Get to Know Google Analytics
May 13, 2013
Did you hear about Google Analytics’ April Fool’s joke last month? (It’s possible that I’m a little late to this party…) Apparently, if you logged into the Real Time report on April 1st, you may have seen that you had visitors to your site, right at that moment, from the international space station control room.
This has got me thinking about under-used Google Analytics resources, though. I mean, why would Google provide a tool that isn’t really used?
Because it should be.
In fact, my eyes have recently been opened to the vast array of tools and resources available in Google Analytics. I used to think that Analytics was simply a source to see basic website traffic data and compare it to a previous time period. But it is so much more than that. It’s a source to see complex website traffic data and compare it to previous time periods… that really sounds a whole lot less impressive than it is.
For example, did you know that with just a few clicks in Google Analytics, you can see a table which shows you a breakdown of all your traffic, a primary metric, like where they came from, and a second metric (in total and by individual source)?
So when a client tells me that they have a Facebook campaign running and asks me if I can prove the traffic to their site has come from our SEO work or from Facebook, not only can I report back the exact number of organic searches, but I can also report back the number of visits that have been referred from another source (e.g. Facebook) as well as examine the bounce rates or the average visit duration for visitors from both these sources. Simultaneously. Probably while they are on the phone.
But that one is easy. We should talk about Google Analytics and RegEx.
The real shame is that, although I think a lot of people are using Google Analytics, I don’t think the majority of people realize just how vast the wealth of information it can bring is.
So let’s talk for a minute about the different tools that Analytics provides, and why they are useful.
The “Reverse Goal Path” report is something you can only see if you have goals set up on your account. Shocking, I know. This report is similar to a funnel, in that it shows you the path people took through your site to get to your goal. The difference is that the funnel is predetermined when setting up the goal and is used for showing where people exit and enter the goal path. The reverse goal path is the organic steps taken by visitors which lead to a conversion. So where a goal funnel can show you key pages that may lose you conversions, the reverse goal path shows you what you’ve done right.
The “site content” reports are some of my new best friends (which probably says a lot about my social life). I have a client who has a bounce rate of very nearly 90% which has been really bugging me. Their rankings keep climbing, but it’s still a fact that has concerned me. But now I know about “Landing pages” and “Exit pages” in the site content reports, and know that people are landing on and exiting from the “find a location” page. This tells me that perspective customers are simply finding the right page, the first time and finding the information they need easily. In short, my clients are providing a good user experience and the high bounce rate does not need to be a concern for me, at the moment. It has also given me a plan of action, should that ever change.
Oh! And remember my little example of Facebook traffic versus organic search traffic? Yeah, there’s a report for that as well, under Social- in Traffic Sources, but it can also show you things like how many visitors from social referrals lead to a conversion, the landing pages of those visitors, etc. etc.
Google Analytics is a well of pertinent and useful information.
I have carried on long enough. And the funny/mildly amusing/just barely notable thing is that I have only just scratched the surface of all the little nuggets of data goodness that Analytics can produce. Whether you are a new webmaster, an experienced SEO or anywhere in between, getting familiar with the resources available in Google Analytics will only be beneficial to you.