Expert Tips for Using Google Analytics
Do you know which pages of your website are the most popular? Where your visitors come from? How they find you? If you don’t, you’re missing valuable data that could help you make lucrative changes to your website.
You might think that gaining access to this information costs a fortune, but Google Analytics offers it for free. In fact, Google provides so much data that some small-business owners find its sheer volume intimidating or aren’t sure which statistics to monitor.
The Intuit Small Business Blog asked a few online marketing experts for advice on how to use Google Analytics effectively.
Monitor Your Bounce Rate
The metric mentioned most frequently by our experts was “bounce rate.” Bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors who view one page of your website and leave without viewing a second page. Peter Turchan, online marketing specialist at Ready to Run Designs, says that “a high bounce rate may suggest that your site is not engaging users and inviting them to click through content. It will also negatively affect a site’s search ranking.”
It’s tough to give a single benchmark for optimal bounce rates, but in general you want to shoot for 50 percent or lower. Some sites, such as those that offer timely news, may have a higher bounce rate.
To view the overall bounce rate for your site in Google Analytics, click on the Audience tab at the left side of the main screen and then go to Overview. You will find it just below the Visits chart. To view the bounce rate for individual pages, click on the Content tab and scroll to the bottom of the page. Under the list of your most popular pages, click on View Full Report in the lower right corner.
How do you improve your bounce rate? Sometimes it can be as simple as rewriting your calls to action. You may also need to fix slow-loading pages, streamline pages that are too cluttered, or develop a mobile version of your site.
Look at Your In-Page Analytics
Think of in-page analytics as a heat map for each page of your site. Saurabh Sharma, CEO of Indus Insights, says that “heat maps, which Google calls in-page analytics, give a visual representation of where on a page people click and how much. The various click areas are color-coded, and there is a percentage figure that shows what percentage of the clicks on that page happened on every link. It’s a great way to quickly understand how your visitors are engaging with your site.”
Brad Hines, social media strategist for BradfordHines.com, adds: “In-page analytics is what taught me that 80 percent of the people who click a second link on my site visit my press page. As a personal brand and marketing consultant, this suggested to me that my press page was where I needed to spend most of my work.”
Look for In-Page Analytics under the Content tab.
Create Custom Reports and Dashboards
One of Google Analytics’ greatest strengths is its ability to present the data you need in a format that is easy to understand. You can use the various Overview tabs or create custom reports.
Anna Lewis, digital marketing executive at Koozai, explains how. At the end of the article, she provides links to various templates for custom reports you may download, adapt, and add to your Google Analytics account. Once you download the reports, you can find them in the Customization section that’s located in the orange toolbar at the top of your account page.
Additionally, you can create custom dashboards that further organize your data. Lewis discusses dashboards and includes links to 11 custom dashboards you may import. Find these by clicking the Reporting button at the top of the page. On the left side, click on Dashboards and Private.
Monitor Your Social Media Engagement
A key source of traffic to your website should come from social media, especially if you invest time or money into these networks. According to a slideshow put together for Intuit by April Wilson, president of Digital Analytics 101, you can view referrals by social media outlet easily in Google Analytics.
Go to the Traffic Sources tab and click on Social, and then Overview. Scroll down for a report. If you click on View Full Report at the bottom, you can get detailed data (including the all-important bounce rate).
Determine Your Content’s Value
If you post a lot of fresh content on your site, viewing data such as the most popular pages, the lowest bounce rate, and the revenue you’re making from the page will give you an idea of where to focus your efforts.
Dan Leibson, local search advocate at RelevantAds, says, “In today’s web-marketing landscape, creating pieces of content that users find valuable and position you as an expert in your field is absolutely essential for any small business in order to stand out against the competition. Using Google Analytics, you can see what those pieces of content are, and that can help you with further content-development efforts.”
Optimize Your Traffic’s Value
Your website needs traffic in order to be useful. But simply chasing after more visitors isn’t necessarily a good goal. Tom Bowen, founder of Web Site Optimizers, recommends identifying metrics that get as close to the bottom line of your business as possible.
“Too many inexperienced website owners look at things like visits, visitors, page views, etc., as their most important metrics. But those don’t necessarily translate readily to revenues, and that’s what you want, metrics that translate as closely to your business goals as possible,” Bowen says. “If you are an online store, that would be online revenue, orders, and average order value, for example. If you are a business-to-business company and use your website to generate sales leads, then you would want, first and foremost, to measure the number of times people fill out your lead form on your website.”
Once you identify the metrics that better-relate to your business goals, make changes to your site to improve those data points. If people aren't filling out your lead form, move it or rewrite your call to action, for example. Once you see an improvement in those metrics, then you you might concentrate on targeted traffic building.
Just like an employee, you have specific expectations of your website. So, what is its job description? To gain brand awareness? To drive sales? Google Analytics allows you to set and measure goals — and makes the process easy.
Scott Benson, founder of Benson SEO, advises entrepreneurs to “focus on identifying the exact purpose of your small-business website and building out goals and reporting around that action in Google Analytics.”
Tim Parker is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.