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Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics – Part 2

by James Councill:
GA screen 1In Part 1 of the Beginners Guide to Google Analytics (GA), we reviewed what GA is and some very basic terminology and metrics you should review on a regular basis to evaluate your website’s (or app’s) performance. In Part 2, we are going to look deeper into the Audience and Acquisition sections of GA to find out more about your website’s users, as well as how they are navigating to your website.

We started in the Audience Tab, looking at how many sessions your website has during a given time period.

Tracking this consistently every month will help you evaluate your marketing success or lack thereof. However, there are some subsections of the Audience Tab that can provide you with some invaluable information to help you understand your audience, who/where they are, and how to best reach them. Without detailing every subset, let’s look at some of the most used and valuable information that can be deduced from these reports.

  • Demographics – What age and gender are the users who are visiting your website?
  • Interests – What are users interested in, and what affinity categories and market segments do they fall into?
  • Geo – Where are users geographically located and what language do they speak?
  • Behavior – New (first-time) users versus returning users, how are they engaging your website?
  • Technology – what browsers and networks?
  • Mobile – what devices are being used to access your website?
  • Benchmarking – how your sites statistics compare to other aggregated industry data?

How is all of this information useful? Well, knowing your customer is key to your marketing strategy. The market segmentation statistics provide you with user profile(s). Knowing where your customers are, what language they speak, the technology they use, their demographic and affinity profiles also allow you to put together targeted ads. For example, if you want to run some ads for your website, you may want to target those ads based on the information provided above, or you may realize that you need to target your ads elsewhere to break into a new market segment. Either way, this information provided by GA about your audience gives you the knowledge to make these well-informed decisions.

GA screen 1The Audience Tab gives detailed insights into your website audience, but you also need to know where these users are coming from and how they are reaching your website? In Part 1 of this article, we overviewed the Acquisition Tab, its terminology and how it provides you with this information through defined presets of channels, sources, and mediums. Like the Audience Tab, there is the Overview report, and a few subsections that breakdown your website’s user acquisition into more detailed reports. There are however, certain sections that do not apply to everyone. Adwords only applies if you are running paid ads through Google Adwords, and if you have both of these apps connected (highly recommended by the way). Most other subsections apply to all websites, with the exception of Paid Keywords and Cost Analysis, which are again reserved for paid advertising. Let’s take a look at the most commonly used subsections:

  • All Traffic – All Traffic tells you how someone discovered your site. It includes everything – from someone typing your URL into their browser, as well as search engine result pages (SERPs), email, social networks, or referrals from other websites.
  • Search Engine Optimization – what queries and keywords are being searched to find your website, landing pages, and a geographical summary related to those queries as well.

The SEO reports provides the search queries and keywords that have resulted in a URL from your website showing up in a user’s search engine results, along with the impressions and clicks for that query. This provides you with valuable keyword research data that can be very useful for paid search campaigns and content optimization.

  • Social – provides social analytics.

On the surface, this subsection can tell you which social networks are providing you with the most website traffic. This alone is valuable, but it also “provides you with the tools to measure the impact of social. You can identify high value networks and content, track on-site and off-site user interaction with your content, and tie it all back to your bottom line revenue through goals and conversions.” – Google Anlaytics Help Forum. Goals and conversion go beyond the scope of this article, but as you become more proficient with GA , I encourage you to start looking into these concepts.

  • Campaigns – Campaign tracking is mainly for tracking paid advertising, but is also very practical for tracking un-paid or custom campaigns, such as email marketing or paid campaigns that are not Google Adwords. Through the process of URL tagging, you can designate certain parameters to URLs for the purpose of tracking that URL and the traffic it is responsible for.

For example, let’s say you want to run a banner ad on the local weather station’s website for your Open Water Scuba Diving Class. Earlier, we learned that you can look at your website’s traffic referrals to see how much traffic is coming from the local weather station’s website, but that doesn’t really tell you how your ad is performing – does it? By designating the URL for that ad with a campaign tag, you can find out exactly how many sessions or users came from that ad. Once we setup conversion tracking, we will then be able to tell if the money you are spending on the ad is generating enough revenue to cover the ad spend or ROI? This, again is getting into concepts that are beyond the scope of this article, but just something for you to be thinking of in advance. Stay tuned for more…


Are there other GA concepts that you would like help understanding? Are there questions about the concepts addressed or not addressed in this article? Please leave your comments below, and we will do our best to answer them.

Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics – Part 1

by James Councill:
What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics (GA) is a free resource that every dive shop website (or app) should be using. It not only tracks how many people visit your website, but it can track so much more than you probably ever want to know. GA can tell you where your traffic is coming from, what actions users are taking on your website, high and low traffic pages. It can also tell you immense amounts of information about the users coming to your website, for example: geographic location, age, gender, language, as well as what device and browser they are using.

Getting Started with Google Analytics
For the purposes of this article we are going to assume that you have access to a GA account that is tracking your website’s statistics correctly, but if you do not have GA installed on your website, you can ask your webmaster to install or you can follow this step by step guide provided by the Google Analytics Help Center.

time dropdownWhen you first access your GA account, you will be directed to a reporting dashboard with some general metrics for a given time period. This time period is generally set to the previous month, but can be changed to any time period you wish via the dropdown menu, located on the top right of the dashboard. Let’s review some of these key metrics that you should be monitoring from this dashboard.

