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Free Google Analytics certification: how to get it.

Did you know that in digital marketing you do not have to pay Harvard or MIT to get a marketing certificate that comes from a brand that is even more prestigious than these universities? You can thank Google for this! This post will walk you through how you can get a stamp from Google on your analytics skills.

Certifications are a great way to demonstrate your skills and get a new job or a promotion. They are also a great way to test yourself and assess your skill level. Several great certifications are available for free! You should definitely work to get them if you are serious about digital marketing.

In this post, I walk you step by step to get the Google Analytics main certifications easily.

Tips to get Google analytics certification easily

Here are the steps you need to follow to get a certification signed by the first brand in the world on you CV, for free. Thank you, Google!

  • Take the practice questions provided by Google first. That way you will identify the gaps in your knowledge and be able to focus your preparation on what you do not know yet.
  • The Google Partners page includes great training videos and study notes for the certification. Go through them and you will be ready for the Google Analytics Personal Certification.
  • In particular, the Google Academy content is a great resource to learn all you need to know to get the Google analytics certification.
  • The study notes are permitted during the actual certification exam. So, keep open a tab with the Google Analytics help center during the exam, and another one with Google AdWords help. And if you have decided to prepare the certification with the notes below, keep the post open. It includes a link to the most relevant pages of Google Analytics help.
I strongly advise you to go through all Google Academy's material: watch the full series of video. I tried the certification exam too quickly and had the frustrating experience of being exactly below the passing grade. That's quite frustrating!

To further support you in getting the Google Analytics free certification, this post details my study notes.

The Key Concepts of Google Analytics?

Let's start with the basics:
  • Analytics is about: (1) Measuring behavior, (2) reporting it, (3) analyzing the gathered data to improve the business results, (4) testing solutions to increase the business results, (5) starting over. 
  • Google Analytics Data model relies on the following hierarchy: users > sessions > interactions.
  • Segmenting the data is key to derive actionable conclusions for your business. For instance, you may segment the date by date/time to find out if you sell more on Mondays. 
    • Classical segments used in Google analytics are the following: date/time, device, marketing channel, geography, and customer characteristics. 
    • In Google analytics lingo, the segmentations is made according to dimensions.
  • Putting the data into context the data is key to understand the data correctly. 
    •  An important external context factor is to monitor the competition activities. 
    • An example of internal context information is the history of your sales.
  • Bounce rate is the percentage of pages that receive a single interaction from the visitor before he or she leaves the site.
As you know, it is essential in digital marketing to link your activity to business goals. And analytics is your friend in this respect. If you are not convinced have a look to my post on smartinsights about the most common causes for digital marketing team failure...
  • The business objectives are measured by tracking some actions of the users on the website or app.
    • Actions that indicate the business objective is completed are called Macro-conversions. For instance, a cart validation and payment on the website is a clear macro action.
    • Micro-conversions are all other actions that bring the audience one step closer to the business goal. For instance, a customer signing up for information about promotions is a step towards making a purchase.
  • Attribution is the fact of giving credit to marketing actions for the conversions you get: for instance if you pay for ads, and they lead to sales.
  • Last click attribution is the simplest attribution method: it'consists in considering that the last ad the person clicked has full credit for the sale.
  • There are other attribution methods. They permit to estimate the value of each channel and define your marketing budget.
  • The stages of a digital sale funnel are the following according to Google: awareness > acquisition > engagement > conversion. Beware other companies have different definitions as you can learn in my tips to get the great inbound marketing certification from Hubspot.

Google Analytics Exam: How to define a measurement plan

I am serious about structuring digital marketing process, you can see in my ten tricks for establishing a great digital marketing strategy. I have seen too many projects fail because business goals were not properly defined in the early stages of the project. Therefore, I have structured my notes below by following the steps to define a great digital marketing measurement plan.
  • STEP 1: Any digital analytics strategy starts with a definition of the business goals. 
    • Typical business goals are for instance: 
      • (1) sell products, or (2) gather leads' contact details, or (3) display ads and affiliate content to visitors to generate revenue, or the fuzziest one (4) bring supportive content to a targeted audience to create awareness and brand loyalty by increasing your audience and engaging with your customers.
    • After the business goals have been documented and validated by the business team, you can define which channels are most appropriate to reach the business goals. 
  • STEP 2: When defining your digital marketing analytics strategy for a specific channel you should start by defining your macro conversions
    • Usually, the number of macro conversions is the key performance indicator (KPI) you want to track. You should document the KPIs you want to track. Google analytics calls your KPIs the metrics
    • You will want to analyze your metrics under various dimensions: geography, browser language, device type.,, After defining (1) the business goals, (2) the conversions and call to actions, (3) the KPIs and metrics, you should identify which (4) dimensions you need in your measurement plan.
  • STEP 3: To define a digital marketing and measurement plan, you need to secure following resources:
    1. someone from business to define the business goals, 
    2. someone from digital marketing to define the digital strategy, and 
    3. someone from IT to implement the analytics part.
    • Defining a measurement plan is an iterative process: a continuous improvement approach is recommended to ensure your reports address the business needs and permit your company to reach its business goals.
  • STEP 4: Then you will need to document the technical infrastructure and plan the implementation:
    • You will need to ask IT or your agency to document the servers they will use, the domain names and technologies for the website, the process and project management methodology they want to follow for the implementation, etc. You will also rely on them to proceed with the actual implementation.

In summary, your analytics strategy is documented through three main elements:
  1. The validated business goals,
  2. The KPIs to measure the progress towards these goals,
  3. The dimensions you are going to use to deep dive in the KPIs (segmentation) and identify how to increase your business performance.

