To Get the Most Out of Google Analytics, First Understand What It’s Telling You




  • — December 27, 2018

    To Get the Most Out of Google Analytics, First Understand What It’s Telling You

    Arguably the single best free tool available to marketers is Google Analytics. If you know how to use it, it can tell you so much about your customers, how they are using your website, what they’re interested in, and what is causing them issues.

    However, no tool is perfect. And no tool can do everything you need it to. Even something as impactful as Google Analytics must come with a few words of warning.

    To get the most out of the tool, you have to first understand what it is telling you. And with a tool as powerful as Google Analytics, the biggest fear is in assuming everyone will read the data in the same way.

    One Statistic, Multiple Interpretations

    Let’s look at an example:

    Your team is reviewing the most popular conversion paths on your website and you find that people landing on one specific page are returning to the previous page at a high rate. This is something that Google Analytics can show you quite clearly. You can see the click paths, and so you know where they are coming from and where they are going next.

    It’s obvious, in this case, that there is a problem worth correcting. Something about that page is not working.

    One member of the team raises his or her hand and says, “I see what’s going on here. They are clicking on a button expecting one thing and they are seeing something else. We need to more clearly explain what they will see if they click that button.”

    Someone else than counters, “No, no, no. That’s not it. It’s the page they are landing on. It’s ugly and it turns people off. We need to redesign it.”

    Still a third person, who can barely wait to speak, announces, “what are you talking about? It’s clear that if they’re not finding what they’re looking for, we need to give it to them. The content of this page is the problem.”

    In that example, who is right? How do you know?

    Inferring the Why

    Google Analytics is great at telling you WHAT is happening. It’s not as good at telling you WHY.

    And in the example above, each team members is inferring the WHY based on the WHAT. They may all be right, to some degree. But they may all be wrong as well. What we know for certain is that the Google Analytics data alone does not lead to any of those conclusions. Each person is taking the data presented to them, and applying their own subjective interpretation to determine what is going on.

    How to Resolve the Conflict

    Data, by itself, does not solve problems. It helps people make more informed decisions.

    For marketers charged with improving the online experience for a company’s customers, we need both data and opinion. We need people to develop theories based on the data so that we can design new solutions and test them.

    The danger is in mistaking opinion for fact. In the example above, it is a fact that people are landing on the page and then going back to where they came from. The three conclusions drawn are opinions, each worthy of exploring in more depth.

    To resolve the conflict, and improve your website, you need to go further than Google Analytics. At this point in the process, after the basic theories have been established, we need to figure out how to proceed.

    Do you conduct experiments with live subjects? Do you assemble a focus group? Conduct a survey? Take votes? Or simply go with the person’s gut who is in charge at the moment?

    All of these are viable options. And as long as your team agrees on the facts, the opinions can and should vary. That’s what makes a healthy team, people bringing a variety of experiences and skills to the table to find a solution to problems.

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    Author: Zach Heller

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