Wipe that yawn off your face – tracking your results with Google Analytics is a critical part of ensuring the success of your site – and it's not as hard as you think. (Well maybe setting it up can be a bit tricky – but you can always ask us for help).
Imagine there was a tool that could summarise the effectiveness of your site – where your traffic is coming from, which page people tend to exit your site from, which pages people linger on, how many site visitors you have, and whether or not your visitors are doing what you want them to do on your site.
Well, there is, and, what’s more – it’s FREE! It’s called Google Analytics, and it’s been around for donkey’s years, but it is nowhere near as widely or effectively used as it should be.
That’s possibly because the Google Analytics account is one of those things that tends to get set up by Bob or Jane in the Marketing Department, who then loses the password, or moves on to another job and forgets to give the password to the next incumbent… you get the picture. And this really does matter, because while you can set up a new Google Analytics account for the site, you can’t move the site data to the new account. This means: lost login = lost site analytics history.
And this is really important, because it’s impossible to know if your site is doing what it needs to be doing if you don’t check your metrics over time. Measuring what’s happening (or not happening) on your site is critical element of ensuring its ongoing success.
For example, using Google Analytics to know where your traffic is coming from helps you to learn which are the most important referral tools for your business – and which ones aren’t pulling their weight. You may find that you don’t need one or more of your social media accounts, for example, because it’s not performing a useful function for your business by referring traffic.
Google Analytics can tell you whether your site is sufficiently optimized for Google organic search (ie – does your site appear in Google search results, and do people click through to your site from there? What search terms are they using to find your site, and can you rework your page descriptions to better accommodate this?). By looking at your Google Analytics reports you might also see that Google paid search results are way more effective at attracting visitors to your site than Google organic search results, or vice versa.
Your Google Analytics reports might tell you that some traffic is coming to your site from unknown sources, like a blog, or another business. If that’s the case, you may be able to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with them, or say thank you for all the referrals!
You might find that there’s one particular page on your site that’s performing exceptionally well in Google organic search results. If so, is this a hint that this element of your site is a potential business opportunity you could be making more of? Or is it a sign that you need to re-angle the content on your home page to better fit the reasons people seek out your site?
By showing you where your site traffic is coming from, Google Analytics reports can also help you assess whether or not your online advertising campaigns and/or email campaigns are effective at driving traffic to your site.
Another way you can use Google Analytics to improve your site’s performance is to see what people do once they are on your site. Which pages are they most likely to visit, and are getting what they need on those pages? If you have shareable content, are people sharing it?
There are plenty of ways to measure this using Google Analytics. For example, if a page has a lot of information, you can tell how much of the information visitors are reading by measuring how much time they spent on the page. Or if the page has an action, such as downloading something, signing up for something, or watching a video, it’s easy to see how many visitors take the action, as compared to how many don’t.
In case of visitors NOT taking desired actions, you can use Google Analytics to measure whether any attempts at improving this page result in increased visitor interaction with it.
For example, if your Google Analytics reports show you that people reach your e-newsletter sign-up page, yet consistently fail to actually sign up, you’ve learned that this page needs a little tweaking. This could be as simple as changing the font size, or adding, removing or relocating an image. It could be a matter of rewording or changing the size or colour of the Call to Action button. (See here for more hints about improving the Calls to Action on your site). Try various changes and refinements until your Google Analytics reports show that your changes are improving engagement rates.
It’s also useful to use your Google Analytics reports to determine which page people most commonly exit your site from. This could mean there is a problem with the page – is it confusing or frustrating, and therefore putting people off? It could also simply mean that it’s a natural place to exit the site – in which case you want to make sure that the page features a clear final message that you want to leave with your visitors. For example, what is it you want the visitor to do later? Call you? Come back for more information? This is your chance to plant that seed and make a final good impression, so do what you can to position this message prominently.
The bottom line
Don’t be daunted by Google Analytics – it’s a brilliant tool for measuring the success of your site, and you can use the metrics to report back to your team or management.
Start by being clear on your ideal client and determining goals for the outcomes you want them to take on your site, and then decide the best way to measure these goals. The measure of success may be the length of time visitors spend on your page or site, how many pages they visit on your site, or whether they take a desired action on your site (such as downloading a form). Then use the Google Analytics report results as your measure as you continue to tweak your site and content until it’s performing as optimally as it should be.