Digital Marketing | Guide

​Harnessing the Power of Google Analytics

Marketing Executive, Emma Russell, explains the key metrics that brands should be looking at in Google Analytics.

16 September 2016 ( words)
Emma Russell Emma Russell

​Google Analytics is an invaluable resource that enables you understand how and which consumers interact with your brand.

The ability to analyse data is one of the most important skills for the modern marketer. It's imperative to base marketing decisions based on both qualitative and quantitative data, as this shows us which moves to make based on how our users interact with the brand's online presence. 

However, this emphasis on analytics doesn't mean that recent graduates have to have a degree with an analytical focus, (I did a Masters in Art History!), particularly as there are now many programmes that are designed to make understanding data easier. The obvious example of this is Google Analytics. When this free resource is used to its full potential you can understand niche markets, tailor marketing campaigns and design accordingly, helping your business to grow...  and who doesn't want that?

However, it is easy to be daunted by the sheer amount of data and it can be very tempting to just stick to the main overviews to see the Sessions, Users, Page Views and Bounce Rate when first starting out (guilty!). In this article, I will take you on a journey to help you realise Google Analytics' full potential by answering common business questions.

Who are my current users?

The Audience tab is your friend if you want to know more about who your main consumers are. Firstly, go to the Demographics section in the Audience tab to find out more about the age range and gender your business attracts the most and (by using segmentation) which age ranges are converting on your site. If your converting users match up to your target market - great! You're obviously doing something right. If not, well you might want to rethink your strategy.

Geolocation can also be a really great way to understand the needs of your consumers in different continents, countries, and usually most helpful, cities. An urbanite living in London will have completely different needs to someone living on Lundy Island, 12 miles off the coast of Devon. If most of your website visitors are coming from a particular area, it's reasonable to assume that your marketing and products have resonated with the needs of those living in that area. Knowing this can enable you to look at what you're doing well and how you can build on this and expand into other areas.

If you want to find out what hobbies your audience have or what they buy online, the Interests tab under Audience is there to help. The Affinity category will show you what kind of people they are: sports fans, avid cooks, home décor enthusiasts, the list goes on. This question is answered more specifically in the Other category. Imaginatively named, this will tell you what aspect of home décor they are interested in, like plumbing, furnishing or gardens. The handy In-Market Segments section defines the consumer in terms of their product purchases. For example, if you are selling chairs, you want to be attracting not just those that are interested in home décor and more specifically home furnishings but also those that actually make product purchases according to this interest.

How do they use my site?

This is a great question to ask yourself if you want to be continually improving your site and user experience (UX). By looking at the data Analytics provides you can gain an insight into how consumers view and navigate your site. The Behaviour tab is particularly useful. You can see how long visitors are staying on your pages, which pages have the highest bounce rate, what visitors are searching for within your site, and loads of other metrics. However, a personal favourite is In-Page Analytics as this allows you to see navigation paths through your site and make assumptions about the UX. For example, let's say you want to sell a book and part of your strategy is to personally engage the visitor by providing information about the author. In-Page Analytics will show you where your visitors are clicking from to get to that page within your site as well as where they go once they're on that page. From this you can make design decisions to improve UX based upon data. As well as this, because of its visual nature, it is also a really useful way to show clients how visitors navigate the site without showing them a ton of data that they may not find particularly riveting. 

How did they find my brand?

Acquisition is the place to be to explore how users actually found your site. Direct, Organic, Referral, Email, Display, Social etc., tell you how users arrived at your site. These sections can tell you how visitors happened by your site: by channel; which search engine (organic), which site they came from (referral), which social media platform they came from, how well your email campaigns are doing, and also how they interacted with it once they got there. This is where the E-commerce conversion rate and revenue step in. They will help you calculate your return on investment (ROI), basically, how often a user from a given channel led to a purchase on that visit. More on this can be found in the Model Comparison section, which shows your revenue by channel according to different conversion attribution models.

