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2.1 How to develop a Google Analytics strategy

No matter how freewheeling and inventive your business may be, you need some goals or even just a vision of where you want to go. Read on to see how to fit Google Analytics into your overall strategy for achieving those.


What is a Google Analytics strategy framework?

It’s important to work with a clear idea of what you want Analytics to do for you – otherwise you’ll simply end up with a mass of facts and figures. Google Analytics can give you a whole range of measurements, but what exactly do you want to measure? If you’re in the market to buy a new car, it can be fascinating to find out its engine capacity, top speed and fuel consumption, but if the vital initial criterion is whether it will fit in your compact-sized garage, you really need to know its dimensions first.

In other words, you need to decide what questions you want answers to, and this in turn will be determined by your business objectives. What are your end goals or “outcomes” and how do you measure whether you’ve achieved them?

What common business objectives can we measure using Google Analytics?

  1. Ecommerce sites: an obvious objective is selling products or services.
  2. Lead generation sites: the goal is to collect user information for sales teams to connect with potential leads.
  3. Content publishers: the goal is to encourage users to engage and visit frequently.
  4. Information or support sites: helping users find the information they need quickly will be of primary importance.
  5. Branding sites: the main objective is to drive awareness, engagement and brand loyalty.

In the online world, these are the five common business objectives, depending on the nature and purpose of the site.

There will be key actions or events on your site or app that match each of your objectives. If a user makes a purchase on an e-commerce site or submits a contact form on a lead generation site, then the objective has been met, and Google refers to these as “macro conversions”.

There might also be steps along the way to an objective. Take an e-commerce site, for example: adding an item to the shopping basket, or signing up to receive an email coupon or a new product notification. The user hasn’t fully reached your main objective but is clearly coming closer. Google calls these “micro conversions”, and emphasizes that it’s important to measure these as well as macro conversions so that you can understand the whole process your users are going through. This is especially important if they don’t make it all the way to the ultimate objective, so you can identify what steps in the process might need examining.

The key to using Google Analytics effectively, therefore, is deciding upfront what your key objectives and desired outcomes are, and how you can measure these. Then, instead of trying to measure everything possible, create a simple framework aligned with your desired outcomes and objectives.


What are the objectives and benefits of goal-setting in Analytics?

Google suggests the following five steps to design your measurement plan:


We’ve already touched on common business objectives, but of course many businesses and their sites combine several kinds of objective – building brand loyalty and providing information about products as well as simply selling them, for example. For this reason, it can be helpful to take things up a level and formulate an umbrella mission statement.

Noting the specifics of what the business does then constitutes the second of these steps. Working from the mission statement downwards also enables you to set to one side any activities that may be incidental to your business goals and therefore don’t need to be included in your measurement plan. (Of course, you may then wish to separately reassess the value of these activities, too!)

The critical third step is then to decide what metrics will indicate how well your business is achieving each of its objectives. If you’re selling products, for example, these will be relatively straightforward measures such as how much revenue you’re generating, or the average value of each transaction, but don’t forget those micro conversion metrics – it’s important to measure not just the bottom line but every step that helps along the way (particularly so that you can identify the weak link in the chain, if there is one). If, for example, your business also has physical as well as online stores, you’ll want to factor in how many times your site’s store locator is used, or how many times users print out a coupon for in-store use.

Choosing appropriate metrics can take some thought and imagination, particularly in the case of other kinds of sites and objectives. To measure user engagement on a content site, for example, you’ll want to consider how frequently users visit, but also whether they share your brand content on social networks. On a support site, fewer clicks rather than more clicks might correlate to happier customers, so you might wish to build a simple feedback form into your pages to measure user satisfaction more directly. For PR and brand-building sites or activities, there’s a helpful guide to Valid Metrics for PR Measurement produced by AMEC, the International Association for Measurement and Evaluation of Communication, the global professional institute for agencies and practitioners who provide media evaluation and communication research.[1]

Once you’ve defined the key performance indicators (KPIs) you want to measure, you need to decide which segments of data are important to measure. For example, you’re likely to be investing in different marketing channels – search, email and social marketing as well as display – and you’ll want to know how much value you’re getting from each of those. You might also look at how much of your business comes from repeat customers and how much from new ones, so you can see where there are opportunities for driving more customer loyalty.

Finally, you need to evaluate your KPIs against the targets you’ve set, so you can assess whether the business is doing well or doing poorly. Google Analytics makes it simple to incorporate targets and even include data from outside sources such as point-of-sale devices for a rounded picture.

What is a business analytics implementation plan?

At this point, your measurement plan might be complete, but it’s still more of a wish list until you implement it, and doing that requires some technical steps. You’ll need to talk to your coder or IT team (if you have one) about integrating Google Analytics into your website or app environment: although much of it involves nothing more complicated than adding a little JavaScript, it will take additional planning to make some functions work with some quite common technologies including server redirects, multiple domains and sub-domains and responsive web design.[2]

In a nutshell, though, an implementation plan simply requires working out what features of your analysis tool – Google Analytics, in this case – you’ll use to capture the data you need to measure. For most implementations, you’ll start with the standard Google Analytics tracking snippet, then use Goal Tracking and the e-commerce module, if relevant, to track the KPIs you’ve identified. To track marketing campaigns, you’ll use Campaign Tracking and AdWords Linking. We’ll look in detail at these and other features as we go along.

Finally, it goes without saying that you’ll inevitably review and revise your measurement plan, and consequently your implementation plan, as time goes on. Both your business requirements and your technical environment can change over time. Your site might evolve, meaning you have new activities to keep track of, or you might launch new apps and services. You’ll want to refine your implementation to keep your data current and useful. As Google puts it, “The measurement planning process should be cyclical, if not continuous.”[3]

How to integrate Analytics with your marketing strategy

There’s another sense in which the process is cyclical. Measurement isn’t just about reporting: you should be thinking about how to use measurement to give you insights you can act upon in your planning and decision-making. Use the data and analysis you have to continuously re-evaluate what’s working and what you need to change.

This means, conversely, that you should plan your marketing activity around tangible, measurable goals. There’s not much point creating a Facebook page just because your competitors are doing it, but if you do so with a specific goal – whether it’s growing a follower base, generating leads or actually boosting sales – then you can more effectively measure your progress.

Google Analytics can help in all these cases, whether it’s a simple measure of how many site visitors are referred by a given social network, or an assessment of how engaged these visitors are (using indicators such as how many pages they visit per session) and on to conversions – whether they sign up to give you leads or actually make a purchase.

And remember that Google Analytics is brilliant for testing as well, so don’t hesitate to try out new and alternative strategies as you identify the need for them – you’ll be able to assess pretty quickly how effective they are. As Google explains it, “Data can be the driver of a continual improvement process for your business.”[4]

It can be summed up thus: raw measurement feeds into reporting, giving decision-makers the information they need in digestible form and subjecting it to analysis, which identifies trends, compares your company’s performance with a benchmark or a competitor, and makes it possible to identify problems or shortcomings. The next phase is to implement and test possible solutions. Finally, repeat until golden brown – or rather, keep applying the lessons you’re learning to keep improving your results and growing your business.


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