Hello! So if you’re someone who is about to start a website or has a new website all set up, and you want a comprehensive understanding of Google Analytic in order to integrate a streamlined marketing campaign – you are indeed an online entrepreneur with great foresight. There are still many website owners that don’t have any clue about this amazing tool and how it can help them with their online business. Unless you are analytically gauging your website, there is no way to know if you are going in the right direction or not. However, to do things right you need to learn to use the tool properly.
Let’s take a look at what this tool is all about.
An Introduction to Google Analytics
What Is Google Analytics?
T his is a tool created by Google to help website owners collect analytical data about their websites and use that data for improving their website and overall internet marketing efforts. The application collects data and puts them in easy-to-read reports for you to understand the behavior and patterns of your website traffic. It can tell you how many unique online shoppers visited your website on a particular day or how many people bought a particular product from your website. The good thing here is that it lets you analyze the traffic on each page of your website separately rather than giving you a consolidated report of your entire website.
Why Do You Need It?
A very popular term used by marketers is “purchase funnel”. A purchase funnel illustrates the various stages that a customer goes through before finally doing business with you. The main stages of the funnel are: acquisition, behavior and conversion. Acquisition is when you are successfully able to get a customer interested in your product/services. Behavior means the way a customer has interacted with your business after learning about it. Conversion is when the customer finally buys your products or subscribes to your services. In an offline world, it is nearly impossible to collect and use this data to your advantage.
However, in an online world, it is tools like Google Analytics that allow you to collect all the data, improve your offerings and run more successful marketing campaigns. I think it is better to understand its importance by imagining a website without an analytical tool. So, you notice that your social media marketing efforts have brought traffic on your website. You see the traffic increasing every day, but the conversion rates are still stagnant. Tell me how would you know what’s keeping the conversions low? Where exactly will you put your finger and say, “this is what’s bothering our customers”.
Here are some possible causes of why your leads aren’t converting:
- Your website design is repelling.
- You don’t have SSL on your website.
- Your shopping cart is not user-friendly.
- Your web pages load too slowly.
- Your CTA (call to action) buttons aren’t attractive enough.
- You are sending your customers to a third-party website for making payments.
- Your website is not compatible with certain browsers.
- Your website is not optimized for mobile devices.
By analyzing the data collected by Google Analytics, you can slowly arrive at conclusions as to what exactly the problem is.
What Information Can Google Analytics Collect?
As a beginner, the most important question in your mind has to be the type of information you can collect using the Google Analytics app. Here is a list of analytical information pieces you can collect using the tool.
- Location of the visitor
- Device or screen size of the device being used by the visitor
- Browser type e.g. Chrome, Safari, etc.
- Source e.g. an organic search, a website, a banner ad, etc. where the visitor has come from
- Page views
- Average time spent on a web page
- Bounce rate i.e. users who left your website from first page and without interacting
- Exit percentage i.e. the page last visited by the user before leaving the website
- Landing page
- Website speed i.e. page lading time
Using these metrics, you will be able to find out much more about your audience than you might imagine. Take the example of an exit percentage i.e. the last page a user was on before they exited your website. If your website has 20 pages and there is one particular page with the highest exit percentage, what does that mean? Does that point to a pattern? Of course, it shows that there might be something wrong with that page.
How Do You Start Using Google Analytics?
The one thing that makes me happy and probably would make you happy too is that GA is a free tool from Google just like many others from the tech giant. Getting started with Google tools should not be a problem since they are mostly pretty intuitive and there are multiple online sources available for you to learn to use them. So, this free tool needs to be installed on your website. Before you install it on the website, you will have to create an account with Google. Your personal Gmail account would suffice if you haven’t shared its password with someone else.
GA’s job here is to arrange the information it receives into reports that are user-friendly and can be used by website owners like you to know visitor behavior patterns on your website.
Some Important Google Analytics Metrics – What They Mean and Why Measure Them
Demographics of the Users
Once you are inside the software, you will see the “audience” tab, an option on the left hand side of your dashboard. This particular option gives you access to the user data – it compiles all the data from your target audience that land on the website. The most important information to see here is user gender, location, interests etc. Now, why would you want to look at this information about your website traffic? Of course, it will tell you about your user base i.e. the users who are most active on your website and probably most interested in your offerings.
