Analysis Paralysis: Using Google Analytics Data as Inspiration to Act Now

The best thing about Google Analytics is also the worst thing: there’s a massive amount of available data.

Why is that both good and bad?

You can use that data to improve and understand. Your traffic. Your audience behavior. Your goals. Your marketing. That’s good.

But because there’s just so much of it, it’s easy to get bogged down in just looking at it, swimming through it, and not actually making any decisions or doing anything beneficial. That’s bad.

And that’s analysis paralysis.

We’ve all been there: you’re so busy analyzing the data and considering all options that you never actually make a choice. Nothing happens. You’re afraid to make the wrong decision, or you’re overwhelmed with the sheer volume of the data itself and/or the directions you could take it.

In order to succeed, you have to break that cycle. And when it comes to Google Analytics, the only way to sidestep the analysis paralysis trap is to approach it with a concrete reason or plan.

You have to know what you’re doing before you dive into the deep end of the data pool.

Do that, and it can inspire you to action. Today. Right now, in fact. You just have to be proactive in your approach, and go in seeking answers to your already-established questions.

Google Analytics is a very good tool in your arsenal. Good…but not perfect. It does have its shortcomings. But that shouldn’t stop you from turning to it again and again.

Need some inspiration on how to be inspired by the data you’re collecting? I’m here to help. Break the analysis paralysis cycle with these five ideas.

Content Inspiration

If you’re doing any content marketing – and of course you are, because as you may have heard, content is king – then you need a steady stream of content ideas.

And that can be tricky. Coming up with new content is one of greatest challenges about running a successful inbound campaign. According to CMI’s B2C Content Marketing report, when respondents were asked to list their biggest obstacles:

  • 56% said producing engaging content
  • 46% said producing content consistently
  • 39% listed producing a variety of content

What if I told you that Google Analytics can help with all of that? Know where to look and it can provide more inspiration than a sunset over the Roman Coliseum (or whatever other location does it for you).

I Need Ideas. Inspire Me!

Here’s what to do: head on over to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages. This report will give you a list – in descending order from most sessions (i.e. most popular) to fewest – of the landing pages on your site.

Hit the Secondary dimension dropdown menu, and select Source/Medium under Acquisition.

landing-page-secondary-dimension

Now you can see the source of the traffic, too.

Pay particular attention to those coming from organic search, referral, and direct, as these are the pages people are searching for and/or clicking the most because it appeals to them or answers their question. These are your popular pages with the public at large.

And instant inspiration for where to turn your content efforts next. Most popular pages all about Topic X? Do more of X. Referral traffic from Facebook always going to posts on Topic Y? Create more Y, and be sure to share it on that platform.

See what I mean? The data here can show you exactly what is resonating with your audience and bringing in traffic.

But don’t just create more of those topics. Think about presenting the opposite view, or updating and expanding, or creating a different content type (video, infographic, blog post, case study) under the umbrella of the popular subjects. Sky’s the limit.

Now, a word of warning: you need to consider the other metrics in the report besides just the number of sessions. Look at the Behavior section (bounce rate, pages/session, and avg. session length). Plenty of sessions, but a very high bounce rate or very low pages and session length means the content is not delivering as advertised. It’s not what your people want. Creating more of that would be a waste of time.

You need to take a holistic view for this to work. Be inspired…but aim for informed inspiration. No one metric can give you the whole picture.

metrics-google-analytics

You can do the same thing with Acquisition > Site Content > All Pages to get a general overview of everything on your website. Just ignore your homepage, and contact page, and so forth. Concentrate on the pages that people opt to view the most because it interests them. That’s your content inspiration.

I Need to Populate my Editorial Calendar. Inspire Me!

So now you’ve been inspired. Content ideas are percolating and bouncing around your head. It’s time to start inputting those thoughts into your calendar for the next month, or quarter, or year.

Need a little inspiration as to what to schedule when? Google Analytics to the rescue once again.

Examine your content over time to see what’s most popular at various points of the year. It’s easy to do. See the date range at the top-right of your reports? By default, it’s set to the previous thirty days, but you can change that range to whatever you want it to be.

Look at a full year. Check out the summer months (June, July, August). Or the winter. The holiday season. Map it out. Plan the coming year in advance based on what was popular at that time last year, or the year before that.

Over time, you’ll likely start to see trends corresponding to set periods of the calendar year. Match your content to its popularity peak for maximum impact.

date-range-selection-google-analytics

Inspired? You’ve got ideas, and you know when to schedule them. You should be chomping at the bit to get started.

But we’re not done yet.

Big Picture Inspiration

When it comes to your website, there are basically three things you can do with it:

  1. Nothing
  2. Improve it
  3. Expand it

Surprisingly, “do nothing” is not always a bad thing. If analysis paralysis is keeping you from making a decision and doing something, well then, that’s bad.

But after careful consideration of the data, the best decision just might be to actively do nothing.

I’m Not Sure What to Do with My Traffic Sources. Inspire Me!

Let me give you a quick example using your traffic sources. You’ve got organic search, direct, affiliate, social, email, referral, and paid.

How do you know what you should be doing with each one? Nothing, improve, or expand? The answer is easier than you might believe, and buried within the Google Analytics data. You just need to do a little digging.

