How to conquer Google Analytics
 
How to conquer Google Analytics
03 MARCH 2014 7:22 AM

Google Analytics might not always be 100% reliable, but it does offer great insight about your website.


It can give us a headache, but we all know how important analytics are for judging the success of our websites. While there are paid analytics options out there, they tend to be expensive, so most utilize Google Analytics, which is free. 
 
As with all free products (and many paid) it’s not always 100% reliable, but it does offer great insight. When looking at Google Analytics data it’s important to focus on overall trends and less on super-specific numbers. Below are top things you should know in order to get the most from your Google Analytics account and start making informed decisions about your online presence. 
 
Cross-domain Tracking
If you use a booking engine that lives on a different domain than your main hotel site (for example, www.myhotel.com and www.mybookingengine.com), then you want to make sure you’re utilizing cross-domain tracking. This will allow you to get the complete picture of a customer’s booking experience by tracking him or her from your site across to another within analytics. While the process can be a bit tricky, especially with booking engines, taking the needed steps will open up a world of insight into your booking process.
 
Setup
Universal Analytics
Google is in the first phase of improving analytics data through the introduction of Universal Analytics. This new version provides better and easier tracking (especially if you need to use cross-domain tracking). Although Universal Analytics is in beta, you can opt in early. Note that this will require changing your current analytics code, including your event-tracking code. Also, there are some analytics features that will not work with Universal Analytics until the second phase is rolled out.

Google Tag Manager
Ever get tired of bugging your IT person to add or update tracking code on your site? If so, you’ll love Google Tag Manager. It allows you to place a single container code onto your website then set up different tracking tags within the platform. The interface is fairly easy to use, but it helps to have a general understanding of code when it comes to setting up event tracking.
 
Top analytics reports
Real-time reports: These are great to use to make sure your code is working (especially when you are changing it) as you can see people who are currently on your site.
 
Overview: This is a great spot to check in on the overall health of your site by giving you a quick snapshot of how many visitors you’ve had, pageviews, pages per visit, average visit duration, bounce rate and how many of your visits are new visits for a given timeframe. Knowing these metrics will give you great insight into how users are interacting with your site.
 
Geo: Wondering where all your visitors are coming from? The geo report will tell you. This report is especially helpful when you’re doing any geo-targeted marketing to see if your efforts are paying off. 
 
Mobile: As mobile continues to grow it’s important to see how those mobile users are interacting with your site. If you don’t have a mobile site, this report will give you great insight into why you needed to get mobile optimized as soon as possible. 
 
Overview: Looking for where all your traffic is coming from? The Overview report in analytics is fairly new and nicely groups traffic together by medium (direct, referral, organic), social, paid search, etc.
 
All traffic: If you’d like to dive deeper into any given traffic driver, you can use this report. It will not only tell you that your traffic is a referral, but will also tell you what specific site actually sent you the traffic. There are also individual reports for top mediums available in analytics as well if you’d like to go even deeper. 
 
Search engine optimization: Before you can use this report you’ll want to link your Google Analytics account to you Google Webmaster Tools account. Once that is done you’ll have access to valuable SEO data such as search queries that are driving traffic to your site (this can be helpful as “not provided” keyword data continues to grow) and top landing pages as reported by GWT.
 
Site Content>All Pages: If you’d like to know how each page on your site is performing, this report will give you a complete list. This report can also be handy in identifying any duplicate content issues that might be stemming from incorrect URL setup. 
 
Landing pages and exit pages: Top landing pages and exit pages on your site can help you determine which pages would benefit from additional optimization. Does one page have a high exit rate that doesn’t make sense? It might be a good idea to check it out to make sure there are no obvious issues that can easily be fixed. Or maybe you notice that a particular page just popped up in your top landing page report; this probably means that page is enjoying some higher rankings in search results. 
 
Goals > Overview: If you are tracking goals on your site—I suggest you do—this report will give a great overview of performance. You can look at overall stats or you can look at individual goal stats.
 
Funnel visualization: When you setup goals you’ll want to make sure you setup goal funnels. This report will provide good insight into where users might be dropping off before completing your goal. With this information you can further optimize the steps you take a user through. This is especially useful if you have control over your booking process and can make updates to make the purchase process easier.  
 
Brooke Snow joined the SEO world and Anvil Media, Inc. in 2010. As a digital strategist at Anvil, Brooke is responsible for the creation and execution of various client online marketing strategies, specializing in Local SEO as well as in various industry verticals including hospitality and education. As an alum of the University of Oregon School of Journalism with a major in Advertising, Brooke started her career at more traditional advertising agencies managing client work ranging from interactive web projects to print and collateral.
 
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