The new version of Google Analytics has been a hit-or-miss type of implementation. I personally think that most resistance to change is a type of “Professional Inertia”; where people get to know the tools they use so often, that any modification of those tools is greeted with resistance.
I myself also found myself disliking the new face of analytics when I first saw it, but then I started to look under the hood and see what they added to the code; and what is there will surprise you. Here are a few things about the New Analytics that you might not have figured out yet, or haven’t found the way to get the most out of it. Allow me to show you how getting past the design difficulties of the new Analytics is going to revolutionize your data mining.
Data Goldmine – Maximizing the Utility of Visitor Flow:
One of my strengths as a Professional SEO is website architecture optimization. Aside from just flattening the structure of a website, (reducing the amount of clicks from search to relevant content / converting page), I spend a lot of time applying a principal I learned in a city-planning course in college called Traffic Sculpting.
The classic SEO definition of Traffic Sculpting usually refers to a Web 1.0/Early 2.0 strategy whereas you would try to attract a lot of followed links to your site, while using rel=”nofollow” for outbound links. If you are still using this tactic, I HIGHLY recommend you check out Michael Gray’s <a href=”http://www.wolf-howl.com/seo/seo-case-study-outbound-links/”>case study on the topic</a>. It will scientifically and boldly introduce you to the Modern Web.
Traffic Sculpting from a city planner’s perspective is using queues, both obvious and subliminal, to make traffic of all kinds move in a certain way. One example of this is easily seen in Portland, Oregon; there, many street entrances pinched smaller than the road they lead to. They are only slightly wider than two cars to fit beside one another, which subconsciously cause drivers to slow down before entering the street.
In SEO, I define traffic sculpting as using obvious and subliminal variables to encourage users to convert. I had the privilege of working with BuyWithMe.com before they sunk, and I was allowed access to files and data mining well beyond my pay grade. We did focus groups for eye tracking, color preference, and email template layouts. The color, shape, location, wording, and font all affect the conversion rate for a simple call to action button.
The new Google Analytics takes my sculpting process and throws a supercharger on it. Before, I would have to set up multiple goal funnels that lead to a single highly converting page to see accurately where people are going. Welcome to the future of Architecture Optimization:
In my opinion, if you can’t get excited about this screen, you’re either in the wrong industry, or don’t perform on-site SEO. This page details the path of the first two pages your users visit upon visiting your site. At the top, you can filter by segment to show new visits, returning visits, referral traffic, or even track specific keywords with a custom segment. Furthermore, every single one of those pages can be clicked on, and the data is expanded to focus on that particular landing page or secondary page. No longer do you need to set up goal-funnels and painstakingly trace the path of users. Its all here, and its all visual.
Now, the real power of this tab is not just in the data, but in the way it allows you to utilize it. Once you start seeing a pattern for traffic, and you identify what pages people are ending up on most, then you move right over to Webmaster Tools and perform an A/B split test to further optimize the page. My process is to apply a custom segment to track for specific, high-value keywords and track their path. Then I take a page on that path that I see is under-performing, (via further segments, did I forget to mention that segments stack?) and optimize it, and perform a split-test to test it. In terms of keeping your clients happy, it’s really hard to argue with the cold, hard results of the scientific method.
Integrated Mobile Interface – No More Confusion:
The web is inexorably moving in the direction of mobile browsing. As more people purchase smartphones and are able to access the web from anywhere, knowing what pages they want to see in a mobile-friendly format is essential.
Remember how we had to set up complicated custom segments to track mobile traffic on the old analytics? That is no more, Google has integrated mobile tracking directly into the new analytics, and the data is indispensable.
Right off the bat, you will see two things that are extremely interesting. As a percentage of the total traffic to the site, 6.11% of all traffic is from a mobile platform, and if you click on the sub-category devices, you can see which specific devices visit your site.
6% of total site traffic is substantial enough to warrant an investigation as to where these visitors are going, and consider whether these pages should have a mobile page built for them. This information is easily accessible through either applying a secondary search dimension on a per-device basis, or as a total percentage of the total traffic through advanced segments. Again, having sophisticated custom segments to accurately track keywords can show you where the users that are finding your site through intended keywords are migrating.
Once again, aside from the obvious data mining capability, client management is hugely affected by this new integration. I wasn’t a computer science student, I was a classical marketing/sales major, so one of the biggest things that I strive for is customer satisfaction. The transparency that is allowed through this new tab can show your clients where the mobile users are going, and could even earn you a bigger budget as they may be convinced that the contact form on a particular page needs to be mobile-optimized.
In-Page Analytics – No Longer Beta, Not a Hassle:
Finally, the In-Page analytics is out of Beta, and truthfully, its better than ever. Whilst the function of in-page is exactly the same; it allows you to view a page in a browser-like format and see where viewers are going as a percentage of traffic. Once again, advanced segments can be applied to see more specific data; but its the new in-page tab that gets me excited to be on analytics.
As you may realize by now, I like to utilize multiple tools in my data-gathering process to make the most qualified decisions I can. I call my process “stacking” and in-page adds a depth to my stack previously unattainable. For example, I recently recommended an architecture overhaul to a client’s site that consisted of a small bit of traffic sculpting, and contact form mobile optimization. The ability to identify these needs came from a stack of Visitor Flow, Top Content, and In-Page analytics.
From Visitor Flow, I applied an advanced segment to track the client’s third most important keyword. What I saw was that the drop off rate on a page in the middle of the landing page and the conversion page was high. So I went to the content section, found the page, and clicked the in-page tab located at the top of the graph data. All of a sudden it was apparent that people were looking for a contact form on that page, but unless they used the top navigation to get to it, there was no direct path from there to the contact form.
I was able to figure out that most users were clicking on a link that was misleading; it seemed like it would take you to the contact page, but in fact it was going to a case-study. A quick link change and anchor-text switch, and we are now converting .5% higher on that search term down that specific traffic funnel.
Taking Customer Satisfaction to the Next Level:
You may have noticed a pattern throughout this article; as a student of marketing, I place a high emphasis on customer interaction and satisfaction. However, some of my peers feel the opposite way, and it is understandable. The SEO process is very hard to explain, and it is very easy to oversimplify the work and justify abandoning your services.
I’ve had my fair share of clients that felt that they were entitled to every second of my time, and as we all know, we can’t bill for every minute spent sending an email or explaining something over the phone. However, the new analytics makes it incredibly easy to take your testing and methods and translate them into plain English.
Instead of trying to explain how you came to the conclusions about a certain redesign, you can simply show them the numbers of either in-page, or of a custom segment that you have designed. It makes the information visible enough that there are no questions about your method.
Pictured above is the biggest weapon added to your customer service arsenal; courtesy of the New and Improved Google Analytics. This is a page that is relatively useless for data mining or real SEO purposes, but it gives your clients something to look at. Sometimes, just creating the perception of control for a client is enough to give you the breathing room you need to bring about the results you are capable of. Give your clients a login to GA, get them to this page, and I promise you’ll receive 10-25% less calls than you are used to. Plus, it does look really cool!