Google Analytics Part 2 – Social

Last time I talked about the structure of Google Analytics and how to set up a basic filter so that you are only seeing customer traffic . I had some good feedback from readers that gave me some ideas on where to go with this next post and felt there was a need to address the question, “what metrics should I be looking at”?

The answer is, whatever metrics are important to you. I come from a small town so the phrase, “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” is really relevant here. It’s a puzzle. The tough part is that it might change from week to week. Even day to day depending on your needs. I wish I had a magic bullet but if I did, let’s be honest, I wouldn’t be writing this. I’d be off gallivanting (yes, gallivanting) with my wife somewhere exotic with great food. Instead I get to play with numbers and weird codes all day. It’s fun, and I love it, but gallivanting it’s not, so I might as well make myself useful.

In lieu of giving you the answers and since it’s usually all about me I thought I would take a look at something that has been consuming a lot of my time lately; Social. Google has made it a lot easier to track your traffic with the implementation of their social reporting within the traffic sources report and there are other things you can be doing to really drill down into how to make your social program perform.

One thing to keep in mind as you parse through numbers is that when you set the date in the top right hand corner, it will not change no matter what reporting you are looking at. It’s easy to forget you were looking at last year’s numbers when you really want to be looking at the current numbers.

The social reporting is an entire set of reports on the left hand side of the standard reporting screen. Taking a look at the overview it gives us the top ten referring social networks. This includes the total number of visits from that channel as well as the % of the total referrals that channel garnered. In ours, almost exactly 75% of our traffic comes from Twitter or Facebook. Clicking into these channels provides us with a look into what pages that channel is actually driving traffic to.

You will also notice Hootsuite, which we use to manage a lot of our social channels and monitor trends. It’s a great tool for research and I recommend it. Let us know if you are interested in a Pro account which offers the ability to do a lot more things and gives you some flexibility.

The Sources report is very similar to the overview but provides a graph comparing overall site traffic vs. the social traffic.

The two most interesting and useful reports for me are the conversions reports and the social visitors flow report. Being able to set up goals (I’ll be covering goals in a later post) surrounding our social initiatives is very important from a ROI perspective. In this case, I’m not talking about dollars and cents but really just seeing how our social efforts are driving interaction on the site. Are people clicking into the link and immediately leaving (high bounce rate, low time on site)? Or are they progressing through various pages and (hopefully) filling out the form to get more information? This is a quick way to see how your work is progressing by using goals and seeing which ones are converting.

The final report, the social visitors flow report is really interesting to compare against referrals from non-social channels. Do people interact with your site differently entering in from an email newsletter than they do clicking in from a tweet? There isn’t any true site depth, it’s very superficial. It’s interesting to play around with the various paths your visitors take. In my experience tweets garner a higher bounce rate which makes sense if I consider how I use Twitter. Quick bites of information and then move on.

In my mind the social reporting doesn’t take the place of conventional google link tagging. Being able to see WHICH posts garnered traffic is important for content review. WHY did that specific tweet or post garner so much traffic? If we aren’t refining our process we aren’t learning and we aren’t improving.

How about you? Do you use the social reporting feature? Are you even active in the social space? What’s your thoughts on their usefulness? Feel free to comment or hit me back on twitter @eroi or @ep_analysis with your reply’s.

Next up, creating a tagging structure that makes sense and produces results.

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