What we didn’t tell you about Google Analytics

by Alex Wall

Google Analytics 

We were flattered this week when more than 70 people packed the 7th floor of the National Young Arts Foundation building this past Tuesday for a hands-on presentation of Google Analytics fundamentals. It was a radical delight to speak with so many business executives and entrepreneurs about the role analytics plays in informed business decisions.

But we have to come clean, folks. We didn’t tell you everything about Google Analytics. In fact, we didn’t even tell you half. Analytics products are complex behemoths that provide you, quite frankly, with more data than you will ever need for any given objective. Ever.

But besides the fact that we didn’t go through mobile app analytics or the finer points of segmenting referral data, there’s just one thing you need to know about Google Analytics that we didn’t talk about.

You need to put as much effort into determining your objectives and identifying which metrics will act as KPI’s of those objectives as you do monitoring your data and acting on it.

You probably already have a website – that’s great! You probably already have Google Analytics installed. That’s great, too! But before you start obsessing over whether you got more or less traffic than you did last week or last month or last year, you need to have a real-talk conversation with your clients, your executives, your supervisor, or whoever the key decision maker is, and map out your objectives and your measurement models.  

Now, listen: this may vary depending on where your website is in terms of the analytics cycle.

For example, you may already have a steady stream of traffic, a well-controlled bounce rate, and an understanding of what your cost per acquisition (CPA) is and where you want it. If that’s the case, your task should be obvious: move the needle. You can do that by ramping down your cart abandonment rate using a number of different strategies (my favorite is product retargeting, but that’s another blog post).

The structure works like this:

  • Identify your overall business objectives. Increase sales? Broaden online/offline brand reach? What will push your business forward, what are you missing right now and what will you always need?
  • Determine the goals for each objective. This could be specific and immediately quantifiable, like capturing leads, or it could be more general, like providing information and resources.
  • Figure out your Key Performance Indicators. These are the numbers that will help you realize your goals for each objective. A strong KPI for brand reach, for instance, is overall traffic, time per session, pages per visitor, and so forth.
  • Set quantifiable goals for each of your KPIs. What digits do you need to hit to know you are achieving your goals for each objective? Is it a CPA reduced by 15%? Is it a lower bounce rate on your landing page? Be realistic. You’re not going to achieve a 100% checkout rate or a $1.00 CPA on a customer with a lifetime value of $20,000.
  • Last, identify what types of behavior influence these KPIs. Analytics doesn’t do all the heavy lifting: as analysts, we interpret the data and provide actionable, sound recommendations to influence those figures. You need to know what behaviors influence these figures if you’re going to be a strong analyst. Sure, lots of companies put their data analysts and marketing strategists in silos and one department pumps out the numbers and another makes the recommendations, but I’ve always thought that was folly.

Bottom line: there is no sound analytics assessment without meticulous business objective planning.

We hope this blog post helps you plan out your analytics strategies in the most effective and straightforward way possible. Remember, folks, your data doesn’t have to be 100% clean. There will be gaps in some places and you may get a little cranky when you realize that some of your configurations didn’t work out the way you planned, but aiming for 100% data accuracy is not what will drive your results – it’ll just drive you in circles.