08 Apr '20

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, it’s been anything but business as usual. Many companies are shifting marketing strategies to keep up with the changing environmental circumstances. Understanding your website traffic and analytics can help with the decision-making process and navigating your business through this crisis. Here are some tips and ideas on leveraging website analytics that can help.

Using Google Analytics to analyze change in product/service demand

Does your business have multiple product or service categories? If so, what is the difference in unique user traffic pre and post-crisis?

In many cases, trends in specific product and/or service website traffic can be a leading indicator of demand. A residential cleaning company might offer a weekly service, a monthly service, and a one-time deep clean. What is the traffic pattern over time to those service pages? What about compared year over year?

Depending on how Google Analytics is configured on your website, you might already have an event report that easily lets you compare unique traffic to those pages/sections over time. Alternatively, you should be able to use the pages report or a custom segment to manually pull that type of data and toss it into a spreadsheet for analysis.

Using website traffic data to product/segment pages can help you make decisions on planning, budget, and resource management as demand changes.computer digital analytics

Evaluating changes in traffic by device

We all know that mobile device website usage surpassed desktop usage years ago. Hopefully, by now, most companies’ websites are mobile and tablet friendly with no significant user experience issues. However, we’ve run across a number of B2B companies where a majority of their website traffic is still coming from desktop visitors and their websites might not be as mobile-friendly as they could be.

In the current coronavirus crisis, where most states and municipalities have implemented stay-at-home policies, we’ve seen a spike in mobile traffic percentage across the board.

In Google Analytics, you can review the Audience > Mobile report to view device category and other device-specific data to quantify overall site traffic by device. You can also use the device category dimension as a “secondary dimension” in most reports (or drop it into a custom report).

Some questions to think about in regards to mobile traffic:

  • What are the most popular landing pages? All traffic and by device category?
  • Looking at the top landing pages for mobile, where is the traffic coming from? 
  • Are any design changes necessary for those top mobile landing pages to improve performance?
  • Do any PPC or paid media ad URL’s need to be updated for mobile users?

Evaluating changes in specific market demand

What markets do you service? Maybe your company sells products across all 50 U.S. states. Or maybe your company only services one metropolitan area. Regardless, you can utilize Google Analytics to quantify website traffic by geography via the Audience > Location reports.

The geographic hierarchy (for the U.S.) is country > state > metro > city. What is the trend of your website traffic from your top markets? By week over the last 3 months? What about year over year? Are there markets that need more attention?

Hopefully, the trends you are seeing in website activity from the geo markets that you service can help with resource planning and targeting in your ongoing marketing efforts.

Consider website tracking maintenance

A constant effort here at Forthea for website analytics is quality control. As you dig into your Google Analytics reports, you need to make sure what you’re looking at is real.  In other words, is your Google Analytics working correctly?  Here is a short list of things to check for.

  • Confirm how GA is implemented on your site and what version you are using. Is it hardcoded in your Wordpress header file?  Is it loaded through Google Tag Manager? Are you using the latest gtag version or maybe an older analytics.js (or ga.js)? If you don’t know this, it’s always good to verify in case you need to make tracking optimizations at some point.
  • High-level metrics, does it pass the sniff test? One of the most common problems we see with new clients is the “double GA iteration.” That’s when GA is firing twice on every page because it’s loaded in two parts, like a website plugin AND Google Tag Manager. This is usually obvious when the website’s overall bounce rate is under 5%. In general, do the overall stats look believable? If not, dig in and figure it out.
  • Verify that goals are working. Google Analytics real-time reports and the Google Tag Assistant Chrome extension are good tools to check this (and most everything else too).
  • Do you have any integrations with call tracking, chat platforms, or CRM tools? In many cases, those tools have built-in integrations with Google Analytics where they send event data into GA. If it works, you can apply many of the same dimensions/filters available in GA directly to that incoming data.

In conclusion, website analytics data is an important tool no matter what, but during a time of crisis like COVID-19, it can provide extra information in determining the best path to navigate to. Good luck and stay safe!

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About the Author Chris

Chris graduated from the University of Michigan (Go Blue!) and spends his time buried in Google Analytics and Tag Manager setting up tracking for client sites. Day to day work might include setting up e-commerce tracking, fixing cross-domain visit challenges, or processing tens of thousands of rows of data for an advanced analytics project. In his spare time, Chris and his wife might be at the park with their dogs or he might be trying to break 90 on the golf course. Ask him to talk about his favorite Excel functions, including VLOOKUP, SUMIFS, and INDEX(MATCH).

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