Google Analytics for Hotels | Tip #2: Count of Sessions.
Even though it’s my first article re Google Analytics for Hotels, it’s actually the second tip of this such that I am writing about. In fact, I am simply going to rename the previous post, in which I talk about tip #1: Conversion by Session vs. Conversion by User.
So I decided to open a new series, for which I will regularly post tips and tricks about Google Analytics and how this wonderful tool can be adapted to the specific needs of the hotel industry.
Today’s tip though, it’s totally related to the first of the series.
In the previous post I wrote about why computing our conversion rate by User (instead of Session) is way better and effective because just a tiny little fraction of users visiting our sites is already in their booking mode, therefore it likely takes more sessions to complete the reservation.
And this is what this very useful filter, that in Google Analytics is called dimension, can clarify how many sessions it takes to get a reservation, on average.
Why Is Count Of Sessions Important?
Just as an example, it is important because, with this data in your hands, you can better market to your audience, based on the booking stages that convert most.
But let’s get there step-by-step and see how we can make use of this.
What Is It About?
The default report in Google Analytics looks like this and it’s available under Audience > Behavior > Frequency and recency:
Succinctly put, each time a user starts a new session, the Count of Session increases by 1.
For instance, the report above shows that 7,771 unique users visited the site 2 times in the given period.
No Conversion Rate?
Not by default, but this can easily be overcome with a Custom Report.
Everything that you want to have in terms of reporting and that is not given by default, you can create with a Custom Report (Customization > Custom Reports).
In here, simply select the respective dimensions and metrics that you want to include in your report. For the sake of this post, let’s just create one custom report with dimension Count of Session and few metrics, including Ecommerce Conversion Rate.
And this is how the above setup is being represented:
What Do These Figures Mean?
This question is more important than you can possibly think of. And for the sake of simplicity, let’s assume the above figures relate to your website and booking engine.
First (and this is why this post relates to my previous article Conversion by Session vs. Conversion by User), the odds that a visitor actually visits your site again after the first time, are not much in your favor.
This is always the case, no matter how good or bad your site is. Clearly, the more efficient your marketing activities are, the higher chances to get people to come back. And, in this matter, a website is not even the most important reason for good or bad performance, but rather your marketing funnels (we are getting off topic though, so let’s stop this here).
The second important thing is about Count of Sessions and date range being independent from each other. To explain this, have a look at what follows:
The ultimate result in your report, with given period 1st-10th August, will say this:
|Count of Sessions||Sessions|
You get it?
This is important to acknowledge because, when you look at your figures, you must be aware that those unique users who add up to the value of your Count of Sessions likely happened to visit your site before the selected date range and, if so, you will not be seeing those previous sessions in your report.
Gotcha, But What To Do Now?
As always, numbers per se don’t say anything if we don’t know what to do with them.
Let’s have a deeper look:
Count of Session 3|4|5 are the ones with a relevant number of sessions and a better conversion rate.
Simple as that, visitors are more likely to book after visiting your site 3, 4 or 5 times. This information already gives us some input, for instance: it’s quite useless to bombard visitors with pushy messages that say nothing other than “Book Now! Book Now! Book Now!” when the vast majority of them are clearly not in their booking mode yet.
Especially in their 1st visit, it’d be more efficient having a lead-oriented approach, as opposed to a sales-oriented one.
In other words, you should be persisting with your Marketing and, more importantly, your Branding approach, and not yet in your Sales mode. Which implies a huge difference, whereas Marketing is about 2 things only:
- getting prospect’s attention
- getting prospect’s curiosity
The beauty of data is that behind a single number there are tons of inputs, ideas and information. Literally.
The drawback is that numbers, even though they don’t lie, are extremely easy to misrepresent.
The reason why I’m saying so stands in the ease with which we can combine every single dimension and metric with other dimensions and metrics and, by doing so, get more useful information on one hand, and get out of track on the other.
For instance, your web-marketer could dig deeper into Count of Session to see what are the Sources that drove those figures: in other words, what are the sources (google, social media, email, other sites, etc) that brought visitors to your webpage and ultimately book.
Easy-peasy–japanesey, it’s literally a one-click-away thingie, always within your Custom Reports:
What are the sources that drive the highest conversion rate based upon Count of Sessions? Remarket to them after nth number of sessions, based on your figures.
What Else (2)?
Combine Count of Sessions with other revenue-related metrics.
In the example, the report shows 2 dimensions, Count of Sessions and Adults+Children in the same table.
More specifically, I filtered in only sessions that happened for searches for 2 adults and no children.
Could you be any more precise and scientific at deciding how and where exactly to invest you marketing budget?
As you can imagine, Adults-Children is not a default dimension so you will not see it in your Google Analytics account, but you can ask your web-marketer or web-agency whether they can provide you with this important KPI (and they should).
What Else (3)? Let’s Make The Most Of It…
This is what I am currently working on. It’s actually done, just testing.
I told you before: if not in their booking mode, either you really have a message that clearly and undoubtedly stands out from all your competitors, or the odds of your visitors making a reservation right away are extremely low and all of the pushy sales message you might think of having published on your site are not going to be effective.
What if we could use this nth of sessions to dynamically display different content on the site?
You know those sense-of-urgency and sense-of-scarcity messages, the majority of hotel sites and OTA’s are full of? Like “only 5 rooms left” and so forth?
For instance, let’s imagine:
- Is user at session 1? Show a branding-message that helps you stand out from your competitors. UX-Writing here is king, so is your persuasion ability.
- Is user at session 4? Time to attack and, likely, here your sense-of-urgency messages/popups are going to be more effective.
I wish more and more webmasters, marketers and web-agencies will move more and more to this dynamic approach. Data is beautiful and powerful, yet I think there is a huge unexplored potential that is just a step away from us.
The Biggest Trap You Might Fall Into: Analysis-Paralysis.
In conclusion. If you are a data-lover like me, you will soon realise how easy it is to get stuck into the a so-called Analysis-Paralysis situation.
In simple words, the obsession of wanting to know more and more from the data, because we believe that what we have is never enough.
I said before, numbers don’t lie but they are so easy to misrepresent.
Most important, data is a wonderful tool, but the ability to read and evaluate requires a bit of time, effort and commitment. It doesn’t happen overnight.
My strong suggestion is: go step-by-step.
Learn something new every day without getting overwhelmed, yet be consistent as this is key.
Even a simple report with one dimension and one metric can say many things.
The outcome, meaning the action we should be taking that stands behind our figures, is the art we need to master and most times what stands behind a simple report is actually more effective and helpful than what we can get from very complex BI dashboards.
Last but no least, my final suggestion: share as much as you can.
There’s a certain grade of subjectivity behind numbers and their meaning, so getting to reading data from different angles, often times turns out to be quite mind-blowing.