In this installment of the Daily Golden Nugget I'm going to explain how to correctly set up your Google Analytics account structure to correctly track your marketing activity.
Almost as if they knew I was planning this topic for today, Morgan Stanley reported last week that that we would see the weakest Holiday Season since 2008. One of the reasons they cited in their report was that "increased promotional activity likely inhibits 2013 Holiday sales."
It seems like they are referring to the idea that too many promotions will cause people to buy less. Of course that almost seems like a paradox unless you are aware of all the consumer studies that measure choices vs. sales. This topic is widely explained in the book The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz.
What might cause this increased in promotional activity this year? Perhaps they are speculating that more businesses will expand their marketing into digital media. For your business you should take their projection as a warning to not overload your customers with too many sales or promotions. If you're like me, you've also read in the past that consumers hold out for the last few days because they want the best deals. An increase in promotions certainly will lead to that Paradox of Choice.
This year, don't inundate your customers with more than 1 email per week, or overload your Facebook or Google+ page with continual streams of promotions. Pick and choose them carefully, and make sure to track their effectiveness.
I said all that so I could finally say this: If you track your marketing you will know how to shift your strategies tomorrow, next month, and next year.
In the past I've mentioned that you should use bit.ly to create trackable URLs in your marketing, and how you can track different marketing channels with different domain names. All that tracking is fed into Google Analytics for your reporting.
But your Google Analytics (GA) reporting can be badly tainted and your reports could be erroneous if you don't set up your GA account correctly.
GA will track all your website visitors, including yourself and any agency you hire to manage your website and online activity unless you filter yourself out of the tracking. But before you dive into trying to set up filters, let me explain the overall method of how you should set up your Analytics account.
Analytics has a 3 tier structure for collecting and reporting on your data. The top tier is called the "Account," next is the "Property," and then the "View." If you used GA prior to September 2013 you might remember that the 3rd tier was called a "Profile." That was renamed when a bunch of new features were added at the same time.
Google Analytics Accounts
You can set up a different account for every business, or department in your business. Naturally, for retailers you would only need to set up a single account.
Google Analytics Property
Within your account you would set up 1 property to track every website you own. Let me be clear and say that I am referring to a "website," not a "domain name." You can have many domain names pointing to the same website. You would also use a different property to track your mobile apps.
Google Analytics Views
Within each property you can then split up your tracking data up to see different types of reports and group your tracking data however it makes sense for your business. Any filter you create, like filtering yourself out that I mentioned above, would be created at this "views" level.
(For a more in depth explanation of GA account structure click here.)
This is where things start getting interesting, especially if you've been using Analytics for a while with a single View (or Profile).
Everyone reading this should have several different views for their website. You could use one view to track all your data, another view to filter your own activity out, and another view to use for testing. Google recommends that you have at least these 3 views set up in your account, and it makes a lot of sense.
I'm not going to explain how to set up a GA View since those directions are here.
Every view you create starts out as a new snapshot of all your collected data until you apply some filters to it. Following along with the method of 3 views, you would keep one of your views as your raw data by not applying any filters to it.
Your 2nd view is what you will use to experiment with setting up filters. The directions for setting up filters are here. Every view you create should always include the filter for internal traffic before you apply any other filters.
Applying filters and views to your data makes reporting a whole lot easier. You could create a view with a filter to only show mobile traffic to your website, which I predict will be about 40% of your traffic for the 2013 Holidays. This mobile traffic view will let you see all mobile users very quickly instead of manually trying to split your reports between desktop and mobile.
Likewise, you could create a view with a filter to only show you desktop user traffic. If you actually split your desktop and mobile traffic you will start to learn a thing or two about why a real mobile website is important, rather than a responsive site.
Let me jump back the plethora of promotions that was mentioned above. With a little experimenting with your test view you should be able to figure out how to track all your advertising channels, including offline, to see how effective they are at bring people to your website. If you're not interested in experimenting then you will have to hire an agency to do this setup for you.
Your offline ads could include alternative domain names and your online ads could include shortened URLs using bit.ly. Each method you use could have its own view and filter, making it incredibly easy to see what marketing channels bring visitors and what they do once they get there.
You'll soon discover that some marketing, like email, drives visitor traffic very fast while you might not see any visitors from social networks or newspapers.
If you set this up now, by the end of the holiday season you will have a complete blueprint of how your different marketing channels work during your busy season. Use this blueprint throughout 2014 and for the Holiday 2014 season as well.