Google Analytics is a free web analytics service that tracks and reports website traffic. In other words, it’s been bringing business owners incredible insights since its launch in 2005. Google Analytics is the most widely used web analytics tool on the Internet, and for good reason. Although the service provides endless data on just about everything you want to know about who’s coming and going, the details and options can get overwhelming. By studying the right metrics, you can learn a lot of about your audience in order to form realistic conclusions.
Look Beyond a Week's Worth of Statistics
When reviewing any type of metrics, Google Analytics automatically defaults to showing the past 30 days. This is good for analyzing results of recently published content such as landing pages and blog posts. Looking at short-term results is fine, especially if your website is new. But if it’s several months or years old, you can pick up on larger trends by extending the date range. By spanning your metrics from three to six months, you’ll be able to determine which pages are receiving the most traffic, as well as the number of views and visitors per day. Take it a step further and look at a year’s worth of data if you can. Long-term growth patterns are important to see how new users have visited over time.
Understand Visitor Activity
Because Google Analytics gets quite specific about website visitors, you have to think realistically about their reasons for visiting and why they choose to stay or leave after landing on a page. Google provides information relating to the number of visits, page views, pages viewed per session, average time spent and a bounce rate for a website as a whole and for each individual page. These details are wonderful for getting an overview of how your website and pages are doing, as well as what has or hasn’t changed in recent months. This is also where some analyzers tend to get too caught up in the numbers and forget about the real behavior of visitors.
Many Google Analytics users, whether business owners or staff, have a mentality that the numbers must always be high or performance is poor. This is especially true for factors such as time on site, pages viewed per session and bounce rate. According to HubSpot, 55 percent of visitors spend fewer than 15 seconds on a website. Users aren’t reading content they way we think they are. They’re quickly scanning for the best answers to their questions then moving on. If they don’t have any other questions, they’ll simply leave. Does that mean that a particular page with a 0:25 second time on site and one page view per session is performing poorly? Not necessarily. It could mean that page is successfully providing the information a visitor needs and they want nothing more.
Stop Taking Bounce Rate Percentages Literally
High bounce rates, especially 60 percent and higher, are looked at with a stink eye. Anything that high cannot be good, right? Well, bounce rates shouldn’t be taken so literally. If users find what they are looking for and immediately leave, your page fulfilled its purpose. The only problem is the way visits are tracked. Google gives a 100 percent bounce rate to users that land on a page and leave without clicking anything else. But if they found what they’re looking for, wouldn’t that be a success? Because Google cannot tell if the page helped answer a question, bounce rates will never be correct. Instead of taking that percentage at face value, start thinking about the purpose of your pages instead.
Pay Attention to Your Referrals
Organic and direct traffic may be the largest channels to your website, but there’s a good chance referrals are next in line. Referrals are any sources that link back to your website. This includes top search engines Google, Bing and Yahoo, but also other websites (sometimes relevant to your businesses, sometimes not) such as news sites, blogs, social media and other businesses. Are you posting links back to your website through Facebook? You’re making referrals! Not only is this a way to see how overall referral traffic is building for your website, it also helps you see if there are any unwanted referrals that should not be building links to your site. In those cases, referral exclusions can be created.
View Your High Ranking Keywords
Do you often wonder what people are searching for that leads them to your website? Google Analytics lets you see the top searched keywords that your landing pages come up for. This is a great tool for making sure you’re coming up in search results for the right search queries. Are there specific keywords you want to rank well for, but see little to no results? It may be time to revisit some of your pages and update their on-page optimization.
Don’t Forget to Look at Mobile Visitors
It’s more than just desktops now. Mobile users now account for 60 percent of Internet traffic. Google Analytics shows your audience by device, and you might find that mobile devices and tablets are actually the bulk of your traffic. Mobile traffic will only continue to increase, so if you want to keep your traffic growing, I suggest checking if your website is built for responsive design.
Google Analytics has so much offer that you could write a book on its many features! One thing’s for sure, this tool can give you a great deal of insight into your website. If you need help navigating this analytical world, Sage Island can help. Our marketing specialists can help you analyze your results so you can make conclusions and ongoing adjustments to your business strategy.
Mike Duncan co-founded Sage Island in 1997, and since then has evolved the agency’s scope to include marketing strategy, creative design, technical development and a wide range of digital marketing services. With an integrated approach that leverages the power and measurability of the internet, the savvy Sage Island team develops strategies, builds brands, writes killer copy and delivers to clients all over the world. And they have an awesome time doing it. Sage’s collaborative working environment keeps creativity and innovation at the heart of the concept. With a 17-year history in Wilmington and beyond, Sage Island shows no signs of slowing down. To learn how Sage Island can grow your business, check us out at www.sageisland.com. To stay updated on the latest in digital marketing, follow Sage Island on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SageIsland, and on Twitter at twitter.com/SageIsland.
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