Google Analytics is a simple tool to start with, but endlessly complex to master. Even after you get it setup in the best possible way. What's more, most of the advice you get isn't actionable. Just tips that sound good in concept.
So, we asked these data science experts a very direct question:
What is your most actionable Google Analytics trick?
"Identify self-inflicted road blocks.
Assuming you have goals setup to track conversions, let's next take a look at our most visited pages (for the sake of making real impact, let's limit ourselves to our top 10 most viewed pages).
From here, we'll highlight our top three converting and bottom three converting pages. Compare pages you feel should convert in similarly (in other words, if your highest converting pages are services or products pages, compare to other lower converting services or products pages).
What do the top three have in common? Are the bottom three missing any of those commonalities? Are you unintentionally creating road blocks or hurdles (unnecessary page elements that don't support your value proposition, missing value proposition, cloudy messaging, overuse of industry jargon, etc.) that might be preventing visitors from converting?
Once you've identified what's missing and/or what is causing friction, adjust your pages accordingly. Rinse and repeat."
Craig Kilgore, http://ckilgs.com
First of all, you need to define your business' and visitor's objectives. Sounds like a no-brainer, but it goes wrong so often. Aligning both type of objectives on your website is crucial. But then, KPIs without context are useless and lack actionability. So invest time in clearly defining your target audience (Who) and then define the type of visits / intentions (Why). This is the foundation of defining segments in Google Analytics that drive insights and positive change. Become a star in segmentation both outside as well as inside of Google Analytics.
In addition, leverage the true power of calculated metrics to learn about and optimize on your most important metrics. And you will find out what specific actions to take (or elements to test) that might impact your business in the best positive way."
Paul Koks, Online Metrics
"I work with ad funded websites and am always surprised at how many make changes to their ad serving without assessing impact on user experience. This is a risky approach. Ignoring user experience can increase earnings per page, but earn less overall as the audience shrinks.
I like to test significant new formats or placements on a limited audience and track that audience as a Google Analytics segment. I do this by tagging a proportion of the audience and passing that tag into Analytics as a Custom Variable and into the ad server as a key-value pair.
Doing this I can measure differences in bounce rate, user loyalty, visit depth etc and determine what the real impact of the changes are on lifetime user value.
I do this for ad placements, but the same approach works well for any sort of layout change on any website."
Mat Bennett - OKO
"I'm not sure I would ever see anything from GA as a 'trick'. Any data source should be there to provide accurate and timely data and right now I'm using it a lot to understand how mobile behavior differs from desktop.
You can use a large number of different reports to get this kind of info but I prefer to focus in on the most important of them; either using the comparison tool to look at attributes such as average session duration or other metrics such as ecommerce conversion rates for both devices for example or to create a Custom Report that captures specific landing page behavior.
This is a great way to understand how specific content is performing by device and you can quickly create a plan to improve these pages based on those findings. You can even run the test across whole categories or large numbers of pages to then create a priority order of improvement based on lowest performing pages or opportunity size."
Simon Penson, Zazzle Media
"Start by looking at your top 25 pieces of content over a given time period (month, 3 months, whatever makes sense with your traffic volumes). Use a table filter to drop out homepage and other pages that are not conversion focused.
Look at the top trafficked pages that have low $-index value in the content report. Pick out a few that have high volume of traffic and low value. You can start with a handful of pages.
For each of these selected high volume/low value pages, create a piece of content that will increase conversions. For example, add a lead magnet that captures email addresses in exchange for a PDF or other high perceived value item. When these people visit your site, instead of being a bounced visitor, they will become conversions, delivering email addresses in exchange for the high value PDF.
Over time, you will find that your conversion rates can rise from <1% to 25% or higher with this technique.
Watch your $-index rise and your total email subscriptions soar with these new items in place."
Jeff Sauer, jeffalytics.com
"Using the free Google Analytics Audiences integration with AdWords for bid-adjustments, campaign exclusions, and dynamic remarketing.
Most companies that run remarketing campaigns do not remove customers from ads, treat every visitor equally, and have poorly targeted campaigns. With the remarketing integration, marketers can in minutes create and apply powerful audience segmentations with their advertising spend.
You can easily remove convertors from your campaigns. You can easily perform bid-adjustments to allocate spend and first position ads to your most engaged users or those who are most likely to convert. You can also use Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) to bid for highly competitive keywords you would never be able to afford.
On top of this, Google launched Optimize 360, which allows for using these same audiences for website personalization. The audience integrations for AdWords, DoubleClick and Optimize is your most actionable feature!"
Charles Farina, Analytics Pros