Answering Critical Website Questions: Google Analytics vs. AnalyticsBox

by Charlie | Jun 15, 2021

Google Analytics can be tricky for a lot of users. They want to get useful, actionable information so that they can improve their website performance, but it isn’t always intuitive in Google Analytics to extract meaningful insights. One of the primary value propositions of AnalyticsBox is our ability to provide users with conveniently extracted, actionable, curated information from their own data through text-based insights generated from artificial intelligence. In less technical terms, we get you the info you need without any BS.

Because we are using your Google Analytics data to provide these insights, you can find all the raw data we use in our GA-based insights yourself! The problem is, it is often easier said than done. Below, we will cover three commonly-asked important questions regarding website performance. For each question, we will walk through how to answer that question in both Google Analytics and AnalyticsBox. Decide for yourself which platform more conveniently gets you the answers you need!

 

What can I do to improve my site’s page flow and encourage a higher level of visitor engagement?

Optimizing the flow between pages on your site can help lower bounce and exit rates as well as increase your site’s conversion rate. But how do you know where on your site your attention should be focused? And how do you know what needs to be done? In Google Analytics, this can be a tricky exercise even though the data you need to answer this question is at your disposal.

Before we get into answering this question, Google Analytics does have one cool feature that allows you to visualize your site flow to get a grasp of the most prominent trends. From the Google Analytics homepage, click the “Behavior” dropdown in the navigation menu on the left side of the screen. From within that dropdown, select “Behavior Flow”.


This view allows you to see where people are entering your site, and which page-to-page navigations are most common. The view also allows you to see where users are exiting your site so you can determine the drop-off points. For those up to the task, we recommend you play around in this Google Analytics view and see which unknown patterns you uncover!

This Google Analytics view is a good one for identifying trends, but it can sometimes be tough to gain actionable information from it. To get deeper in the weeds, let’s build a custom report within Google Analytics. Select “Customization” from the same left-hand menu, then click “Custom Reports” and create a report.


Name your report/view then select “Flat Table”. Let’s pull in “page” as the dimension as well as a few metrics that we can use to measure the performance of that page. Once you have the data points you want to explore, let’s save and run the report!


In our example above, a few insights can quickly be discovered
. The homepage dominates as the landing page, which is normal. With high bounce and exit rates on the homepage and just a fraction of the number of pageviews for the second-most-viewed page, the homepage has room to improve in terms of keeping visitors on the site. The blog and learn pages- despite having a low number of pageviews- have low bounce and exit rates relative to the rest of the pages on the website. One insight to gain from this information is that maybe there is value in trying to have more site traffic enter through the blog page. Maybe posting more blog links on social media and other referrals could improve the site-level bounce rate!

While sifting through the data table above already generated an insight for us, there is more information to be analyzed! Let’s go back to the report-builder view and pull in some additional fields. Add the “Previous Page Path” dimension to the report and rerun. Now we have an extra column that breaks out the pages by the previous page from where the traffic came.


Looking at the updated table, we can see that for visitors who entered through the home page, the learn and shop pages make up a decent proportion of the maintained traffic and have a lower exit rate than the contact us page. We have our next insight: one way to improve the traffic flow of this example site is to provide stronger calls to action on its home page to encourage visitors to navigate to the learn and shop pages!

We just pulled a couple of insights out of Google Analytics related to improving page flow by using custom reports, but if you are not a Google Analytics wizard, you might not know how to create a custom report, which dimensions and metrics are relevant to answering the question, or even where to begin! It can also be time-consuming to make and explore these custom reports.

Now let’s see what we can do on AnalyticsBox to answer the same question! Once you have created an account and connected to Google Analytics, navigate to “Automated Insights” then select “Page Performance”. Click on the question you want answered, and your insights are written out for you in simple-to-understand text format!


Wow that was easy! Not convinced that AnalyticsBox saves you time and effort generating valuable insights? Let’s try to answer a different question.

 

What are the main sources of my website traffic, and do I have a healthy mix of traffic sources?

Where does your website traffic originate? This is a relatively straightforward answer in Google Analytics! Let’s begin by navigating from the menu on the left-hand side of the screen and selecting “Acquisition”, followed by “Overview”. A page like the one below should be what you find.


From this page, you can choose to split up your traffic by channels, sources, or mediums through the “Primary Dimension” toggle at the top of the view. Traffic sources are the individual websites where your website traffic originated (i.e. Instagram, Google). Traffic mediums represent how the transition to your website took place. Did you pay for the traffic? Did it find you through a link on another website? Examples of mediums include cost per click, organic, and email. The broader categories that can be used to group traffic sources and mediums into larger acquisition buckets are traffic channels.

