When you’re a business owner with a website, one of the first things you’ll probably be told is:
“You need to set up Google Analytics.”
It’s good advice, but once it’s set up, what the hell should you be looking at?
There are all these nice little graphs, a smorgasbord of metrics to choose from, and you don’t have the foggiest idea where to start.
Data is useless unless you know what insights can be drawn from it. After all, the whole point is to find out what you’re doing right, and where you can improve your website.
Sure, you could pay someone else to do it, but if you’re a small business owner, it might be better to get a firm grasp on the basics yourself.
The aim of this post is to pick out a few key metrics that even a Google Analytics novice can access and understand.
You can divide this information into 4 categories; Audience, Demographics, Technology and Behaviour. I’ll be going through them one-by-one, but as you’ll see, they are connected, and combine to inform the conclusions you draw.
N.B. this advice applies to many business websites but is not really aimed at ecommerce – that’s a whole different ball game! I also won’t be talking about how Analytics can assist with PPC advertising.
4 Simple Things to Track in Google Analytics
1. Audience (Traffic)
You want to know that your website is growing, right? One way of measuring this is simply looking at the number of users, whether they are new or returning, and how they find you.
Once they are on your site, converting them into paying customers is another matter, but steadily increasing traffic is a good place to start.
First, click on the Overview tab under Audience, on the left-hand side:
Then, in the top right, look at the date and time options. I like to show a date range over a few months (perhaps even a year) and flick the view to monthly too:
If you’re regularly publishing new content (weekly or perhaps even more so – well done, you) you might want to look at a smaller range, with more regular intervals.
You’ll now have a graph, some numbers, and a pie chart. First, there are some specific terms to understand:
User – this is a unique visitor to your website, with their own ID. If someone visited from their laptop one day, then their mobile the next, they’d count as 2 users.
Sessions – if a user visits more than once, multiple sessions are recorded. A user that loyally reads every blog post you publish will show up as several sessions.
What can you learn?
From this data, you can see trends in visitors over time:
Has the traffic spiked around a time where you published some new content, or made changes to your site?
Did you stop being so active on social media, and see a noticeable drop in visitors over that time?
You can also compare the percentage of new visitors to returning visitors. Of course, you’ll want new people to find you, but perhaps also see that visitors find enough value in your site to keep coming back for more.
Next, you’ll want to learn where people are coming from when they visit your site.
So, head back to the left-hand menu, and click on the Overview tab under Acquisition:
Here you’ll be able to see the sources of your traffic over the same time period you’ve specified. This data will be broken down as; direct, organic, social, referral and email.
You can click on these in the table below the graphs, to see a more detailed breakdown – for example, the pages people land on; the specific social media platform they find you on; or the referring domain.
What can you learn?
You might be able to answer the following questions:
Is there a specific social media channel on which I should focus, or where my efforts are not producing results?
Do I need to focus on improving my organic rankings?
As with other data sets, you’ll be able to look at the same metrics within each category, for example – new vs. returning visitors, bounce rate, pages per session, and so on.
You can get all excited about traffic, but if you’re a personal business coach targeting men aged 51-60 in the Crewe area, whilst most of your visitors come from Peru – there’s something amiss.
Ok, that’s a silly example, but let’s look into it. These are the tabs (also under Audience) you should be interested in:
You’ll be able to get a breakdown of visitors’ ages, gender, language, location, and even interests – because Google knows everything about everyone.
Once again, you’ll be able to check all the usual metrics against these categories.
If your products or services are targeted at specific demographics, you’ll want to know that the right kind of people are visiting your site.
If you do business internationally, you might consider adding different languages to your site, should the traffic levels warrant it.
What can you learn?
The insights you gain from studying the demographics of site visitors could be:
Are there particular types of content or topics that will engage my website visitors?
Am I getting a lot of traffic from people or places that are not relevant to my business?
By learning more about the people visiting your site, the more you can tailor it to their interests.
Visitors to your website will be using all sorts of devices, with different screen sizes, and running a variety of browsers.
You can access data on this here:
Your website should function well on as many different devices as possible. A site that doesn’t work due to resizing or compatibility issues is guaranteed to turn off visitors and make them head elsewhere.
By looking at the same sets of metrics I’ve already mentioned, you’ll see how your site performs with all the possible technology permutations. Websites don’t necessarily look the same in Chrome as they do on Safari, nor on a notebook when compared with a high-resolution desktop monitor.
What can you learn?
The kind of insights you’ll get from studying the technology website visitors use are:
Are more of my visitors using mobile or PC?
Do people stick around longer on certain devices?
Do people leave much quicker when viewing in a certain browser?
If you see poor performance for visitors using certain technology, you can prioritise changes to make your website work better for all users.
Whilst more website visitors are desirable, what people do once they get to your site is more important.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you might want to set up and track conversion goals – for example, filling in a contact form, making a phone call or downloading a file.
If not, you’ll still be able to gain some valuable insights. You can start by clicking on the behaviour tabs:
The metric you’ll likely be most interested in, is bounce rate. This tracks the number of visitors that land on your site and leave without any further action. Clearly, the lower the bounce rate, the better.
If people do stick around, you’ll want to know where they enter your site, and where they leave. With the behaviour flow chart, you can see how your website functions from the user’s perspective.
Other important behavioural metrics are average session duration, and pageviews per session. The higher these are, the longer people are spending on your site, signalling higher engagement with your content.
What can you learn?
From this data, you’ll find out what people are doing on your website:
Have some pages performed better than others?
Do more people leave the site on a particular page than others, and why?
Is my organic SEO working on a page?
By studying the behaviour of website visitors, you’ll be able to see what efforts have worked, and where you can improve user experience further.
Test, Measure, Improve, Repeat
The idea behind all of this is simple – you need to know what works for your website and what doesn’t.
Take the observations and insights you draw from the data and use them to inform the design, structure, content and technical aspects of your website.
You’ll also be able to use this information to improve other aspects of your digital marketing – social media and SEO, for example.
By monitoring data over a longer period, you’ll be able to test new ideas, and measure if changes are working. If they are, do more of the same.
Does Google Analytics leave you looking like this?
I’m a digital marketing consultant based conveniently between Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield. If your website isn’t performing as well as you’d like, I can help you make sense of the data.
Together, we’ll come up with a plan to get your website where you want it to be.
Just say hello, and we can have a chat.