Using Google Analytics Social Reports To Measure Your Website Content And Engagement in Google+

Monday, April 23, 2012 | 7:28 AM

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The following is a guest post contributed by Daniel Waisberg, Owner of Conversion Journey, a Google Analytics Certified Partner, and Founder of Online Behavior, a Marketing Measurement and Optimization portal.


Google Analytics has recently launched a new set of reports called Social reports, which can be used to analyze on-site and off-site interactions with social networks in reference to your own website content. The reports’ ultimate goal is to enable brands to measure the return on investment for social media activities and make more accurate, data-driven decisions about social. 


The most significant change that it brings to the game is we are now able to better tie social activities (on and off-site) to online behavior and revenue. This is especially accentuated for the Social Data Hub Partners, a group of networks that use the platform provided by Google Analytics; for all these networks we can learn deep information about off-site behavior. 

I have recently written a guide to Google+ Analytics, where I discussed how to use Google Analytics in order to understand Google+ on-site interactions (e.g. +1 button clicks) and off-site interactions (e.g. comments, posts, shares that happened on Google+). In this post I will recap the main points of that guide and add actionable tips that will help marketers and analysts use these reports effectively.

Setting Up Goals - First Step to Social Media Measurement
Before using the Social reports, it is essential to configure your website goals on Google Analytics, otherwise the reports won't be as useful (here is a step-by-step guide). Thomas Carlyle wrote: "A man without a goal is like a ship without a rudder." The same is true for Google Analytics accounts: if a goal is not configured, the stats will not help improving the performance of websites, no matter how good the reports are.

Google+ Social Referral Traffic - Quantity and Quality


According to Google Analytics, the Social Sources report, the first in the list of Social reports, is described as follows:
The Sources report shows engagement metrics (Pageviews, Avg. Time on Site, Pages/Visit) for traffic from each social network. This report is also enhanced with off-site data for Social Data Hub partner networks. Click on a partner network to see the URLs that were shared on that site, how they were shared (for example, via a "+1" or "reshare" action), and the public conversations that took place about your content.

In this report we will see the number of visitors that came through Google+, the number of pageviews that they saw, time on site and number of pages per visit. Nothing surprising.  However, since Google+ is part of the Social Data Hub, we can click through to get more detailed data on what kinds of interactions happened off-site, i.e. on plus.google.com

As you will see, when clicking through to the Google+ row (see screenshot above) we will have two reports on the Social Referral tab: Google+ Shared URL and Google+ Social Network and Action (the tabs can be found above the graph, and the reports below the graph).

Google+ Shared URL


The Google+ Shared URL report shows which URLs were shared in Google+ and what traffic they drove. It will also provide a Data Hub Activities metric, which tells how many interactions they drove on Google+ including: +1, post, comment and reshare.  

Actionable Tip: use this report to find out which content drives the most social activity on Google+. Based on that, you might consider increasing the exposure of this content on prominent website real estate.

Google+ Social Network and Action


If you click on the link to Social Network and Action (see arrow above), you will be able to see all interactions performed on Google+, segmented by action type. 

Google+ Conversations - Activity Stream

Moving over to real interactions with real people, Activity Streams allow us to see the conversations as they happened inside Google+ (for activities that have occurred publicly). The conversations are organized starting from the newest and we can do the following actions for each conversation:
  1. Page Analytics: leads to more information regarding traffic that was resulted from the post.
  2. View Ripple: leads to the post Ripple, an interactive visualization of the public shares of the post
  3. View Page: leads to the website page that was shared
  4. View Activity: leads to the actual publicly-shared post on Google+ 
Actionable Tip: use this report to discover people that are evangelizing your brand on Google+ and interact with them. Once you find those people, create a circle with them (call it "Evangelists") and start interacting with them in an ongoing basis.

Google+ Conversion Rates - Assisted vs. Last Interaction Analysis


This report uses the same functionality as the Multi-Channel Funnels reports. It provides both the last touch interaction value (i.e. conversions that happened in a visit attributed to Google+) and also the assisted value (i.e. conversions that happened in a visit following the visit from Google+). Above is a screenshot of how it looks and the explanation given by Google about the metrics in the chart. 

Assisted Conversions and Assisted Conversion Value: This is the number (and monetary value) of sales and conversions the social network assisted. An assist occurs when someone visits your site, leaves without converting, but returns later to convert during a subsequent visit. The higher these numbers, the more important the assist role of the social network. 

Last Interaction Conversions and Last Interaction Conversion Value: This is the number (and monetary value) of last click sales and conversions. When someone visits your site and converts, the visit is considered a last click. The higher these numbers, the more important the social network’s role in driving completion of sales and conversions. 

Assisted/Last Interaction Conversions: This ratio summarizes the social network’s overall role. A value close to 0 indicates that the social network functioned primarily in a last click capacity. A value close to 1 indicates that the social network functioned equally in an assist and a last click capacity. The more this value exceeds 1, the more the social network functioned in an assist capacity.

Actionable Tip: use this report to understand where in the buying cycle is your Social Media traffic. This may help you understand which kind of offers will be most effective on Social Networks.

Google+ Social Plugin - On-site Interactions


The Social Plugins report provides an account of the social actions that happened inside the website and in which pages they occur. +1 buttons spread in the website content will be available in this report automagically (for other social buttons, coding is required). 

Actionable Tip: use this report to understand which content is being +1'ed in-site. This will help you optimize the position of +1 buttons to increase exposure through Google+.

Google+ Visitors Flow


This report uses the same functionality used in the flow visualization report released by Google in 2011. Basically, it provides the path through which visitors experienced the website. In this report we will be able to segment just by visits originating from Google+. You can find the report at http://onbe.co/GXYQMN  
Actionable Tip: use this report to understand how well optimized your site is for social traffic. If you find a page that is receiving large amounts of social traffic and is not persuading visitors to click-through (i.e. high drop rate), you might consider testing that page.

Concluding Thoughts
As seen above, Google Analytics has created robust tracking and analysis abilities for Google+, which puts Google+ in an excellent position when it comes to other Social Networks. In general, many other social sites don’t provide detailed metrics into what happens inside their walls, which makes investments less measurable. If marketers can easily measure how well each social networks perform, more resources might be devoted to them.

Posted by Daniel Waisberg, Conversion Journey