is working and what isn’t
- Generate ideas and improve results
Particularly when managing Google Ad Grants accounts, we can track conversions, evaluate our decisions to date and optimise the campaign.
When using GA marketers need to manage:
- Configuration through Google Analytics Admin
- Reporting through Google Analytics Interface
The GA Interface will generate Reports tailor-made to each organisation that will utilise 80% of the time needed to manage the campaign. GA Admin needs careful configuration at the beginning and some fine tuning as things move along, but it will not take up much time and focus as the campaign develops.
The main challenge is to explore all the options provided in the Interface and identify the Reports, and the form of those Reports, that assist each organisation in its path to growth. This part can be a bit intimidating, but it is important to remember that nobody knows everything or uses everything. Each marketer and each organisation uses the functionalities that better serve their purpose.
Google Analytics Account Administration
The Admin section is where behind the scenes configuration takes place. Where the magic begins to happen and collecting the information becomes real.
The process starts by signing up and generating the Tracking Code (Java Script code), which then needs to get embedded into each page that will be sending data to Google. The Tracking code:
- Can be sent via TXT file to a developer to add to the site
- Can be managed via Google Tag Manager – another valuable tool by Google which offers functionalities that help with analytics.
We will be discussing Google Tag Manager in a dedicated post, but at this point, it is important to know that it enables the addition of more tracking technology without the requirement to add new code to your pages each time. This is very useful considering how often Google provides updates. With new accounts, it is recommended to use Google Tag Manager from the start.
It’s then time to move on the next steps.
Google Analytics Account Structure comprises of three basic elements:
Account → Web Properties → Views
The first thing to do on the platform is to create a new Account, and then assign Web Properties to it.
A Web Property is each domain (or application) that is to be tracked individually. Note that one can ad up to 50 Web Properties to each account.
Then its time to set up Views (formerly known as Profiles) which define the specific way we choose to look at all the data coming from the Web Property. Each Web Property can have up to 25 Views.
Experts recommend always retaining 1 unfiltered view, meaning 1 set of raw, unfiltered data just in case something goes wrong, or comparisons need to be made; which us brings to Filters!
Google Analytics Admin and Filters
Filters are applied during Configuration and Processing and what they do is limit the data that reaches Google Analytics.
Each organisation decides on their own filters that best serve their purpose and goals, but for beginners, it is important to remember two things:
- Ensure you are not tracking yourself by excluding internal IPs
- Ensure there is always an unfiltered view and a backup with raw data
Tracking Goals or ‘What is the purpose of the organisation?’
Before moving on to the tracking elements of Google Analytics, it is important to discuss the fundamental question:
What is the purpose of the organisation and what is the purpose of its website?
Along the lines of setting goals for the Google Ad Grants campaign, it is important to set specific and measurable goals for Google Analytics. In Setup, goals can be chosen from a Template or be given a custom description. It is then time to choose how to track the goals of the organisation. Google Analytics offers the following options:
- Destination, which tracks page views (e.g. Thank you page)
- Duration, which tracks time spent on a page
- Pages/Screens per visit, which tracks the total number of pages
- Event, which tracks activity within a page
Marketers new in the use of Google Analytics should know that Destination is used for tracking goals 75% of the time.
Google Analytics offers a huge variety of options that can help organisations get the results they want. Some of the most useful and commonly used features are:
Sessions, previously known as Visits. A session describes a visit to the website regardless of how many pages they visit, and Session Duration describes the time between the first and last page view. A Session is considered closed by default once the visitor has been inactive for 30 minutes.
Pageviews. Pageviews represent the number of times that a page was loaded, and they are counted all the time even when a visitor refreshes the page. Pageviews are a very important analytics number as they offer very concrete data.
Bounce Rate. Bounce Rate is again a very important number as it represents the number of sessions when the visitor only views one page and leaves the website without loading any more pages. Pages with a Bounce Rate of 80% or higher need significant improvement.
Creating custom dashboards in Admin. Custom Dashboards present what is important to each organisation in a way that is more helpful for the way each marketer prefers to work. It is possible to include specific elements relevant to you and customise what you look at, how information is exported (Excel, PDF, etc.) and how often it is communicated (e.g. weekly email). Google Analytics Gallery offers custom dashboards created by experts that consolidate reports in a very efficient way.
Measuring Content Performance. Content Marketing Dashboards and Content Reports help marketers measure and improve content performance. Downloadable content and calls to action always improve content.
Measuring traditional marketing tools and including them in the reports like:
- Phone calls
- Offline marketing activities
- Video plays
- Integration of (Customer Relationship Management)
Google Analytics Reports
Google Analytics offers 5 basic groups of Reports:
- Audience Reports
- Acquisition Reports
- Behaviour Reports
- Conversion Reports
- Real-Time Reports
Google Analytics offers a vast number of options, and it is important for every beginner to realise that they are only expected to use what relevant to their project and what suits their way of work. Nevertheless, there are some favourite tools that most marketers use, and we are presenting those here.
Audience Reports, which offer information on demographics and geography, namely who is visiting and where they are located. Geography is a valuable tool, especially when comparing New visitors against Returning visitors. Remember that the purpose of this information is to prompt action in order to improve things.
Acquisition Reports, which present information on how visitors came and are particularly relevant to Google Ads performance. With Acquisition Reports, we get a lot of information about the traffic and the channels traffic is coming from (Unbranded Organic Search, Direct, Referral, Social, Branded Organic Search, email, paid search). These reports enable marketers to evaluate Google Ads performance and review all PPC traffic with specific Google Ads reports.
- Remember that campaign tracking can help avoid direct traffic
- Ensure that the email software supports Google Analytics so that data becomes available (Mailchimp does for example).
Behaviour Reports, which present what the visitors are doing once on the website. Behaviour Reports enable us to track Events, which is one of the most important aspects of analytics. Event tracking is imperative to the marketer’s job!
- Events are important since they track interactive sites and send information every time something happens on the same page that doesn’t constitute page view.
- Within Behaviour Reports, the Publisher tab connects with Google Ads offering additional data.
Conversion Reports, which measure any valuable action as defined during set up. Conversion Reports are about Goals. Those important and measurable goals every organisation needs to define when they set up their Google Ad Grants account. Goals quantify all action that matters, but the big challenge before that is to define what is valuable to the organisation. What is the purpose of the website what constitutes real value? Remember that goals can either directly generate revenue (like donations), or indirectly benefit the organisation (like spreading awareness and attracting volunteers). There are 5 types of Goals:
- Destination (e.g. Thank you page)
- Duration (e.g. minutes on site)
- Pages/screens per sessions (e.g. 2 pages)
- Event (e.g. a video was loaded)
Destination goals are most commonly used to track conversions and then come Events. Describing and tracking Goals can be challenging but offers valuable insights into the performance.
Real-Time Reports, which present real-time information on locations, traffic sources, events, content and conversions. Real-time reports are interesting to view as they present live information and results. It is recommended to use Real-Time traffic reports for debugging in case there is something wrong with the program.
Google Analytics is a free resource that every business benefiting from Google Ads should be using. It is a powerful tool that helps organisations track the visitors that interact with their website, understand how they interact and ultimately collect the information needed to make informed decisions towards the improvement of the site.