The Digital Marketing Landscape: Marketing Analytics Basics
Hey there, it’s me again. Hopefully you’ve read my first blog in my “Digital Marketing Landscape” series, Why You Need Marketing Analytics, and you’re excited to learn more about getting started on your analytics journey. There are some important decisions to make and steps to take in order to make your analytics program successful, so let’s dig right in!
Choose the Right System for You
One of the most important aspects of a strong marketing analytics plan is choosing your one true source of data. This means you get all of your information from one source, and you perfect that source as much as you can to get the most accurate data in the largest quantities possible for your organization.
It’s a decision that should be made carefully, and there are some key factors to consider:
Popularity. Okay, no, it’s not a popularity contest. But often, this is a good indicator of which systems actually do what they say they will. Additionally, more popular systems will have larger online communities if you ever get stuck or have questions, which brings us to the next factor.
Support. Check out the first-hand support you can receive from any potential providers. Do they have plenty of demos, instructions, and customer service options for you? In some cases, for some of the more popular systems, there may also be third-party organizations who offer you the same level of support you might need in your analytics endeavor.
Budget and time. For many organizations, this may be the ultimate deciding factor. While you should aim to spend around 9% of your marketing budget on analytics, make sure these dollars are spent well. For instance, don’t put that entire chunk of money toward an expensive platform that you don’t have the capability or time to run, no matter how good they make it sound. A stronger option may be finding a less expensive platform and spending those leftover dollars on professionals and consultants who specialize in analytics, giving you the big-picture information you need in a much shorter time with minimal effort.
Google Analytics Introduction
There is one system we at Zirous use more than any other system, and it’s one that almost every other marketer has used at some point, too: Google Analytics. This platform is extremely popular, has tons of online content and classes for beginners through experts, and - the best part - it’s free!
All of these things being said, it’s still important to look at the best option for your own organization. But because it’s impossible to dive into every system out there, let’s take a closer look at Google Analytics, or GA.
Getting Started in GA
The first step to take with GA is simply to connect it your website. Using a Gmail account, set up a Google Analytics account. You will enter your account name, which is the name of your organization, along with your website name and address, your industry, and your time zone. Easy peasy! (For complex or multi-website organizations, additional setup may be required both inside and outside of GA. Sadly, we don’t have time to cover this information here, but an analytics expert can help you.)
Once you have entered your information and preferred data sharing settings, you will receive your magical Tracking ID. (Disclaimer: not actually magical, but really seems like it sometimes!) GA will provide you with a snippet of code that includes this Tracking ID to copy and paste into each web page you want to track.
I know, this sounds like a daunting task. And to be honest, an improperly pasted code, missing code, duplicate codes, and other errors can have major implications on your data. Enter Google Tag Manager, which can help you manage this code with a Universal Analytics tag, allowing you to implement your code on your website pages in a “one and done” style, including pages that are added after the tag’s setup. Tag Manager can do many other amazing things for your website tracking, but that’s a conversation for another time.
Setting up the Necessities
While Google Analytics has dozens, if not 100+, great features, there are some that are fundamental and simply necessary to correctly use all the other ones. Let’s define these and discuss best practices for them.
One of the first steps of setting up a successful GA program is establishing your account’s hierarchy. After you set up GA, you will have an account, which is the highest level of organization within GA. Within your account, you can have one or more properties. These usually include websites and mobile applications. Within each property, you should set up views and filters to capture the best data. Let’s take a look at these items in more detail.
Properties. Many small and/or companies will have only one property, so don’t be worried if this is the case for you. However, more complex companies may have a variety of properties, including multiple websites and/or mobile applications. Consider carefully how you want to create your properties. In some cases, tracking websites separately may be appropriate, but in other cases, using cross-domain tracking and track your websites within one view may work best. Determine the best way to track your data to create actionable insights, and set up your properties based on these decisions. An analytics consultant can be very helpful.
Views. Within each property, you should have a variety of views, which are your access points for reports; they determine which data does and does not appear to you. You can’t turn back the clock on views, so once data has gone through and been filtered out, it stays filtered out; there is no way to retrieve it later.
As a best practice, you should have at least three views:
- An unfiltered view that contains all raw data. This will help you avoid any catastrophes if any needed data is mistakenly filtered out of other views.
- A test view, to use when you want to test new filters or practices. If there is an issue with a new filter, you will know on your test data before it affects your main data.
