How-Tu Tuesdays: Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free tool that lets you track visits to your website. It can give you a wealth of information about your website’s users and how they are interacting with your content, but be warned: Analytics can be overwhelming due to the huge amount of information available. This has never been truer as the service is becoming increasingly sophisticated and there are ever more ways to segment and filter your data.
However, it is worth persevering, as knowing how your website is working for your customers is the first step towards ensuring that you’ve got the best site around. More often than not we invest a huge amount of time (and sometimes a huge amount of money) in our websites. Having a grasp of the basics of Analytics will help you keep on top of your site and might even give you surprising insights about your customers.
Here are our top tips on getting started.
- Getting set up
To get started with Google Analytics, you need a Gmail address. Simply log in to www.google.co.uk/analytics using your usual password or set up a new account and add your website address.
To start tracking visits, you will need to paste code provided by the service into each page of your website. There is some information on how to do this in Google Analytics – Admin – Tracking Info, but if you’re not sure, ask the person that built your website to add it for you.
- Decide what’s important
Before you jump into Analytics, decide what it is you need to know. Do you want to know how many returning users you have, and how many of those make a purchase? Or how many people end up on your contact page before leaving your website? Is it important to determine which page most people are landing on, or how they got to your website in the first place?
Setting goals will make the next part of your journey on Google Analytics much easier, and help avoid wasted hours looking at data with no focus.
- Set the right date range
The first thing you should do every time you log into Analytics is check the date range on the top right of the screen. You can choose any date range you like, and you can also compare data across two date ranges.
The other thing to check is how your data is being displayed – hourly or by the day, week or month.
- Hone in on the right information
Now you’ve set your goals, you know what you’re looking for when you log in. Google Analytics can be split up into four sections.
This section gives you information about the people that are using your website. It includes things like users’ locations, language, browser type, device and gender. The default view shows you the data for all website visitors. At the top of the screen you can add segments which is useful for comparing different audience groups. Check how many people are viewing your website on a tablet or mobile. Is your site easily accessible from these devices?
The acquisition section will tell you how people found your website – by organic search such as Google or Bing, by directly typing in your web address, through referrals or links from other sites, through social media or by links from an email. If you have tried advertising via Google Adwords and you have linked your Adwords and Analytics accounts, you’ll see your click-through statistics in this section.
The behaviour section will tell you about your customers’ journeys on your website. You can find out which pages are the most common landing pages, and which other pages are visited after that. It’s useful to look at your page bounce rate, which is the percentage of people that left your site from that page. You would expect to have a high bounce rate on your contact details page, but a high bounce rate on your homepage could be a warning that your site isn’t working for users.
This fourth section is useful if you want to set goals and track progress, for example, if you want to see if 10% of new website users download your eBook. Use of the Conversion section is quite advanced, so it’s best to concentrate on the first three sections if you’re just starting out.
- Put the data to work
It’s easy to get excited when you start using Google Analytics, exclaiming about the fact that 20 people looked at your website the previous day, or being amazed that someone in Uruguay viewed your product page. The key is to go back to your goals, focus on one or two metrics that you want to improve, and brainstorm ways that you can achieve this. It might mean restructuring your site, shortening the buying process or adding more copy. Once you’ve made the changes, track your Analytics data over the following weeks and see how your statistics are affected. Don’t be afraid of trial and error!