When you say Google Analytics (GA) to a PR or Marketing practitioner, many may shudder at the thought of it and say it is only relevant for measuring web traffic. However, the way in which the tool has been developed over recent years makes it far more valuable in demonstrating the value of the PR campaigns than ever before.
Last week I attended the ‘Google Analytics for PR’ training course, one of the many CIPR training courses available to PR, social media and marketing practitioners. Now I will be honest, my inner geek and love for reporting had a field day at this training session. Whilst at the beginning I was slightly concerned that it may be a tad techy, it was surprisingly easy to understand (mainly due to the excellent trainer, Andrew Smith) and I came away with a whole new perspective on how we can use GA not only internally here at éclat in helping our website development and new business activity, but also for our clients and demonstrating how PR is helping to achieve their goals.
I could bore everyone to tears with everything I learnt at this session so, to save you all from that prospect, here are some of the top takeaways that will get you started on the road to GA awesomeness:
1. Setting up the account, properties and views
When you first set up your GA account, or when you add a new property (or website to the uninitiated), it will automatically create a single default ‘view’ of the data. This is all the raw data for the website. For some, they may just keep the one view and make the changes to that view alone. This is wrong. Don’t do that. Best practice advice says you should aim to have at least three views.
– Default view – all data, unfiltered. This will mean you will always have a backup of your data
– Test view – this is where you can experiment with your filters and settings before applying them to your ‘clean’ data
– Reporting view – your clean data and what you will ultimately report on
Once you’ve made a change to the settings and data you are collecting, this will take effect as of that moment. GA won’t go back and retrospectively apply those settings or filters to your historical data. That is worth considering if you make changes part way through a month or quarter and need to report back to management.
Additional top set-up tips include:
– At the account settings level, make sure that ‘Benchmarking’ is checked. This will allow you to compare yourself, with anonymised data, to other organisations of a similar size to yourself.
– At the property settings level, ensure that ‘Enable Demographics and Interests Reports’ is checked.
– Set up some basic filters on the views. These can be up to you but a good one to start with is excluding any employee visits to your website. It will be surprising how many times they may go to your site and could potentially skew your data and over-inflate your numbers.
– In the view set-up, tick the box that excludes any traffic that is a result of ‘bots’. This isn’t automatically checked so you will need to go in and manually do this yourself.
Get the set up right and it could remove any headaches or potentially awkward conversations with your CEO further down the line.
2. Goals – make sure you have some!
Have you asked yourself this one simple question: Why on earth are we doing all of this? It’s amazing how easy it is to go into GA and get caught up in the reams of data available but does any of it matter if you don’t know what your goals are?
Once you’ve got your account set up, the next vital thing you need to do is set up your goals. This will help measure the success of your activity and define what is and isn’t working. GA helpfully has a simple to use goal builder available and they usually take one of the following forms:
– URL Destination – do you want visitors to get to a certain URL/page?
– Time on site – how long do you want them to stay?
– Page visits per session – how many pages do you want each visitor to see before they leave
– Event – what behavior do you want to track? Watching a video? Downloading pdf? (Warning – these are tricky to setup!)
These measurable goals will give you an idea on whether the activity you are doing is working and gaining traction with the types of visitors that you want. To add further insight to the goals, you could also attribute a monetary value to the activity.
3. Campaign tracking
Whilst Google is pretty smart, unfortunately it can’t track where all website traffic has come from. Largely speaking, it has capabilities to inform you if traffic has come from an organic search, social media, referral etc, but it isn’t a guarantee. You’d be much wiser, particularly if you are in the midst of a specific campaign, to configure GA yourself to track specific parameters.
Fortunately, Google has its very own URL builder, which allows you to add tracking parameters, such as source of the traffic e.g. Twitter, email, LinkedIn etc so you can easily track where traffic has originated from. You may have noticed when you’ve clicked on a news article from Twitter that it has an exceptionally long URL which includes the phrase (or version of) ‘?utm_campaign=’. This is where the website has set the parameters and is tracking how you got to that content. Don’t fear though, you don’t need to insert ludicrously long URL’s into your social media or email shots. You can use URL shorteners, such as bit.ly to condense it down, whilst still maintaining the tracking parameters.
With these in place you can now see, for that campaign, where the traffic came from and what worked. This gives you the ability to identify patterns and make decisions for future activity on what has or hasn’t worked.
Want to find out about how to show the value of PR with GA? Want the low down on reporting? Then keep your eyes peeled for part two next week!
Kim is an Account Director at éclat representing clients in the IT and physical security, broadcast and telecoms space. Despite graduating from Liverpool John Moores University with a degree in International Journalism, she turned to the dark side in 2008 to pursue a career in PR. She is also a running and wine drinking enthusiast (preferably in that order). Connect with Kim on LinkedIn, Twitter or Google+