AUTHOR’S POST-PUBLICATION NOTE: As of April 2022, I no longer support or recommend the use of Google Analytics and for details as to why that is, check out episode 53 “Why I Un-Installed Google Analytics (And Why You May Want To Follow My Lead”. For analytics software options I do recommend, there’s episode 54, “How To Ethically Track Your Visitors”.
This is a transcript from episode 14 of the OMGrowth podcast, published on February 17, 2021
If I showed up to a corporate board meeting and provided the suits with spreadsheets and graphs, would I be hoisted into the air and be made employee-of-the-month? Absolutely not!
Why? Because bosses don’t need to know how the sausage is made… but they DO need to devote their energy and brilliance towards what the sausage is going to make for them.
And that’s what we’re talking about today.
You know those movies that start with the end scene? That’s what we’re going to do here and here’s how this ends: unless you’re pursuing a career in data analysis or consultancy, or maybe in operations or project management, making yourself proficient at coding Google Tag Manager or becoming a Google Analytics expert is not the best use of your limited time, energy or effort.
You’re the boss, apple sauce. That’s your lane!
And yes, that lane includes making better business decisions.
But that doesn’t mean you have to become an analyst to accomplish that!
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN GOOGLE ANALYTICS (GA) AND GOOGLE TAG MANAGER (GTM)
So if you don’t need to learn how to use them, what DO you actually need to know about Google Analytics (GA) and Google Tag Manager (GTM)?
Like I said earlier, while you don’t need to know HOW the sausage is made, but you do need to know what the sausage makes for YOU.
—> In the case of Google Analytics, this is the core of what you want and need when you’re running an online-based business.
This is what and where all your data is being collected, stored and reported on. This is THE thing you need installed on your website if you’re going to see how your own trends and patterns can help you improve your results and bottom line.
—> Google Tag Manager is an enhancement to Google Analytics. When you’re at a place where you’re collecting a lot of information – so let’s say you’re also collecting information for Facebook and Pinterest because you’re using those tracking pixels on your site as well so you can run ads on different platforms. And say you’re at a place where you need more information than Google Analytics can offer you – for instance, you want to track the people who watched more than 50% of that one video you have because you want to retarget those specific behaviors and people with ads on your next launch.
Google Tag Manager doesn’t replace Google Analytics – it doesn’t collect any of the data and it doesn’t report on it either – but what it DOES do is it allows for way more customized tracking.
So you start with – and must have – Google Analytics in place if you’re running an online-based business. But as your tracking needs evolve – more tracking pixels, more behaviors – that’s when you’ll bring Google Tag Manager into the mix of things.
Think of it this way: Google Analytics is your go-to breakfast sandwich at your favorite greasy spoon. It’s the thing that feeds and fuels you for the day, right?
So Google Tag Manager is UberEats. Does UberEats make your breakfast sandwich? No, it doesn’t. All UberEats does is it creates a new, more sophisticated way of getting your sandwich into your belly; just like Google Tag Manager makes it easier for you to get more customized, sophisticated tracking and reporting in place for your business and your bottom line.
But you still need your greasy spoon to be in the sandwich-making business and you still need Google Analytics to be collecting and reporting your data.
So this is the part where you say, “OK, Lanie, but, ummm, why do I care?”
Also, an excellent question and it’s probably my favorite because I LOVE it when you get bossy! It means you’re in your lane and I want that for you.
I also want you to keep asking those “why” questions: it’s a way better skill for you – the boss! – to improve on than learning how to filter traffic attributions.
(And if you don’t even know what filtering traffic attributions means?… that’s fine! I told my mechanic about a problem with “the steam coming out of my gas-hole” and after he was done laughing and laughing and laughing, he fixed my car and we both lived happily ever after. I didn’t have to become a mechanic or even know what to call my car parts to have a drive-able car, and you don’t need to learn what filtering traffic attribution is to be data-driven.)
GIVE YOUR PLANS THEIR “WHY”
Whether you realize it or not, anything you pursued in your business was a direct response to a question you had.
“How can I get more free traffic coming to my site?” was a question you were asking yourself when you bought that Pinterest course.
“What would make me more/better money?” was a question you had when were on the look-out to create a new product or service.
“What will make this easier?” was a question you had when you were looking at new tools or platforms to integrate into your operations.
Behind every promotion, every campaign, every decision you make and pursue – at its core – is a question you wanted an answer to.
That’s really everything that all of those strategies and planning sessions and goal-setting efforts were all about: answering a burning question you had.
So when you put a shiny new campaign in place, you’re essentially saying that this will be the answer to your burning question.
And your expectations for that campaign is what determines whether or not you view your efforts as having been successful or worthwhile.
The best superpower for data-driven bosses to have and to hone is the ability to ask questions like a freaking 2 year old.
- Why are you putting this campaign or strategy in place? What question are you looking to answer? What problem are you seeking to remedy?
- Is this campaign or strategy the best method you have available to you to address the problem as you’ve now clearly defined it be?
- What expectations do you have for this campaign? What outcome are you hoping for? Like, specifically, with numbers and dates, whenever possible.
—> Grab one of those pretty notebooks you bought and you never used, and start journaling those questions out.
Because the type of focus you will gain from doing this will prove to be waaaay more useful to you and provide you with waaaayyy bigger boss insights than dig-dig-digging through Google Analytics ever will.
