Using Google Analytics to Understand B2B Customer Behavior
Understanding the online habits of customers and potential customers is an important task for B2B manufacturers. The majority of research and comparison is done online; often long before contacting (or hearing from) a salesperson. Without investigating this phase of the decision-making process, businesses are left with guesses and assumptions rather than facts to use later in the sales cycle.
However, tools now exist to help manufacturers grasp what customers are doing online. By understanding how to use these tools, manufacturers can reach these customers and shape their opinions well before the competition is able to.
Analytics programs, such as Google Analytics, are the most essential tools in learning about consumers’ behavior online. These programs gather and organize data about people who view your website, including:
- How they got to your website
- What they looked at while on your website
- Where they clicked
- Their location, age, and time spent on your site
- If they watched any videos or downloaded any files
- Which page they were on when they left your site
Using Google Analytics to answer these key questions can help you begin to understand your digital customers.
Where Are Customers Gathering Information?
This question can be challenging for B2B manufacturers because common avenues of information; social media, blogs, reviews on e-commerce sites, aren’t geared towards niche industries.
For example, someone who owns an outdoor storage facility may use Facebook frequently, but is probably looking at friends’ profiles or hunting photos (not discussing the finer points of security cameras and barbed-wire fencing).
Google Analytics puts this data at your fingertips through the Acquisition tab, which shows how visitors reach your site. Within the Acquisition tab is the “All Referrals” report. This provides a list of websites people visit prior to reaching your business (minus search engines). These journals, blogs, forums, and videos provide a gateway to your company and shape what customers expect to see after they click.
What Information Are Customers Gathering?
Let's say a steel fence manufacturer, Steve, dove into his “All Referrals” report and found that customers are reaching his website (StevesSteelFencing.com) from two main sources:
- FencesQuarterly.com: A popular industry newsletter
- Repo Representatives: A professional society for Repo-Men and Repossession Organizations
Google Analytics can help Steve dig deeper – allowing him to identify exactly what his customers are reading on these sites. He can accomplish this in two ways:
1. Expand Referral Reports
Expanding each website in “All Referrals” opens an in-depth report showing which specific pages/items on referral links are driving customers to you. Referral content that produces more pages/visit and longer time on your site likely contains information more relevant to your customers.
2. Compare Referrals to Search Engine Queries
The “Queries” report under the Search Engine Optimization menu displays the number of times your site appeared in search results (impressions) and how many people clicked through to your site by keywords and phrases.
Identify 10-15 popular terms with a high number of impressions and clicks (focus on specific phrases rather than generic terms. e.g. “steel barb-wire fences”, rather than “fences”) and browse referring sites for articles and content containing these phrases. Chances are this content is highly relevant to prospective buyers.
For example, Steve notices that “fixing barbwire fences” is a popular query and that FencesQuarterly.com did an article on “How to safely repair barbwire fences.” He can use this information to assume that broken barbwire is a common problem potential customers are researching.
How Do Customers Browse Your Website?
Visitors can go anywhere on your website: follow a link, watch a video, view a product page. The order in which they interact with all this content tells a story. The “Behavior Flow” report tracks each visitor as they progress through your site. Three basic steps with “Behavior Flow” can help achieve a top-level answer to this question.
1. Choose How to Categorize Visitors
A great starting point is by source (the specific link used to reach your site) because it provides concrete URLs and website titles rather than categories (as found in Channel Groupings).
2. Follow the two most traveled paths from each of the top 5 sources.
What is the first major click from each source? Does the customer interact with your company(via an email or phone call) along the way?
3. Find out where people stop/leave.
Is the point of exit consistent?
Is this a desired end-point (like a quote request) or a road-block (like a non-functioning button)?
Using Google Analytics to answer these questions; where customers are looking for information, what specific information they are looking for and how they are using your website, can provide a valuable persona for both B2B marketers and salespersons. However, the true power of this data is to create content that increases web traffic and drives revenue. To learn more about how this persona can help increase sales, check out “Using Analytics to Create Sale-Focused Content.”