This view can be helpful to get basic information about your site traffic, but there are a couple of key pieces of information it does not provide. For example, there is a line chart providing you with some trend insights, but this chart does not communicate which traffic sources/channels are driving your overall trends. To do this, let’s now navigate from the menu to “All Traffic” then click “Channels”. Next, check the checkboxes for the channels you’d like to plot then select “Plot Rows”.


The line chart will now provide a line for each channel you selected, and you can now identify channel-level trends. It looks like for this particular website, direct traffic has been on the rise while we have seen a dip in social media over the last few months. It also looks like organic search had a spike that lasted for a couple of months. That is some useful information! But even with this information, how do we know if this is a healthy distribution of traffic? What are you supposed to do now that you know your social media has dipped and your direct traffic is on the rise? It is also worth mentioning that the chart is not particularly user-friendly.

Let’s see what answers we could find if we instead tried to use AnalyticsBox! Let’s start off by opening the question “What are my top traffic sources?” within the Traffic Channels view.  We quickly get our top sources for the last 30 days as well as last 6 months in an easily digested way.

The observation that stands out is that in the last 30 days, direct traffic has been particularly heavy, and has basically taken over most of Google’s share of traffic. This is good to know and leads us to the question “is this a result in a spike in direct traffic or a dip in Google traffic?”. Let’s next open the question “Should I be aware of any recent trends for my top traffic channels?”. Immediately, we get the information we need- we are seeing a rise in direct traffic AND a dip in Google traffic last month.


If we scroll down, we also will see a line chart showing the trends for your top traffic channels over the last few months. After opening just two drop-down questions, we have already gotten all the information we extracted from Google Analytics. But the question remains- is this good? Do we have a healthy mix of traffic channels? Next, we will open the question “Do I have a healthy mix of traffic channels in the last 30 days?”.

Now this is the type of information you don’t get on Google Analytics! Based on the trends of this website, it looks like social media, referrals, and search all have room for improvement. What can the owner of this website do about these findings? As it turns out, we have a free, detailed guide that specifically addresses how to grow each of the main acquisition channels!

Still don’t see the value proposition? Let’s look at one last question.

 

What behaviors do my top site visitors have in common and how should I target these users?

Yes, it might be easy for you to figure out your website's top source of web traffic in terms of country or acquisition channel, but we often overlook the unique combination of distinct dimensions that can provide a more telling story! Grouping site visitors into “personas” clustered together based on a combination of traits and behaviors can provide unique value. First off, segmenting your visitors allows you to understand how they interact with your website in a multi-faceted way. Looking at visitors based on single dimensions will never tell the full story. There is also value for direct marketing; visitor segmentation can provide insight as to how to specifically target your visitors who are the most likely to convert for your business.

To see what segmentation-based insights we can find for your website visitors, we will first see what we can put together in Google Analytics. Let’s start off by creating a customized report like we did a couple of questions back. From the report builder screen, we will start by bringing in a few dimensions into a flat table. For the sake of this article, we will bring in the fields acquisition source, country, and device category. As far as metrics, let’s look at total sessions, bounce rate, and sessions per user!


When we run the report, each row represents users who share the same source, country, and device type. Based on these groupings, we can see which segments are the largest, and which are the most engaged.


We can quickly see that the top 3 segments make up over half of the overall traffic! These segments all came from the United States and entered the site either directly or through Facebook. There are a few other observations of note as well. Of the top segments, Google mobile users had the lowest bounce rate. Having a low bounce rate is a good thing- maybe mobile users who found this site through a search engine are particularly likely to stick around. Facebook traffic is most likely to enter the site more than once- that is valuable to know as well!

Building this custom report was not too tough of a task, but the user is still stuck analyzing unpleasant data tables for themselves. It can be a tedious task to scan several combinations of dimensions, and it might not always be clear what actionable insights can be drawn from this information. Let’s now look at AnalyticsBox and see what we can discover!

Within the Visitor Personas view, we can quickly see the top segments along with a couple of key metrics- no custom report-building necessary! From there, no analyzing of the raw data needed either. AnalyticsBox provides some of the standout findings for us.

That was easy enough! But what should be done with this information? From here, you can check out several of our other segmentation-related questions, articles, and guides meant to help you more effectively target your top personas based on their unique characteristics! For example, our guide on attracting and retaining mobile site visitors might be helpful for this website considering its top two segments have high bounce rates and are coming from desktop devices.

 

Why use AnalyticsBox instead of Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is only one of our data connectors, but an important one for many SMBs. It can be tricky to use, hard to extract insights, and not always easy to get the views you need. We do all the hard work for you, run the numbers, and tell you what you need to know. You can even use us to create custom, AI-enhanced datasets that can plug into your data sources such as Tableau!

As we continue to scale and bring in more and more data connections, insights, and augmented datasets, Google Analytics will become just one part of our larger mission of empowering entrepreneurs and small business owners by helping initiate a data-driven culture. If we didn’t convince you, reach out to us and let us know what insights your business is missing!