For the last week, I have been working through the Google Digital Analytics Fundamentals Course at the Google Analytics Academy site. The proper certificated course finished in October 2013, but all of the course material is available online and I felt a deeply understanding of web analytics would be very useful to me. I worked through the first three modules earlier in the week.
The next three modules focus more on how Google Analytics actually works, and goes into the specifics of how to use it and tailor it to your needs. I decided to go through the videos and information before actually creating a Google Analytics account. Much of the lessons went into the details of building a personalised Google Analytics dashboard etc. It was really interesting, but perhaps too detailed to easily paraphrase here! (This does mean this blog will be much shorter than the last!)
The most interesting part of Module 4 was the idea of campaign data, which tracks how people get to your website. I picked this part of focus on because a lot of the information in the course is tailored towards online retail. While this is understandable (it is a course for businesses) campaign data can apply to any website. Google Analytics automatically categorises users coming to your site into certain in these ways:
The source is the site that brought your user to the site. Google will also list the ‘medium’ through which they came.
‘Organic’ – is Google’s name for when a user comes to your site through an unpaid search result e.g. through a search engine.
A Referral is any link to your site which isn’t from a search engine. For example, this link (which leads you to the Google Analytics Academy Page) would count as a referral because it came from my blog.
The final standard category is ‘None’ which happens when the user directly types your URL or uses a bookmark.
While these are useful to track why users are coming to your site, they can also be customised. To customise data on other ways that people can find your site, such as through emails and adverts, you have to use link tagging – a word which you can assign to a certain link. For example, if you are sending out email newsletters which contain a link to your site, or different links to different site pages, you can give each of these links a tag so that Google tracks as separate data, so you would know if your newsletter was sucessful or not.
A clear plan for tagging is really important, especially when there are multiple people involved in your site. A plan drawn up in advance means that every link can be tagged quickly and easily – if they aren’t, you’ll end up with inaccurate or useless data.
Google Analytics and Google Adwords are connected, so any Adword campaign you have will automatically use the tags you have created.
You can also create ‘channels’ which group tags into different sections. Google Analytics will automatically create channels such as ‘direct’ and ‘social’ but these can be modified and new ones created. So if, for example, you have two different advertising campaigns going on, you could group the tags for them into two channels so that data for each can be very easily compared.
The methods of display for Google Analytics feels a lot like (unsurprisingly!) YouTube’s Analytics pages, which I’m really familiar with, so Google Analytics feels like ti should be quite intuitive to use. However it is far more complicated in the data that you can choose to see, how it is displayed and how you can make it comparable to previous data.
There was a great deal of fascinating material in this course. Some of it, such as the Live Event videos and interviews (one of which I have posted below) and the course forums, I feel I haven’t completely taken in yet. I suspect I will be coming back to the site frequently to ensure that I know Google Analytics as well as I can.