Back to Basics - The importance of Google Analytics and how to use them to help your business
Updated: Mar 4, 2021
So you’ve set up your social media pages and are regularly posting on them, your website is up and running and looking great! But what next? All of this is brilliant, but these tools are no good if you don’t know how well they are performing for you. Google Analytics is a great way of helping you to understand how your digital marketing tools are working for you and to help you make informed decisions when updating and making changes.
What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a free tool that helps you to analyse the performance of your website and other applications. If you plan to use or are already using Google Ads, then the good news is all Google platforms are able to be integrated to provide you with the full picture of all your efforts in one place.
When looking at platforms like Google Analytics for the first time it can be a bit daunting. There are so many different options and reports and graphs, it can be difficult to know where to start!
Have no fear! I’m here to talk you through the basics, there are a few basic metrics that you can track to help you understand how your website and social media are performing and how you can improve it.
First things first, for those who have never ventured into the world of Google Analytics, I would recommend setting up an account and getting it linked to your website. Fortunately, most website builders make this process really simple to do.
If you’ve already set this all up but wasn’t sure where to go from there, then let’s delve into a few basics to get you started.
The Home Page
When logged in you should see a home page that looks something like this. As you can see, there are loads of useful analytics available to help you improve your business, but we are focusing on a few basic metrics under the Audience, Acquisition and Behaviour sections for now.
Before we begin delving in deeper, make sure that you have set your date range (located in the top right-hand corner) to at least a one-month period, Google normally defaults at one week, but this often is hard to see the overall picture.
Understanding your Audience
When you click on Audience in the left-hand menu, a drop down will appear with several different options. By simply selecting the overview option we can find what we need for now. We will focus on the following –
Users – The number of people who are browsing your website
This metric gives you an indication of how many people are finding and clicking into your website. The higher this number is the more confident you can feel about your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and other methods of ensuring people find your website in the first place. This number will grow over time so don’t expect to instantly have a steady stream of users on your website from the off, SEO takes time to build up trust with search engines so as long as users aren’t consistently declining it is a good metric to simply keep an eye on.
Pages / Sessions – The average number of pages viewed per session
This number along with the average session duration will give you an idea of how long people are sticking around once they have clicked into your website. Clearly, the higher the pages/sessions number is, the more pages your audience are navigating through.
Once you get people onto your website, you want them to browse through it, not simply exit after looking at the first page. Your audience will only do this if the content is relevant to what they’ve been searching for and the website is easy to navigate around to help them find what they want.
Average Session Duration –How long on average, people are looking around your site
You can get a clearer idea of how long your audience are looking around your website with this metric. The longer they look, the more of an indication that your content is hitting the right spot. If you want to improve the amount of time people are on your site for, try considering the relevance of your content in relation to the keywords people would search to get to your website.
Bounce Rate – The number of sessions with a single page view, meaning they did not go any further through your website
The bounce rate shows how many people looked at your website and left straight away. The average website is between 40 – 55%, if you’re lower than that then you’re doing great, if you’re higher than 55% it may be worth investigating if there is any particular reason behind this number creeping up.
All of the above collectively will give you a good idea of what your audience think of your website. If your user numbers, page sessions and duration are all high and your bounce rate low, then happy days!
If your user numbers are high but sessions and duration are low, then it may be worth checking out your website to see why people might not be sticking around. It could be that the website isn’t easy to navigate, maybe the site speed is slow and putting people off? Or maybe it’s not mobile optimised?
Maybe you find that your user numbers are high but so is your bounce rate. Often this requires a review of your keywords, are they the right words for your service or product? Do they need to be more specific? Are your keywords too broad and pulling in a number of people searching for something similar but not quite what you offer? Is your content relevant to the keywords that are being searched?
There are more metrics that can help you delve further into these investigations as you become more confident with Google Analytics, but for now we’re sticking with the basics.
Acquisition – How are your audience finding your website?
Acquisition is located directly underneath the Audience section on the left-hand menu. Again, we are going to select the overview option, as we just want to focus on what channels our audience are going through to find our website.
Here you’ll see a nice colourful pie chart, which will give you a brief overview of the percentage of traffic being brought in by various different sources. Below the pie chart a table provides a more in-depth view of the actual number of users directed from each channel along with some other insights including the bounce rate and page sessions. I have broken down the different channels below -
Direct visitors– Visitors who have entered your URL directly into the search bar or have book marked it and returned.
Organic Search – Users who have put a search into a search engine and clicked on your website in the results.
Social – Users who have clicked through to your website from your social media page or posts.
Referral – Visitors who have entered your site from a link on another website.
Paid Search – Visitors who have clicked on one of your ads displayed on a search engine
This metric is extremely useful to gain a better understanding of what methods are working for you when promoting your website. You can see just how successful your social media pages are on this page, along with how your search engine optimisation is going and your ads. Alongside that it will help you to understand if any affiliate websites you might have invested in being included in are worth staying on.
Behaviour – What do your audience do when they are on your website
Once you have a clear understanding of your audience and how they find your site, it’s now time to look at what they do once they’re on your website, namely, what pages are interesting them the most.
When you click on the Behaviour section, select Site Content and All pages, this will provide you with a breakdown of the most visited pages on your website. This metric is great for understanding what content is working well and what isn’t. If you create a new page that absolutely blows up and shoots straight to the top, have a closer look at that page and compare it to others on your website, what did you do different? Can you incorporate that into some of your other pages? Then monitor it again and see if anything changes.
Google Analytics is a great tool for better understanding your website and how people interact with it, by keeping a close eye on these few basic tools you can start to see patterns, good or bad, and react to them appropriately.
Monitoring is absolutely crucial to the success of both your website, social media and any other digital marketing activities you decide to try. Nobody gets it right every time and even when they do, things change so quickly that one minute your website is flying and the next it’s dropped off a cliff! That’s why all marketing is a juggling act between executing a plan, continually monitoring the performance of that plan and adapting when necessary.
I hope you find these explanations useful, please let me know how you get on with Google Analytics and if you’re ready to take it to the next level sign up to get notifications for more analytics tips in the future, or you can always contact me for some advice or help.