Google Analytics Demystified

Google Analytics Demystified

A guest post by Brook Faulkner. 

Google Analytics is a valuable tool for a blogger and small business owner. Failing to utilise the data it provides means you’ll be unaware what your site’s visitors want from you.

Yet Google Analytics is not a simple tool to understand. It’s filled with varying data, each set describing a different situation or behaviour. Some of the data is more important than others and may require additional information to get the full picture of what’s happening on your site.

Here are some basic and important analytics you should be monitoring and how to use them to improve your site:

General traffic and bounce rate

Your general traffic analytic is one of the easiest data sets to work with. Numbers increase as more people visit your site and go down when you get fewer. Pretty simple right?

But that is only a tiny bit of the picture. People are coming to your site, but what is happening once they get there? To help with this question, we can turn to the bounce rate analytic.

Bounce rate measures how many people come to your site and leave without going to another page. A high bounce rate means most of your traffic is coming to your site, looking at the content, and leaving without reading anything else.

This could be because the content you provided isn’t what they were expecting. It may be uninspiring or badly written, or there was no call to action to keep them on the site.

It’s important to combine your traffic numbers with your bounce rate when measuring the general success of your site. Getting a thousand people on your site every day may be wonderful, but if 90% of them are bouncing away, maybe your site isn’t doing as well as you thought.

So as you look at individual pages, find what might be causing a high bounce rate. Research into the causes, experiment with your content and see what you can do to reduce it.

Where are people going?

It’s possible to use Google Analytics to see which routes people take when navigating on your site, thanks to the user flow report. If you are a business who wants to direct its viewers to the product pages, this incredibly useful tool shows you the journey each person took to reach the desired destination.

The user flow report starts with the pages that get the most traffic. It then tracks the most common flow people take through your site. It usually begins with your home page, but might include a few extremely high-performing blog posts, and then breaks down where people go from there.

This data is useful for managing where your website users go, what information they see, and what would ensure they stay on your site. It’s a good idea to map which route you want people to take, starting from top attracting pages to resulting in higher sales. Then compare the data from your map to work out which areas need to be improved. This way you can identify what might be distracting people away from your preferred route. Or how you can improve the attraction of the landing pages.

For example, if you provide a highly complex product or service, you want people to gradually learn about it. The ideal flow should start teaching simple concepts and then let it grow from there. However, you can tell there is a problem if many people go straight for the complex areas without beginning where they need to start.

New and returning visitors

It’s unlikely a person will buy your product the first time they visit your site. Although this may differ for each industry, an average consumer will visit a retail site nine times before making a purchase.

Obviously encouraging people to come back is important, so tracking which of your visitors are returning should be a priority. Even though you can’t track specific people, you can figure out the percentile of new to returning visitors through analytics.

A low return rate shows you are able to attract lots of new people to your site. However, you are not providing something worthy to make them come back for more.

Here are some things you can do to help increase returning visitors: encouraging first time visitors to follow on social media, providing high-quality content on a regular basis, getting people to subscribe to email updates, and offering deals on highly visited product pages.

Succcessfully getting people to revisit your site will increase the amount of sales. An ideal world would be 50% new visitors and the remaining half consisting of regular returners. This results in a constant flow of new potential customers and at the same time working on converting pre-existing visitors.

Google Analytics and mobile devices

People use tablets, smart phones and everything in between to search the web. Over half of all web traffic is done on mobile devices, so tracking how people use their phones versus a computer is very important. Google Analytics’ ordinary settings doesn’t separate these two data sets, but doing so needs to be a priority.

Mobile devices have changed our lives and how we look at websites — and this also includes going shopping. What works for a desktop version might not be the same for somebody on a phone. Separating and comparing the data between computer and mobile can help identify trends on how people are finding and interacting with your site. A particular page does very well on desktop, but poorly on mobile. You will need a responsive theme to make this page properly optimised for the small screen. You could also considering tweaking the content to fit better with how people browse through your site.

Constantly tracking your data

Google Analytics and its resulting data is an extremely valuable tool at your disposal. It can guide what choices you need to make for your site, reveals the effectiveness of your blogging strategies, and shows up which areas need improving.

The data sets listed above are important towards understanding the current state of your site, but they aren’t the only ones. Others can help you to fill in visitor behaviour gaps, which should also be analysed. Learning Google Analytics isn’t a one-off activity; there are always new data sets to look at and apply.

Checking your site’s Google Analytics needs to become a regular habit, as this is how you can find out what is working or failing, and help prevent major disasters from happening. It is possible to set up a monthly alert from Google to keep you informed of the general welfare of your site, but this shouldn’t stop you from diving into your data on a regular basis.

About the author:

brooke faulknerBrooke Faulkner is your typical internet nerd. She loves all things technical and is an avid consumer of science podcasts (eh hem, radiolab anyone?). When she’s not writing, she can usually be found chasing her boys around the house with the vacuum. Follow her on Twitter.

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Alice Elliott writes the award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog for beginner and post-beginner bloggers to “explain things really simply” about blogging and WordPress. She provides simple, easy to understand, highly visual courses and tutorials using ordinary, everyday words. Visit her new Beginner Bloggers blog to find her latest learning resources.
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