In the coming year, based on current announcements, Google Analytics is set to go through an almost unprecedented amount of evolution. My postulation is that by this time next year the tool will be almost unrecognizable. [My favorite is Visitor Analytics, and visitor level segmentation that will be pervasive throughout the product. This is insanely cool.]
But it turns out Google Analytics, just like SiteCatalyst, WebTrends, and other web analytics tools, already has plenty of pretty valuable deeply insightful stuff in it. Yet so few people have mastered what's already there. Sometimes I wonder if we should actually be all that excited about the insanely cool stuff if the sanely cool stuff remains unmastered.
As we hopefully look forward to an exciting year, let's take a moment to address the latter challenge. Allow me to help you with your resolution of mastering the sanely cool stuff!
One way to do it is for me to just tell you what my top ten Google Analytics reports are that you could familiarize yourself with. The problem is that you'll know where to go, but not what to look for when you get there.
Each selection by me of a top ten (standard!) report in Google Analytics below includes a small brain dump of quick insights I seek when I'm looking at that report. The stories and examples will hopefully help you intelligently approach your own data in these reports and quickly find insights you can action / share with your management team.
[Sidebar for people who want to be BIG winners]
Before you log into Google Analytics it is really really helpful to get context about the company/client's business.
I realize that you are pressed for time and you might not want to do it. But in case you want to win big rather than just win, I encourage to read the six tips outlined in this post: The Biggest Mistake Web Analysts Make… And How To Avoid It!
I guarantee that if you invest this time, you'll find 5x better insights when you log into Google Analytics or Adobe SiteCatalyst. If you don't invest this upfront, fun, time you'll hurt my feelings but I'll understand, you don't want to win big.
[/Sidebar for people who want to be BIG winners]
Below are the top ten standard reports in Google Analytics that you should know well, especially if you are only a part-time user of Google Analytics.
If you are an Analyst, of any tool, check out the Bonus tips included to kick your efforts up a notch or two.
Everything here's simple. You don't have to be a particularly deep expert to find value in this training.
1. Sources Overview report.
Start with the pie. It helps you understand how reliant the company/client is on Search (too much is actually not good). What other sources are big for them? If you don't see other sources (campaigns – email, social, display) are not tagged. A very bad thing.
Like everything in life, you want a balanced portfolio (left).
Then go to Traffic Source > Sources > Campaigns to get a feel for how many display, social, email, other campaigns the company might be running. What's their performance? Very good context.
Search is always big for everyone. So you want to drill down into the Traffic Source > Sources > Search > Overview to understand the macro balance between Organic and Paid (this, by default, will only show AdWords though it can show Bing, Yandex etc).
It is hard to get overall search keyword performance in GA, so grab this quick custom report All Search Performance and apply the standard advanced segments to it (Non-paid Search Traffic, Paid Search Traffic). Tons and tons of insights here. Better organic keywords, performance for same words between organic and paid, goal value comparisons, so much more. Go crazy.
While you look at three reports, you quickly end up with a robust understanding of *all* the things the company is doing and a detailed understanding of paid and organic search performance.
Bonus: Download the All Traffic Source End to End report for best, in depth, analysis. [Make sure you are logged into GA, then click on the link, save the report to your account.]
2. Landing Pages report.
Zero companies will win without great landing pages. You stink there, bye, bye large amounts of money. Great landing pages equals more customers enticed to engage plus higher conversions plus higher (AdWords) quality score.
Start by looking at the top 20 landing pages. Content > Site Content > Landing Pages.
Identify ones with high bounce rates. What is wrong with them? Visit them. Missing calls to action broken links, not enough content, content unrelated to the ads, something else? Low hanging fruit. Fix it.
Learn to apply the top traffic segments (see #1 above) to this report. Find high bounce rates for one segment (Paid Search) and look at other segments (Display) where pages have low bounce rates. Learn from the winners, apply to the losers.
Bonus: Smart people look at the Page Value delivered by each landing page and not just bounce rates. Sadly it not easy to find. No worries, I've got your back. Download this custom report: Landing Pages Analysis .
For each page now you know how often it is a landing page (Entrances/Pageviews), how much it stinks (Bounce Rate), how much money it is making you (Page Value). Ignore your home page or any cart or checkout pages that might show up. Look at all others.
Why do some pages only make 97 cents and others make you almost four dollars? Prioritize using a mix of bounce and page value, analyze details using referring keywords and referring urls (drilldowns are already built into above custom report!).
3. Goals Report.
Macro + Micro Conversions. Macro + Micro Conversions. Macro + Micro Conversions. Macro + Micro Conversions. Macro + Micro Conversions. Macro + Micro Conversions.
Got it? Macro + Micro Conversions!
The difference between companies that win and the companies that will lose is simply this: Economic Value.
So look at the standard goals report. Conversions > Goals > Overview. This report shows all the goals converting, in addition to the ecommerce order now conversions.
