Justin Cutroni is one of the most respected analytics consultants around. He has written books on analytics and is one of the few Google Analytics trainers to be endorsed by Google themselves.
In this podcast, Justin shares some great tips, including:
– Why Analytics is so damn important in the first place
– How to setup Google Analytics properly
– Understanding how your different online marketing campaigns are working & measuring ROI
– How to tag links properly so you avoid common measuring problems
– His favourite analytics reports
– Some tips to getting your insights in less time
– And plenty of other tips that will make your time spent listening very worthwhile
Justin has been very generous in offering a great (free) special to all listeners at the end of the chat.
Philip: Justin Cutroni is a respected leader in web analytics, in fact he has been referred to by the Google Analytics Evangelist at Google, Avinash Kaushik’s, as one of the smartest web analytics consultants around which I think is a pretty awesome compliment. Welcome Justin.
Justin: Hey thanks Philip. Great to be here.
Philip: And you’re all the way from Vermont in the US?
Justin: I am, I live in the largest city in my state, it’s Burlington but there’s only about 30,000 of us here and in my city the closest metro area Montreal, Canada. It’s about an hour away.
Philip: Right, it’s a beautiful place isn’t it?
Justin: It really is green, lush mountains in the summer and then in the winter we get a substantial amount of snow so for a guy like me that likes to swoop down hills on skis, it’s a great spot to live.
Philip: So the only thing you love more than skiing is analytics right?
Justin: Absolutely, I mean is there anything else that anyone loves, I doubt it. Analytics is the greatest thing ever.
Philip: So why is it the greatest thing ever?
Justin: To be honest, I really love analytics because it’s so empowering for business owners. Business moves so fast today with the web and it’s such a data rich environment that when we can start to put some structure around this data and we can present it to people in logical ways that makes it easier for them understand, they can measure what they are doing much faster.
When you have the ability to measure something, you have the ability to monitor its performance and monitor the decisions that you make and you can change really, really fast and so I think that’s a really empowering thing. It’s very liberating for people because now they can literally take the pulse of what they are doing very, very quickly to see is it working or if it’s not working.
Philip: Yeah agreed, agreed, and I think very closely as part of that there is so much data available now that it can be overwhelming for business owners?
Justin: Yeah absolutely, yeah. I couldn’t agree more and I think that’s the curse that comes with this great power. I think it was Spiderman that said that with great power comes great responsibility or something along those lines but yeah, I think Google Analytics has I believe – I think we’re up to like a 130 reports in Google Analytics and it can just be totally overwhelming and so, yeah you’re right, you really need to kind of fine tune where you’re looking at in order to distill the metrics and the data that’s going to help you make a difference in your business.
Philip: Yeah and I think hopefully in this chat today we can get into some tips and giving the listeners some insight into how they can use analytics more effectively but also more efficiently. It’s a lot about saving time, getting those valuable insights but also not spending an entire day trying to get there.
Justin: Yeah I agree. I think for all businesses, small businesses, mid size businesses, even large global enterprises, everyone’s trying to do more with less and a lot of that less is less people. Giving people the ability to collect data, identify what’s important and then act on it quickly is what the goal is with all of this and I think Google’s really been kind of pushing that whole mantra for the last seven years with all the changes that they’ve made to analytics and enhancements that they’ve added to the product.
Philip: So I met you Justin in New York a couple of years ago, I did your advanced analytics course which was just fantastic. Can you give me a bit of a background into, and the listeners into what you do?
Justin: Yeah sure, and you definitely win the prize for craziest person flying all the way from Sydney to New York just for a Google Analytics training but it was great to meet you there.
Philip: It was money well spent, I can tell you that.
Justin: So I’ve been working in the world of analytics for over seven years now. I’m currently the director of digital intelligence at an online marketing and analytics firm called Webshare here in the US.
Philip: That’s a pretty cool sounding title there. I like it, I like it.
Justin: You like that one? I got to make it up. Guru was taken so I had to go with but my team and my group were responsible for providing pretty much all different types of measurement services. We help our clients choose different analytics tools, we help them define how they are going to use those tools, we actually help them do the implementation of those tools and then, if they need us to stick around, we can help them maintain those tools over time to make sure that they are constantly working in the right way, and we can help them analyze the data over time to help them understand how their business is performing.
Webshare also has – we also offer testing and usability services and we do a lot of multi variable tests, user testing, card sorting and things like that. Me personally, I love this space, I’ve written a couple of books about Google Analytics. I’ve written Google Analytics published by O’Reilly in 2010, I had another version back in 2007, I co-authored a book called Performance Marketing with Google Analytics in 2010.
I’m very, very passionate about this because I really believe that it can help everybody that’s doing anything online and the investment is more or less your time. The products are free, the data’s free, it’s the time that you take that’s really your only investment. I completely love this stuff and eat it up.
Philip: And you’re a rocket scientist as well I see from your degree.
