Searching for Answers in Google Analytics
In these tough economic times, it’s more critical than ever for your website to deliver qualified leads and a positive ROI. But how do you know who your site’s best visitors are? How can you tell where they come from? How can you drive more of those visitors to your site and turn them into leads? The tool that can answer these questions, and give you greater control over every marketing dollar you spend, is Google Analytics.
If you’re not using Google Analytics properly – or a comparable analytics suite – then you’re missing out on valuable business intelligence that you can’t get from other lead-generating channels, preventing you from taking full advantage of the Internet as a cost-effective and efficient sales channel.
Google is a free solution and is easy to install. In fact, it’s the sole web analytics and reporting tool that many companies, including Fortune 500s, use to analyze the activity on their websites. However, because it’s such a powerful tool, the data it provides can be overwhelming and intimidating, causing many people either not to bother analyzing the data or to analyze it incorrectly. In this article, we’ll explore what you can learn from Google Analytics, how to view the data, what data you should focus on, and how to use all that data to make decisions about your website.
What you can learn
Quite simply, Google Analytics gives you more data on exact results of your online marketing efforts than any other tool. It places the power of actionable, business information in the hands of marketing rather than in the hands of your IT department.
With Google Analytics, you will understand what is and isn’t driving results. Its robust reporting capability tracks general trends, such the most popular pages, the most popular keywords used to find your site, the average length of time all visitors spend on your website, and the number of pages the average visit consists of. As you become a more experienced user, you will unlock numerous additional, in-depth data sets and conversion information. Google Analytics can answer questions such as:
- How do visitors find my Web site?
- What do visitors do while on my Web site and what exactly attracts their attention?
- What online marketing campaigns are working the best?
- How many visitors are first time browsers vs. repeat visitors?
- On what page do visitors abandon my Web site? If you see, for example, that your most targeted visitors generally don’t go beyond your home page, you’ll know that perhaps the home page design, navigation, or content is not speaking to the needs of your prospect.
How to view the data
To organize all that information, and make it useable, Google Analytics gives you two key dashboards to analyze visitor behavior: Traffic and Content.
The Traffic dashboard shows where your best, highest quality traffic comes from. Within the Traffic dashboard is the Traffic Sources report, which tells you how visitors arrive at your site—whether it’s from a Google search, a link on a partner’s site, or direct traffic. When viewing this report, pay particular attention to pages per visit, average time on site, and the bounce rate for each of these sources.
Also within the Traffic dashboard is the Keyword Report, which tells you which keywords visitors used to arrive at your site. Hopefully, the keywords you’re trying to optimize for will be at the top of the list. Like the traffic sources report, look at the pages per visit, average time on site and the bounce rate to understand which keywords provide the best, most qualified visitors. Keywords that produce the lowest bounce rate, the greatest number of visits, and the longest visits are the ones delivering the best traffic. Thus, you’ll want to further optimize your site for those keywords or include them in your pay per click campaigns.
One important point: You want to make sure your company’s name is not the most popular keyword people are using to find your website. If that’s the case, then the only people who are finding your website are those who already know you, meaning you’re missing out on tons of traffic.
The Content dashboard helps you to determine the most popular pages on your website. By analyzing unique page views, average time on page, and bounce rate, you will know what pages are performing the best. The question becomes, then, are the most popular pages the most important to the success of your website? If the “Technology” section of your website is the area you want to drive visitors to, but the “About Us” section is the most viewed, then you know you need to make changes to the pagination of your site in order to direct visitors to the “technology” section.
What data should you focus on?
Now that we’ve identified the most important dashboards, what data within those dashboards should you pay particular attention to?
Many people make the mistake of thinking that the number of unique visits is the most important data point. But to obtain a positive ROI on your website investment, you need to attract qualified visitors. Quality rather than quantity should be your goal.
The two most important measures of the “stickiness” of your website and the quality of your visitors are the Average Page Views Per Visit and the Average Time on Site.
The Average Page Views Per Visit data tells you the number of pages the average visitor views during a visit to your website. This is a good indicator of the quality of both your content and your typical visitor. Take the Traffic Sources report mentioned above as an example. This report will let you identify which referral sources are sending you visitors who spend the most time on your site, so you can build on that relationship. For example, if visitors who spend a lot of time on your website are coming from an industry association or from a partner’s website, contact that association and/or partner and ask whether you can contribute to its newsletter or blog, or provide a relevant case study, or become a speaker at one of its events. Such efforts will result in even more qualified traffic from that referrer and will ensure the continuity of traffic from that source.
The Average Time on Site data tells you how long, on average, visitors spend on your website and on specific pages. Once again, this data is a good indicator of how successful your site is because it reflects the quality of the visits to your website and the quality and relevance of your content e. If the majority of the visits are 10 seconds or less, for example, you’re not getting many quality visitors to the site, and it’s probably due to poor content, or an inappropriate selection of keywords for that page
Bounce rate is another key indicator of your website’s effectiveness. According to Google, the bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits. In other words, bounce rate tells you the percentage of visitors who leave upon arrival within a set amount of time without clicking anywhere on your site. Bounce rate is a measure of visit quality, so a high bounce rate generally indicates the page isn’t relevant to your visitors, and is failing as a lead generation tool. High bounce rate pages need to be redesigned and/or tailored to the specific keyword you’re trying to promote on the page. Adding fresh content on a regular basis and including calls to action will lower the bounce rate and thus enable you to convert more visitors into qualified opportunities.
Many people use bounce rate to help refine their keywords and overall site optimization. For example, if you’ve spent the time to optimize for a specific keyword, but your website’s bounce rate is high, then you know you’re optimized for the wrong keyword. Also, if a key page, such as a products page, has a high bounce rate, then you know this page is confusing, has uninteresting or stale content, or has no compelling offer – all of which are serious problems if you want lead generation.