Web Analytics

The Forrester Wave: Web Analytics
Prior to diving into Google Analytics and the digital analytic fundamental units, I read an article published by Forrester about six of the main web analytic vendors and how they compare to one another. Named by Forrester, the six main vendors are Adobe, AT Internet, Google, IBM, SAS Institute, and Webtrends.

There were three main high-level criteria that vendors were ranked on and those were their current offerings, strategy, and market presence. Of these three criteria, the one I found most interesting was the strategy criteria because it took into consideration the forward-looking nature of the company and how well the vendor has “positioned themselves for future success.” In my opinion, this is a very deserving evaluative criterion because it is important for organizations to be forward looking and have a plan for continuous improvement. I like the fact that Forrester judged the vendors not just on their current product, but also where their product will be in the future. Under each high level criterion, there were smaller sub criteria that each carried a certain weight in the comparisons. The sub criterions were items such as reporting and analysis, application usability, service and support, product strategy, corporate strategy, cost, company financials etc.
Much to my surprise, Google was not rated as one of the leaders in web analytics but as a strong performer with moderately strong market presence and a moderate current offering. It is hard to say why I was surprised by this originally, perhaps it is because I envision Google as a leader in their industry or perhaps its just because Google Analytics is the web analytics vendor that we are focusing on. In order to improve and move up amongst the vendors, the article mentioned that Google needs to continue to develop its features and “grow its professional and managed services offering.” According to Forrester, the leaders were Adobe, IBM, Webtrends, and AT Internet, all with strong product offerings, strategy and market presence. SAS Institute was ranked the lowest as a contender with a moderate product offering, and a strategy and market presence slightly below Google.

Overall I found the article to be very insightful and a good introduction into other web analytic vendors beyond Google. However, I did have one strong opinion and disagreement with Forrester and that was the weight of the sub criterion “Application Usability and Administration.” This criterion was only given a weight of 15% and as a new user of web analytics I found this to be relatively low because ease of use/usability seems very important, in my opinion. As I went through the six units on fundamentals of digital analytics, it became clear to me that web analytics is not incredibly intuitive, and the programs will prove worthless if the reports cannot be analyzed correctly. Granted there are marketing researchers and analysts who specialize in areas such as these, however as a newcomer to web analytics I think it is very beneficial to be working with a vendor that emphasizes ease of use. For web analytics to benefit the entire organization, it is essential that those beyond researcher and analyst positions can understand the reports and information. Check out the article here.

What I Learned/Why Google Analytics?
The amount that I learned about Google Analytics this week, between the Google Analytics website and the six unit dive into the fundamentals of digital analytics, is immense. Heading into the week I had minimal exposure to web analytics of any sort, my experience only including a brief introduction to some of the reports that Her Campus Magazine, an online campus magazine that I work for, receives from Google Analytics. Within the magazine we would examine pages with the most views, and site views in general, however I knew there was deeper analysis that could be done there; the problem being no one had the skills to do so.

After reviewing the Google Analytics website, my knowledge on web analytics became a bit more advanced as the site provided a nicely structured and summarized introduction into how Google Analytics can help advance any organization that utilizes digital touch points. The website included three main subject bars that discussed mobile app analytics, premium Google Analytics, and finally a discussion of the question “Why Google Analytics.” The mobile app page of the Google Analytics site provides a brief description and summarization as to why it would benefit companies to use mobile app analytics to track characteristics of their apps usage. Some of these charactertistics including who uses the app, on what devices, for how long, where they are located, and more. The premium page is also very informational and provides an overview of what premium Google Analytics offers the consumer, the capabilities of premium, and a link to get premium. Some of the capabilities that come with premium include Google Analytics support and training, more rows of data in reports, security, and data access twenty four/seven. The area of the website that proved most helpful to me in introducing Google Analytics and influencing my response to “Why Google Analytics” was coincidentally the Why Google Analytics Tab. From the Why Google Analytics tab I learned about the basic capabilities of Google Analytics like building a complete picture of your audience on various touch points, routing the path the customer takes to get to a conversion or micro conversion, attribution and which marketing channels/campaigns are proving to be successful, tools to help you discover the largest and best audience for your product, and tools to help you test digital marketing campaigns to see which ones are proving most effective. Another feature that proved very helpful to me when exploring the Why Google Analytics tab was the buttons that linked to definitions of words and in depth explanations as to what a term was, such as an Advertising Report.

