3 Critical Data Tips When Using Google Analytics to Optimize

Google Analytics data drilldown

If you’re using Google Analytics to better understand your website visitors and optimize your marketing efforts, there are a few small things that can make a big difference in whether you can gain useful insight from your data.

Below are three of those keys, with #1 being an absolute must.

  • Filter out the garbage data;
  • Be careful of aggregates;
  • Make sure you’re collecting that data you need.

From Russia With Love

If you want to be able to use your Google Analytics data to help you improve your marketing, the first thing you must do is create filters to keep out garbage data.

The image below, a screen shot of the GA data on homepage hits from January 1, 2017 through March 30, 2017 for company we’re engaged with, speaks volumes about the importance of this step.

Google Analytics Junk Data image

These guys are in Seattle. And while they do a bit of business abroad, none of it is in Russia or India, the hits from which account for about 20% of their homepage hits for that period.

All told, garbage hits against their homepage for the first quarter of 2017 account for about 35% of the hits recorded. Aside from giving them an inflated view of the traffic they’re getting, these hits can skew other metrics we use to determine visitor website engagement, Average Time on Page and Bounce Rate.

If we’re going to have reliable data that we can use to optimize our website for conversion, the first thing we must do is filter out both data from countries where we don’t do business and spammy data from bots, wherever they’re hitting our site from.

I’ll give the details for doing this in my next blog, so keep your eyes peeled!

Aggregate Data Isn’t Actionable

This second item is key to correctly using our data, but it can easily trip you up if you’re not aware.
A look at the Overview in the Behavior reports section for a client of ours showed that they had an overall Average Time on Page of 2 minutes and an overall Bounce Rate of 72.48%:


But those are aggregate numbers which don’t really give us anything actionable. In order to (start to) get a real pulse on performance, we had to look not at the aggregate numbers, but at what was happening at the individual page level.

The view below shows that, at the page level, Bounce Rates ranged from a low of 44% on the homepage to a high of 95% on one of the blogs.

Google Analytics data drilldown

While there are other factors that we’d want to bring to bear in an audit, at very basic level we’d probably say we’re happy (for now) with a 44% bounce rate on the homepage. Based on what we see here we’d probably want to focus some attention on our blogs which, based on Avg. Time on Page, seem to be engaging our visitors, but still have high bounce rates.

In fact, when we analyzed the data and the blogs themselves, we were able to implement a few changes that reduced the bounce rate by as much as 30%. And while the Time on Page went down for the blog with the greatest Bounce Rate reduction, that’s because, instead of reading through the who blog, we got visitors to click through to product-oriented pages, giving us more sales opportunities.

Getting past aggregate data and into numbers with context is key to being able to optimize your website.

How Are Visitors Engaging With My Site?

As we look at whether visitors are engaging with the different pages on our website, we also want to look at what elements they’re engaging with on those pages.

To that end, Google has a free tag management tool, Google Tag Manager, which enables Marketing to track events like page scrolling, percentage of a video viewed, link clicks, and PDF downloads, without having to request a change to the website.

Do you have a CTA at the top of your homepage? Knowing how many clicks it gets over the course of a month can help you determine whether it’s effective or needs to be changed.

Do you have a video displayed prominently on your homepage? If most viewers are only getting 25% through, maybe it’s too long. Or maybe it’s just no compelling.

If no one is viewing the video, maybe it’s time to give that precious homepage real estate to something that will engage visitors.
Getting a Google Tag Manager account is free, but you might find that you need some help getting it connected to your Google Analytics and getting the tags and triggers implemented to track the things you want to track.

A Good Foundation for Data-Driven Marketing

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, but if you’re ready to start using your data to drive your marketing, these three things: (1) getting your Google Analytics properly configured, (2) understanding what the data means at a basic level, and (3) Adding advanced event tracking using Google Tag Manager, you’ll have a good foundation to begin using your data to optimize your marketing.

I hope you find this blog helpful. Also, if you have other recommendations you’d recommend for a “getting started with Google Analytics list”, please comment! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

If you have any questions about this introduction to basic Conversion Rate Optimization, you can email me at win@wincanalytics.com.

Winston Clay
Winston is an irredeemable nerd, information consumer, ever analyzing and creating solutions.

He started his career in IT as a Macintosh computer lab manager and ended up as a software engineer before he exited the corporate world to help IT SMBs market better.

Winston and his wife, Ginger, live in Charleston, South Carolina with their awesome youngest son.  Their older children, who are also awesome, are in different states of self-sufficiency.