In the old days, when digital budgets were scarce because monks illustrated all websites by hand and embossed them with gold leaf, the tools were comparatively expensive for small companies to absorb and justify the costs. That’s no longer the case, of course. For this, Google deserves a ton of the credit. Since the launch of the free Google Analytics tools years ago, the company has done the most to democratize access to very high quality levels of web analytics data.
While there are obviously limitations and hindrances – yeah, the report scheduler and PDF exporter were sort of pokey to get released in the new version and the blocking of search terms for users logged into a Google account is a titanic pain — but the pure value possible with the free version of Google Analytics is off-the-charts ridiculous for the majority of companies.
Sure, if I’m Bank of America or Best Buy or Barnes & Noble, I need something more industrial and robust, but if I’m the Forklift Network or the Rochester Americans hockey team, or the state government of Kentucky, Google probably works out just fine, thank you very much.
And the fact of the matter is that there are a heck of a lot more Whitehall Lane Wineries and University of Tennessee Federal Credit Unions than there are Banks of America. Their marketing challenges are similar, their marketing departments are still tasked with helping acquire or retain customers, but just on a different scale.
What’s also beautiful is that Google Analytics improves all the time. The stream has been impressive in recent months, from the social reports, to flow visualizations, real-time rollouts, and the long-awaited inter-planetary reports, to the extent that it requires actual work to keep up.
However, while Google has done a masterful job of providing an easy-to-use suite of tools, the challenge for the marketer is still to dig deep and understand how best to use Google Analytics in the context of your marketing mission. It goes beyond the endless generation of spreadsheets with page view reports to being able to segment and interpret trends and apply the findings to the digital channels but in the full multichannel marketing universe.
Even out-of-the-box, GA is slick like anything, but with a little time spent understanding the types of customers you’re engaged with and what kinds of activities they undertake, relatively simple customizations can ratchet up the usefulness exponentially. With limited resources to devote, even time for staff resources can be a struggle in a smaller operation. The IT staff may ask, “Didn’t we already put Google on the site?” or a few extra agency hours could be required to load up some extra scripting. The return on the short amount of time invested (on top of a tool that is essentially free to begin with) in terms of conversion optimization and customer insights pays for itself in, almost literally, no time at all.
Taking control of how your company treats customers online, carving the time, and applying – or seeking help to apply – analytical firepower is 90% of what’s required. No matter what the industry, forklifts to hockey to small banks to OEM widget makers, taking advantage of the ever-improving Google Analytics opens up a world of insights to tackle some of your biggest marketing headaches.