Justin: Yes, I really do have a degree in rocket science. When I was in university, my thesis was about the satellite propulsion unit. I used to do experiments for NASA here in the States to help design better thrusters to satellites.
Philip: I think we’ve just lost all our listeners. They realized they’re not rocket scientists and therefore analytics is beyond them but that’s not the case.
Justin: No totally not the case.
Philip: Let’s just start at the high level in terms of analytics for people who are not that familiar and maybe haven’t set up analytics. I hope that there’s none of those people left but I know there are. Just couple of the high level benefits around setting up something like Google Analytics.
Justin: Yeah sure, really hands down the most benefit you’re going to get from analytics tool is the ability to measure what you’re doing online. So even if you just have a website, having an analytics package is going to allow you to measure that website and the old proverb goes, you can’t improve things that you don’t measure.
Once you start to have some data, you can start to see what’s happening more specifically the behavior of people that are using your website or your store or whatever it is online to understand visitor behavior and then once you start to understand and see what’s happening, that can help you drive change by making new and different decisions.
Just even all you have a website, if you’re not spending any money on online advertising, if you’re not doing any type of online marketing. If you just have a website, even having analytics attached to it will help you measure what it’s doing and then help you make more informed decisions.
Philip: So for people who haven’t set up yet, it involves going into Google and googling Google Analytics, sign up for free, get the script, give it to your web developer or if you can, do it yourself, you put in every single page of your website and then that date is then tracked and you can log into your account, you can use some really cool charts and tables of all your data.
That’s a very simple process but there’s a lot of complications or there’s a lot of things you should be doing. Justin, I know you agree around improving that set up process. Can you talk about a couple of those things?
Justin: Yeah absolutely. I think – I always equate Google Analytics to Apple and their products. On the surface Apple products are very easy to use. I can give my six year old son an iPad, an iPhone and instantly he is playing race car games and doing math puzzles and all of this stuff. Very, very easy and elegant and simple to use but there are layers beneath that of complexity, more features that allow you to get more out of the products and the same is true with Google Analytics.
Probably my favorite feature if you could actually have a favorite analytics feature is something Google Analytics calls Goals. Goals are a way to measure the business outcomes that are associated with your website. In the analytics industry we often call these conversions. A real simple example is if you have an online store, the goal of your online store more often than not is to sell a product.
A goal or conversion in the Google Analytics world for your store would be how many products did you sell? So you can configure Google Analytics to track how many conversions you had, how many transactions did you have, how many products did you sell. If your website doesn’t sell a product, maybe it’s there for lead generation. You have your consultant or you sell some type of service, you can configure Google Analytics to measure how many leads you’re getting from the website. This feature’s really important because this feature starts to align the data that you get in Google Analytics with your business objectives and that’s the whole point of this, is measuring online what you’re business is doing so that you can again make more informed decisions.
So if you have a website and it’s trying to sell a product and you’re measuring it and you realize it’s not selling as many products as you want, then you’ve got that measurement. You can start to look at other pieces of data, do different types of analysis and again, try to make better decisions about what you’re doing online.
Philip: Yeah Goal is just a specific page you’ve told Google, when this page shows like the ‘thank you for contacting us’ page then it registers a goal and a common problem I see is with some websites that are set up – they don’t actually send a person to a thank you page which is a bit of a problem, which they would need to fix first, right?
Justin: Absolutely, yeah. Another very common problem that some websites have is if their thank you page resides on a different domain. So for example, if you’ve got a third party shopping cart. So everyone goes to your website to look at products and add them to the cart but then they go to another website to check out. That’s another complicated set up that can cause problems at the implementation.
But by no means are we trying to discourage you. You should definitely go to your website. Identify what is the conversion, what is the outcome that I want people to do and then, like you said Philip, it’s usually the url of a page. You can tell Google Analytics, hey, every time someone hits this page, I want you to count a conversion.
Philip: So what’s the best way of getting around that problem of someone submits buy or something and they head off to another ecommerce site or a PayPal or something?
If you’re a business manager, a marketing person, not to say you don’t have any technical skills but it’s definitely something that you may want to work with IT or some consultant to get dialed and then fixed.
Justin: Yes absolutely. The quirks of the problem is that we need to transfer what’s called cookies back and forth between websites and it can get pretty narly.
Philip: Yeah, okay. Well, we’ll leave it at that for the moment but as long as people know that issue can be resolved, just requires a little bit of magic.
Justin: Yeah, and again the bigger picture is that we’re talking about conversions and so I’m sure even if you have a shopping cart and it resides on a different website, a conversion just isn’t someone buying a product or as I mentioned getting a lead. There are lots of different outcomes that we want people to take on our website. For example even on my blog I have a little newsletter sign up. I want people to sign up for my newsletter and if you have a store or if you have any type of newsletter, you would want people to sign up for that as well when they visit your website. The reason being if someone signs up for your newsletter, that gives you a great opportunity to market to them over time.
