It comes as little surprise that those working within a marketing capacity use Google Analytics (GA) as their primary website tool. Being long established and produced by Google we feel we can trust it, our peers use the tool, it’s free; and for those of us that know how to use it, GA provides us with comprehensive top level statistics around website performance.

Whatever our motivations are for using GA, some of the other factors can also be:

  • It’s the industry standard to integrate with our websites
  • Most of us know how to use it
  • It provides us with just about everything we need to know

How many of the three factors above are true?

We could argue that the third point really doesn’t hold much weight. Let’s look at why…

GA provides statistics but makes tough work of relaying insight

Whether it is the number of visits received, bounce rate, page views, number of visits by source or device type, GA provides us with invaluable information around our website performance. We can also establish segments, event tracking, and goals manually, to take this a little further.

No matter how labour intensive our actions are through GA, there are often more questions posed than answers. Some questions which may still remain after using GA could be:

  • GA states the bounce rate on particular pages are high. Is this necessarily a bad thing?
  • GA states that the bounce rate from mobile devices is high. Is this because my site isn’t responsive or do I have too much onpage content?
  • Having recently repositioned content, will GA show me how much of this content visitors are seeing?
  • GA shows me an exit rate is high on some pages, so what is pushing visitors to leave the site?
  • How do I tweak the design if the bounce rate is high or if the page isn’t converting, if GA won’t show me how visitors are engaging with the page?

Sadly, many of the answers to the questions above are still sought through assumptions being made based on the data provided by GA.

Google have tried for years to provide heatmaps that provide transparency about how visitors engage across websites. The heatmap offerings they provide can be hit and miss. Sometimes they will load and at other times, provide the message below.

Google provides insight into how websites perform, but rarely offer the why behind the statistics to justify crucial design changes to websites, which can either positively or negatively affect website conversion rates.

If GA doesn’t provide insight, I will…

This is a risky approach to take which could be detrimental to website performance if findings are not substantiated with hypothesis based on findings. We have all heard the following before:

  • “Speaking from experience…..”
  • “I have seen this happen before….”
  • “I suggest we take this approach….”
  • “If we do X, Y should happen”....

These statements lack conviction and we may have all been guilty at some stage of applying assumptions or guesswork rather than the more logical approach based on insight.

How do I gather insights?

There are a number of tools available which help to form insight from data presented by analytics and a number of testing tools in addition, which are useful to use before changes are applied to live websites. A number of tools are listed below:

Behavioral insights

  • Decibel Insight
  • Hotjar
  • Lucky Orange
  • Mouseflow
  • Inspectlet

Testing Tools

  • Optimizely
  • Which test won?
  • Maxymisely
  • Visual Web Optimizer
  • AB tasty

Which tool should I choose?

A number of these tools vary in cost based on your requirements, the power of technology and the scope of features you require. Each should be researched and demoed before purchase.

Making the leap!

Factors which should dictate a commitment to insight tools:

  • If you are looking to redevelop and redesign your website
  • If you are looking to optimise conversions and increase ROI
  • The 3 W’s - if you continually look at GA wondering who visited, why users aren’t engaging, what is happening when users land on the site
  • If your boss already has access to GA and can see what you and your marketing team see. Should you be providing added value and in-depth insights rather than top level stats?
  • If you are looking to differences in the way users engage across device types
  • If you invest a lot of time in delivering fresh content without the engagement

Google Analytics is still undoubtedly a tool which all marketers should be using to identify how their website is performing. Marketers all have the responsibility to deliver recommendations and actions based on factual insights, answering questions about the way their websites perform and suggesting ways to drive conversions and increase ROI.


By Owain Powell, Digital Marketer for Decibel Digital.

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