Google Analytics. You’ve heard the name, right? If you haven’t—and maybe even if you have—you’re probably wondering what it is, what it does, and how it can help your business. More importantly, after you’ve read this post, you’ll wonder why you’re not already using it.
In a nutshell, Google Analytics is the tool of analytics tools. This all-encompassing data-gatherer helps you analyze all your website data in one place so you can most efficiently measure your marketing ROI. And, as we’ve shown in several of our posts, staying on top of your web analytics is beyond important. It helps you understand how to gain leads and, once you’ve got them, what their behaviors are so you can keep them and turn them into customers. Google Analytics and the data it gathers lets you see where to spend your advertising dollars, what type of content is resonating with your audience, and where that audience is coming from. And guess what? It’s free!
What It Does
Since volumes could be written about the past, present, and future of Google Analytics—and, honestly, probably have been written if you do a quick online search—our goal is to give you a working knowledge of what it does and how to use it. Consider this article your one-stop shop for learning the basics.
Perhaps the best thing about Google Analytics is that it helps you track where your customers are coming from by collecting data and offering useful reports. Leads and customers come from all over the web, whether directed by a social media post, a shared link, and even offline sources such as a billboard, radio or television ad, or an in-person contact or referral. Analytics gathers all of this info for you and creates reports on how much traffic your site is getting and where that traffic is coming from (and even where they’re going!). This invaluable data can be used to calculate your ROI for every type of online marketing, and you can even connect it to your offline marketing efforts to get an overall view of your customers’ behavior.
So, How Does It Work?
Analytics tracks all this awesome data by a unique tracking code you insert in your website after you set Google Analytics up, and setting it up is pretty easy. Just make sure you set it up under your main Google account. For example, if you have two Google accounts, one for personal use and one for business, you’ll want to establish it under the business account. Alternatively, you can create an account specifically for Analytics.
Once you sign in, go to the Admin tab, name the account (your company’s name), then put in your website’s name and specify the URL. Google Analytics provides you with a unique tracking code you will then install on your website (note: you’ll want to install it on every page of your website so you can track data from all those pages). This tracking code does all the data-gathering work by tracking visitors who come to your site.
If you’re unsure how to install Google Analytics on your site, check out the help center, where you’ll find a myriad of tips for installing and using the tool.
All About That Data
There are two foundational terms you’ll want to be aware of when you start with Google Analytics: dimensions and metrics.
Dimensions describe what your data is:
- geographic location
- traffic sources
- landing pages
Metrics measure your data, such as:
- number of visits
- pages per visit
- conversion rate
- bounce rate
That data is then organized into ABCs (or “AAABC,” but that doesn’t quite look as good):
Acquisitions: measures traffic and tells you how many visits your website is getting.
Audience: provides insight into who your audience is and what their particular traits are.
Advertising: lets you review your online advertising campaigns.
Behavior: records website visitors’ behavior on your site, such as which pages they are going to and what actions are being taken on those pages.
Conversions: tracks the actions visitors complete on your website that convert them into customers (signing up for a newsletter, purchasing a product, etc.).
The above areas have several reports within their sections, but going into all of these reports would require a much longer post. That’s why, for this article’s purpose, we’re going to focus on the top three areas, the where, what, and how: acquisitions, behavior, and conversions.
These reports help you track where your website traffic is coming from and how exactly it got to your site. Acquisitions reports show you how many sessions your site has acquired, the bounce rate (which is defined as “single-page sessions”) of those visitors, and the top places conversions are coming from (social media, newsletters, search engines, etc.). When you set Analytics up, you can add UTM parameters to your unique code. These parameters are additional tags at the end of the code that give Analytics more information about your links, allowing it to provide you with more specific data.
These reports tell you what your visitors are up to when on your website. And they’ll let you know if the content on your site is not only resonating with audiences but leading them to take action. You can see how many views each of your site’s pages has, how many of those page views are unique (how many times a new visitor looks at a page rather than one visitor looking at the page multiple times), bounce rate, and the percentage of exit metrics. You can also see the Behavior Flow, which shows you a visitor’s typical path on your site, from entrance to exit.
These reports are all about understanding how effective your site is at converting visitors into leads or clients. Basically, this is what all the data adds up to: converting a visitor to become a lead or a customer. In this section, you can review four reports: goals, e-commerce, multifunnel channel, and attribution.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of Analytics and all its capabilities. As you start to dip your toes in, one of the main things to remember is that the best way to review and actually use the data you’ve gathered is to always keep your website goals in mind. And guess what! Google Analytics lets you set and track goals, too. In your Analytics account, just go to Admin, then select Goals. If you’re shooting for a certain number of conversions, be sure to take advantage of Google’s goal templates, and get tracking!
Where should we go from here with our Google Analytics articles? What kind of information would you find most helpful as you start using it? Let us know in the comments below.