Comparing Planet 3 and Planet 4 performances
With the right KPIs, Dashboard and Segments
*This post is co-authored by Ibraheem Elawadi and Luca Tiralongo
Before setting up tools and methodologies to track, consolidate and visualize Planet 4 KPIs, we need to ensure that key ‘before vs after’ indicators are properly understood and set up. This will be vital to create a solid benchmarking baseline to compare against Planet 4 once it will be live.
In this post we will not only go through the KPIs that should be used to perform such cross-website assessment, but also check step-by-step how to setup our own Planet 3 (or any other website!) Google Analytics Dashboard and all its segments.
BUT beside data pulled out and visualised directly in Google Analytics (GA), we should also include in our benchmarking analysis 3 additional KPIs extractable from other sources, Domain Authority, Page Authority and PageSpeed Insights, all of which are super useful to compare page ranking and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) performances.
Let's clarify three key points before digging into the 'P3 vs P4' recipe:
- the selected date range for this exercise should be the same across time (e.g. April 2017 vs April 2018) or at least be of the same length (Quarter 1 vs Quarter 2);
- data should be extracted from the 'cleanest' Google Analytics (GA) period available. If we compare performances from the same date range but had any sort of downtime at some point (like the snip below) or went through a go live, data are de facto not reliable as a benchmark (you expect a traffic boost when launching a new website!)
- there is no “device” specific KPI (e.g Mobile vs Desktop), since each one of the metric has the option “split by device”, so it's totally up to us to decide on which metric to perform this split.
1. Which KPIs, why and how
- Basic website traffic analysis (Overview > page views / sessions / users) >> These very basic data give you actionable insights on how a website performs, and need to be understood correctly to be interpreted.
Let’s make a practical example: a report of a campaign website showing similar page views and number of sessions indicates that it is performing well in outreach but could do better in Depth, conversion or supporter journey (unless the primary goal is to drive traffic to the site, of course).
Small point, please remember that Google replaced “Visits” with “Sessions” and “Unique visitors” with “Users”, to simplify everyone’s life.
- Average Session duration (Audience > Overview > Avg. Session Duration) >> Understanding how long users spend engaging with content across the site is key to determine when and how to ASK.
- Average Click/page Depth (or Page depth p/user') (Overview > Audience > Avg. page per session) >> Useful to understand how engaging is a website and its content (this is not only related to content quality, but to site architecture, graphic layout, etc..).
- Average site Search queries per user (here’s an example) (Behaviour > Overview > Site search) >> Massively helpful to assess navigation quality and understand users’ behaviour (higher search = higher investment in integrated search engine / lower content-focused funnels?)
- Overall Goal conversion rate (Conversions > Goals > Overview) >> One of the most important KPI which will determine Planet 4 success or failure, since it will show how many visitors reached at least one of the goals previously set up. Choose whichever goal you want to compare, but PLEASE keep the same when assessing performances across websites. What’s the point, otherwise?
For the Greenpeace International website we selected 'Users whose visits lasted longer than 5 minutes' and 'Users who donated from Splash page'. This because the main goals of this site are to promote content funnels (a longer visit indicates multiple content types consumed) and to start a supporter journey via a donation.
For your own site, you may decide to adopt other goals as well, such as 'Petition sign-up', 'One off-donation', 'Event sign-up' and so on. Should you be using external tool/s for petitions, donations or email marketing (like most Greenpeace offices do), the API connection CMS < > 3rd party tool must work flawlessly to ensure proper Google Analytics tracking.
- Traffic from organic sources (Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels) >> Understanding how users arrive to your website helps focusing resources in acquisition. Our 'Planet 3 benchmarking' Google Analytics Dashboard below keeps Acquisition and Conversion separated, because sometimes these are used interchangeably.
Let’s clarify it here: Acquisition is different from Conversion. The first ratio helps understanding how users get to a website, whereas the second is key to assess how many visitors are converted into desired action/s.
Technical Health Check
- Avg. Page load time (Behaviour > Site Speed > Page Timings > Page load time) >> To support data-driven interventions on hosting server or page design (number, type, and weight of elements on the page).
- Domain Authority (https://moz.com/researchtools/ose) and Page Authority (https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/) >> these non-Google Analytics KPIs are both important to monitor the migration effects on organic search and to ensure that the top 10 pages actually keep or even improve their Page Authority (PA).
- Google PageSpeed Insights (available in Google Developers) >> Page speed and its breakdown by device are crucial indicators for the quality of the experience that users get when browsing a website. It is therefore important to extract this data, compare it to the Avg. Page load time metric in Google Analytics (above) and then benchmark it against P4.
2. The Dashboard and its segments
All these KPIs will be visualized in our beautiful Google Analytics Dashboard, split by the 4 key areas, as shown below.
Keep scrolling to install your own dashboard and get the links to the custom segments which will allow you to break down traffic into 5 groups: Loyal visitors, Visitors who landed on Homepage, Visitors who landed on Blog, Visitors who landed on Press Release and Visitors who took an Action.
3. Setting up the Dashboard and configuring goals
3.1 Select your “P3 view” (or other website view) and click “Create”.
→ You might need to reconfigure the Average Conversion widget to your overall conversion goals or custom goals to benchmark against specific goals). Click on the top-right edit icon in the conversion widget, like shown here on the Left <<<<
From the Widget Settings choose the target conversion goal from the highlighted dropdown menu:
3.2 Hit "Save" and enjoy the magic. It should look more or less like this:
4. Adding and configuring the segments
As said, there are 5 segments available for download, but note that you can have a maximum of 3 segments added to your live Google Analytics dashboard. That's how GA works, so don’t get mad, you data-voracious you.
b) Visitors who landed on Homepage, once added to your GA account, edit the segment (Sequence settings) and edit the Landing page regex to include your main subdirectory (SEE THE BLUE TEXT BELOW?):
Make sure to check the summary on the right side of your dashboard (it should reflect a realistic number that fits with your expectation).
See this circle on the Left? <<<
c) Visitors who landed on Blog. Edit the segment >> go to the conditions section >> change the Landing page condition to your blog directory / regex (like you did so well for the Homepage segment).
d) Visitors who landed on Press Release. Now you are a master in adapting the “Starts with” regex menu to your P3 (or other) press release section.
e) Visitors who took an Action. For this segment, we choose 2 main goals, “Users whose visits lasted longer than 5 minutes” and “Users who donated from Splash page”.
As explained above in the “Behaviour” KPIs, YOU CAN ADD FURTHER GOALS, selecting them in the “Goals” menu (see below), but please remember to analyze the same goals when comparing 'before vs after' performances.
It shouldn’t have taken us more than 10 minutes to set up the dashboard and all segments, depending how fast you drink your coffee. Now that everything’s ready, you can either analyze and extract data from your Planet 3 (or other website) or wait until data will prove that Planet 4 rocks.
Do you want want to download this whole tutorial? Enjoy.
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