Google Analytics can show you the perfect niche, product or content you should be using. You don’t need to buy anything and the results will absolutely astound you. What the experts don’t want you to know…
There is this disturbing trend on the internet where all the so called ‘experts’ are wanting to show you how to discover the right keywords or that perfect niche. Of course you have to have the right amount of money, buy their special tools, buy more tools that connect to the tools you already bought, watch that paid for webinar, ad nauseum…– the list is endless
What if I told you that by learning just a few basic skills in Google Analytics not only could you discover an endless supply of niches and ‘sub-niches’. Furthermore, your audience will literally tell you what those niches are, what they want to buy from you, and what content they want you to write about. You just have to learn how to listen to them and you can do that with Google Analytics.
Instead of trying to figure out what content you should add or which product you should try and sell, your clients will tell you through their interaction and behavior on your website. In fact, you will be able to deliver better content, products, and solutions in ways you never even thought possible without even trying to figure it out – your visitors to your website will dictate to you exactly what to do – literally!
In this article, I’m going to show you some simple things that you can look at in the Google Analytics dashboard reports to help you gain valuable insight into the traffic your receiving. We want go over everything -we are just going to touch on some main points to help you get a clear picture as to what happening on your website.
Also, it is quite possible you are missing out on some major opportunities to gain not only more website traffic, but also minimize your PPC campaign cost and quite possibly double your advertising revenue.
Google Analytics can help you grow your online brand, blog and business. You will be able to increase the influence of your chosen niche, write much more valuable content and wage effective PPC campaigns.
GETTING STARTED WITH GOOGLE ANALYTICS
If you’re like most beginning webmasters you know just enough to embed the Google Analytics code into your website header. Maybe you copy and paste it or use one of the many popular plugins that do it for you.
Then after that, it’s all about wanting to see the graph on the main dashboard make a steady climb to the top and hope you can monetize the incoming traffic. If this is your story or at least part of it then it’s quite possible you are missing out on key opportunities to:
- Increase the quality of your content
- Nearly double your ROI
- Decrease your bounce rate
- Increase the effectiveness of PPC campaigns
- Build highly effective sales funnels
That’s just to name a few items right off the top of my head. There is much more than that, however, this post is geared more for the beginner or intermediate analytics user. I am assuming you have already made an analytics account with Google and embedded the tracking code into your website.
This is not to say that someone who is totally new to Google Analytics will not gain anything from this article. You can find numerous ‘How to make a Google Analytics Account’ articles on the Internet. After you make your account return here and pick up where you left off.
MAKING YOUR WAY TO THE DASHBOARD – AN OVERVIEW
Make sure you have a website with the tracking code embedded and navigate to the Google Analytics Dashboard.
When you first open the Analytics Dashboard, it can be a little scary. I’m going to give you a different viewpoint to look at this piece of software and figure out how you can use it to your advantage.
I’m also going to show you what you can learn from Google Analytics. I’m going to show you some of the reports that will answer a lot of questions you did not know to ask. Then I can give you an idea about some of the things that you can do with this information.
Now, one of the things to keep in mind with Google Analytics is that everything in these reports is customizable. I’m not going to do any of that in this article, I’m just going to get you started and show you the different reports. Then you can fine-tune the reports to look at the information that’s important for your business.
So, let’s look at what you’ll be doing with Google Analytics. It is the analytics process. And it works like this.
THE ABC’S OF ANALYTICS
First, you’re going to measure. You must figure out what’s happening or what’s not happening on your website. Then you’re going to take that information, and you’re going to try to learn from it.
You might say, “OK, well, I’ve been sending people to this page to make a purchase, but no one is buying” or “Prospective clients are not buying enough.”. So, based on that information, you’ll then act.
You’ll take the information that you learn from the different analytics reports and form a strategy, then implement that strategy into an action on your website.
That might be as simple as adding a call to action button, changing your font color, adding a video or adding more pictures to a page.
This is the process of analysis and can help you improve the effectiveness of your website and, in turn, increase your bottom line. And that’s just one of the ways you can use Google Analytics:
BREAKING DOWN THE ABC’s OF THE ANALYTICS PROCESS
- Let’s talk about Acquisition.