Basic Metrics
Sessions are a key metric because they measure when someone visits your website. GA defines a session as a group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame. For example a single session can contain multiple screen or page views, events, social interactions, and ecommerce transactions. A Session is not to be confused with a hit. A hit is the most granular piece of data in analytics. Hits are triggered by page views, clicks, and just about any activity a user can do on your website or app. Now to complicate things further, let’s introduce the term user. A user is GA’s account of a person that visits your website or app. When someone comes to your site, GA gives them a unique identifier, and tracks them as they navigate throughout your site. This illustration demonstrates the hierarchy of the terms discussed. Tracking sessions is most common, but whatever you decide to track, just do it consistently.
users sessions hits

Your dashboard will also show you other helpful metrics such as, pageviews, bounce rate, new vs. returning visitors, along with some other demographic information. You can find more detailed information under the Audience tab, but let’s stick to the basics for now.

Acquisitions
Now that you are tracking visitors to your website, it is key to understand where this traffic is coming from. For this, let’s move to the Acquisitions Overview tab. Here we can see the top channels that all your sessions are arriving through, and what percentage of all sessions come from each channel. Google has defined a preset system of channels to group your website’s traffic into. These channels are: direct, organic search, referral, email, paid search, other advertising, social, and display. Most of these channels are self-explanatory, however, you can find definitions for each here.

channels

This information can be very useful, but with just a few extra clicks, you can drill down this information to get even more details. To do this, you want to change your primary dimension to Top Sources/Mediums, using the dropdown menu on the top left of your screen. See below.

sources mediums

This will then break down these channels into more specific traffic sources and mediums. For example, it will break down your social channel into specific social networks. There are ways to break down this information even further, as well as add secondary dimensions, but as stated earlier, we are just reviewing some of the basics for now.

Once you are familiar with the above metrics, and navigating through them in GA, that is when you can start studying the behavior of your website visitors. What pages are they entering and leaving your website through? Which pages are performing well? How long users are staying? What links, ads, or images are being clicked on? We will also need a basic understanding of engagement, affinity categories, and market segmentation. We will dive into some these concepts in the next article of this series.

Are there other GA concepts that you would like help understanding? Are there questions about the concepts addressed or not addressed in this article? Please leave your comments below, and we will do our best to answer them.

What the… Is a #Hashtag?

hashtag image
by James Councill:

At International Training we have some very accomplished, long-time dive industry professionals with years of diving experience. These same divers will be the first to tell you how the diving industry has changed dramatically over the last 25 years. Unfortunately, if you do not keep up with how an industry or any business for that matter is evolving – you will get left behind. It is the intent of this article to educate some of our more distinguished members about one of the new emerging trends in our ever-changing social media world.

The trend we are referring to is the hashtag (#). A hashtag is any word or phrase with the pound/number sign preceding it, for example, #scubadiving. For the purposes of this article, “hashtag” will be used as a noun and a verb (i.e. you can hashtag just about anything).

Hashtags can be used in a variety of ways, to accomplish many different things. One obvious result of using a hashtag is: it turns the word(s) or phrase into a clickable and searchable link. This was initially designed to provide a label or organizational category to social media content. So when we add #scubadiving to a post about the Best Places in the World to Scuba Dive, the post should appear along with any other posts/conversations with the same hashtag, #scubadiving.

So you might be asking yourself, why use a hashtag? It allows you to become part of a larger conversation about scuba diving as well as make your content searchable to others who may be interested in joining the same conversation. This is the very basic use of the hashtag, and it has evolved greatly over the years, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

First let’s review some #DOSandDONTS.

Don’t use spaces. There are no spaces in hashtags, for example, the correct way to hashtag scuba diving is #scubadiving. If you try to hashtag scuba diving like #scuba diving, then the social media platform you are using (Facebook, Twitter, etc…) will only recognize the #scuba.

Don’t use punctuation or special characters; this is a no-no.

Do use numbers and capital letters to help distinguish multiple words. Upper case letters will not affect your search results, #scubadiving and #ScubaDiving are viewed as the same thing.

Don’t use too many. How many hashtags should you use? There is no limit, but one to three is the general standard. People tend to get annoyed when you add 12 hashtags to your one sentence post.

The placement of hashtags is also something to consider. You can use hashtags to replace words within your post. For example, “Where are the best places in the world to #scubadive?” Or you can place the hashtag(s) after your post. For example, “Where are the best places in the world to scuba dive? #scubadive.”

As you start to get more comfortable with using and viewing hashtags, you will start to understand hashtags can have a more advanced usage, such as giving context or an understated tone to your content. For example, you can use hashtags to add humor: “Wearing socks with sandals is so stylish. #kidding.” Or to convey some added commentary: “I hate when people smoke cigarettes indoors. #annoying #rude.”

business hashtag exampleSometimes you may see hashtags that are very long, or extremely specific, and would probably not yield much in the way of search results. These hashtags are merely for entertainment, or even sometimes used to poke fun at the whole hashtag ideology, for example, #stuckatworkonasaturday or #Soooexcitedfortheworldcup. Businesses will sometimes use this strategy and create their own hashtags for branding purposes or to promote specific campaigns and events.

This covers the review of hashtag basics. We hope this article has shed some light on the daunting, somewhat incomprehensible world of social media. Whether you embrace the hashtag movement, or choose not to, hopefully this will help you better understand hashtags, how to use them to promote your business, and help you use them in such a way that will impress your customers, students, and fellow divers.