You have a website for a reason. You want it to improve your business by generating leads, increasing brand awareness, or selling your products and services online. But how do you know if your website is doing its job? And, more importantly, how do you optimize its performance?
A website is the first step in building a digital presence that will improve your business. But like anything, websites are not perfect from the start. This is not a reflection of the plan, designer or developer. It just comes from the understanding that perfection comes from ongoing improvement. They require constant monitoring, adjusting, and strategizing to make sure they’re constantly being improved. This is where digital analytics tools like Google Analytics come in. They help you understand exactly what is and isn’t working on your website. It shows you which marketing channels are driving the most qualified traffic, and which ones may not be working for you.
What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a free tool that tracks and gathers data from the people who visit your website. It answers three very important questions that can help you strategically improve your website and business:
1. Who are the people visiting your website?
2. How did they get to your website?
3. What did they do (or not do) on your website?
Google Analytics 101: How does Google Analytics Work?
The tracking code will collect anonymous information on how users interact with each page in your website. It will tell you how many users visited a page, how long they were there, which pages they visited, and where they went next on your website. The tracking code will also collect browser information like language, browser type (Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc.), device (desktop, mobile, or tablet), and traffic source (where/what the user clicked to access your website).
Reporting Using Google Analytics
Now that you have a better idea of what the tool is and how it works, let’s go over how the data is organized, and how you can answer key questions about your website.
Google Analytics breaks the data into five reporting categories.
1. Real-Time: What’s happening on the website right now?
This category shows how many people are on your website right now, where they came from, and what content (which page) they’re looking at.
There are two scenarios where this report can be useful. First, it shows you live website data, so you can use to test and make sure analytics is working properly on a page, which is especially helpful when you have set up custom events (like clicks on a marketing email or link shared on social media). Second, this report can be useful to track and possibly optimize the performance of short-term campaigns like contests.
2. Audience: Who are the people that visit your website?
Audience reports give you information on the people who have visited your website. This includes demographic information about their age, gender, location, and language. Depending on your business, you might want to look into different reports, but a common category business should monitor is the Mobile report.
The Mobile report will show you what percentage of your website visitors come from a mobile device, desktop, or tablet. Mobile device usage continues to grow, and for many websites, it’s the device used the most to access them. This is crucial to monitor because people navigating the internet on a mobile device have different behaviors and objectives. They tend to be on-the-go, and looking for information as easily and quickly as possible. If a big portion of your website traffic is coming from mobile devices, you should be thinking about ways to optimize your site specifically for them.
3. Acquisition: How did people get to your website?
Google Analytics automatically groups the channels people used to get to your website into some generic categories. For example, if they used Google or Bing search to find a website, they’ll be grouped into the Organic Searchchannel. If they arrived through a Facebook post, they’ll be grouped into the Social channel (All Default Channel Grouping definitions). To find this report, click on Acquisition Category > All Traffic > Channels.
This report helps you understand what’s driving people to your website, and the health of each channel. The number of people a channel drives to your website is not necessarily as important as the quality of people it drives. It is important to clarify that not every channel will be good at the same thing. While one can be good at increasing brand awareness, the other may be better closing deals or generating leads. It’s important to know and understand what your strategy and objectives for each channel are to make sure you are measuring them accordingly.
4. Behavior: What did people do on the website?
Within the behavior category you’ll see Site Content, where you can see the most popular content (pages) on your website. Two key reports that are helpful to understand what content people are most interested in are the Landing Page report, and the All Pages Report.
Landing pages are the ones where people arrive to your website. You’ll likely see your home page (/) as the page that receives the most traffic, but below that, you’ll see others that give you an idea of what content is attracting people to the website. You can identify which pages are good at keeping people on the website — and driving them to additional pages — and which ones are not. This gives you the opportunity to improve popular landing pages that are not driving people further into the website.
The All Pages report will show you which pages get seen the most by people who visit your website. If you don’t see some of your most important pages in this report, it’s a cue to look for ways to improve the user experience (UX) and make the pages more prominent or relevant.
5. Conversions: Which goals did people complete on your website?
This report depends on the way you’ve set up your Google Analytics account. Goals (like requests for information, form completions, calls, or emails to your business, for example) and ecommerce (sales) require a more advanced set up. You’ll need to tell Google Analytics what you consider to be the specific action you want completed (goal) on your website, so it can then be shown in this report.
Setting up goals is crucial, as it will make it easier for you to see exactly what type of people, marketing channels, and online behaviors lead people to convert those specific goals you’ve set up.
Determine What Matters Most for Your Business
You could spend many hours digging into data about your website, but that shouldn’t be the case.
Start by determining exactly what you’re trying to accomplish with your website and each of its main pages, and work back from these objectives to establish goals you can track. Once you know exactly what you’re looking for, you can figure out a few key metrics and reports that will provide the answers you need to improve your site, your site’s visitors’ experiences, and your small business. You can follow this 5 step framework that will help you simplify digital analytics to help you define what you need to measure.