Google Analytics: Utilizing Data to Optimize Your Content

Michele Frost

What is Google Analytics

The key to a successful marketing program is determining what works and learning from what doesn’t. With the recent digital disruption and abundance of data, marketers are finding it extremely difficult to hone in on what tools are useful and recognize what data is important. According to PAN Communications’ annual Content Fitness Report, 76 percent of marketers are lacking the confidence to measure the success of their content programs, up from 51 percent in 2016. This is where Google Analytics comes into play.

what is google analyticsSource: pexels.com used under CC license.

Google Analytics is a platform that helps retrieve, organize and make sense of the data your brand collects about your customers through multiple channels. Analyzation can be daunting if you’re unsure how to approach it, but here we will take a deeper look at the ins and outs of Google Analytics.

Which analytics are most relevant? What metrics line up with your brand’s long-term goals, and how can you leverage them? Most importantly, how can Google Analytics help you learn from your past mistakes, so that you aren’t repeating them in the future? The answers to these questions can be found with the right amount of practice and a little help from this article.

The Google Analytics platform is broken up into five sections – three of which will be our focus: Audience, Acquisition and Behavior.

1. Audience

The Audience section is comprised of data focusing on new and returning customers, and how their actions and engagement affect your website’s performance level. Google Analytics does an excellent job of visually representing the percentages of new users in comparison to the percentages of returning users. It’s also an excellent tool for visually displaying bounce rate, average duration of each users’ time spent on the site, and how many pages they viewed while they were browsing. In addition to the users’ actions, the Audience section provides you with an overview of their demographics, including age, gender and individual interests. 

Additionally, the Audience section can break down your data into hourly, daily, weekly or monthly segments – making it easy for you to evaluate your site’s performance based on your desired factors. Narrowing your data down to hourly increments provides you with a much more detailed visual of when the most site traffic occurred, allowing you to make inferences as to what may have caused that spike in traffic. This data can also help you to choose the best times to post on social, send email campaigns and post your new blog or premium content piece. (More on segmenting by channel in the next section.)

How to Capitalize on Audience Demographics Provided by Google Analytics

Successful marketers can easily identify audience demographics that will augment their campaign efforts and increase website traffic. Google Analytics provides these demographics and lays them out so that they’re straightforward and painless to work with. The difficult part of this process is determining which demographics to focus on, which is why we’ve outlined the two most important factors to consider on your journey to increase your site traffic:

  1. Age – By far one of the most crucial demographics to take note of. Behavior patterns, interests and overall daily routines are often determined by the user’s age. If you’re trying to reach your target audience of male users, ages 50-65, you may not want to reach out with the same message you would use for females, ages 18-24. Chances are, the majority of this group has a 9-5 workday, which would impact when and where you’re targeting them, as well as the type of content you’re serving up.
  2. Gender – As mentioned in the example above, gender is also an important factor to consider during your campaigns. While gender may not be black and white, and won’t always impact your efforts, there are typically different behavioral patterns between males and females that will influence your campaign’s message, content and overall strategy.

Google Analytics helps you align your intended audience with your actual audience – a practice that is imperative to your brand’s success. Taking these two demographics into consideration while you’re making improvements on your website or campaign will bring you that much closer to attaining your goals.

2. Acquisition

The Acquisition tab is one of the most informative areas of the platform when it comes to understanding which of your marketing channels are performing effectively. In this section, you can determine the channel that drove the most traffic, had the highest time on site, and the lowest bounce rate, helping you to identify your brand’s most engaging channel.

The Overview section shows the data represented in a pie chart, and divides the channels into Organic Search, Direct, Social, Referral, Email, Paid and Other. Pro tip: If you’re spending the majority of your money on social, but it generates the smallest percentage of site traffic, it may be time to change your plan of attack

Underneath the All Traffic section, you can find a breakdown of the engagement data, such as bounce rate, average duration and page views, by each individual channel. This data informs you which channel attracts the most interested and engaged users, and which causes the highest bounce rate. With this information, you can also determine which channels are performing well without any marketing strategies behind them – your team should consider capitalizing on these even further.

Within the Overview section, the Referral tab is a crucial part of evaluating your PR efforts. When articles are posted in various publications, Google Analytics tracks which of these publications has the highest referral rate to your website. In other words, which publication was most successful in driving users to your site, based on your earned coverage?

