Understanding The Story That Google Analytics Is Telling You

If you’ve already got Google Analytics collecting data from your site, you’re off to a good start in measuring the conversion performance of your content. However, the job is far from over; understanding the story that lies within the data is where the real work begins.

Even with a hypothetically “perfectly-optimised” website, the ebbing and flowing of website traffic and user behaviour would loosen the tight system that’s in place. Like a tide washing back and forth over a shore, moving sand, rocks, and who-knows-what-else gradually over time, the way your traffic interacts with your site fluctuates and changes.

This is why we perform conversion rate optimisation. We revise and iterate on our designs until we declare to have hit our “local maximum” (the best possible results from the current design), and depending on the hypotheses made about possible attainable new conversion goals, a complete redesign could be warranted. This, of course, is a considerably greater undertaking that reaches well beyond the scope of conversion optimisation and therefore this discussion.

So, the question really is: are there still conversion opportunities on your website? Google Analytics probably has the answers you’re looking for, and these teachings inspired by CXL Institute will help you bring them to the surface.

Check your Google Analytics Goals for opportunities

CXL teaches something very important about bounce rates that also applies to all the metrics we’ll come across Always remember: good and bad metrics are never absolute, and always contextual. They are always relative to one another, and this is the frame of reference through which you should assess your data.

You can start exploring Google Analytics for conversion rate improvement by looking at your busiest web pages. Under Behaviour reports, go to Site Content —> All Pages, and take a look at the top 10 pages (by Pageviews) on your site. With this report, you’re provided with a broad overview of where some easy conversion opportunities might lie. Keeping in mind what was mentioned earlier — that no metric is absolute —and look over the report for consistencies and inconsistencies: what has a higher Bounce Rate than other pages? Is the page doing what it should be doing? Are there any abnormally low Average Times on Page?

In short, compare each page with one another and ask yourself: “what sticks out?”

You’ve got traffic, but of what quality?

Take a look at Source/Medium in your Acquisition reports. Think of them as follows:

  • Source is “who sent the visitor to your site”
  • Medium is “how did they get to your site”

This report will help you understand where the highest quality traffic on your website is coming from. How do the Goal Completions (ie. conversions) compare to one another? Which channels are weaker? If you’ve got Ecommerce setup, what revenue can be attributed to which channels? Dive into your content on those lower-converting channels and consider how you can better serve those who use those channels; you might be a little off the mark. Alternatively, you could decide to scrap your efforts on those underperforming channels altogether and just focus on your stronger ones.

Page metrics that matter can, of course, vary on a case-by-case basis; however, these two are great indicators of conversion performance:

Bounce rate

This is generally the strongest indicator of a page’s performance and for looking at conversion rate optimization. There are always exceptions to the rule — take affiliate marketing for example: is it not in your best interest that someone land on your page, click on an affiliate link and make a purchase on the third party’s product page? Even though this registers as a bounce, in this instance, we can consider this path a successful conversion. Remember: context always matters.

Page value

If you’ve set up Goals and/or Ecommerce within Google Analytics, you’ll see this metric. If you have an eCommerce site, make sure this is set up; it’s key to revenue attribution. You can confidently answer “how much overall value does this page contribute to the bottom line of my website?” If you see a page that has a low Page Value, you can justify a deeper dive into what’s going on on-page. How clear is your call to action? Does the layout lend itself to a favourable user experience? Once more, compare the figures across the pages to one another, but discount the shopping cart which will naturally be much higher — this is where they give you the money, duh.

There is still a lot going on on your website that isn’t tracked by default in Google Analytics and will help you scope out more opportunities and better understand your traffic.

Get granular — setting up Event Tracking

Google Analytics tells us a lot out-of-the-box, but there’s a lot of activity happening that we’re left in the dark on. In the moment, when the visitor is there on the page, there is so much more going on that we don’t have being recorded.

How are users interacting with the page?

With some additional tools, you can bring a magnifying glass to user behaviour and highlight other interactions that are happening during a session to more accurately identify conversion opportunities.

You’ll soon learn that not all bounces are made the same. For example, two sessions might appear to have the same outcome: bounces after 70–80 seconds, let’s say. However, the interactions that took place could vary wildly. Perhaps one user didn’t scroll past the fold, distracted by something external, before exiting, while the other reached the bottom of the page and watched a video before leaving. The equivalence is no longer a legitimate reality, and the two sessions should be deemed to have had different outcomes. In this sense, even Session Duration — about as granular a metric we’ll get from the default Google Analytics — isn’t telling the full story.

This is where Event Tracking comes into play. There are plenty of third-party tools and libraries that are available that integrate with Google Analytics through Google Tag Manager to help set up events and provide more insight. These two event examples can be set up to providing more-detailed insights into user interaction:

Video Tracking

With video tracking, you get how many times your embedded video was played, paused, or watched until certain completion points (50%, 100%, etc.). This will give you the insights you need to establish the efficacy of your video content.

Scroll Tracking

Scroll tracking can help us work out where our content starts to falter in retaining the attention of the visitor. It provides similar “completion” data, showing us how far down the page the user scrolled.

With Event Tracking, we can even take control of what is defined as a bounce. By classing an event as “interaction-based”, we can decide that whatever that event might be — such as scrolling 100% of the page — should it be completed, that session will no longer register as a bounced session.

Pretty cool, right?

Naturally, without literally talking 1-on-1 with a user, we are only ever speculating on the full story with these methods. However, this detailed data brings us a lot closer to understanding what’s working and what’s not in our conversion optimisation journeys.

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