For a lot of digital marketers, it is very tempting to spring for robust data tracking platforms that aggregate different data sources and let you present that data in fancy ways.
While that’s all well and good, those third-party solutions aren’t usually necessary.
Now, we’re definitely not encouraging you to neglect data tracking, but we are saying that it doesn’t have to be a bloated and overwrought process.
In this post, we’ll explain how we track data and present how, in this case, less is more.
We can count on them to bring new ideas to the table consistently
Google Analytics and Data Studio
When it comes to data tracking, simplicity and effectiveness are what we strive for. There are plenty of third-party data tracking tools and apps out there. Trust us, we’ve tried a lot of them, and they ultimately keep bringing us back to Google Analytics and Data Studio.
These two tools provide a solid foundation for tracking and visualizing your marketing data. Google Analytics is often viewed as the “home base” of a site’s data, and Data Studio is there to help organize it a little better.
Here’s our breakdown of the features that make Google Analytics and Data Studio relevant and effective for us:
Google Analytics is a free web analytics service offered by Google that allows website owners to track and report on website traffic. It provides valuable insights about site visitors such as demographics, behavior, engagement time, and source of traffic, enabling businesses to understand their audience better and optimize their website and marketing strategies accordingly.
Here are the most useful features:
- User Behavior Insights: GA provides detailed information about how users interact with your website, such as page views, bounce rates, and session durations. This data helps you understand user preferences and optimize your website’s user experience.
- Traffic Source Analysis: Through tracking the sources of your website traffic, Google Analytics helps you identify which channels are driving the most visitors. Whether it’s organic search, paid advertising, social media, or referrals, you can allocate your resources effectively to maximize ROI.
- Conversion and Goal Tracking: This tool enables you to set up and track conversions, whether they are purchases, form submissions or other desired actions. This feature helps you measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and identify areas for improvement.
- E-commerce Tracking: If you run an online store, GA offers powerful e-commerce tracking capabilities. You can track product performance, monitor transaction details, and analyze revenue data to optimize your online sales funnel.
- Audience Segmentation: Google Analytics allows you to segment your audience based on various dimensions, such as demographics, geography, and user behavior. This segmentation enables targeted marketing and personalized experiences tailored to different customer segments.
Google Data Studio is another free tool offered by Google that allows users to create customizable and interactive dashboards and reports from a variety of data sources. It provides data visualization capabilities that help transform raw data into easily understandable charts and graphs, enabling clear and effective data-driven decision making.
Data Studio can be directly integrated with Google Analytics, which allows you to visualize and interact with your Google Analytics data in a more flexible and customized way.
Here are the main features:
- Visual Data Representation: Data Studio empowers you to create visually appealing reports and dashboards that simplify complex data sets. With customizable charts, graphs, and tables, you can present your data in a visually engaging manner, making it easier for stakeholders to interpret and understand.
- Data Integration: It seamlessly integrates with various data sources, including Google Analytics, Google Ads, and external databases. This integration allows you to consolidate data from multiple channels and create comprehensive reports that provide a holistic view of your marketing performance.
- Real-Time Data Monitoring: This tool provides real-time data updates, allowing you to monitor key metrics and performance indicators in real time. This feature enables you to react promptly to changes and make data-driven decisions on the fly.
- Collaboration and Sharing: Data Studio allows for easy collaboration with team members and stakeholders. You can share reports and dashboards with specific individuals or groups, granting them access to view or edit the data visualization, fostering collaboration and alignment within your organization.
- Customization and Branding: It offers customization options to align the visual elements of your reports with your brand identity. You can customize colors, fonts, logos, and other design elements to create professional and cohesive data visualizations.
That’s it. We primarily use these two sources, not only for their simplicity but because they tend to host the most reliable record of data.
The moment you start adding more software into the mix, you run the risk of data discrepancies; one platform doesn’t sync on the same schedule as Google Analytics or an integration fails or, worse, an integration isn’t even available for your data source.
As you can see, adding more reporting tools can sometimes muddy the waters, which is the exact opposite of what you want with reporting data.
The Limitations of Third-Party Marketing Data Tracking Tools
While third-party marketing data tracking tools offer convenience and additional functionalities, it’s important to recognize that they may not always accurately reflect the data from the original data sources. These tools rely on data integration and API connections to gather information from various platforms, which introduces certain limitations and potential discrepancies in the data.
Here are some key factors to be wary of when deciding if you’re going to use third-party apps for data tracking:
- Data Sampling and Aggregation: Third-party tracking tools often rely on data sampling and aggregation techniques to handle large datasets efficiently. While this approach allows for quicker data processing, it can lead to a loss of granularity and precision. Aggregated data may not provide a comprehensive view of individual user interactions or specific campaign performance metrics, potentially skewing the analysis and insights derived from the data.
- Data Latency and Delays: Data tracking tools may encounter delays in data collection and updates due to various factors, such as API limitations, network congestion, or platform-specific data processing times. As a result, the real-time nature of the data may be compromised, and marketers might not have immediate access to the most up-to-date information. It’s crucial to be aware of the potential latency in data reporting and consider the timeframe within which the data is collected and presented.
