Google Analytics is one of the best online tools currently available to measure your website’s performance, user engagement and the effectiveness of marketing efforts. It can provide insights into your visitor’s behaviour, their demographics, dwell times and a vast array of other measures that can be very useful to direct your online media strategy. And best of all, It’s free!
In this article, we will take you through Google Analytics from the installation of the tracking code to how collected data translates to useful information so that you can make informed decisions for your business.
The Starting Line
To get started go to https://google.com/analytics. You can create a Google user account or use an existing Google account to log in.
Follow these steps to start using Google Analytics
An individual site that you want to track in Google Analytics is called a ‘property’. Create a property and follow the simple steps which include naming your property (usually your business name) and enter your website’s address. You will then be provided with your tracking code snippet. To start collecting data, you will need to copy & paste this code snippet into the source code, more specifically within the <head></head> section, of every page you would like to track. Your web designer will be able to assist if you encounter any issues with this process.
Alternatively, you or your web developer can use your site’s unique 10-digit tracking ID (which has the format: UA-XXXXXXXX-XX) with various WordPress plug-ins that take care of the site-wide tracking code insertion for you. Plug-ins may also enable you to use some more advanced Google Analytics features further down the track and usually simplify your website’s code maintenance.
After a few days have passed, you should start to see some recorded data appearing in your Google Analytics account which is a good indicator that your setup has been successful.
Key Concepts In Google Analytics
At this stage, we encourage you to click through the various sections of the Google Analytics dashboard to familiarise yourself with the interface. You might find that some aspects & terms are self-explanatory, and others are not as obvious to understand while some even appear cryptic. While it is easy to get lost within the multitude of data representations, we would like to take a step back and explain some of the key concepts in laymen’s terms.
Sessions, Page Views & Visitors
How many visits did your site have?
‘Visitors’ represents the number of website users that viewed your website within a specific timeframe. ‘Unique Visitors’ means that even if one particular visitor views the site numerous times (several sessions) or various pages within your website (page views), it only counts as one visit.
Generally, the more visitors there are, the better is the exposure of your business, but we also have to take a look at the quality of the visits which we do further down the track and also take into account that certain trades are in general low traffic accumulators and others usually have a lot of traffic. For example, ‘accommodation in Coffs Harbour’ will attract a lot more traffic than ‘candle shop in Coffs Harbour’.
‘Page views’ show the total number of pages of your website that were viewed in possible multiple sessions by unique visitors. The trend line gives you an overview of sessions throughout a month to show how busy your site is over time.
Where did your visitors come from?
These statistics provide information about which visits originated from a particular traffic source. Traffic labelled as ‘direct’ is the number of visits that entered your domain name directly into their browsers, whereas the other entries represent other websites or search engines that were used to find your website.
If a link to your site exists on another website and many visits come through this link, it is likely to be represented as one of the sections in the chart. It is very positive for your site if a larger section of traffic is created by search engines such as Google, Bing or Yahoo as this validates your that your SEO efforts are working.
What are the characteristics of my visitors?
The data in this section can answer questions like ‘How many visitors used a mobile device?’ If a large percentage of the traffic generated is by visitors using a mobile device such as mobile phones, smartphones, tablets or other handheld devices it is imperative to ensure your website is optimised for mobiles. It is even better if your site is a responsive site that can capture traffic from a multitude of devices with different screen sizes.
Another important question is ‘Which geographic region did my visitors come from?’. Google Analytics map representation of your data is handy in this context as it shows traffic data allocated to their origin countries.
Preferably most visits come from the geographic location that represents your key audience. There are often visits from India and the United States included as these countries are very active regarding browsing the web for marketing (sometimes spamming) purposes. Ideally, the majority of visits come from the location that represents your target market.
How did visitors interact with your website?
This aspect of your data deals with what visitors did when they were on your website. The data can show you which pages visitors viewed most, how many pages does the average visitor click through and how long they stayed on your website altogether.
Noteworthy in this context is the ‘bounce rate’. A high bounce rate indicates that many visitors come to your site and then leave it immediately. This can be an important indication that something might be wrong with your site and you might need to re-visit your site’s user experience or your SEO strategy as your website could be indexed on search engines for something that is not relevant to your business.
In terms of dwell times or how long visitors stay on your website on average one can say a general rule is that the longer the stay, the better as people will engage with your business in more depth.
Google Analytics can also provide information on specific click patterns or particular sequences of pages being viewed, so-called funnels. For an e-commerce site, for example, the most crucial funnel would be from browsing products to adding a product to the shopping cart, to then go through the checkout process and to finally place an order or complete a purchase. Funnels can be used to identify bottlenecks and to optimise flows to increase conversions.
Where to go from here?
Google Analytics is one of those great, complex and scalable web applications out there that played a significant role in shaping the internet since it had been launched in 2005 by Google. Of course, within the limits of this article, we can only really capture the tip of the iceberg of what can be done with this online service. Hopefully, we could shed some light on some of the key concepts.
For an easy but sophisticated way to gain insights from your website, we recommend our Website Management Plans as they include Website Performance Reports which make evaluating your site regularly a breeze.
There are also tons of resources out there to learn more about Google Analytics, especially Lynda.com and the help section on the Google Analytics site itself provide very useful information.
For any further questions regarding website statistics and data analysis in relation to your Coffs Coast business website, please get in touch with us at F1RST.