So, you’re a business owner and you want to know a few things. First, how are visitors getting to my website? Is it through organic search results? Referrals through social media? Are people following links from comments that you left on different websites or guest post? Is it due to an AdWords or Bing Ads campaign? Are you even doing any of this and if so which one is most effective? That’s the acquisition of information which I will show you.
- Monitoring Behavior on your website.
Are you creating effective content that leads to the behavior that you want? Remember – you’re creating a website that you’re trying to get a potential customer to do something, whether that’s to make a purchase, become a member, sign up for your newsletter or contact you.
The information that you will see in the reports from the analytics dashboard can help you figure out where your audience originates from and whether they are taking a predicted or desired action once they’ve arrived. Knowing where those people come from or the medium of origin will enable you to create effective behavior changing strategies. You will be able to form your strategy based on their age, country, gender, what device they were using and many other factors – all from information in the analytics dashboard.
- The big C is for Conversion. You want to know from these reports how everything that you’re doing on your website is impacting your bottom line.
You might be investing a lot of time, money, and energy into working on a PPC campaign, social media marketing, guest posting, and or commenting on articles. How will you know if what your doing is working? Just watching the traffic graph hoping it goes up is a losing proposition.
Social media marketing can be tricky if you don’t have proper stats from a PPC Campaign, boosted articles, or a direct marketing campaign you’re currently running or have already run on that particular channel.
Maybe you will want to change the way you do a few of your strategies to see if you can make them more effective while redoubling your efforts in an area you’re winning it.
No matter what you decide, you will never know if your marketing strategy is truly effective for your business unless you can measure the effect it is having. You can do that with reports from the analytics dashboard.
Armed with proper information from the Google Analytics Dashboard you will be making surgical strikes in advertising and marketing in no time. So now that we have an overview of a few types of reports we will be touching on in the Google Analytics Dashboard.
Keep in mind that we are just going to touch on a few items in the dashboard and hopefully, this will encourage you to learn more about the process of analysis based on information you get from analytics.
GATHERING INTELLIGENCE OR THE ANALYSIS PROCESS
The act of coercing or persuading your audience into a certain behavior or action can be a very sublime art. So, we use content which is not just the post on a blog or web page. It is the entire contents of the page, it is the ‘look-and-feel’ of everything.
G. Herring – SEO Blog VIP
A lot of people start out this way: They want to make easy money online, watch a few videos on how to build a website, choose an extremely competitive niche and install a beautiful WordPress theme. No one visits, except for friends and family of course, and we now have another ghost town out in the wild-wild- west aka the world wide web.
Most people are visual learners so let’s look at a demo and see if we can make sense out of the reports on the dashboard.
Being the savvy webmaster that we are and making use of those wonderful WordPress plugins we drop in some type of analytics plugin or do a quick copy and paste of our Google Analytics code into the header of your theme since most themes make it easy to do that.
Let’s imagine we have an affiliate website. We don’t have a brick-and-mortar storefront, so it relies on SEO type traffic and online sales. So, that’s our eCommerce website example.
I’m going to show you how this website uses Google Analytics to improve its ultimate outcome, and what happens when visitors come to this website.
GETTING DISCOVERED ON GOOGLE
First, let’s focus on how people find your website. One thing that you’ll see in Google Analytics is there are two ways that we can look at a website. There’s a source. The source is a way that someone came to your website. So, a source could be Google, Bing or Yahoo. A source could also be email marketing or social media.
Then you’ve got the medium. For a search engine, the medium would be an organic result. It could be someone clicking your PPC ad, which is an advertisement result. Those are the two ways that you can break down the different ways that people are finding your website in Google Analytics.
RECAPPING THE ABC CYCLE
So, A is for acquisition. This is the process where we are actually looking to acquire visitors to your site and send those visitors to your web pages.
Then we want to look at B, behavior. Behavior is what they do once they got to your website. Did they take an action, or did they bounce?
Then finally, C, conversion. We will look at the acquisition and behavior report and find out what to do with this information.
THE ACQUISITION PROCESS
Let’s start with A for acquisition. So if we click on Acquisition, then select Overview we are greeted with a very nice pie chart outlining the whole acquisition process. You can see the largest driving force of traffic is through Organic Search – that’s your on-site and off-site SEO at work. Social, referral and direct traffic are the next combined driving forces while paid search and display networks (part of paid search actually) make up just a small portion.
