Most marketers use Google Analytics the wrong way. They open their dashboard, look at their traffic growth, which country they are coming from, and other information that GA provides right off the bat. And they stop it at that point.
But the right way to use Google Analytics is to ask questions and build stories to help you get more insights about your business.
In this chapter, you’re going to learn how to use Google Analytics and questions to ask while using Google Analytics. I don’t want to go into how to set up GA. I wanna talk more about how to make sense of Google Analytics data, reports, filters, how to create them, how to get answers from GA and grow your business.
If you’re looking for how to set up Google Analytics, we recommend doing so with Google Tag Manager. Read this article on setting up GTM.
🛡️ You are reading “Question to Ask While Using Google Analytics: A Game of Growth (Chapter 5)” – a series of articles on growth marketing. To read the first chapter of this series, go here 👉 Fundamentals of Growth Marketing: A Game of Growth (Chapter 1)
Basics of Google Analytics
Google Analytics can be very complicated to understand because there’s so much in there and it feels very raw. When you start to use Google Analytics, you should look for answers to these 4 questions:
- Who are my users?
- Where are they coming from?
- What are the actions they are taking on my site?
- What are the results of those actions?
Open your GA account and start working on it, analyse the data, and create reports as you go along. Find answers to the questions above and ask yourself how you can go deeper.
Let’s get started.
Google Analytics – Types of Reports
The first thing you’d wanna know about Google Analytics is the type of reports. Reports are basically how GA looks at the behaviours of the visitors and questions you wanna answer through them.
There are several types of reports, each of which answers to one question:
- Realtime: What’s happening in real-time?
- Audience: Who the visitors are?
- Acquisition: Where are they coming from?
- Behavior: What are the actions they are taking on your site? What are their behaviours?
- Conversions: What are the results of their actions? Are they purchasing your goods or services? Are they signing up for your newsletter, etc?
Important Note: Avoid using the current day in any analysis because different reports are updated at different times in GA. Therefore, it is possible to have mismatched data in the current day reports.
Realtime Reports – What’s happening in real-time?
Realtime reports are used to understand whether your tracking is working properly. It’s used mainly for testing purpose when you set up a new event or goal or if you exclude particular geography and you just wanna check if it’s excluded.
These are some of the questions it helps you answer:
- Do you have visitors on your site, on certain pages, from certain locations, etc?
- Are your custom events firing properly?
- Are your goals or conversions tracking properly?
Again, Realtime reports are more useful when you’re testing. You’d never use real-time reports to make any long-term decisions.
Audience Reports help you answer the question: Who are my users?
Google Analytics tracks users by assigning a cookie to anyone who visits your website for the first time and in that cookie, there is a unique Client ID. GA considers each new client ID as a new user.
Now, if you visit the same website again after several days, it recognizes the cookie and your client ID. That’s how it knows that you are a returning visitor.
But if you visit the website from a new device, GA has no way of telling that you’re the same person so it still counts you as 2 users. This is important to know in order to understand what a user is.
GA can provide you with the demographics data of your visitors such as their age, gender and interests. However, you have to set it up first, which is super easy.
By default, Google Analytics doesn’t provide you with Demographics data of your users. You have to enable the option in your admin by going to Property settings under Property and turning on “Enable Demographics and Interest Reports”.
It takes some time for this data to be populated. Once you have that data you should ask yourself:
- Do the age and gender data match with my target audience?
- If not, why is that so? Are you running ads or promotions to a different demographic group? Or maybe, your product users and buyers belong to different groups.
- How can I segment my visitors to find their demographics? E.g. demographics of buyers, returning visitors, etc.
- What is the story you can derive from using segmented demographics?
- Do you need to take action based on this information?
For example, if you are selling baby clothes and aim to target new mothers who are 30 – 40 years old. You’re running ads to drive traffic to but see that the majority of your buyers are 55 – 65 years old women.
You may dig in deeper to understand what’s happening. It might be that you’re targeting new mothers, but actually it’s the first-time grandmothers who are buying most of the clothes as gifts for their grandchildren.
Further questions to ask:
- Should you run an ad campaign targeting grandmothers between the age of 55 to 65 years?
- How can our business appeal more to the grandmothers?
Interests is where you can find more information about your users’ consumption.
- Affinity categories: These are the products or interests that your audience also like. Questions to ask:
- What other products does my audience like?
- Can we do cross-promotion with other brands and products that my audience like?
- Is there a particular affinity audience that’s converting higher than others?
- Is it different for the users who bought something from your site?
- In-market: These are things or products that your affinity audience is looking to buy. Questions to ask:
- What are the other products my audience is buying right now? Segment further and ask – what are the products my buyers or returning visitors buying?
- Can I do any cross-promotion with those products that my market is buying right now?
Here, you can analyse which browsers and OS your visitors are using. The questions to ask:
- What are the top browsers generating traffic or conversions?
- Which browser traffic is more valuable?
In this example, Chrome has more traffic but Safari converts better.
- How can you either improve conversions in Chrome or grow the traffic in Safari browser?
- Should I run ads only for Safari users because they buy more?
- Is there any optimization issue with Chrome? Should you check that?
Similar to Browser and OC, you can check how your visitors are doing on each mobile or desktop or tablet.
One of the powerful ways to look at here is how top browsers are performing for each device type. From this example below, we can see that the conversions on Chrome only came from mobile devices, whereas the Chrome-Desktop traffic is 78% but no transactions.
Is Chrome-Desktop working fine? Maybe you should do a test-purchase to verify.
Acquisition Reports help you answer the question, “Where are my users coming from?”
