“Analytics is more than a few reports. Used correctly, it can become the flight console for your business.”
So, the agency who built your site installed the tracking code for Google Analytics and you have a login which you’ve tried a few times. You’ve asked for reports and get a dashboard emailed to you every month. Your sessions are going up month on month and you are selling a few more things this month than last so things are looking good, right?
Your competitor has just hired a second person to their analytics team using money they saved on Adwords. They have identified two new market opportunities in the past 3 months and have increased their return rate for existing customers by 15%. They really understand what their customers want and need and have added new microsites for several specific audiences. They are looking at doubling revenue this year with a significant increase in profits too.
Analytics is more than a few reports. Used correctly, it can become the flight console for your business. While most GA users are still using the free version, many are now paying Google $150,000 per year for the Premium Version because of the value they extract from the data. What’s the difference between the Free and Premium Version? The tools are almost identical but in the paid version, the data flows faster and you can have more of it. Perhaps that says something about companies that “get data”.
I want to set out some steps that I think every company should go through to become fully Google Analytics (or any other analytics package) ready. Each of these steps will take 2–3 days of planning, execution and reflection to maximise the learning from them; they are not 15 minute tasks. Completing all the steps will take a minimum of 6 months and probably a year in my opinion. How many of them have you already completed?
1. Audit your current GA implementation. Start by making sure that you are using Universal Analytics and not the older version. The new version is where Google is putting all it’s investment and now fully embraces mobile and offline tracking. Check that e-commerce tracking is fully enabled and Search Console and Adwords properly linked. Work through all of the properties and make sure that filters, product/content groups and internal search are fully configured.
2. Define and configure your business goalsWork out why you are using digital (all the channels) as part of your business and specific goals and priorities for the year. You need to map these goals to conversion goals that can be tracked in Analytics plus add the micro-conversions that show that visitors are making progress towards your bigger goals.
Although it is common to want to track everything; focusing on a few goals and aligning marketing, content, social and relationship activities around these is potentially much more productive. You’ll need to tag your site to track these goals and give all goals a value so that your content and marketing activities can be measured and compared. Note that inside your business, different stakeholders will have different priorities and it is important to align these. GA will be able to provide different reports and views to match these needs.
3. Benchmark your business against your competitors. Google Analytics provides some useful benchmarking tools but you’ll need to use other tools too to fully examine the obvious and less obvious competitors in your market.
Use the Jobs to be done, JTBD framework to find new competitors who solve the same customer needs and watch out for new digital entrants who are disrupting your market.
Research average conversion, spend and pricing models in your market and set your own targets to match or exceed those benchmarks. Examine the marketing mix being used by your competitors and set up tools to monitor how those change over time. I’ll add a new post about this soon.
4. Align your stakeholdersThe first three steps are about defining a platform for growth. The next step of the process is to align all of the stakeholders (and agencies) in your business so that their activities complement and amplify each other. Don’t assume that everyone has the same view of what should be done.
We recommend some facilitated training sessions to make sure everyone is speaking the same language and setting out plans for each online and offline channel or department. Identify overlaps in activity, opportunities to align budgets and ways to coordinate marketing and social in particular.
5. Visualise the numbers and the workPart of coordinating multi-stakeholder and multi-agency teams is to make both the data and the work visible across the teams. Our justnow.io project will be one way to do this and there are other software and dashboard tools available. GA itself provides some real-time views and these could be pieced together with social listening and market monitoring software. Having a command centre view is of growing importance to many brands and may be accompanied by changes to more agile ways of team working supported by Kanban boards.
6. Set up reporting and intelligenceUse Google Analytics to create custom reports and automate the monitoring of key numbers and customer behaviour. Design reports that are fully aligned with your business goals. I recommend that you become completely comfortable with the metrics/dimension model inside analytics, spend a session designing custom reports for each stakeholder and teach everyone on your team how to explore the GA interface to ask why specific changes or improvements have been observed and how to take action to address or amplify them.
7. Understand your audience and their needs. Analytics has powerful tools to segment and explore your visitors and their behaviour. Looked at in aggregate elderly visitors from Germany are mixed up with mobile millennials who know and love your brand in social media and this obscures insights that would help you grow your business. By dividing your visitors into groups you can start to respond to their different needs.
I’ve already mentioned JTBD (in number 3.) but talking to real visitors to better understand who they are and what they are trying to do will really help, and often surprise you. Add survey, chat and feedback mechanisms to your site to help you understand them better. Analyse their search queries, Adwords journeys and data from the Search Console to build up a complete picture.
8. Drive traffic. Campaigns using social media, email or paid advertising are a good way of testing out changes you make to your site or hunches you have about your audience. Develop an experimental mindset that draws out specific learning from each campaign. Some may become permanent parts of your marketing plans but will still need monitoring and improving. Recognise that organic “needs based” and branded traffic can replace expensive paid traffic.
9. Improve the user experience for new and returning visitorsBy studying the journeys of different types of traffic and different audience segments you can identify road blocks and opportunities for improvement. Start with anything that could help “nearly customers” become customers. By valuing all of the micro conversion points this can be extended beyond ecommerce to improve the chances of getting your visitors to sign-up to your newsletters, engage with your social media or download your app.
Improve your tagging to recognise previous customers or account holders. Implement cross-session ID tagging to identify customers who use both mobile and desktop devices. Think through ways of improving the visitor experience for those who have visited before.
10. Set up Tag ManagerGoogle Tag Manager is a toolkit that provides marketers with the ability to make changes to their own campaign, interaction and third party tracking without involving a development team. Eventually all data driven companies are likely to implement a tag management solution although they are still fairly new in the market and need to be carefully implemented before they deliver their full benefits. It will take time to install and test GTM.
11. Train your team to use Tag ManagerWhen Tag Manager has been installed you will need to train your team to understand how to use this new tagging model. This requires a new mindset as lots of new functionality becomes possible including personalisation based on demographics, referrals or advertising.
12. Run marketing experimentsNow that GTM is installed plan and test new marketing techniques and strategies for your site. Add new tags to track in-page events such as downloading brochures, video viewing or partial form filling. You can split (or A/B) test two versions of a page or a headline or compare two landing pages. Design every experiment with clear learning objectives and share learning with the team.
13. Content, service and product improvementUsing data from GA and insights from customer surveys and feedback, plan new content and service components (recommendations. personalisation, wish lists etc). Your results will improve if you continuously improve how you meet the needs of your visitors. Data allows you to prioritise your efforts rather than attempting random developments. Use insights to add new product lines and to guide how you merchandise an ecommerce store.
14. Improve paid marketing. Don’t forget to review and improve the ROI of all your paid marketing strategies. Google Adwords campaigns in particular need to be closely monitored as search trends change and competitor activity changes the cost per click. Use GA data to calculate which campaigns and keywords are generating value for your business. Experiment with new ad creative, destination pages, keyword match types and negative keywords. Repeat the process for Facebook and other social media campaigns.
15. Track the whole customer journey. Google Analytics does not stay still and neither does technology. Keep in touch with changes to the platform and look for opportunities to integrate your digital presence with your offline activities. Consider implementing campaigns to drive in-store behaviour or take advantage of showrooming (in-store mobile research) to engage your customers. If you are upgrading your ePOS system look for ways to capture retail transactions inside Analytics.
16. Review against objectives and goals. Set up a period review of your key numbers with all the key members of your team and reflect on lessons from your experiments, Use these reviews to plan the next phase of your activities.
17. Repeat steps 12–16 for ever! Have I missed anything out? Does this make sense? Get in touch if have suggestions or want to explore these ideas further.