Don’t let this chart fool you! The Google Store has been around for quite some time. The chart makes it look like all they ever did was SEO and got their traffic via organic search. Most companies if not all, start out with a very heavy brand campaign and a PPC (pay-per-click) campaign as well. This will jump start traffic to your website until you can start to rank in organic and build up your other channels.
I can tell you from experience that direct marketing will beat on-page SEO every day of the week. However, I’d like to see you rank in any search engine without proper SEO work. -G. Herring
This second picture is a nice window into that whole cycle. You can see the part where it’s divided into three separate columns. The acquisition column, a behavior column, and the conversions column. This example shows that we have some data for acquisitions. We have some data for behavior, and some conversion data.
Each row on the Acquisition View can give you some information about that set of data simply by clicking on it So basically, under acquisition, we’re going to see how people are getting to our website. Then we can click on each item in the row and find out even more information.
If you are fairly new to Google Analytics you might not have anything in the Conversion column. This is where most novice webmasters get hung up. They never set up Conversions. No clear-cut goals. We may have some data in our analytics reports. We may know how people are getting there and what pages they’re looking at, however, we have no idea what the value of that visit is to our website or the visitor unless some type of Conversion Goal is set up.
So that’s one of the items we’ll be going over in my next article. Like I mentioned before, this is just to give you a bigger view of Google Analytics so you can give your visitors a voice and know what they are looking for in a more specific way.
When you start building a website, you need to have a goal in mind. It’s not enough just to build something cute. You really want to know what’s supposed to happen, find out what people want and deliver it to them in the most effective manner. That’s what this report reflects, that conversions have been set up and as a result transactions and revenue are flowing.
Let’s look at this second set of reports. This is called Channels. Channels are really a group. It’s a way for us to sort of filter out different types of traffic that will be flowing into our website. So what it amounts to is a group of channels which are associated with acquisition.
In the first example, we have an organic search and that’s a channel. For example, if someone went to Google and then did a search for HD flat screen TVs; or to buy a pair of jogging shoes. Since that came in through an organic search engine, it’s going to be grouped into that channel.
The next example is social. So, all the social media outlets that you use to drive traffic to your website and you can see that data and gauge how effective your interaction is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
You probably want to check your bottom 3 social channels and see if you can set up something like Buffer or Hootsuite to help raise those numbers, however, if those channels don’t fit into your business model maybe you should just drop them. Really depends on your chosen category or niche as to what type of social campaigns you want to set up if any.
REFERRAL TRAFFIC REPORT
Now, this is an interesting report. This is called the Referral Traffic Report. This is going to give you a list of all the other websites that are driving traffic to your site. Some of these may be obvious to you. You may go down that list and say, all right, I know that people would find links to my site from here and here. Since
You can also learn something valuable from this report. Maybe there was a backlink to your website from a similar website that you didn’t know about. Then you can see from this report that you’re getting all these visitors from this website that you didn’t even know about it. Maybe there’s a popular blogger that found your website and backlinked to your site from a post and it is driving traffic.
The Referral Traffic report is a good one for you to look at to see where you may be able to capitalize on partnerships. You can also see where you want to focus advertising dollars. Maybe where you want to start distributing content so that maybe you can put it on other websites, like guest posting, and get a good backlink from them.
This is the Direct traffic channel. Direct traffic means that someone knows the URL for your website and then typed it into that search bar to get there. That’s why when you buy a domain name you want it to be relatively short, easy to spell, and easy to remember.
If people can’t remember your domain name, then you’re probably going to lose traffic to a larger site that has an easier, shorter name to remember, like Amazon or Walmart. People will have an easier time getting to you directly by typing it into their browser window.
This traffic also includes if someone has your website bookmarked, and then click on that bookmark. There are other ways that we can collect traffic into this channel.
Now, the third channel that you see in this example is paid search. If you are using an advertising platform, like Google AdWords, you can start to see this traffic grouped into this channel.
ANALYSIS OF CHANNELS
The nice thing about this report is that we can compare these channels and separate them into categories. We can see which of these channels is more effective, more profitable for our business, but only if we have that setup.
