We’ve got a really sexy topic. We’re going to talk about Google Analytics.
Now I know people in the cannabis industry don’t get too excited about analytics and data. But the fact of the matter is businesses that track their data, and that use the data to get better, succeed. Those that don’t get lucky, I suppose, occasionally.
I think it’s something in the 85 to 90 percent of mainstream website owners who have Google Analytics installed. In order to do that we’ve all gone to the same place, which is on google.com/analytics, where you sign up for an account, put some code on your website, and then you just you collect enough data that gives you insights. That’s what they recommend that you do, and that’s what everybody does to get started.
But they sort of sell the story short. They make it sound like everything ends once you do that third step, which is to log into your account after you’ve collected data. But there’s actually a few little things that you should do to get the most out of it.
The first thing is that you should make sure that you have goals configured. There’s a section in Google Analytics where you can say what your marketing goals are. If you’re a small cannabis business, for the most part your goal is going to be to get somebody to fill out your contact form. Or if you’re a retail cannabis business, your goal is going to be to figure out what your store hours are or when your store is open. If you’re selling stuff online, the goal’s going to be that they make a purchase.
It basically is just training Google Analytics to recognize what makes you successful.
It is sort of scary to set up a goal because you need to go into the administrator section and make sure you have the rights to do this. If you think you could screw up your data, you actually can. You can configure these things and you can mess up data. So it does get scary – you think Google would make it easier.
So, let’s talk a little bit about the goals, though. I think a lot of times, somebody thinks, “Goals? Well, my goal is I want more business.” It’s really crucial to break it down to micro goals. What would be steps or actions that people would take that might hint at the fact that they could become a customer? Wouldn’t you say that that’s kind of an accurate way to look at it?
Well, I think it’s easy for me to say you should configure Google Analytics to recognize when somebody fills out your contact form. But if you’re in the situation where that happens once a month, then it’s probably not a big effort to do that, and it’s probably not going to give you that much insight.
There are other things you can track as well to be indicators of success. We call them micro goals, or just steps along the way. You might not have a lot of people filling out your contact form. But you might get people downloading this free pdf that you put out there – a white paper, for instance, or whatever you’ve invested your time into creating. You could track that.
I just did one. I did a product launch for one of my cannabis clients. I tracked how many people played the video, how many people made it 25 percent of the way through the video, how many made it through 50 percent – all the way to 100 percent. Then I was able to track how many people made it all the way through.
Basically anything that you do in your marketing perspective, there’s a measurement component to it. What you want to do is make sure that if you’re spending any effort at all creating marketing programs, creating a reason for somebody to come to your website or to engage with you. You want to have a measurement plan to go along with it. It doesn’t need to be complex. It should be about as complex as your marketing strategy in the first place.
I think a lot of times people will say, “Okay, I’ve got a measurement plan. I’m measuring lots of stuff. I’m getting lots of data.” But really, the point of view sometimes that I think people miss is that the reason we collect this stuff is so that you can better position your cannabis product or service.
I read a great analogy the other day that said “Imagine if you played golf but you only practiced at night, when it was pitch black.” So you got no feedback on a whether or not the ball was going straight, or far, or anywhere. There would be no chance for you to get better, and I think that’s what happens when people don’t set up these goals and collect data. It’s like playing golf in the dark. You can’t possibly get better.
You can’t really compare what happened in the past to what’s going to happen in the future. You can’t predict things. You can’t optimize your budget. You can’t optimize your efforts. What I always try to tell people is to look at it as basically “80-20-ing” your efforts. Analytics helps you figure out what the 20 percent of your efforts are that deliver 80 percent of your results.
Now, yes, you might have fewer results if you focused only on analytics. But it also makes you much more efficient.
One of the things that is powerful about analytics – especially the free version of analytics – is the dizzying number of reports and configurations of those reports.
How do you help someone break it down and say “Here are the three or four things we should be looking at.”?
So beyond goals, the reason why Google Analytics exists, and the reason why it’s free, is because of the Google AdWords advertising platform, the pay per click (PPC) platform.
What they determined was not enough people were going to spend money on pay per click if they didn’t know what was happening on their website. So in order to get people to spend more money on pay per click advertising, they gave away a free website analytics tool to measure how things would work.
When I first started in this, you had to have an AdWords account in order to even get into Google Analytics. It was like you had to have this in order to get that type of arrangement. It’s still the tightest integration between products. So one of the things you want to do is make sure that if you’re running any paid advertising through Google, that you hook that into Google Analytics and make sure they’re integrated tightly. (Although, with that said, we all know the challenges of Google advertising when it comes to cannabis.)
