When I talk about digital marketing and marketing automation, one of the key things I always talk about is data. That’s because data can serve as markers along your sales journey and help you determine which turn to take next.

But saying you need to look at the data is one thing. However, figuring out which data you need to look at is another. There is a wealth of information at your fingertips.  But if you’re not reading it right, it’s almost the same thing as not reading it at all.

To make things a little simpler, I’m only going to look at website data in this blog post. That’s the data that’s gathered from people visiting a webpage. It also tracks what they do while they’re on that page.

I’m also going to make this post a two-parter. In this one, I’m going to look at how you gather your data. That way it’s ready and waiting for you when you need to make a decision.

What should I use to gather my website data?

The first thing you need to remember is there are different tools to analyze different types of data. For example, if I use MailChimp to send out my marketing automation emails, I know that the system that I have in place is also collecting data. This data shows how many people open my email, how many people click on at least one link within that email and what link that person clicked on.

While that data is helpful, it does not help me when I’m looking specifically at what happens once they arrive at my website.

I have the data, now what?

For something like that, I’m going to use a system like Google Analytics.

According to American Express, “Google Analytics is one of the best free tools that any website owner can use to track and analyze data about Web traffic. You get to see what keywords are bringing the most visitors to your pages and what aspects of your designs are turning them off. This tool will generate a report for your website that includes information about visitors, traffic sources, goals, content and e-commerce.”

That’s pretty much everything that I want in an analytics tool.

Setting up Google Analytics to work for you

First off when you start using Google Analytics you want to set up the dashboard. This is the first thing that I see every time I open the analytics tool, so I want it to have a rundown of all the important information up front.

What you want on that dashboard is going to depend on what you’re looking to get out of your website. If it’s simply traffic that you’re looking for, then you might want to see a line graph featuring the recent visits to your site. If you’re looking at sales, you’ll probably want to see how many people dropped something in their shopping cart. It also helps to see what they dropped there. Then finally you’ll want to see if they made that purchase and if not, where the sale broke down.

Set up your dashboard to show you the highlights of the information that is most important to you. If you need more in-depth information, you can click on it.

Create custom segments in Google Analytics

One of the things you’re going to want on that dashboard is custom segments.

Neil Patel is a blogger that has some great knowledge about marketing and direct marketing. He has spent a lot of time analyzing the market trends and he’s up to date on the latest trends. One of the things Patel suggests is that you create a custom segment within Google Analytics so you can track where your visitors are coming from.

In this custom segment, you enter sites that you have profiles on like Facebook and Instagram and Yelp. When it’s set up, you’ll be able to see all the traffic that you get and where it’s coming from. That way you’ll know if that Facebook ad really worked, or if those reviews on Yelp are driving new visitors to your business.

This information will later help you shape your marketing campaigns and tweak the ones that are not working.

Create goals in Google Analytics

You will also want to add a section in your dashboard that includes your website goals.

According to Monster Insights, Google Analytics will help you set up goals to keep track of which pages visitors land on most often. It can also show how long they stay on the website once they arrive or how many pages a visitor will visit before they leave your site.

You can track that data month over month and set goals to make sure that you’re meeting certain targets. Those goals will make sure that your website is at the very least maintaining a certain level of traffic, if not exceeding it.

What should you think about when analyzing website data?

So now that I have everything set up in my analytics tool, I’m going to look for trends. This is like a scientific discovery. You’re going to look at what happens on your site and what most likely contributed to making that happen.

For example, say the last three Saturdays there’s been more visitors to my site than normal. Is there something that caused that spike in viewership? Maybe just an anomaly in the data? Was there something that I just started doing on Saturdays that I haven’t done before? When I can start to form ideas about what my viewers are thinking and what motivates them, I can better cater to their wants and needs.

But here’s the key, to find a trend, you need to look at a large amount of data.

As the website Optimize Smart points out, looking at a week’s worth of data or even a month’s worth shows a week’s worth or a month’s worth of data. That’s it. Just because you had a good week or a good month, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your business is suddenly on the rise.

To put it another way, if I own a swimsuit company and my sales drop in November and December, am I going to assume that my business is falling apart? No. I’m going to assume that it’s cold outside and no one wants to go swimming.

When looking for trends, you need to look at similar time frames and similar outside factors.

If the online sales at my swimsuit company were lower in June of 2018 than they were in June of 2017, then I may be concerned.

Trends rely on you looking at the big picture. Map out the data in Google and then see if something pops out at you. Do site visits spike every time you send out your quarterly newsletter and dip during the months in between? If so, maybe you should consider making more frequent contact with your customers to keep them interested.

Look at the data points.

Try to find similarities and differences and try to determine why those similarities or differences occurred.

Finding the right website data, reading and analyzing it and then determining what’s causing visitors to react in a specific way is tough. That’s why there are companies that specialize in just that. It’s a skill and one that needs to be developed over time with experience and maybe even a little trial and error. It’s something that you can do if you put your mind and your time into it, but never be afraid to ask for help.

We’re here if you need us.

Written by Erika Towne