This post is part of a series of posts by Small Business Consultant and Google Analytics enthusiast Kyle Akerman on how to get started with analytics without getting a migraine!
Kyle will join the #BizHeroes Tweet Chat community Tuesday, July 8th at 2pm ET as co-host to share tips, tactics and essentials that are helping small business owners get started with analytics.
Imagine your website is a car and Google Analytics is the car dashboard. The dashboard gives you important information about how the car is currently running and if anything should be optimized. There are also warning lights on your dashboard that alert you when crucial components of your car are in need of maintenance or repair. Google Analytics provides the same type of information about your website. It tells you the current performance of your site and if your site is working effectively and efficiently. Google Analytics can also tell you if parts of your website are not functioning correctly and need to be fixed.
Some of the most frequently asked questions I get asked about Google Analytics are not about complex tasks, but instead about the basics. In order to dive deeper into analytics, a few questions need to be answered first. This is where we’ll begin our journey together.
What Should I Measure?
Google Analytics is an amazing tool. Unfortunately, it is much more complex than a car dashboard. In fact it’s easy to get intimidated by the sheer volume of data that is available. There are 1000s of metrics you can view in Google Analytics.
So where do we begin?
Your Google Analytics experience will be much more pleasant if you have specific questions in mind before digging into the tool. The easiest way to get started is looking for answers to these four questions: 1) Who visits my website? 2) Where do visitors to my website come from? 3) What do visitors do on my website? 4) When do visitors come to my website? We can find answers to these questions in the Audience, Acquisition and Behavior sections in Google Analytics.
Before we dive in there are a few Google Analytics definitions you need to become familiar with. Session – The period of time a user is actively engaged with your website, app, etc., within a specific date range. User – A visitor to your site that has had at least one session within the selected date range. Includes both new and returning users. Google explains Sessions vs Users in this way: “Sessions represent the number of individual sessions initiated by all the users to your site. If a user is inactive on your site for 30 minutes or more, any future activity is attributed to a new session. Users that leave your site and return within 30 minutes are counted as part of the original session. The initial session by a user during any given date range is considered to be an additional session and an additional user. Any future sessions from the same user during the selected time period are counted as additional sessions, but not as additional users.” Pageview – A view of a page on your site that is being tracked by the Analytics tracking code. If a user clicks reload after reaching the page, this is counted as an additional pageview. If a user navigates to a different page and then returns to the original page, a second pageview is recorded as well
Who Visits My Website?
The Audience section is where you can find information about the type of users that are visiting your website. Because of privacy concerns, Google presents this data as anonymous aggregated data. That means you will never know specific information about individual customers. But you will get useful information that can guide your marketing efforts.
The Audience reports give you the following information about WHO visits your website:
- Geo – The language preference and location of visitors to your site. This could come in handy if you sell to a global audience.
- New vs Returning – How much repeat traffic you are getting and how much of a new audience your site receives.
- Frequency & Recency – How often people visit your site over a set time period and how many days since their last visit.
- Engagement – How much time a person spent on your site (Visit Duration) and how many pages they visited per visit (Page Depth)
- Technology – The browsers and networks being used to access your site/app.
- Mobile – The mobile devices being used to access your site/app. Are people using a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer to access your website.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: These reports help you build profiles of the people visiting your site. Before you can convert these visitors into customers you need to know such basic information such as where they live, how they interact with your site and what technology they use to visit your site.
Where Do Visitors to My Website Come From?
The Acquisition reports tell you WHERE your visitors come from. Sources driving traffic to your site include:
- Organic search – Visitors who use a search engine to find your site
- Referrals – Any website sending traffic to your site
- Direct – Visitors who come to your site directly from a bookmark or typing your website URL into a search bar
- Social Media – Traffic from social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.
- Email – Traffic that comes from links in emails. (You need to add special tracking code to these links so they don’t show up as DIRECT)
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: In this report you can find out if the traffic sources you are investing time and money in are actually working.
What Do Visitors Do On My Website?
The Behavior reports tell you WHAT pages visitors are viewing and how they navigate through your website.
- All Pages – Here you see the pages that receive the most views on your site for a set amount of time.
- Landing Pages – This is the first page a visitor views during a session; also known as the entrance page. This gives a list of all the pages that were used as entrances to your site.
- Exit Pages – This is a list of all the last pages viewed before a user left your website.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: It is crucial that you identify your most popular content. You need to know if visitors are spending time on the pages you actually want them to view. Knowing the most popular entrance points to your site (Landing Pages) will help you create content that entices them to view more pages. Exit page information can be useful depending on the specific page, but don’t stress about it too much since users have to leave your site somewhere.
When Do Visitors Come to My Website?
You can look at specific time periods for every report in Google Analytics to see WHEN people visit your site. You can view any metric using the following time increments:
- Hour (Only the Overview Reports)
- Custom Ranges
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: Timing is everything. Depending on your business, you may need to look at long trends (e.g. 6-12 months) or more granular time periods (e.g. days or weeks).
Just the Beginning
We’ve just scratched the surface here. Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can give you a lot of valuable insight into how your website and digital campaigns are performing. But Google Analytics is also so powerful and complex that it can make your head spin. You can save a lot of time and frustration if you begin your analysis by focusing on the four questions we discussed above.
Have questions? Leave a comment below or let me know what your starting point is for Google Analytics.
In upcoming post I’ll dive into what your statistics are telling you, campaign tracking and conversion. Stay tuned.