Then it gives you just a whole wealth of information about your campaigns, whether it’s paid search, or remarketing, or any type of campaign you’re running. Display advertising? Yes, you can measure that in Analytics.
Then there’s other integrations of Google products that are probably next for you to consider. If step one was PPC, you’d want to measure Google Search Consoles. You’d hook it into Google’s Search Console and you’d do something similar for your organic search results.
Configuring these two reports allows you to have a pretty good idea, and some granularity, around your traffic generation efforts through Google.
A lot time I’ll work with folks that have kind of a primary goal in mind for the cannabis business. Sometimes if you have that, you can then go to Google and say, “How can we measure our results in that?”
For example: We had a client that was spending way too much on pay per click, mainly because they were getting no organic traffic. Our overall objective was to increase their organic traffic and significantly decrease their paid spend without significantly decreasing their paid traffic. Does that make sense?
What everybody looks at from the first perspective is, overall, how many people are coming in. So, if you’re getting 10,000 visits from PPC, for example, and that’s somewhat commensurate with your budget as well, and you cut that down, you might get fewer visits from PPC. But if you look at your organic search reports, you see how many people are coming in from search.
If that’s increasing, then you can sort of do it on a timeline. You can compare side by side. You can do segmentation. You can say, “How’s my paid performing compared to my organic?” You can look at the two together and see if the total is higher, and basically you would do some kind of comparison between your baseline for where you were before, and compare it to what you’ve achieved since you made the changes.
The cool thing is – and this is a tip that I like to tell anybody who is a sort of casual user of Google Analytics – they realize that it’s important but they’re not necessarily sure if they’re going to take the efforts to log in every day. Or if they don’t look at trends, there’s a free tool out there called Quill Engage, which allows you to sign up with their account.
Then it will send you a report every week, or every month, or both if you want, to let you know how you’re doing compared to previous month and previous week. It tells you growth trends. It’s basically like an outsourced analyst that you can use. And it’s a free tool just to get started.
Search Console is a great integration tool that I would recommend everybody set up. It’s very painless. You just need to verify that you own the website in your search console accounts. If you’ve already done that, it’s just linking the two. If you haven’t done it yet, you can use your Google Analytics administrator access to verify that you own the website.
Setting up Search Console basically tells you the data that Google wants to tell you about regarding which search queries are popular for your site. But more importantly, it tells you about landing pages, or even more granular, what landing pages are driving traffic.
So which pages on your site are getting the most organic search traffic?
There’s a lot in there. It’ll show you positions for the search terms for those pages. But tell me this, and maybe you don’t know the answer – why are those two separate places?
When you combine the two – and you have this level of granular data, as granular as you can get with the data – you can then start to make better decisions. Search traffic is good, but search traffic that converts is better. And that’s where these two combines can help you out.
So what is Tag Manager? In general tracking things on the internet is not difficult, but every single piece of advertising you do – whether it’s Facebook, or Twitter, or Google, or Pinterest, whatever you’re advertising – in order for them to measure your results, they’re going to ask you to put something on your site. It’s a piece of code called tags. Just put this little tag, or this little pixel, on your site, and we’ll be able to track our advertising efforts, give you reports and tell you your return on your investment.
So Google Tag Manager is almost like a Rolodex of the different tags you want to do. You put them in there, and then Google handles the delivery of them. They make sure that it’s done in a valid way so you don’t break your website. They make sure that it runs after all the front-end pieces of your site load – after the whole website loads, Google will end up sending out this data. It’s basically just like this super tool that handles all these little, seemingly small pieces of code, and it just handles it for you.
The main advantage is that, instead of having to talk to your website owner, your website developer, webmaster, whatever you want to call it, and letting them know every time you want to add a tag or remove one because you stopped using a system, you just put it into Google tag manager and you can publish it yourself. So you can get it out on the web without having to talk to somebody to write code in order to make it work.
I suppose a couple other benefits is on a system like WordPress, because it makes it easier to inject page-by-page code too.
You can do so many things. We’re finding all kinds of new hacks for Google Tag Manager. Even the SEO community is starting to find some really cool uses of it that I never even imagined. It’s like the Content Management System for anybody’s scripts they want to run.
So there you have it, the best of Google Analytics for the cannabis entrepreneur.