Are there at least six micro conversions identified? Yes? Good. Does each goal have values identified? Yes? Magnificent. The company you are analyzing is ready to rock the web!
If the answer to either question is no, at best the company will scratch out a living on the web. More likely their competitors are going to slap them around.
What are the high micro conversions you need to start focusing on (G6, G7, G2, G1 above)? Do you understand how elements of your paid, owned, earned inbound marketing efforts drive each of these? How do these goals tile to your macro conversion, G3? Does the CEO understand the complete value of digital ($233,810 above)?
Bonus: Ecommerce is sexy, so don't forget to look at that. Specifically focus on what products are being sold. Go to Conversions > Ecommerce > Product Performance. (For this to work the ecommerce tag has to be implemented right. If it is not you have bigger problems.)
What are the top selling products, what's the average quantity? How about when you apply segments for your top traffic sources? What is Search really good at selling? What about Social? What about Display? What about in Florida vs. New York? Understand, have a smarter CEO conversation.
4. Conversion Funnels Report.
Fastest. Way. To. Make. Money.
The conversion path is three or four pages. What's your abandonment rate? Why is it a criminal 65%? Is there a better way to make money than to take it from people who have started the checkout process and want to give you money?
This post is about standard GA reports, but the standard cart/checkout funnel visualization in GA is value deficient. So as your standard report use Paditrack. For the same number of button presses you'll get 25x more value than Google Analytics.
Where do most people drop off? How can you have a minimum number of text fields? Is it possible to not have garish banner ads in the checkout process? When do people enter coupons? Is the error checking when the person submits the page or is it (awesomer) in-line when the person moves from one field to the next?
Bonus: Apply top traffic sources segments to the above report. Or just apply the top paid search referring keyword to the funnel report…
Do you see differences in abandonment rates? Why? What is causing a particular keyword, email campaign, display ad, offer, to convert higher or lower? What lessons can be applied to all other visitors? Go fix!
5. MCF Assisted Conversions Report.
Multi-channel attribution was the flavor of the month for every month in 2012. It will be the same in 2013. And just as in 2012 magic pills will be scarce, FUD will be plentiful, and vendors will promise the moon. You, I guarantee it, will be just as confused.
But get to know the assisted conversions report. It is fairly straightforward.
If *all* your campaigns *always* include campaign tracking parameters, this report is really good at answering this critical question: Is channel x more likely to be at the end of the conversion process or drive traffic that might convert later via a different channel? It is extremely valuable to know the answer.
Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions.
In the above case I was astonished that while our email was primarily a direct response "here's a coupon to convert" marketing, it actually drove more conversions via other channels (!).
Impact? 1. We were not giving email enough credit. 2. Were we sending emails to people we had seen recently on our site? 3. If email assists, can we understand its order in the conversion process and which channel it most assists? (Yes. Go to Top Conversion Paths reportand search for Email.)
Even if you never get into the mess of attribution modeling and all that other craziness, you are much smarter by just analyzing the data, and implications, from at this report.
Bonus: You will want to know what to do about attribution modeling craziness. Read answers to questions one, two and three here: Attribution Modeling, Org Culture, Deeper Analysis. After that if you can't resist the itch, go play with the, now free to everyone, Attribution Modeling Tool in GA. Read the three answers first, please.
6. Mobile Devices Report.
Mobile is all the rage. You can't walk into any about digital or not about digital at all meeting without a solid grasp of where the company is when it comes to mobile.
This is a standard report in GA, but I've pressed a few buttons to make it smarter. You'll find the report in Audience > Mobile > Devices. On top of the graph click on Select A Metric and choose Goal Conversion Rate. Now you know the Visits and the Conversions. Smart.
Then on top of the table click on the Pivot icon (see mouse below). Then from Pivot By choose Source.
First, you quickly learn what the main big mobile consumption platforms are. Second, equally quickly, you know the main sources of traffic via mobile are. [If you remember from our first report above, direct was #3 in overall and social was #4, but on mobile direct is #1 and social is #3. Did you realize your acquisition was distinct on mobile? Does your mobile marketing reflect that?]
As you look at the "scorecard" (just under the graph) you can look at the little numbers in gray and understand overall mobile performance compared to site performance. Very handy.
Bonus: Download a super awesome all-encompassing mobile custom report: Complete Mobile Performance Report. It has unique built in drill-downs, customized metrics that give you the ability to deeply analyze mobile data by devices, search behavior and content content consumption (click on each tab). You will never need another standard mobile report!
7. In-Page Analytics Report.
Traffic Sources > Content > In-Page Analytics.
There is no simpler way to understand how consumers are behaving on a company's website then to just look at their clicks. In-Page does that really well. Just look at the link, look at the corresponding number.
On the home page it is so easy now to see which product categories people really care about (Calico Critters! Put them on sale! Buy all the keywords! Run email campaigns! :). You can also easily see that zero people have clicked on the ScooterX Skateboard (time to remove it), at least some care about Mini-Motos but what people really care about is the Marble Run (pimp away!).