So don’t just think of conversions as getting that sale or getting that lead, think about all the other things that have to go into nurturing leads or nurturing people through the sales process and those can be considered conversions as well. Subscribing to blogs, signing up for newsletters, all of those different types of activities that allow you to connect with someone could be considered a conversion as well.
Philip: So setting up the goals in Analytics you just need to go into your profile, Edit your profile, it’s pretty well described process if you can do it yourself. Anything else in terms of the set up – you see common problems or any tips?
Justin: Yeah, the next common problem that I see all of the time has to do with tracking online marketing activities and this is one that, just like configuring goals and having them set up, I think tracking your online marketing campaign is the number two feature in Google Analytics. Unfortunately a lot of people miss out on this one. This actually isn’t anything you have to configure in Google Analytics, there’s no setting for this. This isn’t a special piece of code that you have to add to your website. Tracking marketing campaigns is actually all about manipulating the different marketing materials that you’re putting out there.
Philip: You’re talking off line marketing are you?
Justin: I’m actually talking online marketing. So if you’re sending out any email, if you are doing any pay per click advertising, if you’re doing any banner ads, any type of activity like that you can track those in Google Analytics. So you can actually see how much traffic I’m getting from email, how much traffic am I getting from paid search, how much traffic am I getting from my banner ads. These are actually, probably, in my opinion, some of the most useful reports that you can see.
The reason being that a lot of times when you’re doing any type of online marketing, you’re spending money, right? If you’re doing pay per click, you’re paying every time someone clicks on your ads, if you’re doing any display ads, you’re usually paying for impressions. So you’re spending money on these types of things, the ability to measure them and see if they’re having an impact on your business is critical. That’s why I think that the number two biggest problem I see is around the feature of campaign tracking.
Philip: Yeah I mean I see this as a very simple table. At the very least on a monthly basis, you should know where you’re spending your money, whether it’s Google Adwords, Search Optimization, Email Marketing or Social Media, maybe you want to even cost up some of hours or the resources you got doing your social media stuff. Understand your cost in that month and understand the leads that you’ve generated or the sales you’ve generated by those individual channels.
Justin: Yeah, right on. I couldn’t have put it any better myself. We work going back and forth a little bit about the subject matter of this podcast and to me, if you don’t know what the return is on your online marketing spend, you’re just flushing money down the toilet and again, so much data is available to you, really the cost is just the time to get it configured correctly.
Philip: That’s right and I mean without understanding that sort of basic view, that table I just – essentially your return on investment by different channel. There’s no point getting into additional details around what page are they looking at and bounce right and all that stuff. Understand the big picture first.
Justin: Yeah absolutely. So if you’re spending 60% of your online budget for pay per click advertising, what’s the revenue, how many conversions? How many leads are you getting? You got to be able to answer those questions and what’s even more challenging is that if you don’t configure things like campaign tracking the right way, it can scew all sorts of other data in analytics as well. Here’s a quick example, if you’re not correctly identifying your email campaigns to Google Analytics, it’s going to skew the amount of traffic that’s recorded and show you more traffic coming from a traffic source that we call referrals. Or if you’re not correctly identifying your pay per click advertising campaigns using Google Analytics, this system will show you an increase in organic traffic. So you can actually be doing more harm than good if you don’t have campaign tracking configured the right way. Shall we tell them how to do it?
Justin: Everyone will probably just listen to the last three minutes and they’re like well, tell us how to fix this? So campaign tracking – every analytics tool in existence really functions off this same technology called Link tagging and Link tagging is the process of manipulating the links that you use in your online marketing. Let’s talk about email, I think everyone here at one time or another has gotten some type of email solicitation. Within your email there’s usually some type of call to action, a button, click here to buy now, save here.
Philip: Read more
Justin: Read more, that’s a great one. The process of link tagging, what we actually do is, again, just looking at email right now as an example, you want to go into that email and you actually need to add extra parameters to the url that’s behind that call to action. So if it’s a button, you would actually add these extra parameters to the url. So you’re url might be dot, dot, dot, my site.com/homepage, while you might add these extra parameters that are specific to Google Analytics to that url so that when someone clicks on that link in the email, it takes them to the same page on the website but there are these extra parameters now that are visible on the url. Most time the user doesn’t even notice that. But Google Analytics picks them up and Google Analytics will now be able to identify, oh this person came from an email.
So whenever you do any type of online marketing, if it’s email or paid search, you have to go through this process of manipulating the links that you put in your ads. So when you do paid search you specify what we call a destination url. So if you’re doing any Yahoo paid search, you have to modify all of your destination urls. If you do any display advertising, again, you have to tell the system what is the destination url. You have to add these parameters to your destination url. Again this is called campaign tracking, there’s a whole section in the Google Analytics help centre about it and they actually have a tool that helps you build these links. They make it real easy for you to build up these links. So before you do any type of campaign, you can go to the Google Analytics help centre, look for the url builder and they will walk you through how to build these links that you then go out and put into your campaigns.
