Did you know Google Analytics data can actually lead you and your team to make poor marketing decisions?
That probably comes as a surprise considering how I recommend this tool to every business, but it’s true! If you’re not careful reading your Google Analytics reports, then you could end up drawing the wrong conclusions about what’s working and where you should invest your marketing dollars.
That’s why in this article I’m going to walk through the 4 most common and often costly mistakes businesses make when reviewing their Google Analytics account.
Mistake #1: Reviewing Aggregate Goals
This is a big no-no.
By default Google Analytics will report on “All Goals” in every report. That means you’ll see the total number of Goals and the conversion rates based on all of the Goals completed. This can be extremely misleading!
Simply because all Goals are not created equally. Here are a few common Goals that many businesses have set up in Google Analytics:
- Contact Us form submission
- Demo or Consultation request
- Online purchase
- Visit to the online checkout page
- Visit to more than 5 different pages
After reviewing those goals it should be obvious that some are more important than others. Clearly an online purchase is more important than a visitor that read 5 different pages.
That’s obvious when you list them all out, but again, Google Analytics by default will report on ALL of those Goals with just one number. Last month you could have 20 total Goal completions, but that doesn’t tell you anything about how your marketing is performing. That could be 20 visitors that viewed 5 different pages or it could be 20 online purchases. That’s a big difference!
To get a more accurate picture, you need to use the Goal Set links above the Acquisition reports
Now that you know how to review specific Goals, it’s time to stop the next costly mistake…
Mistake #2: Reviewing Aggregate Data
This is by far the most common mistake I see businesses making when reviewing Google Analytics. It’s probably because the first screen you see when you log in highlights your total website stats like visits, bounce rate, time on site, and number of pages visited.
Here’s the thing… Your total website stats are nearly worthless!
Think about it. Unless you’re only using one marketing tactic, then it’s impossible to know what’s going on when you look at aggregate data across your entire website. Sure it’s nice to see your total traffic went up or down, but it’s not actionable because you don’t know what exactly caused the increase or decrease.
For this reason, my favorite report in Google Analytics is the Channels report. If you get nothing else from this article, please remember to use the Channels report instead of looking at all of your traffic data in aggregate. To get to the Channels report, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.
This report gives you a breakdown of all your major marketing channels. When you combine this with the specific Goals data discussed above, then you can now see exactly what’s going on with your marketing campaigns!
OK, there’s one little catch to make the Channels report more accurate and that leads us to mistake #3…
Mistake #3: Not Using the URL Builder
To ensure the Channels report is accurate you must use Google’s URL Builder. If you don’t, then Google Analytics will incorrectly categorize some of your traffic as “Direct” traffic. Basically “Direct” traffic in your Channels report is everything that Google Analytics didn’t know how to categorize.
For example, when someone clicks on a link in one of your emails and that link opens a new browser window, then that traffic is going to be labeled, “Direct.” However, when you use the URL Builder, then you can explicitly tell Google Analytics that those clicks are from your Email Marketing channel.
Here’s what the URL Builder looks like:
By completing the URL Builder form, you’ll generate a new URL with tracking parameters appended to the end. Simply use this new URL to greatly improve the accuracy of your Channels report so you can make better marketing decisions.
To summarize what we’ve learned so far:
- You need to review specific Goals instead of the sum of all Goals in your reports
- You need to review specific marketing Channels instead of the sum of all Channels
- In order to make the Channels report more accurate you need to use the URL Builder
The 4th mistake is again related to reviewing aggregate data. Can you guess what it is?
I’ll give you a hint… more and more of your website visitors are no longer using desktop computers…
Mistake #4: Ignoring Devices
The 4th and final mistake is ignoring devices in your Google Analytics reports. The reality is that desktop traffic can perform much differently versus mobile and tablet traffic. This is especially true if your website is not mobile responsive.
By default your Channels report will not segment by device so it’s not clear if certain devices are outperforming others. It’s entirely possible that desktop traffic is performing well, but mobile and tablet is not so the overall trend is negative. In that case, if you don’t segment by device, then you’ll likely make a poor marketing decision!
To segment your Channels report, click on the “+ Add Segment” button above the graph and then select “Mobile Traffic” and “Tablet Traffic”
Once you add these two segments, then you’ll be able to review how mobile and tablet traffic is performing for each of your different marketing channels. This will give you a clear picture of how your marketing campaigns are performing so you can make the best possible decisions.
Of course I can’t possibly go through everything in one article so for more advice avoiding Google Analytics mistakes I invite you to join me this Thursday…
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Main Street ROI is a digital marketing agency based in New York City.
Our mission is to help small businesses thrive. With our services and training, we help small businesses succeed with marketing regardless of their budgets.
Since 2010, we’ve helped thousands of small businesses create profitable digital marketing campaigns.
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