Google Analytics is not just important marketing information for the online presence of your business, it is the most crucial resource you have. And it’s free. Let’s say your website is the car that drives your business to the town of Moremoney. Unfortunately, just when you think you know the way to Moremoney, the layout of the roads completely change. You then realize (hopefully) you cannot find your way to Moremoney unless you have a map. That map is Google Analytics.
The down side to the best free marketing tool ever is that it’s an enormous amount of information to sift through, and you have to understand what the terms and numbers mean to translate the information into actionable steps to improve your website. Finding what really matters is kind of like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Who has time to decipher the complicated world of web analytics when you’re trying to manage a business? At the end of the day, you can’t afford not to.
To make it easier, I have created a “how to” guide for getting the most out of your Google Analytics in the shortest amount of time. I have included five of the most important pages on Google Analytics and how to interpret some of the information. The easiest way to use this guide would be to print it off and keep it next to you as you go through your own analytics.
How to Set Up and Access Google Analytics
Signing up for a Google account automatically gives you a Gmail and a Google Analtyics account. If you have a website, Google Analytics must be integrated with your website. Entering the code to create the link to your website is work for a web professional, so don’t pull your hair out trying to figure that part it. Let the pros handle it.
1. Audience Overview
When you first access your data, you will be taken to the Audience Overview page. In the upper right-hand corner you will see the date range for the report. Longer ranges will provide more helpful trends in data. Set it for at least a 6 month window and click “Apply.” This date range will now apply to every page you look at during this session.
The Audience Overview page will give you the basic information (holding your mouse over each category will give you definitions for each word). The most important data here is trends in major traffic spikes and the bounce rates. In other words, when are people coming to your site, and how long do they stick around?
The bounce rate measures the number of visitors who leave your website after viewing only one page. If this happens, they either did not find what they needed or the web page was difficult to use. Your optimal bounce rate depends on the type of business you have. According to Neil Patel, there is a reasonable, target bounce rate for each type of business. He breaks these down into 6 categories:
- Content: 40% – 60%
- Lead Generation: 30% – 50%
- Blogs: 70% – 98%
- Retail Sales: 20% – 40%
- Services: 10% – 30%
- Landing Pages (where a purchase is made or personal info given): 70% – 90%
If your bounce rate is too high, there are many ways to improve it. Here is a helpful infograph that explains how to decrease your bounce rate, by Quicksprout. You will want to look at the average bounce rate for the entire site, as well as the bounce rate for specific pages. Sometimes, fine tuning a few pages can make a world of difference to your bottom line.
2 (and 2.5). Referral and Traffic Sources
These pages are found by clicking on Acquisition>All Referrals or Acquisition>All Traffic. These sections of Google Analytics provide information about where site visitors are coming from (I realize these are two pages, so I’m going to call this number 2 and 2.5, because they are so closely related and because odd numbers work better than even with blog titles. Go figure).
The All Referrals page will show you what other websites led people to yours. This is particularly important data in determining the effectiveness of your online advertising, as it will show you exactly how many site visitors you’re receiving from those sources. What I find interesting about this information is that it shows you not only the quantity of traffic but the quality of traffic to your site. You may have a relatively small number of site visitors from a particular source, but if those visitors stay on your site for a while (see Avg. Session Duration), look through several pages of your website (see Pageviews), and end up contacting you for more information (see Goal Conversion), then you’ve done a good job of finding your target market with that source. Let’s get more of that.
The All Traffic page will show you all sources of traffic to your website, including search engines. Again, consider the quality of the traffic to help you determine where you need to focus your marketing efforts in the future.
This page is found by clicking on Acquisition>Search Engine Optimization>Queries. This list indicates what terms people are using to search when your website comes up in an organic (not paid for) search.
Impressions—This column represents the number of times any page on your website appeared in a search using those terms.
Clicks—This is the number of times your website was clicked on by a user who searched for that term where your website appeared.
Average Position—This represents your average ranking on Google for that search term.
If your website is ranking high for a desired search term but not clicked on (see Clicks), this means that the meta data for that page needs to be optimized, or the content on the page for that term could be improved. Meta data is the description under the link that appears on Google. Well-optimized sites have a custom description for each page on a website.
Improving your average position and click-through rates for a desired search term requires a thoughtful and long-term commitment to high-quality, fresh content on your website as well as optimized programming by a web professional and is the main thrust behind Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
4. All Pages
This page is found by clicking on Behavior>Site Content>All Pages. This page shows you how much traffic each page on your website receives, beginning with the most popular and working its way down. So, the first ten webpages listed are your top ten most visited. Adjoining columns also include the average time on the page, entrances and bounce rates.
This report gives you an idea of the quality, or effectiveness, of specific pages on your website. For example, say your 8th most trafficked page is the “About” page of your website. It receives 459 pageviews, has an average time on page of 1.46 minutes and a bounce rate of 89%. This bounce rate is acceptable after people make a purchase, sign up for your newsletter, or contact you for more information. But if you are seeing this bounce rate on other types of pages, such as an “About” page, then it’s time to make some changes on that page.
Just to the right of each item (webpage) on the list is a little grey arrow. Clicking on this will pull up the exact page referred to on that line.
5. Device Overview
This page is found by clicking on Audience>Mobile>Overview. This shows the percentage of people who are accessing your website by desktop, smartphone and tablet. As the rate of global, mobile internet use and mobile purchases continue to rise, this information will become increasingly important.
We now know that most people will view a website numerous times before making a commitment to a product or service. They will expect a consistent experience with your website on whatever device they’re using. If people don’t like using your website with a mobile device, they will spend less time on your website (see Avg. Session Duration) and will leave the website at a higher rate than desktop users (see Bounce Rate). In the end, this high exodus of mobile visitors from your website has a negative effect on your bottom line and should be addressed.
In a recent blog post, I discussed why having a mobile-friendly website is important and the best options available.
Keep in mind that the online marketing for your business is a moving target. You will never reach a point where your website is finished. To keep your focus on an ever-improving bottom line, you must change what isn’t working and enhance what is. Knowledge is power, after all, so stay informed by checking in regularly on some of the most important numbers concerning your business.
What Google Analytics metrics do you use on a regular basis?
About the Author: Hollie Niblett is the owner, photographer and content strategist at Maya Creative Group. She has been in the business of online publications, sales and marketing since 2009, after spending many years managing programs and working with at-risk youth for non-profit and government agencies. She is a native Okie currently living in Kansas City with her husband and daughter.