Philip: Yeah, it’s absolutely critical. There’s a couple of, depending on what tools you’re using for email. I know Mailchimp you can automatically turn it on within Mailchimp so you don’t have to do that which is pretty handy.
Justin: Yeah, Exact Target is another one
Philip: Yeah and I imagine a lot of the top email marketing – Awebber probably do the same thing, I haven’t used that myself but – so you can get around that tagging and Google Adwords, you can turn on the auto tagging so it knows the traffic is coming from Google Adwords. You’ll see it as the CPC but that url is actually pretty easy. You walk through it and it’s well explained.
Justin: Yeah and when you think about some of the emerging media that we have like social media, you want to be able to identify how much traffic am I getting from Twitter. What are they doing on the website? You can actually use this process of link tagging – you can use that url builder to build out a url that has information in it that states you’re going to put this link in Twitter, you can then shorten that link using Bitly or whatever link shortener you want. So that when you put it out there on Twitter and people start clicking on it you’ll actually be able to identify that traffic very, very easily inside of Google Analytics and measure what they do.
Philip: So you can measure social media? You just solved it, you just solved the world crisis problem there.
Justin: Yeah well, believe me, I’m no social media expert but I at least want to see how many visits I’m getting from it. But the great thing about doing this process of link tagging is that people absorb social media so many different ways, iPads, iPhones, android phones, tweet deck, so this actually will help you to identify social traffic no matter what platform people are on, you’ll be able to identify them as social. Like I said, there’s a whole section of the Help Center around campaign tracking and that really – once you get your goal set up, you really need to make sure you get your campaign tracking dialed in so that you can clearly identify where people are coming from in Analytics.
Philip: Right so let’s say we’ve Goal set up. It sounds like you’re talking about the under the traffic sources that all traffic sources is probably one of your favorite reports.
Justin: Yeah, and you’ve hit it. These are my favorites. I usually start right with the all traffic sources report, that’s in the traffic sources section of Google Analytics and this report’s great because it tells you all of the different places people are coming from. It tells you your organic traffic broken down by the different search engines, it tells you the direct traffic meaning the people coming directly to you website. It tells you your paid search traffic and the search engines that people are using, display email and I love this because it gives me kind of a cross campaign view of my traffic allocation.
I can see am I heavy in paid search or am I heavy in organic and how is that changing over time, how’s email doing in general. When I say how are these things doing I mean we’ve got so many metrics of it, we can look at it for each of these different pieces of data. So I can see from a traffic perspective how many visits am I getting. I can look at from an engagement, how much time do people spend and how many pages do they look at and then once I’ve got my goals configured, Analytics has these great tabs right on top of my report that lets me see conversions. So literally click on a tab and I can see conversion rate all of my different sources of traffic and now I get to evaluate which are the channels that are really bringing home the bacon. What are the things that are making that bottom line impact?
Philip: I was consulting with a client the other day talking about this report and they hadn’t had goals set up and it was just incredible how little value these numbers really are. You start looking at balance and time with site, so what does that really mean? This is two minutes, that’s two and a half minutes and the metrics don’t actually mean too much unless there is some measurable action that’s happening or not happening.
Justin: Yeah absolutely. I couldn’t and again this is all – this is just a tool that measures your business. If you haven’t configured it and aligned it, what you’re business is trying to do, it’s really not that useful. Great I got visits today, awesome! It’s not helpful.
Philip: Are there any businesses that don’t need Google Analytics?
Justin: Well that’s a really good question. I guess businesses that don’t have websites.
Philip: So if you have a website and you’re listening to this, you need analytics.
Justin: Yeah and if you don’t even want a Google Analytics you should still go get some type of analytics. I don’t know why you wouldn’t want Google Analytics, it’s the best free analytics tool on the earth right now but you got to have something.
Philip: So we talked about the all traffic sources report and you have your goal set up, that’s the number one place, what’s the number two place or the number two report you’d advise people to look at?
Justin: Well also in that section I definitely highlight the campaigns report. I know a lot of businesses with seasonality, with the products that they sell, they have very kind of regimented different types of marketing activities so if you sell maybe school products, you’re obviously selling at certain times of the year. If you have seasonal products you’re hitting certain holidays and with that business cycle becomes regular campaigns.
I like the campaigns report also in the traffic sources report because when I get the link tagging set up I can actually name all of the marketing campaigns that I’m running. I can literally see a list of all of those campaigns in Google Analytics in the campaigns report. So I can go through the list and I can say there’s my back to school sell or there’s my holiday sell from 2010 and I can then find out what were the conversions from that specific marketing campaign that I was running.
Philip: Right so what’s the difference? The campaigns report is just getting to a lower level of detail from the all traffic sources report right?
