By Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM, President & CEO of Rhino PR
Google Analytics is a free tool that collects data about a business’ website and online activities, and interprets that data to provide information about the business’ audiences, customers and website visitors. When AEC firms regularly use this data, they can better understand their clients’ preferences and interests, measure and track leads, and improve their marketing and PR to more effectively reach their ideal clients. While other analytics tools exist, Google Analytics is widely accepted as the market leader as it’s the ideal choice for firms that are just dipping their toes into the analytics waters.
What Can Google Analytics Do for AEC Firms?
While there are extensive layers to the data that Google Analytics can provide – data that can be explored as a user gains comfort using the tool – there are several basic and useful statistics that every AEC firm can benefit from. These are:
- Site visits
- Page views
- Bounce rate
- Average time on site
- Pages per visit
- Percentage of new visits (versus return visits from people who have visited your site in the past)
- Referral traffic: This identifies the websites that send visitors to your firm’s site, including search engines, websites and marketing campaigns (like banner advertising, email marketing and pay-per-click ads)
- Keywords report: The search engine terms that deliver traffic to your firm’s website
By tracking this data on a regular basis, firms will begin to see how marketing and PR activities affect the data over time, and eventually can use this information to increase website traffic, improve search engine rankings, understand where new project leads are coming from, and learn what kind of content is most useful to their target audiences.
Getting Started: How Do You Set Up Google Analytics?
If your website does not already have Google Analytics installed, it can easily be added to any existing site by inserting a short piece of HTML code (which is provided on the Google Analytics website) onto each website page. If you don’t have immediate access to the back end of your website to insert the tracking code, you should ask your website administrator to do it for you.
Once this code is applied, Google Analytics will begin tracking data on your website.
The Secret Sauce of Google Analytics: Automated Reporting
Once your account has been set up, you can identify what kinds of data reports will be most useful for your business. There are a wide variety of standard reports that users can have automatically emailed to them – on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Weekly reports typically offer the best view into changing data trends over time, without becoming overwhelmingly frequent.
When a firm is just starting out using Google Analytics, there are several basic, useful reports that will help track and manage marketing and PR efforts. These are:
- Visitor Overview: This provides a snapshot of your website, including total visits, unique visitors, pages per visit, average time on the site, and bounce rate. TIP: Watch your site’s visitor metrics for major dips and peaks, so you can identify the causes behind them.
- Sources: Where your website visitors are coming from (also called “referral traffic”). TIP: If there are websites or publications that are regular sources of new or return visitors, you may want to consider targeting those sites for more PR content or partnerships.
- Engagement: These statistics identify how well visitors are engaging with your website, and typically include bounce rate, average time on site, and average pages viewed per visit. TIP: The number of clicks and positions should be constantly going up.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Top Keywords: This identifies the words and phrases that search engines have associated with your content and used to find your site.
Make the Most of All That Data
To translate the details of website analytics into valuable business information that firm leadership will understand and care about, it can help to create a brief executive summary that identifies top level metrics, a few key data insights, and a quick analysis.
The specific data that is included will depend on the firm’s marketing and PR goals. For example, if the firm CEO has been trying to launch a new practice area to specialize in laboratory design, your Google Analytics executive summary may highlight the increase in laboratory design keywords that are driving traffic to your firm’s website, as well as the statistics from a recent email blast about how to design a cutting-edge academic lab environment.
Marketing and PR professionals can also use Google’s custom URL builder to add a tracking code to any URL, which can then be used to track the website traffic that results from a specific social media post, email campaign, online ad or article.
The Key to Quantifying Marketing and PR results
Google Analytics provides a powerful tool for quantifying how well a marketing campaign performed, identifying how to better reach potential clients and offer the information they truly want, and increasing engagement throughout the sales cycle. It brings AEC firms one step closer to determining ROI for marketing and PR activities.