I’ll be honest – Google Analytics can be tough.
But wait… Don’t leave yet! I’ll know if you do because that will report as a bounce, a session on this blog post where you leave the page without any other interaction. Using Google Analytics and all of its awesomeness, now that you’re on this page, I can track what links you click, if you leave this page, or if you exit the site altogether.
Ok, I might not be able to track it to you specifically, but I can see that someone on this day clicked this blog and then immediately clicked the back button. Or better yet, maybe I’ll see that someone clicked on this link to the marketing page on our website to read more on our approach to analytics and tracking because they are already interested!
In either case, the point I’m trying to make is that having data on your audience is invaluable for making all kinds of business decisions: deciding how your website is set up to allow for easier navigation, finding best practices for posting on social media, setting up email marketing campaigns, and everything in between!
So yes, it can be tough, but I’m going to try to keep it simple and give you a few tips to get you taking your first steps in Google Analytics.
Just like in any other aspect of business, it’s important to set goals. In Google Analytics, goals allow you to easily see how often visitors to your website are doing the things you want them to.
There are four types of goals in Google Analytics, and you should use them when your goal is to:
Destination – Get people to reach a specific URL. A perfect use for this goal type is on a retail website where you land on a “Thank you for purchasing” page after completing a purchase. Once that goal is set up, you will be able to measure the percentage of sessions on your website that resulted in a transaction.
- Duration – Get people to spend more than X minutes per session on your website. This goal type works well with websites full of informational blog posts and photo galleries. If you know it takes approximately 3 minutes for someone to fully read your blog posts or click through photo galleries, you can set up this goal to measure how many people are spending at least 3 minutes per session on your website. This tells you how many sessions have people engaging with your content in the way you want them to.
- Pages Per Session – Get people to click on more than X pages per session. Again, if you have a website full of informational blog posts that link to other pages on your website, it might be important for you to track how many people are clicking on 4 or more pages to give you an idea of how engaging your content is with the audience visiting your website.
- Event – Get people to do an action (watch a video, download a PDF, etc.) on your website. This goal type is by far the most robust, accurate, and best way to track actions that your visitors are doing. The purpose of websites for most small businesses is to generate leads and build brand awareness – both of which require actions on the website like contact forms and downloading PDFs. Because of the complexity, there are extra steps in the setup for this goal which can require an Analytics professional. If you feel that your goal needs fall in this bucket, contact us and we would love to get you started!
In order to set the goal up, click the “Admin” (gear icon) on the bottom left of your screen and click “Goals.” Then click the red “New Goal” button, give the goal a name, select the goal type, and follow the instructions on the page!
Ultimately, the best use for goals in Google Analytics is to track the metrics that are crucial for generating revenue for your company. Some examples of great things to track are: contact forms, newsletter sign ups, downloads of your content, and anything else that you can click on or do that generates revenue or gets you information on your customers!
Answer the right questions.
You could spend your entire 40 hour work week in Google Analytics and still not have enough time to explore everything, so it’s important that you enter Analytics with relevant questions in mind.
Below are some general questions and the locations where you can find some answers in your reporting.
In the last month/quarter/year:
- How many times was my website visited? (Audience > Overview: Sessions)
- How many people visited my website? (Audience > Overview: Users)
- What is the total number of pages that were viewed? (Audience > Overview: Pageviews)
- On average, how many pages do people view in one session? (Audience > Overview: Pages per session)
- On average, how long do people spend on my website? (Audience > Overview: Average session duration)
- How many people are first-time visitors on my website compared to people returning? Bonus! You can see your goal completions here if you have your goals set up. (Audience > Behavior > New vs. Returning)
- How many people are completing my goal(s)? (Conversions > Goals > Overview)
- How are people finding my website? (Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels)
By no means is this list all-inclusive, but if you can answer these, you’re off to a great start in your Google Analytics adventure!
Compare your findings.
Once you’ve collected data, compare that month to the same month the previous few years. Plot your data monthly to visualize what a full year looks like. Nobody wants to read a table full of numbers, so make graphs. View charts. Give numbers meaning.
Do you notice some patterns? Unexpected seasonality? Months that performed significantly better or worse than the same month last year? Take some time to brainstorm what could be causing those patterns, peaks, or troughs. Did you ramp up your Facebook advertising that month? Run a promotion? Skip a sale?
Making predictions is an important part of website analysis because you want to find actions that are repeatable (or avoidable) over the coming years. The better you can determine what is causing more time on site, for example, the more you can execute that tactic.
All this hard work you’ve put in is great; however, if you don’t share the information you’ve found with others on your team, you’ve wasted your time! Looking at data is meant to help make business decisions backed by trends seen in the past. By sharing this information with your coworkers, the decision-makers will get insights into who the customers are and how they interact with your website. The overall goal is to take some of the guess-work out of decisions your company makes on a regular basis!
So, if you are the one who is responsible for reporting analytics, but read this and realized there are a lot of things you can do to improve… or if you are new or want to be new to Google Analytics (I applaud you for sticking with me) and would like some help taking the first steps, reach out. We would love to get you on the right path!