Justin: Yeah exactly. The campaign – an online marketing campaign might actually have a number of different components. I might be doing some paid search, I might be doing some email and so the campaign is kind of like a container. It allows me to hold all of the different activities I’m doing. Again display ads, emails, paid search, social media, whatever they are and I can say just at the campaign level, how did this campaign perform? Then I can actually look inside the campaign and say well, how did the different components of this campaign perform? The all traffic sources report kind of takes the campaign out of the picture and it looks across of all of my sources of traffic regardless of their campaign. I can evaluate things like how is paid search doing across all of my campaigns? How is social media doing across all of my campaigns and get that broad view. Again that’s the all traffic sources report. The campaigns report gives me a much more I think like tactical view of this was the specific campaign I ran, how did it perform?
Philip: So Justin I know you’re also very keen on the keyword report, getting it to specifics around SEO, how well your SEO and your Adwords is performing & your email marketing and that sort of thing. Can you explain that a little more?
Justin: Yeah absolutely. I think we’ve been talking about the all sources traffic report, the campaigns report and the ability for Google Analytics to what we call segment that data allow you to drill into that data and understand different attributes of it and how it’s working is really, really important.
It doesn’t matter what type of campaign you’re running, if you’re doing Adwords campaign, emails campaigns or if you’re doing a lot of search engine optimization, you have the ability to drill down and look at more detail. Like you mentioned, you can actually go into the keywords reporting in Google Analytics and there’s a little link in the report that allows you to just view your organic traffic or your paid traffic and see the keywords for those specific media, what we call traffic media or those channels, organic channels versus paid search.
This is critical because now you’re getting the most granular view you can of whether it’s paid search or organic traffic. You’re looking at the keyword level and you can start to identify keywords that are driving valuable traffic to your website and keywords that really aren’t doing anything for you. You can look and you can see beyond visits and you can see well, what is a specific keyword bounce rate. Bounce rate is a metric that’s really, really good to help you understand if there’s a problem in kind of the acquisition process. Bounce rate tells us how many visits begin and end on the same page. So if I type in the keyword Hilton to Google and I click on an ad and I land on a website that is displaying Paris Hilton and I immediately leave because it’s probably questionable at best, I’ve basically bounced. I landed on a page on that website, I looked at that one single page and I immediately left. That’s what we can do with the keyword type report is look and see what’s the bounce rate for various keywords.
What I’m looking for is any keyword that has a really high bounce rate because that’s telling me that people are landing on a website, they’re looking at one page and they’re immediately leaving from that keyword. Usually when we’re driving traffic to the website whether it be through paid search or search engine optimization or whatever it is, anything that really has a high bounce rate’s telling me that hey, people are leaving right away. I usually want them to go deeper into the website, I want them to move beyond that landing page and look at more content, look at my products, add things to cart, stuff like that.
By being able to evaluate the bounce rate at a granular level, in this case by keyword I can say alright I need to do some optimization around that keyword so if I’m spending money on that keyword with Google Adwords or some other system, I might want to play with things like what’s the headline of my ad. If doing search engine optimization and I’m getting a really high bounce rate for certain keywords, I might be putting people on the wrong page or the content might not really be in alignment with the variation of the word that the person might be searching for.
The ability to kind of segment down into the data, in this case it’s keyword whether it’s paid or organic, it really helps me get that granular look of what’s working and what’s not working. This is where analytics really gets into the weeds. This is where we really get into the details and we start looking at very fine things. It gets hard because you’re not going to make one change to something when it comes to your website or you’re marketing plan and quadruple your business. You’re going to look at small little things like the bounce rate for keyword, make small incremental changes in order to reduce that bounce rate and over time all of these little changes will add up to make you more successful.
Philip: Those are some great tips, I mean, I think this is probably one of my favorite reports. It’s a great report for business owners to check that their SEO provider is doing a decent job. You can start seeing which exact keyword is delivering traffic but more importantly, also goals. And I think as you were saying they often end up with a lot of work after looking at this report whether you’re keywords are ranking high and they’re not actually converting it to a goal, you’ve got a problem, you need to either address your website or you’ve got the wrong keyword, right?
Justin: Yeah that’s a great observation and one thing that I really like that you brought up there is the fact that if you’re working with a vendor, someone else to do these services for you whether it’s search engine optimization or paid search, you have all of the data so you can keep tabs on what’s happening. I feel very, very strongly that every business owner should have this data and should be able to work with their vendors and say well, I’m seeing this is the data, tell me how this relates to what you’re selling me or what you’re supposed to be doing for me.
Philip: Yeah, and another one as well I see a very common thing is SEO providers reporting on increased traffic but a lot of that increased traffic is actually branded terms or terms which include the business name which the SEO provider is not really targeting. That’s happening naturally probably through other marketing initiatives so really I would encourage business owners to exclude all their business name or their branded traffic from that keyword report and see what the net increase is in traffic from other keywords.
