Google Analytics – Basic Tracking

Maybe you’ve already installed your tracking snippet into your page.
Maybe you’ve clicked on all the links like the Overview or Home or Standard Reporting.
Google Analytics has a lot of data, and for the untrained eye it can be a little overwhelming.

Google Analytics should be used to tell you what you’re doing right, and what needs more attention.

Click the image to expand

The first thing you should be looking at is the standard reporting that I show above.
If you look in the top right, you’ll see that I’ve set it to compare two different periods, two months each. It’s a daily chart, and the blue line is more recent than the orange.
You should always be aware of what’s going on in your business, so you have to know how to disregard some spikes like when you get a big mention in a major publication, but if your older line (orange in this case) is consistently above your most recent one, you’re not innovating, promoting, or adding enough new content.

It’s nice when you have a few years worth of data, because sometimes traffic is seasonal.

To compare two periods of time the way I have in the screen capture above, click on the date and check the ‘Compare to past’ box.

Next, I do something a little unusual to make sure that my own web developing doesn’t skew the results of my clients (or my own).

On the far left, click on Audience – Demographics – Location.

Use a proxy so that you show up in another country

You can find out more on how to do that by clicking on this link, but the important thing is that, especially when your traffic is low, you want to get as accurate of a set of results as you can.

Click the image to expand

Now, you can click on the different countries and get individual states, and you should only really pay attention to the area you can really serve. Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of visits from India or the Philippines, because they have a large number of firms with teams of people constantly searching for web design and SEO clients.

Also, note the Visits, Page/Visit, and other stats near the bottom as the green/red will also indicate if you’re expanding (which is your cue to keep doing what you’re doing) or losing traffic.

The next crucial step in measuring your traffic is to see what they’re doing once they’ve arrived at your site.

Your bounce rate tells a lot of the story of why you aren’t making more sales.

When your bounce rate is high, that means that people see your homepage and decide that they’ve seen enough and they move on. If you find that you’ve got a huge bounce rate, I’d go through these steps:

  • Clear your cache and reload your site to see how long it takes for your site to load. Most people give up after about 6 seconds, and I’ve read an estimate from Amazon that said a one second delay would cost them about 1.8 billion dollars per year. If your site is slow, either get new hosting or start to remove images animations and video.
  • Add some riveting content, or an enticement to go to another page on your site.
  • Consider a full redesign.

Just like a brick-and-mortar store, there’s no point in driving a lot of traffic in your doors if people are going to want to leave as soon as they arrive.

The next spot to check is under Audience – Visitor Flow.

What you’ll see is which country people come from, which page they land on, the drop-off, and which pages they progress to.

Google Analytics Visitor Flow

If you see some pages where there’s a massive drop-off, you should make that one of your first priorities to fix. If you are looking at the page and you can’t figure out why people lose interest, here’s a checklist to consider:

  • Is the layout worse than the rest of the site?
  • Is there too much written content, or not enough?
  • Are the pictures on the page pixellated or otherwise lower quality than the others?
  • Are there clashing colors?
  • Does it cost money for the traffic to continue? (If so, you might consider offering free promotional material in return for a signup)
  • Is the content boring?
  • Is the way to continue, or go back to another part of your site easy to find?

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