Then we can use that information to see, for example, that we are getting traffic from organic searches. However, people aren’t converting. Ask yourself: what do I need to do to change that? How do I need to adapt my strategy to really start improving my performance in each of these different channels?
Let’s look at the All Traffic report. Unlike Channels, which had grouped everything into categories, this report is going to give you a breakdown of all the different ways that people are getting into your site, line by line.
In this example, the first driver of traffic to this website was organic traffic, then we have social then direct. With the organic search, that means that somebody went to Google, Bing or some other search engine and they typed in some keywords and that eventually brought traffic to the site. Now I can go down the list and see what else is driving traffic.
The next example is social traffic and the third is from direct traffic, which is somebody just typing your URL in the navigation window on their browser and clicking ‘go’. Direct traffic also occurs from using a bookmark.
The fourth most popular way people are getting to this site is from backlinks from other websites. This is commonly referred to as backlinks. This can help give you even more insight into specific traffic sources showing you how people are getting to your site.
SEARCH CONSOLE REPORT
Now, this report here, this is under the section that’s labeled Search Console Report. This one’s going to require a little bit of work on your part because you must take another step first. You must set up the Google Search Console for your business. I’ll post another article later about how to set up the Google Search Console.
By setting up the Search Console correctly you will be able to leverage the maximum potential of your website and start ranking organically.
However, for this article, we will assume you have that set up and connect it to the dashboard to incorporate that data into your Google Analytics reports. This is going to be useful because you can see the query that was used to reach your website.
INTERPRETING RESULTS FROM LANDING PAGES CHANNEL
Assuming, hypothetically of course, you have an electronics type shopping website with some blogs on different home appliances.
This report can show you when somebody did a search for ‘HD flat screen TV’ or ‘home alarm systems’ or whatever from the Google Search engine. Was your web page showing up in the search results? Which position was it on that page, and what is the CTR (click through rate)? How many times did people click to go and visit your website after seeing your entry on the SERP?
Does the query they typed in a match the page they landed on? This is where we can see user intent and if it was director maybe they just clicked in because it was similar, and they liked your result better. Maybe you see that HD flat screen TV gives your website a lot of opportunities to show up. However, the click-through rate is low.
Let’s get just a bit deeper into this as a lot of people I help out are really into it. So first action we take is clicking on Search Console, then click on the Landing Pages link right below it. Look to the right and you will be presented with some important information referred to as Landing Pages Report.
You can see page by page what’s happening there. How long they spent on that page, how many page visits it got, how many were unique. Then you can go and look at that page by clicking the open-page icon next to the link under the Landing Page column.
The idea here is to go through the report and identify your most important pages and then try to figure out what you could do to maybe help improve your measure of success for each individual page. Whether that’s customer engagement, or getting people to take that desired action and make a conversion from that page.
The Landing Pages Report is really crucial to interpreting what people are looking for…it tells you how many times people seen your particular pages in search engine results from different queries they typed in. So, if they seen it, then that is an Impression. If they seen it and clicked on it, well of course, that is a Click. We are just looking at the columns from left to right.
Now we get into a little math…Your next column is CTR or Click Through Ratio. This is expressed as Clicks/Impressions*100. Next column is Average Position which is expressed on an average, then diversified. Example:
Say your site ranks 5 for one result, 3 for another, then 7 for another. You can get the result like this: 5(5+3+7/3) and the answer would be your average position.
ABOUT CTR AND MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
Click-through rate or CTR is the ratio of how many times your website appears (impressions) versus how many times somebody clicked on it. If you have a low click-through rate, that means that somebody saw your website a lot and for some reason, they didn’t click on it to go and learn more. That’s something for you to be on the watch for.
That shows you are missing some opportunities. In that case, what would you do about it? This report might tell you that you need to do some optimization on your website SERP appearance (search engine results page) result then people would be more inclined to click on it and visit your page. It might be that you need to improve your title, slug or meta descriptions of your blog or page.
You want to do something to help people take that next step and then visit your website. You can set up the Search Console first and then verify your site. When you go back to Google Analytics, you would connect it to your Property Settings.
If you have any questions about where these things are in Google Analytics, you can go to the Analytics Help Center .This will give you step-by-step instructions on how to set everything up.
