Google Analytics (GA) provides a wealth of data on your website’s traffic.
As we shared in our “Understanding audiences through analytics and insights” blog post last year, we add GA tracking into the websites that we build and host, and we also add tracking to our own proprietary Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform.
Analytics data can be incredibly informative, providing information on how many people are visiting your site and what they’re looking at – and also who they are and where they’re coming from, in an anonymous and aggregated way.
The biggest challenge for anyone who hasn’t been trained to use Google Analytics is… using Google Analytics! Navigating all of the data and pulling out that which is of interest and value can be extremely daunting for the uninitiated – not to mention time consuming. There are specialist teams and agencies who do nothing else! We wanted to see what we could do to help our clients get the insights that site analytics can provide – without the high cost of training, time or specialist services.
Measuring for success
There are some website providers who charge their clients to set them up with a Data Studio report to monitor their website’s analytics – not Brighter IR! We wanted to help our clients get easy access to their website data and in a way that helps them understand what it means. We also wanted to give them the power to quickly and effectively share the data with colleagues and stakeholders. We believe that by doing this Brighter IR clients can be actively engaged in how their site is performing and what content and features their audiences are finding useful, interesting and valuable. This in turn means they can make informed decisions on what’s working well, what’s not, and what to change and improve as a result.
Understanding site analytics is especially critical for websites where the ROI isn’t as immediately or obviously tangible in the way an e-commerce site is – where the number of widgets sold is the primary measure of success. Corporate and investor relations websites fall into this category, and measuring performance can be a challenge. Anything that helps to address this such as knowing how, when, where, what and why people are visiting must be embraced.
Getting started with Google Analytics
Launched in 2005, Google Analytics is now well established, and is the default analytics package for most websites. In 2019, it became the most widely used web analytics service on the web. It is used to track website activity such as session duration, pages per session and the bounce rate of individuals using the site – along with the information on the source of the traffic. As a result of its popularity and dominance, most people with some website experience or responsibility will have an awareness of it, and will probably have direct experience of using it. Analytics is part of Google’s Marketing Platform, which includes other services such as Tag Manager and Data Studio, which are outlined below.
- How many people visited site last month? Last year? Yesterday?
- What pages did they look at?
- Where did they come from? What country? City?
- Were they visiting on a mobile phone? A desktop computer?
- What time of day?
Event tracking with Tag Manager
Before Google’s Tag Manager, if we wanted to log and track site events, such as when someone downloads a PDF or watches an embedded video, we would have had to add special code snippets to the site. In the examples just given, tags would have to be added to every page and every instance where we have either a PDF or video. That can quickly add up to a lot of additional tags, all manually added to a website’s code base. Tag Manager allows us to manage and deploy tags on a website (or mobile app) without having to modify the code itself.
With Tag Manager in place, we are able to set up analytics reports that share traffic stats like page views – and also include information on which PDFs are being downloaded, which videos are being played and how many get watched the whole way through. Not only that, but we can also get insights on things like how far down a page users are scrolling, and which buttons they are clicking. These types of engagement metrics allow us to really optimise and improve the website experience.
- How many times was our annual report PDF downloaded? What about our interim report last month?
- Can we see how many times the CEO interview video was viewed? What percentage of people watched to the end?
- Are jobseekers scrolling all the way down our long careers landing page?
The power of data visualisation with Data Studio
Data visualisation is the graphical representation of information and data. By using visual elements like charts, graphs and maps, data visualisation tools provide an accessible way to see and understand patterns in data, such as trends and outliers. Data Studio is Google’s solution for creating bespoke reports to visualise data such as site analytics. The data widgets in Data Studio are notable for their variety, customisation options, live data and interactive controls (such as column sorting and table pagination).
Like many of Google’s services, Data Studio is free – but it demands some training and investment in order to understand the service, and to set up and create useful reports. However, once set up, the reports are vastly more usable and intuitive than raw data and don’t require specialist training to use – assuming they have been set up correctly of course!
- Use scorecards for top metrics
- Use colour to help communicate meaning e.g. green for positive data changes
- Table based charts can show the top 10 pages visited but is more interesting when it includes a heat map visualisation for where people are coming from when viewing those pages
- Use pie charts for proportional data types like visitor device type or age group
Part one of using our client reports
Now that we have have outlined the tools, services and the set up for our client reports, let’s see what they look like. In this first part, we will take a high-level view of the sections of data, along with some of the built-in functionality within Data Studio itself. In part two, we will take a deeper look at what the data means – along with some of the additional insights that are possible now we have set up Analytics, Tag Manager and Data Studio.
Once set up, our clients will gain access to their Data Studio Report. For security reasons, we only enable access to specific client email addresses. Once logged in, the report will look something the one on the right.
Step 1: Choose the date range
The top section of the report consists of your company logo and a data picker. Click on the date picker button to choose the time period for the report data. You can choose from a list of preconfigured ranges such as “last month”, “last quarter” or choose a specific date range.
Step 2: Checking headline stats
The first set of data points are what we’ve called the top level metrics, and these are all the headline numbers such as site visits, pageviews, the bounce rate and average time on page. These stats are global and so are an average across your entire site for the selected date range.
Step 3: Working with data tables
Step 4: Interacting with pie charts
Pie charts are a great way to quickly get a sense of proportion across a set of data points. For example, on this device chart you immediately see that desktop computers are by far the most used device, while mobile has around a fifth, and tablet just a sliver. If you hover over (or touch) a segment, you will see more detailed data.
Step 5. Viewing the help notes & glossary
Access additional report pages via the menu top left. We have created a Help page to assist you when using the reports, and a Glossary so you can learn what some of the data types mean – e.g. “Bounce Rate”.
Step 6. Sharing reports
The share menu gives you access to options such as inviting others to view the report (they will need to have a Google account email) and downloading a dynamically generated PDF with the data you are currently viewing. This is useful for sharing a monthly report for your stakeholders.
A follow up blog where we will go deeper on the analytics in our studio reports including a look at PDF downloads, video views and scroll depth.
If you are an existing Brighter IR client and would like us to set you up with a Data Studio report or, if you’re not yet a client but would like to be, please get in touch!