Google Analytics is a free resource widely used by companies of all sizes across all types of industry to analyse the performance of their website. A free tool such as this is something SME’s in particular could really benefit from, although many struggle to grasp how they should use it to improve their online business performance. As a starting point I have identified 5 key metrics for you to begin to focus on with Google Analytics to help you get the most out of your own web analytics and website performance.
This is often the one figure business owners/webmasters obsess over, though if you are looking for a quick snapshot of your website’s performance over a given period, this is a good starting point. You should keep an eye on spikes in traffic or sudden decreases. Did these fluctuations coincide with an email campaign, new product launch or a period that your site may have been offline? You should annotate these spikes in your traffic for your own future reference using the create new annotation tool. (See below).
Visitors to your website can be divided into two categories; new visitor and returning visitor. New visitor as the name suggests refers to someone visiting your website for the first time. Returning is someone who has visited before and their cookies will provide Google Analytics with the information on this.
When studying your visitor figures look for any trends in visitor activity. Are there any days/times of year when your site gets more traffic? Have any of your online or offline marketing campaigns impacted on visitor figures? Having this information helps you to learn more about visitors to your website.
If you wish to learn more about your audience you can delve further into the audience section of Google Analytics. Here you can find out type of device used to access your website (see point 3) and the countries your visitors primarily come from. Knowing what geographic location your visitors are coming from would be of great benefit if your site was ecommerce. It could open you up to new markets that you have not previously considered.
2. Traffic Source
More important than knowing the total number of visitors to your site is to find out where they are coming from. Google analytics breaks this down into 6 sources:
- Referral – From another website
- Organic – SERP (search engine results page, basically a list of websites returned by a search engine (google) in response to a search query).
- Paid advertising – Google AdWords, Bing, retargeting
- Direct – Directly typing your URL into web browser.
- Social – Social Media traffic
- Email – e-marketing campaigns
Digital marketing plans should always be flexible enough to be able to respond to changes in your target audience’s behaviour. For instance if your organic search is decreasing you may have to look at a content marketing strategy and increase your link building efforts. Interesting unique content will earn you links and shares online though this can take time to craft. Focus on “evergreen content” pages on your website that will always be relevant to your audience. Content that they will want to share, if you are successful in this you will soon find that people will automatically refer to your website generating links for you.
Traffic sources help you to evaluate how well your current digital marketing channels are performing. If email is bringing traffic and subsequent sales or enquiries to your site then e-marketing is something you’ll want to continue doing as part of your wider digital marketing strategy. You can even drill down through the sources to see what specific channels are driving visitors and sales to your site. This will impact on your future digital marketing plans and is what makes Google Analytics such a powerful tool – the fact you can actually see what works and what doesn’t. This allows you to adapt and improve – something offline platforms don’t really provide you with. Check out this article from Nial here at the tomorrow lab on implementing a digital marketing strategy.
Is device type really classed as a metric? Yes it is, considering global mobile searches overtook desktop searches on Google in May, and in the UK last month. Read more about this from Google here. Add to this Google’s recent mobile friendly ranking update(released in April this year)which is designed to give priority to mobile friendly pages in Google’s mobile search results. These two points emphasise the importance of knowing how users access your website.
Google Analytics will break down your visitor traffic looking at which device they have accessed your website with, and even going into detail of mobile device type, web browser and screen resolution, all important when it comes to the user experience of those visiting your site. Device type for visitors is split into three categories in Google Analytics.
If you find that your mobile traffic is increasing and your site is not yet mobile responsive it may be time to look at getting your website responsive across all platforms. Unresponsiveness may also be a reason for a high bounce rate and in general, a poor user experience for those visiting your site. You can test how responsive and mobile friendly your website is using the Google mobile-friendly test tool. You should always look at your website with a mobile device in mind as this is the future. Consider things like your page structure, paragraph size and how users will view images and text. Ensure your call to action, whether it is a buy button or a contact page, is just as visible and impactful on mobile as it is on a desktop and tablet.
4. Site Content
This metric helps you understand how visitors are using your site once they arrive. What are they doing when they land on your site? What are your most popular pages? When you know the answer to these questions, you will know what type of content works best. The next step after that is pretty simple – PRODUCE MORE of what works!
Exit pages are also important, knowing what pages most people are leaving on gives you something to focus your attention on. In Google Analytics, exit pages can be found in: Behaviour> Site Content> Exit Pages. If your website is an ecommerce site and you have a high exit rate particularly on your checkout page you could be losing revenue. The reason for an exit could be down to a user reading a product review and then looking to buy in store – or are they exiting your site because of usability issues? It is important to distinguish between the two. Carry out regular tests and get these questions answered. Google Analytics can even help with this testing through things like A/B split testing.
This metric is vital if your website has ecommerce functionality or you’re selling a product or service. Although total conversions are important, it is the conversion rate that tells you the overall success of converting visitors to your website to perform a desired action, in most cases purchasing a product.
It is important that all websites have goals to be measured against. For an ecommerce site this is of course sales but for many other sites it could be lead generation and enquiries through contact forms, or perhaps it is downloading a brochure, or maybe even watching a video.
Conversions can be measured against so many things but ultimately they should link to your end goals and objective for having a website. Obviously the higher the conversion rate the better. If you find your site to have a lower conversion rate, it might suggest:
- Weak calls to action
- Site content needs reviewed
- Wrong target audience
- Dare I say it, overall awareness of your product
It is clear the biggest obstacles to conversion rate is website traffic and usability. Basically the wrong type of people visiting your website and the site not performing to its optimum when they are there. The user funnel within your conversion section of Google Analytics will help show at what stage visitors are leaving your site. Again taking a more strategic approach to your digital marketing and ensuring you use the right channels to target the right people will all help.
Obviously a healthy conversion rate is a sign that your site is performing well, this value can differ across various industries. Whilst user testing and ongoing conversion rate optimisation (CRO) can all contribute to improving the performance of your website and ultimately improve the conversion rate over time. To get conversions within your Google Analytics account you need to set up tracking for goals or ecommerce tracking; but that’s something for our next blog.
If you’re new to Google Analytics, don’t be overwhelmed by it. There is a wealth of information just waiting to help you improve your online offering. One thing I hope this piece does highlight is the fact that every pound spent online is measurable compared to traditional offline channels where this can be more difficult.
If you would like to discuss your websites performance or have any questions on setting up and getting the most from Google Analytics, the digital marketing team here at the Tomorrow Lab can help you today. We will provide you with a free web audit of your website with suggestions that will have a positive impact on your websites performance.
One last bonus metric before you go – site speed.
Do you like having to queue when at the shop?
Then why make people wait on your website to load. Always look to improve the speed of your site, optimise all images for web, avoid flash plugins and continually test across all browsers. You can test the speed of your website and what is affecting it by visiting www.webpagetest.org.