Google Analytics: a beginners guide
If you’ve always wanted to improve your business’ digital marketing but never seem to be able to find the time, then right now could be a good opportunity to get started with a bit of online content creation.
Due to COVID-19 so many people are stuck indoors with little to do, and are inevitably turning to the internet for distraction, inspiration, ideas and information. So, if you’ve always been meaning to get around to writing that blog post, uploading that case study or fleshing out that news section, then this is the time.
Why is Google Analytics so useful?
If you’re going to start getting more content out there to encourage more people to come to you, then it’s a great idea to start looking into Google Analytics (GA) if you haven’t before. You can put out all the content in the world but it’s pointless is you’re not tracking the results. GA can provide a number of useful insights, such as tracking the people who visit your site, seeing what they‘re looking at, how long they’re staying for and even where they came from.
It’s important to recognise the limitations of GA as well as its usefulness, for example if users don’t allow cookies then Google finds it hard to measure them and could then give stats that aren’t 100% accurate. In addition, some of the platform’s more advanced possibilities can be tricky and require some quite specialised skills and knowledge to get right.
However, it remains one of the best ways to help you understand your website and digital marketing activities. If you’ve never really sunk your teeth into it, we know that GA can be a bit off-putting and confusing – which is why we’ve put together the following quick tips so that you don’t have to worry about what all those numbers and graphs lurking in your business’s GA account really mean.
Glossary of terms on Google Analytics
You might think that it would make sense to start with talking about how to link GA to your website, however as most web developers will do this for you, we’re going to dive straight in with some basic terminology (if you’ve designed the site yourself or do need to link up GA, check out how to do it here). The terms that you’ll probably be most immediately hit by include:
- Users: A user is anyone who has initiated at least one session during the date range in question, so they might have visited 100 times but they still only count as one user. This isn’t iron-clad, as it relies on the person using the same device or browser each time and not deleting their cookies, otherwise they will count as multiple users. Users is similar but different to “new users”, which is specifically first-time users to your site.
- Sessions: This is the total number of visits to your site and includes both new and repeat visitors. This means that if one person visited your site 10 times they’d be counted as one user but 10 sessions. Interestingly, GA will start a new session after 30 minutes of inactivity or at midnight, so if someone loads your page and then walks off to have lunch, returns after 45 minutes and loads your page, that will count as two sessions.
- Bounce rate: This is an important one, as it’s often used as a measure for how engaging your site is. If a site or page has a high bounce rate, this means that users are landing on your site and almost immediately leaving again without doing anything. If you have a high bounce rate think about how many items there are on the site/page for people to do and if it’s obvious how they do it? Pages with limited options will inevitably have high bounce rates compared to say the homepage of a news website that has a million features to click, read, watch, etc.
- Referral: Looking at the referrals to your website will help you to identify where people are coming from. In GA, go into Acquisition in the left-hand menu and then All Traffic – Channels to get a quick overview of the different ways that people are finding your site. Digging into this report will help you understand which websites are funnelling users your way, which social media platforms are working for you and how many people are going straight to your site.
Being contented with content
In the Behaviour section of the left-hand menu you can go into Site Content and get some very quick, very useful insights into the type of content that’s working for you. By ranking all the pages on the site, you can see what your audience is most interested in - whether it’s a type of product, advice on a particular topic, or even what style of content is proving most effective. Knowing what your audience likes is great way to inform future activity in a number of ways, whether it’s for more content on your site, for a press release that you want to get out into the media, or even to help think about how your business can better cater to its customers in general.
It’s a date
This might seem obvious, but make sure that the date range for the data you’re looking at is relevant. For example, if you want to evaluate the success of some new content or design changes then make sure that you know the date that it went live and that you’re not accidentally accounting for time periods that won’t give you an accurate picture of what you’ve just done.
One thing that’s fun to do is to click the “compare to” button in the date box, as this lets you see really quickly what effect a new campaign or activity has had compared to what your site can usually expect to achieve.
Setting up goals is a useful way to track what you consider to be the most important objectives for your site. This is a little techier than the other points, but can be done by clicking on the Admin button and then Goals, where you’ll see that you can create a new goal for your site.
You might want to use this to report on every time a purchase has been made, the number of times something has been downloaded, or when a contact form has been completed. If you go into conversions in the left-hand menu and then goals, you’ll be able to monitor these to see how the site is doing.
Obviously, GA can do so much more than the above, and is something that you can easily keep updating, improving and learning about to help you inform your website and understand whether it’s working. But we hope that this quick look at some of the benefits and uses of GA has helped prompt you to get stuck into it if you never have before.