One Marketer’s Misadventures in Google Analytics

By: Jeanie Hendrie

I retired my calculator the day I chose a career in marketing – Texas Instruments, I thought, was a name I’d never hear again…unless I was considering upgrading my cowboy boots. Alas, like many naïve marketers before me, I’ve come to realize there’s something to this art and science thing. Last year, as the launch of our new website drew near, the question of who would report the analytics lingered in the room – and when I say that, I really mean it lingered…loitered and then got stale. New to the company and eager to impress, I decided maybe this could be my je ne sais quoi. A year later, I still only speak basic French…but I’m now fluent in Google Analytics.

With so many companies aboard the blogging bandwagon, it’s become as difficult as it is important to have a unique point of view. Breakthrough in the online community is no easy feat and if your videos don’t go viral, how do you know if you’re making an impact? Measuring page views and time on site? This monkey could do that. But understanding online influence? Well that’s much more complex.

Page views and influence aside, every new Google geek must begin with the end in mind. Here are 3 things I wish I’d done before the train left the station early last year:

  • Start with the Key Questions: Speak to the end user of your data. The first time I presented analytics, I talked about how many people were reading our posts but what the team really wanted to know was how those people were interacting with the content. How do we foster engagement? How many people are sharing our posts? Understanding the key questions means you can focus on the numbers that matter – the first step in attempting to measure your online influence.
  • Define Success: When it comes to the world of blogging, there are many areas around which you can set goals – frequency of posts, content topics, reader engagement, reader loyalty, social media influence…the list goes on. Defining success early on can provide focus in a confusing sea of numbers. Our team used a Plan on a Page approach, with three pillars for success: generate content, expand deployment and foster engagement. We chose these pillars because they represent important milestones in the growth of our reader base. Broadly speaking, our team set out to produce a stream of thought-provoking content (generate content) that garnered loyalty (expand deployment) and inspired conversation (foster engagement) among our targeted reader base (you, our clients). With these parameters in place, it was clear which metrics we needed to measure and which ones we could leave in cyberspace.
  • Learn the Numbers: Get to know the language – bounce rate, unique visits, page views – understand exactly what each of these mean and use your key questions to determine which ones you care about and which ones you don’t. And once you’re comfortable with the terminology, explore your platforms. There may be more than you think. I started with Google Analytics but now also use Facebook, Bit.ly, Digital Hug and Mail Chimp. Many platforms have free, built-in analytics reporting and, while less sophisticated than the paid versions, there are often nuggets worth sharing.

Start with the questions, define success and learn the numbers. Grab your motherboards and megabits readers and stay tuned! In Part II, things get technical as I take you through the 3 most valuable and easy-to-use Google Analytics features.