If we only had 9 minutes to talk about Google Analytics, DistilledLive video discussion

The new Analytics module has just gone live over in DistilledU so what better way to celebrate than with a free DistilledLive video on the very same topic! This week, London consultants Dave Sottimano and Paddy Moogan [there is only one] take you through the topic in lightening speed; 9 minutes, to be precise.

In this video, Dave and Paddy will talk you through some recommended tools for small businesses as well as other areas that can be tracked using the tool.

You can read the full transcript for the video, below.

Are you using any custom dashboards that are working well? What channels are sending conversions to your site? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

DistilledLive | If I only had 9 minutes to talk to you about Google Analytics

Dave: Hi folks, welcome to another edition of Distilled Live. I'm Dave, and this is one, the only Paddy Moogan, and we're going to be talking to you about Google Analytics today. Is that right?

Paddy: Yeah, we're going to be talking about the basics of Google Analytics, getting everything set up and working correctly. Then we're going to talk a little bit about what Analytics is useful for outside of SEO.

Dave:  Okay. So we're going to be talking from an agency perspective here, but I also give advice to a lot of small business owners and personal bloggers. In terms of setting up a new blog or website in 2013 and using an analytics platform like Google Analytics, the number one thing I can tell you is to migrate to Google Tag Manager. So traditionally we would paste some JavaScript code in the header of every single page. But now we've got something a little bit better, which is the Tag Manager. It's essentially, think of it like a little box that sits on every single page that you can fill in without the need of a developer. So you don't actually have to touch any code. This is great for small/medium businesses as well because you don't have to affect the development queue. So you can make any necessary changes to your analytics code and also implement different code, like tracking codes for conversion rate optimisation, without having to talk to a developer.

The next thing that we do is dashboards. Of course, if you're starting out brand new, you're not going to have any kind of analytics. You're not going to have any kind of data. But dashboards are essential. It's really easy to get lost in analytics reports, mainly because there are so many numbers flying at you. What you really need is a quick way of saying, "Hey, this is exactly what I need."

So Econsultancy put out a great round of dashboards that I suggest you take a look at, and one of my favourites is something from Dashboard Junkie. It's a personal blogging dashboard. One thing that I love is basically it tells you which of your posts are getting the most amount of unique visitors – especially from search, it really is important for us to notice that – and which ones are getting the most amount of links. So this is kind of the opportunity finding. If you know a post has done very well, you look at what are the mechanics behind that post. Did you tweet it out? Did somebody else tweet it out? Does it have video on it? Try to replicate that and try to get more organic search traffic.

Paddy: And you can also see if a post has sent conversions, right? You can see whether or not that guest post or that link is sending real customers. If it is, then you should be investing more in that kind of traffic and those types of links.

Dave:  Exactly, that's why I love dashboards. The next thing I love is alerts because sometimes I can't monitor every single client or every single part of my website. So alerts are a funny one. We can set up common alerts to see if maybe analytics tracking is down. So a typical setup would be if more than 80% of traffic has dropped, you probably know the analytics platform is having some kind of problems. But let's look at more regular report or a regular alert, that's something I use. I like to know per folder level what's happening. So I can say that maybe organic traffic has dropped 30% week over week, but for the entire site it's kind of ambiguous. What I really need to know is this specific folder dropped 30%. So that way I know which one to investigate. So one thing you can do is set up a custom report, a page path level, and then set up a custom alert based on that to say, "Look, this local folder or this city folder has dropped by 30% organic. Go and check it." It's a quick email.

Paddy: And also as well, that's not just for ranking drops or penalties and things like that, but also just if the code for analytics gets broken. Sometimes developers will change the code, and it will get broken and no data is coming through to your dashboard whatsoever. Sometimes you're not checking every single day, and you might lose a few day's worth of data or maybe even a couple of weeks of data whereas setting up alerts, like Dave was saying, will give you those alerts if the tracking code is broken and you're not getting any data whatsoever.

Dave: It's also good for rewarding people. Maybe one of your authors or somebody in the company did a really good blog post and you're getting a whole bunch of traffic. Maybe you want to go out and buy them a beer, you never know.