Justin: Yeah absolutely, there’s that great little filter right in the keywords report where you can just choose from a drop down Exclude and then type your brand name in there and right there in the report it will exclude all of your brand related terms. That’s a fantastic tip and totally I agree, it’s really, when we’re doing search engine optimization, we’re looking to develop traffic around the products and services that we’re providing to our customers and our potential customers. That’s really where the growth should happen over time, not really brand related.
Philip: Any thoughts on just PPC or Google Adwords, tips with analytics?
Justin: I think the great thing about analytics is that it is so tightly integrated with Adwords and if you’ve used Google Adwords before, there’s a lot of different levers you can pull in order to change your ads. So you can not only change the ad groups, the campaigns, you can obviously move keywords around, you can create different ad variations, you can do day parting, you can bid for position. So there’s all these different levers that you can pull in Google Adwords in order to change the way your ads appear, when they appear and the format in which they appear. You can even target global devices in some.
What I would just say is start off by looking at your campaigns, then drilling down into groups and then drilling down into the keywords. Then at each of those levels, I’d start by looking at which ones are performing well. Things that are working well, that’s great, keep doing them and I would keep an eye on how many conversions am I getting and what’s my cost per conversion, what am I paying for each of the conversions that I’m getting.
When you look at the campaign level, you might see some campaigns that aren’t performing so well, drill down, look at the ad groups. Google Analytics will let you drill down into every campaign and look at the ad groups and then do the same thing there. So you’re getting more granular, some ad groups might be doing really well and the whole campaign might be dragged down by one or two ad groups that are just performing poorly. You can then get that more granular view and say well, ad group one and ad group two are great but ad group three, not so good. You can try to fix it somehow, maybe you need to change the ads that you’re running or maybe modify the keywords.
Again, you can drill into that ad group and drill into the keyword. At the keyword level, see which ones are performing well and which ones are not. So which ones are driving conversions, how much are those conversions costing and again make changes?
I think that’s the best way to start and then once you start to master that, then you can start to do a lot of segmentation in the adwords report by looking at things like your ad variations, your landing pages, the display url, day parting, location where you’re at, really it can be quite overwhelming but basically Google is going to give you data around each of the different levers that they let you pull an adword. So start by looking at the campaign level, drilling into the ad groups, drilling down to the keywords so that you can kind of get a feeling for what are the winners and what are the losers. Keep doing what’s winning and fix what’s losing.
Philip: Yeah, I love what you’re saying about performance at the keyword level. It’s fascinating, I was looking at it yesterday for a large ecommerce campaign. You can actually get down to the ROI by keyword, how much that keyword cost you and how much revenue ecommerce store earned from that keyword and get an ROI by the keyword which is pretty awesome.
Justin: Yeah, that’s pretty amazing. Again I think this is another spot where we talk about getting into the weeds of Analytics. You’re not – it’s very rare that you’ll make one little change to an adwords campaign and quadruple your revenue. You have to get down to that keyword level and look at how each of them are performing. What’s the revenue at each keyword that coming in. those little changes will add up into big changes.
Philip: You can quickly see how you can spend your whole life in analytics.
Justin: Yeah that’s true and I think that’s why this is an important skill to have. We really need to have people that can dedicate their time to doing this. The tool is free, Google Analytics is free, the data there again, the only cost associated with it is the cost that you have to invest to get things up and running but this is something that on a daily basis you need to be looking at and understanding whether these things are working or these things aren’t working.
Philip: So Justin, may we talk a little bit about efficiency and process. That’s the big challenge of businesses today – the lights come on, I see it in training sessions and people starting to get empowered and developing their skills in-house but then they really struggle on how much time to allocate and what to be looking for. Is it all or just around developing skills or do you have any tips, any guidelines that people can sort of take on board?
Justin: Well the first thing to say is that if you’re a web analyst, you’re in great shape right now in terms of your job prospects and if you’re in a job that you hate and you don’t like, you should become a web analyst because we need more people. Businesses need people to be looking at this data. I really encourage folks if you can to have someone who’s sole job is to handle this and to manage all of the data and looking at all of this information.
Unfortunately a lot of people can’t – don’t have the ability to hire somebody to do this or the people just don’t exist and so I think what we’re left with is marketing people business owners that have to absorb some of this data. I think to assume that a marketing person or a business owner is able to go in and evaluate keyword performance every single day, it’s kind of asinine. Really it’s kind of biting off little pieces and if you don’t have a lot of time, the things that you should be looking at are kind of the high level metrics and we call them the key performance indicators.
You really should define three or maybe five metrics that are the critical metrics that measure the health and success of the online component of your business. It might be revenue, conversions, leads, whatever it is. It might be just a few – and you should monitor those and I’m talking daily. You should know how am I doing and you should put some context around that. That might be a date context, for example, are we up year over year or are we up month over month or it might be kind of an internal expectation. Am I expecting to make that much revenue this week or this month? What were my internal targets?