The Google Analytics implementation plan

Until now we have had a lot of bla bla about the planning of your analytics implementation. Now let's see how we actually implement this analytics plan.

  • STEP 1: Configure an account for Google Analytics. 
    • During the account setup process, you can use your own email address, not necessarily a address, by choosing "I prefer to use my current address".
    • The structure of Google analytics permits an account (an account = an email address, to simplify), can view multiple properties, such as your blog, website, and app (a property = a google analytics tracking code, such as UA-50926240-7). 

  • STEP 2: Integrate google analytics basic features into your website.  For websites, it involves installing a small piece of javascript code into your website source code. For apps, it relies on different integration mechanisms. Once google analytics is integrated into the website, it sends a hit for all the events tracked. Google has great tutorials to proceed to this step.
Javascript code snippets for integrating various trackers on this blog.
  • STEP 3: Define appropriate analytics views. 
    • You have configured your accounts - high-level groups of properties associated with a Google Analytics user, 
    • You have created properties - on which digital assets data is tracked, and 
    • Now you need to create views - what analytics users will see.
      • You can analyze each property through multiple views. For instance, it is a good practice to create an unfiltered view, a master view - for instance excluding the visits of your agency and colleagues, and a test view as a playground for any changes. To create a view, follow the instructions here.
      • Processed data cannot be reprocessed; so, be careful how you configure and modify your views. Views will include data only from the day they were created; so, it is a good idea to define them from the beginning to have the full data history.

  • STEP 4: Define Google Analytics goals that correspond to the target values of the tracked KPIs to measure the progress towards your business goals.

    • The micro-conversions you have defined earlier can be identified as steps towards a goal or as goals into Google Analytics: they represent stages of your sales funnel
    • The conversion rate metrics are the most important in your analytics views because they directly link to your original business goals.
    • Two events are commonly used to the track the conversions: 
      • The display of a destination goal page, such as a sign-up confirmation page for instance,
      • A click on a specific element of your website, such a link to your e-commerce store from your blog, for instance. Tracking these events requires the inclusion of a specific tracking code by your agency or IT team.
    • If your site is an e-commerce boutique, enable Google Analytics e-commerce tracking features. It will require your agency or IT team to add special tracking codes into your website source code. 
      • There is a big difference between normal conversions and e-commerce conversions. Conversions are normally counted once per visit only. However, in the case of e-commerce websites, the goals are counted as many times as the user completes them during a visit.

Advanced Google Analytics Use

Congratulations if you are still here! You are making great progress towards getting your Google Analytics Individual Certification! Strap yourself: now it starts to get a bit more technical.

  • STEP 5: Extend and curate the data visible in your Google Analytics account
    • Define filters to curate the analytics data. 
      • A classical example is to filter out all the IP addresses that start with the prefix of your company. 
      • You should also set advanced filters to remove the lines that refer to a low number of clicks to avoid irrelevant noise in your data reports.
    • Link your AdWords account to track the efficiency of your paid advertising campaigns and to enable retargeting campaigns.
    • Use custom dashboards template to visualize data in the most appropriate visualization format.
    • Link your Google webmaster tools (now called Google Search Console) account to the Google Analytics accounts for greater insights into the search keywords that link to your website. Follow the instructions here.
  • STEP 6: Define campaign tags to track the results of campaigns and cross-channel initiatives on your measured properties. 

    • For instance, if you have launched an emailing campaign, you will want to track the number of people who have clicked on a link. To do this, you will create and use campaign tags. These tags enable Google Analytics to display more relevant information about the cross-channel actions. 
    • You can pass a lot of information along with the clicks, which enables you to track your campaigns correctly and even to do A/B testing. The technical mechanism to forward this information to Google Analytics is to add parameters in the link URLs:
    • For example, you can set following tags for your email clicks and you will find corresponding information in your Google Analytics campaign reports:
      • utm_source=july_product_launches
      • utm_medium=email
      • utm_campaign=rebranding_uk_agency_contract
      • utm_content=ab_test_version_1
    • Tags are super powerful: you can also use them to pass the answers from a form on your website to Google analytics and add specific dimensions to your google analytics views, but this goes beyond the requirements of the Google Analytics certification.

  • STEP 7: Analyze your data and iterate.
    • First, use the default audience view to analyze which channels bring significant traffic to your website. It may sound obvious, but you should focus your efforts first on these channels.
    • Review the flow of visitors in your website. Typically, you will notice that some of your most popular pages have a high bounce rate. You should solve these issues with the appropriate calls to action.
    • Look at the bounce rate depending on the browser type to check if your website offers a good experience on various devices. If the bounce rate is higher with mobile browsers, you should review the website design.
    • Review the acquisition reports to see how your various marketing channels perform and especially organic vs paid, and the contribution of social, emails, etc.
    • AdWords reports show what happens after people click on your ads: how they navigate your website.
      • They can show fewer visits than clicks, for instance, if some users use Ghostery and other privacy protections to block Google Analytics scripts.
      • The keyword reports permit you to see which ones lead to conversions or engagement.
      • The ROI metric enables you to shine in front of your bosses or to identify issues with your paid campaigns and request adjustments to the keywords and banners to your agency.
      • The destination URL dimension is particularly interesting to see which landing pages are worth investing in because they drive high conversions.
These notes should help you get the basics rights and you can use them as a cheat-sheet for the exam (notes are permitted). But once again, watch the google academy's videos, that's the best way to learn and prepare for the certification.

Good luck! And do not forget: sharing is caring. If you like this blog, a social media share or a LinkedIn connection request will be highly appreciated. Thanks!

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