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Converting Data Into Actionable Insights: Is Google Analytics Enough?

Data-driven marketing is the new normal. But do you know how to convert insights into actions that further your business goals? Image by

In a digital world, marketing relies heavily on data-driven research. But as much as we hear about data collection, many business owners don't know how to turn data into actionable insights that inform stakeholders' decisions. Keep in mind that the metrics you track should directly correlate to your business objectives. There are so many analytics and attribution tools on the market that it's tempting to choose one that looks great on paper. However, insights that aren't aligned with your business objectives are virtually pointless. So before you decide which tools best serve your purpose, be specific about what your purpose is.

Google Analytics: Strengths and Limitations

With so many options suddenly accessible, a lot of businesses have understandably defaulted to Google Analytics. Don't get us wrong- Google Analytics is an excellent tool with a lot of useful resources for capturing, measuring, and analyzing actionable data. When W3Techs analyzed websites to discover which analytic tool they used, they found that 86% used Google Analytics. Essentially, the tool works by adding a small amount of code to the code on your website, allowing you to track your website. It shows you specifically how users engage with your pages, providing details like time spent on each page, total number of users and sessions, bounce rate, page paths, and more.

That said, this wealth of information is general. It doesn't track any personally identifiable information on website users, so it doesn't tell you how specific users are engaging and converting. In other words, you won't know who is clicking on your page and moving on, and who is staying for longer periods of time and engaging with multiple pages. Therefore, Google Analytics doesn't necessarily provide the information necessary to target and convert niche customers.

Tracking conversions is generally difficult via Google Analytics. Yes, it can tell you that someone engaged with your website and how they arrived at it. For example, it can tell you whether a visitor arrived at your website via an organic search or an ad. However, let's say a visitor engages with a sales rep on your website, and requests information about a product. After reviewing the information, this visitor calls your site and converts to a customer. While Google Analytics will allow you to access a record of the customer's conversation in the live chat analytics session, there's no way to know what the referring channel was. There's also no real way to know where the visitor first heard about your business. This kind of highly specific information is virtually impossible to track without a designated tool.

Google Analytics and Facebook Are Generally Incompatible

Facebook and Google Analytics data not matching up? Here are some likely reasons why. Image by

Another potential problem involves Facebook ads. Marketers have notoriously struggled to match Facebook conversion and click metrics against data in Google Analytics. This is partly because they track performance in vastly different ways. One of the biggest discrepancies is that the number of click-throughs on Facebook doesn't match the number of sessions shown by Google Analytics. This is partly because Google Analytics will only measure a session after a visitor has clicked on an ad and landed on your website. However, Facebook will track any click-generated engagement, whether it's a like, share, or comment.

Also,if a user clicks on a link twice in a half-hour session, Facebook will report this as two separate clicks. Therefore, you may think that two separate visitors have clicked on the link rather than one user doing so multiple times. It's not uncommon for a user to visit a link more than once during the same session- especially if they are doing some online shopping or exploring multiple pages at once.

Facebook also doesn't require cookies to track clicks on an ad. But Google Analytics can't track the activity of users that don't accept cookies or have JavaScript disabled. Facebook has reported that more than 56% of conversions start on one device and are continued on another. For this reason and others mentioned above, it's likely that Facebook will record a significant amount activity that Google Analytics will not.

Another important distinction between the two: Even if no clicks transpired, Facebook will record ads that visitors have viewed or engaged with. Therefore, even if a visitor viewed an ad without clicking on an associated link, then later visited your website to make a purchase, Facebook will attribute the conversion to the ad. Google Analytics, however, credits only the last click for a conversion. So no matter what pages or ads a customer has interacted with, Google with attribute all sales and conversion to the very last link the user clicked on.

First-click vs. Last-click Attribution: Why It Matters

The process we just described is called last-click attribution, and it's the standard for Google Analytics. But there's also something called first-click attribution, and it works in the exact opposite way. With tools that use first-click attribution, all credit for a conversion goes to the first click. This method works well for businesses that are focused on brand awareness. First-click attribution tells you which marketing strategies are kick-starting customer conversions.

So what's the solution? While it may sound like we're recommending bypassing Google Analytics, that's not the case. As we mentioned before, it provides a foundation of information that most marketers need. It tells you how much time visitors spend on your page, which associated pages they click on, bounce rate, and total traffic and sessions on your website. That said, many marketers supplement Google Analytics with other marketing attribution tools.

Marketing attribution tools work by tracking marketing touchpoints that a user interacts with. These touchpoints influence their buyer behavior and decision-making. Did you know that 52% of companies have reported that they have sales cycles lasting up to three months? An additional 19% have cycles that last up to four months. With so much digital content available to users, tracking touchpoints is essential if you want to know what factors drive customer conversions.

Some examples of touchpoints include social media posts, ads, landing pages, customer reviews, blogs, and email newsletters. Marketing journeys can span from one touchpoint to hundreds. The Rain Group found that it takes about eight touchpoints to obtain a meeting with a prospective customer.

