How to measure understanding with Google Analytics

During our INBOUND15 talk on How to Measure the Value of PR in the 21st Century, one audience member raised this fascinating question:

“How do you measure understanding, and where does it fit in the PR funnel?”

Understanding and comprehension are an integral part of purchase consideration, to be sure. However, understanding is not something we can directly measure because we cannot see inside our prospective customers’ heads yet. In the future, we may have access to inexpensive fMRI technology to do so, but that day has not yet arrived.

In lieu of having such access to the minds of our customers, we can use several different techniques to ascertain understanding. In Google Analytics, three metrics hint at understanding.


1. Site search usage. How often is site search used? Assuming that it’s relatively easy to find on your site, high usage (1% or more of your traffic) may connote a lack of understanding, as people cannot find what they’re looking for.

2. Site search page exits. After someone does an internal site search, do they leave the page? If so, they may not have gotten what they wanted from your website and had to leave to go somewhere else.

3. Site search terms. What words and phrases do people use in search on your website? If there are a few terms garnering disproportionate numbers of searches, this may hint at an understanding problem.

Insert these numbers into your PR funnel and work to ensure that your site answers the questions people ask on it.

Two additional tools can help you ascertain understanding: on-site surveys and inputs.

On-site surveys using a popup are an easy way to ask people questions about your site. Some prepackaged tools from companies like ForeSee can do this exhaustively, but it’s just as simple to put up a simple popup on site asking people if they found what they were looking for, or if they came for a specific reason. Based on the responses, you can make some inferences about whether they understood you.

Finally, inputs from contact forms are the most reliable way to judge understanding from the most dedicated, engaged part of your audience. Look at the free form responses in your contact forms. What are the common questions people ask, the words they use most often? When someone expresses confusion or doubt, what is it in relation to? Solve those challenges from your most engaged users and you’ll likely see more conversion happen throughout the funnel from people sharing similar questions who weren’t bold enough to ask them.

For those who did not attend our session at INBOUND15, you can still download the session slides, eBook script, and sample Excel template. The items will be available for free using discount code inbound15 until September 16, 2015, after which they will revert to their normal price of $40.

Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology


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