When digital analytics does not produce useful outcomes to inform business decisions, digital teams often point to reporting and analysis as the culprit. But an in-depth investigation of the measurement strategy and digital analytics implementation often reveals a much different truth: digital marketing teams often don’t fully understand the capabilities of the tools at their disposal. This common issue is born out of inconsistent technical implementations, lack of analytics expertise within the team, or a general misunderstanding of the types of metrics and data that the business should collect.

As long as digital teams maintain that reporting and analysis are at the heart of the issue, organizations will not be able to leverage the full feature set available with analytics tools like Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics. This leaves digital leaders questioning whether they should invest in more expensive or specialized tools to get the “right” data that will create new and incremental value. The often surprising reality is that an updated implementation with more focused tracking would suffice to provide digital teams with the valuable data they seek across all digital platforms (e.g., mobile app, CRM and point of sale).

With the recent addition of tools like Google Data Studio (a lightweight BI dashboard tool) and Google Optimize (an optimization experimentation tool for the free Google Analytics suite), the vast majority of businesses don’t need a paid analytics solution. They can invest money usually spent on expensive data management tools into analysts or other digital marketing efforts. In most cases, the free versions of tools like Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager are more than sufficient for the needs of the organization, but teams don’t have a true understanding of the tools’ capabilities or don’t implement their tracking in a way that works within the limitations of the free toolsets.

9 Questions to Clarity

If you wonder whether your digital analytics toolset is up to par, start by asking some basic questions. The answers will divulge the true extent of your digital analytics capabilities and identify areas for improvement from both technical and expertise standpoints.

Are we combining data that we already have about our customers with their on-site activities?

Many digital teams that use only the out-of-the-box versions of tools like Google Analytics are unaware that the tools come with powerful custom features. Custom dimensions, for example, provide valuable context to information being collected. You might have data, including gender, zip code, customer segment, persona type, etc., about a specific user based on their digital profile. Populate these values into analytics code, along with everything that is tracked using custom dimensions, in order to create meaningful user segments that provide insights as opposed to just metrics.

How do specific sections of the website compare to others?

Many teams stop their measurement at the page level. This is a natural inclination, considering all interactions are recorded with the single page associated with it. However, there are available features, such as content groups and custom dimensions, that allow you to combine the data from specific pages into predefined site sections or groups. You can then compare these page groupings to each other to understand how they impact conversion and acquisition.

How does a specific content type impact conversion?

By using the aforementioned features alongside conversions and goal tracking, analysts can point out which content types have the greatest impact on conversion, user drop-off and other key performance indicators (KPIs) reflecting business objectives. Organizations can then use this information to better allocate resources. For instance, if you learn zero percent of your blog traffic converts on the site, you need to shift  resources toward a more conversion friendly design, engaging content or traffic sources that are converting.

Can your analysts easily set up event tracking or conversion tracking without developers?

Teams should use tools like Google Tag Manager or Dynamic Tag Manager to implement their analytics platforms whenever possible. These platforms allow marketers to have control over what is tracked and how that data is expressed in the analytics tool. Many companies do not use these implementation tools. Instead, they still rely on developers to add code, adding significant time to the tagging process and deterring analysts from tracking in some cases.

What are our most efficient sources of traffic for conversion?

Analysts should be able to relay the traffic sources that generate the most conversions and which sources are the most efficient at doing so. An SEM program may generate the most conversions, while organic search might have a drastically higher conversion rate. In these instances, it’s worth exploring what an investment in the organic search channel could do versus making a similar investment in SEM or social media.

How are key segments of customers converting against other key segments on the website?

Analysts can create meaningful segments within the analytics tool to understand how different types of customers utilize the website. These segments can be developed using existing customer data or even basic demographic data, like age and gender. Segmentation yields the necessary data to understand how different types of users are being impacted online to help identify areas for improvement.

Can we run A/B or multi-variate tests on the website today?

A key part of optimizing your digital strategy should be conducting experiments with your website or app content. Many analysts don’t invest in the development of a testing program because of time constraints or simply because they aren’t aware how easy it can be to run A/B or multi-variate tests. Tools like Google Optimize are free and provide a robust feature set that integrates with Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.

What are the primary drop-off points for customers prior to conversion?

Analysts should have a clear understanding of what keeps users from converting on the website, no matter the type of site or conversion. With goal funnels or some elbow grease and expertise, analysts can identify where users drop off the site and what might be impacting their experience. With this visibility into customer needs, you can optimize the user experience and generate more conversions.

What are the main reasons users come to our site?

Often teams don’t take time to understand the specific intentions why users come to the website because the team members assume they know the reasons, but their assumptions are based on their own internal knowledge of the business. For example, you may see a significant increase in traffic to the website, only to find users are going to the careers page or reading a specific piece of content that doesn’t necessarily impact conversion. By understanding keywords, traffic sources and landing pages that drive users to certain parts of your site, analysts can create user segments based on their intent.

The Takeaway

Uncovering your digital analytics capabilities can be the difference between a measurement strategy that ensures the continual improvement of online customer experiences or an expensive data tool that produces outcomes non-representative of business objectives. Before deciding to invest in a data management tool, assess whether your digital team has the expertise to leverage your current analytics tools. In most cases, we find the free versions of tools like Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager are sufficient for the needs of an organization. By getting answers to the right questions, you can discover your organization’s hidden capabilities and begin to leverage digital analytics to meet customer and business needs.