Getting Started With Google Analytics
Web analytics doesn’t always mean hours spent combing through pages of data reports, nor are you required to undertake in depth technical analysis. To get started all that is required is the occasional checking of website data, some quick analysis and quick creation of action plans based on your findings. Web analytics can get also pretty complex if you dare to indulge, however we’re going to ease in gently with a few basic ideas and try to avoid getting too geeky.
Getting Setup With Data Tracking Software
There are many data tracking software suites around, however I am going to talk about Google Analytics. Why? Because it is free, easy to setup, easy to use and is applicable to almost every website, whether you are the New York Times or Winsome Designs.
To setup Google Analytics (GA), you first need to create a Google Account and signup for GA. You can do this at the Google Analytics Signup page.
Once you have your GA account you simply need to copy and paste the tracking code into each page of your website. Here are the official GA setup instructions from Google.
If you do not manage your own site, ask your web agency to do it, but to be completely honest, if your web agency created your website without integrating (or at least suggesting) some sort of data tracking software, they should be fired.
Once you are setup, you should be able to login to your Dashboard.
Grab Some Analytics Data
If you have just installed your tracking code, you will need to wait a few days before data of any significance appears. Once you have some data in your account you will be able to generate reports showing all sorts of different website metrics. There are thousands of reports and options so I highly recommend you get your hands dirty and try out all the options, but here are three stock standard reports to get you started.
The Keyword Report
(Click: Traffic Sources –> Keywords)
This shows which keywords your website visitors used to find your site. You can use this to analyse the success of your SEO strategy and figure out which keywords your site is receiving traffic from. You can also drill down from this report to see which page visitors landed on from your keywords. This can help you determine if the pages appearing in search results are triggered by the appropriate keywords.
(Click: Visitors –> Map Overlay)
This shows where your website traffic is coming from geographically. You can drill down to City , Country/Territory, Sub Continent Region or Continent by clicking on the map, and the report shows other data such as bounce rate, pages/visit and average time on site.
New vs Returning Visitors
(Click: Visitors –> New vs. Returning)
This report quickly gives you an idea of visitor loyalty by showing the number of visits by new or returning visitors. Keep in mind that a new visitor is not always a unique person. A new visitor could be the same person who happens to access your site from different devices (mobile, work PC, home PC, ipod etc) or anyone who has cleared their cookies recently.
Ok, so there is a bucket load of data available to you but the data is of no use unless you can analyse it and determine what you need to improve on. Every piece of data should tell you something about your website and that data should lead to actions that can improve aspects of your site. Here are a few analyses to consider.
Online Advertising Campaigns
Analyse the advertising cost per visitor against number of sales to figure out cost per acquisition. You can then use cost per acquisition data to optimise bidding, find more specific keywords or redesign your ad copy.
You can track form completion pages against advertisement source to determine if your ads are facilitating sales. If not, you may need to change your ad landing pages or make your forms easier to complete.
With online advertising you will need to use Google’s URL Builder. This free tool appends a short piece of code such as utm_source=facebook to your target URL to ensure clicks on your online ads are tracked properly. If you use Google Adwords, this is done for you automatically.
Check how many pages your visitors view against the traffic source. This can lead you to creating pages that enhance visitor engagement with calls to action or easier navigation.
Track external links and see how many of your visitors click to your social media pages from your website. This can lead to better placement of social media buttons.
If you have an online sales process, you can track your buyers throughout your sales funnel through to completion. You can also see where they are dropping out of the funnel. This can lead to redesigning forms or adding in further buyer reinforcement to encourage completion.
Remember a funnel does not need to actually sell anything. It could be a direct path through your site to a file download, form completion or click to social media site.
As you can see, each of the above analyses, although they are crude, all come with actions. After all, what is the point of analysing your website if you don’t come away with anything to improve on? Make sure that every time you analyse your data, you come away with something, whether it is changing something on your site, optimising your marketing approach or knowingly patting yourself on the back because you are already doing a great job!
For those who are interested in jumping in to the vast ocean that is web analytics, I would strongly advise checking out the blogs by Brian Clifton (author of Advanced Web Metrics) and Avinash Kaushik (Analytics Evangelist for Google).