Improving Your Website Marketing with Google Analytics
Measuring results is the most important part of improving anything. If we don’t measure how we are performing, then we really have no idea if we are improving. Probably the most common mistake small businesses make when they want to improve something is to operate by “feel”. They analyze improvement because they think something is getting better. Most the time reality and perception are not the same. You can waste a lot of time and money chasing the wrong solutions when you “feel” your way through.
E-Marketing- using the internet to market our businesses through websites, e-mail campaigns and social media is a new frontier. Many of us are trying to learn these new rules of marketing and although the business world in full of “experts” who act as though they completely understand, the truth is this form of marketing your business continues to change and evolve rapidly. This makes it extremely difficult to master. So, if you judge your success by saying that it seems like more customers are finding you through the internet, or you believe the new page you added to your site is working because people have mentioned it, you most certainly will extend your learning curve.
Using Google Analytics to measure performance is an incredible way to learn about the effectiveness of your website in attracting people interested in your service.
The great news is that measuring performance of your website couldn’t be easier or cheaper- it’s free! I’m still amazed that something like Google Analytics costs nothing and provides so much. Too much actually. It gives you so much feedback that it can actually be intimidating. That said, it’s an incredible way to learn about the effectiveness of your site in attracting and engaging people interested in your service. Google Analytics is not the only free service available. There are several others who offer free analytics; however, it is the most widely used and maybe the easiest to set up. All it takes is a Google account and a little bit of information about your website and you’ll have access to one of the most powerful tools available.
Once you are set up, the key thing is to simplify the use of the site because you can get lost in the vast amount of data available. Immediately the site will let you know if you have had an increase in visits for a period of time you choose to review. Then you can look at tons of data reflecting the site usage during the period you selected. Its fun (for some of us) to look through all the data, but it is overwhelming and therefore somewhat intimidating. So, how do you use it? The key is to start slowly and pick out just a few of the most important statistics. But looking at these statistics isn’t really going to give you all the feedback you need. Yes, the analytics will show performance for a fixed period of time, but to truly learn from so many numbers, it is helpful to add a couple of steps to your process:
First, pick out about 6 to 10 key stats and record only their performance every month. By recording, I mean copy down the results in a spreadsheet so you can narrow the focus of your data and see performance at a glance. Here is an example of a spreadsheet I often provide for framers who are beginning to use analytics.
Notice that it concentrates on the most basic information- site visits, the number of pages which have been viewed, how many pages have been looked at and how long visitors have stayed and how many have found the site for the first time. The bottom half of the scorecard is used to record where most the traffic is found.
Here is an example of how this information can be helpful. Several years ago, my framing company decided to shift the type of content we used on our website from focusing on the business to focusing on the customer. One way we did this was to begin photographing customers with their finished projects. Then we asked them to tell us why they chose to frame their item. After collecting about a dozen of these stories, we created a new web page to feature them. Of course, a program like this is a lot of work and energy to maintain. We didn’t want to guess if it was something that customers found interesting. Immediately, we found that it became our most visited page. As we charted its progress, our score sheet showed that it was far and away the major reason people visited the site. Needless to say we knew our time and effort was worth it and we began to accelerate the program. Without the use of Google Analytics, we never would have understood the full potential of the program which tripled the growth of our website in a few short months.
It’s helpful to understand the basic components of the analytics. The first one is your dashboard which features much of the basic data you will use for recording results. The dashboard allows you to select the information you most want to see and then access more information on that content. The example below shows the areas where we can find more about those who visited the site, where those who visited live, what method they used to find our site and what content was looked at the most.
The next area to become familiar with is the visitor’s data. Here you can see if those who visit are new to your site or have been there before. You can see how loyal your visitors are. The report shown below shows you how often people revisit. A site with a high level of returning traffic is an excellent indication that you are using the content that people want to read. If you are using content that is focused on your business instead of the customer, you will experience low return traffic- that’s because people don’t find your business as interesting as you think they do.
Analytics allows you to “drill down “to very specific information about the areas you want to study. Here is an example of the detail you can get concerning the content most valued by your visitors.
A very important part of your site development is to find out about the pages which cause visitors to leave or “bounce”. Don’t automatically assume that just because a page has a high bounce rate means that it has poor content, sometimes pages which rank high here are actually the same pages which attract most of the visits- it’s probably safe to assume that pages which rank high in both categories supply a major reason why people visit and that it is the only content they care about. Pages ranking high in “exists” and low in time spent on them are very likely to be loaded with poor content. Start trying to correct that by rewriting the content so that it is client- focused. If that doesn’t work, consider replacing that page. This is how you make decisions regarding what stays as part of your site and what doesn’t. Here is an example of the detail available on pages which have high bounce incidences:
As you can see from these examples, the data to analyze almost any aspect of your site’s performance is available. The key to finding the most value to this information is to start collecting and scoring very broad data and then use the more detailed information as you see the trends which you need to build or correct. There is almost no limit to how far you can go with GA. In fact you can create customized reports, and even set goals concerning conversions or sales for sites which sell to visitors. If you do use e-commerce, the analytics available to you are extremely valuable to growing sales. Google Analytics also provides tons of information and help for using this tool and they are constantly increasing its effectiveness. Once you begin to use the service you will find it valuable to look at the new material they provide on a monthly basis.
If you haven’t used Google Analytics to study the performance of your site, you are missing a huge part of making your website an effective part of your marketing. Picking out a few statistics and tracking their progress will open your eyes to many important trends. Your website, email marketing and social media programs will only grow in importance to your business. Learning how to maximize their effectiveness is essential to marketing any business today. Good luck with this amazing asset and have fun using it.