Published By Janet Gershen-Siegel at November 7th, 2017
When you build a website for your small business (or you have one built for you), it makes a lot of sense to add Google Analytics. This is a small tracking code which either you can add yourself or have a developer do so. In WordPress, there are several plugins which will add the code correctly. All you will have to do is paste it in. And then you can start understanding Google Analytics.
One thing to keep in mind: Google changes the interface at times. So understanding Google Analytics today can sometimes lead to not quite understanding it tomorrow. So proceed with caution.
The real use of data is to see which content on your website is working for your customers, and what is not. Furthermore, this sort of data can also alert you to webpages which are not working at all.
You should be nurturing popular content. And you should try to repeat it. So this is without simply cloning it, of course. You should either alter or drop unpopular content. And of course you need to be fixing any content that does not work. This includes issues such as dead links.
Google Analytics sets goals for you, but you can set your own, too. When you log into Google Analytics, navigate over to Admin and then click on Goals.
So, let us say your goal is to get visitors to stop by your Order a Widget Page. Select “New Goal” and then either select a template or custom. If you select custom, you will need to answer some questions. This is so the program will understand just what it is you really want to measure. Also, be sure to name the goal intelligently. This is a clear name such as Land on Order a Widget Page, rather than Goal #4.
Click on the type, paste the correct URL into the box. And then select the options you want, such as a funnel, which is a pathway for your users to follow. Or you can choose value, if you want to set a benchmark. Then click Save and you are done. In this case, the goal type is Destination,
You can also customize dashboards and the like, but you do not have to. Google Analytics is quite good right out of the box.
Be patient and give Google Analytics a chance to gather some data. A month should do it.
Go to the first of the basic report sections and click Overview to look at your audience. You can select a custom time period to view. And you might want to extend this time if you do not have a lot of data for the most recent week or so. The basic report shows a percentage of new and returning visitors. It also shows sessions, users, page views, and session duration. And it also shows what Google calls the bounce rate.
The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who came to your website and only looked at one page.
As analytics guru Avinash Kaushik calls it, “I came, I saw, I puked.”
But the truth is; a bounced visitor is not necessarily someone who hates your content. And it is not necessarily a person who landed by accident and then bailed. It can also be users who love your content. But maybe they only had the time to view one page. Or maybe they got just what they wanted from one page, and then they were done. Do not expect this figure to really ever hit zero. Still, the idea is to try to get it to decrease.
The other metrics are fairly self-explanatory. You will generally see more sessions than users. This is because a user can have more than one session (visit) to your website.
The next major report section shows where the visitors to your website all came from. These can be referrals. That is, your site URL was on a website run by someone else. Or they can be organic search. This is where your site URL came up in search results. These can be searches on Google, Bing, or Yahoo, or even search engines from outside the United States. It can even be searches where the seeker did not conduct their search in English.
Another possibility is through social. Here is where your URL was shared on social media and clicked. And finally another option is the catch-all, other. You can click on any of these and get more of a breakdown. If you break down social, you will see referrals from not just Facebook and Twitter, but also reddit or Stack Exchange and the like. You may see referrals from Disqus, which is a comments management plugin. And you can see referrals from others, if they apply.
Just because you do not know if your website URL is on a social media platform, that does not mean someone else hasn’t shared it there. You mat be surprised at where your website URL ends up being shared.
The next big report section shows more about what the visitors to your website did. If you click on Behavior Flow, you can get an idea of the journey a visitor took through your site.
Of course a bounced user only went to one page. But the not so bouncy users might have taken all sorts of detours. You will be able to see if your visitors landed on the Order a Widget Page, and then clicked immediately to check out. Or maybe they continued shopping. And you can also see if they abandoned their shopping carts.
All of this is exceptionally helpful information.
The last main section of the report covers if your goals were met. And it shows a bit about ecommerce. But this is if you have that set up.
A conversion is often a sale, but it does not have to be. Sometimes a conversion is to get a visitor to sign up for a newsletter. Another form of conversion can be to stay on the site for a minimum amount of time. This can be so even if they end up bouncing.
As with many things in the world of business, it depends. If your business is only a few months old and you have had few sales, you can expect few completed goals. And you can most likely expect a high bounce rate.
A more successful and aged business and website should see more completed goals. And if the bounce rate stays high, it can mean something is not working properly. For example, your site may be too slow for your visitors. Another reason can be that you are not adding compelling enough content that would make a visitor want to check out more of your website.
Click through and drill down into more parts of your Google Analytics reports. This way you can see everything from the general location of your visitors to how long it took certain pages to load. Google Analytics is a fascinating array of data. And it is all available for free. Poke around when you get a chance.
Probably the biggest downside in using Google Analytics is that it can be frighteningly easy to veer into areas where you are in over your head. Way, way in over your head.
Of course, you can always hire someone. But keep in mind: Google Analytics is a skill with some value. On Upwork, people with Google Analytics in their profiles can command up to $125 per hour. So if you feel you need to hire an expert, make sure to line up your ducks before you make the call. Know what you need, and what you need to ask about. In this way, you can use your time as productively as possible. Presumably, this should save you some money down the line.
Also, whether you hire an expert or not – get a handle on what you need to understand and measure. A perfectly set up site where you get awesome metrics on the ages of the people who visit your site is utterly useless if the truly meaningful metric is, instead, country of origin or something else.
It can seem counter-intuitive to try to know what you need before you ever see it, but at least knowing the ballpark is going to save you some time. Plus, you will be better equipped to see if you truly are measuring the right things. And you will have a much better handle on whether your reports are working properly.
Google Analytics is a truly sophisticated tracking system. And the beauty of it all is – it is 100% for free.
Start understanding Google Analytics today, and you will know your customers better.