Just how well is your website doing? Who’s visiting it? How are they getting there? Are they sticking around long enough to buy, or do they tend to make a quick exit? For answers to these, and lots of other questions, businesses large and small are turning to Google Analytics.
It’s estimated that almost 90% of businesses use Google Analytics (GA), and more than half rely on it as their one-and-only tool for measuring website performance. So, as a newcomer to the world of analytics and online marketing, how do you make sense of it all for the benefit of your website?
Google Analytics: why should I know about it?
Running an online business involves a learning curve: before you set up shop, it’s worth finding out as much as possible about your target audience – but it’s only once your website is up and running can you see how visitors actually behave in real time. Analytics tools enable you to make decisions about your business based on tangible data, rather than just assumptions about your market. So, here’s why GA is especially valuable:
- It tells you about your website’s visitors. This includes volume, location, and the devices they use to access it (e.g. mobile, PC or tablet.)
- It tells you how those visitors reach your site. This may include social networks, online business directories, review sites, blog sites, and paid advertisements.
- With Site Speed Reporting, you can find out whether your website is up to speed (research suggests that more than half of visitors leave if a page takes more than 3 seconds to load.)
- It can tell you which parts of your website are most popular with visitors, so you can focus on content that people are actually interested in, and push particular topics more.
- It’s free. A premium service is available, but for an up-and-coming e-business owner, the standard free service should have everything you need.
- Knowing about GA can be good for your CV. It’s a staple in digital marketing, so familiarity with it is a useful string to your bow if you’re starting an online business as a springboard to a marketing career.
How do I start using Google Analytics on my website?
Google needs access to your site’s back-end for GA to work. There’s a walk-through process for this as follows:
- Go to Get Started with Analytics and follow the link to create a new Google Analytics Account if you don’t already have one.
- Next, follow the instructions to Set Up Web Tracking so that GA can draw the essential information to start tracking activity on your site.
- Get familiar with it, the Find Your Way around Analytics section is the obvious starting point – there’s also a series of tutorials to help you find your feet.
Analytics and new business owners: essential things to track
Data is only useful if you know what to do with it, so here are four things you may want to focus on to be able to interpret all those graphs:
This section provides you with key information about who is visiting your site. Some key things to keep in mind are:
- Sessions and Users: the ‘Sessions’ section tracks the number of all visits to your page (including from repeat visitors) over any selected time period. Unique visitors—someone who has never previously visited your site—are tracked just once. If these two figures are more or less equal, then it could be a sign that visitors are taking one look at your site, not liking what they see, and not coming back. You’ll have to dig deeper to try and establish why that might be…
- Bounce rate: the proportion of visitors who leave the site after viewing just one page. As a rule of thumb, a bounce rate in excess of 50% may be an indicator that there’s a design, content, or usability issue with the site. But there are other reasons why visitors may exit quickly. For instance, if they want a specific piece of information about your service, and it takes viewing just one page to get that info.
- Demographics: this includes an age and gender breakdown of visitors, and if you are making wrong assumptions about the characteristics of your target audience, this info may help you to tweak your targeting.
This section helps you see where your website traffic is coming from:
- Source breakdown: you should aim to attract traffic from multiple channels. This is so that if, for whatever reason, traffic from one source drops off, you have other channels to rely on. If you are focusing on building your site’s authority and search results page ranking to reduce reliance on a paid ad (PPC) campaign, one sign that your strategy is working is that the proportion of natural search traffic will increase, and the relative proportion of paid search queries will fall away.
This section helps to show whether visitors are responding to your website in the way you intended:
- Site Content – All Pages: This gives you a breakdown of views for individual pages of your website, as well as showing how long visitors stay on each page. By looking at the difference between the pages where visitors spend the longest amount of time, compared to those pages that tend to be exited quickly, you can find clues pointing to what your audience considers to be useful and relevant content.
This is just a snapshot of some of the areas GA can help you with. Check out our help centre for further tips on building and improving your website and growing your online business.