Go to Acquisition > Overview, but change the date range in the top-right to cover at least the past 90 days (or 180, or 365, or whatever). You’re looking for a baseline site average, so you want a larger period of time than just the default past month.

acquisition-overview-channels-sessions

Scroll down to the data separated by channel. For now, we’re only interested in the site average that appears at the top of each metric column.

acquisition-by-channel-google-analytics

These are your key engagement metrics (bounce rate, pages/session, avg. session length, and conversion rate. Jot them down (you can use a digital notepad, spreadsheet, or even just a scrap of paper).

Next, change the date range to the past seven days or so, and then click on each channel to get their recent individual averages for those same metrics.

You can now compare each channel’s current performance against the site average to determine your course of action. Add up the percent differences (they can be positive or negative) to get a relative engagement score for each channel.

For example, if the site average bounce rate is 8.80%, pages/session is 2.31, and conversion rate is 17.67%, and for referrals the past week we see:

  • Bounce rate of 27.53%, which is a difference of -212.84% (remember that for bounce rate, the higher the worse)
  • Pages/Session of 3.5, which is a difference of +51.5% (if it had been 1.7, then the difference would have been -26.41%)
  • Conversion rate of 42%, which is a difference of +137.69%

We would then add up -212.84 + 51.5 + 137.69 to get a relative engagement score of -23.65%. That’s not great…it’s not even decent.

The closer you are to zero, the more that channel is performing at the site average. A positive engagement score means it’s outperforming, while a negative one means it’s falling short.

To determine what to do, find the engagement score for each channel, and consider it along with the amount of traffic it brings in.

Low traffic and low score? Do nothing (at least for now). It’s not worth the time and energy.

Low traffic and high score? Probably best to do nothing. Engagement is already good, but the traffic makes it a moot point.

High traffic and low score? Improve it. Tweak your content. Boost the visuals, CTA, relevancy, and so on.

High traffic and high score? Expand it. Do more of whatever you’re doing. This audience is keen on you already, and are looking for more of you and your brand.

The Google Analytics data can give you a quick snapshot of what you need to do for each channel to right the ship, or keep it on course. Nothing, improve, expand.

I’d Love to Increase My Referral Traffic. Inspire Me!

Getting traffic from a link appearing on another website is a pretty sweet deal. Good for you, good for them.

Find the sites sending you top-flight traffic already under Acquisition > All traffic > Referrals. Reach out to them and suggest a guest post idea (complete with a link back to your site in your bio). Click each one to see the exact page your link appears on, giving you more insight into the context and topic of the referral link.

If the traffic is already flowing to you from them, they have a captive audience interested in whatever it is you do and have to say…so give them more. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.

You can find additional opportunities by finding other sites similar to your top referral sources. A service like the Audience Overlap Tool makes it fast and convenient. Generate a list, then reach out, connect, and engage.

I Don’t Know Which Keywords to Go After for a Quick Boost. Inspire Me!

You know that keyword research is important to your online strategy. And you also know that seeing any kind of result can take a long time. It sometimes feels like you’re not accomplishing anything at all.

Google Analytics can provide a quick boost using data you’ve already collected on keywords you’re already ranking for. You’re just not ranking well for them…yet.

Check out Acquisition > Search Console > Queries. If you’ve connected your Google Analytics and Search Console accounts, you’ll see a list of search queries that are delivering people to your digital domain, as well as clicks, impressions, CTR, and Average Position for each one.

It’s that last one we want to turn our attention to at the moment. Click the advanced tab and create a filter to include (Acquisition) Average Position Greater than 10. Hit Apply. This will list only those queries where you appeared on page two or higher of the SERPs.

search-queries-average-position

Why are we interested in queries appearing beyond the first page (aka the wasteland of the SERPs)? Because they have low CTRs, but you could easily improve that. Even a small improvement might bump you to the bottom of the first page with only minimal effort. The page(s) already exists. They keywords are already targeted.

Instead, tweak your headline for those pages to include the keyword queries and emotional trigger words (if it can be done naturally). Use anger, fear, disgust, joy, and yes, inspiration to get the click (high arousal emotions – both negative and positive – get more attention). Keep your title tag to under 55 characters.

Next, rewrite your meta description. Limit it to 150 characters. Be clear and concise, making it explicit what comes after they click your link. Write the description like a CTA using power words like discover, learn, uncover, achieve, and so on. And include the search query keyword if possible.

A stronger title and description is often enough to boost your CTR, and a better CTR can give you a quick and easy rank boost. The difference in traffic going from the eleventh spot to the ninth spot (and therefore appearing on page one) is sizeable. If that doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what will.

That should be enough to keep you busy for awhile. Google Analytics may not seem like much of a muse at first glance, but it’s all in how you look at it. There’s inspiration aplenty. Take action. Slay the analysis paralysis beast. Get better. Grow. And succeed.

In what other ways does Google Analytics guide and inspire your actions? Leave your ideas in the comments below.

About the Author: Aaron Agius, CEO of worldwide digital agency Louder Online is, according to Forbes, among the world’s leading digital marketers. Working with clients such as Salesforce, Coca-Cola, IBM, Intel, and scores of stellar brands, Aaron is a Growth Marketer – a fusion between search, content, social, and PR. Find him on Twitter, LinkedIn, or on the Louder Online blog.

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