No One Ever Said Reading Google Analytics Was Easy!
How the heck do I read the results? How do I apply this information to my business?
Maybe you’re like other business owners and know about this great tool, but have no idea how to interpret the information you receive, or find it overwhelming and confusing. Well, today is your lucky day, because I’m going to try to make it as easy as possible for you to get some use out of Google Analytics and discover the goldmine it is to your online marketing.
But, before we can learn how to improve your marketing, we need to look at your current marketing. One of the best ways to determine this is Google Analytics. I suggest you check it regularly (weekly, monthly) to see how your site is performing.
Get yourself set up with Google Analytics
The first step is to set up an account and install the tracking code on your website (If you have a webmaster, save yourself some headache and have them set it up for you). If you have a WordPress site, setup is a cinch! So, set aside the time NOW to get your analytics set up and functioning correctly.
Next thing to do is filter out all of the visits you make. Go to whatismyipaddress.com and copy your IP address. Log into your Analytics profile. Click Admin>Profiles>Filters. Click New Filter and select options to Exclude traffic from the IP addresses that are equal to…then enter your IP address. Click Save and now you won’t see your own visits to your site in the results.
Then, we just sit back and wait for the data to start coming in.
There’s all sorts of information out there talking about the Analytics Dashboard and what each section means, but if you’re like most people, it’s wayyy too technical. I suggest you read Smashing Magazine’s article: A Guide to Google Analytics and Useful Tools if you want to go that deep, but I’m guessing you don’t. This was supposed to be simple, right?
Ask yourself these questions about your site
Here are some important things that Analytics can track for you. All of the fancy lingo in the tool is simply telling you answers to the following questions:
- How many visits is my site getting in a specific time period?
- Where are the visitors coming from?
- Are there some basic things I can learn about the visitors?
- What pages are they looking at when they’re on my site?
- How long are they spending on my site?
- Are there any pages that make people boomerang off the site right away?
Now, how to find the answers to those questions
Let’s start with some basic terminology you should know to interpret the data. By the way, in your dashboard, if you hover over the words RIGHT below the blue graph that appears on most every page, a tooltip pops up and defines the confusing words.
- Pageviews/Visits - The number of pages viewed or number of times people visited your site.
- Unique Pageviews - If a visitor comes twice, it’s counted as an additional visit/view, so unique means the number of actual people that visit.
- Bounce Rate - the percentage of people that enter and exit your site from the same page (they’re coming to the site, then boomeranging off from the same page – you want this number to be low)
- Impressions – The number of times your site appears in search results.
The 5-minute browse through your Analytics
I’ve numbered a shot of the areas you can quickly go through to get a good snapshot of how your site’s doing. Click to enlarge the image.
Section 5 is where you’ll find most of the data you want to look at. The most common confusion is about what the columns in this section mean. They can be different, depending what section you’re looking at. Hopefully I’ve covered the most important terms above.
- Select the dates you want to know about. It’s really easy to miss this box and be totally confused by the results because a strange date is being displayed. I do this all the time! Once you select a date range, all data you look at is adjusted to that range until you log out.
- Look at your audience. Click the Audience menu and go to Location. Hey look at that! A color coded map of where you visitors are coming from. Under that same menu, look at Technology>Browser & OS. Did you know websites look different on different browsers? This will give you an idea of what browser your visitors are using, so work with your web developer to be sure your site works in different browsers. Lastly, click Mobile>Overview. This tells you how many people are visiting from a mobile device. Should give a good indication whether or not you need to optimize your site for mobile.
- Now, check out where they’re coming from. Click Traffic Sources>Sources>All Traffic. The list of urls shows sites that link to yours and how many people are clicking on those links. Direct means that someone actually types your URL into their browser. Back on the side menu, click Search Engine Optimization>Queries. Here you’ll see what people are typing into search engines to find you. Notice the relationship between impressions, clicks, and average position. If your site is being viewed a bunch (impressions are high), but nobody’s clicking on it (clicks are low), it means you should see if that keyword is relevant to your audience and make your META information more appealing for them to click on. If your average position number is high, it means your site is listed way too far down in results, so people have likely visited another listing before yours.
- What is popular on your site? Click Content>Site Content>All Pages. A slash (/) means the root, main URL of your site, or your home page. Take a look at your most popular pages and figure out a way to add content to those pages that directs people toward the rest of your site and the content you really want them to see.
By looking at these basic areas of Google Analytics, you should have some really great information about your site. Once you’re comfortable with these areas, dig a little deeper. For now, this will at least give you enough information to start making some decisions about improving your site.
Let me know if you have any comments or questions below. I’d love to help answer your questions!