After exploring the website and prior to exploring the six units of digital analytic fundamentals, my answer to “Why Google Analytics” was: Organizations should use Google Analytics as a means of tracking and optimizing their digital marketing efforts. Google Analytics can be used for in depth exploration of various digital mediums, who is using them, how they are using them, how effective they are, how are they being accessed, how long they are being accessed, which mediums are most effective and which ones need improvement, who is our audience, where is our audience located, how are the users making their way through the site, and what marketing campaigns are proving to be the most effective. This answer will be added to in the coming discussion of what I learned about Google Analytics in the units of digital analytics fundamentals.

Digital Analytics Fundamentals:
Google Analytics is a comprehensive overview, yet very detailed dive into the data that is generated from a companies various digital touch points. Google Analytics has numerous uses including data segmentation, metrics on both micro and macro conversions, attribution or assigning a certain marketing channel credit for a conversion, valuing marketing channels, metrics on bounce rates, various metrics on data that has been collected, filtering data, goal setting, assigning monetary value to goals to find equivalent revenue, audience reports, adword reports, and more.

After exploring the first six units of digital analytic fundamentals, there were two standout features, amongst many, that add to my answer of “Why Google Analytics.” Those two features being metrics on conversions, and audience reports:

In Google Analytics, a macro conversion is when “someone completes an action that is important to your business,” an example being a transaction. Micro conversions are all of the smaller steps that lead up to the macro conversion, such as viewing a video or reading a PDF. All these steps do not necessarily “contribute to the bottom line” however they are showing that the user is on the path towards a Macro Conversion. The reason I find conversion tracking and conversion rates to be an extremely useful tool amongst marketers, therefore answering the “Why Google Analytics” question, is because it allows us to assign weights to various marketing channels. One very good example of this tool is conversion metrics in the traffic sources report; Google Analytics will generate a report that lists the various digital touch points, and then it will also list the conversion rates for each channel. This report will tell marketers which channels should have more of the marketing budget allocated towards them, and which ones are not proving to be as effective. In my opinion, from what I have learned thus far, this is one of the most useful tools that Google Analytics provides because one of its uses is directly aimed at analyzing marketing channels and putting more emphasis and weight on the channels that are leading to greater conversion rates. Again, as marketers it is important to be in tune with which digital channels are producing the greatest results, and conversion metrics on Google Analytics allow this exact idea to be tracked.

A French “diet and well being” company named Ligne-en-ligne can speak to the importance of being able to track conversion rates for various marketing campaigns. Ligne-en-ligne had tested out many promotional offers, but wanted to truly figure out which one was the most successful and would offer the “highest ROI.” Ligne-en-ligne used the Model Comparison Tool, which “allowed them to measure each channel’s influence on the conversion rate according to different schemes already created Google.” Read the article here to find out more details.

Audience reports were another tool in Google Analytics that fascinated me because they provide incredible insight on characteristics of users and allow for a deep dive on usage characteristics that might not otherwise be possible. Audience reports include four types of reports beginning with location reports. Via IP addresses, location reports allow organizations to track where their visitors are located thus allowing areas with large/small audiences to be identified. The next type of report that audience reports generate are called behavior reports and they provide information on new vs. returning customers, how frequently visitors are coming to the site, and how much time people are spending on the site. The third report in the audience report category is a technology report and this provides insight on what operating systems/browsers are being used to access the site and also allows organizations to discover if some browsers are not as compatible with the site. For example, in the technology reports one could examine the bounce rates of particular browsers and discover if people are leaving immediately on one browser vs. another. The final report that the audience report generates is a mobile report and this provides insights on all things mobile including a breakdown of the number of various smartphones, tablets, and desktops being used to access the site and their carriers. Audience reports, in my opinion, rise to the top of the tools offered by Google Analytics and answer the “Why Google Analytics” question because knowledge about the consumer is invaluable. In examining the various digital touch points used by an organization, it is important to have such information like where the majority of the audience is coming from, thus allowing promotions to be better targeted towards that location. It is also crucial to be aware of trouble shooting issues so that companies can work on perfecting the user experience through all devices; audience reports allow organizations to make both of these improvements plus many more that are central to the marketing field, thus adding to my answer of “Why Google Analytics.”

All quotes and statistics used in this blog came from the following sources:
The Forrester Wave: Web Analytics, Q2 2014
Google Analytics Homepage
Digital Analytics Fundamentals 

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