With news that the Adwords Certification program was about to turn on its head, there was a lot of anticipation leading up to the #GASummit, but after the dust settles, what are we left with following the latest round of Google tinkering? The idea behind much of this year’s summit was a three pronged approach to analytics that were:
- Access – Correctly connecting people and Data
- Empowerment – Giving the correct tools and methods to skilled people to perform useful analytics.
- Act – Ensuring everyone who’s associated with GA as certified partners or premium customers can act on data derived
In reality, SEO and PPC pros have been doing all three of the above for years, so what are the real differences we can expect from Google?
GA Summit Access Deciphered
To begin with, the reference to Access in this year’s theme is very apt because even for the best of us, tracking visitor activity has been a chore with more custom code than is reasonable for any site admin to install. Heaven forbid you should need to pick up the pieces left by someone else with snippets of code pasted in multiple locations in the wrong places on the page source. Now, Google’s Tag Manager doesn’t need reams of code to create a heat map because you can Auto Track events in analytics and a semi-nice can see the results and what they mean.
That’s not all…Google have made APIs available for large enterprises with bespoke needs, such as integrating a number of sites and users. For example, there may be a large group with several sites managed by three teams. One might handle inbound SEO, another might cover PPC and a third may handle visitor flow. The new APIs should make it easier for each team to receive the correct data and analyse the results across many sites if that’s what they need.
Google have also promised their premium customers that their Tag Manager will be more dependable and they are so confident that they will put it in writing in the form of service level agreements later this year. The SLA is likely to contain assurances about data quality, but also any support offered by Google to premium users who were complaining that their £90k annual fee for analytics didn’t match the level of customer care. They were probably right, but even without the SLAs, it still doesn’t make the alternatives like KISSmetrics and Open Web Analytics comparable to GA if you have a large stake invested in the quality of your data and who doesn’t these days?
GA Summit Empower – What’s it About
The move to empower users may not immediately make much of a difference to professional analytics users because the segmentation may not have been an issue. The revised presentation of data definitely makes the new look analytics easy for first time users to get to grips with basic data, but it also makes it a much more powerful tool for those of us who want to drill the data down and understand more about the micro actions taking place on the sites we manage.
You can now segment data that is user specific and grouping users based on similar characteristics is much easier with the new cohort analysis. This can be a gold mine if you want to fine-tune your website to appeal to a certain demographic because your numbers tell you that certain cohorts (personas with similar characteristics) favour your site or progress through from acquisition to conversion. Segmenting your data is easy too; simply click report title in analytics to reveal the list a list with ‘All Visits’ and select ‘+create new segment’. Not every analytics account has these features just yet, so if yours are missing just hold on because all accounts should have the revised UI by the end of the year. The new segmentation should certainly empower people to tweak their site and maximise ROI or visitor interaction, whichever is more important.
Key Metrics Simplified
Most people focus on a few reports when they visit analytics, but no reports are more popular than reports under the acquisition tab, which will display your traffic sources, visitor activity and bounce rates or conversions. Google calls this the ABCs (acquisition, Behaviours and Conversions), but the rest of us call them key metrics.
Personally, I like the old table pictured above, but Google seems to think the new layout in the picture below will present data more clearly and they are probably right.
Sharing Demographic Data
Google has recognised that big data is critical to a modern enterprise, but data of all sizes is only good when you are able to dissect it and analyse it with a fine toothcomb. That’s why Google is improving the delivery of its audience information with every reportable demographic available in the new look analytics. However, it’s going deeper than the male or female aged between then and now. The new audience data will show visitor’s interests in a clear manner that is surely the best way to deliver what your users want to see when they visit your site. All it takes is a simple code update (see here) and you have enough information to practically cyber-stalk your visitors and extract any reaction you want from them.
BigQuery for Big Data
If your business is big enough to justify the £90k annual spend, then the use of Google’s BigQuery software in conjunction with your site’s data is something your business can’t do without. The BigQuery software allows you to do things with your visitor data that a U.S. government agency would find impressive. BigQuery allows you to access data that is not present in reports through the usual analytics, which is helpful if you want to know what really makes users tick when they interact with your site.
While on the subject of tools; the Google Analytics Academy is a fresh way to learn Google’s one of most important tools and to deliver the academy’s content, Google is holding courses beginning periodically throughout the year. This is presumably to complement the changes to the certified partners program that was announced recently.
Google Summit – Act 3 (or 3. Act in this post)
In case the data improvements covered already have failed to inspire you to act, Google has taken mobile data further with both Google Play data and Google App Analytics to give developers a much clearer idea of where and what to improve when developing updates or completely new apps. This integration is a massive improvement that means developers and mobile app marketers will now be able to monitor and improve with complete cradle to grave (or purchase to update) data that will ultimately make marketing Android and iOS products even more attractive to developers