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Regular readers would know that I’m a BIG FAN of Google Analytics, and with good reason…
For some people Google Analytics is just a bit of code you install in your new website then leave it never to be checked again. For others its an after-thought, that they only think about when they need it, and are disappointed to learn that Google Analytics can only begin tracking from the time it is successfully installed, and does not give you retrospective data from before it is installed.
If you’re still unsure, here are five things you can do with Google Analytics.
If you don’t know what Google Analytics is and why you should use it, check out this post, then come right on back!
Already keen to learn more in person? Check out our upcoming Google Analytics training, including our Melbourne workshop.
1. Google Analytics helps you REALLY know what is going on with your website
I always begin our Google Analytics training workshops by running through WHY website reporting is important.
Regularly reviewing historical website data allows us to REALLY understand who is using our website, and how, so we can make informed, strategic, results-focused marketing and business decisions.
Want to know how most people are finding your website?
Google Analytics can tell you.
Want to know where people are coming from in the world?
Google Analytics can tell you.
Want to know what pages on your website are most popular?
Google Analytics can tell you.
Want to know if those ads your running, or your email campaigns or other marketing are driving not only website visits but enquiries, sales and other conversions?
Google Analytics can tell you.
Want to know if an arrangement with another website is actually sending you not only traffic, but useful, relevant traffic?
Google Analytics can tell you.
I have met with many business owners and website managers over the years who either tell me how they think people are using their website, or have no idea how they are.
I have heard statements like: “oh, no one searches for us online” or “we don’t get any traffic from social media”, based purely on here say and personal opinion.
Using website analytics like Google Analytics means we don’t have to make assumptions about how people are finding us or using our website. We can have access to that information, and then focus on using those insights to improve our website, marketing and ultimately: business results.
2. Google Analytics lets you see who is online, where from and what they are looking at and doing – RIGHT NOW!
While Google Analytics reports are mostly based on a wealth of historical data, it also offers Realtime Reports.
This section was introduced in 2011, and while a little lean on information, it’s a great way of determining:
- Whether your Google Analytics tracking code is working (if you’re on your website and see activity in Realtime Reports – congrats! It’s working!)
- Whether visitors are on your site, and what they are doing – right now.
These Realtime Reports are super useful for when you have just launched an advertising, email or other campaign or activity that you are hoping will be driving traffic to your website.
You can keep an eye on high level metrics like:
- Where they are from (Geo > Locations)
- How they found your website (Acquisition Channels aka traffic sources)
- What page they are on
- How long they are on your website for
- Whether they are triggering any of your important website actions, through Events and Conversions
All that lovely data will also be saved into your more detailed historical reports for further data analysis and insights.
What’s not to love!?
3. Google Analytics helps you understand demographics and details about who your website audience actually are
Ideally we should have an idea of who our target audience are, however Google Analytics offers a range of reports that allow us to match that up against who is actually visiting our website, OR give us insights as to what kind of people are attracted to and using our website – basically free market research!
There are a couple of reports I recommend to assist with understanding your website audience:
Audience > Demographics
This is an optional report within Google Analytics, that must be enabled to get data (and it takes approximately 24 hours to populate data after activation).
Basically it allows Google to marry up your website visitors with anonymous Google profiling information they have from their shopping platforms, and provides information about gender and age of your website visitors.
As Google may not have this information about ALL of your website visitors, it’s not 100% accurate, however you will be advised exactly how many of your visitors have been matched with Google data via the percentage in the top right hand corner of graphs.
With this data you can cycle though a range of Google Analytics key metrics to understand any trends between gender/age, and use of/engagement with your website.
Audience > Interests
Same as above, this report needs to be enabled for information, and once this is done, you’ll see what general internet topics your website visitors are interested in based on their Google profile.
This includes the categories of the types of websites they regularly visit, and what they are actively researching at the moment (In Market).
These details can be useful for not only understanding the other interests of your website visitors, but using this information to:
- Plan and create content that is likely to resonate with them
- Consider relevant strategic alliances based on related interests
- Make use of complementary advertising avenues
- Use interest data for targeted advertising through Google Ads
Audience > Geo Location
If you have a particular geographic audience for your business or organisation, product, service, it’s good to know where your website visitors are actually coming from!
Your website is a part of the World Wide Web, so even a location-based website can attract traffic from all over the world.
Looking at just our big, overview numbers might make us feel good, but doesn’t always offer a realistic interpretation of who’s genuinely interested in our offerings.
And while focusing on your geographic audience may mean a small number of Sessions, Users and Pageviews, often the engagement of those visitors with your website is higher.