- Data Interpretation and Mapping: Third-party tools rely on interpreting and mapping data received from different platforms and sources. However, each platform may have its unique way of structuring and reporting data, leading to discrepancies and inconsistencies when it comes to data interpretation and mapping. The tool’s algorithms and configuration settings may also affect how data is transformed and presented, potentially introducing discrepancies compared to the original data source.
- Data Privacy and Access Limitations: Some platforms, especially those focused on user privacy and data protection, may restrict the level of data that can be accessed or shared through third-party tracking tools. As a result, marketers may face limitations in the depth and breadth of data available for tracking and analysis, potentially impacting the accuracy and completeness of the insights derived.
Expanding Possibilities with Integration and Automation
As much as we have been pushing the use of just Google Analytics and Data Studio throughout this piece, we do recommend one external platform, should you desire a unified space to house and report your data.
Supermetrics is a tool that offers seamless integration with Google Data Studio (plus 100 other platforms):
With Supermetrics, you can easily import data from various sources, including social media platforms, advertising platforms, CRM systems, and the whole nine yards.
This integration allows you to consolidate data from multiple channels into a single reporting dashboard, providing a holistic view of your marketing efforts.
We like Supermetrics because, in our experience, it has risen above other third-party data reporting tools in terms of reliability and ease of use.
But again, this kind of reporting isn’t always necessary, and it can run the risk of returning slightly inaccurate data as to what you might see in the native platforms’ reporting.
Final Words of Advice on Data Tracking Tools
Data tracking is an indispensable component of any successful marketing strategy.
Remember that no matter what sources or tools you choose to integrate with your data sources, try to keep it minimal. Select one source that you believe to be most accurate and stick to that source. If you start comparing the data from one source to another, it will make good decision-making nigh impossible.
If you keep your reporting suite confined to just a couple of tools like Google Analytics and Data Studio, you’ll be able to easily parse your data and, most importantly, make meaningful decisions based on that data.
If you need help tracking your data, Single Grain’s analytics experts can help!👇
Repurposed from our Marketing School podcast.
Data Tracking FAQs
What is third-party data tracking?
Third-party data tracking refers to the collection of user data by entities that are not directly involved in the interaction between the user and the website or app. This is typically done by third-party cookies placed on a website by other companies, often for advertising purposes.
When you visit a website, the website may allow other companies (the “third parties”) to set a cookie on your browser. These third-party cookies can then track your behavior across multiple websites, building up a profile of your interests based on the sites you visit and the content you view. This profile can be used for targeted advertising, so that you see ads that are likely to be of interest to you.
It’s important to note that third-party data tracking has become a contentious issue, with concerns raised about privacy and consent. As a result, some web browsers have started to block third-party cookies by default, and regulations like the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have placed restrictions on how this kind of tracking can be carried out.
Is it safe to use third-party apps?
Using third-party apps can be safe, but it does depend on several factors such as the reputation of the app developer, the permissions the app is asking for, and how well the app is maintained with respect to updates and security patches.
Here are some tips to ensure that you’re using third-party apps safely:
- Do your research: Before downloading a third-party app, research the app and its developer. Look for reviews and ratings, check out the developer’s website, and see what other apps they’ve created.
- Check permissions: Be cautious of apps that request permissions that don’t seem necessary for the app’s functionality. For example, a simple note-taking app shouldn’t need access to your contacts.
- Download from trusted sources: Whenever possible, download apps from official app stores like Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store. These platforms have security measures in place to screen apps for malware.
- Keep apps updated: App developers frequently update their apps to fix bugs, improve functionality, and patch security vulnerabilities. Ensure that your apps are updated to the latest version for optimal security.
- Use a security solution: Install a trusted security solution on your device that can detect and warn you about potentially unsafe apps and malware.
What is the purpose of data tracking?
Data tracking serves several key purposes in various industries, particularly in the digital marketing and e-commerce sectors. Here are a few primary purposes:
- Personalization: By tracking data, businesses can offer more personalized experiences to users. For example, tracking browsing behavior can allow a website to suggest products or services that align with a user’s interests.
- Improving User Experience: Data tracking helps businesses understand how users interact with their platforms. This can highlight areas for improvement, helping to create a better user experience.
- Targeted Advertising: Businesses use tracked data to show relevant ads to users. By understanding a user’s interests and online behavior, companies can provide targeted advertisements that are more likely to result in conversions.
- Performance Measurement: Data tracking allows businesses to measure the performance of their websites, apps, or ad campaigns. Metrics such as click-through rates, bounce rates, and conversion rates can provide valuable insights into what’s working and what isn’t.
- Predictive Analysis: Over time, the data collected can be used to predict future behaviors and trends, enabling businesses to proactively adapt their strategies.
- A/B Testing: Businesses can use data tracking to test different versions of a webpage, advertisement, or other digital content to see which performs better.