Google Analytics can be a very powerful tool. Although it can enable specialists to dig deep to use more complex features, its’ true power may be accessibility. This blog post is perfect for business owners who have zero or limited Google Analytics experience (and limited time) but are looking to quickly learn more about their website and what they can do to improve it.
In this post, we’ll talk about basic Google Analytics; how to use the platform in a simple way to gain great insights and how to leverage these insights to improve your website. We’ll start with an at-a-glance view of your website, then talk about website-level insights, and finally conclude with webpage-level insights.
Your website at-a-glance
To get an at-a-glance view of your website, first log in to Google Analytics and select your site. This will bring you to the Audience Overview page, which displays several stats from the past 30 days: daily traffic, website sessions, users, pageviews, pages per session, average session duration, bounce rate (essentially the percent of sessions in which a user enters your website and leaves without exploring), and % new sessions.
Highlights here include: sessions (how much traffic your site gets per month), average session duration (how long people spend on your website on average), and % new sessions (how much of your website traffic comes from new visitors versus returning visitors).
Before we move on to website-level insights and webpage-level insights, I always find it valuable to go to the date range in the top-right corner and modify it to show at least 13 months of data. For instance, if you are looking at traffic in May 2015, I would set the date range from May 1, 2014-May 31, 2015 so you can see traffic over the course of the past year. Also be sure to modify the viewing filter from “Day” to “Month” or “Week”. To view how your website traffic varies seasonally, you can modify the date range to cover a few years and see seasonality trends.
Now, let’s talk about two website-level insights (and how to transforms these insights into website improvements) you can find in Google Analytics: traffic geography and device traffic.
To view traffic by geography, find “Audience” in the left-hand column, open “Geo” beneath it, and then click “Location”. This will allow you to see which countries visit your website. From here, you can drill down to individual states and cities.
If you are a local business that does most of its business in a particular city, county, or state, you want most of your traffic to come from the relevant cities, counties, or states. If this is not the case, your website is attracting traffic from people who won’t become customers. Here, one thing you should do is add the cities, counties, and/or states you are targeting to your website copy and meta-data. Meta data refers to information you give Google and other search engines to tell them what your website is about; this information gets factored into where you rank in search results.
To view website traffic by device, again go to “Audience” in the left-hand column, open “Mobile” beneath it, and click “Overview”. This will tell you how your site traffic is split between desktop, mobile, and tablet traffic.
For many of my clients, mobile and tablet traffic are actually larger than desktop traffic. Particularly if this is the case for you, it’s essential that your mobile and tablet website experiences are strong, especially with Google’s new “Mobilegeddon” (Google recently changing its algorithm for individuals searching on mobile devices to favor websites with strong mobile experiences.)
Be sure to look at how your website appears on a mobile device to ensure it looks professional and is easy to use. Also be sure to use this tool to see how your site fares on mobile. If your website is not mobile-friendly, especially if mobile traffic is particularly important for your website, then it’s a good idea to speak with your website developer about a responsive design website.
Website strategy and updates take time, and if you only have two hours for your website, it’s important to spend them working on the pages that will make the most difference. Which pages are these?
There are two types of pages that I’d say are probably most important – pages that get the most views and pages that get the most lands (pages that most people enter your website through). Here’s how you can identify the pages in each category.
To see the pages with the most views, go to “Behavior” in the left-hand column, and click “Overview”. Then, in the bottom-right corner, click “view full report”. This shows you the most commonly viewed pages on your website, sorted by number of pageviews.
To see the pages that attract the most lands, go to “Behavior” in the left-hand column, open “Site Content”, and then click “Landing Pages”.
Now that you know which pages attract the most traffic and get the most lands, what should you look for in these pages to improve your website experience? The first two things I would look at are:
1) Bounce rate and exit rate
The bounce rate refers to the percent of people who leave your site through the first page they arrive at, without interacting with the page. The exit rate for a page refers to the percent of people who exit your site thorough that page, out of those who view it. For instance, if your “Contact Us” page gets 100 pageviews per month and 75 people exit your website through that page each month, the exit rate for that page is 75%.
Pages with high bounce or exit rates are often blog articles (people arrive at your website to get a particular piece of factual information and leave once they have it), pages that are a natural termination point (people arrive at your website, sign up for a service, and go to a “Thank You” page), and/or pages without a strong call to action (people don’t know where to go next and then leave).
2) The page itself
Let’s look at this last possibility (people don’t know where to go next and then leave) in more detail. If you feel a high-traffic page has an unusually high bounce rate or exit rate, I would advise visiting that page on your website (you can do this in Google Analytics by clicking on the pop out icon next to the page name).
Once on the page, look at whether it is obvious where a prospect should go next. Are there prominent links and/or buttons the prospect should click to get more information, sign up for a service, or even enroll in your e-newsletter? If not, this is a page to improve so your audience stays on your site longer, learns more about you, and gets further along the buying cycle.
We went through a lot there. First, we started by looking at an at-a-glance view of your website (to view overall traffic and engagement, as well as how these have changed over time). Next, we talked about website-level insights (a geographic-level look at where your traffic comes from and which devices people use to view your website). Finally, we looked at webpage-level insights (how to identify which pages on your site get the most traffic and what to look at to determine if these pages need to be improved).
This is far from a comprehensive guide to Google Analytics. It is just a simple approach to how you can use Google Analytics to learn more about your website and improve it without spending a lot of time; perfect for the busy business owner.