Digital Marketing, Thought Leaders

Using Google Analytics to Time Your Marketing

September 18, 2020

by Richard Castello

Using three reports generated through Google Analytics – Time Lag, Path Length, and Top Conversion Paths – marketers can identify target consumer behaviors that allow them to schedule campaigns with the best chances of driving conversions.

Online customers are, by nature, not impulse buyers.

Typically, this group seeks the best value for a particular product or service, a process that often involves comparing prices or reviews before making a purchasing decision – especially when dealing with a complex or expensive product or service. These prospects often interact with your website multiple times, over varying time frames, before converting.

Anticipating the information potential customers find most relevant, and using that expectation to guide them through the purchasing process, both simplifies the buyer’s journey and sets a positive initial tone regarding your organization’s level of service and trustworthiness.

Among the keys to winning out over a lengthy online sales process are determining:

  • The timeline of the average customer’s decision to complete a purchase of your service or product
  • The average amount of customer interactions prior to purchase
  • Which marketing channels the average customer interacts with before making a purchase

In order to accurately determine the above stipulations, I suggest using reports generated through Google Analytics. Three reports in particular help identify these target behaviors.

  1. Time Lag
  2. Path Length
  3. Top Conversion Paths

This article illustrates how these Google Analytics reports create accurate customer profiles that help determine both how to best schedule and format marketing campaigns to optimize conversions.

Time Lag Report

The Time Lag report measures the time between a customer’s first interaction and the conversion.

Multi-Channel Funnels Overview Image

To access the Time Lag report:

  1. Select Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Time Lag
  2. Set the Lookback Window to 90 days
  3. Select the conversion action that you want to measure
  4. Set the time frame

Time Lag Report

For this report, the conversion action displayed provides the value of conversion transactions.

Time Lag-Conversions

Using the information gathered by the above report, a marketer may draw a number of conclusions.

First, a significant portion of the conversions mapped in these images happen on the same day (day 0).

This measurement, though, may be partially dependent on the product or service promoted. For more complex products and services, the data may show that conversions skew towards a longer time frame. For example, a good amount of conversions require more than 30 days to complete.

Overall, this report provides a starting point for how to analyze a sales process in the context of time—which in this case establishes that this company should map out a marketing strategy that includes a timeline longer than one month.

Path Length Report

The Path Length report measures a user’s amount of interactions before converting.

To access the Path Length report:

  1. Select Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Path Length
  2. Set the Lookback Window to 90 days
  3. Select the conversion action you want to measure
  4. Set the time frame

Path Length Report

The data collected from Path Length helps determine how frequently sales prospects should see your ads. Understanding the frequency by which you target certain audiences is crucial for determining strategy for tactics such as retargeting and e-mail, marketing channels that largely rely on optimal frequency and timeframe in order to be effective.

Time Lag data also provides evidence that persistence in marketing derives value. Using the report above as evidence, giving up on a user after the first or second interactions can surrender enormous value for a business. The data above illustrates that in many cases, conversions occur even after the 10th interaction; a clear indicator that marketers need to continue re-engaging with users even after one or two ads.

Top Conversion Paths Report

The Top Conversion Paths report measures a user’s conversion path by identifying which marketing channel drove the interaction and at what step.

To access the Top Conversion Paths report:

  1. Select Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Top Conversion Paths
  2. Set the Lookback window, conversion action, and time frames that you want to measure.

Top Conversions Report

This report provides great overview regarding how users move between your different marketing channels groups (paid search, search engine optimization, email, referrals, etc…) before converting.

It’s a useful report for charting out how to move your prospect between marketing channels. For example, this report can demonstrate whether a call-to-action (CTA) in your social media ad drives the user to subscribe to your e-mail list or directly to your website.

When combined with Time Lag and Path Length reports, the more powerful insight this report provides—not only can the channels users interact with be determined, how often and over what time frame they do are charted as well.

How to Create a Joint Report

To set up a report that combines Conversion Path with Time Lag and Path Length, abide by the following instructions (bear with me). 

  1.  Select “all” for conversion paths. Path Length should already be a default secondary dimension.
  2.  Select “Conversion Segments” 

Top Conversion Path_Step 1

  1. Select “Create New Conversion Segment” 
  2. Select “Add a Conversion Path Option” 
  3. Name your conversion segment and be sure choose a name that reflects the dimension you want to measure 

Top Conversions Path_Step 2

  1. Type in “time” and select “Time Lag Report” from the drop-down options 
  2. Select “Equals” from the drop-down menu 
  3. Choose the time frame that you want to measure 
  4. Delete the top segment by clicking the small x 

Top Conversion Paths_Step 3

  1. Save your segment 

Top Conversions_Step 4

  1. Create a separate conversion segment for each time lag measured. 

Final Report

For the last step, this time period needs to make sense for your business model. For example, if you cap ROI measurements at 60 day intervals, you should create a segment for that interval. Only 4 segments can be measured at a time, so depending on your analytics aptitude, you can measure the segment as ranges or one-by-one.

If all of the steps above are followed correctly, you should now have a cross segment of Top Conversion Paths, Path Length and Time Lag reports.

Reports Inform Marketers, Drive Conversion Rates & Revenue

Ultimately, the data collected from Time Lag, Path Length, and Top Conversion Paths reports from Google Analytics provide insights that help marketers more effectively time their marketing campaigns.

In particular, the cross section of these reports help to create profiles of customer behavior with your channels that inform marketers of the optimal time between sending additional marketing messages and how many of those marketing messages they should send in total.

As a result, marketers can expect higher conversion rates and higher return on investment.

About the Author

Richard Castello Headshot

Richard 'Rich' Castello is the PPC & Web Analytics Strategist at SEO Brand, a full-service digital marketing and web development agency with offices and clients all over the world. In Rich's spare time, he enjoys traveling and reading. To learn more about Rich, connect with him on LinkedIn.


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