A Simple Start to Google Analytics
For many tasked with the job of looking after their business’ website, Google Analytics is often the go-to resource for monitoring how well the site is performing and where it can improve. It’s completely free to set up (when opting for the non-premium service), and once you get to grips with the wealth of data that is available, it can be extremely beneficial in ensuring your website, and any other digital marketing activities that feed in to it, are a success!
However, everyone has to begin somewhere, and quite often we find that after an enthusiastic start, clients new to website management and Google Analytics can begin to shy away from utilising this tool, overwhelmed by the extent of data and how exactly it can benefit them.
Depending on the type of website you’re looking after – whether it is an information-only site, driving users to check out your opening times, or an ecommerce site, selling products – different data will be of significance. Getting to grips with what is available, and more importantly, what is relevant to you, can be daunting when you first log in.
Therefore, for the absolute beginner, we would suggest this simple way to get started with Google Analytics, making it seem far less of an obstacle and more of a helping hand when managing a website. You never know, it may even ignite your inner-statistician!!
Identify some questions you’d like to answer, and think about what information could help to solve them
As you get in your stride with Google Analytics, these questions will strongly reflect your business objectives (you can then use GA to set goals and generate reports). However, to get you going and build your confidence, why not start simple and just outline some common queries that come up when you’re discussing the website with your team… these will help you determine what to take note of initially when you first enter the world of Google Analytics.
Some of your initial queries may be…
How many people have visited the website this month? Or, has there been an increase in visitors since we re-launched the website?
To answer this, you’ll be looking for traffic to the website over a given period, and in comparison to an earlier period in time. This can help to see how well the site is performing, and quickly flag if there are any issues – e.g. if traffic has sharply dropped, is there an issue with how the site is indexed.
What are visitors using to access the website? Do I really need a mobile-friendly website?
If you’ve not already optimised your website for mobile devices, data about what device visitors are using to access your site may well give you the incentive you need to ‘go mobile’. Understanding which browser your visitors are using also aids in ensuring the website is accessible for all!
How are people actually finding my business online? Where are they coming from?
You may well be doing some online advertising, an affiliate business may be promoting your services or you may have invested time in ensuring your website is optimised for search engines – to answer this question, you’ll be looking for data that tells you where visitors to your website are coming from, and what actions they’ve taken to find you (e.g. searched for a certain keyword, or clicked a direct link from another site). This will help you determine what’s working and what needs your attention, and can even help inform your future marketing activities, for example, keyword research for PPC.
What’s the most popular page on the site, and what’s the least?
Think about how popularity could be measured – perhaps how many people visit a page, how many return to a page, or even how long they spend on that page. This can help you learn about your visitor’s preferences and improve pages that aren’t keeping them engaged.
Are my efforts on social media platforms paying off since launching the website?
You may be trying to increase the frequency of your social posts, change the style of content you’re regularly posting or trying out a new campaign. As well as analytics within the social platform itself, your website’s data can also tell you a lot about how successful your efforts are in directing traffic to your site, and what type of content is proving the most worthwhile.
Use these questions to set up a basic dashboard in Google Analytics
A Google Analytics ‘dashboard’ is simply a collection of widgets that help you to visualise your data, quickly and efficiently, in a single place in your GA profile. Setting up a starter dashboard containing the select information that a. you want to see, b. you fully understand and c. has a purpose (i.e. answers your initial questions), can make your first few logins to Google Analytics a lot less daunting and timely.
For a great overview of the types of widgets you can set up on your dashboard to help visualise the data you have identified, check out Daniel Waisberg’s helpful guide.
You can also leave the setting-up to someone else, and find the perfect shared dashboard online for you to add to your profile for free! Econsultancy has kindly compiled a top 10 list of custom dashboards for every website type and analytics need, to make this even easier.
Treat this first dashboard as your base from which you can explore Google Analytics further, tailoring it as you go!
Build your confidence and preferences
As you explore and get familiar with the tool, you’ll probably find there are certain pieces of data that you find more interesting than others, and certain styles of illustrating that data that speak to you most – in Waisberg’s article mentioned above, he explains that he is not a fan of the pie chart widget; as much as I appreciate this style of illustration has its limits, I personally find it really easy to understand when time is pushed and you need to comprehend the data quickly. Moral of the story: with Google Analytics, it’s about what works for you and what is likely to save you the most amount of precious time in your working day!
This has hopefully given those who are avoiding the login screen altogether a little encouragement to dive in and get started with Google Analytics. As you gain confidence, why not check out the many guides and resources available online to really optimise your account and use it to its full potential to grow your business, and ultimately your revenue! Some of our favourites include:
- A Beginner’s Guide to setting up Google Analytics, including how to create your first Goals, from Moz.com
- Setting up Advanced Segments and generating Custom Reports, from CIO.com
- Alternatively, simplybusiness.co.uk has collated a list of helpful guides for each step of your Google Analytics’ journey, including tracking email and setting up Custom Alerts
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