(Belated) New Year’s Resolution: Use Your Data!

Google Analytics

With the beginning of a new year many people make resolutions about how they are going to improve performance in a particular walk of life. As a project manager, my professional resolution was to understand and start making good use of the data that is being collected via analytics channels. The most well known tools to me are Google Analytics and Mixpanel. These are used across many of the projects I’m involved in, so I decided to start with Google Analytics.

London has a lot to offer in respect of trainings, workshops and technology related meetups, so I had no problem finding a course I was interested in. I signed up for one day of Google Analytics Training in the last week of February (hence ‘belated’) which promised to provide a comprehensive understanding of GA capabilities. The course didn’t disappoint me by any means. It was so well organized, conducted in a very approachable way, and covered multiple topics that I’ve decided to highlight and share below.

There were seven people who participated in the training, everyone had a different professional background, but most of the attendees were looking into the marketing oriented side of the tool which seems to be a major aim of Google Analytics (in connection with Google Adwords). Although, it was interesting to gain little bit of knowledge as to how GA might be used to complement sales efforts, my focus stayed centered around features that enable improvement in project management practices and enhancing the user experience.

Before I jump to going over things I personally found useful let me start with an extremely brief user manual. Google Analytics’ dashboard is very simple and intuitive to use. There are two major sections in the side menu: Reports divided into categories providing all sort of metrics and charts that might be subject to further analysis and an  Admin panel which allows setting preferences around the data that is being collected.

First things first, in order to make sure your reports consist of valuable users’ insights, you must first configure an account properly to your needs. My suggestions (wisdom from the training) :

1. Turn on ‘Enable Demographics and Interest Reports’ feature which is set to ‘off’ by default. 

This way you can collect more advanced data about users who are visiting your website or using your app (Admin / Property / Settings).

Pro tip: if you would like to find out what your interests are (yes, Google has some suggestions), and have a better understanding of where this is coming from, check your Ads Settings

2. Turn on ‘Site Search Tracking’, another useful feature that is disabled by default. 

It provides information about users’ search queries, so if you’ve got a “Search” field on your site you should definitely enable this, if you haven’t already (Admin / View / Settings).

3. And last, but not least – set Goals!

Actually, this is probably one of the most important settings to be configured. A ‘Goal’ is defined as ‘a completed activity, called a conversion, that contributes to success of your business’. In simple terms, this is an end step you expect the user to take on your website or mobile application (Admin / View / Goals).

Completing these three simple steps  allows for the collecting of additional data which when used in a proper way may lead to improving user experience and increasing website’s traffic. Data available in Google Analytics has a lot to offer even without making those adjustments, but as a user who is only starting their adventure with GA I can clearly see how I can apply insights from analysis into action. A few ideas that come to mind on how we can benefit from using this data :

  • Knowledge about users demographics and interests gives numerous opportunities for enhancements, making decisions about the design can be more informed when targeting specific user groups. These could be radical changes like the choice of a completely different structure, images, colors or language being used to guide the user, or even small tweaks like increasing font size can sometimes bring unexpected results – the devil’s in the detail. 
  • Information about search queries reveal the major reason why users come to your website or what is missing, so making certain sections of the website more prominent or adding more relevant content can encourage an increase in visits.
  • Having insights on whether the user is ‘ending up’ in a place on your website where you expect them to is very important regardless of the nature of your business. It doesn’t necessarily need to be an e-commerce website where you specifically track a customer’s journey that leads to direct income. Setting a goal to see if the video you posted or a new e-learning material is attracting enough viewers may bring value as well and can impact your future decisions.

Although these are very basic applications of Google Analytics my post got a little long, which gives you an idea of the tremendous possibilities this tool has to offer. I’m not a huge fan of posts that are too long, so I will mention only one more point from my ‘start using more often’ list. 

In the report section under the ‘Audience’ there is a ‘Technology’ category which gives pretty self-explanatory metrics about ‘Browser & OS’, but I wasn’t aware that I can also view information about screen resolution or browser version, which sounds like a great source of data for testing purposes. This is a good starting point to focus on for users that are reporting bugs or layout issues that weren’t spotted in the first place.

I am convinced there are a lot more useful ‘discoveries’ like that, seemingly small, but that ultimately lead to significant work optimizations. If that sounds about right to you too, keep in mind to use your data!

(Belated) New Year’s Resolution: Use Your Data!

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