Web Marketing Today

3 Tips to Make Analytics More Actionable

I recently discussed with one of my colleagues about the ubiquity of analytics. He mentioned his wife had planned an event for their kids, and invited friends using an online evite platform. He said that the platform provided the event planner with all sorts of data: who opened the evite email, how many people said they were not coming, how many selected “maybe,” and how many people confirmed.

There were all sorts of cool details so she can go back and call those who haven’t opened the email, and even nudge those who were still in the “maybe” category. This could parallel a discussion you might have with a marketing manager over a lead nurturing program or similar. Clearly, we are all getting used to handling, processing, and analyzing more data — and that’s a good thing for data geeks like me, an analytics consultant.

Access to more data lets you make more informed marketing choices.


Often organizations, large and small, don’t have the discipline or the time or expertise, to derive actionable insights from the data they have. Part of the reason is that we are bombarded by aggregate data and reports are generated without any context.

In this article, I’ll share with you three tips to add context to your Google Analytics reports and make them much more powerful, All three tips focus on the element of time.

1. Compare to Past

In Google Analytics, you have the option to compare current stats to those you have captured in the past. This is a good way to see trends, seasonality, and more importantly, what’s changed. Review your metrics periodically and leverage the “compare the past” features offered in this platform. This tool can be found in the date selection section in the upper right corner of the reports. Click on the date to reveal the drop down calendar to see the “compare to” option. This gives you a better context of data and metrics especially after you make changes and updates to campaigns or landing pages.

See the snapshot below for an AdWords dashboard in Google Analytics. Here, we are looking at “Ecommerce Conversion Rate” by “Campaign” and by “Keyword.” Not only can we see the month we are interested in — February 1 to 28 — but we are also comparing to the previous period. If the “% Change” is green, then there has been an improvement from the past. However, if the “% Change” is red, you can tell attention is required.

The AdWords dashboard lets you compare “% Change” using different categories.


Without digging any further or hiring an AdWords consultant, you can immediately see how some of these campaigns are driving more traffic and an improved conversion rate. This client should continue the first campaign, with an improvement in conversion rate of 5.62 percent. But the second campaign was hit with an almost 10 percent drop in the conversion rate. The client should focus on what caused this and fix it by checking targeting options, landing pages, or maybe seeing, simply, if the ad copy doesn’t relate well to what’s on the landing page.

To use this dashboard in your own account, use this link while signed into Google Analytics.

2. Real Time

If you follow my articles on Web Marketing Today, you may have read “Google Analytics Real-Time.” Well, the good just got better. Not only can you view your traffic and site activity in real time, now you can get much more context, such as:

  • View Events in Real-Time.
  • Segment traffic by desktop, tablet, and mobile.
  • Create Shortcuts to Real Time segments you use the most.
  • Compare filtered vs. overall in your Real-Time reports.

Google Analytics lets you see traffic sources and filter by different channels.


In the snapshot above, you’re now able to view your traffic sources, plus you can filter or segment on any of these mediums or channels and then save this new view as a Shortcut for future use.

Events can also be seen in Real Time. You can, for example, track whitepaper downloads or vides views after you send an email campaign, or maybe as one of your Promoted Tweets is going viral.

Google Analytics offers real time event statistics.


And finally, you can also now track how your content is viewed in “Real Time” by device type: desktop, tablet, or phone. And again, as your social campaigns pick up steam you can better assess your user behavior.

3. Multiple Conversions Over Time

The third time element is about tracking your users’ previous interactions with your site prior to conversion, also known as Multi-Channel Funnels. From speaking with customers and colleagues in the industry, I believe this feature is very underutilized. One important use case is about interaction with the users in the upper funnel — awareness, and education phases before they are ready to buy and convert. If an AdWords campaign is not converting, don’t just automatically turn it off. Check the effect it provides to your conversion funnel. There may be underlying contributions there that you don’t realize.

Look at the image below. Watch the performance of the paid search channel in conjunction with the other channels. Some paid campaigns are clearly not driving that last visit conversion, but they are assisting other channels earlier in the buying cycle. Turning off these paid campaigns can be harmful.

Some paid search channels assist other channels.

Final Thoughts

Data, when used in and pulled from the right context, can be widely useful, as described in the three tips above. Understanding where to pull the needed information from is definitely a step in the right direction. Utilize the “Compare to Past,” “Real Time,” and “Multi-Channel Funnels” features in Google Analytics for better reports, making them more beneficial.

Feras Alhlou
Feras Alhlou
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Comment ( 1 )

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  1. Greg Chambers April 9, 2013 Reply

    Good stuff. Excellent starting points.

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