Google Analytics: A Primer for Bank Marketers

By Scott Stellwagon

Bank websites have become more important than ever over the past year. Customers have come to rely on them for updates during the COVID-19 pandemic, online banking portals have become essential for checking the status of stimulus checks, and consumers are taking advantage of online account opening and loan application solutions more than ever.

As online engagement grows, many banks are paying more attention to the functionality and user-friendliness of their websites. Many community banks now understand that their websites are, essentially, a digital branch, one that receives more customer traffic on a daily basis than most of their physical locations. This creates additional work for bank marketers, who now must decipher user activity and provide meaningful insights into how their websites can be utilized to provide a better customer experience that can yield more conversions.

Luckily, bank marketers can rest easy knowing that they have a free tool at their disposal to monitor and evaluate website traffic: Google Analytics.

This guide is designed to help readers understand a few basic reports found in Google Analytics, what they mean, and how they can be used to gain valuable insights that can enhance your future marketing efforts.

What is Google Analytics and why should your bank use it?

Google Analytics is a website traffic and engagement measurement tool. It is placed on a website through a script, or piece of code, that is installed in the <head> section on the back end of your website. This tool can be used in conjunction with other Google tools, such as Google Tag Manager and Google Ads, to gain even more meaningful insights and reporting.

Reports run the gamut from real-time traffic and user behavior to the most-viewed pages on the site and geographic locations of users. Not all of these reports may be right for your community bank, but there is plenty to be learned by digging into some of these metrics.

Most community banks likely have Google Analytics installed on their site, on the suggestion of their website developer or a marketing team member. But chances are, they are not using it to its full potential to understand how customers are using the site.

Getting started with Analytics

If Analytics is not installed on your site, don’t worry. It’s actually a relatively painless process and Google makes it easy to find the code snippet you’ll need to place on your site along with installation instructions.

Your first step will be to login to Analytics using your bank’s Google account. If you don’t already have one, it’s recommended that you have a single Google account that you can use to manage various products like Google Ads, Tag Manager, Search Console, Google My Business, etc.

Once you’re logged in, navigate to the Admin section of the account by clicking the gear icon in the left sidebar. From here, it’s a matter of clicking Tracking Info under the Property column and selecting the Tracking Code option. This page contains a code snippet along with direction to help you install it on your website.

Which reports are most beneficial to your bank?

Analytics has a ton of reporting—more than you’re likely to ever need—but a few reports should garner particular attention for bank marketers. Most of the following reports are designed to help you gauge traffic patterns, user behavior, and goal completions (if you’ve configured these with Google Tag Manager):

Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels

This report outlines your various traffic sources and provides a nice breakdown of average user engagement from each traffic source. If your goal is to grow your userbase through SEO, then you’ll want to pay attention to your Organic traffic.

These are users who are arriving at your website through Google or other search engine results pages. Direct traffic represents users who came to your site by typing in your URL and bypassing the search results pages. Paid and Display traffic represents anyone who arrived on your website from any digital ads that you are running. Referral traffic refers to any user who came to your website through another website—an affiliate, a local listing site like Yelp, a professional or charitable group you’ve partnered with, etc. Visitors from your social media platforms, however, will be covered under the Social category rather than Referral. This can help you understand where your users are coming from, and can help you gauge how your traffic is impacted by your SEO efforts, digital ad campaigns, and more.

Conversions > Goals > Overview

If you have taken the time to configure goal tracking in Google Tag Manager, then you’ll be able to gain some extremely valuable information from this report. You’ll want to set up tracking for major goals on your website that infer visitor intention to contact the bank, apply for a loan, open an account, etc. Once you have set up your goals and connected your Analytics and Tag Manager accounts, you’ll see conversion data appearing on this page.

You can also filter other reports, like the Channels report above, to see which users are converting the most, which goals they are most likely to engage with, etc. Many community banks are not collecting this information, so this can give you important insights that your competitors are likely unaware of.

Audience > Geo > Location

You may assume that the majority of your website traffic is coming from within your target markets, but the only true way to tell is through the Location report. This allows you to see a global view of your website usership, and Analytics allows you to filter down to get more granular information. It also allows you to gauge interest and track growth across your markets.

If you open a new branch, for example, you may want to keep an eye on traffic within this new geo to see if visitors and conversions improve within that area. It’s worth checking this report occasionally to ensure that your traffic metrics aren’t being artificially inflated by junk traffic from far beyond your geographic area. In this case, you may want to create a filter in your reporting to show only results from your target markets, so that you don’t waste time analyzing meaningless information.

Audience > Mobile > Overview

You may be surprised to learn how many of your users are visiting your bank’s website on their mobile devices, compared to tablets and desktop computers. The Mobile report allows you to see a general overview of these numbers. Are these mobile users bouncing from your website at a much higher rate than your desktop visitors? Or are they converting at a lower rate? This could indicate that mobile optimizations are needed on your site.

Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages

Most of the time, users who arrive on your site will do so through your homepage because it’s the most likely to appear in search results for your bank’s brand name. However, the Landing Pages report allows you to see which internal pages your users are most likely to arrive on from the Google search results pages. This can help you understand which of your landing pages are ranking organically in Google, which can allow you to track your most popular pages and gauge the success of your content. You can even see how many conversions took place on these landing pages, which you can use to determine whether these pages are optimized to convert.

Get certified to learn even more

Curious marketers may want to attend the Google Analytics Academy to learn more about the tool and become a certified Analytics expert. The course is free and imparts a basic overview of the tool, its various reports, and how it can be used by businesses of all types and sizes to gain actionable insights into how their websites are utilized. The course culminates in an exam (also free of charge) which reinforces the information learned during the course.

If you need more significant insights, you might consider working with a digital marketing agency that provides in-depth reporting on all of your digital marketing efforts. It can be time-consuming to sift through this data to find insights, but a skilled digital marketing analyst should be able to provide you with actionable information that will help you grow your community bank.

Scott Stellwagon is a digital analyst at BankBound, a marketing agency focused exclusively on growing local financial institutions.