What Gail Learned from the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ)
Before the mass adoption of the internet, data-driven marketing was almost unheard of.
Fast-forward to the present time, where nearly all marketers acknowledge that having access to accurate data and analytics is a crucial component of maximizing traffic and leads. According to the Association of National Advertisers, 96 percent of marketers say the ability to make data-informed decisions is their most-needed capability to respond effectively to disruptions.
Web data has become readily accessible through analytics, which are available from nearly every social media platform and most websites (as long as analytics are properly integrated with the site). But what if you’re having trouble making sense of the well-mined, organized data in your analytics? Many of the available analytics platforms are very robust and allow you to configure the data in various ways, but you need to have a basic understanding of how the platforms function to obtain the data you need.
That’s why I recently became Google Analytics-certified.
Our clients depend on us to deliver websites that are optimized for search and drive leads and conversions, and we rely on Google Analytics to help us shape the strategy behind our web builds. Google Analytics is one of the most powerful free analytics platforms available and is widely used by organizations around the world. So when I set out to complete the Google Analytics for Beginners and Advanced Google Analytics courses, and finally sat for (and passed!) my Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ), I knew all of the hard work would be worth it. (Editor’s note: Vela is a certified Google Partner agency too.)
Here are my top three takeaways from becoming Google Analytics-certified:
Google Analytics coursework and exams may be free-of-charge, but be ready to invest your time.
There are a lot of resources out there for getting certified,
but I opted to prepare for the GAIQ by taking the Google Analytics for Beginners and Advanced Google Analytics courses, both of which are free through Google Analytics Academy. Google recommends allotting four to six hours for each course. Then the GAIQ exam is 70 questions and approximately 90 minutes long. Altogether, you’re looking at roughly 14 hours.
But that’s if you do it all consecutively.
It took me several months to complete both preparatory courses and the GAIQ. The Google Analytics for Beginners and Advanced Google Analytics courses each contain four video modules, with three to five lessons per module. I typically took a lesson or two every few days. Most lessons are under 10 minutes long, but they’re full of detailed information, so I paused the videos every couple of seconds and took copious amounts of notes. Google also gives you the option to download a transcript of each lesson.
Before taking the GAIQ, I brushed up on my skills by taking several practice tests. This site isn’t officially associated with Google, but its practice exams are challenging and my score increased with each one. At least 56 questions out of 70 must be answered correctly for a passing score of 80 percent.
Practice still makes perfect.
While the GAIQ is a feather in a digital marketer’s cap,
supplementing your certification with practical knowledge is the best way to keep your Google Analytics skills up to date. I’m fortunate to have access to several accounts and work in the platform nearly every day to help advise our clients at Vela. If you don’t use Google Analytics for professional purposes, you can install it on your blog or personal website to measure traffic. A great beginner’s guide to installing and using Google Analytics can be found here, or on the Google Analytics Help Page.
Don’t have a website of your own? Check out the Google Analytics YouTube channel, which offers videos and walkthroughs of the interface, or the Google Analytics Demo Account, a fully functional account that any Google user can access to begin experimenting with the platform.
Establish objectives first, and customize Google Analytics accordingly.
Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful, customizable tool.
And because the needs of every organization are different, learnings from Google Analytics are best maximized when success has been clearly defined. Are you a blogger who is simply interested in how many people are visiting your site and which posts they’re reading? Or do you have an ecommerce site with goals based on capturing contact details, generating leads and conversions? Objectives can vary greatly from user to user, so it’s important to know what those are before you identify the Google Analytics reports that will help you measure and interpret success.
Standard reports can provide lots of information, including (but far from limited to) how many people visit a website, where they live, which websites are referring traffic, which pages are getting the most traffic, and what types of devices are being used to view a website. These default reports are just the tip of the iceberg. There is a plethora of metrics and insights below the surface in custom reports that can be designed based on specific needs. A broader overview of the dimensions, metrics and reports offered by Google Analytics can be found here. For some ideas of where to start with custom reporting, visit the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery to view custom reports and advanced segments that other users have created.
The GAIQ helped me gain a broad view of the data Google Analytics can provide. I don’t use all of these reports daily, but armed with this knowledge, I can recommend new insights that can be gleaned from the platform to help clients achieve their goals.
And those new insights can only be uncovered by looking back at what has happened in the past. Understanding what has worked or not worked previously with your website and improving on those measures is the best way to avoid making the same mistakes, better anticipate the future, and build on your successes. It’s why we use Google Analytics and why I became Google Analytics-certified. The certification needs to be renewed annually, so I’m encouraged to continually improve. I plan to retake the exam annually to keep it from expiring and so my knowledge of the platform remains fresh.