Sep 15, 2020
Google Analytics: How It Starts
Every session is an opportunity to make a good first impression.
Welcome to the third installment of our Google Analytics blog series. Now we're getting to the good stuff. If you haven't already set up your property and views to collect good data and implemented cross-domain tracking to see the customer journey from your content site through your eCommerce site, you may want to do so before starting to analyze your traffic.
Deciding where to begin is tough, and there isn't one data set to meet everyone's needs. You'll need to take a step back and consider your larger organizational goals and business objectives to find the right place to begin. However, since we can't go over every report and how it can contribute to every goal, we'll start with an area you can likely control to some degree and has a massive impact on driving action on your site: the landing page.
Before we go further, let's cover some terminology we must use to evaluate landing page performance.
- Landing Page: This is the page on which a user begins their session. It is the first thing the user sees and must make a good impression.
- Session: The time in which a user is engaged with your site. Generally, you can think of this as a site visit.
- Bounce Rate: The percentage of sessions viewing a single page without interacting with the page. Typically, a high bounce rate indicates users are not responding well to the page.
- Conversion Rate: The percentage of sessions resulting in a purchase.
While the landing page is arguably the most important factor to drive action on your site, it is often overlooked when sending emails, creating social posts, and setting up campaigns driving traffic to our sites. Landing page content must be compelling, persuasive, and speak to why the user came to the site. Furthermore, the page must be functional on mobile and desktop sites, load quickly, and provide clear opportunities to progress toward purchasing.
There are many different ways to measure landing page performance. You can evaluate generally, trying to optimize by device type or regardless of how the user came to your site. You can get more focused and pick a specific channel, such as organic search, and work to get the best performance from there. For this post, we'll look at landing pages for marketing efforts: how to choose a landing page for different tactics and measure their performance.
Even with this focus, there are many nuances, caveats, and other elements to consider. The number of questions and possibilities the data can generate is why I love working with Google Analytics. In this post, we'll stay reasonably high-level not to get bogged down in details.
So how do you choose a landing page for different marketing tactics? First, consider each tactic within your overall marketing strategy. You will likely want to bring a user who is early in the purchase funnel to a different page than a retargeted user who has already viewed a specific product or abandoned an item in the cart. It is helpful to consider these users by where they are in the purchase funnel to match them to the right type of page.
- These users need to be introduced to your products, donation options, or potentially your brand.
- They are likely coming to your site through generic search terms, referrals, or social exploration.
- Land these users on a page designed to guide them through options. Starting this user on a page for a specific product or an event purchase page may be too aggressive.
Research and Consideration
- These users probably know your brand and what type of events and products you offer, but they likely need to learn more about those offerings to move down the purchase path.
- These users probably came from searching a branded or specific term, an email that piqued their interest, digital advertising, or potentially directly to the site.
- Land these users on pages specific to the products they are considering. Starting these users on your homepage, an upcoming events list, or all ticketing options makes them work to get to the information they need, but starting them on the purchase page may still be too aggressive at this stage.
Ready to purchase
- These users know what they want. They've got the information they need to make a purchase through prior research or in your call to action.
- These users are coming to you from email (from you or an artist/event), digital retargeting efforts, branded or specific search terms, or directly typing in your address.
- Land these users on the event purchase page when possible. Try to make them do as little work as possible to add the ticket to the cart. This includes bypassing promo entry with deep links when appropriate and dropping them on a specific event page instead of a list of events.
With these best practices in mind, let's explore how to choose a landing page.
- Navigate to the landing page report, Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages.
- Begin by selecting a date range to evaluate. I recommend using a reasonably long period, at least 30 days. Looking at too short a time could allow external factors to play too significant a role.
- Choose past dates when users would have been taking action you are trying to generate.
- It doesn't make sense to look at single-game football landing pages from June 1 - June 30 because traditionally, single games are not on sale at that time.
- The default view will sort the results by the number of sessions beginning on each page.
- The main KPIs we want to consider in this view are the bounce rate and conversion rate with transactions and revenue as secondary metrics.
- A landing page with a high bounce rate indicates many users are not getting the content they need to make an informed decision or be persuaded to move further down the funnel.
- Conversely, a high conversion rate shows users are getting what they need to make a purchase, ultimately.
- Click the revenue column header to resort the table by which landing page generated the most revenue.
- I do not recommend sorting by conversion rate. You will likely see many pages with very high conversion rates but low traffic volume, which isn't very helpful.
- With this view, you now know which landing pages had the most significant impact on your bottom line.
**If you are a college athletics client, do not be alarmed by high bounce rates and low conversion rates on schedule pages. Schedule pages serve a variety of purposes and meet users' needs in other ways. However, this does show schedule pages are not good landing pages for most sales-oriented marketing efforts.**
In this example from Purdue, the football ticket information page generated 14% of all revenue over this time, nearly double the volume of sessions over the number 2 landing page, had a bounce rate almost 25% lower than the site average, and had a good conversion rate pushing 8%.
