Since the recession hit in the late 2000s, company marketing directors have been with faced many challenges. In addition to shrinking budgets and smaller staff sizes, the expectations have actually grown enormously. I’ll never forget hearing a former supervisor of mine during this time period just simply tell me: “Well, we just have to do more with less.”

Yep, even five years later, the cliche is still alive and well, folks. Back then, Google was overtaking Yahoo, MSN wasn’t Bing yet, and basically Facebook was Social Media. Now, the Twitterverse is alive and well and likely just as important to a brand’s digital marketing strategy as Google organic. And speaking of Google, their social network, Google+, has many facets marketing directors need to pay attention to (even if for just practical reasons), like local pages and reviews. Point being, I haven’t even mentioned Pinterest, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Vine and Instragram – the list goes on and on.

Marketing directors can’t do it all.

Remember, there are internal constituencies, donors, supporters, customers/clients and boards of directors to please as well. There are press releases to write, brochures to design, traditional media to buy and budgets to manage.

Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned keeping the website fresh and updated for top end usability, customer satisfaction, commerce, lead generation, resource delivery or any other digital business goals.

Prioritization is extremely hard for marketing professionals representing an organization. Non-Profit, Not-for-Profit, privately owned corporations and publicly traded companies all have to deal with this at some level. And for small businesses, it’s magnified more than ever.

Just when it seems like there are way too many things to keep up with and no clear cut answers – there is an answer.

Give yourself a Google Analytics Audit.

You remember that snippet of code you put into your footer the last time you redesigned your website? Come on. Admit you remember.

I know, it’s like changing the oil in your car. You try to remember to do it every 3,000 miles, but in reality, you skip a few to save time and money – but risk paying the consequences later.

Point being, it’s easy to forget that it exists and that you have to do it. But just like not-minding that friendly sticker on the inside of your windshield, ignoring your Google Analytics data can really hurt your company in the long run. But rather than use fear as a motivator, marketing directors need to stay proactive in checking and analyzing their Google Analytics data to justify all the decisions they’re expected to make on a daily basis.

Having been in those shoes for much of my career, I can tell you the number one reason why people don’t pay attention to their Google Analytics data (other than “not having time” – which is just an excuse) is simply that they don’t know what to look for.

It’s okay, don’t be embarrassed. You’re not alone. Not many marketing directors actually know what to look for and how to interpret the data they find in Google Analytics.

In what may be an ongoing blog series (if not here, then definitely at – where I blog regularly), I’m going to start pointing out what to look for, and how it can help make strategic business decisions, both from a marketing and customer experience perspective.

To get us started, here are the top things you should look at FIRST in a basic Google Analytics Audit.


1. Check your visitors flow

Find it by selecting “Audience” from the left hand menu, then Visitors Flow. This view allows you to see a visual representation of where users enter your site most often, how they get there, and what they do when they get there. Select “Source/Medium” from the green drop down menu to see a breakdown of where your traffic comes from. “Direct” refers to users who type your URL directly into their browser’s address bar or click on a bookmark or link to get to your page. Google Organic refers to Google searches in which the user clicks on a link to your website located in the Organic portion of the search results page. Google CPC refers to searches in which the user clicks on a link to your website located in the yellow top or side portion of the search results page or clicks on a link to your site from the Google Display network.

Most folks are concerned with their overall traffic numbers. How many page views? How many visits did we get? The visitors flow tells you much more important data that this. It’s important to remember when evaluating how your organization can improve, not to worry about the volume of traffic, but to pay closer attention to the traffic flow and engagement levels.

2. Don’t forget to change dates and “compare to” 

One thing marketing directors can glean from Google Analytics data is how effective a past or recent campaign was. Clicking the dropdown arrow next to the date range in the top right corner allows the user to compare time periods. From the visitors flow, it inserts percentages to display the differences. From the Audience Overview, it shows clean line and chart graphs by day. This is a valuable feature to use before clicking anywhere else in analytics, is it’s important to compare various time periods, and also be conscious of the period of time you’re looking at while combing through your data.

Check back on later for more information on how to draw conclusions from Google Analytics to make more data driven strategic organizational decisions.

Dig in by identifying a pattern or peak day in your traffic, then drilling down to referral sources to see where that traffic came from, and cross reference with key operational initiatives – such as a new employee press release, a community event or press conference – or perhaps a new TV campaign that began to run around those dates.

3. Acquisition (formerly called Referral Sources)

Clicking on “All Sources” will give you an overview of of all traffic coming to your site and what it does when it gets there. It’s not only important to look at volume and evaluate what marketing efforts might be driving the most traffic, but it’s equally as important to look at things like time-on-site (average visit duration), bounce rate, percentage of new visits and Goal Completions. These factors truly represent the “engagement” effectiveness of your site and can help marketing directors evaluate more than just the quality of their website.  Using these reports, marketers can get even more valuable information, such as which ad spends provide the most ROI.

4. Goals and Funnels

Now located under “Behavior” after the recent Google Analytics changes, one of the most important things to do on all websites is to set up Goals and Funnels as well as “events.” This allows for both URL-based tracking funnels (via Goals) and tracking pixels to be placed on key portions of your site (via Events). Goals and Funnels allow for the “Events Flow” to be used to see how users are responding to desired conversion paths (such as shopping cart check-outs or “request more info”), or where they’re dropping off. Additionally, the “Events Flow” view will show you where your visitors are entering your conversion funnel from. For example, if you’re running Google Adwords campaigns as well as Facebook campaigns and hitting it hard on organic search efforts, you can measure each against one another very easily.

5. In-Site Analytics

 A nice way to see where users are clicking on your pages. The percentage view enlightens you to the most popular spots on each page, and takes the guessing game out of your decision making with real data on how users interact with your design layout.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s easy to get lost in Google Analytics and spend way too much time trying to figure out what it all means. But if you simplify it to these five steps and look into it once every two months, it can drastically help your decision making process as it relates to all areas of your integrated marketing strategy and strategic business plan implementation

Paul Hickey is the managing director of Cabedge Design, LLC – an Atiba Company – and chief marketing geek for the Atiba Family. He specializes in strategic web design, organic and paid search, brand creation and helping clients and partners accomplish business goals. Paul loves writing and communicating, and helping drive relevant traffic to websites. Follow him on Twitter @cabedge.

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