5 Google Analytics Tricks that Will Make You Cry. Then Make You Laugh.


Looking for ways to measure how well your content delivers on bottom-line goals? Here are five easy ways to show value beyond the number of clicks.

This blog post accompanies my CMPRSA Lunch and Learn Presentation. Special thanks to Rose Trantrapohl for having me.

Some resources to start learning about Analytics:

Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik

Luna Metrics

Google Analytics Blog

Measure What Matters

Google Analytics is not only a powerful measurement tool, but also a guide to more careful consideration of goals, objectives and success for PR campaigns and tactics.

The best to use Google Analytics (GA) is to identify the most valuable audiences and users, find out what they like, and attract more of them.

These 5 - really 5 and a half - sets of tools give you the tools to improve the effectiveness of your your PR campaigns and tactics, both on and offline.

Tip 0.5: Some quick basics.

Here are some things that you need to know: Goals, campaign tracking, event tracking.

Tip 1: Align your online visitors with your key audiences and stakeholders

The most important concept here is to align your key audiences with your website visitors, determine who are your most valuable visitors, and get more of them.

Google allows GA users to use DART advertising cookies to learn more information about users, including age, gender, and some additional interest categories (which just happen to align with Google’s ad parameters).

With these insights, you can see how well content achieves your website goals among your key audiences.

We can do this same analysis with Google’s interest categories to leverage Google AdWords or other media purchases to target new users (or to align our advertising budgets with our online PR efforts.)

Aside: Need a quick way of showing how various traffic sources contribute to conversions? Use the multi-channel visualizer to show how various acquisition strategies work.

(Want to get more of these users? Try Google’s Remarketing service to run additional adds targeted at specific goals)

Tip 2: Guide Your Content With Analytics

There are a range of GA features that give insight into what types and pieces of content users engage with, and which ones lead to additional exits.

The first step is to examine which are the most popular content pieces and categories. Planning ahead by creating URL patterns to make this easy goes a long way in analysis.

Analyzing blog categories by popularity

These two reports highlight content popularity (as measured by unique visitors) and how many pages those people read during each visit.

It’s easy to narrow down by blog and by topic, because my CMS (in this case, Drupal) rewrites the urls to include both the “news” and category right in the URL. It’s important to exclude traffic sources you generate (like email, social, or other campaigns) from this analysis to remove your own bias from the equation.

Now to flip things on their head…

Heretofore, these metrics have been at the visit level, tracking users visits rather than users themselves. We can uncover custom user group segments to highlight groups of users uncover new insights into how our content impacts user experience.

In addition to just segmenting this into groups of users, we can segment it by users who achieved certain goals or milestones, in a specific order.

That’s right, want to see all of the people who viewed your blog before making a donation? Want to view users who came via email and who clicked a call to action? Run in back in reverse: Who purchased an item and returned to the FAQ page?

All these items are just a few clicks away.

To set up a user group segment, create a new segment from the drop down menu. Select the “sequences” tab from the advanced menu section and add your sequences.

Now you have some hard evidence to show your bosses to justify purchasing a 27-inch Apple Cinema Display

Tip 3: Measuring Real Life

Given how much time we all spend in front of our favorite glowing boxes, we can consider the internet “real life” by now. But not everyone agrees.

How can we measure outcomes that come from non-online PR efforts?

The first solution is redirected links, with embedded campaign tracking. We own several domains and set up special subdomains to track these outcomes. Google has a helpful campaign tracking builder, and almost all CMS systems let you redirect pages automatically.

Why direct everyone to your home page when you can use “myproductdiscount.com” or “mycustomeventdomain.org.” You can get really fancy and get a custom domain shortener to achieve the same effect.

The only limit is the size of your imagination (and budget for godaddy.)

For sites or apps with a ton of mobile traffic, an key metric may be tracking when people call your phone number to ask for directions, order an item, or make a reservation. A simple jQuery plug-in is available here.

User surveys can be an extremely valuable piece of information. Depending on your approach, Google Analytics can collect the data or give you those demographic insights into who responded to your data.

Most CMS systems enable some type of web form and allow users to be redirected to a specific page when the form gets submitted.

Tip Four: Selling Your Content

We all are selling something, even if there’s no price listed.

Here are a few use cases of Google Analytics to improve your content by seeing what is the best content more dynamic outcomes in mind.

GA’a Content Experiments. This allows you to try out two completely different versions of a webpage against each other within Google Analytics.

Do you list resources or links to stakeholder or partner organizations (like sponsors, PAC pages, etc?) Bringing this information together to report to your bosses (or their bosses) is really easy.

See the Pen Referral Hub Link Tracking by Donald Wasserman @donaldwasserman on CodePen.

Tip 5: Don’t Get Fired

Now you’re doing some awesome things: looking at custom user group segments, bringing deeper insight into your key audiences, perhaps doing some advertising tracking or content experiments.

But a cautionary tale.

All of this can get you stuck in Google Analytics all day. Every day.

Don’t get fired! Use this a tool, set up some dashboards (or steal someone’s) and have them be emailed to you every week and your boss once a month.

Google Analytics is a powerful tool, but you you still need to do all of the important content development work to make it pay off big time.