I say if you don’t have a lot of time, start there with a few key metrics that tell you to health so you can understand if things are going up or if things are going down. If things are going up you usually know they are going up because of any marketing that you’re doing but if there’s an unexpected up, then you need to kind of carve out some time to go look at the data. Where did that increase come from? Was it from maybe getting listed on Digg or Tech Crunch or something like that? Or did an influential blogger start talking about your business or your service or whatever it is, you need to make the time to kind of investigate.
Likewise if things go down, if things are unexpectedly bad, you need to carve out the time to start digging into the data and looking at why did it go down. I think that’s really the key is to bite off just a few metrics. If you don’t have a lot of time monitor them on a daily basis and then when something abnormal happens to kind of dig in.
There’s a great feature in Google Analytics where you can basically arrange your own dashboard and it’s not a very fancy dashboard but you can put things like conversions on there. you can put revenue on there, you can even put basic metrics like traffic and then you can use another feature in Google Analytics, the automated delivery of reports. They’ll email you a report every day and so you can have your dashboard emailed to you every single day.
Now again if you’re pressed for time, you’ll get an email once a day with your dashboard so you’ll be able to look at those metrics and you’ll be able to see a basic trend or was it up or was it down and you can, again, if you don’t have a lot of time, just look for things that are unexpected. Revenue was down yesterday but I really was expecting an increase then you can go dig. I think that’s good first step to kind of getting a handle on this and at least paying attention to the numbers on a daily basis.
Philip: Even if it’s not daily, I’d urge if you’re a marketing manager or a business owner to get at least a weekly or even monthly reports around your traffic, the top three reports that you think are important and just put a bit of structure around what you’re looking at. Because I find most businesses, they dive into analytics without a clear path and they click around for hours and then without much direction and then they feel they’ve wasted time and then don’t go back to analytics.
Justin: I think you brought up a great point is put some structure. To me the best structure or the best lens you can use to view your data is the lens of what am I doing as a business? What was my marketing plan for last week or last month because that will drive your bottom line. That will drive everything that ‘s happening on your site.
Philip: That’s why to me analytics is so fascinating. It’s not just crunching numbers at a very detailed level, you have to have very much a business focus. Whenever you’re interpreting this data it needs to be somebody who has a reasonably high level view of all the marketing going on in the business.
Justin: Absolutely yeah, I couldn’t agree more. I’m a consultant and that’s actually one of the most challenging parts of my job is I need to stay very much in tune with what are my clients’ doing so I can make sense of all this data.
Philip: The other great report and I know from your session we had a couple of years ago is the funnels report, goal funnels. Can you explain a little bit about those and why they’re so important?
Justin: Yeah, the funnel visualization report is actually a visual representation of the processes that we have on our websites. So the classic example is an ecommerce website with a check out process. You have to enter your billing information, shipping information, payment information. Then you might get a review order page and then you get a thank you page. That’s a defined process that we force everyone to go through when they want to buy a product on our website.
Measuring that process is critical because that process is the last thing that stands between us and money. Anything that we can do to understand that process and visitor behavior in that process is critical. The funnel visualization report in Google Analytics will actually show us a nice image of where are people dropping out of that process. Are people dropping out of the billing page, the shipping page, the review page, the payment page, where are they dropping out?
To me this is one of the most important reports because again we’re getting people really close to converting, they are only a few clicks away. We spent the money to get them to the website, we spent the money to build our website, add content, now we’re four clicks away from revenue, we need to make sure things go really well here. This is a spot where I would start any optimization or changes to the website because a small change on the shipping page can lead to a lot more orders. That’s really what we want to do. We want to try to understand, I’ve got you within two clicks, why are you not finishing. Fortunately the report doesn’t have a big flashing red light that says, there’s a security warning on this page or your page doesn’t work in Safari. It just tells you hey, you got a lot of people defecting from this step in your funnel but at least it’s an indicator. You can then start to experiment a little bit and say maybe this form is below the fold for some people. Maybe the continue button isn’t really visible enough, maybe I need to make that more clear. It at least gives you some direction that there’s a step in the process that needs to be tweaked and you can start to play with some changes in order to get more people through that step.
Philip: And listeners if you have a contact form, you wouldn’t use goal funnels because it’s just a single step process. Justin for service based businesses, would they still make use of goal funnels?
Justin: Meaning folks that are looking to, that are selling their own type of service, kind of like me?
Philip: Exactly. If you’re a law firm or a consultancy, would you use goal funnels because often you’re goals are just a one step process, a contact form or maybe a newsletter sign up. Do you see many examples of a multi step process where funnels could be useful?
Justin: I think for those types of scenarios where it is a much shorter process, I actually do encourage people to set them up for one simple reason. If you know how many conversions you’re getting, you need to put some context around how many could I potentially be getting. So even though it’s just a form and then a thank you page, if I know that I’m getting 400 people to the form but I only got 5 people to fill it out, what’s happening there? why is there such a big disconnect.
