8 easy steps to finding returning visitors in Google Analytics

One of the most important metrics in web analytics is the number of returning visitors to your site. This simple number tells you just how well your site is really doing; after all, it’s easy to get someone to visit your site once. You can run ads, engage on social media, run a great PR campaign etc. It’s harder to get them to come back – for that to happen, you have to be providing some reason for them to want to return. Your content has to be compelling, your site has to be navigable, your value must be strong enough to make a visitor choose you over something else they could be reading.

Yet in most web analytics packages, this simple number is hidden away. Here’s how to find it in Google Analytics, the most popular web analytics package.

First, go to your Audience menu [1]. Then choose New Segment from the Segment Navigator [2]:

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics

Next, choose System segments [3] and uncheck All Sessions [4]:

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics

Scroll down until you find Returning Users [5]. Click it to turn it on, then click the blue Apply button [6]:

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics

Now for clarity’s sake, adjust the date to be the last 3 months or so [7] and change the view to weekly so that it smoothes out the graph enough to see a trend [8]:

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics

With these 8 steps, you should now see whether your site is working better or worse for you:

Audience_Overview_-_Google_Analytics

If the line isn’t going up and to the right, you have a retention problem. You have a stickiness problem. You may have a navigation or content quality problem. Once you know this, once you know whether your site is getting people to come back or not, you can begin testing and deeper analysis to determine why your site isn’t working.

If the line is going up and to the right, then you can dig deeper into your analytics to find out why. You can look at things like bounce rates, time on page, which pages are most popular, etc. and play to their strengths.

Try this out and see how sticky your site is!


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Hypothesis-based marketing repairs

One of the greatest challenges we face as marketers is knowing what’s wrong and why in our sales and marketing funnel. I thought I’d share a useful guide I’ve relied on in order to understand what challenges your organization might face in its marketing.

Let’s start with the three broadest categories of marketing metrics: audience, leads, and sales. We know that audience is driven by PR, media, and advertising. Marketing is about getting qualified members of the audience to raise their hands. Sales is about getting those qualified people to buy. These are the broadest, most gross generalizations, but they’re a place to start.

Screenshot_6_22_14__9_57_PM

Let’s assume then that you have the metrics and analytics from each stage in the funnel, and you’ve broken them out into roughly good and bad categories, based on whether period-over-period growth is positive (green) or negative (red). If you’re going gangbusters and everything seems super with period-over-period math, then you might need to do rate of change calculations in order to detect problems.

Scenarios 1 and 8 are the most obvious. When everything is working great, optimize, but don’t be in a rush to fix what isn’t broken. When everything is broken, fix the fastest, easiest things to get some momentum – any momentum – going. You need wins on the board, and frankly anything will help.

Scenario 2 is a situation familiar to many marketers, and it’s the age old sales vs. marketing argument – the leads are weak vs. you sales people can’t sell. This is a case where the problem may in fact be in the audience itself. An audience that converts to a lead but can’t buy is a targeting issue. Make sure you’re bringing in the right audience via PR and advertising. To ascertain this, you’ll need to look in your sales CRM data to see why opportunities aren’t being created.

Scenario 4 leads to Scenario 7. Scenario 4 is when you’ve tapped out your audience. The audience you have is converting, which means marketing is working, and sales is selling, but it’s only a matter of time before you decline into Scenario 7. The pipe at the top is empty, which means that in a short while, you will run out of leads, and ultimately the funnel breaks down. To remedy it, you’ll need to change up audience capture strategies, using advertising and perhaps hiring a PR firm.

Scenario 5 is a case where your PR and advertising are working, but nothing else is. Start at the bottom of your funnel and figure out why sales isn’t selling. You’ll spend a lot of time with your sales CRM doing that, but it will be worth it. That will get you to Scenario 3, where the bottom of the funnel is converting again and the top is being fed, so it’s just a question of getting your marketing systems optimized and repaired to close the loop.

Scenario 6 is a rarity – rarely do you see marketing flourishing when there’s a decline at the top of the funnel. The exception to this rule is when you have a strong outbound sales force, folks who are going out and networking and building their own pipelines. When you see scenario 6, you know they’re spending too much time sourcing leads and not enough time closing deals. However, fixing the top of the funnel will alleviate this problem in the long-term, giving them leads to call. Start there.

These scenarios are only starting points, but they’re a useful way to begin testing hypotheses about what might be wrong in your sales and marketing funnel – and where you start to fix it!


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Hitting your marketing targets like an archer

IMG_8922

I had the opportunity to do some archery yesterday at one of the local summer camps as I was picking up my daughter. As it was the last day of camp, the instructors invited parents to give it a try.

One interesting thing I noticed was that among the other parents who were trying it out, most focused either solely on the process of operating a bow and arrow, or focused solely on the goal of trying to hit the target downrange.

The people who focused solely on the goal and ignored the process fared most poorly. Some of them didn’t even get their arrows to the target, falling short by half.

Those who focused on the process were able to get the mechanics of operating a bow and arrow down reasonably well, but they still missed the target more often than not.

In the practice of kyudo, the Zen art of archery, it is often said that the archer, the bow, the arrow, and the target must become one, that there must be no distinction. This is a spiritual way of saying that you have to devote a little bit of focus to everything in order to make it all work together, that no one part is more important than another. If you lack focus in any area, things will not work as well as they should.

Making sure that your form is good, making sure that your aim is good, making sure that your body is doing what it is supposed be doing, making sure that you know where the target is – all of these are parts of giving attention to everything that you need to pay attention to in order to ultimately hit the target consistently.

Think about how this applies to your business and marketing. If you focus solely on the process of marketing, doing stuff with no idea what your goals are, chances are you’re going to not hit those goals (if they exist). On the other hand, if you obsess over your metrics and numbers and key performance indicators without actually paying attention to the quality of the work that you’re doing, you also miss the mark.

It is only when you have that blend of attention from the beginning of the process to the goal that will generate the results that you want.

(and in case you were wondering, it had been decades since I last picked up a bow and arrow. Thankfully, years of martial arts experience meant that I acquitted myself honorably, hitting the target every time, if not a bullseye.)


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