Getting to Grips with Google Analytics

I’ve been using Google Analytics on various websites I’ve worked on since..well since before it was Google Analytics (GA).  I actually was a paying customer of Urchin before GOOG swallowed them up back in 2005.  Before then I’d mainly been using WebTrends and I think AWStats (though that might have come later?) and while I do still occasionally use both of those tools to sense check things it has been a long time since anything other that GA was my main tool.

However it recently became clear to me that I’ve been really lazy in recent years and hadn’t really kept up with the functionality in any practical sense – part of that was because where I had teams I had delegated the task and also part of it was the more the language of GA became sales/marketing dominated the more uncomfortable I got with it.

This is a common problem I have – I’ve never really been comfortable with the Marketing side of my role/s and have tended to cling to the Communications or technical aspects.  This has tended to work out ok in the organisations I’ve gravitated towards as there tends to be a general mistrust of the ‘M’ word.

All that said though I have a need to make smarter decisions on the direction of our web site/s and I need evidence to back up the many assumptions I’ve been making!  So I have been trying to delve back into GA and use it better.  Most of the official guidance is more sales/adwords based than ever and I really think there would be a market for someone to write something targeted at Gov/NDPB/Third Sector type information sites – just a change of tone and language would be helpful as well as some relevant examples.

I did however find a presentation by Mr Bathcamp – Mike Ellis – which features a nice intro to using GA well.  The whole presentation which features various other Digital Marketing ideas is available on Slideshare but I have embedded the relevant GA slides below.

Anyway it has been a helpful roadmap so far and I spent Friday implementing ‘segments’, setting up various ‘goals’ and considering how I might use ‘funnels’.  Also I did a fair bit of head scratching about how I might use things like the Campaign URL builder and tracking the ‘vanity’ URLs we use in what is left of our print portfolio.  I am also thinking about how to present this information beyond my own team – in the past I have favored building a narrative about the data rather than just sharing the numbers and charts but this is time consuming and the more I can automate in a coherent, usable way the better.

I’ve always been pretty good at spotting trends for traffic and being able to anticipate what causes spikes and lulls – the site I am working on at the moment has incredibly consistent numbers and I haven’t decided if that is a good or a bad thing yet!  It is a decent sized audience who use the site in a *very* particular way so any changes I want to make need to improve the site without alienating these users – I have a feeling this is going to be a challenge – so the usage data is going to be key.

One thing I had forgotten is how easy it is to get sucked in to all the options available in GA – and how you can lose a day without really realising!  It is good fun though – well I think so anyway 🙂


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