When you design your marketing campaign, change your website layout or introduce a new product, you will adjust things according to them and their interests. This information allows you to personalize user-experience on your website – enhancing their online shopping and interaction. They will be pleased to see how easy and relatable your website is and will not hesitate to make a purchase. You can use online forms to collect user data, but surveys show that online forms are not really popular among website users. Google Analytics makes some basic user information available to you such as location, gender and age. You can make your analytics more powerful by offering social login.
The reason behind the social login’s popularity is that it gives website owners a lot more information than what Google Analytics offers by default. Some information that you can gather about users by offering social login includes:
- First name
- Last name
- Nick name
- Date of birth
- Thumbnail image URL
- Profile name
While this information might not seem very important at first, it will enable you to market your products and services with a powerful touch of personalization.
How to View User Demographic Reports
- Update your software to allow the demographic reports.
- Once updated, enable the option for demographics reports.
- Within your account, click on “admin”.
- Go to account settings.
- Go to property settings.
- Locate advertising features.
- Turn on demographics report here.
You can also enable demographics reports from the reports tab following the steps given below.
- Log in to your account.
- Go to account settings.
- Go to property settings.
- Click on view.
- Click on reports.
- Select audience.
- Select demographics.
- Select overview.
- Enable the demographics report option.
When you set a marketing goal on your website and a user takes an action to complete that goal for you, it will be referred to as conversion rate. For example, if you want users to download an eBook from your website, every download of the eBook will be your conversion. The rate of conversion will be calculated by comparing the number of visitors that landed on the website to the number of visitors that completed the goal e.g. downloaded an eBook, purchased a product, subscribed for a service, etc. Your conversion rate is the real metric that is even more important than the total volume of traffic hitting your website.
Of course, traffic is important, but only when it converts. When you run marketing campaigns, you are looking at your ROI. Website traffic in itself does not give you anything. You have to work on improving your conversion rates to get better returns on your investment. To do that you will have to identify the source of traffic that’s converting on your website. The traffic source sending the most potential customers i.e. converting customer, needs to be focused on. Along with the traffic source, you also want to have a look at the path length of each visitor.
In Google Analytics you can set goals to track your conversions. Here’s how you can set a goal.
- Log in to your account.
- Select admin.
- Select goals.
- Select +new goal to create a new goal.
- Follow the steps in the wizard to set the goal.
An important thing to do when you run your marketing campaigns is to identify the most potential platforms and marketing methods. You don’t want to spend your capital on marketing campaigns that have not yielded any positive results. The first step to separating successful marketing campaigns from unsuccessful ones is to look at the traffic sources. Websites and platforms sending the most traffic on your website are places where you would want to invest some more. If after several attempts certain marketing efforts have not resulted in significant traffic, it is time to quit trying this method.
One of the most important things to look at when analyzing traffic sources is “organic traffic”. This is the traffic coming to your website from search engines. Web surfers type their inquiry on a search engine and click on your website’s link from the results. If you notice that your organic traffic is low, you might want to focus more on your SEO. The other important term is “direct traffic”. These are visitors coming directly to your website i.e. they have entered your website’s URL on their browsers rather than searching you on a search engine. Direct traffic gives you an idea of your existing customers and the success rate of your offline marketing efforts e.g. brochures, flyers, etc.
Lastly, you have referral traffic, which is the traffic coming to your website through social media and external links. A great example of referral traffic is guest blogging where a blog you wrote is being hosted on someone else’s blog site, but with your website’s link in it. People who search your business and click on it using local business listing websites will also be your referral traffic. You can view the traffic sources on your Google Analytics software by following these steps.
- Log in to your GA account.
- Click on view report link. (it takes you to the dashboard)
- Click on Traffic Sources on the left hand side of the page.
- Click on “referring sites”, “direct traffic” and “search engines” to view their traffic reports separately or “all traffic sources” to view a consolidated report.
Visitor Bounce Rate
This particular metric is an area of concern for website owners. Bouncing visitors are users that land on your website but leave right from the first page within seconds without doing anything. Why it will serve as an area of concern for you or any other business owner is because it may points towards a potential problem with your website. It could be that your website loads very slowly or the layout of the website is too overwhelming for the visitor. Maybe the content on your website is not informative and is stuffed unnecessarily with keywords.
