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Getting to analyze client data is one of the best things about my job. Why? It helps clients know how their online marketing efforts are contributing to the success of their business, which is often parallel to how they are doing offline.

From my first conversation with a client, I want to find out whether they’ve been presented with data that helps them determine if their digital marketing efforts are paying dividends. Many of my clients have been given reports, but just as many have never seen any of their website data. Among those who’ve gotten reports, the data lacks context. They may know what their number of sessions, avg. pages/visit, and bounce rates were for a given time period, but most of them aren’t sure why those numbers matter because they aren’t given comparisons. They don’t know if the number is good or bad.

Google Analytics Audience Overview Screenshot

When just given this data, they are left with more questions. Are my numbers better than last quarter or last year? How are those numbers reflected in the specific efforts we’ve been putting into website optimization?

Take the following example below. It compares December 1-31, 2020, with the immediately previous time period (same number of days) of October 31 through November 30, 2020.

Time Comparison Google Analytics Audience Overview

Any comparison is better than no comparison, but “month-over-month” comparisons aren’t as helpful as “year-over-year” comparisons, especially for businesses with a lot of seasonality. So, let’s do a year-over-year comparison of December 2020 to December 2019.

Year-Over-Year Comparison of Audience Overview in Google Analytics

 

Now we have something to compare. Looking at the last comparison of year-over-year, we see that sessions were up almost 76% in December 2020. That seems really great, but is it? Knowing what data we need to collect and compare can be overwhelming. There are endless ways to slice and dice the numbers and to segment the traffic at various levels (i.e.: page, site wide, sub-section, etc.). A key to gathering helpful contextual data is tying it to business objectives and goals.

For example, the numbers above, even when compared year-over-year, may not tell us a lot about the pages we optimized. Why? Because, the numbers above represent all segments of traffic (i.e.: organic, direct, referral, etc.) and combine the data collected on every page of the website. If we optimized a handful of product pages, how are those individual pages performing? Once we get that comparison, there are other questions that we need to answer to give insights into traffic quality and conversion rates. We could have seen an increase in sessions, which is good, but if the traffic isn’t converting, we still have work to do and adjustments to make.

Additional data can be collected to answer other questions like: Where is my traffic coming from? Which segment of traffic is most engaged? Is that the same segment of traffic that converts the most leads?

Data collection should evolve along with your marketing strategy and it should help inform the decisions you make. That helps you to know if your investments in digital marketing are paying off.

Note: Even digital analytics as a whole is evolving as technology changes. Stay tuned for the Google Analytics transition to Google Analytics 4 over the next year or so.