Google Analytics is pretty standard in the online business world for having lots of information at your disposal at any given time so that you can make really smart decisions about your website, your online presence, and how your branding is acting on the web. Google Analytics can help you understand how your content is working for you and how your traffic is behaving so that you can be a smarter, better boss.
But it is a LOT of info, and a lot of it is unnecessary for most creative business owners (unless you want to be a Google Analytics guru). So let’s walk through some of the basic elements of Google Analytics and talk about how you might use some of that information to improve the way you approach your business online.
First, define your metrics
Defining your metrics helps you determine what in Google Analytics is most important to you and your business. There is a LOT of information that you can pull from Google Analytics, so it’s important to know first and foremost what it is that you’re hoping to learn about your website so that you know where to look.
What in Google Analytics is going to be most important for you and your business? You can get a good representation of who’s visiting your website, what they’re doing, and where they’re coming from. It’s information that can help guide how it is that you run your online business.
So think about the metrics that are more important to you. If selling products through your website is your number one purpose, having a high conversion rate (percentage of visitors to buyers) might be your most important metric. If growing a community is the main focus of your website, paying attention to your return visitor numbers might be your most important metric.
But before we dig too deep here, I want to remind you: Do not get addicted to your numbers. It’s not about traffic, it’s not about numbers, it’s about engagement.
Google Analytics is not something I pay attention to on a daily basis—it’s too easy to get obsessive that way. I usually only check in every quarter or so, but it is something I pay attention to if I’m doing a launch or if I’m ready to change something on my website.
A lot of times this is people’s default metric for the health of a website. I’m here to tell you that using this as the most important metric for your website is so far from the truth. Unless you’re selling ad space on your website, the actual number of visits you get to your website is not important. Think about it: You could be getting a million website views each day, but if those viewers are not your ideal clients, does it even really matter?
What’s more important is who is coming to your website and how they’re engaging with it.
You want people to visit, but you also want people to engage. You want them to click through, hang out and read your content, buy, and subscribe. You want people to do things on your website, not just show up.
You can look at bumps in traffic to consider the factors that lead people to your website. For me at Indie Shopography, I always see a bump in traffic on days when I send a newsletter. I can also see that on weekends, traffic is always a bit lower—my audience is probably out living their lives so based on this information, launching something on a weekend would not be the best decision for my business.
Bounce Rate is the rate at which visitors come to your website and leave—or bounce—right back out without clicking or visiting any additional pages. Generally, the lower this number, the better, but there are some exceptions to that idea (for example, if you have a one-page website).
This is one of the metrics I probably focus on the most because it helps to tell me how the homepage design of a website entices visitors to dig deeper and click around. You can pay attention to this over time as you make changes to your website and see what elements of design, page order, or calls to action might get people to click around, and therefore, lower your bounce rate.
Learn about your audience
You need to know who you’re trying to attract to your website in order to build the best kind of website for that kind of person. The Audience portion of Google Analytics can offer some great information as to what type of person is getting the most out of what you’re offering.
This is a pretty handy little space because it shows you—more or less—the age and gender of the people visiting your website. There are two ways to use this, I think:
- To confirm (hopefully) what you already know about your dream customer.
- To show you that you might need to adjust your expectations or make some changes. If you arrive at this space and you find that these metrics aren’t what you expected, then you might be attracting the wrong people and you may have to adjust aspects of your branding or your content that aren’t speaking to your dream customer.
Audience Interests + Geo Location
This is a nice piece of the puzzle for things like generating content and getting a general idea for things that interest your dream customer.
Here you can also see a great visual map of your audience of which areas of the world most engage with your website and where your people are coming from.
Both of these are really helpful pieces information for when it comes to creating social media ads or Adwords (if that’s where you’re at in your business)—or even for planning events if that’s a part of your business.
Under Frequency & Recency, you can see a breakdown of the number of visitors who have visited your site multiple times. It’s a cool way to see how many people are you really, really engaging—how many people are you cultivating who are really some of your truest fans? How many people are just coming once and never coming back?
Audience Technology + Mobile
This is especially important for web designers and developers. It shows you what browsers your audience is using so you can make sure your website functions well across those browsers (every browser reads code a little bit differently). This can also give you a little bit more information about your ideal audience. For example, if you have a large portion of visitors who use Internet Explorer, that might tell you that your audience is a little bit older or not as tech savvy (since Internet Explorer was a popular browser in the earlier days of the internet, but is now on the decline).
The same goes for the Mobile section. You want to make sure your website is easy to view and read for the devices that your audience is using. But again, it can also tell you a little bit about your audience if you read between the lines—what do the devices tell you about how tech-savvy your audience might be? What do they tell you about what their economic bracket might be?
How are you getting the people who are visiting your website?
The Acquisition section gives you information on how people are getting to your website.
These are people who are entering your website address into their browser to search you or who have bookmarked your website.
Note: Depending on the email platform, some newsletter links show up as referrals and some show up as direct.
These numbers come from people who have found you by searching in a search engine (like Google). It could be people who know what your business is called by searched in Google rather than going to your website (we get a lot of people who just search “Being Boss Podcast” to find us) OR it could be people who are searching for a term that is related to your business (for example “creative entrepreneur resources”).If you click on Organic Search, it will show you some of the search terms your audience is actually using to find you (this can help you with your SEO and for planning new content and blog posts).
If you click on Organic Search, it will show you some of the search terms your audience is actually using to find you (this can help you with your SEO and for planning new content and blog posts).
Referral traffic is from people who have clicked on a link to get to your site from somewhere else. These are links from people who might have mentioned + linked to your website from their blogs or people who have clicked the link in your bio on a guest post.
You can use this information to find an overlap in audience, potential collaboration and guest posting opportunities, and just make sure that you’re thanking people who are mentioning you and sending traffic your way.
These are specifically referrals from social media. So any links that might have been shared via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest—including people clicking the link in your profile bio on those social media platforms. This can help inform how effective your social media efforts are currently and where you might want to place a little more focus.
Learn how people interact with your website
Once people are already on your website, how are they engaging with the content they find there? The Behavior section shows some valuable insights for the design and content on your website.
This section maps how people interact with your website depending on which page the arrive at, where they go next, and where they leave your website. This can give you great information about where your audience might be losing interest and if they’re following an intentional path you set for them (many people have a “start here” page, for example—so check your behavior flow, is your audience really paying attention to that?).
This section shows you which of your pages and posts are most popular so that you know what your audience is loving most. You can use this information to create more content similar to these pages, and also make sure that these pages are optimized as to what you want your audience to do (is there a solid email opt-in? Do you have an enticing sales pitch? Are you directing them to other key pages?).
Hopefully this gives you a quick view of how you can use Google Analytics for your business. Get to know your numbers, get to know your site, and get to know it is people are using your site. Use this information to brainstorm ways you can improve your website, and don’t be afraid to test and change. Google Analytics is a great tool to measure experimentation with your website, so learn how to read between the lines of these numbers and think about what they could be telling you about the audience behind them.
Now, go build something spectacular.