Website Designers and Website Developers are always on the lookout for software and website tools to either improve your own website, or to help guide your clients. In today’s environment, with technology development speeding up as quickly as it is, it’s sometimes harder to sort through all of the new tools than it is to find new tools.

Google Analytics Social Reporting Tool Explained

New and existing companies are constantly putting out new website software or updating their existing software to provide their customers with new features. Website Designers and Developers must spend time learning about all of the website software on the market so that they are prepared to answer client questions, as well as, integrate new software into their websites. One website tracking tool that has been all of the rage lately is the Google Analytics Social Reporting Tool.

You may have heard about the Social Reports feature offered free of charge through Google Analytics. Finally, the golden question of “What is the return-on-investment of our social media campaign?” can now be answered more easily thanks to another great tool put out by Google. Website owners now have better social media monitoring and measurement capabilities thanks to Google’s Social Reporting Tool.

Almost all Website Designers and Website Developers at least know about Google Analytics, and a large portion of you are probably using it for your website and for client websites. You could spend days digging through all of the data provided through Google Analytics. Now that Google has put out a set of reports we thought we would save you a little time by breaking them down so that you can understand what the Social Reports offer and what the benefits to you and your clients can be. Although Google Social Reports can be set up to collect and filter data from over 400 social media platforms out there, with all of the big players like Facebook and Twitter included, its deepest integration is with Google+ (which makes sense).

In this article we will breakdown many of the reports that Google Analytics customers will now have access to free of charge, discuss what data is captured and reported on through each report, and what the benefits of each report are to website owners.

Google Social Visitors Flow Report
Not claiming it to be the most valuable, but the coolest and most visually understandable reporting feature in Google Social Reports is Social Visitors Flow. Website owners are able to not only see how many hits are coming from various social media channels, but one is also able to follow the traffic from the initial starting page to see which pages users flow downstream to. Details about how many visitors visited a starting page, then subsequent pages after that is clearly shown. Also, the user is able to easily see how many “drop offs” there were from each page visited. To dig deeper, you are able to choose to show all the traffic from only one social media channel at a time. This ability really lets you gain an understanding of where traffic from a particular social media channel is ultimately ending up on your website before they drop off.

Being able to quickly and accurately see what social networks website visitors are coming from, what page they are landing on, and where they are navigating to throughout your website is a very valuable tool. Google gets it. Now it’s time for website owners to take advantage.

Social Plugins Report
Almost every blog you read these days has those icons that we have all grown to know and love. You know the ones… The “Tweet This”, “Like on Facebook”, “+1”, etc. Smart website owners use these social plugins to make it extremely easy for their website visitors to share website content within their social networks. Tools like Social Plugins are great for getting your website content in front of new visitors. Not only that, but they empower the user to make the recommendation, which is a much strong recommendation in the eyes of the new reader since it’s coming from a trusted source.

Google Social Plugins

At a high level the Social Plugins Report allows website owners to see exactly which pages are being shared socially the most. Drill down further to see how many times each page was shared via different social media channels. This is a very powerful report in regards to finding out which posts your viewers think are most interesting and worthy of passing on. Armed with this information website owners can find out which topics their visitors are the most interested in, and then can write more articles about those topics. Over time this will lead to increased engagement from your community, as well as, increased traffic to your website by way of those readers sharing your content with their community.

Social Value Report
One of the biggest questions people who use social media for sales and marketing ask is, “how can I tell how many sales are generated from my social media marketing efforts”? There are ways to find these numbers, but it normally takes a lot of foresight, time, and money to ensure you’re getting accurate data. Although Google’s Social Value report still has some way to go to fully report e-Commerce conversions, it’s a good first step.

The Social Value Report details how many visitors from social media sources were converted into paying customers. That said, there is a little upfront work that must be done in order to set this report up properly. First, you must first set up “conversions” or GOALS within your Google Analytics account. If you have a clear monetary value for your website conversion, you can actually add that information into the Goals that you set up in Google Analytics. This will actually allow you to determine an accurate dollar amount or “Social Value” that your social media efforts are generating.

Social Data Hub for Tracking Off-Site Activity
A more advanced feature of the Google Social Reports is Social Data Hub. Google has partnered with a lot of the social networking sites out there to bring Google Analytics users even more insight into which content is bringing the most value to readers. Referred to as an “off-site activity” reporting tool, website owners are now able to gain an understanding of +1’s and comments that take place outside of your website. A large list of Social Data Hub partners exists. Some of the big name partners include Digg, Gigya, Meetup, Reddit, Blogger, and Delicious. Prior to this report, companies had to spend a considerable amount of time and money to get access to this data. Now by digging into Social Sources in Google Analytics you can look at the specific social media tools that are producing the most engagement around your content.

Social Sources Report
One of the simpler and more basic reports, Social Sources lets users quickly compare their overall web traffic to web traffic specifically derived from social media sources. Most importantly one can determine how many visits each social media source is providing, the number of page views from each source, and the average visit duration from each source. These statistics give valuable insight into which sources are supplying the visitors that are spending the most time and visiting the most pages on your site.

By keeping an eye on this report website owners can determine which social media tools are working best for their website and then start spending more time on those social networks instead of other underperforming social networks. For example, if you assume Facebook is the best social network for attracting visitors to your website, but after a few months of watching this report it shows that Facebook is actually behind Twitter and LinkedIn in terms of attracting new traffic to your website, it may be that you decide to stop spending so much time promoting your content on Facebook, and start focusing more on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Activity Stream Report
The Google Activity Stream Report is a real-time social media monitoring report that allows you to monitor who’s interacting with your content through specific social channels like:

Many more
The Activity Stream Report allows you to see who’s talking about your content and allows you to respond to those folks in real-time. You can also click a button to “follow” or “monitor” the conversation to see which direction it takes, who joins the conversation, etc. Website owners receive the benefit of having this report segmented by “conversations” and “events”.

Conversations include:

New posts from anyone on the social network where the conversation is taking place
Content shares/reshares
Comments by users

Events include:

There is still room for improvement (if Google decides to go this route) as currently Facebook and Twitter are not included. You can probably understand why Facebook isn’t included since Facebook and Google butt heads so much, but at the very least, Twitter should be included. This would take the Activity Stream Report to the next level.

Use Google Social Reports to Better Use Social Media and Engage Website Traffic
Hopefully after reading this article you are better informed on just what all of the buzz has been about in regards to Google’s Social Reports. Once again, Google Analytics and all of the Social Reports, are absolutely free for anyone with a website. These reports can provide you with an incredible amount of information about your website traffic. These new Social Reports are a step in the right direction in regards to finding out exactly how your social media marketing efforts are paying off either in the form of increased website traffic or even increased sales. I know that Website Designers and Website Developers have a lot of new software that they must learn and implement for their own websites and for client website, but I highly recommend that you spend some time learning more about Google Social Reports. You will be happy that you did!

Are you currently using Google Social Reports? Any feedback? Please tell us your comments below.