Web analytics is data collected by software programs that show a comprehensive view of actions users take when they visit your website. Analytics may include visits from organic traffic, PPC ads and social media platforms, the number of leads generated, information about the behavior of visitors, keywords used to find your website, which pages were visited and if they generated leads or sales (conversions), the performance of email campaigns, and hundreds or thousands of other data points.
Web analytics offers a powerful way to improve your digital marketing. The trick is understanding what the data means and applying it to your marketing in an objective way.
Data is the report card for your digital marketing strategy
Google Analytics alone offers thousands of data points to analyze your marketing. Naturally, the most important data to any business is that which drives revenue: leads and conversions. Analytics tells us the source of those leads and sales and gives us insight into how we can improve traffic and conversions. But it’s important that we don’t interpret data in a one-size-fits-all vacuum as metrics that are important to one business are not essential to another.
For instance, bounce rate is a vastly misinterpreted metric. If your bounce rate is high, that might be a bad thing or it might not matter. If you’re a publisher, a visitor might read your article in its entirety and then leave, resulting in a bounce, but they viewed the page for 4:00. Was that bounce a bad thing or not? But to an e-commerce store, a high bounce rate indicates that you need to run an analysis of your marketing strategy, website or PPC ads and determine:
- Are visitors seeing what they’re expecting from the ad click or keyword click?
- Is your pricing strategy effective?
- Is the website UX smooth and clean?
- Is the path to purchase simple enough?
How to interpret the effectiveness of your digital marketing channels
To evaluate the success of your different marketing channels, data analysis frequently begins with the Acquisition tab in Google Analytics. There you’ll see how many visitors arrived from organic search, social media, PPC ads, referrals from other websites, and other sources. This page will also show you the “quality” of those visits – how long a user stayed, how many pages they viewed, and if they completed a goal (like a form submission) or made a purchase. It’s very important that you look at a breakdown of your audience in this way so you’re not throwing money or effort away on marketing channels that aren’t driving sales or goals.
But data is objective – you have to view it in relation to your marketing. For instance, perhaps your organic visitors dropped from last month. There are many possible reasons: seasonal swings, a hit by an algorithm update, a competitor suddenly ranks above you, changes to website page content, a PPC ad that’s appearing above the organic result, sudden UX problems with the website, and many other possibilities. A little research can usually uncover the reason pretty quickly.
Dig into organic keyword search data
Keyword data drives SEO, so google search console or a similar platform is every SEO practitioner’s best friend. Here you’ll see the performance of keywords associated with your website, which keywords drove traffic, discover which pages are indexed (or not), the average rank for each page on your website, how your site keyword data compares between mobile and desktop search and many other data points. From this information, you can discover if new content or changes to content are effective in improving keyword search and uncover opportunities to capitalize on new keywords.
Google My Business data for local search
In your Google My Business (GMB) account there’s a tab named “Insights”. Here, you can discover which keywords are driving your GMB listing in local searches, what actions users take when your listing appears, if they discovered your business searching by your address or your business category, how many photos they viewed, and more. This data can inform what information you should change, add or delete in your GMB listing to improve these results.
Check your email performance data
In Google Analytics you can see some data regarding your email campaigns, but for the most robust analysis, you’ll need to log into your email management system. Important metrics can be viewed in your email platform, such as open rates, which links get clicks, which users on your list are the most active, and more. You’ll want to examine the difference in results for each email campaign and determine what was at the heart of it. Was it the order of the information in the email? The design? The subject line? The offer?
Check your PPC data often
In Google Ads, there are thousands of data points but the most important metric your managers and owners will be concerned with is ROI – how much did they spend on clicks vs how much revenue or leads were generated? You’ll need to dive in and see which ads and campaigns are meeting your goals, which ones aren’t, and adjust your ad and bidding strategies accordingly.
Google Ads is a monster of data and can be quite intimidating on first look. But if you learn it in small chunks, you’ll discover what’s most important pretty quickly. It’s pretty easy to see which ads are performing and generating sales. But you should also ask, why are the other ads not converting? The building block for PPC is keyword research before you set up any ad campaign – Google’s keyword planner is an excellent tool for this, along with SEM Rush, MOZ, and other platforms.
Don’t forget to check performance data for your videos
On YouTube, analytics are published for each video on your channel. From these analytics you can see how often your video was viewed, comments, viewing time, and many more data points. This can inform your strategy for adding, deleting, or changing tags to improve search results and for examining your promotional strategies around the video.
Analyze your web analytics without bias
Once you’ve analyzed all of your data, it’s time to put it into context to inform your marketing strategy. Has your conversion rate improved or softened over the last week, month, quarter or year? If so, what marketing actions were taken that led to those peaks and valleys? Knowing that X strategy resulted in a 28% increase in conversions is valuable data. Can you improve on that number with a small change to the marketing campaign? Can it be replicated in some other way on another channel?
Having a clear picture of how your marketing actions affect your conversions, site visitors, leads, and overall performance helps you make decisions as to the next steps. Can you make small variations to landing pages or email text to improve your results? Write a better PPC ad? Add a better image to your Facebook or Instagram ad? Write a piece of content that builds on the success of keyword search?
But the most important thing about analyzing your data is being able to accept when your marketing instincts are flat out wrong. If that change you made to strategy resulted in a 10% hit, you may have been off the mark. Data is for illumination, not support – it is intended to show the entire picture objectively, not support your theory or decision (that’s called bias).
There are tons of sources of web analytics available online and the sooner you dive in and start to understand the objective results of your marketing, the sooner you can improve upon it.