If you have a website, you will no doubt want to know how well it is performing and how many people are using it. This can be instrumental for the future success of your business, as it can help you to measure and track your website’s activity. Google Analytics can help you to answer some important questions, such as which pages on your website are the most popular, and how many visitors have you converted into customers?
If you have never used Google Analytics
before, it can be a little intimidating on first appearances. However, once you have set it up and begin to understand some of its basic functions, you can unlock a whole world of insightful information.
Why should I use Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is great for providing data but also giving you the chance to analyse it and act on what you find. It works by adding in a tracking code to your website and records the activities of your users as well as attributes such as age, gender, location.
The tracking code sends the information to Google Analytics, which aggregates the data. You can then begin to gain a bigger picture of who is using your website and why.
Setting up Google Analytics
First, you need to create an account. If you already have a Google account that you use for things like Gmail or YouTube, then you can set up your Google Analytics using that account.
Once you have signed up, you will need to fill out the necessary information for your website. Google Analytics will ask whether you want to track a website or a mobile app, and will ask for things like the website name, URL and industry.
If you have a WordPress website or use a CMS system, you will probably be able to use a plugin, or in-built functionality to add the code. Each system is slightly different but Google will have guides for all of them.
How to navigate Google Analytics
Once you have set up Analytics, you will see a dashboard-style layout which offers an overview of your reports. This includes traffic, what time your users visit, what devices they use and your most viewed pages.
The important part is the left-hand sidebar which displays the different reports that you can click through to. Each report area has an overview section, as well as more detailed and in-depth data.
When you delve deeper into these reports, you will see both a graph and table displaying the data. You have the option to change the date range at the top, which includes the ability to compare to a different date range too.
At the top of the table, you will also have the chance to add a secondary dimension to understand more about the data.
Understanding the language
You may see some new language and phrases that you haven’t come across before when you’re using Google Analytics. For example, a landing page. The landing page is the first page viewed during a session. In other words, when someone visits your website, the landing page is the first page they see on your website. Not all visitors will “land” on your homepage!
Google Analytics uses the term ‘sessions’ to talk about visits to your website. If you see this, the number of sessions relates to the number of visits to your website in the selected date range.
In analytics, Users make up sessions. This means that 1 user, could have many sessions. You will also get some user data such as New v Returning. A returning visitor is someone who already has an analytics cookie for your website, indicating they have already been. If they do not have this, then they are a new user.
Similarly, you may see Pages/Session, which means the average number of pages viewed during a session. It will include repeated views of a single page. You will also notice session duration, which is the average time spent on the website.
Google Analytics refers to channels throughout its dashboard, which relates to the type of traffic. Organic Search refers to when a visitor originates from a search engine, for example a search on Google. On the other hand, Paid Search refers to a visitor who has found your website via a search on Google but has clicked on a paid search advertisement (PPC).
The Direct type of traffic is where a visitor types in your URL straight into their browser. If you see Referral or Social, this means the visitor has come from another website on the internet or a social media platform.
You will likely also see bounce rate mentioned. This is the percentage of sessions that had no interaction with other pages or page elements on your website. They land on your website but leave without clicking to another page or completing an action like filling out a form. The lower the bounce rate, the more your visitors have interacted with other parts of your site.
Reporting with Google Analytics
When it comes to using Google Analytics, there are six options to choose from; Real-Time, Audience, Acquisition, Behaviour and Conversions. Each one gives you more options and allows you to delve deeper into the data collected from your website.
Depending on what data you are hoping to analyse, you will find it in one of these areas. Here are some of the most valuable reports.
The Audience report can help you to understand who is using your website, their demographics, location and what device they are using. This can be very helpful in learning who is interested in your business.
Are your users mostly female or male? Do they view your website more on a smartphone or a PC? What area do your users come from?
Compare the users on your website reports to your current customer database, is it the same age range that you see in practice? Is there anything you can do to convert a certain age range to act on your website?
Acquisition will tell you more about what avenue your visitors took in order to reach your website. This is broken down into main categories, Channels, and specific sources, Source/Medium.
Channels usually include Organic Search, Direct, Paid Search, Email, Referral and Social. You will be able to see in this report how many users visited your website via each channel.
This can be broken down further by looking at Source/Medium. Here you will be able to gain a more granular insight into the ways people are coming to your website. For example, you may see that a huge percentage of your traffic is coming from Facebook or LinkedIn.
Through the Referrals report within this area, you can also see which other websites sent people to your website.
The Behaviour report within Google Analytics tells you everything you need to know about the content on your website. This can help you to understand how many people are visiting each page of your website, what page they land on first and what the last page was before they left your website.
This is particularly helpful if you are determining the success of a blog post, or if you are analysing any growth or decline in your traffic levels.
When you set up your Google Analytics account, you can set up something known as goals. Goals will tell Google Analytics when something important has happened on your website, such as a customer filling in a form or making a purchase.
When the user fills in the form or makes a purchase, the website will usually take them to a confirmation or thank you page. It is the URL of this page that you should set as the goal.
The Conversions report will allow you to see how many of these goals occurred and what URLs they happened on.
You can also see goals or conversions in each of the other reports. For example, in the Location report under Audience, you can see how many conversions the website has had from visitors in a certain location. Similarly, in the Source/Medium report under Acquisition. you can see how many conversions have occurred from visitors who came to the website from Facebook.
Google Analytics has so much data in it, we have only touched the common elements. Once you have Analytics set up and data is being collected, have a click around and explore for yourself!
You should now have a better idea of how to set up Google Analytics and its reporting functionality, in order to understand your website’s performance better than before!