Recently, Google slipped a small change into its Google Analytics software without much fanfare, despite the fact that it will deliver richer and more accurate data about how visitors eventually arrive at your conversion points.
This data could have a dramatic and positive impact on your campaign strategy by allowing you to understand clearly how users arrived at the online destination you were funnelling them towards. To understand the changes and what they mean, let’s begin by looking at what has remained the same.
As before, a new visit begins when a visitor dawdles on your site for more than half an hour between page requests. For example, if the user is on your website, goes off to lunch and then requests another page on your site when he or she returns, this still counts as a new visit. The rule that a new visit gets issued at the end of the day also stands.
So what has changed? Now, a new visit will be issued if any traffic source value has changed. Bear in mind that Google analytics buckets traffic source data into three sections:
· Search engine traffic – organic and paid.
· Referring traffic – links on external sites that direct users to your site.
· Direct traffic –from bookmarks or a user directly typing in a URL into their browser
It’s easy to see that this slight change in definition could be very interesting to any marketer trying to track the impact of external campaigns across media such as newsletters, social media, banner ads, and paid search. This will not be of any use to you for tracking campaigns on your own website to promote other sections of your site.
What does this change mean in practice? Here is a simple example. A visitor arrives at your site from an organic search results page – so his or her session or visit starts and is assigned to the search/organic source. Browsing your website, the visitor sees a tweet from one of your staff promoting this month’s special.
The tweet URL has been tagged with campaign source information assigning it to Twitter. The user then clicks the tweet link and goes to the specials page on your site. This starts a new visit for that visitor – with Twitter accredited as the source for that visitors visit.
This is a truly exciting change that lets you begin to use Multi-Channel Funnels (or attribution modelling) to drive conversions. You can now see all the external touch points that visitors took to get to your conversion point. This leads into the next fantastic enhancement in Google Analytics, that is you can create your own channel grouping to use within the funnel reports. This is similar to creating custom visitor segments, only you are segmenting by source.
You could, for example group visitors from brand versus non-brand searches or from tweets by your staff and tweets by other Twitter users. There are surely countless other options.
These latest developments give you the perfect motivation to use campaign tracking for all external campaigns and newsletters. If all of this has not made you excited about switching over to the new version of Google Analytics and you’re running PPC, then maybe this will. You now have the power to link up multiple ad-word accounts to a single Analytics account yourself.
Michael Walker is Search & Analytics Director at Acceleration Media
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