Posted: Mon 27th Sep 2021
Google Analytics is a free tracking tool that gives you an insight into your website traffic and user behaviour.
You can see things like how many people are visiting your website, who they are and what they’re looking at. As with most Google tools, however, you can unlock further features to give you greater depth of understanding.
If you haven’t set up Google Analytics yet, this is a tool you should explore further – especially if you don’t know the answers to the following questions:
Which pages of my site are most (and least) popular?
How long are people staying on the site and how many different pages are they looking at?
What are they searching for?
Where are visitors coming from?
So how do you get started and make the most of Google Analytics? We spoke to Jeremy Nelson-Smith, Enterprise Nation member and founder of The Internet Specialist, for advice on using Analytics to your advantage.
Getting set up doesn’t have to be overwhelming, but there are a few steps that you’ll need to follow carefully:
Set up a Google account. If you already have a Gmail account or use other Google tools you can use your existing account, otherwise it’s simple to set one up.
Sign up for Google Analytics. Provide some basic information about your site and choose an account name.
Decide what to measure. You can measure your website, your apps or both.
Generate a tracking code. Next you’ll be given a tracking code to add to your website.
Add the tracking code to your site. This is the crucial stage that allows Google to track and collect your data. The code needs to be pasted in to the header of every page on your website, but website building platforms like Squarespace and WordPress make it easy to add to the whole site in one go (the latter requires a plugin).
Your Analytics account should now be generating traffic data from your website and you’re ready to go. Google Analytics can’t generate backdated data, so it will take some time to build up enough information to analyse.
In the meantime, spend some time exploring the interface and its capabilities. Jeremy Nelson-Smith warns that this may seem overwhelming at first. He advises that you keep things simple.
“Don’t get drawn into the data. You can find out pretty much anything about your website on Google Analytics and delve really deep. It’s easy to get sidetracked looking at data that you find interesting, but that isn’t necessarily useful to you.”
Jeremy believes it’s best to start with four top engagement benchmark metrics:
How long visitors spend on the page
How many pages they looked at
Where they go on your site
How long they spend on your site altogether
“These four basics can tell you a lot – both about what your users are doing, but also what they’re not doing. Or, in other words, whether your website is working for you or not.”
The main dashboard provides a clear overview of top-level information in handy charts and graphs. This includes:
an overview of your traffic and visitors, which you can set to different time frames
an acquisition report of where your users come from, including organic search (largely Google), direct traffic and referrals
user retention journeys
what days and times of day are most popular on your site
which countries your visitors come from
the devices your users are viewing your site from
your 10 best-performing pages
From each of these areas of the dashboard you can navigate through to get more in-depth reports on each subject.
You can also see similar data about what’s happening in the moment by navigating to the Realtime dashboard at the top of the left-hand menu.
“This is a really useful feature if you’re running an online sales promotion. It means you can look at your data in real time and react to it by adjusting your marketing activities instantly.”
The key to getting the most from Google Analytics is to integrate it into your wider digital strategy. Jeremy comments:
“Many small businesses concentrate on ads, social media and their website, but analytics completes that circle. But data doesn’t lie – it can close the marketing loop by telling you whether your goals are being achieved or not.”
Analytics is a useful way to measure the success of your marketing efforts – how much traffic is each of your social channels driving to your site and which type of social content is working the hardest?
Use it well, and it’s also a handy tool to spot new marketing opportunities. Perhaps certain products are being viewed by people in Spain, for example. This could prompt you to direct ads to a Spanish audience or set up new partnerships.
Get a sense of how well your on-site SEO is performing by looking at the results for your organic traffic. Do this by navigating to Acquisition > Overview.
Delve a bit deeper by navigating to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels > and then clicking on “Organic Search”. Here you can look at top landing pages for search traffic, the most successful keywords and search engines sending the most traffic your way.
If you want a deeper insight, paid tools like Ubersuggest and SEMrush provide analysis on the terms people are using to get to your site and how it’s performing from an SEO perspective. Look out for free trials.
You can get an overview of your site speed by navigating to Behaviour > Site Speed > Overview. This tells you your site’s average page load time and redirection time, which you can compare to average page load times mentioned online to understand how your site’s speed is performing.
This is important because if pages take too long to load people will lose patience and leave the site.
Head to the page timings section to see which individual pages have the slowest load times. From here you can address specific problems on the page (like large images) that could be slowing it down.
“There should always be someone on your team who has a remit in their job description for Google Analytics. If you’re a small business with three or four employees, this should take them about half an hour each week – or more if you’re running sales and promotions online.”
The key to streamlining your time on the tool is to have a clear understanding of what data you need to look at. The following functions might help:
Setting up goals allows you to focus on the specific objectives you want to achieve. Go to the Admin panel and select Goals.
Use the templates to state the goal you want to track, such as a user spending a certain amount of time on a page or performing a certain action, like playing a video. It will then track the number of visitors who complete your goal.
This is really important for businesses that are selling online.
Google offers a range of default reports, but it’s worth knowing that you can set up your own custom reports if you need to monitor specific data regularly.
Google has a range of free videos and guides in its Google Analytics for beginners course, which take you through different aspects of the tool in more detail.
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