Google Analytics is a free and valuable tool that collects traffic data from your website. The collected data provides insight into how visitors are using your website. Understanding how customers visit and navigate through your website is an essential piece to any organization’s marketing efforts and plays an integral role in providing insight for what future digital marketing solutions you should invest in. To someone unfamiliar with the Google Analytics data, the information can be overwhelming, but knowing what to look for can provide insight into your customers and how they are finding and viewing your information.
Here are 7 key metrics you should be reviewing and why:
AUDIENCE OVERVIEW – VISITS & UNIQUE VISITORS
Is your website getting traffic? Understanding this metric is essential and you need to know how active your website is before looking at any other metrics. If you aren’t getting traffic, then other metrics are irrelevant and you need to focus on getting people to your website. If your business relies on online lead generation to create sales, this is the first metric you should review. A low amount of traffic will negatively impact the ability of your website to generate leads. This is the equivalent of having a salesperson but not giving them a phone – you can’t expect them to generate leads without a connection to consumers.
Once you have identified your overall traffic, the next step is to review unique visits. Unique visits identifies how many first time visitors are coming to your site. Overall visits includes unique visits, so understanding how many new visits you are receiving and how many return visitors you are getting is vital to understanding your customers. Return visits are valuable since it means audiences are coming back to review information. You should strive to achieve a good balance between new visitors and returning visitors. If the numbers are lopsided in one direction it will tell you one of two things:
- If majority of your traffic is unique visits, then you aren’t reaching new customers. This tells you that you should review solutions for gaining new traffic.
- If majority of your traffic is new visitors, then you aren’t engaging site viewers. This will tell you if you need to focus on your websites presentation.
AUDIENCE OVERVIEW – BOUNCE RATE & VISIT DURATION
Bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors who landed on a single webpage and left without visiting other pages. Much like understanding if visitors are returning to your website, understanding how quickly visitors are leaving your website is essential to identifying next steps. A high bounce rate tells you that a visitor is not happy with the information presented or couldn’t find what they are looking for. This metric is provided for all entrance pages and may vary from page to page. High bounce rate data could be a result of many factors:
- Website may load slowly
- Navigation is not user friendly
- Information is not presented clearly
- Poor Design
- Website does not appear professional
- No call-to-action
Bounce rate can be a deceiving number as once a visitor moves to another page they are no longer classified as a “bounce” but if they are leaving on page 2 you are still not effectively reaching your audience. This is where duration comes into play and how long visitors are staying on your website. The more time spent on your website typically means a visitor is browsing information and tells you they are able to find information. This is a good metric to review with page visits as longer duration typically results in more page views. By reviewing page view data as well, it will tell you if users are navigating how you want them to.
AUDIENCE OVERVIEW – VISITORS FLOW
Visitor flow provides great information on how visitors are interacting with your site and where drop-offs are occurring. Google does a great job of presenting this information graphically and is fairly easy to understand. This information is incredibly valuable, telling you how a visitor is interacting within a page and where they go from different pages. It provides insight into if your call-to-actions are working.
With the explosion of smartphone and tablet technology you may have heard about “responsive design” or “mobile friendly” design. Any new web project should be approached with the understanding that having a responsive website is vital to having a strong web presence. With that said we know not every customer has the budget to include it during a project or they feel they don’t need it. Outside of the argument whether you should have responsive design or not, you can identify if visitors are coming to you by means of mobile or tablet devices and if an investment into responsive design is warranted. While most web professionals will tell you it is regardless of results, Google Analytics allows you to break down your traffic by device and tells you if traffic is coming in from those devices. If current metrics are showing low results for mobile or tablet views, don’t be fooled and expect those numbers to increase as time progresses.
ACQUISITION – ALL TRAFFIC
Recent Google updates have made it difficult to identify keyword traffic, but you can still identify if your traffic is organic, paid, direct or by referral links. An organic visit is when a visitor searches a term in a search engine and finds your information in the search results. If data yields low organic traffic, you need to start reviewing Search Engine Optimization or content marketing options to increase your organic search rankings. Paid traffic can only be measure if you are running a pay-per-click campaign, if you aren’t you won’t see results for paid traffic. Direct traffic is when a visit enters by typing in your url. Referral visits are when a visitor enters your website from another website such as social media websites. If your social channels are active, then this is a good metric to review the effectiveness of them. If you don’t have active social channels, you should be reviewing options on how to drive traffic from your social media sites with a content marketing campaign.
AUDIENCE – DEMOGRAPHICS
Every business has a target audience and once you understand other key metrics you can start drilling down into age and gender of your visitors. Understanding age and gender can provide a wealth of information for not only your website but all other marketing efforts. From time-to-time you may even learn that your audience is not who you thought they were and you either need to make changes to start appealing to who it should be or shift your marketing to appeal to who is absorbing your information. Once you have collected enough historical data, demographic data can help you identify when your audiences start shifting. A good example would be if historically your audience has been males, age 45 to 60 but your analytics are showing a shift to males, age 24 to 40. With younger age groups being technology driven, you may see an increase in mobile traffic and have identified you may need to look at responsive design.
If you are having trouble understanding your website metrics or don’t have an analytics program collecting data, you are missing valuable information on your customers and how they interact with your business online. This not only effects your digital marketing efforts but also your overall marketing efforts. A website or internet marketing solution is only as valuable as what it returns to your business in sales and having a good understanding of your analytics and what they mean for your business is the only way to measure if your online presence is effective.