It's easy to look at a Google Analytics (GA) certification as some great padding for your CV when you should be looking at it as your team's secret weapon.

Google Analytics is now commonly used throughout SaaS organizations of all sizes — from your devs to your product team to your SEO squad to your customer success pros. It collects the data that helps you develop and grow multiple aspects of your business.

Just because it's there, however, doesn't mean you're getting the most out of it. A Google Analytics certification can help you do just that, but it can also do more for you as a SaaS professional. Getting a Google Analytics certification can make you truly data-literate. It will enhance your general analytics capabilities, improve your company's data cleanliness, and take your client relationships to new heights.

That said, getting a GA certification requires an investment of time. The main Google Analytics program offered online is Google Analytics Academy. The Academy provides various courses to teach prospective GA whizzes everything from creating a Google Analytics account to using the most advanced analytics skills. It also offers specific modules on Google Data Studio — an excellent tool for building reports — and Google Tag Manager, which is essential for making your Analytics program coherent and legible.

Screenshot 2020-12-01 at 11.11.29.png
From the Google Analytics Academy homepage

Aside from the Academy modules, there are plenty of step-by-step guides, practice tests, and other materials you can find online to help you study. When you're ready, you can register to take the Google Analytics Individual Qualification, or GAIQ, exam. The exam is free of charge, and if you fail the first time, don't worry! You can retake it the next day.

A Google Analytics certification is great to have just for the kudos, but if you're diligent about learning the GA ropes, you'll find yourself equipped with a bunch of skills you can use to make a difference in your professional life.

A Google Analytics Certification Will Make You More Comfortable with Metrics

A Google Analytics certificate will help you work with data more naturally. That's an essential skill to have nowadays.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, data has become more critical in securing companies' futures than ever. Businesses need to get all possible value from their existing data resources to retain current customers and reach new ones. For that reason, we're seeing a greater need for SaaS professionals to be data literate, from SEO marketers to product devs and beyond.

When acquiring a GA certification, you will become familiar with a range of metrics, including:

  • User and session data
  • Organic, social, and email traffic
  • Acquisition data
  • Bounce rate
  • Conversion rate
  • User journey/behavior flow
From a GA dashboard showing the share of organic traffic a piece of onsite content has received, as well as users’ average time on-page, the number of people who entered the site from that page, and the page’s bounce rate.

Google Analytics also has its own set of attribution models, which will familiarize you further with metrics like:

  • The value a given page had to a subsequent ecommerce transaction (Google Analytics uses last-touch attribution to measure this)
  • The internal search terms that contributed to a conversion

Managing all these different data types in Google Analytics will make you adept at handling both data entry and data analysis. This mastery is vital if you ever want to take on data ownership roles in your company. You’ll also be well-placed to contribute to, or even manage, your company's tracking plan.

What's more, and as we're about to explore further, this basic comfort with metrics you'll get through a GA certification will help you refine your grasp of the metrics your SEO team needs. With that understanding, you can make your overall data-collection strategy more effective.

A Google Analytics Certification Will Allow You to Improve Data Cleanliness

Clear, consistent conventions for naming, tagging, and cataloging are crucial for a company handling a lot of data. With your GA certification, you can be the difference-maker when it comes to making your company's data cleaner and more legible.

An issue many people run into when using Google Analytics is that they find that GA has tracked multiple data points for the same URL or campaign name. Google Analytics is case-sensitive when tracking events, meaning that any difference along those lines will result in duplicated entries. Duplicated entries can result in misleading data and lead to less informed decision-making.

Knowing GA well makes it easier for you to normalize your campaigns. Filters help you cut out casing-based errors. For instance, they’ll funnel instances of 'Facebook' and 'facebook' into a single, meaningful entry. Normalization also allows you to exclude sources of misleading data, like internal traffic and bots, from being tracked. As a result, you'll find fewer flaws or misleading entries in your data set.

A basic Google Analytics dashboard.

You can also make your company's Google Analytics data cleaner through the use of custom dimensions and custom metrics. GA dashboards track a number of events (such as page views) by default, but customizing your dimensions and events will allow you to segment your data more effectively. Data segmentation involves separating and grouping data according to preselected parameters to better understand user behavior. For example, you could adjust parameters in order to understand (or target) prospects who visited your site from voice search or natural language search.

After mastering the module on Google Tag Manager in the Google Analytics Academy, you can also use this feature to run a more cleanly labeled Google Analytics operation. Effective tag management is the bedrock of useful analytics. Overlook it, and your analytics operation will quickly turn into a mess. Use it well, and it can give you access to more precise data than ever before.

Through Tag Manager, you can create tags for tracking any event type you can imagine. You can implement scroll tracking and find out where on the page your users are focusing. You can examine how users interact with on-page videos and forms. The possibilities are all but limitless. With a Google Analytics certification, you can create and manage these tags for your SEO team without having to go to your dev team for set up, resulting in a leaner and more efficient operation.

