ABCs of Web Analytics

Something that’s puzzled long-time Google Analytics users is why Google Analytics moved and renamed so much stuff in the tool. The reason is ultimately to help all of us get insights slightly faster. One of the most glaring changes is the renaming of all of the sections to ABC – Acquisition, Behavior, Conversion.

Acquisition_Overview_-_Google_Analytics

The changes to the application present two important perspective shifts that Google is trying to encourage us, as marketers (many of whom do not have a strong data analysis background) to think differently about some of the data that we stare at most frequently.

First, there is a logical progression in this framework. Acquisition answers the question of, where did my audiences come from? Behavior answers the question of, what did my audience find engaging? Conversion answers the question of, did I generate meaningful results?

Measuring each section tells you where your website is most deficient. Are you not attracting enough new audiences? You probably need to consider some new tactics if that’s the case, like public relations or advertising. Are you losing the audiences as quickly as you gain them? If so, you have a behavior problem, an engagement problem, and the Behavior section will tell you what to tune up. Are you converting? Conversions will tell you what contributed to those conversions and what you should do less or more of.

One other aspect of these changes to Google Analytics is a little more subtle but even more important. Google Analytics is trending away from what to who. The new segments manager is all about the who, the people who are visiting your website.

Acquisition_Overview_-_Google_Analytics-5

The ABC funnel is about who. All of the new interactive flow charts tells you about the people and not the individual hits, clicks, or pages on your site. This is an important focus change, because marketers have typically been fixated on very short term metrics. By changing metrics focus, Google is subtly encouraging us to change our marketing focus.

This is reflected as well in their ever-changing perspective on SEO. If you focus on the who, if you focus on the personas and segments in your audience rather than the granular “what” details of keywords, page titles, and individual links, then you’ll do better in their current algorithms which reward expertise on topics, social popularity, and authority. While you will face a longer, tougher battle to get going, to gain search momentum, once you have it, it should in theory be harder to lose.

Practice your ABCs as Google Analytics defines them, and you’ll start to work on the marketing metrics that matter.


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Use Google Analytics to find the best times and days for LinkedIn [video]

Ellen Butler asked:

The answer is absolutely, using our friend, Google Analytics. This is something you’d do after you were posting on a fairly regular schedule. Here’s a quick video explaining how to do it.

Remember, if you’re only posting at a fixed day or time, that will always be your best time to post. Schedule throughout the day, and don’t forget to measure more than just audience.


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Is anecdotal evidence worthless?

More travels, conferences, etc.

In the world of data and analytics, anecdotal evidence is often demonized, and rightly so, since anecdotal evidence often bears little resemblance to the big picture. By its very nature, anecdotal evidence is not representative. It showcases only one person’s reality. Even anecdotal evidence in aggregate is still not reliable. There’s a cliché in the world of data and analytics that, “the plural of anecdote is not data”.

So should anecdotal evidence be disposed of entirely, completely ignored? Actually, no. Anecdotal evidence has a place in the research and analytics process. Its home is in the same place as qualitative research, as a starting point to learn what questions to ask and to ask better questions.

For example, let’s say you’re working on market research for the next great cup of coffee at your coffee shop chain. While you sift through reams of data about all of the different quality beans available on the market, the guy next to you at your coffee shop makes an offhand remark about how never drinks kopi luwak even though it’s the trendy thing. If kopi luwak wasn’t at all on your radar, you now have a starting point to ask the question of your market. Do you take this guy’s opinion as gospel? Of course not. Do you discount him entirely? Certainly not – his comment proves that there is at least one person on the planet who has heard of kopi luwak. Your job as a marketer is in part to find out if he’s the only guy or if there’s reason for your coffee shops to offer this unusual bean.

In many ways, qualitative research is formalized, more strict collection of anecdotal evidence. When you run a focus group, you are still collecting only a small sample of data that may or may not be representative because of its tiny size. From the focus group, it would make sense to take your findings and turn them into a much larger quantitative research project.

In lieu of a focus group, if anecdotal evidence is all you have, make that the starting point for your questions for a quantitative research project. Anecdotal evidence is not without value. Don’t rely on it to make decisions, certainly don’t bet your business on it, but don’t discard it as worthless. Make it the seed that will germinate under the right research conditions.


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