Once you've had a gorgeous, responsive website built and fully optimised for search engine success by an SEO professional, it's advised that you learn how to understand its performance metrics.
While many SEO agencies offer monthly retainer packages that keep vigilant watch of and respond to changes in traffic sources, keyword performance, link profiles and the like, a common practice amongst most business owners is understanding the paths which are leading potential customers to find your website and incorporating their behavioural insights to your digital strategy.
To do this Google has provided a free platform called - Google Analytics.
Benefits of Using Analytics
This tool assist you in viewing your website statistics and the information pertaining to how your viewers got to your site, rather than your competitors’.
With Google Analytics, you can segment your visitors and see who, specifically, is interested in your website’s content. With that information in hand you will then be able to compare it to the information you have about your ideal, target market. This will highlight how in-tune with your target market your website is, and if it is being visited by the people you intendeds to create it for.
Reviewing that information, and comparing it against those who go on to make purchases, will grant you invaluable insight and understanding of who your customers actually are and what they are looking for. With this you can make adjustments in your business and marketing activities, to attract more potential customers and generate more sales.
Google Analytics also allows you the ability to monitor the quality of your website.
View site visits and traffic statistics, and analyse whether your website is performing well in comparison to your competitors’ websites. Armed with this feedback you can implement any changes that will enhance your competitive edge.
Setting up Analytics
There are multiple ways to set up your Google Analytics account, primarily, you will need to sign in or register, but after that you will be required to set up your property – this is the website or app that you want to track and analyse.
For web platforms such as WordPress, you may need to install a plug-in to optimise your site for Google Analysis’ information collection. But for some sites, you may need to set up web tracking, which includes inserting a piece of code into your website. Fortunately there are numerous web-host-specific articles and how-to’s available to walk you through the process.
Once your website has been added and verified, Google Analytics will begin to collect data, which can take a little while to come in.
In the meantime you can experiment with different settings:
When you are signed-in, set-up and Google Analytics has collected your site’s data, you should be able to access a custom dashboard.
The dashboard has a few different elements to explore, as well as a range of different dashboards available to install and investigate at your own pace, but let’s concentrate on the four main panels to begin with.
The audience panel shows information about people visiting your site, specifically, how often they visit and what they do when they are there.
The panel does use some technical terms, but these are easy to become familiar with, once they have been explained.
A ‘user’ is a unique visitor to your site, when they view your website for the first time a ‘session’ is started, and this ends when they close the website.
‘Page views’ are the number of times a different page is loaded by the user. If the same user closes the website then visits again later, this will start a new session and the data will be collected and displayed using averages; 10 page views over 2 sessions will be shown as 2 sessions, with 5 page views on each, even if the user viewed 7 pages during the first session and 3 during the second.
The audience panel shows you information such as the demographics of your audience. Which can be useful for targeted marketing (i.e demographics who are more likely to visit your site).
For example: if you notice that a large number of your visitors are from another country, it may be worth offering a translation of your site or pages of interest in the main language of that country.
The acquisition panel shows you how the visitors to your site got there. Usually the main path to your website will be referrals from social media or search engine results. This information is highly valuable to you as a site owner. Learning where and how the majority of your visitors are finding your site means that you can take actions to increase the visibility of those methods even more, to generate more visitors to your site.
For even more in-depth and specific information on acquisitions, link up your Google Webmaster Tools to your Google Analytics account. Doing so will show detailed information on search engine result rankings, keywords and insights into your site’s SEO optimisation. A more detailed overview of Google Webmaster Tools can be found here.
The behaviour panel gives you insights into what your visitors are doing when they are viewing your site, i.e. which content and topics are most popular.
It lets you know which pages are most frequented, as well as the path visitors take to move from page to page within your site.
The behaviour panel then allows you to view data on which pages are likely to be engaging viewers to stay on the site and which pages most visitors leave the site after viewing. Allowing you to regularly edit or remove pages which are off putting to visitors, and emulate content which visitors are finding interesting enough to stick around after reading.
The behaviour panel allows you to see what your visitors are searching for - but not finding, which will allow you to change your keywords and product names/descriptions to ensure easier navigation and discovery within your site.
The real time panel is possibly the most exciting panel on the Google Analytics dashboard. Giving you a front row view of what current visitors are doing on your website, in – you guessed it – real time!
In this panel, you can see how many visitors your site has at this precise moment, what pages they are viewing and how they are travelling through the site. The best time to utilise this panel is if some of your content goes viral, as this is the most exciting time to watch what people are doing and looking at with regards to your site. However, I will warn you that this can have an entrancing effect and before you know it you've (and you're valuable time) have fallen into a Google blackhole.
Regardless, this is an extremely useful tool if you are planning to take your site down to carry out maintenance, as it allows you to assess whether it is a good time to do so, or whether immediate downtime will cause loss of sales and potential customers.
Using the Data
Now that you know what data is available through Google Analytics, it’s time to find out what it means and what you can do with it.
If you just want to keep an eye on how many visitors your site is getting each day, you can do that and it will give you some good general insights into which content is working for you and which is not performing as well as it could be.
On the other hand, if you are running a large website with many pages and you want to look a bit deeper (and I recommend that you do), Google Analytics offers everything you will need to monitor your sites performance and progress.
Google Analytics is powerful and it's free! If you care about strengthening your online presence, there is absolutely no reason not to dive in.
Gain invaluable insights and optimise your website to increase traffic and sales. By tracking data and analysing changes, you will be able to see trends appearing, which will enable you to alter your website (and ultimately your business trajectory) accordingly, to maintain a fresh edge over your industry competition.