Yesterday, I completed the final assessment for the first (and completely FREE!) course run by Google Analytics Academy - Digital Analytics Fundamentals.
It's overall been a really good experience and has helped consolidate my knowledge, hammer in the correct terminology (dimensions, metrics etc.) once and for all, and also got me up to speed on recent changes (such as the renaming of 'Traffic Sources' in the interface to 'Acquisitions' - I'd been wondering where my traffic reports had disappeared to!).
Why Google Analytics Academy ?
"Why Digital Analytics? That's just tech stuff that I won't need to know about", you might say.
Wrong. A good grasp of analytics and digital measurement is essential to making sound business decisions. That's because it's based on real insight and data rather than opinions. It's very exciting actually - imagine having real data about your customers rather than stabbing around in the dark, not knowing whether or not your marketing campaigns work! And spending lots of money unnecessarily as a result...
The beauty of Google Analytics Academy is that it's FREE, and very accessible. Unfortunately, up until now, the only industry recognized GA qualification had been the Google Analytics IQ certificate. And that, believe me, is tough. I had started it some time last year but a lot of the content was too specialised and technical - here's more on the GA IQ test from someone who has successfully completed it.
Google Analytics Academy in comparison is a more concise training program to educate business leaders across the board on effective measurement planning in the digital age. It addresses a fundamental problem faced by many businesses today: On the one side, you have analytics / tech experts who live and breathe data, but who have little influence or indeed decision making power.
On the other side you have a large number of powerful CEOs, senior business leaders, traditional marketers etc. who have little idea of what business success looks like in the digital age, or how to measure it. Yet it's those people making all the decisions 🙁 !
The academy, and specifically the course I took (Digital Analytics Fundamentals), should be particularly useful for these people, as well as anyone involved with the day to day management of your online marketing activity (including the website) - your designers, content managers, project managers, and so on. Look at the pre-course questionnaire screenshot above where you can slot yourself into what must be their rough target audience!
But now on to the course review itself 🙂
Google Analytics Academy - Review
Course content (8/10)
What I loved about this course especially is that it didn't dive straight into the actual software, so doesn't needlessly scare people off. In fact it starts with contextualising and telling us why Digital Analytics is important and aligns it to documenting and measuring business objectives. This is a language that business will understand, and can relate to. Contexualising the subject appropriately is very important to getting your senior stakeholders and decision makers on board - as it's talking about things that matter most to them.
I also liked the overall structure of the course - moving from the general to the specific, and going through all standard reports in chronological order. Admittedly Unit 5 - Navigating Google Analytics reports - can be a bit hard going and newbies may find it all a bit too technical. But stick with it and you'll be rewarded - once you reach the end, it all falls into place and makes complete sense!
Google initiatives and activities such as the free Google Analytics Academy aren't necessarily about helping customers - there is always an overall business objective (and I don't mind that - there should be!). So, while the course I took was called 'Digital Analytics Fundamentals', really, it is about Google Analytics. So let's not pretend that there isn't an implicit aim to promote the use of GA over rival software, and position Google Analytics as the de facto default product (apparently over 100,000 students signed up to the course!).
In the course, there is also some matter of fact 'naturalisation' going on about using AdWords, and info on keyword data which of course Google will no longer make available free of charge unless you use the paid AdWords product. So the first point of criticism would be that they should perhaps be a little more transparent in that respect, and not pretend that Digital Analytics = Google Analytics.
On a personal note, the ecommerce reports weren't so useful to me, since this only makes sense if you do have ecommerce enabled (and difficult to replicate / play around with if you don't).
Course delivery (9/10)
My favourite aspect here were the course videos featuring the instructor, Justin Cutroni. He's the Analytics Advocate at Google and an extremely experienced and engaging public speaker. You get the chance to hear and see one of the best digital analytics evangelists out there, beamed right into your home!
I'd say that 99% of learning is probably about the delivery and with Justin involved you are just glued to the screen - a bit like watching Rand from Moz doing a Whiteboard Friday. Videos FTW!
What I furthermore valued about the delivery is that materials were also provided in text form (as downloadable PDFs). This allowed you to tackle the contents from different angles and in different media while making them accessible to people with disabilities (all videos also had subtitles which you could switch on).
I would say that for me personally, the Google hangout session and the community aspects (forums etc.) perhaps weren't required. That's the only reason I'm deducting a point. I'm sure these aspects are valuable to other people who prefer a communal learning experience. As I've mentioned, it is in fact great to be able to approach learning materials from different angles - because what works well for some, doesn't perhaps work as well for others.
Customer experience (10/10)
Awesome! Google really practise what they preach and the course delivery, communication and teaching was 100% aligned with best practice digital marketing. For example, I completed the first 4 units pretty fast (they didn't open up units 5 and 6 till a bit later in the course) and then had a bit of a lull. Too many other things to do, and I hadn't looked at it for a few days.
Google then sent me a reminder email about the deadline to earning my certifcate (see screenshot) and that absolutely converted me to going back and doing just that as soon as possible.
If you need proof, just look at the email! Simple, completely customer-centred, and they even included a link to my local time given that the deadline is today (30th October) 11.59 PDT. Thank you, very helpful!
It shows that Google are laser-focused on their customers and throughout the course I felt that they wanted to help me become a better marketer by using their software. I felt well looked after and the incentive to receiving an official certificate, even though the certificate in itself is fairly meaningless, is again a very smart marketing tactic. Incentivising with this reward ensures people stick with the course - I certainly really wanted that certificate 🙂
There's nothing really I can criticise in terms of customer experience. Yes, I did probably sign up for further communication about future courses and so on, and yes I did fill in all surveys too so Google will have received some of my data for future use. They have also turned me into an advocate of the course (no.. I do NOT work for them, and they did NOT pay me for this post 🙂 ).
The crucial point here is though - I didn't feel they were being dishonest or just tried to steal my data. In fact I am absolutely happy about providing this voluntarily in return for the course - it's a value exchange after all!
Google Analytics Academy - Conclusions
In conclusion, I think that Google are onto a winner here. Digital Analytics Fundamentals, the course that I took (more Google Analytics Academy courses are apparently on the horizon!) is pretty successful at making analytics accessible, easy to understand, and crucially, tying it back to business objectives thus lifting it out of the geek / analytics / techie silo and putting it centre stage.
I started this post arguing that much more needs to be done educating business decison makers and marketers on the importance of analytics. This is absolutely crucial for businesses to remaining competitive - and successful - in the digital age. Those who don't take this sort of stuff serioulsy will fail. I repeat: they will #FAIL.
Google have done a great job here by taking some of the hard work of education out of our hands, and for that I am grateful, for it is not easy!
All you need to do now is persuade your CEO, board members, and anyone involved in your marketing, to complete the course! And then get everyone around the same table - traditional, digital, old, young, creative... and start speaking an analytics-inspired language that everyone will now understand.
By bringing your marketing and key organisational stakeholders onto the same level you'll be creating a level playing field. Finally, after years of misunderstanding you'll be able to start communicating effectively with each other about what matters - your customer and your customers' actual journey on the way to purchasing your product or service. This in turn will help you make sound business decisions based on data and will allow you to best service their needs - profitably - in the digital age!
You can access Google Analytics Academy here, and the good news is that even though the course 'Digital Analytics Fundamentals' officially ends today (30th October), all its materials can still be accessed.
What are you waiting for?