When I go to corporate boardroom meetings, I’m not bringing #allthedata. I’m pretty sure I’d get fired for screen-sharing spreadsheets and reports because the suits aren’t there for that – I am! – and they’re there to make decisions… LIKE YOU ARE!
Bosses make their desired outcomes known, bosses are clear about what they value and it’s my job to show up with feedback as to where the boss stands in relation to where they want to be.
This way, you can see what is working, you can see where a little pivot or maybe even a triple-axle may be necessary, and you can identify the areas ripe for opportunity.
As the boss, it’s YOUR job to keep your eye on the prize and make sure everyone around you is doing the same.
And the prize? Is whatever-the-hey you wrote down in that pretty notebook of yours. That’s where you’ve defined what’s important and frankly, that’s the hardest part about getting data-driven!
Then, it’s just about seeing how those things you said were important to you are performing.
DASHBOARDS FOR THE WIN
That’s why I’m a HUGE fan, preacher, holy-mother-savior of The Dashboards.
When it comes to Dashboards, I get very Hair Club For Men about the whole thing: “I’m not just the president, I’m also a client”. I’m VERY that!
This may come as a surprise to you but as a data consultant, I seldom login to Google Analytics. In fact, I outsource almost all GA and GTM work to a member of my team. Say what? True story!
Google Analytics – to me, someone who LOVES data – it feels a lot like shopping at a department store when you know what you want, and frankly, you resent having to dig through all of this other brand name stuff to get it.
Meanwhile, a Dashboard feels more along the lines of concierge service at one of those upscale stores at The Forums in Las Vegas: you get EXACTLY what you want, and the only other things you even get to see are the things that directly relate and go with that one thing you came in for.
That’s how I like my data to show up:
aligned to tell me the story I came for.
And if I don’t need all the other stuff, you probably don’t either. And if you don’t look at your data, it’s probably because you don’t find it useful. And if you don’t find it useful, it’s probably not telling you any kind of story you can work with. (See how vicious our cycle is here?)
And if you’re still logging into Google Analytics to tell you the story of how you’re performing and it’s just, like, #allthethings #allataonce, I don’t blame you for not wanting to look at it.
Even their so-called “insights” tab will tell you such strangely useless things like “your traffic from Jakarta is down 76%”. I mean, seriously? What do you want ME to DO with that information? What light bulb moment and action plan do you expect that piece of information to foster?
NOW! Let’s be clear: I’m not dogging Google Analytics. Not in the LEAST!
I love its work, I love that it exists, I love having it in my world, I love everything it has to offer me.
But it’s build to collect and do #allthethings and seldom – if ever – do I need #allthethings.
This is my promise you right now, boss: you will never, ever, ever need to know #allthethings.
Google Analytics is collecting a ton of information, whether you need it or not. Whether you’re a multi-million dollar corporation or a small solopreneur, Google Analytics is just collecting all the same dimensions and metrics for everyone, so breathe a sigh of relief in knowing you’ll never use all of it.
I’ve given a lot of hall passes in this episode but let’s wrap this up in a pretty little bow, shall we, and talk about what ACTION ITEMS are way more useful to you as a creative entrepreneur than learning the ins-and-outs of GA and GTM:
1) GET BOSSY
Andy Warhol said it best and I quote him enough for the both of us with this one, but now I want you to say it with me: “I’m the boss, apple sauce!”
After all, that IS the boss thing to do!
2) Know what you want
And the journaling exercise we walked through earlier will get you – and anyone you’re working with – very clear as to what you, the boss, wants to see happen.
But it IS you who has to bring that clarity to the table!
So map out the problem you’re aiming to solve, identify what campaign or strategy you’re going to use to solve that problem, and then take the time it takes to be crystal clear as to what expectations you have for your outcome.
3) Ditch THE reports AND embrace Dashboards
Human beings like stories and plotlines. It’s who we are, it’s how we’re built.
So when I say to you, “here’s an acquisition report” and you’re all like ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ …you’re right to react this way!
But when you say, “Hey, I’m preparing for this big launch and I’m putting all my efforts into growing my email list right now. How is that going?” …we have ourselves a story!
There’s a plotline, there’s a focus, there’s a trajectory, and by using Dashboards, you’re able to move away from #allthethings and instead focus on the story you’re trying to gain some insights on.
If you have no idea where to start with Dashboards, the Dashboard Bundle is a solid starting point for telling the stories you care about.
- “how am I attracting new people to my brand?”
- “what are the patterns of the people who sign up to my email list?”
- “how are my sales pages performing and where are the areas I can improve my client journey?”
Which are all way far more useful stories and plotlines for a creative entrepreneur like you to gain insights on than staring at an acquisition report like it’s a magic eye puzzle, wondering WTF you should be seeing.
When it comes to wearing the bossy pants, you’ll often hear people talk about the importance of creating the opportunities for whitespace.
You need whitespace for the brilliant ideas to come through and for the clarity to set in. And someone who also likes to wear the life-long learner nerdy-pants, I know all-too-well how tempting it is to add another skillset or knowledge base to your repertoire.
And sure, sometimes it is worth it to do so.
But always remember that your first – and most important – role is that of being the shot-caller, and nobody else can do that for you!