So you started a website and you’d like to know what your visitors are doing. Start a Google Analytics account and it will create a snippet of code that you can place on your site. This code sends your visitor’s usage info to Google’s servers. Then you can look at this info by visiting Google Analytics (GA).
Why would you use GA? Well, mainly because it’s free and versatile. There is a premium version, but here we start with the basics of the free version. The free version is very informative and you will be impressed with how much you can learn about your traffic.
To get started, you can jump to the additional resources section at the end of this article or you can figure it out as you go along. The various online and offline resources are great but reading a book/article or watching a video isn’t the same as doing it yourself. I find that the best way to learn is by discovery/exploration, so try it out and create a Google Analytics account.
Actually placing the code onto your site can get a little tricky. WordPress has plugins for this or you can manually place it just before the closing </head> tag in your header. This is what Google recommends but I have tested the tracking code in the footer and it works just the same. However, if you can put it before the closing of the </head> you probably should.
After you create an account and add the tracking code to your site, you might ask yourself, “What now, what’s next?” Well, it depends on what you are trying to accomplish.
What are your Goals? It will be important to identify them so you can measure the success of your website.
How Much Should You Focus On Your Analytics?
It’s best to understand what Google Analytics can do for you and why you would use it. Take a look at this list of statements. These are some of the items that GA can help with. Use Google Analytics to:
- Compare web traffic from one time period to another
- Compare different marketing campaigns
- Figure out how people are getting to my website
- Check what kind of devices access my site
- Find out where visitors are geographically
- Figure out which sources of traffic leave after the first page, which ones stick around, and for how long
- Track paid advertising and measure goal completions
- Track the revenue for hosting ads on my site
- Find out what is being typed into the search bar on my website
- Pinpoint which content gets the most traffic, the least traffic and everything in between
- Measure and analyze the traffic that provides ROI (return on investment) as well as understand why other traffic doesn’t
- Segment my visitors into distinct groups. There are many ways to segment, but here’s a handful of examples to get you started. Segment by:
- traffic source
- first visit date
- behavior on the website
- demographics (age, interests, gender)
Measuring The Cost of Your Traffic and The Revenue
The above list is not exhaustive, but it reveals some of the data points you can measure. An important point to consider is: Does your website allow your visitors to pay you? If not, you may want to evaluate the benefits of any existing paid campaign. The totality of your site can be generating revenue while your paid sources of traffic could actually cost more than they generate. The only way to be sure is to measure it.
It doesn’t have to be all about the money!
The first step is to create the possibility of certain behaviors that you want to track. If you don’t have a way of converting visitors into paying clients, there are many alternatives to consider.
You can give your visitors an opportunity to:
- request a quote
- schedule an appointment
- ask a question via a contact form or online chat
- complete an email opt-in for downloadable or web-accessible content
- create an account
- comment on an article
- join your forum
- use a mobile or web-based application as a free trial
The above is a brief list which can include innumerable other examples. Surfing the web is an invaluable source of information. Next time you visit a new site, attempt to look at it as Web Analyst.
Determine what the CTA (Call to Action) is, maybe there isn’t one. Ask yourself, “What does website creator expect me to do?”. People use their websites to interact with their audience in many different ways.
Many of these depend on your industry, the type of site you have, and the resources at your disposal. Most website enhancement projects will involve content creation, such as:
- research papers
- white papers
- news reports
- product or service reviews
- infographics, etc..
Managing visitor interaction and following-up are essential in executing a well thought out web strategy. To create a great online experience, you have to keep an eye on it, and if you can’t, you need to hire sharp entrepreneurial people to do it for you.
The only limitations are your imagination, available resources, and technology. As it stands, the latter currently has the lowest barrier to entry EVER! In other words, technology is getting cheaper by the day, and new ways of using it are getting dreamed up faster than you can learn about them.
A continuous learning mentality is the ideal frame of mind for success in this brave new internet age. Nothing else can enable you to notice emerging opportunities. This proactive perspective is necessary for the future, which will be even more reliant on technology.
What Google Analytics Can’t Do:
- If your visitor exits the site on the first visited page, you won’t know how much time they spent on your site. (This is known as a bounced visit)
- Tell you exactly how much of your videos were watched
- What info was typed into partially filled forms that weren’t completed
- What your visitor did with their cursor. You only know when they click on links to other pages on your site.
- Where they scrolled, did they scroll at all, did they look all the way down to your footer (only a footer link click can reveal this)
- Your visitors’ exact IP address. In fact, Google is strictly against this and will likely never allow IP address tracking. Online anonymity is part of their “Don’t Be Evil” motto.
- Overall, before starting to go all in on Google Analytics, it is wise to lay out your goals and check the lists above to make sure that Google Analytics can help you achieve them. Feel free to email me @ firstname.lastname@example.org with any further questions regarding the out of the box capabilities of Google Analytics.
There are many other Web Metric tools that go above and beyond what Google Analytics can do. However, most of these platforms will require payment.
Also, please note that I did mention that I was discussing the features out of the box i.e. features available after installation of tracking code and no additional customization.
Google Analytics can be very powerful when in the hands of an expert user. However, it takes some time to become familiar with how it works. The next step is to create an account and start collecting data.
Be sure to check back in the “Google Analytics” tag link and the “Measure Topic” to stay current on Web Metrics.
Here are some links for visual instructions:
Another option is to read a PDF manual for Google Analytics. Sign up to our newsletter to stay up to date on Web Metrics.