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Website Tracking Basics: Using Google Analytics Goals to Measure User Engagement

A common question asked in many analytics tracking discovery meetings with business stakeholders is:

What do you want to track on your website?

I cannot count how many times the answer to that was: everything!

Of course, you really can track everything! With the technologies today we are able to quickly put a tag manager in place and start throwing data collection tags on anything a marketer can dream of. We can skip using a data layer, we can sign up for various marketing platforms and start defining audience segments without any resistance whatsoever.

I am not saying it’s easy, but for many: it ain’t that hard.

The reality is, you don’t need to be tracking everything:

“Between 60 percent and 73 percent of all data within an enterprise goes unused for analytics.” -- Jeff Barrett CEO, Barrett Digital

If large enterprises are only using a fraction of the data they collect then something tells me that most of it isn’t as valuable as they thought or they aren’t able to cohesively utilize half of it.

Intermediate Data Maturity: Combine internal and external multidimensional customer data sources for advanced analytics.

Advanced Data Maturity: Automate new data source ingestion and integration.

Roadmap: The Customer Analytics Playbook

If you are at the intermediate level or above, congratulations! There are so many various data sources it can be wildly difficult to automate dashboards. If you are looking for a tool that can give you an all-in-one automated dashboard of all your marketing data, that is exactly what Improvado has built. With Improvado you get a full line of supported extraction, transform and load modules with all your marketing data like ad channels and performance metrics available in the fully functional reporting UI.

Let’s take a step back and ask a more relevant question:

What goals have you set for your website this year?

As customer segments rely more and more on the increase of industries relying on digital marketing as a main driver of revenue you have to step back and ask your team to set basic goals for your digital properties. These goals will vary for each business but there are also two main areas to focus on that should be relevant to every business.

Customer Segmentation – identify groups within your audience by tracking behavioral and demographic data attributes whenever available.

Conversion Metrics – identify the actions that you want a segment to take and by tracking those goals so you can dig deeper into the funnels.

Start small, keep things simple. Everything outlined in this article can be done without any coding experience through the use of free tools like Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics.

What is a customer segment and how do you use it?

Imagine all of your customers being in one gymnasium and you are on a podium announcing how they can benefit from buying your product or using your service. It is difficult to cater your message to the masses, you must generalize and explain details that perhaps other people might already know. Or worse, they don’t even need that part of your service. 

That is why we segment our customers using attributes. Instead, you announce from the podium that you want all the parents on one side of the room and the remaining group on the other side. You have just used a customer attribute: has children to segment your audience into two groups. 

Now you and another colleague can engage each group individually and the group with kids may be more interested in how your product can solve a problem they are having as parents as opposed to the second group which may be more interested in how it applies at work or in the social setting of peers.

Any time a user is engaging with your digital properties you will want to find simple ways to assign attributes to an individual in order to later segment them into meaningful groups for your reporting. This will eventually lead to a rich data set of user information that could potentially increase revenue by guiding your business goals. 

How do you segment a user group?

Let’s start with one of the easiest but also most practical ways to segment a group of users: device type. This is one of the most commonly asked questions of many analysts and one of my first areas to dig into when debugging or seeking to understand traffic.

Google Analytics comes with Audience data out of the box, no custom implementation is needed. Once you have your page tracking setup you will immediately be able to segment your metrics by desktop or mobile.

The next step in segmentation is a little bit harder but you can use just about anything at this point. A basic example is when a user fills out a contact form, you are already asking your audience a question. Don’t let that data collection go to waste, pass these additional data points like “technology” in the image below along with the event tracking. An example of a custom event is shown under goal measurement. 

Now, imagine the added value that comes from attributing each user to the external data source they came from through the use of dimensions that track “customer identifiers” like user id. With user id tracing enabled in Google Analytics you can begin to tie user sessions across devices and over longer periods of time. This would only work for authenticated users but it is the primary method for identifying users in existing data sources. You can read more about User-ID on Google’s help section

This gives you the power to merge your data together using this data point and opens up all of your CRM or other data.

What is a conversion metric and how do you use it?

Metrics are meant to measure the success or failure of an action you wanted a user to take. This is what marketing efforts are for after all and what we have developed are ways to measure how our different marketing efforts are performing against our competitors and sometimes even ourselves.

There are a lot of varying analytics tools out there but the most well known and popular is Google Analytics. Google Analytics has a concept of goals - which allows a marketer to configure logic that will trigger a successful action has occurred. 

The first goal below shows how to configure a goal without any custom tracking needed. The user merely needs to end up on a certain page - in our example, this is the contact form - thank you page. 

When this happens you know the user has successfully submitted the contact form, perhaps generating a lead. 

This can work for many businesses but most of the time you will want to move towards a more detailed analysis of user interactions.

What about more complicated tracking and goal measurement?

In order to take your measurement beyond the basics, you will need a more robust method for tracking user behavior and engagement. In order to track more complicated interaction, you will need to first set up the event that you want to use in your goal. With a tag manager like GTM this is again fairly easy to do but is beyond the scope of this article.

For this example, we will assume you want to measure the number of users that submit the contact form but you do not have a thank you page. You would configure a custom event to fire information in Google Analytics. 

You can read more about the anatomy of events from Google but to simplify we will assign a value for each of three properties: 

Category - the group we want to analyze

Action -  the event type you want to measure

Label - specific name of the action

Once you have these events sending data to Google Analytics you can then set up goals to be measured by the category, action, and label attributes.

So, before you start tracking everything, stop and think about what matters most to your business.

Need assistance tracking data or defining your goals?

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