March 27, 2014

4 Ways to Get the Most Out of Google Analytics

Posted by Janna Leyde Category IconConversions & UX Category IconTechnology

Welcome to the most widely-used website statistics service, Google Analytics, where Google will help any company track its web visitors in myriad ways. Google Analytics provides all kinds of performance metrics — number of visitors to a website, source of referrals, advertising campaign effectiveness, key word conversion, URL mentions, and so on and on. Sure, all of this information can aid an online businesses in creating strategies to increase ROI and strengthen the company-to-consumer relationship, but the key is knowing how to interpret the droves of data from Google Analytics. Data is relative: blogs want more mentions; NPR wants more video views; e-commerce companies want more sales. It’s easy to become inundated with the metrics, so keep it simple and track the numbers that show which actions produce and prevent sales.

Check out these four real-time success stories — ahem, Google Analytics case studies — that illustrate how companies have successfully collected visitor information, analyzed data, and increased online sales. Take note: It’s all about knowing what questions to ask the Google Analytics elves. Not set up with GA yet? Go here for the how-to..

1. Campaign Tags: Where do customers come from?

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts’ Director of Analytics and Search Optimization, Barbara Pezzi, wanted to measure which tweets were most effective and led to the most conversions. Visitors from Twitter’s web interface typically show up as “referral traffic;” however, many Twitter users do not actually come from Many land on the Fairmont page via mobile tweets, various desktop clients, or a link shared by SMS. Pezzi added the Campaign Tagging tool to each tweet, a feature that differentiates between organic tweets (@SuzyQ: Loved my stay at #thefairmont! back in April for work!) and campaign generated tweets (@FairmontHotels: Fill in the blank: The best vacation I ever took was to ______ because ______). Campaign tags provide tracking parameters that contain a unique identifier for each particular Twitter post, which allows a company to measure the success of its own campaigns and activities versus what @SuzyQ has to say.

“Just by adding campaign parameters, we are now able to understand how many clicks are coming from Twitter beyond those from Twitter’s web interface, and we can measure user behavior and conversion data,” said Pezzi. “Since we use the same naming convention for all our social media posts, we can easily monitor the aggregate growth and traffic patterns of our social media efforts by viewing our traffic sources by medium.”

2. Advanced Segments: What region buys the most?

PUMA, an apparel company that sells sports gear across the globe, wanted to know more about sales and website interaction throughout different countries. The company used Google Analytic’s Advanced Segments tool (along with some help from Viget Labs) to customize filters and isolate users by geographic region. Advanced Segments allowed the company to see both a holistic view of and a targeted view of each PUMA category site (running, golf, football, soccer, etcetera). The company was then able to create strategies to improve brand content (videos, photos, links and other rich content), which ultimately doubled the amount of time visitors spent perusing, resulting in a 47 percent increase in traffic from China and India. PUMA was also able to test different versions of its homepage website header and found that one particular design increased online orders by 7.1 percent.

“Google Analytics lets us help our customers,” said Jay Basnight, PUMA’s Head of Digital Strategy. “It’s great being able to make on-the-fly calculations with Advanced Segments. They let us get fast answers to almost any question that comes up.”

3. Advanced Segments: Which customers abandon cart?

La Tienda, a Spanish purveyor of fine foods and wines, sells to customers in the United States, Europe, and Canada. Much of La Tienda’s e-commerce success depends on its ability to ship products in excellent condition across miles (they will refund and return if the product arrives in less-then-excellent conditions). Another fan of the Advanced Segments tool, La Tienda used Google Analytics to separate visitors in Region A (easy to ship to) from visitors in Region B (not so easy to ship to) to determine if shipping method was a factor in shopping cart abandonment. Sure enough, visitors from Region B were found to be 48 percent less likely to purchase, due to raised shipping costs. Therefore, was able to try out a less expensive, flat rate shipping model on Region B and watched conversions rise nearly 70 percent. Double-checking its hypothesis, the company tried the same offering for Region A customers and only saw a 3.4 percent increase in shopping cart fulfillment.

“For several years we were paying thousands and thousands of dollars for a complex analytics program that never quite gave us what we needed,” said Tim Harris, CEO of “With Google Analytics, we were able to access the data that we needed to run, for free, and have it presented to us in an approachable format that gave us actionable data.”

4. Custom Frameworks: Which campaigns generate sales?

Ariat, a leading seller of equestrian footwear and apparel, was ready to create a new website, but first wanted to measure the effectiveness of current promotional features and digital marketing channels. Enter Google Analytics (and SwellPath, a digital marketing agency). The two efforts combined helped create a customized analytical framework to track the effectiveness of its internal promotions, digital marketing initiatives, email sign ups, and social media buttons. With this data,’s merchandising promotions on the home page were optimized based on measurable insights, and over the next year the conversion rate for promotion interaction rose 80 percent. continued to use these customized analytics, which rewarded the company with a 17 percent year-over-year increase in per-visit value.

“SwellPath and Google Analytics have played an integral part in our e-commerce success,” said Holly Dresden, Director of “Google Analytics provides a tool for in-depth analysis of all marketing channels.”

Although the winning GA tool seems to be Advanced Segments, here are three other fine-tuning aids in interpreting e-commerce metrics:

- Use Traffic Sources to learn the effectiveness of referrals, campaigns, pay-per-clicks, direct traffic, organic traffic and SE0 on sales.

- Use Social Reports to learn the impact that social media campaigns and integrated web offers have on the website content and its community.

- Use Map Overlay to learn where in the world — continent, country, city — to find out what city is generating the most sales.