ANALYSIS OF LANDING PAGES REPORTS
What do you do with all this information? Look at all those traffic sources. You want to figure out which ones are most important for your business. You must prioritize based on the data. Then you can take action, like possible partnerships, advertising, or search engine optimization. You can develop your SEO strategy based on this data.
Learn what visitors are interested in on your website. You can drill down into the sections and the pages to see what they looked at and how effective those pages were and learn where people enter and where they exit your website.
How is all of this impacting your bottom line? So, again, not to beat a dead horse, but a website is not just a static brochure. A website is a tool for you to help grow your business. If you’re just getting started, the first step is to publish that site.
I really want you to think, “Well, what is this website supposed to do for me”? And that’s an important first step. After seeing a lot of successful and unsuccessful websites I believe it’s something that many people should revisit.
Even if you currently are running a website, your business goals may change or evolve over time. With that change, you can start using Google Analytics on your website to help accommodate those changes and to track your next move.
If you find that there are certain areas where there are ‘long-tail-keywords’ that you can even hook with AdWords that are profitable and have a lower CPC bid. You can even allocate your advertising budget based on what’s working or what’s not working as well from these reports.
We have touched on just a few of the A’s, the acquisition step, which is how we get people to your website from the various channels.
BEHAVIOR AND CREATING EFFECTIVE CONTENT
Let’s talk about the B’s, the behavior. That is what people do when they get to your website. That’s important because don’t forget, your website exists to help people achieve the desired action. What that action depends on is your business.
If you are an affiliate site, the desired action might be purchasing a product or signing up for your email list. The action might be getting someone to click on an ad or install your app on Google Play Store. It just depends on what you want them to do.
Then once you define that goal, you can see, well, is that happening on my site? So, once again, B is for behavior.
BEHAVIOR OVERVIEW REPORT
You can see here the Overview report in the Behavior section. And we are looking at a page, and we can see that for this page during this time there were 674-page views.
That page could have been viewed multiple times within the same session, meaning a prospective customer went to the website then went to this page. Then went back to it two or three times more.
Now, the second column shows your unique page views. That means that for every visit to that page, it’s counted. If a prospective client visits it multiple times, it’s counted only once.
Now we know that this page was viewed 507 unique times during that period. I can see the average time on the page and the bounce rate. We see that 67% of the visitors came to that page and then left without taking any further action.
We can also see that this was an exit page 36% of the time. It’s giving us this information and this insight, page by page, on what’s happening here on the site.
SITE CONTENT REPORT
Now, the Site Content reports will let you drill down and dig deeper into each of the pages. We can get all that information for every single section on the site and every group of pages within that section.
Looking at the break away section above we are given 5 important overview statistics. Page Views as opposed to Unique Page Views. Average Time on Page as opposed to Bounce Rate, then Exit percentage.
You can see how when you click on the Site Content fold-out it separates into All Pages, Content Drill Down, Landing Pages and Exit Pages. By clicking on each section we can gather even more information, granular details for example. Let’s look at Behavior Flow. Follow the clicks in the diagram…then shrink the resolution of your browser view. This is CTRL – (hold down the Ctrl key and strike the minus or dash key) in most browsers.
Following the above instructions you can now get a birds eye point of view as to how the traffic flows on your site. Check out the picture below.
By hovering your mouse over different sections you will see different stats that should give you vital insight to the flow of traffic on your website.
ANALYSIS OF BEHAVIOR
What do we do with that information? You might conclude everyone’s coming to, just, for example, cell phone section. Then we have this high bounce rate and we also know that everybody is exiting right around this area of the website. So, what do you do with that?
If you have a high bounce rate that’s not always a bad thing. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that, particularly with the health and fitness websites, a lot of people come to an article about how to eat right and lose weight, and then they leave.
That page has detailed information about diet and nutrition. A lot of people do the search, they find that page in Google search results, then they click on it. They get the information. And then they leave.
STRATEGY BASED ON BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS
One of the things that we could do with Google Analytics is set up a way to track interaction on that page. Maybe we could include a video on that page that had instructions on how to exercise. We then connect a bit of code into analytics that will let us know if they played the video.
Then if we track that with Google Analytics, we wouldn’t just see simply that it’s a bounce. We can see that this is a page where those visitors came, and they did something.
