This is a guest post by Zack Duncan of Root and Branch Group.
Believe it or not, there is no official rule that says you need to use Google Analytics on your website. In fact, if you don’t ever plan to review your website performance, you might not want to bother with the hassle.
With that said, if any of these are true for you, you probably should be using Google Analytics.
- You are investing in growing your organic traffic through SEO and / or social media and want to understand the kind of impact it is having on your business.
- You use some kind of paid digital advertising and want to understand the impact it is having on your business so you can make data-informed decisions about allocating spend.
- You’d like to be able to measure your performance over time.
- You want to be able to use insights from your data to help improve your website for your visitors.
What Benefits Does Google Analytics Provide?
Google Analytics helps you to be smarter about your website performance and your overall digital marketing performance.
Here are four ways Google Analytics can help.
- You can measure online traffic and analyze your traffic trends across various channels like organic search, social media, email marketing, and paid search.
- You can understand more about your visitor behavior, including where your audience lives, how long they engage with your site, and which content they prefer.
- You can track your “conversions,” the most important online interactions for your business. Whether it’s a purchase for an online store, a completed contact form for a B2B company, or a new subscriber for a publisher, conversions are worth tracking because they are how your website makes you money.
- You can find places to make changes to improve your website and boost your performance.
Later in this article, we’ll walk through an example of how you can take advantage of the fourth benefit on the list above.
What Organizations Should Probably Not Care About Google Analytics?
If you don’t ever make time to review and use your analytics data, Google Analytics will not help you.
There is nothing magic about having the data.
The power comes from analyzing and using the data. And some organizations are not staffed to actually analyze and use the data. So if your organization doesn’t have someone (could be internal or an outside consultant) who can carve out at least a couple hours a month for reviewing analytics data, you might not want to invest the time and money in setting up Google Analytics to begin with.
In some organizations that don’t have proper bandwidth, Google Analytics might just become a distraction. And that’s ok. Goodness knows, businesses have competing priorities and not everything makes the cut.
But if you’re a part of an organization that wants to grow its digital presence, Google Analytics can provide a strong foundation.
What Is the First Thing a Business Should Do With Google Analytics?
The first thing to do takes place entirely outside of Google Analytics. And that is to define what the most important conversion actions are for your site.
Without this critical step, any subsequent reporting and analysis will be unfocused and not overly helpful. You need to know what you want your website to do in order to use Google Analytics properly.
Conversions fall into two buckets:
- Macro conversions: These are your most important actions that directly lead to your website generating value for your organization.
- Micro conversions: These are additional important actions that could be steps to a macro conversion, or are otherwise valuable for your business.
Let’s use an online store example. The macro conversion is likely going to be completed purchases. That is how the business uses the website to generate value. But there are also important micro conversions like key product views, add to carts, and beginning the checkout process that the business might want to track.
For the Root and Branch site, we count completed form fills and new email subscribers as macro conversions. Micro conversions are file downloads, watched videos, and clicks to the YouTube channel.
Some of these things will be tracked automatically by GA4, while others need to be manually created through custom events.
Note: You don’t differentiate between macro and micro conversions when you’re setting up your conversions in GA4. This is a framework for your internal planning purposes only.
Once you’re done with that important planning step, you can proceed to installing Google Analytics 4 on your website and collecting data.
Are There Other Analytics Tools I Should Use?
There are plenty of free analytics tools out there.
Here are two that I like.
- Hotjar has heatmap analysis and a free plan available.
- Piwik Pro is a tool comparable to the prior version of Google Analytics (UA) and has an excellent free plan.
But perhaps the best additional analytics tool is Microsoft Clarity. Not only can it function well on its own, but it also works as a powerful supplement to Google Analytics by performing tasks that Google Analytics cannot do on its own.
Clarity is completely free and you can install it in under 5 minutes. It provides heatmap analysis like Hotjar, and also provides session recordings so you can watch replays of how your visitors interact with your site.
Let’s take a look at how you might use the two analytics tools together to help improve your website performance.
How to Use Clarity with Google Analytics
Here’s how you can use Clarity in conjunction with Google Analytics to not just understand your data, but take action on it to improve performance.
The Role of Google Analytics: Identify Target Pages for Improvement
You can use the built in standard reports within Google Analytics to see which of your pages get the most traffic and have the best user engagement.
User engagement is a new metric in Google Analytics 4 and it includes sessions where one or more of the following happens:
- The user interacts with the site for at least 10 seconds
- The user views 2 or more pages
- The user completes at least one conversion action.
These are the pages that your audience likes the most. These are the pages where you have the opportunity to place valuable internal links and other CTAs to help your visitors convert on your site.
Here is a Google Analytics report showing top landing pages. The blue rectangle shows the engagement rate. The green rectangle shows the number of conversions coming from the page.
Look at the 5th landing page. It has the highest engagement rate out of all the pages shown, but has 0 conversions. This is a page that we could revise to include an important conversion action. If we include a whitepaper download or an email newsletter sign up, we would likely be able to drive additional conversions.
But where precisely should we put our new CTA on the page? That’s where Clarity comes in.
The Role of Clarity: Identify Precise Location for In Page Changes
With Microsoft Clarity, we can dive into the page we’ve identified with the help of Google Analytics.
- We can use the scroll heatmap analysis to see how far our readers are getting down the page. We wouldn’t want to put our CTA too low so that it never gets seen.
- We can use the click heatmap analysis to see what existing sections of the page are already generating interaction. We might consider putting our CTA close to one of these high interaction areas since we know visitors are already clicking there.
- We can use the session recordings from the page to watch replays to validate our thinking about how our visitors interact with the page.
Armed with this information, we can confidently place our new CTA in a data-informed location.
After it’s been placed, we can use the heatmap comparison feature (below) to see where the click activity was taking place before our change and after our change.
If you’re interested in testing out Microsoft Clarity for yourself you can create a free account at https://clarity.microsoft.com/.
And here are some additional resources.
- You can read an advanced Clarity tutorial to get all the details.
- Or, you can get the short version and a video tutorial to setting it up yourself here.
Whatever you decide, have fun with the next stage of your web analytics journey!
About the Author: Zack Duncan believes good data can help us all make better decisions. He runs a small digital analytics and SEO consulting company called Root and Branch Group. He writes about digital analytics for Semrush and is Digital Marketing Executive in Residence at the University of Pittsburgh.