Why use Google Analytics?
You may have already heard about Google Analytics. Google Analytics is the web analytics platform used by the majority of sites. It has its quirks, but it’s the best readily available, all-round analytics tool available for understanding site traffic. And the best part is it’s free.
If you don’t have Google Analytics installed, put down this book, install Google Analytics now and then slap your web developer. I’m not joking. Without Google Analytics set up, growing a business online is like trying to pilot an airplane blindfolded. Without Google Analytics it’s difficult to find out what works and what doesn’t, identify issues and solve them before they turn into bigger issues, and get a sense for the general direction your business is headed. This is applicable to about 90% of businesses.
To get started with Google Analytics, head on over to the below URL and click on ‘sign in’. Create a Google account if you do not have one already, and walk through the simple steps to get started. You may need help from your web developer if you are unable to edit the code on your website.
How to use Google Analytics.
Let me tell you something a little risqué. On its own, most data is useless. You heard correctly, for real awareness and insights, we need to be able to compare data and identify trends over time. There are two ways to analyze and understand data in Google Analytics in reference to time:
1. Compare two date ranges.
Click on the date field input in Google Analytics. Enter two timeframes and you can compare them both. Useful date comparisons include comparing this week’s performance to last week’s performance, last month’s performance to the month prior, and last month’s performance to the same month the previous year.
2. Look at the charts over a long time frame.
Simply look at the charts over the longest time period possible and look for trends, without comparing date ranges. This approach is useful for a bird’s eye view of the general direction your traffic is heading. This is not so effective for finding hard-to-find information or identifying granular insights, and you will be unable to compare specific percentages of moving trends.
Note: Seasonality is a factor affecting many businesses. Sometimes you may see a downturn in traffic, but this may not necessarily indicate your site is performing poorly. It could be your market experiences a downward trend in certain months. If your business is experiencing a downward trend, use the ‘compare two date ranges’ approach and compare the current month’s traffic to the same month last year. If you are seeing increases, then you know your site is performing well, irrespective of seasonal trends.
Acquisition is an area of Google Analytics any business owner or marketer should spend a lot of time reviewing. The Acquisition section of Google Analytics breaks down where your site traffic is coming from. Without keeping a close eye on your traffic sources, it is almost impossible to make informed judgments about the performance of your site or your marketing.
Click ‘Acquisition’ in the main sidebar on the left. In the ‘All Traffic’ section you can see actual amounts of traffic you’ve received from a given source. The Channels section listed under ‘All Traffic’ is of special interest. This lists the main sources sending customers to your website. From the ‘channels’ tab, you can dig further for deeper insights into the performance for specific sources sending customers to your site, such as social visitors, search engine visitors, email visitors, and so on.
Organic Search report
The Organic Search report is essential for monitoring your performance in search engines. Within the Organic Search report, you can actually see how many times you received a visitor from a search engine.
It’s worth mentioning, a few years ago Google made changes to Google Analytics that still has many search engine marketers and marketing professionals shaking their fist at the sky. Early in 2012, Google changed this tool to hide a large portion of the keyword information, making it difficult to get exact information on the keywords customers are using. Thanks Google!
Now when someone types a phrase into Google, if they are signed into a Google account while browsing, the keyword the visitor searches for will show up as a ‘not provided’ keyword in Google Analytics report. When this happens, you have no idea what that person typed into Google before arriving at your site.
The amount of keyword information that has been obscured has gradually increased, but don’t be too concerned, we can still measure overall performance of search engine traffic by looking for total increases or decreases in the Organic Search report.
To view the Organic Search report, click on the Acquisition tab on the left sidebar, click on ‘All Traffic’, click on ‘Channels’, and click on ‘Organic Search’.
Imagine if you could narrow down to a particular segment of your audience, such as paid traffic, search engine traffic, mobile traffic, iPad users, and so on, and instantly see how many enquiries these users have made, how much time they are spending on your site, what country they are from, and how many sales they are making. This feature exists and it is called Segments.
Segments are powerful. With Segments, you can identify portions of your audience that potentially generate more enquiries or sales than other customers. You can even identify portions of your audience having difficulty using your site, and get insights to fix these areas for better performance.
To use Segments, simply click on the ‘Add Segment’ tab at the top of every page within Google Analytics, and you can choose from the list a large number of Segments for deeper insights.
Common web analytics terms explained.
A Pageview is counted each time a user loads a page on your site.
Similar to a Pageview, but if one user loads a page several times it will only be considered one Unique Pageview.
A session is what occurs when a visitor arrives at the site, and then at some point closes the browser. If that visitor returns again, this is counted as an additional session.
If a user visits your site, and then returns at a later stage, this is counted as one unique User.
If a visitor visits your site, and then leaves without visiting any more pages, this is a bounce. The percentage of visitors who bounce is your bounce rate. A common question among markets and business owners is: what is a good bounce rate? There is no general rule. Bounce rates vary greatly between sites and industries. If you find a particular page with a very high bounce rate (+70%), this could be an indicator the visitors do not like the content or they are experiencing technical issues.
One of the most important metrics to monitor is your site conversion rate. A conversion rate is the percentage of Users completing a desired action. The action could be filling out an enquiry form, downloading a product, or buying something from you. If you receive one hundred visitors, and three of these visitors complete a sale, this would be a three percent conversion rate.
Goals are custom goals you can set up within Google Analytics to track particular business goals or targets you may have for your site.
Common goals to set up include newsletter signups, product downloads, enquiry form completions, and so on.
Other web analytics tools.
There are many web analytics tools out there to help with improving the performance of your site. Google Analytics is great for understanding overall traffic performance, but if you want to delve deeper, check out the following tools for greater insights:
Crazy Egg. Free to start. Starts at $108 per year for premium features. Requires a Google Account to get started.
If you want a visual indication of how visitors behave on your site once they arrive, Crazy Egg is a fantastic tool. With Crazy Egg, you can get heat maps of where visitors click on the page. You can also see heat maps of how far visitors scroll down the page.
Optimizely. Free for basic users.
Optimizely is a popular split-testing analytics tool. With Optimizely you can split test different variations of your site, and see which version makes more sales or conversions.