In the world of digital metric measurement there are few tools that rival the power, depth and comprehensiveness of Google Analytics.
Since 2005 the powerful search engine’s toolset for analyzing website traffic and visitor behaviour has set a benchmark, and given everyone from coders and digital analysts to site owners and marketing teams powerful insights to help them improve performance.
GA captures more than 360 metrics and 260 dimensions, with two distinct functions namely Monitoring (an overview of activity) and Analysis (how does the data relate to the website’s pages, content, goals, journeys etc. and how can the data help improve performance?).
So, where do I start?
A solid starting point for most businesses is to set up a number of questions, answered by the following data:
- How much traffic came to the website?
- Where did it come from?
- How long did visitors stay on average?
- What pages and sections were most visited?
- How many people landed on pages but bounced right out again?
- How does this month’s data compare to last month, and previous quarters, and even previous years?
- What fluctuations are there that differentiate from the norm?
- How many goal completions were there and were there any fluctuations?
And what’s next?
The above is really the Monitoring part of the process – collecting data against these questions over a period of time (normally three to six months is long enough to start showing patterns, trends, fluctuations etc.) will begin to give valuable insights into site traffic, visitor behaviour and where there are obvious successes and areas that need attention.
The Analysis is the next logical step – in order to make sense of the data, you need to answer the above questions, and then apply the answers as actionable points against the website’s content, structure, goals, SEO and marketing strategies.
Some pointers in creating your answers (formulated into regular reporting):
- Make use of the comparison functions to give context to the numbers – how does this month compare to last? This quarter to last quarter?
- Combine metrics – how does Bounce Rate compare with Unique Users, for example? And what does this tell us? If the Bounce Rate is higher this month, and Unique Users are lower than last month, those two metrics are related.
- Answer the metrics and comparison questions with related information – in the above example of Bounce Rate and Unique User numbers, was there a change to the structure of the home page that’s made the visitor’s first impression less appealing?
- Keep consistency in the way that you report so that those who receive the report (who may not have your level of understanding) get used to reading metrics, comparisons, analyses and rationale in the same way each month.
- Have a total strategy overview – you’ll need to know what marketing activities took place in the previous period, with a high level of specificity. For example:
- What day did the email marketing campaigns go out?
- And what time?
- How did that impact on incoming site visits, and how many of those visitors remained on the site, versus how many bounced out?
- How many of the visitors completed the goal/s?
- How many of them dropped off part-way during the goal journey?
- Why did that happen?
- What are the possible reasons for this?
- What were the main other drivers of traffic? If Social Media marketing drove more traffic to the website this month than last, what are the comparative metrics there that can be reported on?
There are so many benefits to using Google Analytics properly. By applying the above learnings to your website and marketing, you should be able to deliver measureable improvements month on month, and in doing so increase the efficiency of your website and its contribution to your business's bottom line over time.
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