Track Specific Groups with Google Analytics’ Cohort Analysis


by Sarah Warlick, content director

Google Analytics Cohort AnalysisMany businesses use ‘big data’ to inform their decisions these days, but you don’t have to be a corporate behemoth to benefit from data analysis. Google Analytics gives you all kinds of detailed information (for free!) that you can use to see what’s working and what’s not within your firm’s overall marketing strategy.

How many of those who received your latest email blitz ended up spending time on your website? Do the folks who remember your old website spend less time finding what they need on the new one? These questions and many more can be answered using the cohort data that’s buried inside your analytics page. Cohort analysis lets you separate out specific groups within your overall user population and explore trends and changes in their behavior.

Once you’ve signed into your Google Analytics account you can access your Cohort Analysis by following these steps:

  1. Click on Admin (it’s a heading at the very top of all the pages)
  2. Use the My View dropdown menu to select how you’d like to see the data
  3. Go back up to that row of options at the top of the page (where you initially selected Admin) and click on Reporting
  4. Select Audience and then Cohort Analysis

Once you’re there, you can choose a cohort and generate a report that will allow you to find out all kinds of information about a particular group of visitors.

Using the menus on the Cohort Analysis tab, start by selecting a cohort to examine and then dive into the data to explore their behavior using a metric you choose. Options for cohorts include Type (what do they have in common?), Size, Date Range for the data and of course, the Metric you’re observing (things like number of page views or user retention, for example). You can also select several cohorts and pick which ones your report will show, for comparison.

Google gives you a wide selection of options for displaying the data. Your choices include line charts, columns, rows, cells and segments (this one may yield less accurate results due to variation over the measurement period). And what sorts of things can you see with the data? Plenty:

  • Effects of specific marketing actions
  • User engagement
  • Retention
  • Acquisition
  • Microtrends
  • Relative performance between and within cohorts over time

Now that you know how to locate and generate reports illustrating cohort data, what will you do with it? That’s up to you, and after you play with it a bit you’ll come up with countless questions that the information can answer. Think in terms of snapshots and trends among specific users that can give you the insights you need to make your marketing even more effective. Give it a try, and you’ll soon be ferreting out actionable information for your firm from the secrets that have been hiding inside your Google Analytics page all this time.

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