March 20, 2012, 11:28 AM

Google’s new social report focuses on dollars instead of Likes

The new tool, launching Wednesday, is for users of Google Analytics.

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Users of Google Analytics could find it easier to figure out how their social media investments are paying off via reporting capabilities that Google Inc. will begin rolling out Wednesday. All Google Analytics users should be able to access the new tools within several weeks.

E-retailers that have e-commerce tracking enabled on the free version of Google Analytics will be able to generate a “social value” report to see how social media contributes to conversions on their e-retail sites. Google says the tool will provide marketers with return-on-investment metrics that matter most to executives—conversions and bottom line revenue—rather than data points whose impact aren’t so clear, like the number of Likes retailers have on Facebook. “Marketers will be able to tie social media spend to the bottom line of the business and see how much revenue or real engagement the social channels have brought to them,” says Phil Mui, group product manager, Google Analytics.

A sample report displays what Google calls “last interaction social conversions.” That refers to a conversion or sale that occurs as a result of a consumer clicking through from Facebook or another social network to an e-retail site and  completing a purchase in the same session. The report also displays “assisted social conversions,” which shows the conversions or sales that have come about during a time period designated by the marketer—say 30 to 60 days—during which a consumer has socially interacted online with the e-retailer, but then comes back to purchase later. (Google Analytics uses cookies to track visit and conversion behavior.) For example, if a consumer clicks on a link in a Twitter message, or tweet, that takes her to an e-retailer’s site and doesn’t purchase immediately, but then returns and makes a purchase three weeks later, Google records that as an assisted social conversion.

Mui says other factors may have influenced the consumer’s decision to return and buy, but that Google Analytics will record it as a “socially influenced” sale. “This way the report defines the upper and lower boundary of what we can consider socially influenced, even though it could be 10 sessions ago and happened two months ago,” Mui says. 

More reports detail the conversions by type—last interaction versus assisted--and order value, and from which social media sites they originated. Google says it will include in the reports more than 400 social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and Google+

Existing Google Analytics users should soon see the social reporting options appear in the “traffic sources” section of Google Analytics. Google says users that already have e-commerce tracking set up will be able to run the social reports with no extra set up.

Google Analytics is the second most popular web analytics program used by Internet Retailer Top 500-ranked e-retailers, with 161 e-retailers using it. It is the most popular program used by Internet Retailer Second 500-ranked e-retailers, with 280 e-retailers using it.

April Anderson, industry director, retail at Google, will speak at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in June, in a session entitled, “Paid search strategies for the smaller merchant.” The IRCE $200 early-bird discount expires March 31.

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