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Understanding Google Analytics

GAGoogle Analytics is a service provided by Google that generates detailed information on site traffic and sources which results in measuring conversions.  What kinds of information, you ask?  Well, for starters, Google Analytics can show you where your visitors are coming from, what actions have they taken on your site and how long have they stayed on your site before leaving.

Basically, when you first build your website, you make a lot of assumptions.  You assume that the copy you write and the images you choose will be the most engaging options for your target visitors.  And you assume that the product benefits and call to action text you’ve chosen to feature are as compelling as possible and will result in the most possible sales.

But the problem with making these assumptions is that you’re just one person, with an insider’s view of your product or service.  And what you feel is most important to selling or converting leads on your website might not resonate with what your target customers want to see or hear.

To bridge the gap, smart marketers use data-driven decision making based on actual numbers – not assumptions.  When you use web analytics and split testing in order to find out exactly how people respond to the different elements on your site, you’re able to maximize conversions and increase sales with changes that are based on facts

Sounds pretty cool, right?  Let’s look at a few of the specific ways you can use this program to make decisions about changes to your site.  For the purposes of this article, I’m going to assume that you already have the program installed, but if you need guidance in this area, check out the Google Analytics “Getting Started Guide.”

Once you’ve logged into your Google Analytics Dashboard, you’ll see a few things right off the bat:

  • A graphical representation of the number of visits to your site over the last month,
  • More specific details about your site usage,
  • A map representing the locations of visitors to your site, and
  • An overview of both your most popular traffic sources and content pages.

And while there are tons and tons of different things you can do with this information, let’s stick with the data that can be most easily translated into actionable website improvements for website owners.

So for starters, go ahead and click on the “All Traffic” link under “Acquisition link

Here you’ll notice where your traffic is generating from.  On the next screen, you’ll see more information about the sites that send you traffic, including a breakdown of your top traffic sources and the keywords people are using to access your site.  There are two things you can do with this information – find related sites and uncover new keywords.

Next, click back to your All Traffic to review the sources that generate traffic. Many website owners find that their sites are receiving traffic from keywords they’d never considered targeting, so this portion of the Google Analytics dashboard can be a goldmine!  If you notice keywords that you aren’t actively targeting sending you traffic, consider adding content to your site that targets these keywords in order to secure an even higher SERPs ranking.

Using these techniques can help you to improve the flow of targeted traffic to your site, but that’s not all Google Analytics can do for you.  To learn more about how your visitors are engaging with your content navigate to the “Site Content” section by clicking on the relevant tab in the left-hand navigation menu.

Again, there are a few things you can do here.  First, take a look at your Top Content pages, by clicking on “View Full Report” under the summary section.  This will expand into a list of the most popular pages on your site – if your site is small, the default view of ten results may include all of your pages.

Take a good look at this information to check for any pages with either a significantly higher bounce rate or a lower average time on site.  Either of these signals could be an indication that the people who are arriving on these pages aren’t finding what they’re looking for.  Consider going back through your content on these poorly-performing pages and looking for ways to make them more engaging for your visitors.

Yes, this summary represents only the most basic of overviews into the full power of the Google Analytics program.  As you become more comfortable with the platform, you’ll want to take advantage of more advanced features that allow you to set and manage goals, as well as track the monetary impact of any changes you make.  With time, you’ll find that using data-driven decision making in order to drive the changes on your website results in some significant improvements to your bottom line!

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