Web Analytics Tools: The 2017 Dream Team

Author of Web Analytics Tools as child in football gear

Data driven decisions are foundational to any digital marketing strategy. It's an investment that quantifies performance, reveals insights, and eliminates guesswork. Ultimately, web analytics tools make a website work harder, in turn supporting more profitable business.

With a wealth of tools available both at a cost and free of purchase, digital marketers have no shortage of reporting options. But with so much to choose from, it’s crucial to hone in on a few key players and develop a strategy that plays to their strengths. Like any good football or basketball team, the best results come from specialization and complementary teamwork.

At Elevated Third, our starting lineup consists of 5 tools that combine to form a strategic foundation that is constantly working towards improving ROI.

Google analytics logo 1. Google Analytics

If there were a fantasy draft of reporting tools, Google Analytics would be the consensus number-one pick. It is the Juggernaut of the web analytics world, and for good reason.

It's free, it's sophisticated, and it integrates seamlessly with other tools and G-suite apps.

Out of the box reporting will get you important page level data-points like pageviews, pages per session, session duration, and bounce rate.


Screen shot of Google Analytics user data


However, with a little more expertise, GA can be configured to take your analytics game to the next level. Goals can be setup to correspond with desired user behaviors, allowing conversion tracking through funnels. Advanced segments can be setup from a variety of parameters, helping you slice up data and uncover valuable insights from even the most tangled masses of data. Custom dashboards allow you to identify the most crucial metrics and monitor site health without digging through page after page of tables and graphs.  

Google tag manager logo2. Google Tag Manager

Google Tag Manager is your team’s utility player. It is the ultimate teammate but it often goes under appreciated because it does not technically “report” online behavior.

Tag Manager allows every other tool to work more efficiently because it serves as a hub to deploy an endlessly customizable array of “Tags.” These tags can be setup to install the other tools themselves, but they can also be configured to trigger specific events.

Let’s say you wanted to find out how many times a user clicked an on-page element with no unique URL destination, like the play button on an embedded video. You can’t track this kind of on-page click through Google Analytics, but you could set up a tag in GTM to fire every time that button is clicked, then send that data back to GA as an “Event.”

Tag Manager won’t receive much glory for its contribution to the team, but its role is as important as any other.

Hotjar logo3. Hotjar

Hotjar is the flashy wide receiver. It distills complex information in an extremely visual, easy to digest format.

Hotjar sheds light on user behavior that would otherwise be hidden in the data. Here’s a rundown of some of the awesome features Hotjar offers:

Heatmaps reveal click, hover, and scroll behavior in aggregate, revealing page elements that attract the most attention. Are there any crucial elements that are going unnoticed or are being cannibalized for attention by other elements?


Screen of hotjar heatmaps


Recordings go a step further, showing mouse movements and clicks in real time, session by session. You don’t want to spend your entire day wading through all of these recordings, but you can hone in on specific pages and behavioral flows to get more concise insights.

Funnels visualize user behavior against a specific goal. They offer a fantastic visualization of drop off points at each step in the user journey. This feature is not as flexible or sophisticated as Google Analytics conversion funnels, but it is extremely useful in painting a high-level picture of behavior against conversions.

Polls, Surveys, Recruiters provide an easy way to get feedback from real users. Through a small pop-up that shows up on the live site, you can ask users concrete questions about the impressions, experiences, and intentions behind each site visit.

These features are insightful on their own, but when used in tandem with tools like Google Analytics, they can help paint a more comprehensive picture of user behavior.

Optimizely logo4. Optimizely

Optimizely is the head coach. It’s the tool that allows ideas to be put into practice through real-world situations.

Optimizely is a simple way to perform A/B tests on a live site. With Optimizely, you can alter on-page elements to test variations side-by-side. The tests require minimal technical expertise to setup and the results are conveniently displayed through an embedded reporting interface.

Moz logo5. Moz

Moz is the kicker. It’s good at doing one important thing -- revealing how your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is performing. Without a specialist like MOZ, you might be forced to ask an offensive lineman to kick field goals.

MOZ simplifies the complicated world of SEO by condensing a wide range of ranking factors into a few key metrics. By tracking progress across these metrics, you can analyze high performing keywords, rankings against competitors, and future optimization strategies.

MOZ also integrates with Google Analytics so you can measure how your SEO efforts affect overall organic traffic numbers.


Dream team USA

When these tools combine, they form the web analytics dream team, replacing misconceptions and baseless strategy with reason and concrete data. Decisions based on concrete data help marketers make informed business choices that serve the user, push conversions, and improve overall CX. If your business could use a data boost, let's talk