Tracking the Three Stages of the Buyer's Journey

Each stage of the buyer's journey contains touchpoints that can advance a sale- if you know how to track them. Image by

Essentially, you want to be able to track the three key stages of the buyer's journey. With attribution tools like Ruler, you can track marketing touchpoints in a more detailed way than you can with Google Analytics. The first step in a buyer's or marketing journey is known as the awareness stage. During this stage, the potential customer is looking for a solution to a problem. In their research, they may stumble across your brand via an ad, social media, or other channel.

Once they observe your product as a possible solution to their problem, they enter the consideration stage. Usually, the potential buyer is weighing your product or service against several other options. This is where they research how your product works and what makes it better (or worse) than the competition.

The final stage is the decision-making phase. This is where the user either decides to become a customer or doesn't by making a purchase. Attribution tools tell you which marketing touchpoints seemingly influenced the decision to make a purchase, thereby becoming a customer.

So for example, let's suppose that a user is looking for a product or company to help solve a technical problem they are encountering at work. Upon researching the problem, this user is targeted by an ad for a company offering a valid solution to the problem. This represents the first touchpoint, which is often not ultimately responsible for conversions, but influences the by initiating brand awareness. Now that this theoretical user has viewed this ad, they may be targeted by another one for the same company- this time via Facebook. Still in the research stage, let's say this user browses the ad but still doesn't make a purchase.

During this phase, known as the consideration stage, the user is probably researching several other companies to make the best possible choice. Returning to your website via an organic search, the user now books a product demo and converts to a customer. By tracking all of these marketing touchpoints, you get more information than last-click or first-click attribution provides. You learn which touchpoints may have influenced brand awareness as well as how the user went about making a purchase and becoming a customer. And the user becomes a documented sales lead.

Tracking leads to their source is vital in a digitally saturated market, but it can be tricky. Ruler Analytics asked businesses what they find most challenging about marketing, and 37% said that generating high-quality leads was one of their biggest struggles. And 97% of marketers consider lead generation their most important objective!

What do you need to accurately track the buyer's journey and optimize insights into actions? Essentially, you need to be able to view both individual leads and customers' complete marketing journeys. With attribution tools like Ruler Analytics and others, you can get a full picture of how campaigns, channels, and keywords drive clicks, leads, and sales.

Additional Solutions and Support

In addition to attribution tools, you may want to invest in call tracking. Call tracking uses dynamic numbers on your website. Basically, each visitor is assigned a tracking number. If they call, you can easily track where they came from. With call tracking, you can also play back specific calls in order to identify training opportunities to help your sales reps upsell.

With an optimum tool like Ruler Analytics, all data associated with a conversion will be sent to your CRM or wherever you store your leads. At the exact point of a sale, the tool should gather revenue data assigned to that user and trace it back to the marketing channel and campaign that influenced it. This way, you know what's working for you- and what's not.

If you're working with Google Analytics without an attribution tool, you can use UTM tags to work around limitations. UTM tags are bits of code you can add to the end of your URL to track channel and campaign success you would not be able to otherwise using Google Analytics.

Of course, you always have the option of asking leads directly. Surveys with open-ended, targeted questions are a must to build personal, long-lasting relationships with customers. Analytics are never meant to replace this kind of communication and personal interaction with your customer base. However, there are a few reasons why survey questions alone don't yield the kind of specific information you need regarding leads and conversions.

For one thing, some customers flat-out ignore survey questions- especially open-ended ones that take a little bit of time and consideration to answer. And when they do answer, the responses may not be accurate. For example, it's easy for a customer to answer that they found your brand on Google, when they actually clicked on an ad while perusing Google. Online shoppers are often busy, inundated with digital information, and simply not invested in tracking their own buyer's journey down to the details.

Some companies also track leads by hiding form fields on their form submission boxes. Of course, this tactic is only used to track forms, and cannot attribute any other entry forms. How it works: You can add hidden form fields to a channel-specific landing page or in combination with UTM tags. This way, when a new user fills out the form, the hidden field will fill in to add in their lead source.

Last but certainly not least, promo codes are an excellent way to convert customers- but they're also ideal for tracking purposes. By adding a promo code, you can see which purchases were influenced by your campaign. However, these codes don't yield specific information about where a lead derived from. This is especially true if you're using the same promo code across channels, which is usually how they work. If you only use the code on one channel, such as Facebook, the promos are more traceable- but they also have limited reach, so should be used in combination with other tools.

In Conclusion

Converting data into actionable insights can be tricky. But with the right tools and know-how, doing so can be a boon to your business. Remember, the only metrics worth investing in are those that can help you reach your business goals. Every company's objectives are different and continually evolving. So before you decide how you're going to use and/or supplement your attribution tools, make sure those goals are concrete and tangible. Then use this guide to choose the tools that will be most beneficial to your business.


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