I have yet to find another traffic tracking and analysis piece that is more robust than Google Analytics. With Google Analytics, you are able to view and monitor a number of different elements of your website’s traffic. In knowing the specifics about the visitors that reach your website, you are better able to make decisions on how to market your website and who to market it to.
I highly recommend that all webmasters install Google Analytics within the coding of their websites from the very start. Being able to keep historical traffic data for a website from it’s infancy is most ideal. For any new client that I have the pleasure of working with, I always make sure that Google Analytics is installed and gathering data correctly.
Let’s take a look at some of the more critical Google Analytics’ components that are important to keep tabs on.
1. Bounce Rate
Bounce rate refers to the percentage of single page visits to your website. For example, if you receive two visitors and one of them leaves without visiting another page your bounce rate is 50%. Some websites are going to have higher bounce rates than others depending on what the site itself is trying to accomplish. For the most part though, you want to identify bounce rate issues and address them if the percentage gets high.
What are some ways to reduce bounce rate?
Internal Linking – Provide your visitors with somewhere to go! Make sure to implement internal linking measures which can at times help lower your bounce rate. Internal linking from page to page within your website is also beneficial to search engine bots. The anchor text within a link is helpful to search engine spiders as they provide useful information regarding forthcoming content. Remember to vary your anchor text. Stay away though from always using just your keyword phrase as anchor text though.
Provide Targeted Content – Perfect your on-page copy so that it speaks to your target audience in a clear and concise manner. Although this may seem obvious, you may be surprised at how many webmasters speak in jargon that is foreign to their online visitors.
Minimize Distractions – Keep your audience focused on your website and not other ones. Ads and distracting links to other sources can lead your audience away from your website. The idea is to keep your visitors clicking to other pages within your website instead of leaving (bouncing).
Above The Fold – Keep your most important on-page content “above the fold.” If your website visitors have to look around for the important stuff, trust me, they won’t stay long.
2. Traffic Sources
In order to see some of the more useful data in the Traffic Sources’ section of your Google Analytics account, you must associate it with your Google Webmaster Tools’ account. This is an easy process. When you first attempt to access certain areas of the Traffic Sources’ section, you will be guided through the process of connecting your Google Webmaster Tools’ account to your Google Analytics’ account.
What specific Traffic Sources’ elements are important to follow?
Queries - The Queries’ section is especially beneficial to my keyword research efforts. In analyzing this section of your Google Analytics’ account you are able to glean useful keyword ideas.
I greatly value the Click-Through Rate metric (CTR) when consulting clients on potential keyword targeting. The CTR is the percentage of impressions that lead to actual clicks. The CTR should weigh heavily in your decision on keywords you intend to go after. Keywords with higher CTR’s lead to more traffic and potentially more sales conversions.
Landing Pages – Of course, you are going to want to know information about your popular website landing pages. Google Analytics provides tracking information on your individual internal pages.
Knowing which of your landing pages are popular can be used to your advantage. For example, a recent SEO audit I created for a client showed that 40% of his traffic was landing on a big-ticket product. The source of the traffic was from an organic Google search result. In knowing this, we were able to successfully create a PPC campaign that had a phenomenal conversion rate.
Likewise, in knowing which landing pages receive light traffic/conversions, you are able to find out which pages need work. Many times after locating internal landing pages that have poor content, you can make the needed adjustments and additions. The awesome thing about Google Analytics is that you can easily track progress on the changes that you make. Obviously, this will let you know if your changes lead to positive increases in conversions.
Setting up goals for your website can give you additional information on the behavior of your visitors. Creating goals within Google Analytics is easy. At it’s core, a goal simply tracks the number of times that your website visitors reach a certain page. As you can see though, this sort of data will help you track where content may need refreshing/edited.
Say for instance that you track the steps along the sales funnels for your products. With numerous clients, I have identified “problem pages” in which conversions were extremely low. Many of these same pages often show sharp declines in traffic where potential customers have fallen from the sales process. For example, many e-commerce websites have a series of steps that online buyers must go through to purchase products. It is important to set up goals in which each step of the sales funnel is tracked. Does a large percentage of traffic fall off of the sales funnel on any one step? This is perhaps the most important element to track for e-commerce websites or any website that sells products/services.
4. Custom Reporting
With Custom Reporting, you can quickly view reports on just about any sort of traffic element on your site. Whatever information you find most relevant, you’ll be able to create a Custom Report for it.
Here are some specifics that I like to track for just about every client.
Sales By Hour – For me, this is especially useful client data. You will see that when setting up goals, you can assign a monetary value when certain goals are met. This is valuable data to analyze, especially for a PPC campaign. For example, a longstanding client converts over 75% of his sales after 1:00 PM. Additional PPC spending during afternoon and evening hours was a no-brainer.
Unique Visitors By Page – Pretty simple. You’re able to also set up secondary elements (dimensions) that you can track as well. For example, I like to know the sources in which my clients’ traffic originates. Obviously this helps me determine how traffic is getting to their websites and the proportion of each source. Is the majority of traffic coming from search engines? Is there a particular off-page link that is sending value-added traffic? This information is easy to gather in Google Analytics just by creating a Custom Report and adding the relevant secondary dimensions.
Social Media Traffic – Want to track conversions that stem from your social media platforms? Not a problem with Custom Reports. Google Analytics has recently added tools that allow users to gather traffic data from their social media accounts. As you can imagine, it’s pretty cool to be able to see all of the traffic from social media in one place. Track conversions directly from your Twitter and Facebook pages.
Dashboards in Google Analytics have seen an upgrade recently. Visually, I love what they have done with Dashboards and the customization that they offer. I highly suggest creating new Dashboards and playing around with the features to get the hang of them.
Your Dashboard can include a number of different “Widgets” that you can add to it. Each Widget can display differing data in a neat and highly customizable way.
When making your new Dashboard, consider some of the following Widgets to include.
Pie Chart Widgets – Easy to read and interpret, Pie Chart Widgets offer webmasters a quick view on whatever data they are looking to track.
In the image example I have setup a Pie Chart Widget to display “Visits By Traffic Type.” This is a quick and easy way to see how traffic is distributed to each of my clients’ websites.
I tend to add many pie charts to my individual Dashboards. This makes it easy to check up on many elements of client traffic quickly. Clients seem to love pie charts as well simply because they can see important details regarding their traffic in a non-confusing way.
When using the Pie Chart Widget, you’re able to setup a comparison between 3-6 different elements.
Table Widgets – I have numerous Table Widgets setup for each client website. In the image example you’ll see that I have setup a table that extracts visitor data including average visit duration and is also Country/Territory specific.
You can place filters on any of your widgets to further customize the data shown. For instance, in the example image I could easily edit the Table Widget to just show visits from the United States. Filtering is a great tool to use when you only want to see certain specifics about your traffic.
Google Analytics has always offered me the best overall visitor tracking solution both for my clients and for my own website. I love how I am able to generate easy-to-read reports for my clients. I have not encountered a more powerful means of tracking website visitors or comparing traffic trends.
Hopefully you will utilize Google Analytics to glean information about your website’s traffic. Only when you have reliable traffic data in hand are you able to identify areas of your website that need attention.