Measure Marketing Success
with Google Analytics
A significant benefit of digital marketing is measurability. If done right it gives you the awareness and intelligence to stay in front of your audience and ahead of your competition.
Whether you do it yourself or pay a professional, as a business owner you should: know what you need, why it’s important, what’s possible and where to start.
Know What You Need
Before starting anything you need a clear idea of what to measure and why. Start by creating goals based on business objectives. For example, “establish thought leadership” or “increase social engagement.” These goals are used to determine key performance indicators like the samples below.
Establish thought leadership: Measure how frequently people return to your blog and how often visitors subscribe to your RSS feed.
Increase social engagement: Measure how often your pages or posts are mentioned and the volume / quality of visits you get from social media websites.
Generate leads: Measure how well your landing pages draw visitors further into your website or inspire them to submit a form or contact you.
Don’t start without your measurement plan in place. Important decisions and a complex setup will be based on it.
The Importance of Digital Marketing Measurement
Efficiency and effectiveness
My reasons for measuring marketing are efficiency and effectiveness.
Marketing costs you time and money. More time if you’re doing it yourself – more money if you’re paying someone to do it for you. And it’s not just the time and money you spend, but the time and money you could be spending on something else.
You need to know what’s working and what’s not. Measuring your marketing makes this possible.
Any part of digital marketing can be tweaked to increase effectiveness. Measurements may show:
- Specific days of the week and times in the day where your audience is more responsive
- The social media platforms where messages are better received or more frequently shared
- Landing pages that are good (or bad) at drawing people in and fostering conversions
- Calls to action that inspire action or act as barriers
You won’t know any of this unless you measure your marketing.
A balance of art and science
Great marketing is a combination of art and science. Both are necessary for success, but not everything is measurable (despite Google’s best attempts). It’s important to keep things in perspective when measuring your digital marketing.
Digital marketing as science
Digital marketing is a complicated process subject to continuous change and improvement. As Dr. H. James Harrington, management and business consultant and performance improvement guru says.
“Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”
Digital marketing as art
Art cannot be measured directly or objectively, but that does not make it any less important or worthy of analysis. John Hayes, Chief Marketing Officer for American Express says.
“We tend to overvalue the things we can measure and undervalue the things we cannot.”
Measurement Potential using Google Analytics
A brief history
Where we’ve been is an important place to start when talking about where we are and where we’re going.
Google acquired Urchin in 2005. At the time Google Analytics was similar to other solutions. Emphasis was on data (IT) rather than intelligence (marketing). Our expectations were different back then. Analytics was interesting, but not terribly useful.
Google partnered with large agencies and clients to better understand their needs. The simple answer, insight and actionable intelligence.
Around the same time the digital world was breaking into pieces. New forms of communication and new platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) required more to participate in and keep track of. Devices fragmented as well. Desktops gave way to laptops, laptops to mobile and mobile into smartphones and tablets. Apps exploded giving us yet another thing to keep tabs on.
All this fragmentation made actionable intelligence a significant challenge. Not only did we need to track all of these sources and devices, but we needed to track the activity between them.
Google’s answer to the complexity and growing fragmentation is Universal Analytics. It’s everything we need today, and provides a foundation for anything we might need in the future.
In Google Analytics there’s how it’s organized and how you organize it.
How it’s organized
Google Analytics is organized into four primary sections.
- Audience: Who your visitors are, where they are and what technology (including device) they are using
- Acquisition: How visitors find you (e.g. direct by typing your URL, referral from another website, clicking an ad, doing a search or through social media)
- Behavior: What visitors do while they’re on your website or application including where they land, where they leave and their interactions in between
- Conversions: How well your website accomplishes the goals you define or goals that are pre-defined (if your site includes ecommerce)
Goals, goals, goals
“Goals” is an essential feature allowing you to define “wins.” For example, if you’re a retailer you may want to note when someone adds something to their cart or clicks “Checkout.” If you’re a subject matter expert you may want to note when someone downloads a PDF or signs up for your newsletter.
Goal metrics (e.g. number of completions or rate of conversion) can be cross referenced with any dimension like page, geography or source. For example, you could compare all of your landing pages to see which result in the most leads and which may need a change to content, layout or call to action. You could see which social media networks result in the most PDF downloads and the ones that may need adjustments to timing, frequency or messaging. The combinations and potential are endless.
How you organize it
How you organize it depends on what you are measuring.
It can remain website or blog-centric. This is Google Analytics out-of-the-box with your website or blog as the center of attention. Audience, acquisition and behavior are all relevant to your website as a whole.
Google Analytics can be campaign-centric using the URL Builder to create unique URLs that tie together the acquisition details for a single campaign. For example, if you send out an email blast, four tweets, a Facebook post, a LinkedIn post and run an AdWords campaign, all for a single purpose, you can view audience, acquisition and behavior all relevant to that campaign.
With segments you can isolate different groups based on particular attributes. For example, all visitors in a specific demographic group, or from a particular location, etc. Segments can be applied to any Google Analytics report.
Where to Start and How to Get Help
I’d suggest starting with this 11 minute video. Afterwards decide whether you want to handle planning and implementation yourself or work with someone to help you through the process.
Design your measurement plan. Avinash Kaushik’s measurement planning model is an ideal methodology for any sized business.
Resources and training
Google Analytics comes with great in-app support as well as formal training programs. Analytics Academy was launched earlier this year. Digital Analytics Fundamentals and Google Analytics Platform Principles are required for anyone who wants to be hands-on.
Create your account
With your plan in place and training complete, setup your account at https://www.google.com/analytics.
Don’t forget to maintain and refine your plan and implementation as necessary. You should revisit it once a year at the very least.