If you have an AdWords campaign, this section will also provide important data if you want to improve your existing campaign without having to swap platforms to find it. For example, lets say you have a shop that only opens at certain hours of the day and you want to encourage people to call the shop. However, you're running ads at all hours of the day. You will be able to see these clicks in Google Analytics and it might make you want to limit the hours that you run your AdWords campaign. 

Furthermore, Acquisition will tell you which device your consumers were using when they visited your site. This is a good way to find out how effective your mobile site or app is, which is vital in a mobile first world. 

Basically, Acquisition does what it says on the tin, it tells you where you acquired your visitors. Handy!

Why is my bounce rate so high?

Ahh bounce rate, where to begin? This metric is a tricky customer that might make you think your site is terrible and no one likes it. It's also effectively useless. UNLESS you use it correctly and in context, in which case it can be very valuable. If you look solely at the bounce rate average for the entire site you will get a skewed vision of user interactions. Tracking bounce rate for middle pages, such as a product page is useful, as this can give you an indication of problems with UX. However, there are some pages that you would expect to receive a high bounce rate, for example, usually a contact page has a high percentage because that is often their final destination and they don’t need anything more from the site. Another example is a blog page, which users will read and leave. Only through further investigation can you deduce how effective your site is and how good it is at engaging your users.

Setting Goals and Events

Events are really handy for seeing how a user is led towards a purchase. There are transactions, known as macro-conversions, and other goals that assist the final transaction, otherwise known as micro-conversions. These 'micros' are indicators of a user's progression towards the final interaction with the brand, for example, if they were to sign up to the newsletter to receive offers. You can also track certain pages, such as a thank you for your order page with their ID; this is THE macro goal conversion and it allows you to track how many people bought more than one item, amongst other things.

Is it worth using social media?

The usual answer for this is yes. Which platform you choose will depend upon your business; if you sell aesthetically pleasing products like artwork or unique furniture, a more visually based platform will be more useful to you than if your business is in finance, which might suit LinkedIn more. Whichever platform your business decides to use, it is an easy way to reach out to consumers and make the first move in order to create awareness. Google Analytics helps you to see which of your social media channels leads to the most sessions, if they make a purchase from that visit, how long they stayed, and which pages they went to after the initial landing page. This is useful for defining how useful your social media marketing is, for example, if you have a large following and post regularly but no one visits your site, you may need to review your strategy.

By using tagged links, it's also possible so learn a lot more about how engaging your social media campaigns are, especially if multiple people share your content on the site. From this data you can see which posts did well and which ones did not so well. This can enable you to refine your social strategy in line with business goals. Google have a URL builder, which is super useful when starting out.

Who's on my site right now? 

This is perhaps the most exciting bit of Google Analytics. You can see who is using your site in real time by using the Real Time tab, in fact it's tempting to waste half an hour just looking at the numbers going up and down and getting excited when someone stays on there for ages or buys something. However, there are a number of really useful metrics that can lead to actionable results that can improve your site or marketing campaigns.

For example, because you can see how people are reacting to your marketing campaigns, PR and build as it happens, you can monitor temporally based marketing campaigns. If you have just sent out an email marketing campaign with a limited time offer, you can see how quickly people go onto the site and how they navigate the site once there and this will help you to define how engaging and persuasive that campaign was so that you can improve it for next time.

Or maybe you use social media and rely mainly on this traffic. The life of a tweet is very short indeed, so if you can see your incoming traffic from Twitter within Real Time and you can see this dwindling, it might be a good idea to post another tweet. 

As well as this, if you have a business dealing with current news or trends and notice that a certain page is getting particularly high traffic, you could add this story onto the front page of your site and post on social media to advertise this further. You can then see if this was effective in bringing even more people to that page. 


This is just a small list of how useful Google Analytics can be and how important it is to delve a little deeper into the data by making use of the metrics and what they mean. If you have any further questions on what Analytics can do for your business, don't hesitate to drop us a line. 

Emma Russell

Author: Emma Russell