How to measure Google Plus with analytics

This post was updated for new information on July 8, 2011

Right now, Google Plus (hereafter lazily abbreviated as G+) is in its infancy. That said, it’s certainly got the buzz and the shine that social media folks have been craving for some time. It’s got the ease of Facebook plus the asymmetric relationship nature of Twitter. As a result, expect marketers to flock there in droves as they get invited. Shortly after their arrival and spamming of their friends, the inevitable question will be asked:

How do you measure this thing?

For those who are practitioners of sensible marketing methods, the answer is: pretty much the same way you measure every other social network. I will assume that you have the prerequisites done of having Goals and Goal Values for your website set up in your analytics package of choice before we go any further.

Let’s look at G+ through the lens of a standard marketing funnel.

Caveat: G+ is iterating very, very rapidly. By the time you read this post, there’s a good chance that there will be updates or differences. Caveat lector.

1. Traffic.

G+ sends out its outbound clicks from a specific URL, plus.google.com. If you use Google Analytics, you’ll find it under Traffic Sources > Referring Sites > plus.google.com.

Referring Sites - Google Analytics

Kick it up a notch by now creating an advanced traffic segment called Google+, using that referring URL as the source:

Edit Advanced Segment - Google Analytics

Now you can go to any tab, any report in Google Analytics and see Google+ traffic side by side with your regular traffic, just by selecting the Google+ traffic segment:

Top Content - Google Analytics

2. Click conversion.

Bit.ly, Goo.gl, Argyle Social, etc. are your friends. Avoid posting links in the clear if you can; use your preferred link shortener to ensure you get at least raw click data.

Google URL Shortener

Tip: If you don’t use Google’s shortener (Goo.gl) elsewhere, use it only in G+, then you’ll have an additional way to see how far things are being shared outside of G+. For example, if you post something to G+ and you see the Goo.gl link you shared being tweeted, you know that influence from G+ is leaking over into Twitter.

3. Action conversion.

If you’re clever and smart, you’re using Google’s Analytics campaign builder tool to create trackable links. Now it’s just a matter of adding G+ as a campaign source. Obviously if you don’t use GA, use whatever similar method works with your analytics package.

Tool: URL Builder - Analytics Help

Once you do this, you’ll be able to see things at the campaign level, which means a lot more granularity when it comes to tracking what happens with your G+ traffic. For example, you’ll be able to effectively measure goals and goal conversion.

Campaigns - Google Analytics

Tip: the + is a valid URL character, so avoid using it when you’re creating trackable links. Write out the word plus instead to ensure things don’t get muddied or broken in your reporting downstream.

Want to get really sneaky and see how well different parts of G+ are working for you? Change your campaign source from just one source (like googleplus) to a standard syntax that indicates what circle you’re sharing things with. For example:

Tool: URL Builder - Analytics Help

Now you’ll have analytics data for googleplus-friends, googleplus-influencers, googleplus-twitterfriends, whatever distinctions you want to set up. At the cost of additional time to set up links, you’ll gain much more granularity and understanding of how G+ works for you. You might even do this with just one or two circles to see how quickly they share something.

4. Financial benefit.

You won’t have this data for a little while (at least not if you care about statistically valid data), but once a month or so has passed, you’ll want to measure how many business objectives came from G+ and then develop a basic, baseline ROI measurement from them, as well as an earnings per lead (EPL) calculation.

Fundamentally:

ROI = Earned – Spent / Spent

Remember that time is money! Spent is never zero unless you don’t use G+.

EPL = Earned – Spent / Leads

The EPL calculation is powerful for doing apples to apples comparisons of different channels for the purposes of lead generation. It answers the question of what your efforts on Facebook are worth, what your efforts on Twitter are worth, and of course, what your efforts on G+ are worth.

Here’s the catch: with any new site or service, you cannot rely on case studies or industry standards because there aren’t any. It’s brand new. As a result, in order to develop a baseline metric for the new channel, you need to go out and use it. Try it out. See if you can get people interested in your stuff (it helps to have interesting stuff), see how they behave relative to other channels, and at the end of the trial period, you should have an apples to apples comparison of how any given channel is working for you.

Measuring G+ is no different than any other social network except that a lot of the conveniences we’ve become accustomed to (Tweetdeck integration, built in URL shortening services, etc.) aren’t there yet. They will be soon. For now, be sure to use these methods and tools if you want to get an early idea of how the service is working for you, and get started measuring!


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  • http://spinsucks.com Gini Dietrich

    This was SUPER helpful! Thank you!

  • Stb Hrnndz

    I +`d

  • http://twitter.com/nickcicero Nick Cicero

    this is a great article, thanks!

  • http://careless.fr hyyvon

    This is useful, thanks!

  • Pingback: Google+: Not Open for Business | Bill Prettyman CEO, Wise()

  • http://twitter.com/b2b_expert Jack Wilson

    Great, THis is helpful to get google plus traffic. I tracked traffic. 

  • http://twitter.com/vikastwittes Vikas Arora

    Its good to know different way to measure Google plus traffic its really helpful.