The 2013 Academy Awards saw the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role awarded to Daniel Day-Lewis for his spot-on portrayal of Abraham Lincoln. Yawn.
Day-Lewis also won in 2007 for the film “There Will Be Blood” and in 1990 for “My Left Foot.” Amazingly, the gifted actor was a Best Actor Oscar runner-up in 2002 and 1993. Yawn, yawn, and . . . well, you get the point. Day-Lewis is the most talented actor of his generation. By a wide margin.
So too is Google Analytics the best Web analytics tool of its generation — and the most widely used. Its website analysis capabilities compared to other tools, both free and paid, are a leap ahead. Utilized correctly Google Analytics, or “GA,” is a powerful — to say the least — aid for online marketers and other users supporting brand building and demand generation.
So, what can GA deliver that other Web analytics tools cannot? Details. Lots of details supporting performance measurement — metrics-based performance measurement.
Web analytics tools use case
The objective. The marketing team at a fast-growing international software services company is utilizing a complimentary, interlocking suite of communication channels to funnel targeted contacts with the right demographics to its corporate website. The channels include outbound press releases and email, Twitter, blog, LinkedIn and YouTube postings, online business and technical articles and newsletters, to name some.
Each channel requires time and resources to support. Even with an efficient content syndication approach, the effort needed to harness the power of a multi-channel model is significant. It’s essential that the team measure and report results in order to insure that the effort is delivering the intended results. What’s needed is a way to systematically measure the contribution of each channel to the larger goal — driving traffic and, most importantly, the right traffic demographic profile — to the company’s website. Google Analytics is the answer.
Comparing tools. The marketing team initially started with a simpler tool called Alexa. It was an easy way to get started, paving the way for the later use of GA. Sure, Alexa delivers traffic rank, reach and page view percentages, bounce, time on site, and search percentage information. All useful. The tool even delivers regional traffic rank, where visitors go and top search queries. Even the coveted audience snapshot. All good. But in the end, it’s superficial information without depth.
GA, on the other hand, delivers analytical depth. And reporting breadth. Compared to simpler solutions like Alexa, GA delivers more sophisticated — and ultimately more useful — capabilities, including:
- A reporting platform you can use to choose what data you want to view and customize your reports — over 100 templatized reports with additional, nearly limitless customization
- Content reports that tell you what sections of your website are performing well and that identify the most popular pages
- A way to measure the success of your social media channels; you can analyze how visitors interact with sharing features on your site and engage with your content across the channels
- How many customers you’re attracting, how much you’re selling and how users are engaging with your site — in detail
- Capability to link your online advertising activity and your marketing campaigns to understand the complete picture and improve your advertising performance
Benefits realized. Once the marketing team transitioned to GA, it was as if Day-Lewis himself had arrived! Now, the reporting told the team where the traffic was coming from: press releases distributed over PRWeb, outbound email with links back to the website or custom landing pages linked to the website, Twitter, blog and LinkedIn postings, YouTube, online business and technical articles links, customer newsletter introducing a new service listed on the website.
Traffic could be tracked by type: organic, direct and referrals, i.e., search, copy and paste, and click-through, respectively. The website’s most popular content and the most frequent corporate visitors were easily tracked.
All this information and more flowed from reports into a management dashboard that delivered a cogent comparison of channel and website performance quarter over quarter, or even month over month.
As a result, the marketing team could make decisions throughout the year on a more timely basis. For example, they could shift budget dollars and resource allocation to better performing channels. Or, realizing that the piece of the dollars-and-resources pie allocated to one channel was dramatically lower compared to other channels, resulting in poor “volume” performance but high relative percentage performance compared to other channels, they could reallocate effort to that underutilized but promising channel.
The marketing team realized it had only just begun to leverage the power of GA. Features such as term clouds, multi-channel funnels, real time, mobile reporting, event goals and flow visualization could also help and would get a look.
Google Analytics is a powerful tool. Like other sophisticated software tools it requires time and effort to get the most out of it. The person utilizing GA needs to determine the set of features that are most important to the program effort at a given timeline. Deployed intelligently, however, it is a blockbuster.
Daniel Day-Lewis made history as the first man to win a third best-actor Oscar. The 55-year-old film star is on record, according to those who know him, as insisting he will not appear in another film for the next five years. He is on sabbatical. Google, on the other hand, is not, and is expected to continue improving GA by adding new and ever more powerful features in the months ahead.
John Hitchcock has over 20 years of experience in the software industry. Currently a director at Avantica Technologies, one of Latin America’s largest nearshore software engineering services companies, for the past decade he’s managed teams in India, China and Eastern Europe. Earlier John was head of U.S. and Central Europe field marketing for Cambridge Technology Partners, later acquired by Novell. He’s held leadership positions both at fast growing startups funded by Sequoia Capital and Austin Ventures, and the technology group of GE.