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3 Ways to get beyond the basics in Google Analytics

Natalie Miller

September 2017

Reporting: it can sometimes be the the scariest word for marketers. Lucky for us, there are incredible tools, like Google Analytics (or GA for short), to help lessen the intimidation associated with reporting. Google Analytics helps to put data into perspective so we can make sense of it all. Having compiled more than a few dozen reports for clients over the past couple years, we’ve got a few recommendations on how to get more out of your basic GA reports.

1) Take advantage of secondary dimensions

Google Analytics Image on LapTop with Charts

One of the most complex feature-sets, but also the one of the most useful, is the secondary dimension reporting filters. These filters are used to sort and break down of the results of your report so you can better specify and access the data you need. Secondary dimension filters are just a small button within your reports dashboard, so they are easy to overlook, but don’t underestimate their power.

We’ll take a look at two categories of these filters: Timing and Location.

Timing:
Setting secondary dimensions regarding the timing of the data is a fabulous way to understand the breakdown and timing of your data. When pulling data from a long duration of time (like a year or six months), try setting a secondary dimension of Month of the Year. This dimension will further slice and dice your data and show you a breakdown of your data on a per-month basis.

Let’s take a look at all social media traffic that came to this example website over the span of 6 months. We can see see a breakdown of each platform and how many total sessions they deliver. However, this overview doesn’t show me a more detailed view of this information.

Google analytics social media traffic

By setting the Month of the year secondary dimension, I can get a better scope of these social platforms on a monthly basis. Take a look at the difference in data here:

Google Analytics Screenshot with monthly breakdown

By segmenting my reporting a monthly breakdown, I can see that of all my social channels, LinkedIn sent the most traffic to the website in July over the past six months. Cool! Way to go LinkedIn! This social stat is brought to us by secondary dimensions.

Location:
To get a better understanding of who your users are and where they are located, take advantage of the different location secondary dimensions. Within the standard locations report within GA (Audience > Geo > Location), we can break down the data so it’s more palpable. If you’re a global business, knowing the global traffic is vital. But for the rest of us? Dicing the data by city or state could be a more important metric.

Location-based google analytic reporting

To access city and state data, change your primary dimension from the default, Country, and select City. Your data will then categorize by city. Let’s take it one step further and add the state to this listing by selecting the Region Secondary Dimension. Now, we’ll be able to see which cities and states bring the most traffic to our website.

Google analytics chart divided by city and state

Voilà! Now your Location report can give you a bit more helpful insight to your website users.

2) Social media clicks: which pages are social media magnets?

Google analytics image with social retweet symbol

As someone who spends a lot of time on social media and digesting social media data, it’s always interesting to find what pages outperform the others on social media. I decided to hop into Native Digital’s GA to find what single page on our website drives the most attraction from social media, over the past year. Obviously, I was quite surprised to see my own “Meet the Team” page wasn’t at the top of the list (don’t worry, friends! I just started with Native this summer. There’s still time). But even more surprising was the fact the number one page on that list was not Native’s home page.

So, I imagine this has you guessing which page on your website is the most frequently landed on through social media referral traffic. If so, you’re in luck. I think this report within GA is very helpful, and hopefully you will too.

Starting with the Acquisition tab, click through to Social, then to Landing Pages. This report will generate a list of pages on your website that get the most traffic from social media. In marketing terms: your landing pages from social media traffic. Like mentioned above, home pages are typically at the top of the list, unless you have content that has been shared significantly. In our case, it’s the latter. Click here to view our top landing page so far in August, 2017, as referred through social media.

So what will I do with this information? Good question. I’m going to share, share and share some more! Why mess with a good thing? Once you find the content that’s driving people to your website, continue to share and promote that piece to drive even more content and engagement to your website.

3) Down the Google Analytics rabbit hole: stay curious

Google analytics image with cursor over the top

We’ve heard that curiosity killed the cat, but when it comes to GA, I strongly disagree. I’d take the opposite stance and encourage you to keep asking questions and stay curious. Take this bit of advice from my dear old friend Albert Einstein: “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” GA creates very easy-to-read reports and graphs, but the real value comes from you and your endless curiosity. There are always nuggets of unique information buried within GA, it’s just up to you to find them.

When searching through the many different reports within GA, many reports will offer you the opportunity to click on the findings to find more specific information. DO IT. And continue doing it.

This is the perfect time for a real-life example. Last month while working on some website reporting for one of our nonprofit clients, a little digging revealed that there was a Reddit post sending high-quality traffic to our clients’ website. (Reddit? Seriously? YES.) Upon further exploration, we discovered that a user, (we’ll call him Superman in this example) posted a link to our client’s website, soft-selling their mission and encouraging users to visit their website and make a donation to the cause. Our client’s site received a few online donations and requests for information that we can credit specifically to Superman’s post on Reddit.

    All in all, we discovered three major takeaways from this exploratory process:

  • Superman is an active Reddit user. Good to know.
  • We wouldn’t have known we had Superman on our side if we didn’t hone in on our curiosity and keep clicking.
  • Digging deeper is a practice that should be carried through all marketing reporting.

Ultimately, I think we can all agree that GA is a deep, dark rabbit hole that’s easy to get lost in. If you ever find that it’s a bit over your head, let us know. Otherwise, set up a few easy secondary dimensions to ensure you’re getting data that is actually useful to you, and do some deep research into your pages and their performance. Don’t forget to get the most out of your beginner reports by continuing to dig into your data. With these tips, you’ll be a Google Analytics expert before you know it!