Google Analytics is about 12 years old. It is a free service offered by Google to keep track of your visitors and provide detailed reports about your website’s traffic. It is the most commonly used website analytic program on the Internet.
Installing it is fairly easy. Ask your webmaster or download a plugin if your CMS allows for it. Make sure it is on all pages and that future pages you might created will have it too automatically. Again, the product itself is free and to access the Google Analytic dashboard, all your need is an email associated with a Google product. If you do not have one, simply create a gmail email address. That too is free and will get you access to your account. Of course, make sure your email address is a full admin on the Google Analytic account. That will allow you to make changes and use every tool available in the program.
The most important part, beside making sure that the code is placed properly, is to understand the data and what to do with it.
Once you are on your site’s Google Analytics dashboard, you will notice a column on the left site with the following menus:
Each tab has its own set of sub menus and, understand, that not all menus and functions may be of interest to you. In today’s post, we will focus on the Home Tab which is also your welcome page when you log in. Future posts will go into details about the other tabs.
It gives you a good snap shot of the traffic on your website. The first part shows you how many users (aka visitors) went to your site over the past 7 days. You can change the date range by clicking on the text “Last 7 days”. 7 days is only useful if you recently launched a marketing campaign. The best is to view the data over a period of 3, 6, and 12 months. Keep in mind that, if your business is seasonal, peaks and lows should be expected.
When do your users visit?
The second section is titled “When do your users visit?“. This can be useful if you engage in email marketing campaign. In such case, you may want to schedule the campaign around the time most of your visitors go to your site. It means that is when they are available to do so.
Users right now
The third section “Users right now” to your right shows the number of users right now on your site. This real-time report is only of interest if your site has very heavy traffic.
How do you acquire users?
The “How do you acquire users?” shows you where your visitors are coming from. Some may come from a Google search for your services (organic search), others from typing your domain name directly into their browser, others may come from your Facebook page, etc. That is one of the most important data in Google Analytics. It helps assess where your online strengths and weaknesses are. You will notice that this graphic has three tabs: Traffic Channel, Source / Medium, and Referrals.
Direct = They typed your domain name therefore they already know about you.
Organic Search = They searched for keywords related to what you do though there is a possibility they are searching for your company name. There is a big difference between the two so make sure to click the text “Acquisition Report”. On this next page, you may select Organic Search to see what exact words were entered. This is incredible information for your marketing efforts.
Referral = The visitors came from a different website. It could be one of your social media accounts like Twitter or Facebook, from a directory website where you are listed like a trade association, etc. This too is valuable information to pay attention to.
Display = This often refers to traffic generated from an online advertising banner that is displayed on other websites.
Other = It is all other visitors that Google was unable to quality.
Source / Medium and Referrals
You should click on the 2nd and 3rd tabs to view more of the detailed data. Referrals is the one we like to look at closely. Again, it shows which other site on the web brings the most traffic. You would want to continue supporting those who bring lots of traffic and see if you can improve those who do not as well.
Where are your users?
That is very important if your target audience is international. If it is not, we would not be too concerned with it. Saying this, if you do not do any business in other countries and most of your traffic is from a country like China, there is a problem. If could be bots or malicious scripts trying to get to your site. If this is the case, you would want to block them with your website or server’s firewall.
What pages do your visit?
The lower section (make sure to scroll down) becomes more interesting. You may click on the link “Page reports”. It describes in great details which pages (beside your home page) are the most visited ones. This type of information is quite valuable since it shows where your visitors’ interest is. With this data in mind, consider how you can make this page even better and its location. Are people going to it because it has great content or because there is a call-to-action linking to it? You can answer this question by looking at how long the user stays on the page (See column “Avg. Time on Page”).
How are your active users trending over time?
Unless you plan to become an expert in every single aspect of Google Analytics, you should not spend too much time in this section.
What are your top devices?
This data can be indicative of the type of target audience you have. It also helps you assess how important an efficient responsive design is to your website. If 10% or more of your visitors use a smartphone or tablet, that means your design on mobile devices is of the utmost importance.
How well do you retain users?
This is a very important question but, again, it is far more important that you understand all other sections of the Home Tab before you dig deep into this section. You can use the Cohort Analysis Report. If you are ready for this section, we recommend this page from Google themselves which goes in great length in explaining this page. Visit this link »
This post is only an overview of the first page of Google Analytics. It is truly a full time job to learn and keep up with Google Analytics. Saying this, we believe that knowledge is power and, as the site owner or manager, you should understand the basics and adapt your marketing strategies accordingly to what the reports reveal.