Summer vacation is over. To get into the back-to-school spirit, we decided to hold a short lesson on Google Analytics. Here you’ll find some basics of analytic tool that every small business needs to know. Utilizing Google Analytics is one of the most important things you should be doing for your website, especially if you’re a business owner. And now that Google Analytics has a mobile app for both Android and iPhone (finally!), there’s no better time to familiarize yourself with this powerful info that Google’s laying at your virtual doorstep.
Lesson # 1: Google What?
So what is Google Analytics, anyway? Google Analytics tracks traffic and conversions on your website, and displays the information for you via infographics. Traffic simply refers to the amount of visits to your website. A conversion, depending on the type of website you have, can be a click, a share, a play, a purchase, or whatever action your website ultimately seeks to encourage. Think of your website as your digital storefront; the more customers you can attract to come in and explore the most for the longest amount of time (traffic), the more potential profit you make (conversion). Traffic can come from many different places.
Let’s take a moment to delve into the different traffic types that Google Analytics monitors:
Paid Search:This is traffic coming from your Google Ads campaigns, if you have them. This will help you determine the return on your investment (ROI) of your paid ad campaign.
Direct:This is traffic where visitors directly typed your business’ URL, or web address, in the browser.
Referral:This is traffic to your site from other sites. Perhaps someone blogged about your business and included a link. The traffic from this site would be considered by Google Analytics as a referral.
Social:This is referral traffic from various social media channels. If you have your own Google+ company page, then link it to your analytics to get the optimized.
Organic Search:Any time someone searches for your site on Google or Bing, the resulting traffic appears under this category.
Campaigns:You may not know it, but when you want to share links to your website in other places to drive traffic, you can use Google’s URL Builder tool to add parameters to your URL links. These parameters act as a sort of tracker that lets Google Analytics identify which links placed where brought you more traffic, helping you know where to invest more.
For instance, you may want to promote a specific product page on your site via various social media channels. The screenshot below shows you how to add parameters to the links, and identify which social media channels brought results:
Website URL: Input your URL (it can be a homepage or an inner page).
Campaign Source: Though in this example it’s Facebook, you can change it to Twitter, a blog post, etc.
Campaign Medium: This is where you identify how you placed the link. Was it a post on your company page or was it in a specific Facebook group? If you put a Quick Response (QR) code on a brochure or sticker and want to know if it attracted views, this is where you can track that.
Ad Content: This is the field where you can input your product’s name. Such as a blog post, as seen in this example.
Campaign Name: This is the category name you’d like to track. You can name it whatever you like.
Tip: Aside from the URL, the fields above are case sensitive, so please be sure to be consistent with how you name them.
Lesson summary: Google Analytics tracks traffic and conversions. Traffic equals visitors while conversion equals visitors who do what your website is designed to make them do. There are different sources of traffic. In a campaign, you can promote your own website via other web sources and then track which sources brought success.
Now that we have a better grasp on these traffic terms, let’s review the various Google Analytics dashboards.
LESSON #2: KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE
As soon as you log in, Google Analytics provides a very general overview of your website performance for the last 30 days, with the focal point being a line graph with daily traffic numbers. Depending on your website goals, some parameters will be more important than others. Each business needs to determine what its KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are. If you just launched your website it may be more important to look at New Sessions and New Visitors to the site rather than Returning Visitors.
Other important numbers to look at include: Pages per Session, Bounce Rate, and Time on Site. These numbers will help you determine if your content is engaging or if your AdWords campaign is targeting the correct audience. Tip: If site visitors are visiting more than one page per visit, that’s amazing.
Also, you want to strive to have a low Bounce Rate—which means visitors don’t leave as soon as they arrive. And of course, the longer they spend on your site, the more engaged and interested they are in your content, which will hopefully lead to conversions (more about this below).
This basic information may be enough for you when you’re just getting your website off the ground. But hopefully, you’ll eventually want to take your traffic to the next level. And if that’s the case, you’ll want to avail yourself of the more detailed data that Google Analytics has to offer. For instance, perhaps you’ve considered optimizing your website for mobile devices, but weren’t sure whether to make the investment. If so, check out your mobile vs. desktop traffic.
Other data that should not be overlooked are the countries viewing your site and the languages their browser is in. You may be getting traffic from Australia, Spain, or the UK without realizing it. That may be an indication to expand your business by localizing your site content (more about localization here). You can find all that info and more on the left-side navigation menu.