All Traffic > Source/Medium
Source is the brand that is sending us the traffic and Medium can be described as the type of traffic.
Questions to ask:
- Where and how much traffic is coming from those traffic sources and media?
- How are they engaging with the website and how many of them are buying?
- Which sources generate valuable traffic so that you can double-down on that?
- What is my ROI for each source where you’re spending money and time?
All Traffic > Channels
Channels are the categories of sources that bring you traffic. So for example, Facebook is a source of traffic which is categorized under Social as a channel. Similarly, there’s Organic, Paid Search, Direct, Referral, etc. These are the pre-defined categories by Google Analytics, but you may want to customize them as per your definition, and what makes sense to you the most.
If you run Google Ads, you should link your Google Ads account to the Analytics account so that you can see the data here.
Once you do, you can find data like paid keywords, campaigns, search queries directly here. Now, you can also get the information in your Google Ads account, but it’s more holistic when you can see that data in analytics as well.
I won’t go into more details here, but we will see this in another post on Google Ads.
Just like Google Ads, you have to connect Search Console account to the Analytics account. While Google Ads give you data from paid traffic, Search Console will provide you with data from search results and is a must to analyse your SEO efforts.
In order to link your Search Console and Analytics accounts, read this.
If you’re tagging your campaigns i.e. using UTM parameters to share your links, this is where it shows up. And you should tag your campaigns to know exactly the quality of traffic each campaign is bringing you.
With Campaigns, you are trying to answer what type of promotions, channels, sources, medium, and content are working well for you that you can replicate.
Behavior reports answers to the question, “What actions are my users taking on the website?”
Site Content > Landing Pages
- Does it make sense?
Is your homepage the top landing page? Do you see your cart page as the top landing pages? If yes, then add source as the secondary dimension and see where are they coming from? Maybe, they are coming from the cart abandonment email campaign. So now it makes sense that they see cart page first.
- What are the landing pages with the most transactions?
Site Content > Exit Pages
Exit pages are the last page your visitors visited on your site.
- Does it make sense?
- Were you expecting the top exit pages to as shown?
- Is your sales page the top exit page? That’s a problem which needs to be addressed.
- Is your cart page the top exit page? What made them add a product to their cart and exit?
Site Content > All Pages
- What are the top pages with high bounce rates?
- What pages should I optimize first that would increase my revenues or transactions?
- Are my top transaction pages also my top exit pages?
This is one of the most important sections of GA. Events are used for tracking specific actions that users are taking that are not automatically tracked by GA such as filling out forms, video views, buttons clicks, etc. GA only tracks pageviews by default.
Use Google Tag Managers to track events like button clicks, views, product clicks, etc. and you can get tons of data.
My advice is to track almost every type of event that you can on your website. Once you have the data in front of you, ask yourself relevant questions:
- What CTA buttons are driving users down the funnel?
- What messaging works best for getting more sign-ups?
- Are your visitors watching the product videos? How much?
Conversion Reports answer the questions, “What are the results of the actions taken by users on my website?”
This is all about your final KPI and goals. You have to set up the goals in order to see the data in these reports.
Goals > Goal URLs
These are the URLs that are driving the goal. For example, if you have multiple blog posts linking to your sales page so you can fire the goal every time those links are clicked. Goal URLs tell you from which page that URL was clicked.
This helps you understand the top pages or URLs that drive your goals.
Another example would be to set up the lead generation goal on your form. So Goal URL will give you the pages that are collecting the most amount of leads on your website.
Reverse Goal Path
This explains what happened before the goal was achieved. So before someone became a lead, which pages was that visitors on.
This is super useful to know the path that your users take to become your lead or buy products from you.
If you set up your funnels and the pages a visitors go through in order to reach the final goal, this funnel visualization report can be very useful to you.
This helps you visualize your funnel and the main question you should be asking yourself is, “What needs to be optimize in order to improve the conversions?”
- Is there a high drop out from “Cart” to “Billiong and Shipping” pages?
- Why is there a big exit from “Billing and Shipping” to “Payment” page? Are my shipping policy not clear? Can we remove extra shipping cost to improve conversions?
When your visitors buy a product, they don’t necessarily go in one direction. They add a product to the cart, then they go to the Billing and Shipping page. But they realize there’s free shipping on orders more than $100. So they go back to catalogue page, then they add another product to the cart.
Your customers move back and forth on your site and Goal flow report is the visualization of how visitors are moving towards your goal.
The main question you should be asking at this point is, “Are there any strange behaviors or conversions that you see?”
We touched upon some of the questions that you should be asking while going through Google Analytics reports. This is the basics of understanding the analytics and there’s so much more to Google Analytics than we could cover in just one article.
Please go through your Google Analytics on your own, and keep playing with different reports and asking questions. If you want to learn more about Google Analytics, I highly recommend CXL’s Google Analytics for Beginners by Chris Mercer.
It’s a 9+ hours long course to help you ask questions to Google Analytics, and how to get started with goals and events, understanding and customizing traffic sources, etc.
What I love about this course is that the instructor gives more time to important concepts so that they are ingrained into your memory.
If you are already working with Google Analytics, they also have an intermediate level course on Google Analytics. It’s about finding answers to more complicated questions with advanced techniques and customizations.
I highly encourage you to open your Google Analytics account, and just have a look at all that we have discussed in this article.
Remember, the data exists to answer questions.
🛡️ You just finished reading “Question to Ask While Using Google Analytics: A Game of Growth (Chapter 5)” – a series of articles on growth marketing. To read the next article, click here 👉 Google Tag Manager For WordPress: A Game of Growth (Chapter 6)