Make Your Website Analytics Work For You
Updated: Aug 23, 2021
Understanding what to measure in your analytics can go a long way in helping you optimize your website for conversion. Measuring the wrong metrics or even worse setting up your analytics incorrectly can be a sure fire way to make incredible mistakes with your website.
Optimization isn’t about educated guesses and hunches, no matter how many years you’ve been in the industry. It’s about doing the research, asking the right questions, digging for clues in problem areas, paying attention to the signs when they appear, and running smart A/B tests.
Web analytics analysis is a big part of that. It helps to separate the optimizers from just another person with an opinion.
By focusing on The Analytics Value Chain, companies can understand how to control, operate, and maximize benefit from the all of the technical requirements and functions needed to successfully do analytics. Analytics brings a level of transparency and accountability to business leaders that can be uncomfortable or unexpected because data can show the truth.
Having a cohesive analytics setup is necessary to help key players within a business understand how data science & conversion rate optimization play a role to business growth.
ASKING ACTIONABLE QUESTIONS
To properly complete your web analytics analysis, you should have a list of questions that need answers. The key to understanding your analytics better is to have actionable question you can draw insight from before you deep-dive. Framing insightful business questions can go a long way in discovering what needs to be fixed what should be left alone and what needs to be optimized.
The questions can be framed as below:
What do our most valuable users do differently on our site ? Does that matter ?
Where are the leaks in the funnel? How can we fix them ?
Is anyone actually using the text size or print buttons ?
Are there broken devices or browsers ?
When they’re browsing, are they using search ?
Which promotions are most effective ?
When they do X, is an event being fired ?
Are error messages being recorded ?
How often are items removed from the cart ?
This is why asking intelligent business questions is such an important skill, asking intelligent questions means the answer you uncover will be actionable and will give room for new opportunities to improve your business.
“Always approach analytics with a problem: you need to know in advance what you want to know, and what are you going to change / do based on the answer. If nothing, then you don’t need it.” — Peep Laja, CXL
People can lose the faith in analytics and analytics teams, which causes decisions to be made from “the gut” but one thing that should be understood is “unless data supports commonly held beliefs or shows positive performance, it will be questioned and challenged.”
Google Analytics Health Check
Performing a google analytics health check is an excellent way of making sure your web analytics is feeding you the right information necessary to make informed decisions. The goal of the health check is to help you answer these three questions:
Am I collecting all of the data I need?
Can I trust the data I’m collecting?
Is anything broken or tracking / reporting incorrectly? Why?
These are some specific questions you should be asking to gain insight from your website analytics:
Is enhanced link attribution turned on?
Do you have your “Raw Data View” and “Master View” configured properly?
Have you configured your custom and default channel groupings?
Is internal site search set up and working correctly?
Does the site use a third-party cart? If so, do they have cross-domain tracking in place?
You should have a look around and ensure you’re collecting all of the data you can be in a reliable way that ensures accuracy.
Of course, you may will not be a pro at this just yet, but as you grow and over time, your web analytics setup risks becoming overly complicated and, therefore, will continually require debugging. This isn’t a one time job.
As you continue to grow your business and your web analytics matures, you’ll want to continue to watch our for issues of data integrity, data maturity, and data organization. You’ll begin asking questions like:
Should we set up filters and views for this particular team?
Who should have access and control to set up new event tracking?
What’s our event tracking order? What’s our UTM campaign tagging order? Can the firing sequence be clean up?
Are there strategic events that we’re currently not tracking? What’s a proper road map to improved tracking?
How can we streamline certain reporting for stakeholders and executives? How can we improve the process of business questions and answers?
Note: Filters cannot be applied to your previous historical data; they can only be applied to your data moving forward. Filters are processed in order (in the order they are created, sequentially) , so make sure you arrange the filters in the correct order.
Step One: Start with the High Value Pages
There are two high value places you can start looking into right away. Optimizing either of those pages would likely result in big value for your business:
High volume, low value pages. If your page gets a lot of traffic and no conversions, it should be the focus of your next optimization. For example, an old blog post that gets a lot of organic search engine traffic because it ranks well for a popular keyword.
Low volume, high value pages. For example, your checkout page. Optimizing your checkout page to increase the average order value can mean more revenue for your business.
Step Two: Web Analytics Quality Assurance
Peep Laja explains this step: “You won’t believe how many conversions are lost due to poor cross-browser and cross-device compatibility issues. While some might consider this a technical issue and not a conversion issue, I say otherwise. Anything that we as optimizers can do to boost conversions is an optimization issue. And these are low-hanging fruits."
Questions we’re trying to answer here:
Does the site work with every major browser?
Does the site work with every device?
What’s the user experience like with every device?
Technical issues and poor user experience will kill conversions.
Step Three: Broken Links
A broken link is friction. A visitor linked a link because they wanted X, but instead they got a 404. That’s a big part of the reason you should be looking for, and fixing, your broken links.
Questions you should be asking are:
How many people have landed on 404 in the last 30 days?
Are your 404 errors more often the result of an old list or a link that’s never existed?
You can find these in your “Behavior” reports (search for page titles that contain “Page Not Found”). Once you have a list of these, you’ll find that some of them aren’t a big deal and others could be an old sales page link that was accidentally deleted and in need of a redirect so the traffic hits its intended spot.
Before you begin, just ensure that the Google Analytics code is, in fact, on your 404 page.
Step Four: Site Speed
This one’s pretty straightforward. Having a slow site will kill conversions. To avoid losing money in noticeable quantities, you want to keep an eye on your page load time numbers.
While 1-second load time would be nice, if you manage to get a load time under 3 seconds, you’re doing fine. If it’s under 7 seconds, it’s okay too (but you have to try to improve it). Over 10 seconds and you’re losing money in noticeable quantities. — Peep Laja, CXL
Step Five: The Funnel
You can use the conversion reports in Google Analytics to identify which parts of your funnel are leaking money (and how rapidly). This will tell you where to focus first and can point you in the right direction for further web analytics analysis.
Another cool feature of this funnel feature is that, if your GA account is integrated with Google AdWords or Doubleclick, you can create an audience off of anyone who abandons at a particular step and use them in your AdWords campaigns. This enables more advanced targeting for your ad campaigns.
Questions lead to more questions, but if you’re asking intelligent ones, eventually they’ll lead you to insights on problem areas and smarter A/B test ideas. This all gets easier the more often you do it. Why? Because the data itself won’t tell you much of anything… that’s why it’s called web analytics analysis. Spend a few days roaming around Google Analytics, experimenting.
For now, stick to the following process:
Do a simple walk-through of your site. Look for suspicious / “bad” parts of the site and signs of poor tracking setup.
Create a list of questions that will result in actionable answers.
Conduct a Google Analytics health check to ensure: you’re collecting all of the data you need, you can trust the data you’re collecting, and nothing is broken or reporting incorrectly.
Remember that context is king. You’re a detective digging for clues; you’re looking for irregularities for your site.
Understand the basic Google Analytics reports and how to get the most insight from them.
Understand segmentation and how to dive deeper into your data for even more insights.
Develop your own custom reports to help you.
This was fun!! I hope you learned something new today.