Google Analytics is a valuable tool for your website because it can monitor and keep track of the efficiency of your online campaigns. In the ever-changing world of online marketing, it's critical to understand your traffic in order to focus your budget and time efficiently. Google Analytics gives you reports with invaluable information about your most and least popular pages, marketing campaigns, calls to action, and much more.
For example, you can track your number of visitors based on time and calculate if your new website, pay per click campaign, or other marketing effort is indeed getting you more hits. So whether you are a small or big business, Google Analytics can provide actionable statistics on what's happening on your website.
All you need to know now is how to read it.
1. Set Up a Google Analytics Account
If you don’t have one, set up a Google Analytics account by clicking here. You will then:
- Go to the Admin Tab.
- Click under the Account column.
- Select “Create new account” at the bottom.
- Type in the Account Name (which can be whatever you want), the website name, and paste the url of the website, leaving out the “http://” part of it.
- You may also select the industry category and reporting time zone.
- You may also select various Data Sharing Settings. They mostly give info to Google and do not necessarily affect the data you will see on your site.
- You can then add your Google Tracking ID to WordPress site via a plugin, using the header.php, or functions.php
2. Audience Overview
This is the first screen you'll see when you review your website's Google Analytics dashboard. It will give you the number of sessions during a specific period of time. These sessions are basically visits to your site.
The dashboard also contains data on unique users, number of page views, average pages per session, average duration per session, and more.
Other great piece of datas that you can use to tailor your site for your visitors includes:
- Interests - Users may list their preferences with Google, such as in music, arts, food, etc. Keep track that the right people are coming to your site with it.
- Geo - Where someone is located is also valuable, especially if you are a local business. Keep in mind that your users may be roaming when they land on your page, so don't be too worried about the occasional random hit from an isolated location.
- Behavior - This data shows the path visitors traveled from one page to the next. It can help you discover your best pages as well as identify potential content issues.
- Technology and Mobile - This report shows you what sort of device is being used to access your site, i.e. desktop, phone, tablet, etc. It will also show you which browser is being used. This data can help you further tailor your site to these technologies.
One of the most simple yet valuable measurements Google Analytics reports is pageviews, which is the number of times a particular page is loaded. However, a page load does not necessarily represent a unique user. The same user may visit the same page twice in one session or even several times in the given time period.
The user may also choose to refresh a page for various reasons, which would also be counted as a pageview. Google Analytics is aware of this and offers a statistic on unique pageviews, which reports how many different users have visited a particular page. This data is found under the Behavior section under Site Content and All Pages.
Be sure and take note of the pages on your site with the highest exit %. These pages are the pages users are most likely to leave your website from. If the same page keeps popping up, there may be an issue with the page's content, functionality, or content. An exit-intent popup might help convert users who want to leave into email subscribers.
This is the metric by which users and visitors find your site. It is generally divided into four categories:
- Organic Search – If your site is about unicorns and someone clicked on your site by searching for “unicorn” or a related term on a search engine, this falls under an organic search.
- Referral – If you have a link on another site and someone clicked on it to get to your site, this is known as a referral.
- Social – Someone who finds your site via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or other social media platform falls under this category.
- Direct – If someone directly types the name of your site into their browser, this is a direct acquisition. It also works if someone has bookmarked your site or found another shortcut to get there.
The information for Acquisitions can be found in your Google Analytics dashboard under the Reporting tab, Acquisition, and under overview.
5. Visitors and Their Behavior
Now that you know where your visitors are coming from and where they go, it's important to know what they do on your site. A visit is like a browser session. They end when the browser closes, the visitors navigates away from your site, or even if they become inactive for more than 30 minutes.
Your Google Analytics reports may show visit numbers that are different from the number of visits in your Google Adwords reports. For example, comparison shoppers may click one of your pay per click ads multiple times in the same visit to your site. This would account for multiple clicks even thought it is only for one visit.
6. Users Flow
Know what your visitors are doing by accessing this piece of data. It tells you how users are flowing into and through your site. The standard default setting for this piece of Google Analytics data is what country the visitors come from, the pages they start on, and their first interaction. You can change the information displayed here easily.
You can choose a number of details on your users such as what browser they are using, what city they are visiting from (useful if you are a local business), which campaign (if you are running and have linked a Google AdWords campaign), what keyword brought them to the site, and even a custom factor. Which page they start on and their interaction is not allowed to be changed on this report.
You can find Users Flow under Audience and Users Flow at the bottom.
7. Bounce Rate
In short, bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who get to your site, decide it’s not right for them, and leave right away (within a few seconds). A good way to fix a high bounce rate is to identify the keywords visitors use to find the site. Click on Acquisition, then All Traffic. Then click on “Organic Search” in the chart below or whatever metric you think is causing the issue.
You will then see the top keywords. You will also get how many sessions, new sessions, users, and the bounce rate. The higher the bounce rate, the more the keyword and/or content associated with it needs to be reevaluated.
A high bounce rate can also be a sign of a number of other things:
- Your content is not engaging readers.
- Your content is not relevant to the keywords or other acquisition methods used to get visitors to the site.
- Your site is being hit with a number of malicious attacks such as spam comments, blanket contact form fills, or even a hack. The site may also be infected with a form of malware keeping users out.
8. Create Goals in Google Analytics
A great feature of Google Analytics is its ability to allow users to set up custom goals. For example, if you want to know if someone who visited your contact page actually used one of your options, you could with this feature.
To use goals in Google Analytics, do the following:
- Go to Conversions and then Goals and then Overview.
- Hit the button that says “set up goals.”
- Click the red button that says “new goal” with a plus sign next to it.
- In the next section, you have a number of goals to choose from including revenue based, acquisition (creating an account), inquiry (for the aforementioned contact page), engagement (for items such as social media, sharing, etc.), and even an option to set a custom goal.
Once complete, the goal will show up in your reporting dashboard. The types of goals you can set include email or newsletter subscriptions, completion of a contact form, follows on social media accounts, watching a video, download of a product or document, sale of a product, and even clicking to chat. It is important to track these goals due to the fact that each page usually has its own CTA, and knowing which pages are triggering the most actions is key to improving in the future.
An alternative way to set up a goal is through the use of a special URL. For example, if you have a special landing page, pay extra attention to how many times the url is being visited on Google Analytics. You can also create a special thank you page to redirect users to once they take a specific action, such as signing up for an email subscription, purchasing a product, or fill out a form. Be sure to include short, engaging content for these landing pages to achieve the highest goal conversion.
9. Site Speed
Did you know that having a slow loading site or even one slow loading page can be detrimental to your search engine ranking? This is why Google Analytics has a website speed tool built in right to the dashboard. The tool report shows how quickly a user is able to see and interact with a page and its content. This allows you to identify pages that need improvement, and then keep track of how the improvements are working.
The tool gives you three important pieces of information:
- Page Load Time – Self explanatory, this shows how many seconds it takes for your site’s pages to load from a variety of browsers, countries, devices, etc.
- Execution Speed – This is the load time of any discrete event, hit, or visitor interaction that you want to track. This includes items such as how quickly images load, how long it takes for a button that is clicked to respond, etc. This report is available in the User Timings section.
- Browser Parsing – This data shows how fast a browser parses and document and makes it available to interact with the visitor. It is available on the Page Timings report under the DOM Timings tab.
Conclusion on Reading Google Analytics
Hopefully this helps you make the most of your Google Analytics account. Of course, Google is always changing, adding new features, and improving – so make sure you stay up-to-date with the constant changes happening with Google Analytics!