What Do Customers Really Want? Google Analytics Can Help You Find the Answers
Do you truly know your online customers? If you answered "yes" but don't use Google Analytics, then you might easily be mistaken. Your website might bring in quantifiable numbers of customers — and it could be responsive on mobile devices while satisfying the basic criteria of good SEO — but what about the performance metrics you can't see? What about dissatisfied visitors who bounce within seconds, or the folks who fail to convert after placing items in their online shopping carts?
And what about the willing, eager shoppers who you're completely missing out on? What if your audience doesn't care about half of your blog posts, PPC ads or Facebook updates? It's easy to get excited about new leads and sales from online marketing. Too often, though, business owners and novice marketers leave money on the table by failing to look deeper into their websites and marketing efforts.
In short, they fail to ask: "Am I honestly reaching my customers?"
You can find answers to this question with Google Analytics, a free service that offers near endless amounts of data about how people interact with your website. Follow the data, and you'll eventually learn what your customers really want. Then, and only then, will your business fully benefit from your website and marketing efforts. Here, we'll dig deeper into how Google Analytics can help you learn more about your customers.
Why Do People Visit Your Website?
You've probably heard the terms "advertising funnel" or "conversion funnel" thrown around. In marketing, "funnel" is the term that describes a consumer's journey toward becoming a customer.
It might begin with someone searching Google for cheap men's running shoes, then clicking a sponsored result from Nike and ordering shoes online. That said, funnels can also be more complex. The same person might see a blog post on Facebook written by a local running store. He then follows the blog and reads new posts over the next few weeks. Eventually, he clicks through to the running store's website from a link in the blog post, and he ends up buying a new set of trainers.
Without analytics data, that customer's motivations would likely remain a mystery.
Fortunately, Google Analytics lets marketers set Goals. The main purpose of Goals is to measure when website visitors perform desired objectives, such as making purchases or requesting more information. The trick is to look at this data in reverse - and this is easy with the Reverse Goal Path feature of Google Analytics. Did certain advertising funnels convert more significant numbers of visitors? And, if so, then what did those funnels have in common?
Likewise, you can look for broken funnels among visitors who failed to convert. Were most of them using mobile devices? If so, your customers might be more tech-savvy than you anticipated, and perhaps your website isn't properly optimized. Or did these visitors bounce after clicking on a research-oriented advertisement? If so, perhaps your customers crave more in-depth landing page content to help build trust with your brand.
Setting up Goals in Google Analytics is easy, and the insights you'll gain about your customers are invaluable.
Make Funnels Easier to See
Getting to know your customers with Google Analytics ultimately boils down to understanding funnels. If you can separate the data from one funnel to the next, you'll have an easier time understanding what motivates your customers (and how to entice them to make purchases).
To this end, Google Analytics features a custom URL builder that lets you track results from all of your marketing efforts. Every piece of your online marketing — we're talking individual blog posts, email blasts, banner ads, YouTube videos, Tweets, Facebook updates and more — should get its own URL. Do this, and you'll see exactly which marketing efforts most effectively accomplished your goals.
Same as before, you'll want to pay just as much attention to marketing efforts that failed. Compare under-performing blog posts, emails and social media updates with others that succeeded. Are there obvious differences? Was one post made on a weekend, and the other on a weekday? Did your buyer-oriented marketing outperform your research-oriented marketing, or vice-versa?
Small businesses can also use custom URLs to see how customers behave differently from around their service areas. If customers from an entire region don't seem to be converting, perhaps the problem is one of brand credibility rather than pricing or special offers.
The more you can parse your funnels, the more quickly you'll learn where your relationship with your customer base needs work.
Study the Competition
Always watch your competition. It's a universal truth whether we're talking sports, politics, board games or digital marketing.
Google Analytics makes it easy to see how people arrive on your website. If you advertise on Google's Display Network, then you could be getting traffic from all kinds of related blogs and websites. If you don't use AdWords, then you'll still be getting traffic from a wide range of Google searches.
Using Google Analytics, you can find the most common search terms and referrer websites that send you the most traffic. Search those terms in Google and examine the top-ranking ads and organic search results. Or, visit those referring websites and see what kind of content they offer (you can also look at other ads on these sites). Think about how you might incorporate the competition into your own marketing strategy.
It's possible to get positive ROI from your marketing and website without help from Google Analytics. That said, you're almost certainly cutting yourself short — really short — if you don't dig deeper into the data. And really, there's no reason not to. Google Analytics is free and easy to use, and the data is already being generated. Why not use it to your advantage?
Hoping that people find your website and make purchases isn't a winning strategy. You're far better off with a data-driven strategy that's built from your customers' needs and motivations. That's how Google Analytics can help.
Want more help with Google Analytics? Click here to grab a copy of our Ultimate Google Analytics Checklist.
Phil is Founder and COO of Main Street ROI. Phil leads the company’s operations and is primary creator of Main Street ROI’s marketing training programs. He is an expert in search engine marketing, website analytics, and sales funnel optimization. Phil’s marketing thought leadership has been published on Forbes.com, Inc.com, MSN.com, and many other major business media outlets.
Phil earned his Master of Engineering Management degree from Thayer School of Engineering and Tuck School of Business and his Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Engineering degrees from Dartmouth College. While attending Dartmouth, Phil started every game on the varsity football team as the defensive safety.