So, you can get creative in different ways. A visit to a website where it’s just one-page view isn’t always bad. You can use Google Analytics to start to figure out, well, did they get what they were looking for when they came to that page or not? Let’s move on to the Landing Pages report.
LANDING PAGES REPORT
Let’s look at the Exit Pages report. This is going to give you a breakdown of where most people leave your site. This is where you can include a call to action. I recommend putting your call to action in the header and the footer of the site. I’ll also point out that you should review your reports to see where people are leaving.
This is your chance to make a conversion before the visitor leaves. You want to make sure that people do something later or remember to call you or sign up for your email list. Study this report as it is very, very important.
Figure out where most of your visitors leave your website, and then make sure that that page includes a free offer or a call to action or an opt-in to boost your conversion rates to fulfill a goal.
MEASURING SUCCESS WITH CONVERSIONS
So, in this section, I’m going to cover the C’s in the ABCs of Google Analytics, the Conversion reports. So we’ve covered acquisition and behavior and finally, we’re at conversion, the way that we measure success.
The first step is to decide what your goals are, the basic step for web analytics or for any web analyst is to figure out what we want our audience to do, figure out how we’re going to track it, how we’re going to measure it, and then how we’re going to test to see if we can improve it.
That’s what this section is for. Let’s look at the different type of goals that you can have and how you can track it with Google Analytics.
TYPES OF CONVERSIONS MEASURED BY EVENTS
The first goal type is a destination goal. That means that you can track if a specific page on your website loads. Let’s take an easy example. Let’s say that you have a web-based SEO business and you have a request for a quote form. You want to track if a visitor to your website has filled out the form and requested a quote.
You can track if that visitor reaches the “Thank You for Your Quote Request” page. That’s one way that you can track that process through from the beginning all the way to the end and see if your site is working.
Another way you can track this same goal is to use a type of form that has a built in ‘trigger’ on the submit form. Some types of form plugins for WordPress now have a section where you can insert a line of code or an ‘id=’ tag. This makes it easy to connect the form with your analytics dashboard and track not only who submitted the form but also how many times in a day or week that form was submitted.
DURATION ON PAGE
You can also track whether or not your site is behaving for you, if the design is working for you by tracking the duration a visitor spends on a page. A duration is simply a visit to your website that lasts a minimum amount of time that you can specify.
Let’s just say that you have a very information-rich site, such as a Wiki. Your job is to provide informative articles to your visitors. You may measure success if somebody spends a minimum of five minutes reading an article on your website.
You can use Google Analytics to figure out not only how long a visitor was on your page but how many prospective clients visited that page and how long each person was there.
We can track the pages they looked at, and if they spent seven minutes on an article that had a reading time of 6 minutes. We’re going to count that as a success.
TIME ON SITE
The third type of goal that we can track in Google Analytics is the number of pages or the screens that a visitor saw on an individual visit. Now we can say we want to track that they looked at at least 10 pages of our site before they left.
The last kind of goal is something that you’ll have to do a little bit of extra set up for. It’s a way for you to actually track an event that happens on a web page on your website.
For example, you can set it up to count a conversion if somebody visits our web page, then viewed this video or downloaded a PDF or registered for our newsletter.
In this way, you can do event tracking. Remember, bounce rate is not always bad. You can use this event tracking as a way to really see that visitors came to a landing page and you can see what they did when they went there.
They filled out a form that submitted to the ‘Thank You’ page or they downloaded the PDF. They watched an information video. You can see that there was all this customer interaction on the page. Those are the four types of goals that we can create.
SUMMING UP THE ANALYTICS PROCESS
These are just some of the report types you can see in the Google Analytics Dashboard. There is so much more I dare not try and cover it in one article. My goal was to give you just a very brief overview of what type of information you can see in the dashboard.
I also wanted to let you know that Google Analytics is not just passive in nature. Most people tend to believe that it just runs in the background collecting data and statistics and if that is how you want to use it, then you are missing out.
By creating goals and tracking conversions you will be able to form effective strategies that could quite possibly double your ROI! You can use the information from conversions to discover new niche markets that no one even knew existed – the possibilities are endless.
Stay tuned for my next article where I will take you step by step in setting up different event tracking possibilities on you website.