The 411 on Google Analytics

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411 on Google Analytics

Do you shiver and shake when you hear the word “analytics,” or do you love data diving? If you’re the former, we’re hoping to make the word a little less frightening with this helpful post. And if you’re the latter, well, buckle up and sit back for a fun ride.

Why should I care about Google Analytics (GA)?
We’re focusing on Google Analytics because it’s 1) our favorite price—free! and it’s 2) put out by Google. But the key here is you should have some sort of web analytics installed on your site so that you can understand things like…

  • What keyword phrases led people to your site?
  • What pages are the most heavily trafficked?
  • Which pages do people spend the most time on? The least?
  • Which pages convert into leads?
  • Which browsers/mobile technology are people using to access your site?

Strong analytics software will provide you with a wealth of data to peruse and ponder. Yes, it can be overwhelming, but having access to this information—and paying attention to it—is important since it will help drive some of your web marketing decisions.

From here on out, we’re going to assume you’ve installed Google Analytics on your site. If you haven’t done so yet, never fear: it’s easy. Google walks you through it here.

I’ve peeked at Google Analytics before, and it just seems so overwhelming! I’m worried about getting lost.
The first couple of times you use it, it will indeed seem overwhelming. But Google works hard at—and does a good job with—trying to streamline info and keep everything organized in a logical fashion.

The important thing to know is this: you won’t break anything! Take some time to click around and drill down. Once you get the lay of the land, subsequent visits will feel less daunting.

In terms of how often to check in, figure out a schedule that works for you, but stick to it. Once a month can work well, but weekly and even daily might make sense, especially if you’re an online retailer. You don’t need to go it alone, either. You can add other users to your account, so consider dividing and conquering. Your marketing and sales team leaders should definitely have access and be encouraged to review the data regularly.

I’m short on time. What are the basics that I should pay attention to?
Here are three that we recommend: Traffic Sources, specifically organic search; Conversions, specifically the items under “Goals”; and Audience, specifically “Visitors Flow.” Here’s why we’re recommending these.

Note: if you’re logged into your GA account, look at the left-hand menu and follow the paths we’re laying out below.

1. Traffic Sources – Sources – Search – Organic:  This particular metric allows you to keep your finger on the pulse of what prospective and current customers want and are searching for in Google. It provides a clear snap shot of the phrases that are bringing in site visitors, how many pages these folks visit on average, how long they stay and how quickly they bounce away. This gives you a sense as to what keywords are driving traffic and which ones are keeping people on the site, and which ones are driving traffic, but losing people quickly once they get there.

Takeaways: Review those pages that people are bouncing off of and see if you can figure out why. Is the copy not compelling enough? Does it not talk about the keyword phrase in depth? Is it lacking a call to action? For popular keyword phrases, you could also create some offers around them, like a white paper for example. You might be surprised at some of the phrases that show up. They might be completely relevant to your business, but stated in a way you wouldn’t have expected—again, this can end up being a springboard for other content, like blog posts or newsletter articles.

2. Conversions – Goals – Goals Overview: You need to set these up, but once set up, you’ll have a clear view of the pages that are effectively converting visitors into leads, and which ones need work. You’ll want to have goals set up on all major actions on your website—think white paper downloads, general contact forms, request for more info forms, shopping cart checkouts, etc.

Takeaways: Study the pages that are working well and model the under-performing pages after them. Re-visit the calls-to-action you have on your site, and make sure you have strong ones leading to those under-performing pages. Give those under-performers a little extra TLC by promoting them in blog posts, email newsletters, and social media.

Keeping your eye on this data week-to-week or month-to-month ensures that you’re aware of how hard and how well your website is working for you. Because it SHOULD be working for you and making you money, right?

3. Audience – Visitors Flow. Sometimes you can go cross-eyed staring at numbers and charts. We like this data point because it’s highly visual and really tells a story: you see the actual path people take as they visit your site.

Takeaways: See if you can spot patterns. Are people skipping an important step in your sales process—perhaps a specific page on your website that explains a product or service? Do they go too fast from one point to another? Do they arrive too quickly at a landing page and you’re seeing a high number of drop-offs? This visual will give you clues about how to re-evaluate and revise your site, and even your sales process.

Note: not all of the news might be negative. The path might indicate that people jump from one page to a landing page quite easily and convert (which is why you need to pay attention to your conversion goals). This could be telling you that folks don’t need as much handholding during the sales process as you originally thought. As a result, you might decide to change the way your sales team and even customer service communicates with prospects and customers.

Is that it?
No! That’s far from it! Google Analytics has a wealth of data, and you can continue to drill down and drill down, change date ranges, and find new things to look at. Above, we made three high-level suggestions if you’re one of those analytics-adverse people, but please understand that we’ve just scratched the surface. You might discover other metrics that are more important for you to pay attention to on a regular basis.

OK. I know I need to dig in. Are there resources for using GA?
Yes, and the best place to start is with the Google Analytics website itself. You’ll find a Learning Center, in the left-hand sidebar on the GA Blog. This lists a YouTube Channel, User-to-User Forum, and a Help Center.

Here are some other independently written articles to check out:

I’m interested in getting some help and possibly outsourcing some of the GA analysis and work. Where should I go to find help?
Google anticipated the need, so it created a Google Analytics Certified Partner Network where you can find people who are “carefully vetted by Google and meet rigorous qualification standards.”

Do you use Google Analytics? What tips or advice can you offer newbies and seasoned GA users alike? Share your tips and secrets in the comments!

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