Struggling to understand your Google Analytics? Here’s what you need to know.
Can I ask you a question?
You don’t actually have to share the answer — just be honest with yourself. When was the last time you checked your Google Analytics account?
Let’s be real. It’s probably been a while. Days? Weeks? Months?
If you’re like most people, part of the reason you don’t check in more often is that when you do, you feel a little… lost. It feels like a lot of data, and you’re sure some of it has to be useful (right?) but you don’t really know what you’re actually looking at.
Don’t feel bad; the truth is you’re not alone.
4 Things to Focus on in Google Analytics
When you login to your analytics account you’re presented with a bunch of charts and graphs. But what’s good? What’s bad? And why should you care?
If it feels like Google Analytics is tracking a ton of information, that’s because it is — but there are really only a few pieces that really matter for most businesses.
- Overall site traffic (how many people are coming to your site?)
- Channels (where are people finding your site?)
- New vs. Returning Users (exactly what it sounds like)
- Top Pages (what pages or posts on your site get the most traffic?)
Let’s take a closer look at each of these.
Overall Site Traffic
This one might seem pretty simple — you want your traffic to increase over time. So while looking at this graph you want to see the line growing as it moves from left to right.
But there are a few other things to look at.
Take a minute to notice any traffic spikes — days when you saw a jump in traffic. Later, you’ll want to figure out where that traffic came from, so you can determine if it was good traffic (that is, the kind of people you want on your site!) or bad traffic that bounced (that is, people who came and then didn’t find what they wanted so they left right away).
Notice any low points. Most businesses see traffic trend higher during the week, and then see less traffic on the weekends. And then generally try to get a sense of what’s “normal” for your site right now. When we talk about marketing funnels, the traffic that comes to your site is usually a good metric to track for the top of your funnel.
In Google Analytics, “channels” are what Google calls it’s list of ways that people can come to your website.
Generally, these are direct (someone typed your web address into their browser directly), organic (someone searched Google or another search engine and your site came up), paid (someone clicked on an ad you’ve paid for), and referral (someone clicked on a link on another site and it sent them to yours).
These are a good way to tell if the marketing you’re doing is working.
For example, say one of the ways you’ve decided to promote your business is by sharing links on Facebook. You’ve spent the last 2 weeks sharing links, photos, and videos to your Facebook page several times a day. How many people have come to your site from Facebook since you started sharing more often? Is that more, less, or the same as the percentage of people coming to your site via Facebook before you started making the effort? This is where you’ll find that information.
New Vs. Returning Users
This one is fairly self-explanatory. Google Analytics tells you what percentage of the people visiting your website are first time visitors and what percentage are returning.
If you blog regularly, returning users are a sign that your blog is engaging, and encouraging people to come back. When you send out an email newsletter, if you share links to your site, you can probably expect to see your returning visitors number increase, temporarily.
By contrast, if you undertake a new marketing initiative (like the Facebook example above), then you’ll want to see a spike in new visitors — otherwise, your marketing efforts are likely only reaching people who are already familiar with you and your business (though there ARE times when that’s good too)!
Finally, you’ll want to consider the top pages on your website. Which pages are getting the most traffic? For many businesses, your home page will be one of your most trafficked pages; but once you get past your homepage, what pages are popular? Are people checking out your services page? Are they reading your blog posts? Which blog posts are most popular?
Information like that can help you tweak your website and tell you what is resonating with your customers. If a particular blog topic gets a lot of traffic — write more about it! If a post fails to rank at all, maybe it’s a topic not worth writing about again for a while.
Just the beginning…
These 4 things are really just a start when it comes to all the amazing things Google Analytics can tell you about your website — but if you make a habit of checking these 4 things at least once or twice a month, you’ll have a much better handle on what parts of your marketing are working best… or whether they’re working at all.