The second page on the list was their main football item group on eVenue, which presents groups of products like season tickets versus single game tickets. The user must select which option they want, and from there, choose a product to consider. This page also performed well with good volume, a very low bounce rate, almost 12% of revenue over this time, and a conversion rate of over 10%.
I Know Better Now
Both pages appear to perform well as a landing page, so which do you want to use for different tactics? Based on the shopping stages defined earlier, we'd assume the football ticket info page would be better for discovery and consideration tactics such as display, YouTube, and lookalike audiences. In contrast, the eVenue page is probably better for retargeting and direct communication to users through email. Inform your decision to land users at each page by digging into how users came to each page.
- In your landing page report, click on the page you want to explore
- Change the primary dimension to show the traffic source.
- Add a secondary dimension to show the medium.
From this view, you can see which acquisition methods contributed most to this landing page's performance. The example below shows the details for the content site football ticket information page. The top two performing sources/mediums by nearly every metric are organic search (Google/organic) and paid search (Google/CPC). I'm most interested in the solid conversion rates.
Line three, highlighted in red, has the lowest conversion rate among this group. The source and medium are listed as (direct) and (none). Though it looks like this traffic came directly to this page, the odds of 1.5K sessions typing in the full URL or having it bookmarked is extremely low. The most realistic explanation is most of this traffic came from email. A user who clicks on a link in an email will show direct traffic unless the link includes campaign tracking tags. We'll cover campaign tracking in the next blog.
So what did we learn from how users behave when landing on this page from different sources? This page performs best for users in the consideration phase and is most appropriate for search, display, video, and look alike tactics. Sending users to this page from emails or other direct communication is less effective, and you should try to find a better landing page for low-funnel tactics.
Is eVenue a better place to send them? Perform the same evaluation on the eVenue page we saw earlier.
We can see most traffic is attributed to direct/none, which we understand could include a lot of email traffic. Purdue's BoilerBlast emails have similar conversion rates, supporting the decision to use eVenue as a landing page for sales-oriented emails and other direct communication tactics. The success of these tactics when landing on a page that requires the user to take at least two steps before reaching a purchase page would suggest Purdue should attempt to bring users deeper into the purchase funnel when appropriate. Doing so could increase conversion rates and revenue with relatively little effort.
Harder To Ignore
Now you are bringing users to your site with intention; you need to know if your efforts are successful. To measure performance, wait until you've collected enough data, probably no less than a week, and use the All Campaigns Report to measure your landing page's performance for specific efforts.
- Navigate to Acquisition > Campaigns > All Campaigns
- Click on the campaign you are evaluating
- Next, you can view the landing pages for the entire campaign by changing the primary dimension, or you can drill into a specific source/medium to measure by a specific effort.
The results of this effort are strong and support the theory. We should bring users as deep as possible in the purchase funnel through direct communication. This was an email to known fans who are likely already familiar with Purdue and the Kids Club. When landing on the page where the user can take direct action, sessions converted at over 28%. Compare this to when landing on the content site's information page. The low number of sessions starting on that page should also indicate these fans don't need education on the product, further supported by no conversions occurring when users began on that page from this email.
The Drawing Board
Last, we must answer the question: "What do I do if my landing pages aren't performing well?" As with most questions stemming from Google Analytics data, there isn't one solution to fit every situation. Here are the five questions to consider as you work to improve landing page performance.
- Does the page content give users the information needed to answer questions and take the next step toward purchasing?
- Are pricing options presented? Do you tell the user what their donation will help you achieve?
- Does the landing page have a clear and functional opportunity to progress down the path to purchase?
- Make sure this element aligns with what the user will see after clicking.
- If your page is long, considered adding calls to action after impactful content.
- Does the page content align with the marketing message and call to action?
- Experiment with adding videos or images to your landing page.
- Video is an effective tool in the awareness and consideration stages of the funnel.
- Is your page optimized for mobile?
- Make sure all necessary information is above the fold and not buried in menus or collapsed elements.
- Get outside feedback from friends and family who are not in the industry.
- Use the Page timings report (Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timings) to see if load time may be affecting user experience.
- Change the report layout to the data view.
- Add a secondary dimension for Device Category.
- Filter for the page you are evaluating.
- If the page has a long load time, first try to reduce the file size of images on the page
- If load times do not improve, you will likely need to work with your site provider to find additional optimizations
Google Analytics gives you clear and actionable insight into landing page performance for any of the myriad reasons a user may come to your site. As we've demonstrated, a good landing page experience to go along with your marketing tactics is essential to bring users into the path to purchase. Research past performance of existing pages, strategically align your pages and tactics, experiment with the content presentation, and measure performance to maximize conversions and revenue from your marketing efforts.
Special thanks to Brian Fordyce and Purdue University for allowing Paciolan to use their Analytics data as examples in this post.
The Google Analytics Series:
- Google Analytics 1: Preparing for Success with Google Analytics
- Google Analytics 2: Google Analytics: Cross-Domain Tracking. You Can Do This.
- Google Analytics 3: How It Starts
Post by Mark Baker, Digital Marketing Specialist, Paciolan