The last thing we want to talk to you about, which is the cool part of Google Analytics, is the fact that they've got an API that is fully functioning. It's available even in Google Docs now. So there's a great script called the GA magic script, that I use a lot. The reason why I use this is because I can pull in whatever data I want from the Google Analytics API, and I can do what I do in Excel. So I perform my calculations, and because Google Docs is so versatile and I can use JavaScript, I can get Google Analytics and Google Docs to actually email me when something is going wrong on a daily basis.

Paddy: If you're at that level of having some developer resource or knowing how to code yourself, the GA API is pretty easy to use once you get into it, and there's so many plugins already out there for Google Docs that you can just plug in and start getting go straightaway.

Moving on slightly to kind of what else you can use Analytics for, something which I have noticed the last couple years is more of a trend towards the fuller marketing picture for SEO. So not just worrying about just keywords or just rankings, but also being able to spot other opportunities for making money for clients, and Analytics gives you so much data that you can't ignore that data even if you're just an SEO. You should also be looking to get data from paid search, which of our keywords are working, which ones aren't working, and feeding that into your SEO campaign, and also seeing where opportunities for more traffic lie. So Google Analytics gives us social traffic sources now so you can see where opportunities are for more work on social. If your client is in an industry where there's lots of people active on things like Twitter and Facebook, they should be trying to get as much traffic as they possibly can from those channels. So use Analytics to see what they're getting right now, and there might be a good opportunity there for them to get more.

And also if your clients are focused a lot on traffic and rankings, make sure that you're also make them realise the value of conversion optimisation, because they can be getting tons and tons of traffic, but their conversion rating is 0.1%. Then they're not getting as much value from that traffic as they could be. So you might want to say to them, "Actually, let's work on the site itself and user experience and improve that to get better return, rather than just worrying about traffic all of the time."

Also don't think that Google Analytics is everything. There are so many other platforms out there that you can use, even in things like social. So you've got Followerwonk that gives you a bunch of social analytics. You've got YouTube analytics for videos. You've got companies like Wistia who offer great analytics for their videos as well. And you've got things like YouTube that will tell you exactly which videos are working best, which ones people don't watch all the way through, which ones people engage with. So if you're doing any kind of video marketing, definitely use the right sort of analytics because Google Analytics at the moment won't quite give you that. So don't ignore these other platforms that are out there that you can use.

Dave: Actually, just a quick point on the rankings, a lot of people are still focused on rankings, and of course we've got the problem of not provided. We've actually done some studies on Webmaster Tools data, and in the past it's been kind of off and we know that, right? We'd get a 20%, 30% variance in some of the statistics. But if you filter properly, you should be able to get a decent grasp of what you're ranking for in Webmaster Tools. We know it's not the best, but it's a very, very good indicator. So just stepping back a second in your setup, one of the things you should be doing with any analytics account or any client is making sure that Webmaster Tools is set up, enabled, and connected to Google Analytics.

Paddy:  Yeah, and I guess the important thing about rankings is even though you can struggle to get exact rankings, just being able to spot the trends and seeing groups of keywords that are ranking very well, groups of keywords that aren't, that's still really valuable even if you've not got the exact rankings for every keyword. So look at the overall trends and make your judgments and analysis from that and then take action from whatever you're seeing in the data.

Dave: So that's a good point. That's actually really interesting, because some people say, "What do I write about," in looking for content ideas. If you start writing about certain content and you go into Webmaster Tools and you see that post is ranking for a bunch of different keywords, that's actually a really good suggestion. So you know what, I'm showing up. I've got a thousand impressions for this keyword, and I was like I never through I'd be ranking for brown leather shoes. I talked about what are the hottest shoe trends in 2013, and suddenly I'm ranking for this. Maybe I should go ahead and write a post about brown leather shoes too.

Paddy: Yeah, and you don't need the exact rankings to be able to take those kind of insights. You just need the rough idea.

Dave: Exactly. great.

Paddy: Cool. Well, thanks a lot for joining us on Distilled Live. We're going to put out some links hopefully at the bottom of the video in the blog posts so you can get more information, and thanks very much.

Dave: All right guys. Take care.

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