Let’s jump straight into what is Google Analytics and why is it mission-critical.
Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool offered by Google to help you analyse your website traffic. Even though “web analytics” sounds like a very small area of your digital presence, the implications of Google Analytics are in fact huge.
This is because, for most companies, your website serves as a hub for all of your digital traffic. If you are running any marketing activities such as search ads or social media ads, your users are most likely going to visit your website somewhere along their user journey. Given that your website is the central hub of your digital presence, your website is the best way to give you a holistic view of the effectiveness of all the campaigns you are running to promote your product/services online.
That’s why over 50 million websites around the world use Google Analytics.
Is Google Analytics Free?
There is a free and paid version of GA (the latter is called Analytics 360). Small and medium-sized businesses will likely get all the features you need from the free version. Enterprise businesses need to upgrade — at least if you want advanced funnel reporting and attribution modelling; roll-up reporting; more views, dimensions, and metrics per property; and unlimited and unsampled data. Paying for 360 also gives you access to dedicated support, including your own account manager.
Why Do You Need Google Analytics?
Do you have a blog? Do you have a static website? If the answer is yes, whether they are for personal or business use, then you need Google Analytics. Here are just a few of the many questions about your website that you can answer using Google Analytics.
- How many people visit my website?
- Where do my visitors live?
- Do I need a mobile-friendly website?
- What websites send traffic to my website?
- What marketing tactics drive the most traffic to my website?
- Which pages on my website are the most popular?
- How many visitors have I converted into leads or customers?
- Where did my converting visitors come from and go on my website?
- How can I improve my website’s speed?
- What blog content do my visitors like the most?
There are many, many additional questions that Google Analytics can answer, but these are the ones that are most important for most website owners. Now let’s look at how you can get Google Analytics on your website.
What does Google Analytics measure?
The building blocks of Google Analytics reports are dimensions and metrics.
Dimensions are the attributes of your data, such as the city where traffic is coming from, the page you’re measuring, or the social media channel you’re evaluating.
Metrics are the quantitative measurements for those dimensions. For example, if you’re looking at how your ads are performing in Paris (the dimension), the 2,000 paid sessions you’ve recorded would be your metric.
What can you do with Google Analytics?
In short, Google Analytics helps you make decisions based on data. You can justify spending more on your advertising, discover where you should be advertising, and even determine what types of content you need to be putting out there.
Google Analytics categorises data into the ABCs:
Acquisition refers to how you get website traffic. Simply put, you can use acquisition reports to see how your traffic arrives at your site. When you first look under Acquisition, you’ll notice the Overview tab gives you an all-encompassing snapshot of acquisition, behaviour, and conversion data for your top traffic sources by channel (referral, direct, organic search, and social).
This is giving you the most important data right up front — the number of sessions acquired, the bounce rate of those acquired visitors and their conversions for your most effective channels. It provides a quick and easy way to see how your top channels are performing.
Acquisition reports are a great way to look at which avenues are best for bringing traffic to your site and getting certain actions to happen. Using other views will allow you to look at different types of traffic.
For example, say you want to know which search engine is driving the most organic traffic. By using the Source/Medium view, you can drill down to see the individual sources and mediums acquired the most customers (such as google/organic vs. bing/organic).
Or, you can explore which referral sources are responsible for driving the most traffic to your site by looking at the Referral view. Use this information to make decisions about where you promote content. For example, if you find that Pinterest is driving a significant amount of people to your site, work on publishing content there.
If you just want to look at social referrals, check out the Social tab. This focuses on just social media traffic. Use this tab to discover the networks where people engage with your content. You can also identify which content performs best in each community. For example, you may find your broader entertainment content performs better on Facebook, while your business-related content performs well on LinkedIn.
The great thing about Google Analytics is how it integrates with other tools. The Acquisition section can integrate with your Ads account so you can track how your campaigns are performing in terms of acquiring customers.
Use the Ads section to see how keywords are performing and to identify popular search queries that drive traffic to your site. Use this information to create more targeted campaigns based on popular queries and topics people are searching for.
You can also integrate with the Search Console to see how your landing pages are performing. Are certain pages great at driving people to your site, but low in the Google search results? Are certain keywords driving you to appear in search results, but resulting in a below-average click-through-rate? By integrating your Search Console data with Google Analytics, you can see all of this data and optimise your site to increase CTR.
The Behaviour reports are all about seeing what visitors are actually doing on your website. By using these reports, you can asses the performance of your website content and determine if your visitors are taking the actions you want them to. When you first access the Behaviour tab, you’ll again see an Overview. This view gives you a graph showing the amount of traffic your website received during the time period you’re looking at.
You’ll also see pageviews, unique pageviews, average time on page, bounce rate metrics, and percent exit metrics. All of these metrics describe how a user interacted with your page. Here are some quick definitions:
- Pageviews: Total number of pages viewed
- Unique Pageviews: Number of individual people who have viewed a specific page at least once during a visit
- Average Time on Page: The average amount of time users spend viewing a page
- Bounce Rate: The percentage of single-page visits
- Percent Exit: Percentage of users who exit from a page or set of page
After the Overview tab, you’ll find the Behaviour Flow view. This shows the path visitors commonly take when they visit your site, from entering to exiting. Use this to see where it is that people tend to enter and drop off.
You can also gain other insights from this section such as understanding site content, understanding the site speed, understanding site search, and understanding the events.
The Conversions section of Google Analytics is all about understanding how people convert on your website, which is essential to improving your conversion rate. Conversion reports are broken into four sections: Goals, eCommerce, multi-channel funnels and attribution.
The Goals section starts off with an Overview tab, like the rest of the sections. In the overview, you’ll see a quick summary of the number of goal completions made on your website, which is the total number of conversions.
It’s important to note here that in order to be successful, you’ll want to set up good goals. For example, if you’re running an eCommerce business, you’d rather track purchases than filled carts, right? That’s a more adequate view of how many people actually converted. Make sure you’re setting yourself up for a win by creating specific (and accurate) goals.
In the Overview report, you’ll see your eCommerce conversion rate, average order value, unique purchases, and even the quantity of products sold. There are also a few detailed reports here, too. The Product Performance report will show how your individual products are performing. Use this to see which products are excelling, and which aren’t. Look for trends in seasonality and price. You can also look at the total revenue you’ve garnered by using the Sales Performance report. This breaks down your sales performance on a daily basis.
Use Multi-Channel Funnels to get a complete view of a customer’s journey on your site. Instead of attributing the conversion to the last referral, as Google does, this section helps you see other actions a user takes that help them convert — such as reading a blog post, downloading a guide, or signing up for a newsletter.
The Overview report shows a summary of each marketing channel that helps drive conversions to your site. Use this to see which channels are contributing more to converting traffic. If it’s social, perhaps you want to focus more of your efforts there (rather than paid).
The Attribution section of Google Analytics has just one report – the Model Comparison Tool. You can use this to understand the difference in conversions when you change attribution. For example, say you think an ad, which was a user’s first touchpoint, should receive the conversion. You can see how your conversion numbers change when you change the attribution of the conversion to this first interaction.
This can help you see how different marketing channels are affecting your overall conversions, such as paid advertising, email, and content marketing.
Now that you know how Google Analytics works, it’s time to dive on in. Check out our 2-day course titled Professional Certification in Google Analytics to gain hands-on experience in setting up your Google Analytics and utilising it to analyse your website.