- A main view, which contains your tested and approved filters. Your main view should be the one you use to analyze and make decisions. You will want to set up filters to perfect this view’s data as much as you possibly can.
Other views are possible as well. For example, you can set up a view that tracks only your AdWords data, only tracks traffic to a certain subdomain, etc. Views are extremely useful tools, but set them up to be in line with your overall strategy; make sure the views you have are only the views you truly need to answer the questions you have.
Filters. Filters are the lifeblood of views; they limit and/or modify the data in a particular view. GA offers several predefined filters to make the process of setting a filter up easy for you. There are also many options for custom filters, which can get increasingly complex, depending on the data you want and need to capture. In some cases, an analytics consultant is a good resource to assist you in filter setup.
Predefined filters allow you to include or exclude traffic from specific ISP domains, IP addresses, subdirectory traffic, and hostnames. A highly recommended predefined filter is an “internal IP exclude.” This excludes any traffic to your website from your employees while they are at work, as this is invaluable data to a majority of companies and skews the numbers you really need.
Custom filters are also available to track even more complex data or to modify your data in a particular way as it enters your view. You should explore these options as they relate to your organization’s goals and consult with an analytics expert for filters that are very technical.
Know What You Want to Track
This seems obvious, but unless you specifically sit down and do it, it can be surprisingly easy to forget. But marketing analytics is a big picture practice. It is very important to set some goals to know which data you want/need to track and what steps you need to take when designing and implementing your campaigns to make that possible.
You and your team should agree on some key performance indicators (KPIs), which are quantifiable measures used to evaluate the success of an organization, campaign, ad, etc., in meeting objectives for performance. A best practice for setting these up is to think of it as a math equation. KPI equals desired result over action taken.
As an example, let’s say you’re hosting an event and have a registration page on your website. You might be marketing it through traditional media, social, email, AdWords, and more. How are you determining the success of these activities? At this example’s core, the desired result is event registrations, and the action taken is a visit to that particular page. Let’s say you want 10 people to register for the event per every 100 people who visit the page. Therefore, desired result (10) over action taken (100) equals a KPI conversion rate of 10%.
An even better practice for KPIs here is to have a different KPI for each marketing avenue. For instance, you want and expect more registrations to come in through emails, so that KPI might be 10 registrations per every 50 emails sent, or 20%. (This requires you to understand how you are acquiring traffic to your website - using acquisition tactics and reports - which we will cover in the next blog.)
As mentioned before, knowing your KPIs will allow you to better understand what it is you need to be tracking. Then, being able to track your actual KPI data will give you insights into setting goals and budgets for future campaigns.
Set Up Goals
Once you know your KPIs, you can set up goals in GA that will easily track your progress for you, rather than you having to analyze the numbers to find the answers for yourself.
For instance, you might have a goal of PDF downloads. GA will tell you how many goal completions you received for a given page on your website, and you can use that number against your overall organizational goal for PDF downloads quickly and easily.
It is important to note that GA only allows 20 goals per view, so carefully consider what your goals are and their level of specificity. In many cases, you can alter reports in lieu of an ultra-specific goal.
Gather and Use that Data
You’re set up! Again, what we’ve gone through here are really the most basic steps in your analytics journey, and there are a myriad of other tips and tools that you can - and should - use. We’ll get into some of these in later blogs. For now, let’s talk about gathering your data.
Step one is to know your way around GA and its reports. Fortunately, Google offers great first-hand articles on all things GA along with video trainings with some hands-on experience. An analytics expert is also a great resource to help train you and help give you insights into your data.
From here, you can use your data to make decisions on what channels to target, where to spend more (or less) money, what messaging you should use, what changes you might want to make to your website flows, what types of ads you should be running, and so much more.
We’ll dig into this information more in the next blog in the Digital Marketing Landscape series: Setting Goals with Acquisition and Attribution. Until then, happy setting up!
About the author: Kelsey Cervantes is a marketing analyst at Zirous in West Des Moines and is certified in Google Analytics and Google AdWords. After studying marketing at Drake University, Kelsey spent a few years in the traditional marketing management world before going into digital analytics, which has given her great insights into how to tie the two worlds together.
Kelsey and the Zirous Analytics team dive into clients’ data to give them the actionable insights they need to back up their marketing initiatives with facts and figures while providing ongoing training and support.