Google Analytics: Using Timeframe Comparisons

Merely looking at graphs and numbers in Google Analytics for today, this week, or this month won’t tell an entire story. It will simply give you a glimpse of your current performance.

To really analyze in depth, add context. One of the simplest ways to do this is by comparing two similar periods of time. By comparing and contrasting, you are trend spotting, and that is the real detective work.

Selecting two timeframes for comparison in Google Analytics.

This Week vs. Last Week

This is one of the most important comparisons to make when you are actively making content or layout changes on your website. It’s a small enough sample size that you can visualize a minor move, up or down, in conversion rates and traffic patterns.

It also allows for you to get a very precise comparison if your business is affected by days of the week, such as a B-to-B organization that is closed on the weekends. If we select this Sunday through Saturday, and compare it to last Sunday through Saturday, you will account for all the typical variations in our web traffic. For short term changes, look for the following.

  • Did advertising impact your traffic, sales, and leads this week?
  • Was there a positive impact from a particular tweet, pin, or Facebook post?
  • Is a new Google AdWords campaign improving traffic and conversions?

Events: Before and After

There are actions you take that can affect not only how much web traffic you receive, but the value of that traffic, and the content that the traffic consumes.

These could be local festivals near your physical store, or trade show attending by your sales and marketing teams.

For example, let’s assume your team went to a trade show to promote a new product. A meaningful timeframe comparison is the day of the trade show and after, compared to the same number of days before the trade show. Specifically, if the trade show was May 1, and today is May 13, we’d compare those 13 days to the thirteen days before.

Here are some things to look for.

  • Rise in organic search traffic to the product specific page describing your new offering.
  • Rise in direct traffic to your home page.
  • Rise in inquires sent through your website, or phone calls received. For phone calls, look offline unless you are using Google AdWords call tracking or some other system that measures web based calls.

These would all be good indicators that your product was well received, and that your sales and marketing teams did an effective job promoting it at the trade show.

In the case of a local business, it’s sometimes more meaningful to look at overall traffic volume compared to specific conversions and inquiries. However, a few things that might indicate greater name recognition because of walk by traffic at, say, a festival.

  • An increase in direct traffic and organic search traffic on your home page.
  • An increase in traffic from Yelp or other local web directory and review services.


Monthly Data this Year vs. Last

This is another effective comparison. Holidays, weekends, and annual events that take place at roughly the same time each year are all included in the analysis.

This comparison looks at the overall growth of monthly web traffic versus last year. This is a high level review of the results of your web marketing efforts, looking at the following items.

  • Has organic search traffic increased? This would be due to search engine optimization efforts, branding efforts, as well as picking the right products and services to offer.
  • Is social media helping? This is a complex question, but you should be able to see traffic growth year over year if you are engaging you audience on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.
  • Are paid advertising campaigns helping? Since you should always be testing ads and keywords in Google AdWords and Bing Ads, you should see higher conversion rates for longer running campaigns.
  • Have sales and leads increased? This is the most important measurement.


 Analysis versus Looking at Numbers

If you looking at one time period, you’re only looking at numbers. When you compare time periods, you are beginning to do real web analytics.

By adding historical context to measurements, you are fostering discussion with your internal team and contractors, or you are beginning an internal dialogue that can lead to better insights.


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