Google Analytics is the most useful tool any Partner managing a website has available to them. Google Analytics provides more than just a count of visitors; it tracks users’ behavior across pages, shows you where they came from and how long they stayed, and can even tell you how visitors viewed your client’s page (mobile, desktop, tablet, etc.) when they visited. While other analytics solutions exist, Google Analytics stands apart.
Despite these upsides, however, many people find Google Analytics to be a challenge to use, especially at first. Here’s a few tips, tricks, and secrets for Google Analytics.
Google Analytics offers deep insight into user activity on a single page of your site. Understanding these metrics is the key to getting 100% out of this tool.
The first question any webmaster or marketer asks is: Where are my visitors coming from? This is as true for a brick-and-mortar business as it is for one with a strong online presence. In web terms, this is your referrer and tracking referrals is a touch easier online than off.
In your Google Analytics dashboard, scroll down to Behavior on the left and click into Site Content. There, you’ll see a page similar to this:
As you can see indicated above, to bring up referrer info, click Source under Acquisition as a secondary dimension.
You’ll then have a full list of referrers for the specific page you’re looking at — to change this page, click the small down arrow underneath the Pages title above All Sessions. You’ll see a box that allows you specify a different page.
Referral info lets you better plan where to spend advertising money, time, and even consider reaching out to top, high-quality referrers to do content exchange or promotions. Referral information also implies the type of user you have; if the majority of your traffic is referred by low-quality sites, your own website may be vulnerable to attack. By contrast, high-quality referrers mean your site is doing well and is healthy.
Moreover, if your location landing pages are getting low-quality or only intra-site referrals, you may need to alter its on-page SEO (Schema, keywords, etc.) to better serve search.
Knowing where your visitors come from means you can better address their needs. If, for example, traffic is coming from the city adjacent to where the business is located, it may be beneficial to purchase geo-targeted advertising for that city rather than where the business is located.
To access this, change that “Secondary dimension” parameter from Source to Region, under “Users’ (you can also search for this). Your reporting will not display geographic information for your site visitors, often based on their IP address.
You may wonder what the difference between Pageviews and Unique Pageviews are, within the context of Google Analytics. The first is a total of all instances a page was viewed. By contrast, the second is more akin to the number of times a (presumed) individual viewed the page. Google Analytics tracks this by IP address; in most instances, one IP address is one person or household.
This is one of the columns that Google Analytics reports by default. For example, in the image below, we see Source Referrals for a page broken out into pageviews and unique pageviews, which Google helpfully defines for us.
As we move into an increasingly mobile world, it’s key that you understand on what platform(s) visitors land on the website. Moreover, Google is expected to start phasing in penalties for sites that aren’t mobile-friendly.
Knowing how much of web traffic is mobile (as well as what mobile device they’re using to land on your site) gives you better insight into what kinds of users are coming to the site. If the primary point of access is a smartphone, it may be that users are looking up the business info “on the go,” while between tasks, or as a second-screen behavior. Knowing this allows a marketer to make a decision about how to allocate design and development resources for maximum impact, as well as which types of devices (micro smartphones, large-screen phones/phone-tablet hybrids, or full-on tablets) to optimize presentation for.
You can find information about mobile devices under the Users category of the Secondary dimension menu. You can also search for this.
For more metrics, use cases, and even more information about what per-page metrics can do for you, check How to Master Google Analytics by Self Made Businessman.
Google Analytics can not only provide you with a wealth of raw data, but it can also contextualize that data into actionable information. Google Analytics can pull that data into colorful, easy-to-understand reports that display trends over time, by segment, and so forth.
While several reports were featured above, there are some reports specific to SEO.
Google Analytics gives you fuller insight into which part of the site visitors see first. This goes hand-in-hand with referral data; knowing which pages visitors land on along with what channels get them there is invaluable in allocating ad spend and resources.
Under Audience is a section called Users Flow. This is a dynamic visualization of what path users take, including drop-off users. You can filter by Source (Nation), Referral, and even Desktop/Mobile in order to determine pain points for users. Are users coming into your site through a store locator function rather than the main page? It could be that the Store Locator doesn’t display well on certain platforms.
Optimizing for the way users move through your site will bring your site in line with accepted SEO tactics, including site maps and link building. Not to mention, improving a site’s human usability may well help it rank better.
Do you run campaigns for your client, such as newsletters, promotional offers, or on social media? Including a Google Analytics tracker in the email (i.e. through Mailchimp or other major mass-mailing provider) means you can determine through what channel visitors are coming in, and optimize for the channel desired, either with better keywords, clearer calls to action, or by leveraging more popular social media platforms in the client’s favor.
For more information about reports to use for better SEO, check out 7 Reports in Google Analytics to Help with SEO by State of Digital.