Why You Need A Clear Google Analytics Strategy

I actually wanted to title this article “Why Data Diving Without a Clear Strategy Is Guaranteed to Drive You Insane!!” Unfortunately it was too long, sounded far too clickbait-y, and as I discovered recently, not everyone understands the term “data diving”.

So let’s get that out of the way first, because I’ve always hated business jargon that just seems designed to confuse whoever you’re talking to.

What is data diving?

What I mean by data diving is this: let’s say you’ve been selling online for a year or so and want to look at your numbers to see how you’re doing and what can be improved. So you fire up your Google Analytics dashboard, jump in and start going through the reports.

That’s data diving. The problem is, after clicking around the dashboard and skimming through a lot of charts, tables and numbers for I-don’t-know-how-many-hours, the overwhelm starts to set in.

There are so many reports, with so much information in each one (not to mention the fact that each individual report has a whole bunch of additional configurations and settings you could apply even MORE data!) that you begin to wonder how anyone could possibly make sense of it all.

And so your data diving session starts to feel a lot more like simply drowning in data.

Context matters: why you need a lifebelt

I’ve heard a lot of entrepreneurs say they tend to just avoid Google Analytics, because they just can’t get their head around the reports. They’ll come back to it “one day” instead (which we all know never arrives).

Also, (although much less frequently said aloud) I think a lot of people get a little embarrassed about this, because Google Analytics is something pretty much everyone has heard of and tends to add to their site, so people seem to assume this is one of those “everyone is getting this but me” things.

The flipside of this is that a lot people act like I’m some kind of wizard when I show up, point to a few key reports and tables, and say something like “X, Y and Z seem to the biggest issues I can see with your website right now. I bet we could increase sales / reach more people / solve all the world’s problems if we did this.”

(Ok, that last one hasn’t happened yet. Probably because I’m not actually a wizard.)

I’m not doing anything you couldn’t do – the only difference is, I know to go data diving with a lifebelt. This lifebelt is the all important context for your data, because the big secret about Google Analytics is…

Those numbers are completely meaningless without context.

For those of you who might be wondering, when I talk about context, I’m talking about your website and marketing goals.

Now defining those goals can be a challenge all by itself, which is why I’ve had a lot of clients try to skip this step when I’m working with them. I’m going to guess a lot of you reading will feel the same, so I’ll give you the same spiel I give my clients:

Let’s take your website bounce rate: most people have heard that a low bounce rate is a good thing. So they go look at their Audience report, see a number and then apparently decide for themselves whether that number seems high or not.

The thing is, how can you tell if your bounce rate is low or not without knowing what an average bounce rate is? More importantly, are you sure that your site’s high bounce rate is a Bad Thing?

Because if you’re say, running a blog, and your blog makes most of its money through ads and affiliate links, then a high bounce rate may mean you’re actually hitting your website goals: people come to your site, read an article, click a sponsored link within that article, and off they bounce!

So let’s start defining your business goals, shall we?

How to create a clear Google Analytics strategy

No matter what type of business you’re running, almost everyone has the same overall goal: to make more money than they spend.

Ok, that’s a nice simple goal to start with, so let’s move on to how you make your money: is it by selling products, or a service, or maybe advertising other people’s products and services?

Again, nice easy question you should be able to answer. And in doing so, you have defined your Primary Website Goal.

For example, my earnings come from clients hiring me for consultations or to design and build their websites. So the Primary Goal for this website is to encourage people to fill in my contact form.

Now that you have a goal in mind, it’s a lot easier to start thinking about strategies and tactics you can use to achieve that goal. In my case, I need to start with driving traffic to my website, so one of my strategies is to write an article every week, and share it on social media.

Now, of course not everyone who comes to this site is going to contact me. In fact I know exactly how many visitors I need to visit my site before I’ll get an enquiry: about fifty.

Note that if you’re running a service-based business like me, you’ll also want to know how frequently new client leads turn into actual paying clients, which is something you’ll need to monitor yourself – Google Analytics can’t do this for you. For me, that number is about 1 in 4, so if I want to have one new client each month, I need about four people to get in touch with me.

So one of the ways I can measure whether or not I’m achieving my website goals is to look at my traffic reports – the goal for me would be to have a minimum of 50 visitors per week visit my site. That doesn’t 100% guarantee I’ll have four enquiries per month, but it’s definitely a good indicator.

(This is also known as a KPI, a Key Performance Indicator, but why use jargon when you can use plain English?)

Ok, but what about all the visitors who don’t fill in my form? Well, not everyone is going to be ready to hire me after a single visit to my website, but quite a lot of visitors read my posts and then sign up to my newsletter, indicating that they’d like to hear more from me, and creating the possibility of becoming clients of mine in the future.

That’s why email signups are going to be a Secondary Goal. Just like with the primary goal, I’ll create a list of strategies to achieve this goal (like moving my signup box to prominent locations on my website, or creating a reward for people who sign up) and then note down how I can measure these strategies.

Reviewing your data and taking action

Having your own website goals, strategies and measurement plans will allow you to look at your data in a much more meaningful way. Remember, you won’t need to look at the vast majority of your reports most of the time – that data is simply there when you need it, if a specific question comes up.

When you have clear goals, it’s much easier to ask yourself specific questions such as “which channel is generating the most email signups?” or the classic “where are visitors exiting my checkout process?”

While jumping in regularly to keep an eye on visit numbers and bounce rate is a good idea, as it will allow you to catch any anomalies pretty quickly and take action, I don’t recommend going any further than that until you have specific questions you need to answer.

I’ll leave you with one final, very important point, and that is: once you have those answers, take action. If a particular marketing channel is under-performing, first you need to decide whether or not to simply axe that channel. If you can see potential for improvement, then set a goal (i.e. reach certain-number-of-visitors per week from Facebook by whatever-date-you-choose), note down some strategies (i.e. advertise more on Facebook, increase posting frequency on page, run a competition, etc) and finally, implement and measure those strategies.

Repeat until successful.

Ready to put what you've learned into action? Start getting more from your reports with my free PDF guide to Google Analytics, which you can access right here.