You have to be very careful in how you treat bouncing visitors. Not all visitors have to be a source of worry for you. For example, visitors coming from social media might not be interested in your products, and may just be interested in finding more about an interesting write-up that they found on their social media. As soon as they read the rest of the write-up, they will leave your website. On the other hand, you could tell that a visitor coming from one of your partner’s websites is a potential customer. This customer must have come to your website to know more about the product.
The visitors you have to be most serious about are those coming from search engines. If their bounce rate is high, you have to do something about your website design, content and loading times as soon as possible. Here are the steps you will follow to view the bounce rate of your website or separate web pages.
- Sign into your GA account.
- Click on the website name that you want to view the bounce rate report of.
- In the audience overview, select bounce rate.
- Click on behavior in order to find bounce rate report of separate pages.
- After clicking on behavior, select all pages.
- After selecting all pages you will see several columns on the page. Bounce rate is one of the columns.
- You can also change the date range for viewing the bounce rate of a particular period.
The date range option can be selected from the top right hand side of the page.
The world is going mobile pretty fast. People like to make purchases and read reviews on the go. Mobile optimization for websites has become so important that even Google rolled an update specifically for mobile optimized websites. After this particular update, websites that were not optimized for mobiles were not to appear in searches that were triggered on mobile devices. This was a direct signal from Google that it wanted all websites to be optimized for mobiles. Keeping consistent with its demands, Google introduced the options for “devices” on its Google Analytics software as well. You can use the mobile performance report on GA to see how well your website is performing on smaller devices. Keep in mind that it only applies to your website, not the application.
After opening the mobile performance report, you can view its various sections to get a more in-depth analysis. In addition to mobile devices, the report will also show you the browsers your users are using to access your website. Here are the steps to open the mobile performance report on your Google Analytics software.
- Log in to your GA account.
- Go into the “audience” tab.
- Click on Mobile under the audience tab.
- See an “overview” or “devices” under mobile as suits your needs.
By default, you will be able to see the results for desktop, mobile phones and tablets.
Tracking Internal Site Searches
Marketers can often get too busy looking at how visitors reached a website rather than focusing on what the visitors did after coming on the website. This particular metric tells you exactly that i.e. you look at the behavior of the visitor on the website. Visitors would often use the internal search feature on the websites to narrow down their search results. For example, they might land on your footwear website and specifically search for sneakers. This tells you a lot about your visitors. One of the most important things this metric tells you is that you need to improve a certain section of your website.
Why does the visitor feel the need to use search feature to be specific about a piece of information. Maybe your website does not have the information easily available for visitors. Once you have set up the internal site search report on your GA, you will see a lot of information about visitors’ specific searches by following these steps.
- Log in to your GA account.
- Go to the “behavior” option on the left side.
- Click “site search’ in the submenu.
- Click “overview” in the submenu.
The important elements you will see on this report will include sessions with searches, results pageviews, total unique searches, % search exits, % search refinements etc.
Social Network Overview
Social networks have become an integral part of internet marketing for businesses. Social media allows you to have a more personal relationship with your customers and to target new customers in a more effective way. Google Analytics software allows you to get an overview of the social networks that are bringing in traffic to your website. By looking at the social networks and their performances you have to find and separate the ones that are sending the most traffic. The social networks that are sending most of the traffic on your website need special attention from you.
You will have to run streamlined rewarding campaigns and find more ways to interact with your audience on those social networks. You can also try and find out why other social networks are not working out for you. However, if you have at least 2 major social networks sending in significant traffic to your website, you can improve your strategies and make the most of them.
In order to view your social reports, here is what you will have to do.
- Sign in to your GA account.
- Click on the reporting tab.
- Click on acquisition.
- Click on social.
This will give you access to 8 different types of social analytics.
Web Page Loading Speeds
This is one of the strongest points of Google Analytics. Your website’s page loading speeds can affect your visitors’ behavior directly. It shows how usable your website is for your visitors. Furthermore, if your pages take too long to load, you are sending your website traffic to your competitors. The best thing about Google Analytics is how it presents information about your web page loading speeds. Google provides you with cross references on your page load times and bounce rates. For example, you can find out how fast your page loads in a particular region e.g. Florida, and see what the bounce rate of users coming from Florida is.
Finding site speed data on Google Analytics is very easy. Just follow these steps.
