So you’ve set up your website or blog and watched your online traffic grow, but wouldn’t it be nice to know more about what drives people to visit and purchase?
Google Analytics is undoubtedly one of the best performing web analytics applications available, and in its basic form is free to use making it one of the most appealing programs of its kind. If you are new to Google Analytics, read this analytics guide to help you understand the basics.
Business analytics photo by Shutterstock
What is Analytics?
Developed by Google in 2005, Google Analytics offers a free service that tracks online traffic and generates detailed statistics about visits to a website or blog. Fast becoming an indispensable tool for marketers, it is the most popular and widely used service for analyzing website statistics. In addition to the free program, a premium version is available for a fee.
Why Use Analytics?
Quite simply because it is a quick and easy way to find out who your online customers are, where they are coming from and what behavioral patterns they have once they land on your website. This invaluable information will help you make informed decisions about the effectiveness of your marketing and potential areas for growth and development.
How does Analytics work?
What’s more, the code also sets ‘cookies’ on each visitor’s computer enabling you to find out whether a visitor has visited your site before and where they were referred from e.g., pay per click networks, email marketing, search engines and online advertising.
An overview report displays your website’s traffic patterns over the past month or within your chosen date range. You can also choose to compare two date ranges and even add specific notes to spikes or drops in traffic to remind you of the cause when reviewing data.
Overviews and detailed reports for traffic sources, content, and conversions are also available, as are custom reports which enable users with specific analysis needs to choose their metrics and how they are displayed, for example in a table, graph, chart etc.
How do I interpret the data?
- Visitors – Of course, new visitors are a target you should aim for, but, more importantly, you should try to convert new visitors into regular visitors, who engage with your content often. It demonstrates that they like what you do and want regular updates on your product or service. Such information is invaluable when you are looking to launch or promote something. By reviewing the “days since last visit” report on Google Analytics you can even see any patterns such as time or day of visit and predict future visits to ensure your updates are timely.
- Bounce rate – a bounce is when a visitor only views one page on a website before leaving. Ideally, you want a low bounce rate, as that means your readers are staying on your page and reading your content for a longer period of time.
- Visit value – this can be determined by two key metrics on Google Analytics. Visit duration and the page depth (how many pages a visitor viewed) will tell you how long people visit for and how many pages they visited whilst there. Your ultimate aim is to generate a high number of visitors who each view more than one page, and stay on your site for more than a few seconds.
- Traffic – understanding where your traffic is coming is a powerful tool. It is most beneficial for your traffic to come from a variety of sources, that way you are not reliant on one specific source and are protecting yourself from a drop in traffic should that source unexpectedly close or change. Google Analytics can help you determine the strength of your search engine optimization (SEO), as well as incoming links, and effectiveness of advertising campaigns.
Are there any limitations?
Google Analytics will give you an overview of the trends for your website, but it won’t give you the low down on specific visitors. You will also need to ensure that you input the tracking code on every page to get the best out of it.