Google Analytics is arguably the most popular website metrics and analytical tool on the market today. A data-driven web analytics platform developed and delivered by Google, it allows you to track and report on your website's traffic.
However there are still a number of businesses either not monitoring their traffic at all, or who are baffled by the jargon and data provided by the platform.
In this article we'll show you how to set up your own Google Analytics account and start tracking your website traffic and visitor behaviour to help your overall marketing efforts.
Know your traffic, know your customer
Since the creation in 2005, it has become the most used web analytics service available on the internet offering deep-dive statistics, basic, high-level analytical tools, and a wealth of information that can be used for search engine optimisation and marketing purposes.
Some of the features include:
- Statistics visualisation tools
- Segmentation for analysis of subsets of visitor and traffic groups,
- Custom reports to allow you to see only what you need to focus on
- Email–based sharing (handy for sending custom reports to the CEO!)
- Integration with other Google products (Website Optimizer, AdWords, etc.)
Setting up your Google Analytics account
Before we go any further, we have a few steps on how to create your own Google Analytics account:
- If you do not have an account, create a new one on the Google Analytics platform
- Follow the instructions on the 'New Account' page, entering requested information such as a name for your account, the name of your website and your URL, etc.
- The next page should be the 'Admin' area (see screenshot) which will give you some help on finding your basic tracking code and your unique Tracking ID (which will look something like 'UA-12345678-1').
- Install the tracking code on your website. If you have a CMS like WordPress then you can use a plug in (such as this one by the popular Yoast), otherwise you may need your web developers to install the code snippet for you.
- Once the tracking code is installed, visit the home page (see screenshot) by clicking 'Home'. Now expand the website name (if it's collapsed) and click 'All Web Site Data' to view your reports.
- From this overview dashboard, you'll be able to access the different reports on offer and delve into your traffic and visitors' behaviour.
The ever-helpful Google also have a great help library available to guide you through various activities using Google Analytics, but let's explore a few of the dashboards, data views, and jargon terms that you'll encounter and see how they can benefit your marketing.
If you would like to learn more about the audience using your site, the web analytics service is useful in the way it breaks down the demographics of your users. You can find out the percentage of views from countries, cities, languages, operating systems, service providers, etc.
Below are just some examples of what you are likely to see:
Being able to measure where your traffic comes from and how your site is accessed will allow you to focus your marketing efforts in different places as relevant and tailor it to your audience:
- Got a lot of visitors from Europe? You could consider offering multilingual options to cater for foreign visitors;
- Do you have a lot of traffic from older browsers (e.g. IE 8)? Then you can use this information to put some design fall backs in place to cater for them;
- Is there a large number of visitors using a mobile device? If you're not offering a mobile-friendly website then maybe you can look at offering that option in the future to cater for your mobile users
The user flow chart is perhaps one of the most valuable parts of the Google Analytics platform. It allows you to, in a sense, see where your website is going wrong.
As shown in the diagram, this is set in countries. In the UK, 326 sessions were held on the starting page, 145 of these dropped off without going any further into the site. The first interaction shows you what pages were viewed within 181 sessions and how many drop offs there were, the same goes for the next interactions.
So you almost literally get a sense of the flow, the journey, that a user took whilst visiting your webpage. If you're seeing a significant drop off in visitors at certain pages then it's likely you're website is not catering for the needs of your audience, or your audience is not comprised of the right people you want to attract and so they're not a great match for the information you're offering.
The audience overview gives you various results of your website's performance, and high-level information.
it gives you a number of different terms to group information, which often cause confusion amongst website owners. Let's explore what the various bits of jargon mean:
This provides the total number of Sessions within the date range selected. A session is simply the period of time a user is actively engaged with your website. A session doesn't account for the number of pages that a user has viewed, merely the number of separate sessions that were started by new or returning users.
From the screenshot above you can see that there were 327 sessions across the date range selected.
Users can be thought of as visitors to your website. This figure (261 in this case) includes visitors that have had at least one session within the selected date range. Since a user could be brand new or a returning visitor, the figure you see includes and accounts for both.
If your sessions total is larger than your users number, this means you've had a number of return visitors to your website (which is a good thing!).
Pageviews is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the total number of pages viewed. Repeated views of a single page are counted.
The pageviews statistic is particularly useful to give you an indication of how many pages on your site are being viewed by what number of visitors. For example, you can see that in our example 261 users have viewed 880 pages, which indicates that this website was likely very interesting to its visitors.
Pages / Session
Pages/Session (Average Page Depth) is the average number of pages viewed during a session. Repeated views of a single page are counted.
Whilst not a literal figure of how many pages a user has viewed per session, it is a good indicator to be able to see how many pages on average people view before leaving your website. If you're enquiry rate or download numbers are healthy then it's likely your website is providing the right information to its visitors.
However, if you'd like your visitors to spend more time on your site then a smaller pages / session value could mean that you need to work on the content to draw users through your site and keep them on it for longer.
Avg. Session Duration
Again, whilst only an average, the Avg. Session Duration allows you to gauge how long visitors are spending on your website during each visit.
Shorter times are more indicative that visitors may not be finding the right information they need before leaving.
Bounce rates are perhaps the most confusing statistic to understand.
The bounce rate of a website is the percentage of website visitors that arrive on a website entry page and leave via that very same page, without going any further into the site. If a particular page has a high drop off figure or the average site bounce rate percentage is quite high, you should focus on changing the content on the page or website.
As you can see the bounce rate for this website is relatively high at 40%, but not quite half. The aim is to get the percentage as low as possible, which means that people have took an interest into your site and have looked deeper than the landing page.
Be a Google Analytics superhero!
With this article in mind, you should be able to fly through setting up and exploring Google Analytics, understand the terminology, and start to delve into the habits of your visitors to pinpoint how to provide them with the best experience possible.
If you'd like to learn more about how to use Google Analytics to raise your marketing game then we have a fantastic infographic on the subject.