8 ways to use Google Analytics beyond keywords

You can’t measure social media with old tools any more than you can measure water with a yardstick. Maybe you’ll find the depth in a given spot, but beyond that?

With keyword data continuously being removed and Google moving toward visitor-based data, how we look at and use analytics is shifting. The good news is that even though some data have been taken away, analytics have always provided a lot of really great information beyond keywords.

For online marketers out there, here are eight other ways to use Google Analytics:

Blog ideas

When you’re the one in charge of content, planning an editorial calendar can be daunting. Sometimes you simply run out of ideas. That’s where analytics come in.

By examining your top posts, you can start to see which content resonates most with your visitors. Take a look at which posts drove the most visits and engagement, had the lowest bounce rates, and (of course) which posts were shared the most.

Once you know what your audience likes, create more content like that. Here are a couple of other ideas that work well, especially with the end of the year approaching:

  • Top [insert keyword] blog posts of 2012
  • The [insert blog name] year in review

Geo-targeted content

Do you know where your customers are located? Are you actually targeting them through search?

With search results becoming more and more personalized and increased mobile searches driving location-specific results, creating geo-targeted content should be on your to-do list.

Analytics will tell you where your visitors are coming from and, more important, where your conversions are coming from. This data can give your company an idea of where potential buyers are located and help drive your overall marketing strategy.

In the meantime, consider creating landing pages and supporting content around specific cities and regions. The Custom Ink Boston landing page is a good example.

Campaign tracking

Google Analytics allows you to track online campaigns simply by adding parameters to your links. You can track banner ads, email campaigns, guest posts, and even social media promotions.

To start tracking specific campaigns in Google Analytics, you’ll need the Google URL builder. Here a few tips when creating your tracking links:

Be consistent. Consistency in your naming conventions will be helpful when you need to look back and identify specific campaigns.

Be specific. Make sure to be specific in your naming conventions. Campaign name “email1” might be clear to you right now, but will it be in a year or two?

Avoid spaces and upper case letters. Similar to creating URLs, you want the code to be as clean as possible. Try to avoid using spaces (underscores are preferred) and upper case letters. By using lowercase letters, you prevent any casing consistency issues.

Don’t be afraid to create specific landing pages for each campaign to ensure even more accurate tracking.

Social targeting and attribution

Much of the conversation in the online marketing sphere over the past couple of years has revolved around social media ROI. The idea of not being able to put a hard and fast number on social media investment has frustrated many marketers and has prevented many small businesses from jumping into the mix.

Though determining actual ROI can be difficult, assisted and last-click analysis within Google Analytics can provide you with a better idea of how your social campaigns are affecting conversions. You may not have direct conversions from Twitter, but perhaps you do have Twitter assisting in conversions, proving it more valuable then it appears on the surface.

The social functionality within analytics can also show you which pieces of content do better on which network, giving you better social targeting capabilities.

Partnership and guest post opportunities

Do you know who is sending traffic to your site? Do you know why they are sending traffic to your website? Third-party referrals can be a great place to find partnership, affiliate, and guest posting opportunities.

Evaluate your referrals to find out:

  • Who is sending traffic to your site?
  • What type of content are they sending traffic from?
  • Where are they sending it?
  • Why are they sending it?

Once you know these things, you can then determine whether you should reach out and start building a relationship.

User paths

What happens when people land on your website? Do you know where they’re going or what pages they visit? This information can help you discover which pages are helping drive conversions and which pages might be hindering conversions. It can also help you discover more accurate numbers regarding your website.

With the visitors flow function and in-page analytics, you can actually see how visitors navigate your site; this is a pretty valuable look into your website performance.

Some things to look for include:

  • Where are visitors dropping off?
  • How are your landing pages performing? Where are visitors going after they land?
  • Are your calls to action working? Are people clicking them?
  • What percentage of customers are logging in? Are you counting these users in your bounce rate? Maybe you shouldn’t.

User paths in analytics show you how visitors interact with your site without having to do any actual user testing.

Landing page testing

Google Analytics is going beyond standard analytics with its experiments platform. Interested in testing your landing pages to find out which of them perform best? Content experiments in Google Analytics let you test up to six variations of a page.

You can test landing pages, goal pages, or pages along the goal funnel. The best part is that it’s free. Within your Google Analytics account, you decide the goal, choose how many visitors you want to be in the experiment, upload a piece of script to your site, and start testing.

The downside is you actually have to create the pages to test. Tools such as Optimizely let you create variations right in the platform.

Track abandonment

Along with visitor path tracking, Google Analytics can show you how visitors are navigating through the checkout process and provide insights into any cart abandonment issues.

If your site has a checkout process that requires multiple steps, goal funnels let you track how many users are getting through each step. By locating hangups in the checkout process, you can eliminate barriers and increase conversion rates.

KISSmetrics has a nice breakdown of using goal funnels for cart abandonment.

There you have it. Google Analytics is more than just keyword data and can provide your business with a ton of information about your website and your visitors that can help you shape, shift, and create an online marketing strategy that works.

Casie Gillette is director of online marketing at KoMarketing Associates. A version of this article first appeared on iMediaConnection.com.

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