Advanced Google Analytics: Using Data to Drive Value

we haven't ruined marketing
advanced google analytics
Image courtesy of Adobe

There’s the famous quote from John Wanamaker that goes something like this:

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.

Today, we might lump all our marketing activities into the bucket, not just our advertising.

And, while that might have been true in Wanamaker’s day, that certainly isn’t the truth today. Instead, businesses are swimming in a pool filled to overflowing with data, but many have no clue what to do with it all — how to derive actionable insights from their data.

Or, firms get obsessed with vanity metrics, especially in social media where they’re overly concerned with Likes and Comments, that have little impact on the value created by marketing activities.

Transforming data into value

Sometimes we find ourselves measuring things that are easy to measure rather than those things that are IMPORTANT for adding value. Either the metrics we follow don’t impact value or the insights they generate aren’t actionable. Yet, the RIGHT metrics are there, it’s just a matter of teasing them out. That’s where Google Analytics comes in, especially advanced Google Analytics.

Before we dive into using advanced Google Analytics to derive value, let’s look at how that process starts far from your computer screen — with goals.

Never, let me repeat that, never head over to your Google Analytics dashboard without asking yourself the question:

What insights do I hope to achieve using Google Analytics?

Otherwise, you’ll spend hours trolling through the various metrics and their permutations looking for nirvana.

You’re not gonna find it.

Instead, start with a plan and ask yourself: “How does marketing create value in my organization?”

Although, ultimately, you’re interested in conversion — because that’s what fills the company bank accounts, the answer generally lies within the conversion funnel. content marketing plan
In other words, your marketing task is to bring people in — create awareness, drive them down the funnel, and get them to purchase your products. A single-minded focus on simply conversion ignores that very real fact that you have to prime the pump by bringing in new potential customers and reminding existing customers you exist, convincing them that you solve a problem they face (and do it better than everyone else), that your products provide superior value, that you have great prices and options for buying the product, then they will buy the product.

Google Analytics — funnel metrics

Occam’s Razor provides a different look to the conversion funnel, but it’s the same principle. The value of his take on the conversion funnel is that he provides metrics for evaluation across the various activities that drive prospective buyers toward conversion.

digital analytics
Image courtesy of Occam’s Razor

Embedded in this image is the notion that marketing activities (and content) vary as prospective buyers move closer to conversion. Using the wrong tactic based on the buyer’s stage is not only wasteful but might damage chances of conversion.

The metrics suggested in Occam’s Razor apply to your website, but you can determine similar metrics for other digital marketing campaigns.

Advanced Google Analytics

So, approach Google Analytics with a plan … a plan that provides insights that create value for the firm. Here’s a list to consider:

  1. Ecommerce metrics — conversion, average order size, high-converting landing pages, highly profitable products, as well as demographics and psychographics of your visitors
  2. Attribution modeling — what sources contributed to conversion, not just the first or last touch in the conversion process. Everybody helped in the conversion so we need to understand how each activity contributed in order to derive value from that activity.
  3. Event tracking — assesses both online and offline events that reflect value for the firm
  4. Content – which pieces of content led to a conversion

Ecommerce data – we need visitors who create value not more visitors

we haven't ruined marketing

Look at the graph to the left and you’ll notice I’ve plotted average order value by source, which shows the value of each marketing source. Simply looking at traffic source, which is where most firms evaluate which channels to invest in, would have missed this value.

Another interesting aspect we might consider is how this changes over time, so we could plot this on a timeline. That way, we can see if one (or more) channels are becoming more (or less) valuable for our firm. We might extend the trend line to extrapolate the value of the channel moving forward.

Attribution modeling

advanced google analytics
Image courtesy of Occam’s Razor

In this image, from Occam’s Razor, we find different pathways of channels to conversion. Most use multiple channels, and attribution modeling attempts to tease out the value each channel provides the firm rather than simply looking at the last channel involved in conversion. Such single channel models overestimate the impact of some channels while underestimating the impact of other channels in the conversion process, which leads to bad decision-making.

Attribution modeling often relies on more than advanced Google Analytics as visitors must identify themselves to allow tracking across multiple visits and multiple touchpoints.

Event tracking

Sometimes the actions leading to conversion don’t happen on your website. For instance, maybe you want buyers to download your app or set an appointment with a sales rep.

Event tracking lets you monitor these activities by counting the number of visitors who leave your page to accomplish these activities.

For event tracking to work, a firm needs to install a Javascript snippet to send a record of a click to Google Analytics. The code looks something like this:

function handleOutboundLinkClicks(event) {
  ga('send', 'event', {
    eventCategory: 'Outbound Link',
    eventAction: 'click',

This short snippet tells Google Analytics to could each click as an event called “outbound link”, and the firm can now track the event just like any e-commerce activity — monitor performance of the event across channels, demographic and psychographic characteristics of users, etc.


You need information about what content performs best, not just in terms of driving more visits to the site, but driving conversion. A more advanced feature of Google Analytics shows the funnel as this:

advanced google analytics
content funnel

We can set up a funnel like this with the channel as the starting point, rather than country, to see how the clickstream from some users might differ from those of other users.

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