Another noteworthy section within the acquisition tab in Google Analytics, is the AdWords drop-down, which is also linked to your AdWords account to provide a seamless integration. This area is imperative for marketers who want to capitalize on which keywords drive users to their site during various campaigns. Google Analytics highlights the importance of strategically conducting every aspect of every campaign – creating a title with bold keywords and phrases that resonate with your target audience can make all the difference.

How to Adjust Your Marketing Strategy Based on Channel Performance

A large part of driving traffic to your website involves posting content on other channels that links users back to your website. Google Analytics breaks down these mediums, based on seven different categories: Organic Search, Direct, Social, Referral, Email, Paid and Other. Within each category, such as Social, the data is broken down even further into Sources, like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

But what does this data mean for your brand? And how can you leverage it to improve your marketing strategies? Check out the three tips below to learn how:

  1. Don’t fix what isn’t broken – if click through rates are skyrocketing in your email campaigns, there’s no need to make any edits. Learn to accept that you will excel in certain areas!
  2. If it is broken, you should evaluate it – rework your strategies and budget to improve marketing in channels with low performance. If you don’t see positive results from these changes, recognize when to let go. Google Analytics is the perfect tool to help you acknowledge this.
  3. Balance is key – it’s important to monitor all your channels, rather than focusing your time and money on just one. Chances are, your target audience is active in several different areas, and you should be there to capitalize on that.

3. Behavior

The third section of Google Analytics that is valuable when adjusting your marketing strategies to maximize your campaigns and your site, is the Behavior tab. This tab focuses on the behavior of the pages on your site, a different perspective from the previous sections that revolved primarily around the user. The Behavior section allows you to analyze the data around your most effective content. You can view engagement metrics and compare them page to page, or view them siloed to see which pages need improvements in order to be a more effective asset in your strategy. In addition to page views, Google Analytics provides you with the amount of time users spend on each page – allowing you to determine what content is most interesting, attention-grabbing and relevant.

Under the Behavior section, Google Analytics also outlines which pages cause the highest bounce rates – something to keep in mind when optimizing your landing pages that drive traffic by campaign. In alignment with bounce rate, this section details which pages the majority of users are entering on, and on the contrary, which pages tend to have the highest exit percentages.

As a visual resource, you can use the “Behavior Flow” tab to view the path most commonly taken by site visitors. You can manipulate the data by choosing a landing page, or highlighting traffic through a specific page. This allows you to see where your visitors are spending the majority of their time, the path in which your visitors take – and outline to help you adjust the path if you want them to go in a different direction. This data is crucial for modern marketers who are looking to improve upon their website engagement and maximize their campaign strategies. 

How to Lower Bounce Rates on Your Most Common Exit Pages

Exit pages are the pages that users last visit on your site before leaving. Google Analytics provides marketers with this data, which enables them to focus on enhancing the content on pages with the highest exit percentage. But what kind of adjustments can you make to improve this?

1. Calls to Action – including links, videos or other forms of engaging content within these pages will allow users to interact with the page, rather than exit. These CTAs can be linked to the “goals” section of Google Analytics, and will help you track your progress and areas of improvement.

2. Mirror content from your high traffic pages – figure out what elements of your successful pages could be carried over to your exit pages. Is it the layout? More graphics and images? Decide what’s working, and address what’s not.

3. Consider your audience – go back into the audience section of Google Analytics and scan the demographics of your users. Take action by tailoring the content and style of your exit pages to match your audience’s interests. This will allow your website to fit their needs and preferences, and will maximize their time spent on the site.

Conclusion

Google Analytics offers a plethora of information within the three sections discussed above. The ease at which brands can navigate between these tabs is what makes using Google Analytics the desired platform for your data. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with your audience and evaluated your channel and content performance, the next step is to establish goals. Monitoring your progress and completion of these goals is essential in improving upon campaigns moving forward.

The ability to gather, understand and capitalize on your data using Google Analytics is what will set you apart from other industry experts and allow you to closely monitor your marketing efforts. This platform is designed to predict and display the numbers and statistics that your brand needs – before you know you need them. The user-friendly charts, high-levels of organization, and abundance of data at your fingertips, makes adding Google Analytics to your marketing technology stack the smart choice.

Michele Frost, Vice President Digital, PAN Communications

This post originally appeared in PR News Guidebook Google for Communicators Vol. 1, on Page 64.

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