- Sign in to your GA account.
- Click on admin.
- Locate the view section on the right hand side.
- Open reports.
- Click on behavior.
- Select site speed.
You can always use page speed suggestions to know how you can optimize each page of your website.
What Your First 30 Days with Google Analytics Should Be Like
The first thing you must keep in mind when you start using Google Analytics is not to rush it. You want to learn everything step by step and put your learning to use as you continue to utilize the tool. You can divide your first month with GA into 4 weeks, focusing on 4 different tasks. After spending your first month with the software you should be in a strong position to take your decisions and design your future strategies on how you will make the most of using GA.
Week 1 – Familiarizing with and Implementing the Basics
The first couple of days of using Google Analytics should be dedicated to understanding the software, the various sections in it, the way to use all the features and access reports. The next few days of the week have to be spent implementing the basic strategies and learning how to use default reports that Google Analytics generates for you. This is also the time for you to know the reports in detail and implement any customized changes so you can collect exactly the data you need. One of the most important things to keep in mind here are the various issues that are common with Google Analytics, so when you come across any complications, you can effectively overcome them without delaying anything.
Common Issues with Google Analytics
The Report Lag
Depending on the complexity of your report and the traffic volume on your website, the reports can lag for up to 48 hours. The most basic metrics will not lag more than a couple of hours. However, an intelligence report is not available after 1 hour – it usually takes much longer. The best example is Visitor Flow Report, which is sometimes provided to you after a couple of days. The 24-hour lag is common with larger websites with millions of views every month.
The Ghost Spam
Ghost spam is pretty common in Google Analytics and can affect your analytical data significantly. Ghost spam is often called ghost referral spam. In this spam, you will notice website visitors that aren’t actual visitors – the users aren’t real. Of course, as the name suggests, they are ghosts that appear in your GA reports – more like a digital mark. The best way to catch these spam referrals is that they will come from a domain on which you never installed any codes to track traffic behavior. The .htaccess does not work for this spam and the only way to get rid of them is by creating filters. Here is a really helpful article on how to remove ghost spam from your Google Analytics.
Own IP in Analytics
When you use Google Analytics, you want to find the traffic patterns and user behavior of your customers, not your own people. However, your internal traffic also appears in the GA reports. Internal IP refers to the IP address of the people on your own corporate network. In order to exclude that traffic from your analytical reports, you will have to whitelist those IPs. Before you do that, it is important to know that only static IPs can be whitelisted. For multiple IPs, you will have to create multiple filters. Here is how you will create a filter for your internal IP addresses.
- Create a filter in “view”. (Here’s how you can learn to create a filter).
- Define the type of the filter as “predefined”.
- Click on “select filter type” and pick the option “exclude” from the submenu.
- Select the option “select source or destination” from the submenu, and pick the option “traffic from the IP addresses” here.
- Select an expression from the expression submenu.
- Enter the IP address to be filtered.
The best way to see if your filter works fine is to use the Google Tag Assistant. You can download this extension from the Chrome store.
Tracking Errors with Multiple Domains
When you have to implement Google Analytics across multiple domains, you’ll have to be extremely careful with each step. In the case of some websites, the sales funnel requires a visitor to land on various domains. An example can be a visitor that sees a post on your blog, lands on your website to buy something and is then sent to a third-party website for making the credit card payment. This is cross domain tracking in its finest form. You have to track multiple domains by properly implementing Google Analytics across all of them. A better way to do that is to use one of the several plugins for the job.
By installing plugins you can rest assured your final reports don’t have loopholes in them just because the data is coming from various domains and subdomains.
So, these are the most common problems that you will come across while using Google Analytics. So, now you understand the most important types of metrics that you need to measure using the GA tool. The most important ones have been mentioned along with the way to access their reports. Do not be impatient at this point and let the right time come when you can make use of all the data that you have just started to gather.
Week 2 – Analyzing the Data
In the second week, you should be more focused on analyzing the data that you have collected so far. This data will give you a picture of where your website stands, how much traffic you are getting and how the users are behaving on the website. This is also the time when you’ll start making strategies to streamline data use and implementation after identifying certain patterns. First, take a look at the user demographics to know where most of the traffic is coming on your website. Secondly, you will have to look at the traffic sources i.e. which websites are sending the traffic.
To be continued. . . .