As you take a look at the various spikes and dips in traffic, you might also start to wonder what’s causing them. Maybe you experienced a spike because you sent out a newsletter or coupon on a specific date. Perhaps a dip occurred because you stopped your AdWords campaign. Google Analytics allows you to create annotations so you can track your activities and provide context to the numbers.
Lesson summary: The Audience Dashboard is the “homepage” of google analytics. It displays how many users viewed the page in the last 30 days. It also displays more detailed information such as time spent on page, bounce rate, and mobile vs. desktop. Use the Audience Dashboard to do some basic analysis of your website’s performance.
LESSON #3: MASTERING THE ACQUISITION
Remember all those traffic terms we discussed above? This is the view that allows you to determine the different sources of traffic. Are your AdWords campaigns bringing new visitors? Is Facebook leading visitors to your site? Are there any traffic referrals that stand out? What organic and paid keywords are being used to get to your site? Based on the answers to these questions, you’ll determine how to allocate your resources (money and manpower) and/or whether to cultivate partnerships with other sites. In addition, each cut of information can impact individual KPIs (Key Performance Indicator) differently.
You can also customize which traffic it displays by using the segments feature and secondary parameters. For instance, you can isolate the traffic coming from New York, and then analyze your ROI from advertising efforts in that area.
Lesson summary: The Acquisition Dashboard determines where your traffic came from. This helps you figure out which marketing efforts paid off and which didn’t.
LESSON #4: ANALYZE YOUR BEHAVIOR
Rather than presenting data having to do with traffic to your page, this view looks at your various landing pages. This can show which of your products or articles are the most popular. Do you have more new or returning visitors checking out specific content? The answer to this can help you determine what kind of future content you should write or the need to take your inventory in a different direction.
The other great feature of this dashboard is the “Behavior Flow” or funnel of your various pages. The funnel is a snapshot of activity indicating at which point your visitors leave. This helps you figure out how to prevent just that. Are they falling off when they try to register to your site? Perhaps you have to change the color of a button and test further. Do they just read one article and leave? You might need to update your content strategy.
Another overlooked infographic in this section is “In-Page Analytics.” Google overlays stats on your page and lets you see what visitors are clicking on and how many visitors are scrolling below the fold. Again, this can help you make important decisions about the layout of content on your site.
Lesson summary: The Behavior Dashboard pinpoints users’ behavior on your landing pages, such as what gets clicked on the most and funnels that show when most users leave the page.
LESSON #5: BEYOND TRAFFIC, ONTO CONVERSIONS
Although traffic is an important indicator of your website’s success, an even more important parameter to measure is your website’s conversion rate. Analyzing conversions helps determine where you should concentrate your resources. For example, it helps you see whether someone purchased something from your website because of Google Ads, or whether it was because of something else. The great thing is that you and your website developer can decide what conversions you’d like to track on your site based on your KPIs and make them goals or events that Google Analytics can track. Here are some great ones to consider:
- “Add to Cart” clicks
- Purchase buttons with product values
- Newsletter sign-up
- Content shares
Okay, so you’ve decided on the parameters you’d like to track, your developer has implemented the events in Google Analytics, and now you’re ready to go.
In the Behavior Dashboard, take a look at all your traffic sources and check out how they measure up against your goals. Is one campaign better for newsletter subscriptions rather than comments or social sharing? You should weigh your decisions based on the KPIs that are important to you. If you have a blog, and newsletter registration is the most important thing to you, then optimize your marketing strategy to boost your numbers. If you’re selling a product and purchases are important, then optimize your strategy to increase revenue. Much of this will be adjusted through trial and error or A/B testing. The good news is that it’s flexible.
Since your events were set up properly, you’ll even be able to see whether you had more conversions for desktop, tablet, or mobile and how much revenue you earned from each medium. Once again this data will help guide your future marketing decisions.
Lesson summary: Use the Behavior Dashboard to pinpoint which pages bring the highest conversion rates regarding your top KPIs. Use this data to encourage more conversions.
We hope these introductory lessons helped you better understand how Google Analytics can help your business grow. This essential analytics tool has many more dimensions and features. You can find many comprehensive guides on the internet that can teach you how to take advantage of them. In the meantime, use what you’ve learned here to give your business a serious face-lift. You won’t regret it!
Love our back-to-school post? What would you like to see in our next class? Share below!