Google Analytics is a powerful tool for any small business. Viewing data and reaching conclusions on how users interact with your website is important when deciding how to increase your business's exposure. Analytics provides all the necessary tools to better your website's SEO rankings, drive more visitors to your landing pages, and segment and target different user groups. The key is being able to sift through the information and pull out what's relevant and crucial to your business's success. Avoid drowning in data by focusing on a few key reports – at least at first – to help you get started with Analytics.
The most important metrics will vary widely among different businesses. The type of business, goals and established online presence all play a role in how a business owner uses analytics. The overall goal of any business, however, is to convert viewers into customers. Analytics provides some tools to do this – business owners can construct their conversion funnel via custom reports – but it also provides some important reports for you to monitor and analyze when deciding how to drive online sales. [Related: How to Use Google Analytics]
A lot of these reports don't require customization. Instead, Google provides the format and structure so you can analyze and understand data without a marketing background. It also provides some add-ons for business owners, including extensions for both Google Sheets and Google Chrome so you can easily collect data and create quick charts for your employees.
"The best Google Analytics reports are the ones that you can create in Google Sheets using a free Google Analytics add-on," said Steve Chipman, co-founder and director of marketing and sales for CRM Switch. He said that, using the extension, you can set goals for site traffic, individual page traffic and CTA clicks.
The Chrome extension also provides click-thru data for every page of your business's website. Mike Wolfe, director of operations for Delgado Stone Distributors, said it allows him to see what products, pages and articles people are interested in on Delgado Stone's website.
While these add-ons are a great option, you'll likely find more tools within the actual Analytics dashboard. These five reports will help you learn more about your customers so you can make informed decisions that lead to conversions.
In 2016, 60 percent of all Google searches were from mobile devices. Google has begun prioritizing mobile search, and websites have had to adjust to stay relevant on SEO rankings. By examining these metrics, you can understand who is visiting your site and from what device. If your website isn't tailored toward mobile devices as well as desktops, it will suffer on Google.
Mobile performance is usually broken down by users, sessions, bounce rate and average session duration. A high bounce rate from a certain type of device (or all types) means that your website may not be optimized for mobile access. You can access this report by selecting Mobile under the Audience tab.
The Acquisition tab provides a lot of great resources for business owners to learn more about who their customers are and how they are accessing a business's website. The overview section includes total users, top channels, goal conversion rate, number of sessions and overall bounce rate. The source/medium report is particularly valuable, as it provides data on acquisition, behavior and conversions, as well as how the user is reaching your site. Understanding what platform is leading users to your site can help you determine what platforms to use AdWords on or what platforms need to be improved. It can also provide more insight on who your customers are and how to better connect with them.
Brandon Schmidt, content strategist for YDOP Internet Marketing, said that the source/medium report is important for his company. "Driving the traffic up into medium (organic, referral, CPC) and source helps us show how effective our SEO or paid search efforts are when it comes to driving traffic," he said.
You can change the primary dimension to focus on source, medium, keyword or other. Access the source/medium report by clicking on the Acquisition tab.
Another great way to learn more about your customers and their buying habits is by checking out the audience overview report. This report includes standard metrics like sessions, users, page views, pages per session and bounce rate. It also provides an in-depth look at your audience's demographics. You can filter by language, country or city to get a better understanding of who your audience is and where they live. This proves to be vital information for many businesses.
"It is important to see how much web traffic we are getting from each country," said Jack Saville, an online marketer for Bynder. "That way I can get an idea of the organic search presence we have in each country, and if there is a certain country that is not contributing enough organic traffic. Then I can look into what I need to do to SEO optimize our website for that country."
The audience overview is accessible from the Audience tab. This tab also provides a new feature called User Explorer, which allows business owners and online marketers to learn more about individual users using their Google Analytics Client IDs. As a result, you can segment data and find out more about your most interesting users.
An important factor in SEO ranking is site speed. By analyzing the load time of pages on your website, you can better determine which pages you need to work on. Users won't wait around for your website to load. Ancestry.com, for example, saw a 7 percent increase in conversions after improving the site speed by 68 percent. Generally, pages should load in four seconds. This is a great metric to toggle with and analyze how it interacts with bounce rate. Ideally, as your site speed goes up, that should be a factor in keeping your bounce rate down.
"Using the Google Analytics site speed report, I can see which pages are taking longest to load, and so which pages need to be optimized for loading time – therefore improving our site experience and hopefully our search ranking," Saville said.
You can access the site speed report by clicking on the Behavior tab.
Knowing which articles or pages on your site get the most traction will help you better understand what kind of content your users want from your site. It's important to monitor what pages are being visited when, as this can also help you determine when to post content or when to push certain products on social media. The content report can also help in ecommerce – a product's popularity can be analyzed and lead to more informed decisions. You can access the content report by clicking the Real-Time tab.
Google Analytics provides a lot of tools to analyze your business's website. It can be easy to get lost in all the data. By analyzing these five key reports, you can start building your experience with Google Analytics. As you get more comfortable, you'll gain a better understanding of your business's needs and be able to tailor your Analytics experience to your business's problems. Focusing on conversions – and accessing as much information on the process as possible – is the most effective way to use Google Analytics as a beginner.