I hear you. Clicks are ok but you only care about money. No worries. Change the metric on top of the page to Goal Values and bam! What you now see is the distribution of which link is making you how much money. Sweetness.
This report is your easiest way into Web Analytics.
Bonus: Open your top landing pages in this report and then apply the Advanced Segment (button on top of the report) for your big traffic sources to see how differently your visitors click. Then at least for your top most landing pages, consider creating a custom one for each of the main traffic source.
Bonus 2: GA now allows for enhanced link attribution in this report. That is very cool because if you have a link in the header, a link in the side bar and a link in the main body all pointing to the same product page, Analytics will show you exactly how many people click on each of those links. You can then eliminate the big promo in the side bar because you now have data which shows that zero people click on it (because it looks like a banner ad!).
8. Location Report.
People have weird conceptions of where their traffic comes from. Sure they can sprout the number of tweets or top search keywords, but rarely do they have a robust understanding of the geographical distribution of their audience.
Illuminate yourself by going to Audience > Demographics > Location. Then on top of the graph change the metric from Visits to Goal Conversion Rate.
The default view (Visits) will always underline your bias. For me it is always USA #1 (hurray!). But USA is only 40% of my traffic. And when I look at Conversion Rates there are a whole bunch of countries that are way better than USA (#47!). There are 14 countries with Conversion Rates 2x of USA (OMG!).
That changes things, right? Changes campaign targeting, changes content development, changes social strategies, changes product mix, changes keywords for search engine optimization.
You can run this type of analysis at a State and a City level as well, the results are always eye opening / preconceived notions busting.
Bonus: Every GA report shows clicks you actually get, there is only one that shows you clicks you could possibly have gotten. Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimization > Geographical Summary.
It shows, by country, where you currently show up on Google properties (Impressions) and the number of clicks you get. It took me 110k impressions to get 10k clicks in the UK and 60k impressions to get 10k clicks in Germany. Time to dial up SEO awesomeness in the UK!
9. Site Search Terms Report.
Another hugely underutilized resource is the intent your visitors are actually expressing on your site by typing into your site search engine (best way to stink is not to have one).
Content > Site Search > Search Terms. Admire the default view for a second, but quickly switch to Goal Set 1 (or Ecommerce if you are one of the aiming to hit a low bar with no Goals defined). You'll get this view…
Do you know what are the top things people are looking for that they can't find on first glance? Above. Do you know how many of those top expressed wishes then lead to a zero (!) percent conversion rate? Above. Do you know how much money you make off each search term/expressed intent? Above.
Now would you not want all the top things people look for to have a $2.39 per search goal value rather than 0.12 or 0.63? Of course. You have work to do.
Bonus: This might be stretching it a bit but 100% of your internal site search terms should probably be on your SEO keyword list and likely a part of your Paid Search campaigns. If people are coming to your site and looking for stuff (and you have it) then there is no better signal to grow your keyword list.
In my case that is 20,217 keywords I can quickly add to my Bing/Baidu/Yandex search campaigns and start measuring performance. My additions will be geo targeted by which keywords on my site were searched for from each country!
10. E2E Paid Search Report.
I tried really hard to keep this to just standard reports, but I had to squeeze in one "standard" custom report. It comes from my recent post Google Analytics Custom Reports: Paid Search Campaigns Analysis .
The report shows the end to end view of your search campaign performance.
Any Analyst worth their salt will spent a lot of time trying to understand what is happening on the site in conjunction with trying to understand what happening inside AdWords! This report does that very effectively. Above it merges data from AdWords with your site performance data (how cute is it that you can see cost per click and revenue per click right next to each other!).
Additionally it has pre-built drilldowns (below) that allow you to navigate this performance in context of your AdWords account structure.
Identify which campaigns are actually delivering value. Identify if you can optimize your AdGroups to deliver higher performance (impressions, clicks). Identify what your Match Type decisions are doing to your performance (Broad, Phrase, Exact, what's up?).
There is a lot more you can do in terms of AdWords Analytics, most of your starting points sit in the above report. Hence it is my standard AdWords report, even if it is a custom report. Download: E2E Paid Search Report.
That's it. Ten standard reports that high insights in plain sight. And a bonus five custom reports to allow you to truly bring out your inner Analysis Ninja!
If you are able to master the standard set, you'll be above average when it comes to understanding site performance. Better still, you'll be able to identify a robust set of actions that will please the toughest CEO and over a period of time earn you a glory and a higher salary.
Now that's something worthwhile to shoot for in 2013!
As always, it is your turn now.
Are these standard reports a part of your current Analysis Ninja arsenal? Do you have a favorite standard report that is not listed above? If yes, what is amazing about it? If you use these reports already, are these the types of insights you seek? Are there other hidden insights gems that I might have overlooked above? Got a omg this is my secret weapon custom report you want to share with us?
Please share your insights, questions, favorite reports, and feedback via comments below.
Thanks, and good luck!