A couple of years ago the role of a web analyst did not exist. Now, however, analysing web-data has become imperative and has resulted in a whole new job role in itself. And so it should be, it’s that important. It makes sense for companies and employees in our current competitive environment to get to grips with analysing web data – to understand what customers want, to understand what works effectively and what’s more, set themselves apart from their competitors.
John Wanamaker, one of the pioneers in marketing said of advertising: “I fully believe half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Now, with the advent of analytical tools such as Google Analytics, we know – we have effective and efficient tools to understand where to focus our attention, our efforts and most importantly, our spend.
So, how do I get started with Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is running, that’s great, but analysis without a framework is meaningless. You need to set-up goals for your site in order to understand site performance. That way you have a set of criteria against which you can track. Are you meeting those goals? If not, what changes can you make?
Goals could include how long you hope visitors stay on your site or how you envisage visitors interacting with your site. What exactly do you want them to do – place a holiday booking, make a purchase, write a testimonial or download a white paper? How do you measure a successful visit?
Why do you have a website in the first place? Configuring your goals will clarify what you hope to get out of your website and set you in the direction of how to go about it.
Know your audience – Write with your goals in mind
A while back my husband and I created a website to advertise our home in France as a self-catering summer holiday destination. It took me all of two minutes configuring goals on Google Analytics to understand that the content of the site is wrong. I had written about us as a family at our home.
However, if you’re planning a family holiday, the last thing you want to know about is the family that usually occupy that space. You want to imagine yourself there, you want to visualise all the activities the children will be doing while you enjoy your favourite summer read in dappled sunshine and your partner makes dinner on the outdoor BBQ and brings you a glass of chilled white wine. (OK, I digress…) But, essentially, configuring goals helped me to see that a rewrite is necessary.
Then we will be able to review reports through Google Analytics that validate or disprove the changes we’ve made. It’s important to continue to make changes as we respond to the analysis. This is one of the most crucial points of analysis – you need to track and organise data in such a way that it is useful to us. It needs to be actionable.
So, just what kind of reports can we expect in Google Analytics?
If you take a look at the Google Analytics dashboard you’ll notice the following:
- Real-time – shows you what is happening on your site in real-time. This could be particularly valuable if you have time-sensitive analysis to carry out. Remember that Google Analytics shows you a full set of data at any one time, so it can take up to 24 hours to refresh.
- Audience – here you can find out who is visiting your site, where they are based, the language they speak and whether they are new or returning visitors. You can also gain insight into loyalty and even into the type of browsers used. It is worth knowing whether your visitors are arriving to your site on mobile devices rather than desktops for example. If you find they are, you can make sure your site is compatible.
- Acquisition – this is a key reporting section as it holds advertising reports, traffic sources and channel reports. You can link up your Adwords and your Google Analytics account for even greater insight.
By default Google Analytics will show you the data from the last 30 days, but you could always change this by using the date range box in the upper right hand corner. Here, you will also be able to compare date ranges. Google Analytics presents insights in a number of different ways from overviews to tables to pie charts and bar charts. It really is up to you how you want to display your data.
There are many reports and perhaps you’ll come to have your favourites over time. Take a look through them and try to move past the default dimension as there are further insights to be gained if you look a little deeper into the data. And there can be a lot of data on Google Analytics. The key is to extract what you need. What is the question you are trying to answer?