Why and How to Use Google Analytics

Using Google Analytics for Decision Making

So you’ve got a website. How do you know if it is helping you grow your business? How do you know if you’re putting your marketing dollars in the right places to not only drive the right kind of traffic to your site but also gauge how those visitors are helping your website reach your goals? The answer starts with Google Analytics. 

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a tool that measures every interaction on your website. When you create a Google Analytics Account, Google creates a small piece of javascript code that you need to add to every page of your website. If you are using a content management system like WordPress for your website, there are plugins such as Google Site Kit that you can add to the backend of your WordPress site where you only need to copy and paste a short identification code once and the plugin then propagates that code to every page of your website for you.

Once this code is on every page of your website, every time a user visits one of those pages, Google Analytics records information about their visit. Google Analytics can track which page of your site the user started on, how long they were on each page, the order in which they viewed pages of the site, among many other actions or events. Google Analytics can track information about each specific user as well, depending on the privacy settings the user has set up in their web browser. This information could include the city from which the user is visiting, the make and model and screen, resolution of the device they are using, and if you’ve enabled Demographics and Interest Reporting in Google Analytics, you can get information about the age and interests of the people visiting your site.

By examining some of this information and maybe building out some customized reports, you can get a more clear picture of not only how many visitors you are getting to your website, but where they are coming from on the internet, how they are getting to you, and most importantly if they are converting into a lead or sale. 

Some information in your decision making can start by looking at simple numbers in the Google Analytics data, but chances are you have to do a little more digging to make logical connections between various data elements to interpret why people may be behaving the way they are on your website.

Why Spend Time in Google Analytics?

It’s not hard to get lost in the rabbit hole of your Google Analytics data and waste a whole day fascinated by the numbers you see. But what does it all mean and how can you use your analytics data efficiently and effectively? 

As the great business and management icon, Peter Drucker said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” 

Growing your business or online presence starts with knowing where your business is right now, understanding where you want your business to be, and then determining the path to get there. And understanding where your website is right now starts by looking at your Google Analytics data. 

Google Analytics can provide tangible numbers about your website’s performance. The most basic place to start is to look at the number of website visitors and sessions every month, and by taking some time to set up a few more items in Google Analytics, you can dig into data such as how a specific ad, social media post or email campaign is resulting in sales through your website. Looking at your Google Analytics data is about so much more than just feeling good about knowing how many “hits” your website got each month. It’s about understanding what the numbers mean so you have clues for growing your business.

So how can you make your journey into Google Analytics as efficient and painless as possible?

Begin with the End in Mind

As with any good habit, start your journey into analytics by determining what’s most important to measure on your website. These are typically known as Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. What is your goal with your website? What do you want visitors to do once they get to your site? Before you even start with a new website design, it’s important to consider what you want that website to do, in addition to just looking pretty and up to date. This way you can build processes into your website that you can then later measure via your analytics tools. 

For example, if your goal is to get more sales leads, you likely need to get more customers to contact you from your website. You’ll want to look at Key Performance Indicators such as the number of Contact Us forms submitted every month, as an example. Focus on continually measuring and growing this number, which relates back to your overall company sales goal.

It’s All About Actionable Insights

Analytics is more than just the numbers. It’s about getting answers to your questions so that you can make informed decisions about improving how your website works for visitors and how you can improve the marketing efforts that drive traffic to your website. 

Are you getting enough traffic to your website from search engines? Do you know what search phrases are drawing traffic to your site? Are you being found for the key search phrases you want to be found for? If not, how can you add more content or important keyword phrases to your site and its content to get that search traffic? 

In other words, analytics is about taking the data to keep making your website and marketing better. 

As we mentioned, you may have to look at different reports within Google Analytics to see beyond what is happening on your site and to get a better idea why users are behaving the way they are on your site. You may have to augment your Google Analytics data with other industry tools like heatmaps or primary research such as usability tests to get a better understanding of why a user may be dropping out of your shopping cart funnel or not filling out your lead generation form. 

Your analytics data can perhaps tell you how many users entered an item into their shopping cart and how many users finally ended up making a purchase, but you may have to look deeper into your analytics or other reporting tools to intuit why only 1% of those people eventually make a purchase. 

Google Analytics can give you that starting point for getting answers to some of those questions, however. For example, if only 1% of your visitors go from their shopping basket to the first page of your checkout process, it may be an indication that there are technical errors on your site that are preventing that checkout page from loading. Fixing a problem like this on your site could go a long way in increasing your online sales. 

The bottom line is knowing what to look for in your analytics data can help provide a breadcrumb trail to specific actions you can take to grow your business.

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Going Beyond the Basics

Some additional setup in your Google Analytics account can help you drill into key potential data points. 

Enabling eCommerce, Enhanced eCommerce Reporting, and a checkout funnel can give you very important clues about how users are progressing from one stage of your eCommerce website to the next. 

Setting up a goal such as a destination goal of yourwebsite.com/contact-us/thank-you.html can help you measure the number of people completing your lead generation form. You could also set up multiple different forms on your site to test where you might be getting better form completion results. After setting up a destination goal, you can even take your form completion numbers to a whole nother level by segmenting traffic from perhaps mobile devices versus desktop computers to see which is resulting in more form completions. Data like this could tell you if you’re not getting enough form completions on mobile devices, you may want to consider streamlining your form for mobile devices by including less fields for users to complete or making the submit button bigger for mobile devices where people are using their fingers to hit the submit button. 

There are many, many event triggers that you can set up with Google Analytics in combination with Google Tag Manager such as how many people viewed a video 100% of the way through the video. 

Again, the key is starting with understanding what you want to measure or what you need to know to make informed decisions, then figuring out what setup you need to do for more advanced reporting.

Know When to Seek Help

If trying to make heads or tails of your website analytics data is daunting for you or if you don’t have the time to truly analyze your website data to help you make decisions, seek out help from someone who does. Ignoring your website analytics won’t help you grow your business, so rely on someone who can help you not only make sense of your analytics data, but can help you interpret how you can improve your website and marketing efforts so that you can grow your business.