How to Use Google Analytics Effectively

For any business with a web presence understanding how traffic works and where it comes from is incredibly important. Google Analytics is a free (and powerful) solution that provides a wealth of information about how well a website is functioning.

A business can use Google Analytics to determine how much traffic is coming to its website, where that traffic comes from, and what visitors are doing once they are on the site. Google’s tool works pretty simply by tracking “tags” – a small piece of JavaScript code that needs to be installed on every page of a business’ website.

The tag effectively pulls data and collates it within a reports page in the Google Analytics admin interface. Here, a business can set up multiple reports for multiple websites within a given account.

Let’s consider Google Analytics in some more depth and how it could benefit your business and its understanding of traffic sources to its website.

 

Time Metrics

 

Time metrics

This is a way for a business to monitor how long visitors are staying for, where Google calculates an average length of time for those visitors. Businesses can use this data to understand what keeps a visitor on its site, but also what makes visitors leave – this is perhaps the most important area for a business to consider.

You want visitors to stay and click around on your website – the longer that those visitors stay on your site, the better the chance that they will become purchasers of your products and services.

 

Traffic Sources/Acquisitions

 

Acquisitions

This information is incredibly important to a business and its marketing efforts. Knowing where your visitors come from ensures that you can better target those locations and provide better links and more streamlined traffic options to your website.

It’s worth exploring traffic sources in much more detail and your marketing department would do well to define the different kinds of traffic arriving at your website. Your business would do well to understand what constitutes quality traffic, how to identify revenue and conversion drivers, what kinds of information to look for in keyword reports, and how campaign attribution functions within Google Analytics.

 

Google Analytics – a great free tool

 

Audience

There are plenty of things to champion when it comes to Google Analytics. The program will track geographical data, gender, age, IP addresses and much more. This is ideal for discovering if you are actually hitting your target audience. You can then more accurately create content targeting the customers that you want. From the screenshot above, you can see that there are many more male visitors, which is about right for this particular business.

 

Content Drill down

 

content_breakdown

The majority of businesses now use content to help market their company and drive traffic to the site. This can be distributed in a variety of ways including through email newsletters and social media. Knowing which pages are receiving the most attention can really help you to hone your message and further target customers in your ideal demographic.

 

Using keywords

Keywords and phrases is the most important consideration a business can make when it determines that it wants to achieve better web rankings and increase traffic to its website. A business should conduct keyword research and determine words that it wants to be ranked by. The keywords should relate to your niche and be ones that your ideal customers are likely to search Google for.

You can measure both paid and organic keywords in Analytics and whilst the ‘not provided’ issue is an irritating one with regard to organic keywords, if you use AdWords then it can help you to discover which are performing well and which aren’t.

 

Bounce Rate

The other important consideration relates to the time that visitors spend on your site and how quickly that they leave – this is known as the bounce rate. If you notice a lot of visitors arriving and then leaving your site very quickly you have a problem that needs addressing. The higher your bounce rate, the quicker people are leaving; however, it’s worth pointing out that if your blog gets a lot of attention, this can give a high bounce rate that’s not necessarily accurate.

Bounce rate

 

The bounce rate shouldn’t be confused with the exit rate though, the latter of which is the percentage of visitors that left the site from a specific page. The bounce rate is the percentage of single page visitors that your site receives.

If you have a high bounce rate, then you can reduce it using a variety of tactics. Before you do this though, let’s have a look at the benchmark averages for bounce rates, according to Google itself.

  • Content sites: 40-60%
  • Lead generation: 30-50%
  • Blogs: 70-98%
  • Retail sites: 20-40%
  • Service sites: 10-30%
  • Landing pages: 70-90%

As you can see, even Google acknowledges that the bounce rate is high for blogs. The reason for this is that Analytics doesn’t measure the actual time that’s spent on each blog post, but rather that the visitor has only visited one page. There is a way of addressing this by tweaking the tracking code and creating an event when a visitor spends more than a set amount of time on a page.

The modified code looks something like this in Google Analytics (note: this is not the correct code for Universal Analytics).

<script type=”text/javascript”>

var _gaq = _gaq || [];

_gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-XXXXXXX-1']);

_gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);

 setTimeout(“_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', '15_seconds', 'read'])”,15000);

(function() {

var ga = document.createElement(‘script’); ga.type = ‘text/javascript’; ga.async = true;

ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;

var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);

})();

</script>

I’ve highlighted the necessary line in red and this is where you can specify how much time the visitor needs to stay on the site for until they are not counted as a bounce.

In Universal Analytics, you will have to take the following steps to implement this:

  1. Create a new custom tag in UA and set it as Custom HTML tag (call it whatever you like)
  2. Add the below code into the HTML field

<script>

setTimeout(“dataLayer.push({ ‘event’: ‘GAEvent’, ‘eventCategory’: ‘NoBounce’, ‘eventAction’: ‘Over 30 seconds’ })”, 30000);

</script>

  1. Add {{event}} equals gtm.dom as the ‘firing rule’
  2. Save tag and container and publish.

An article by Justin Cutroni sets out in detail how to create events that more accurately track how your users engage with your content which is well worth checking out.

You will need to set up and configure Custom Dimensions and Metrics before you can implement the code if you want to use it though. For full instructions on how to do this, take a look at the article, which contains full instructions.

The technique and code that the author has created uses events to track when a pages loads and the user has scrolled more than 150 pixels down the page. It also tracks when the user gets to the bottom of the content and page.

Event tracking

 

The script allows you to see the difference between a scanner and a reader, based on how long it takes them to get to the bottom of the page.

So if you have a high bounce rate and it’s not the blog’s fault, what can you do to reduce it? Firstly, try to understand what it is that’s making visitors leave. There are plenty of reasons that they might, which include:

  • Poor navigation
  • Lack of search facility
  • Low quality content such as poorly spelled written content or glitchy video
  • Pop-up windows
  • Site speed
  • Site not mobile friendly
  • Poor design
  • Over-abundance of or poorly placed advertisements

All of these can be discussed with your design and are essentially user experience (UX) issues. Modern web users are pretty demanding and if they land on a site that is slow to load, or if they can’t immediately find what they’re looking for, they will leave.

 

Powerful Business Intelligence

Use Google Analytics to check the voracity of your site and to ensure that your content is ranking you highly in Google’s search results. Make sure that you target relevant keywords that reflect your business, its brand, and its niche. Consider what’s working on your site and what isn’t, then adjust your marketing targets and budget accordingly.

Google Analytics is both a powerful and important program for a business to use to monitor its website and its success. The data provided by Google Analytics cannot be underestimated and as it’s a free program there’s really no reason why your business shouldn’t utilise the service. This article doesn’t even really scratch the surface of what it can do but serves as a good introduction to finding your way around the software.

 

  • Linda Joseph

    Hi,
    Thanks for sharing….useful information, it was really helpful

  • http://markitwrite.com/ Kerry Butters

    Hi Linda, thanks for reading :)