Even though it’s not so much a process, it at least gives me some insight into is there the ability to fix that form some how. Maybe that form is driving people away because it’s got too many fields on it. It puts more context around the number of completions that I’m getting.
Philip: Right that’s a good point. Are there any other tools we could talk Google Analytics is the most amazing free web tool around I think. Are there any other tools outside of Google Analytics that you are particularly fond of?
Justin: There are two other tools and they kind of fall into two different categories. The first category is visitor feedback. All of the stuff that we talked about is primarily quantitative data. How many conversions, what’s the bounce rate, how many visits, qualitative data, literal feedback from people about their experience, was it good or was it bad, is unbelievably useful and it’s probably my favorite kind of data.
For qualitative date, we’ve been using two tools for that primarily. The first is 4Q, it’s by a company called iPerceptions. They’re based out of Montreal, Canada and 4Q is a free tool that will let you run a survey on your website and it’s a very simple survey, four questions: why did you come here? Were you able to complete your task? If not, would you like to tell us why? And do you have anything else you’d like to share with us? Those four simple questions.
You can draw so much insight out of the answers that people give. They might say hey, I just came to update my account preferences but I couldn’t find the log in button or something like that. I love 4Q. There’s another one called Kiss Insights as well. That’s another feedback tool but start off with 4Q. if you’re running Google Analytics, there’s nothing better than to add 4Q and you will have a killer suite of data with those two tools running.
Justin: There’s one other tool that I’ll totally plug as well. One thing that Google Analytics doesn’t do well is what we call click maps or heat maps that show where people are clicking and how they are interacting with content. There’s a couple of really good tools there, one is called Crazy Egg and the other is called Click Tail. I’m actually a pretty big fan of Click Tail. It does a lot of different things but that’ll create these nice cool heat maps of where people are clicking on your site. Again so you’ll have a visual representation of what are the parts of your design that people are really drawn to.
Philip: Click Tail is pretty fascinating. I was showing it to a client the other day. Essentially Click Tail can show you videos of a single visit to interacting with our website. So you actually see a video of the mouse moving and then clicking, typing in fields in your form. It’s actually quite amazing. They were blown up the water that they can get this sort of tracking.
Justin: Yeah that’s – it’s almost scary isn’t it to literally sit there and replay what everyone does.
Justin: Yeah it’s pretty cool.
Philip: So we could speak forever Justin on analytics. I think it’s been fantastically useful so far. Maybe we could close on a big picture question, if you were in charge of Google Analytics, what’s the one thing that you would change or you would like to see added?
Justin: That’s a great question. I’ve actually been talking to a lot of people about our industry and what we’re doing and where Google needs to go with this. I’ll give you the big picture thinking that I’ve been having. Our industry, we don’t have a lot of analysts. We need more analysts and in order for more people to make sense of the data, we need a tool that’s actually easier to use. I really think that Google needs to tighten things up. They need to clean up analytics and simplify it a bit. I think there’s too many reports, I think it’s too complicated to navigate and I don’t think it’s really focused around the vast majority of users that are out there. So I think they need to clean it up.
Now along with that I also think that Google needs to continue to innovate and drive our ability to do better analysis. So I want them to start to incorporate things like scenarial based analysis where we can do modeling. So if I reduce the bounce rate on this campaign, what’s the potential upside in revenue? If I increase my ads spent here, how much more revenue might I get? I think simplifying the interface and then in a very Googly way allowing us to do more types of analysis, I think that’s really where Google needs to take this tool and then further down the line, I’m thinking like in the 24 to 36 month time frame, I really think Google needs to allow us to expand the amount of data because we’re really missing here is customer data. We really need to have customer data inside of Google Analytics so that we can evaluate things like churn, we can look at our data based on purchase frequency, potential demographic information as well. When we start talking about those things, then we’re really getting into more of a business platform and much more of a business intelligence tool rather than just an analytics tool.
Philip: Thank you Justin. I think that’s a great place to close. You mentioned before we started that you had a special offer for listeners. Perhaps you can say what that is and how people can get a hold of you?
Justin: Sure, I’m more than happy to connect with anyone that’s out there. I’m on Twitter, my Twitter handle is Justin Cutroni and if you want to connect me on Twitter, please go right ahead, say hello and I’d be more than happy to send you a free copy of Google Analytics book, an electronic copy, that’s the easiest way to get it from me to you. If you’d like to connect via Linkedin if you’re not on Twitter, please feel free to via Linkedin or you can always find me at my blog, cutroni.com/blog and again, anyone that wants to reach out I’m more than happy to send you guys a free electronic copy of my book Google Analytics.
Philip: We’ll include links to all those web properties in the show notes. Thanks again for your time Justin.
Justin: Thanks Philip. This is really fun. Have a great day.
By Philip Shaw
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