A GA certificate is, at heart, about helping you ask the right questions of your data. For example, it will help you notice and understand data trends with greater ease.

Whether you're an SEO expert or a product developer, user behavior data is hugely valuable. What's more, user behavior is changing rapidly. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been working different hours, traveling and commuting less, and living a greater portion of their lives online. Gaining familiarity with Google Analytics' event-tracking feature will give you direct insight into how these changes influence how your users interact with your product and how to take advantage.

Event tracking allows a Google Analytics-savvy data steward to track events that GA's default trackable metrics do not include. By setting up sufficiently specific event tracking — e.g., conversions per keyword, conversions after watching on-site video — you can get a highly detailed picture of user behavior.

With this understanding, your SEO team can exploit opportunities for content optimization surfaced by trends in your data. Let's look at some examples:

  • Your dashboards might show that prospects are more likely to convert after first searching another specific term (e.g., coming to your mobile catering service having first searched “party planning”). You can then target keywords related to party planning, or you can build a paid campaign based on capturing that potential audience share.
  • You could find out that users from a specific demographic are more likely to convert when browsing your content (e.g., inner-city professionals are converting at above-average rates when browsing your art-rental platform). You can tailor your content's tone of voice, feature images, and subject focus to cater to this high-potential buyer persona.
  • You may discover that product use is spiking relative to a particular event (e.g., your food-delivery service might be getting more hits before a big sporting event). You can strategize email marketing, special offers, and push notifications to customers during those hot spots.

With a Google Analytics certification, you'll know how to use features like Annotations to help anticipate trends in data. For example, if you're expecting spikes for a new product launch or the beginning of seasonal demand, add an annotation to that effect. Your SEO team can bear that date in mind and build an appropriate content plan for bringing in conversions.

Conversely, if you're expecting a traffic slump after a looming site migration, add an annotation to that effect, too. That way, your team can strategize for a bumper content package to soften the traffic loss following the migration and add canonical tags to strengthen your content's postmigration ranking performance.

Your understanding of Google Analytics also allows you to correct course if the data suggests something is wrong. For instance, let's imagine the data is showing you an alarming bounce rate after your prospect clicks through to your demo video from your content. Having gained your GA certificate, you will be able to identify this drop-off, predict its cause (like a problem with video streaming or buffering, or a broken URL), and advise a solution.

Likewise, in the chart above, which is taken from an ecommerce platform’s dashboard. You’ll know from the data education you’ll have received from your Google Analytics that it’s unusual to see such a drop-off in site traffic in the lead up to the holiday period. You can bring this information to the pertinent individuals - your site devs, marketing team etc. - and investigate the cause, helping you fix the problem before the lucrative Christmas purchase season passes you by.

A Google Analytics Certification Will Help You Create More Customer Success

As your Google Analytics certification does so much to help you understand your customer, it's a direct method of helping your client achieve better success with your product. In such a charged economic climate, relationship-building is everything, and your GA certification can help secure your clients and provide them with the "extreme ROI" many of them currently require.

One means by which your GA certification provides that added ROI is by giving you the means to report to your clients in much richer detail. If your SEO department delivers reports for clients without a Google Analytics certification, you could find yourself restricted to raw page views and not much more. With a certification, you can dig deep into user acquisition, demographic, and behavioral data to allow you to report back to your clients in more detail. This helps you refine and improve your SEO content's performance, and also helps your clients reach their target personas more successfully.

Not only that — these GA-certified skills might open up entirely new product offerings and lines of service for your company. With your GA expertise, you might find yourself able to tell your clients things about the contents of their own Analytics dashboards that they didn't even know. As an SEO agency, having robust knowledge of Google Analytics will allow you to offer auditing services. You'll be able to provide custom GA dashboard curation or advice on a remarketing campaign by which your clients can help revive dormant prospects. You could even provide in-depth market research packages to your clients based on Google Analytics insights.

At a time where adding value to existing client relationships is so vital, your Google Analytics certification can take a variety of day-saving forms.

A Certification for All-Around Improvement

Beyond the benefits we've discussed above, having a Google Analytics certification will allow you to move up the chain in your company, working as a professional web analyst. It represents a real boost to your career prospects.

Even if you're not looking for a wholesale career switch, having the certification makes you more useful to your organization. While certain aspects of data management will become less valuable as handling tools become more sophisticated, the value of broad data literacy and analytic sharpness will never go down. If you can read data and spot flaws and potential opportunities in it, you have a skill for life. That's why a GA certification is more than just a great item for your CV.

If you feel more comfortable brushing up on the basics first, try this guide to Google Analytics metrics that should help you be confident enough to navigate the platform and build insightful reports.