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Google Analytics: Leveraging user data for insight and persuasion

Google Analytics: Leveraging user data for insight and persuasion

We’ve all been there. 

Sitting around the ‘big table’ at an all–important meeting to approve the next digital project. Everyone in the room instinctively feels the need for it. It’s trending in your industry, clients are asking when you’ll make this move, your competitors have already started. Sign off is a done deal, right?

But then the financial director queries the proposed budget, HR raise an issue over resourcing the customer service department and your MD tells you their “gut feeling” is that it’s premature to move ahead right now.


boardroom meeting to sign-off on ux plan

Christina @ (Image owner). ‘Boardroom.’ Retrieved from Unsplash.

We’ve been there more than once but luckily, as a team of UX specialists, we’ve had the data to back up our pitch. At Fathom that will include a rich research landscape comprising a range of methodologies which may include one–to–one interviews, survey data, user testing and focus groups. But the start point is often the same; the company’s own data, often accessed via Google Analytics in a digital capacity.

What is Google Analytics?

Over 15 years ago Google acquired the web statistics analysis program ‘Urchin’ and, in November 2005, it introduced the first version of Google Analytics.

Google realised the infinite potential of data to create a better experience for web users.  Speaking in 2011 at a conference in New York, Phil Mui, the former Group Project Manager of Google Analytics said, “The primary focus was to make sure that not only people who are willing to pay a million dollars or more on analytics products are able to get access to a very decent set of tools to understand the behaviours of online browsers.”


google signage at hq

Kai Wenzel (Image owner). ‘Google Sign.’ Retrieved from Unsplash.

“By liberating this tool we could empower companies of all sizes to become smarter and more effective online”, remarked Paul Muret, former Director of Engineering at Google.

Google Analytics represents the first true democratisation of big data for businesses of all sizes.

Google Analytics and Your Business

For any organisation, having a sound understanding of rationale, reasoning and repercussions is essential to make measured decisions that will steer and steady the business commercially.

Colleagues from every department in your organisation will have their own view on how and why your company wins new business, its level of brand awareness or its reputation in the marketplace. This information is pulled together from their industry knowledge, client relationships and perhaps looking at other operational metrics within the business.

But exposure to different clients, different markets or different internal stats can tell your colleagues wildly varying things about the organisation.

For example, the marketing team in an e–comm business might have a certain perception of company reputation as they compile stats from media coverage and social media influencer campaigns. But the head of the fulfilment department, who has seen a huge increase in product returns due to faulty goods, will have a greatly different view on how the market views their company.

These inter–departmental data points are essential for making well–rounded business decisions but they can be easily coloured by individual interpretation. 

A very irate customer complaint might sway the opinion of a customer service agent that the company’s reputation is in the doldrums and an enthusiastic marketer will want to shout from the rooftops about how highly regarded the brand is thanks to their latest influencer collaboration.

The power of Google Analytics comes from the way it presents simplified quantitative data on that most complex thing. Your user. 


google analytics interface

Austin Distel (Image Owner). ‘Person using Macbook Pro.’ Retrieved from Unsplash.

The system presents all the traffic coming to your site and organises it into several core reports to guide you towards better decisions. And while the data set is never perfect, and your analytics platform does need some curation, the data does not lie.

The anecdotal evidence of an individual customer who was not able to complete an important purchase or didn’t know who to call with an accounts query is certainly important. But the experience of potentially thousands of customers on your website or app will add context to these cases, ensuring against overreactions and helping your business prioritise its work.

This is why it is such a powerful tool for people outside the digital realm to use as the backbone of decision making.

What your MD needs to know from Google Analytics

Statistics are a powerful persuasive tool for senior–level managers. Experienced leaders can always add their professional insight or analysis to statistics, but few would seek to reject their usefulness.

We’ve previously discussed how to persuade senior colleagues to invest in UX and a running theme in that article (and many more here in our blog) is that data is the backbone of all types of research but also of all types of persuasive dialogue. Well, effective persuasive dialogue anyway!

The ABC of Google Analytics namely, acquisition, behaviour and conversion are the core metrics that most easily translate to non–digital department leaders and which find natural, non–digital partners in other important metrics or considerations for your leadership team

  • Acquisition – how did you acquire your traffic? What search terms did people use to find your site? What pages did they land on? What social platform did they arrive from or which company email was most successful in getting people to find out more about your company?
  • Behaviour – Once on your site, how do these potential customers behave? Where do they click, what interests them to read more, how do they flow through your site and did they find what they were looking for?
  • Conversion – What is your website for? Is it transactional, are you selling online? Or is it a lead generation tool? Anything can be a ‘goal’ for your business whether that’s a sale, a sign–up to a newsletter, filling out a contact form or downloading an important document and Google Analytics allows you to define those in a way that can demonstrate the value of your website or app, even to the non–digitally minded


users sharing google analytics reports

John Schnobrich (Image owner). ‘What’s going on here.’ Retrieved from Unsplash.

Any business leader would want a quantitative guide to how a company’s brand awareness is growing or shrinking in the marketplace or view a report which demonstrated in percentage terms how successful their latest TV ad campaign was in publicising a new product or service.

Any sales director would want to better understand the platforms their customers are networking on or how the market refers to their product or service.

Any financial director would love to view a report which specifically attributes core commercial metrics to promotional activities both online and offline. All of these can be done in a few clicks with Google Analytics.

These basic metrics act as a bridge to those commercial conversations that will secure budget, resources and ultimately your place as a UX practitioner in the boardroom.

As a seasoned GA user, I’ve seen first–hand how the platform can show businesses from all sectors how they acquire users, what content they interact with, what devices they use at particular points of the journey and how they behave on websites.

And I’ve seen how it can turnaround firmly held beliefs and long–standing assumptions about customer behaviour. Looking at the data is persuasive, illustrating it in terms of cost, opportunity and user stories is even more so – something we detail in our article “Persuading colleagues they are wrong.”

How to integrate Google Analytics into your business

Google Analytics sits within the Google Marketing Platform, is completely free to use and can be used in conjunction with other Google tracking software like Campaign Manager, Search Ads and Display & Video meaning a seamless, joined–up approach can be achieved.

Google Analytics is extremely easy to set up and help is available online using Google Support. Google even offer free online courses ranging from ‘Beginner’ to ‘Power User’ as part of the Analytics Academy.


all three google analytics academy courses

Google Analytics Academy (Image Owner). ‘Analytics Academy Courses.’ Retrieved from Twitter. 

In our next article about Google Analytics, I’ll take a deeper dive into some of the core metrics and how they can be used to identify problems in your website, app or even in your organisation as a whole. We’ll also look at how these metrics can be combined with further research to make data–based, user–focused design decisions.


Cover image: Myriam Jessier (Image Owner) ‘Google Analytics 4 Interface’ Retrieved from Unsplash

By Charlotte Tracey

Charlotte specialises in using quantitative research and user insights to deliver optimisation strategies for all types of organisations.

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