Simply installing Google Analytics is a good start for any web site owner. However, it is not of any benefit until the data is used. I have worked with many people who have analytics installed on their sites, but never looked at the data. When I talk to small businesses or nonprofits, they are so overwhelmed with their workload and cannot imagine having to manage “one more thing”. I always tell them to at least get analytics installed so data tracking can begin and worry about using it later. If you feel that way too, I offer the same advice. Add Google Analytics to your website now so at least the data collection can begin.
From here, let’s now assume you have been tracking data for a couple months and still are not sure why you installed Google Analytics other than you were told to do so! Here are a few suggestions to start using your data with basic metrics.
When you login your account, you will see options on the left for the types of data available. First select “Audiences” and choose “Overview.” This has information about your visitors at a glance. It will show you new visitors and returning visitors. New visitors indicates your marketing efforts seem to be bringing in new people. These could be people who are hearing about you for the first time. Your returning visitors implies you have loyal customers and you are giving them reasons to continue coming back to your site. Maybe they are looking for a new product or enjoy reading your content.
Note the general timeline for the number of visits. Is it holding steady? Gradually increasing traffic? Or possibly decreasing traffic (oh no)? Note the trend and think about some activities that may have contributed to that change. If you presented at a large networking event and mentioned your company, you may find traffic went up as people were interested in checking out your site. This is good information to have because it implies speaking engagements will result in more website visitors for your particular business. If the traffic went down over a period of time, did that happen the same time as your website re-launch? If that is a possible relationship, you may want to talk with your webmaster if it appears a new site is negatively impacting your traffic. Something like this could happen if you are launching with a new web address and a number of sites linking to you are linking to your old address.
Next go to “Acquisition” and “Overview”. This shows which sources are sending you the most traffic. If there are a number of new sessions under “Social”, this implies your messaging on social media is pretty engaging and people want to learn more about you. You can even look a little further to see if one social channel is outperforming the others. Similarly, if there are very few sessions coming from your traffic source of “Social”, it may indicate a problem with your social media strategy.
The third “Overview” option is under “Behavior”. This provides averages about how people behaved on your site. Note the average time on page in this section. If you have site with a lot of content, you want this number to be high, showing that people are engaging with your site. It indicates they are spending a good amount of time absorbing your articles. On the other hand, if it is a support site, you may want this number to be low, implying that visitors found what they needed right away and exited the site.
At this point, you hopefully can see the value of learning about visitors and traffic sources for your site, which are just a couple valuable metrics available in Google Analytics. Next is the “now what”? Be careful about running reports and simply reviewing the data in a meeting. That’s where the “now what” question comes into play. The above data is a good starting point to help you ask the right questions. However, to really maximize the capabilities in analytics, you have to think critically about what to do with all these numbers. Decide what higher and lower numbers mean for your specific business. You have to be able to answer the “now what” question as a result of analyzing this data.
When applied, Google Analytics is an extremely helpful tool for making changes in your business processes and do more of what works and less of what does not. If you monitor your data regularly and use it to make sound business decisions, it won’t be long before you can answer the question “Why should I use Google Analytics?”