One of the big advantages of online marketing is that we can track customer behavior much better than other types of marketing. A newspaper can tell you how many issues they print and how many subscribers they have, but not how many people actually saw your ad, or even the page it was on. They have no idea how many people read that ad, let alone how many cut it out and saved it. TV stations have no idea how many people saw your commercial. When they give you circulation numbers, they’re basing the numbers on very thin data, and those numbers are based entirely on how many people they think watched the program your commercial is associated with. The chances that those flimsily-calculated people got up and left the room while your commercial was on are huge.
Online marketing is much more trackable. Tracking events is built into online marketing in a way that is impossible for offline marketing. We can tell how many people clicked on that ad, how many people read that blog post, how many downloaded that white paper, and how many watched that video. We can tell how these people found you, where they came from, and what they did while they were at your website.
Much of this information is available right in your Google Analytics. The screen below shows us, among other things, that computers in the office of the President of the United States visited this website 38 times in June, mostly on a single day, that 14 separate computers made those visits, that they spent an average of 9 seconds on the pages, and that none of the visitors saw only one page before leaving.
No way can you get that data from a magazine.
But some of the actions people take online cannot be tracked automatically. Some cannot be tracked at all. For example, we can guess from the average visit length of nine seconds that the people using the computers in the president’s office were skimming through the web pages they visited, but we don’t know whether they laughed, shouted at their neighbors to check out the page they were looking at, or printed a page out for future reading.
In between the things we can see easily in Google Analytics and the things that can’t be tracked at all are things that can be tracked in other ways, either by adjusting our website and analytics to communicate in customized ways or by looking elsewhere and using other tools. Tracking events like shopping at a store can be practical with some advanced development and special hardware or software, but tracking events that take place online can usually be done without too much of an investment.
Here are some other places where you might find information you can’t track in Google Analytics:
- The admin area of your website. You may have Jetpack tracking clicks on links at your website or Event Manager tracking ticket sales or Forms tracking people’s actions that involve filling out a form. If you’ve set up tools at your website that track actions, you can usually look at those actions right from your dashboard. For example, we can track downloads of our whitepapers in the Forms area of our website by looking at the Data report for each title:
- Your ad reports. For example, we can see in the Adwords report below exactly how many times an ad was presented, where on the page it was presented, how many people clicked through, and what it cost. We can then go to Google Analytics and see that 23 of the visitors from this ad during this time period contacted us via the contact form, and use a dedicated phone number to track the ones who contacted us via phone. By connecting our Adwords and Google Analytics accounts, we can get a very good image of how our ads are performing.
- Other web tools. For example, the screenshot below comes from a Context.ly daily report. We can see each day’s views for each blog post and the percentage for each post that scrolled all the way down to the bottom of the post. There are innumerable tools available that will track things for you and provide data; we review a new tool each Tuesday for Tool Tryout Tuesday, so this is a good place to look for such tools.
The only problem is that you then have multiple sources of data to keep track of, and it can be difficult to connect data from different sources. For example, our Context.ly report tells us how many visitors scrolled all the way through a post, but it won’t let us check whether people who came via social media are less likely to scroll than those who came via search.
You can set up tracking at your website to get more data directly into Google Analytics, where you can use it along with the rest of the data you’ve collected.
One way to do this is simply by adding event tracking code directly to your site’s pages. You can use the Google Analytics Event Tracking Code configuring tool for this purpose. Fill out a simple form and it will generate a tag — a snippet of code giving extra information to Google Analytics — which you can add to any link. Google Analytics will then track people’s clicking on the link as an event, and you can set it up as a goal in your analytics as well.
Suppose you want to track an event that is not a link, or you want to do something fancier with the links you’re tracking. You can use Google’s Tag Manager to collect all the data. Set up an account, create a Container for your tags, and place the Container in your website. Now you can create tags for many different kinds of events without having to add any more code to your website. This can be a help if you don’t have access, or if you have to pay for every change at your website. It’s also a good way to keep track of all your tags in one place.
Once you’ve tagged actions on your website as events, you can see them in the Events reports in Google Analytics. There is an Events report in the Behavior section and one in the Real Time section.