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We all know that Google Analytics (GA) is the data analytics tool most commonly used to analyze marketing performance and guide overall strategy. And there’s a reason it’s such a popular tool: The data you get is invaluable.

But when it comes to improving user experience, looking at data from GA doesn’t tell the full story. It’s like reading a box score from the World Series and trying to tell someone what happened during the game — you have all the data, but none of the context. With that in mind, let’s explore how you can take the data you get from GA and start putting it to work to improve user engagement today.

This is a guest post by Ben Hicks, the director of SEO at Pilot Digital Marketing, a Chicago-based agency.

Part One: Start with quantitative (GA is your engagement compass)

You shouldn’t rely on GA to analyze engagement metrics, but it is a great compass to point you in the right direction. We recommend using GA as a tool to identify areas of the website to explore further, including:

  • Poorly performing channels
  • Landing pages with a high bounce rate or low conversion rate
  • Devices or browsers with metrics worse than your site average

Learning from your call tracking data

Set up event-based tracking so when someone makes a phone call, Google Analytics pulls in the active page path. This data will help in two ways:

  1. Understand what pages are driving conversions
  2. Understand which pages drive calls to customer service

How to gather qualitative data from session recordings and heatmaps

Now that you’ve identified problem areas using Google Analytics, let’s use qualitative data to learn what’s happening. Now is when we lean on ‘heatmap’ tools such as Hotjar and FullStory to find data that tells a story of how users are engaging with your website.

Heatmaps are a great tool to aggregate user behavior and audience engagement on your website, and then use the data to improve UX. There are three popular types of heatmaps, all with their own use-case:

  1. Scroll maps: These show the average fold and how far users scroll down that page. Scroll maps are great at showing what content is seen by most users, and where you’re losing their attention.
  2. Click maps: A quick and easy way to see what users are clicking on. One obvious benefit of click maps is seeing which menu items are most popular, or which CTAs do (and don’t) get clicked on. Another use for click maps is to identify rage clicks, or clicks on elements that aren’t clickable. These are often confusing UX elements that should be fixed once you’ve identified them.
  3. Movement maps: These track areas of your pages that users hover over with their mouse, making them a quick and easy way to identify where users focus their attention. Movement maps can reveal CTAs that are being ignored, or sections of the website that are unimportant but receiving outsized attention.

Watching session recordings to get the story behind the numbers

Watching playback sessions of website visitors on your website is like flipping on the lights in a dark room — you can see everything. It’s rare to sit down to watch session recordings for the first time and not see something that surprises you.

Session recordings will help you:

  • Diagnose poorly performing landing pages
  • Understand why users are abandoning the funnel
  • Identify rage clicks and other obstacles that may be frustrating users
  • Find bugs that otherwise may have continued for months

Rather than watching hundreds of sessions, use the data you’ve gathered to create a segment of target users. A segment will filter recordings of a certain page, funnel, activity, channel or device. Targeting your replays with segments will help draw out better insights.

Part Two: Improve user engagement with these four tools

Tool 1 — Using data to drive experimentation

Once you’ve spent time identifying obstacles, it’s time to put your hypotheses to the test. Experimentation is the best way to test new experiences, marketing copy, and designs to steadily improve your website — think of it as a way to test and filter out bad ideas.

Using testing tools like Google Optimize, Optimizely, VWO, will help your website:

  • Convert a higher percentage of users (conversion rate optimization)
  • Improve website users engagement rate with landing pages and blog posts
  • Increase the impact of email newsletters, chats, and popups

Improving your conversion rate will have a larger impact on your business than growing your target audience will. Doubling traffic is impressive, but how much as spend will it take? Doubling your conversion rate will double your revenue, while keeping your ad spend flat. It also has the positive side effect of improving your user experience, sales, and business processes.

We could dedicate an entire post to the benefits of CRO. But for now, just imagine what doubling you or your clients’ revenue could do for your business.

Tool 2 — Pairing QA with your experimentation process

You’re sold on the idea of experimentation, so now you need to figure out how to connect the dots and put your data to work. But before you start any tests, take time to pore over your data in GA, Hotjar, Fullstory, and any other tools.

Create a list of your underperforming initiatives or channels, and then establish a hypothesis about why each is coming up short, along with the type of test you’d like to run. (We strongly recommend you keep a record of all your ideas, tests, and test results in a spreadsheet — this will help keep your process organized and methodical.)

Tool 3 — Using chat to provide better customer service

Chat is a powerful tool to improve engagement and help users. Be wary of too much automation, though — according to research by Forrester, consumers are revolting against chatbot experiences that aren’t backed up by live customer service.

62 percent of users on mobile devices expect live chat to be available on websites to help them during their session. As more users lean on chat as a support channel, it becomes a necessity to improve customer service. Chat can improve customer service by:

  • Helping users find the product or information they’re looking for
  • Providing more personalized service than a traditional ticket-based system
  • Enabling easy bug reporting that helps both users and your website
  • Sending a message to let people know someone is there if they need help
  • Sending product recommendations to help users find related products and boost order values

Pro tip: Chat transcripts can be a gold mine when it comes to identifying stumbling blocks in the user experience. For example, if you see the same question or inquiry from multiple users, you’ll know you need to make that information easier to find.

Tool 4 — Popups & Interstitials (Building long-term engagement via targeted content)

There’s a reason you see so many popups while navigating the Internet: They work. There is, of course, a fine line between annoying your users and introducing them to relevant offers and content they’ll find useful.

Popups work so well because they can:

  • Drive subscribers at a much higher rate than passive embedded newsletter subscription forms
  • Easily be A/B tested to improve interactions rates
  • Target users based time on page/site, scroll depth, URL, geography, exit intent, and more options.

Popups are effective at promoting gated content when used alongside free content. If a user is reading an article about call tracking, a targeted popup promoting a related white paper the best method to get more sign ups.

Part Three: Commit to your plan

Continuous growth and change are the only sure things in digital marketing — your business should be constantly striving to optimize your site, boost engagement, and improve the overall customer experience. Improving your conversion rate and UX is good for business, but these plans take time, effort, and a long-term commitment.

Your company (or client) will need to frame the work as a new way of doing business, rather than a quick win. But with the right mindset and a data-driven approach, better user engagement and more revenue will naturally follow.