A brief introduction to analysing website traffic with Google Analytics: why not take advantage of this free resource to help you perform better?
“There is nothing so terrible as activity without insight."
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Goethe, a formidable man who lived between the 18th and 19th centuries, was involved in activities, among (many) others, that ranged from poetry and literature to science, and was the forerunner of many ideas that generated whole movements of poetry and thought. Nothing is more terrible than activity without analysis. This he said more than 200 years ago, demonstrating unprecedented foresight as this is still absolutely true and will be, increasingly so, for the foreseeable future.
Although the statement was made long before the advent of the Internet, it is also true of website traffic analysis: you may be wondering what this analysis is for. To answer the question, let's start from the beginning. Why do you have a site? Because you want to make yourself known among your potential customers (or among your readers if you are a blogger), you want to advertise (or sell, in the case of ecommerce) your products, and you want to make it clear to everyone why people should choose YOU, and not the other millions of competitors. Now, as you know, it is not enough to say that we are the best for them to choose us, but we also have to prove it.
The bad thing is that many companies have a lot to tell, but fail to intercept the right audience. To do this, we must be able to listen to the people to whom we want to offer a valuable service: that is what analysis is for, to listen in order to be able to improve our service.
With Google Analytics for example, we understand how people come to our site or blog: whether through social media, by typing a certain query on the search engine bar or in other ways. We see what they do when they are within the site, what content catches their attention the most or what makes them run away. So, if our choices when designing the site have not been effective we adjust our strategy, if the articles we write are not interesting we change the subject matter: in short, we improve, to give our visitors what they expect to find.
Let's go into a little more detail.
Dashboards and shortcuts
In the dashboard and shortcuts you can quickly reach and check the metrics that are most important to you. The difference is that while in the dashboard you see the widgets directly, the shortcuts refer you directly to the page you are looking for.
Intelligence serves to constantly monitor the traffic to your site and to alert you if there are important statistical changes.
This function allows you to see how many visits you have to the site in real time, as well as to understand a lot of other information that we will discuss in the following section.
Finally, the part that interests us most, the audience! In this section you can understand many things: before designing your site, you will certainly have established a target audience for your services; with Analytics you can see whether or not that target audience has been reached. This section, in fact, gives you demographic, geographical, interest, and navigation information about the users who land on your site. For example, you can find out how many visitors use the Safari browser, how many browse your site with a Samsung Galaxy S6, from which geographic area they are connected, and whether or not they have already been to your site. Remember that the data is collected by Google in aggregate form, so you won't be able to see exactly who did what at any given time, but only that 20 people are visiting you from Canada, 5 are doing so with Chrome from an iPhone, 10 with Safari from the iPad, and another 5 with Firefox from Huawei.
In this section, also concerning the audience, you can see how people came to your site: whether through organic search on Google (and with which specific queries), whether they typed the url directly, whether they came via social media or a paid ad on AdWords, or via a link to your site on another site.
This section is very important, as it allows us to see the actions that users take once inside our site: it shows us how much traffic each page produces, what destination pages visitors usually land on, and where they leave the site. This is all invaluable information for us, giving us the chance to see where we have gone wrong and to correct the errors. It also tells us the speed of our site and the searches that are performed within it.
The last section concerns conversions: these coincide with the goals that we set ourselves within Analytics. In the case of ecommerce, a conversion objective is surely to sell a certain number of products; if, on the other hand, you run a corporate site, a goal may be newsletter subscriptions, while in the case of a blog it may be a certain number of shares of an article on Facebook, retweets on Twitter or comments.
As you can see, the order of the sections follows a logical thread that leads to the goal you set at the beginning: people arrive at your site (acquisition), find what they were looking for and continue browsing, or they leave immediately (behaviour) and come to take the action you want because you have succeeded in offering them some added value. All these steps need to be planned in every single detail, from SEO, SEM and SMM strategies for acquisition, to quality content to generate engagement to the creation of appropriate paths to conversion. All these steps are part of the conversion funnel, a pathway that the user is invited to follow. I emphasise, invited! Because he will be in control, he will only do it if he wants to, if he finds value worth spending time on our site for. And this is where web traffic analysis comes in, to prompt us to ask questions and to give us ready answers; let's take a couple of examples to better understand this point.
I have an ecommerce site where I sell garden articles. I have very high traffic but a very small proportion of users buy my articles, so I am not able to complete the conversion target I set myself. This may be due to the fact that I have optimised my pages for short-tailed keywords, i.e. high traffic but low conversion, and visitors are only interested in getting information and not in making a purchase. In this case, I should rethink my SEO strategy, optimising my website with keywords that will bring me much less traffic but will make me sell much more.
I am a blogger talking about a niche topic, I therefore address a very small audience of users. This gives me average but highly targeted traffic, in fact the bounce rate is very low. From the "Behaviour" section of Analytics, I see that the average session duration on my blog is 20 minutes, and since the average time for reading my articles is 6 minutes, I consequently conclude that the average user reads more than three per session (this is also confirmed by the fact that I see that there are many clicks on the articles suggested at the bottom of the page). So far so good, the numbers are good; the problem? Very few shares on social media. This is probably due to the fact that the social buttons are very small, placed in the wrong position and lack a clear call to action. If I come to this conclusion, I can redesign the blog page so that there is a clear call to action to share.
So, in a nutshell, this is the key role of analysis: to constantly improve ourselves by trying to ensure the highest quality for our friendly visitors.
And you, do you use Google's free service or other services on the web for analysing the traffic on your site? In your opinion, does it lead to good results? Let us know by leaving a comment here or on Facebook.
If you would like more tips on using Analytics or effective traffic analysis, please contact us.