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Use Google Analytics to Understand Your Customers
Leveraging reports to strengthen your business
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Business owners know their product inside and out. But it’s just as important that they know who they’re creating products for. Digging into the data from your website or app is a good place to start when trying to learn about your customers. Google-supported trainer Petia Abdur-Razzaaq returned to our small business webinar series for a session on using the search giant’s free analytics program, Google Analytics. The concepts from her presentation apply to whatever analytics platform you choose.
From numbers to new ideas.
Google Analytics and similar reporting programs crank out a lot of information. But to understand what information will really make a difference to a business, you have to first understand the difference between data, analytics and insights. Abdur-Razzaq put it succinctly: “Your data will show you that you had 3,000 site visits over the past 30 days, analytics would show that 30% of those people access your site from mobile devices. But the insights will reveal that visitors using mobile devices are 60% more likely to convert.” Put another way, insights are data interpretations that are “novel, credible, and actionable enough to unlock new opportunities that you may not have thought about before,” she explained. Google Analytics is now so sophisticated that you can type in questions to generate insights.
Insights can show you both what’s working on your website and what your areas of opportunity are. Address those areas by setting specific and measurable goals for customer engagement. The customer engagement phases are reach, engage, convert and sustain. Knowing which phase you need to strengthen determines the kinds of metrics reports you use.
Reports support phases of customer engagement.
Reach refers to the number and type of people coming to your website. Look to your data collection platform for analytics reports that show which ads or search terms lead people to pages on your website. Google Ads integrate seamlessly with Analytics, meaning you can see how effective your ads are in one place.
Google Analytics offers Realtime reports, meaning you can see almost immediately how traffic is moving to and through your website or app. This report can be especially useful if, for example, you want to see if there’s a direct connection between your product being mentioned on a news show and an increase in visits.
Similarly, the Acquisition tab shows what other places on the internet drive people to you; this is known as referral traffic. This is where you can find out if your social media followers are clicking links or if your email marketing campaigns are effective. Google Analytics also shares demographic reports to let you know the makeup of your visitors, though Abdur-Razzaaq cautions entrepreneurs to take them with a grain of salt. Changing privacy and cookie rules have made it harder to identify visitors.
Engagement metrics help you understand how (or if) your visitors actually use your website or app once they arrive. It’s an especially important measure of your site’s success, explained Abdur-Razzaaq. “If [customers are] going to the site, and they’re not doing anything– they’re not even checking out additional pages, they’re not clicking on links–that’s a serious problem.”
Evaluate your site’s engagement with the reports under the Engagement tab, which share information about how visitors use your site. Taking some of the guesswork out of what quality traffic is, Google uses a metric called “engaged visits” to indicate that in a single visit, a user spent at least 10 seconds on your site, looked at two or more pages or had at least one conversion event (e.g. made a purchase).
Ultimately, not all website traffic is quality traffic. A misleading social media post, for example, may drive a lot of new visitors to your website or app, but if that destination ultimately doesn’t serve them, your engagement will be low. When customers land on a page and quickly leave, that action is compared to the number of people who stay and represented as a bounce rate. Sites or pages with high bounce rates are ones with low engagement, meaning they don’t serve visitors (note: the most recent version of Google Analytics has gotten rid of bounce rate reports in the dashboard). Scoring high on bounce rate or low on other measures of engagement means you may need to think about ways to get more clicks from a single user without frustrating them.
Website visitors should do something once they land on your site, whether that means making a purchase, subscribing to your newsletter or downloading something. Those end actions are called conversions. Google Analytics currently lists its conversion reports under Engagement, while putting anything related to transactions under its Monetization tab. The monetization reports can help you find insights about your visitors’ behaviors and the kinds of changes you might implement strengthen the customer relationship. This tab also has reports on how much you might be making in ad revenue, if you have a campaign currently running.
The sustain phase of the customer relationship is about sentiment and retention. What are customers saying about you online? And do they like you enough to come back to your site? “You need to get a clearer understanding of who your loyal repeat customers are and reward them,” advised Abdur-Razzaaq. Those rewards can mean big wins for your bottom line. “It is seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a happy customer,” she said.
The Retention tab on Google Analytics features reports that show your new users vs. returning ones, and explains what returning users do once they come back. That’s important, because your return visitors aren’t always repeat customers. “Unfortunately–and many people don’t like this stat–but it takes seven to 14 exposures for even a qualified lead to convert, unless it’s an emergency,” Abdur-Razzaaq explained. Your website and marketing efforts should include elements having to do with retention. For example, make it easy for customers to have a wishlist so they can purchase things later.
Getting more specific.
Google Analytics and similar programs allow users to filter data by dimensions, or descriptors, like the city where your website visitors live. Adding a secondary dimension, such as browser, will generate a report that shows you the browsers your website visitors in City A use. Exploring added dimensions allows you to exclude data you don’t want so you can focus on what really interests you. When you change the dimensions in a report, those changes are reflected only in the portion of the data you’re currently viewing.
Segments, on the other hand, allow you to isolate and analyze ongoing trends in data subsets. Say you want to know how customers in City A use your site differently from customers in City B. Use the Explorations tab to define those segments and get reports on that customer behavior. Manipulating both segments and dimensions can lead to insights that can shift your website approach.
Abdur-Razzaaq recommends entrepreneurs check their site or app metrics once a week when starting out and then adjust to monthly as they start to see patterns. It’s an essential part of making the best decisions for you and your customer, she said. “As business owners, we get things in our heads about how our customers react. But it’s not about what we think; it’s about what’s actually happening.”
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