They are more relevant, more interested, so are spending longer on your website, viewing more pages, and triggering more of your Events and Goals.
So checking our your audience by geographic location is definitely useful, and if you’re super keen you can take it a step further by creating a location-based Segment to focus all of your reports on.
Audience > Mobile
Another way you can profile and understand who is using your website, is by examining what devices they are using to visit your site.
The Audience > Mobile > Overview report show you a breakdown of website activity by:
This is super helpful to understand what device is most commonly used to view your website.
I myself and many others often view our own websites the most from desktop devices (which includes laptops), as that is our primary device for making website edits etc. But if your website visitors are mainly coming from mobile devices, you want to know that and be making sure you check how your overall website and content performs on mobiles.
You can delve even deeper by examining the Audience > Mobile > Devices report to check out the different mobile device models being used access your website. This is useful for both device testing, and understanding your audience. Do they tend to be Apple iOS users? Or Android?
This information can help build a comprehensive picture of your target audience persona, for use across all of your marketing.
Check out our ‘Profiling your website visitors with Google Analytics’ webinar recording here.
4. Google Analytics can be used for website and content performance assessment and improvement
Want to be able to understand how your website and content are performing? Both good and bad?
Google Analytics can help with that!
There are a wealth of reports that can assist with generally understanding how your website is performing that go beyond the basic stats, including Bounce Rate.
A few of my favourites are:
Audience > Users Flow
This data visualisation shows how different user groups travel through your website, where they land, what portion “drop off” (i.e. leave your site) and where, and who continues through.
It’s great for identifying pages that might have performance issues, such as slow loading, unclear navigation or lack of (or confusing) calls to action.
We can then focus our attention on making some improvements to those pages, then monitoring any changes that might occur with the flow of visitors through them.
Hot tip: I like to change the default Dimensions from Country (in the green drop down) to Default Channel Grouping to analyse User Flow by Acquisition Channel, or Mobile (including tablet) to identify any potential mobile performance issues.
The Behaviour report section offers a stack of information regarding how people are behaving on our website, i.e. what they are doing.
Examining your Site Content will allow you to see what are your most popular pages, through the All Pages report, as well as the first impression people are getting of your website (Landing Pages), and where people are most commonly leaving your website (Exit Pages).
If you enable Google Analytics’ Site Search, this will allow you to see what terms people are searching for within your website (if you have a search function in your site).
This information can be used to understand:
- What information people are interested in
- What information they may be having difficulty finding (if they are searching for content you have on your site, but cannot locate)
- What content you could create to address their search query (if it doesn’t exist on your site already)
5. Google Analytics lets you track important actions on your website (and who is doing them)
And finally (for this list, but definitely not for Google Analytics), you can track important actions visitors are taking on your website.
Broadly, these actions are tracked in two main categories, neither of which are active by default in Google Analytics:
Events; interactions people have within a page, e.g.
- Downloading a file
- Watching a video
- Using a calculator or other widget
- Triggering live chat
Goals; which are comprised of four main Goal types:
- Destination Page (viewing a specific page, such as a sale, enquiry form or subscription success page)
- Time On Site (spending a particular amount of time on site, or more/less)
- Pageviews (viewing a particular number of pages)
- Event (the above “in page” interactions can also be set up as Goals)
And it is Goals that are then used in the Conversions report.
As mentioned, both of these require specific set up, which can vary depending on how your site is constructed.
The most important thing is to first determine what people can do on your website that is valuable tracking, then how you can best set this up.
Just like with Google Analytics tracking itself, Events and Goals only start tracking from the time they are set up, not retrospectively, so it’s best to get them set up ASAP. Especially if you are running any ads or campaigns with specific end actions that you want to trace back.
Once your Goals are set up successfully, you will begin to see data in the Conversions section of Google Analytics report tables.
This will allow you to determine things like:
- They physical location of website visitors who convert on your website (Audience > Geo > Location)
- What device they used to convert (Audience > Mobile > Overview)
- And my favourite: How they came to your website (Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels)
This type of information allows us to see exactly what is working, but also where it is working to make improvements.
For example, do you have a higher Conversion Rate from Email or Referral visits? Focus on what you can do to get more traffic from those channels if they are converting best for you.
As you can see, there is SO MUCH you can learn about your website and visitors from Google Analytics! And this is only scratching the surface…
If you’re eager to learn more, check out our upcoming Google Analytics training workshops, including our Melbourne workshop, and subscribe to be notified of our future Google Analytics training, webinars and blog posts.