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Why Google Analytics is Just the Start

Every tool has its strengths and weaknesses and Google Analytics is no exception. Analytics expert, Paul Koks shows you how to maximize your ROI by expanding your insights beyond GA.

A lot of companies tend to get stuck using just one tool. Google Analytics is widely adopted in the digital analytics industry. And setting it up in the right way can uncover a ton of potential insights.

I have used Google Analytics for almost a decade now. What I found out is that this single application can do a lot, but there are quite a few limitations you should know about.

Every tool has its strengths and weaknesses and Google Analytics is no exception. The real power lies in the hands of the one person who is using it!

In this post, I will explain how you can expand your insights beyond Google Analytics to maximize your ROI.

Google Analytics expert

Every week I receive several emails from people starting out in digital analytics and asking me how to become proficient in using Google Analytics.

To be honest, this is not the right approach.

Becoming a “tool expert” won’t make you famous. A strong digital analyst is able to work with a variety of tools and can use them in such a way that it provides maximum insights and results.

What if Google Analytics or another tool suddenly disappears? You will run into problems then.

It’s about continuously developing your unique skillset.

A good digital analyst scores high on the majority of these points:

  1. Business acumen
  2. Problem solving skills
  3. Data visualization skills
  4. Online marketing skills
  5. Adaptation skills
  6. Communication skills
  7. Political skills
  8. Technical skills
  9. Patience
  10. Autodidactic learning

And it might take years or even decades to grow in each of these areas.

What, why and how

As a digital analyst, you need to focus on the whatwhy and how.

what-why-and-how

  • What is the lowest level of insights (quantitative insights)?
  • Why is the next level of insights (qualitative insights)?
  • How can we influence the what by testing and optimizing the why?

Quantitative research: the “what”

Google Analytics can gather a ton of information about what’s happening on your website and/or other (digital) channels.

The very first step is defining your KPIs.

“What are the key drivers of your organization that grow your revenue/margin and cut your costs?”

You will want to work with just a few KPIs that are supported in the entire organization. If you are employed by a large organization, it can be beneficial to define sub-KPIs for each department as well.

These KPIs make you implement Google Analytics in a strategic way so that it helps answer your main business questions. This is instead of collecting a ton of data without having a clue about what to do with it.

Google Analytics can answer many different questions.

Here are three examples (data from Google Analytics Demo Account):

1. What are my top-performing product categories?

top-performing-landing-page-groups

  • 70% of the transactions and revenue comes from the top three product categories.

2.  What do we know about the performance of mobile compared to desktop?

mobile-vs-desktop-performance

  • It is almost three times harder to convert mobile traffic compared to desktop traffic. The value per session is dramatically low due to a relatively low AOV.

3.  What are my best-performing regions?

region-analysis

  • No other regions provide real value to our bottom line except Americas.

It took me just five minutes to gather this information from Google Analytics.

And it is great because we learned a ton about the performance of our website.

But why is the performance on mobile so bad and why are three product categories responsible for the majority of sales?

We need to do additional research to answer these types of questions.

Always segment your Google Analytics data to uncover potential insights for driving business success.

Qualitative research: the “why”

Just exploring the website in combination with a thorough expert review can reveal a whole bunch of leaking buckets.

In most cases, I recommend digging deeper to supplement your data story about what’s going on.

The best person to tell you what needs to be fixed are your website visitors.

(Page-level) surveys

Let’s say you found that the drop-off rate for your basket page is 90%.

You really wonder why people are adding products to their basket without continuing to the checkout process.

Technically, you can see your website is functioning well. The pages look good both on desktop and on mobile, so what could be wrong? Is it because your shipping costs are higher than most of your competitors, for example?

This is when questioning your visitors might be a great solution to finding out why your visitors abandon on this particular page.

If you have the budget and want to be completely flexible on how to set up your surveys, I recommend to check out Qualaroo. They are one of the major players in the “voice of the customer” market.

A few questions to help you get started:

  • “What would’ve convinced you to complete the purchase of the item(s) in your cart?”
  • “If you did not make a purchase today, can you tell us why not?”
  • “Do you have any questions before you complete your purchase?”

qualaroo-exampleMake sure to ask the right questions at the right time to get the insights you need!

Online observations

There are many conversion hurdles that can’t be uncovered by asking questions or drilling down into your data.

So if you want to obtain a list of all the potential improvements you could make to get better results, you need to implement another tool.

This is where SessionCam and all its features can be a great fit!

sessioncam-benefits

You can zoom into your pages that have the highest “Customer Struggle” scores:

top-5-pages-customer-struggle

Then you can watch individual recordings – e.g. on form pages – to quickly find out more about where your visitors are struggling and gain a clear indication into the reasons why.

And, do you know whether the call-to-action at the bottom of your page is actually seen by the majority of your visitors?

Heatmaps and scroll maps are very useful to identify potential conversion hurdles.

heatmap-scrollreach

These and many more questions can be answered by leveraging the unique features SessionCam has to offer.

By combining the insights of your quantitative and qualitative research, you have gathered a lot of input that can potentially improve your business strategy.

Closing the loop: the “how”

In the end, it is all about the how. How can we better satisfy our visitors and improve our business at the same time?

Here is what I recommend you do:

  1. Define the KPIs that drive your business
  2. Implement Google Analytics (or another web analytics tool if preferred)
  3. Collect a sufficient amount of data
  4. Analyze your data and find out where your website is leaking money
  5. Implement a survey tool and ask the right questions on a few key pages that don’t perform well
  6. Supplement this data with insights from session recordings, heatmaps, funnels
  7. Gather any additional market / target group data via reports, benchmarks
  8. Find out whether there might be any psychological influencers
  9. Bring it all together in a testing plan, prioritize your ideas and start testing!
  10. Learn from your tests and optimize your website along the way

Technical hurdles need to be fixed immediately and you don’t have to implement an A/B test for that.

However, when you suspect that your visitors struggle with the length of your form, you should refrain from simply changing your form.

A/B testing

In order to improve your main metrics I recommend you test a new version of your page against the current one.

Especially if you just start out or don’t have very high traffic and conversion numbers, make sure to refrain from running multivariate tests.

Besides the need for having high numbers, the results are a lot more difficult to interpret.

Tools

There are different tools on the market that you could use for running your tests. I recommend you use Optimizely or deploy your tests via Google Tag Manager (for free).

Google has also introduced Optimize 360 and they probably will enter the market with a free edition soon. Might be a great option as well!

The ideal situation would be when you can feed your Google Analytics account with the test results. Read this article if you want to learn more.

That’s it from my side. I hope you have picked up a few new ideas on how to go beyond your Google Analytics data.

Once again, start with collecting data from all sources that are available and test your ideas to verify what’s working and what’s not. In the end, this will be the key to improving your business results.

Concluding thoughts

To be honest, we have only just scratched the surface in this article.

It is extremely useful to combine your back-end data with online website behavior. This instead of only focusing on your website data.

For example, you want to find out how often your customers buy so that you can personalize their online experience to better fit their needs.

This is where ecommerce analytics in much greater depth is worth exploring!

What is the position of Google Analytics in your organization and how do you “close the loop”? Happy to hear your thoughts and a comment or share is more than welcome!

About the author

Paul Koks is an Analytics Advocate at Online Metrics and the author of Google Analytics Health Check. He helps companies to capture valuable insights from simple and reliable data.

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