How to use Google Analytics benchmarking

In September 2014, Google Analytics announced the return of Benchmarking. If you are familiar with Google Analytics, you must be really thrilled to use the feature once again. This feature, discontinued in 2011, allowed marketers to analyze their website against the market data, and gain valuable insights. The question is: is it easy to implement and use? Absolutely!

Implement Benchmarking in Google Analytics

Follow these simple steps to implement Benchmarking in your account:

Step 1: Go to the Admin Tab :

Step 2: After choosing the desired account, click on “Account Settings” :

Step 3: Enable the option to share data with Google and other anonymously :

Step 4: You have successfully enabled Benchmarking and can check the reports under “Audience”

“Channels”, “Location” and “Devices” are the three reports available under Benchmarking.

Step 5: Once in the report, you can choose the industry, location and traffic bandwidth for which you want to see the benchmarking data :

  • By default the industry will be set to the industry you chose when you set up the account. This choice is not set in stone and you can choose a new industry and compare whenever required:
  • Based on the country of your focus, you can choose a specific country or leave it as “All” (global):
  • This shows the option to choose the traffic segment the website belongs to. By default, GA sets it based on the average number of daily sessions. You can change this if required:

How to Use the Benchmarking Reports

By default, you will get the line graph to show day/week/month wise performance. What you can get from this are the time frames where your website outperformed the industry in general:

The more informed among the analysts would not jump at the above performance and would scroll down a bit to see the following details:

The negative point about the above report is that you need to learn how to use it. However, the positive point is that once you do, you’ll read the performance of the website and “de-code” it instantly. The trick is to actually focus on the areas that matter to your business and interest.

For example, we are interested in bringing more and more sessions to the website. By default, we bring in 16% more sessions to the website than the industry average. Another goal would be to bring in new users to the website. The new users are also showing to be better than the industry average by 30%.

Now on closer inspection, we find that the pages/sessions are all showing red compared to the industry average. If we didn’t know better, we would probably worry about this. What it actually means is that the channels are bringing in traffic that is focused to the pages in the website based on their need. In other words, the users find exactly what they want, complete the activities and leave immediately. Where we would want to focus is user retention, but that is a lesson for another time.

Ok. Benchmarking helps me compare, so what?

Let’s look at it this way: usually, the increase in the number of new users had been roughly 15% but last month, I received only 5% more new users than the previous month. Is that very low? Should I be very worried? As you can see from the above screenshot, it’s not that bad compared to the industry. Maybe, it was just a seasonality effect that the whole industry suffers from. Importantly, Benchmarking reports give you multiple perspectives and ideas to dig more into your GA data. That is, Benchmarking is the window to your next ad hoc report.

We have been so far looking at the “Channels” report. We also have the “Location” report. Given example is only for the US, as our focus is as such, and it is dependent on the location you have set up in the Benchmarking filters at the top.

The third report talks about the different devices that bring sessions to the website:

The reason that the device report would be important is when the website is not performing well in one of the devices (this could point to a design issue), it would be obvious in this report. Else, with just the devices report, how would you know if the devices are performing poorly if you see low number consistently?

That is all we can discuss about the new GA Benchmarking in general. You could do wonders with this information once you digest the Benchmarking data according to your industry and website category. As we had mentioned earlier, Benchmarking reports are not the end reports. They help speculate hypothesis which you still have to test out using reports from GA and come to a better understanding of your website and the industry it resides in. Happy Benchmarking!!!

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