What makes Google Analytics so great?
Well, not only is it a great way to monitor how much traffic your site is getting and where it’s coming from, but if you use it properly you can gain a wealth of other information including your bounce rate, most popular pages or articles, and even your conversion rates!
The trouble is, it can be confusing. There are tons of features that seem hopelessly hidden amongst a wide variety of options, and the majority of people don’t even know they’re there, much less how to use them.
Let's learn about some of the most important features of Google Analytics, and how you can use those features to improve your traffic, conversions and more!
The first thing you need to do is get a Google Analytics account, if you don’t already have one:
You can use an existing Google account. Just sign in and press “Sign up” you’re ready to start using Google Analytics.
Next, you’ll need to add a site to Analytics. To do this, you can take a look at this great guide Google has already made for you:
Analytics with WordPress
If you’re using WordPress, and a great number of sites are these days, you can use a nifty little plugin to make it easier to install Analytics on your pages. This is especially helpful if your theme doesn’t already have a specific place to add your Analytics code.
The Five Report Suites
There are five report suites inside Google Analytics that will each offer you different types of information. These five different report times include:
- Real Time
Some sites may not use all of these reports. For example, if you’re not selling anything, you may not need to use the conversions suite. (However, it’s still useful for tracking conversions to your email list and such.)
- Realtime: Real-time reports let you know what is happening with your site right now. You can find out what is happening on your website at the moment you’re viewing the report. This will give you live information about how much traffic you’re getting and what pages people are currently viewing.
- Audience: The audience reports give you information about the people visiting your site. They let you know their demographics such as age and gender, their interests, where they are located, what type of devices and browser they use, etc.
- Acquisition: Acquisition reports tell you where your traffic is coming from. It gives you information such as keywords used to find you and links they came from. This will help you determine which are your most effective keywords and marketing channels.
- Behavior: The behavior reports let you know information such as which pages people are viewing, where they go, how fast your pages load, etc. This will tell you which articles are most popular, and what you could do to make people enjoy your content more.
- Conversions: The conversion reports will let you know how effective your site is at making sales or getting email signups or getting users to take whatever other action you’d like them to take
Those are the five different types of reports and what type of information you can get from each one. Ideally, you’ll be using each of these different types of reports in order to take full advantage of the power offered by Google Analytics.
Basic Date Range Reports
Using date ranges can help you in many ways. It will allow you not only to see your traffic over a time period, but also compare it to other time periods in the past to see if your traffic is growing or shrinking, and how certain events affected your traffic.
If you look at the top of your screen while logged into Analytics, you’ll notice a date range. You can set this to pretty much any date range you want in order to see historical data and compare your information to times in the past.
This is useful for figuring out if your traffic is growing or shrinking, when you might have had spikes in traffic to figure out what may have contributed to the spikes, etc.
- You can learn a lot about how to increase your traffic and conversions by using these reports.
You can also compare data easily by selecting “Compare to” in order to select two different time periods in order to get a comparison that will show you different lines to let you compare historical data.
Here’s how to do it:
Just tick the “Compare to” box after you click your date range, and then select the time period you want to compare it to.
Note: You can do this while viewing a single site, OR while viewing an overview of your entire account at once to give you a snapshot of how all your sites are doing.
Here’s what it looks like to view your main page with this:
And here is what it looks like to view a single site:
If you look at the bottom of your chart, you can add an annotation. This will help you add notes to remind you in the future what happened on certain dates.
For example, you might add notes such as:
- Ran Facebook ad, traffic up 28%
- Launched new website
- Added article on Pinterest, traffic doubled overnight
- Site hacked, traffic dropped by 75% for several days
Not only will this help you figure out what kind of marketing and such is working, but if you sell your site later, you’ll be able to remember what happened at various times in order to explain traffic discrepancies to potential buyers.
Date ranges make it easy to get an idea of how your traffic is growing or shrinking. Be sure to remember to add those annotations to major traffic events so you remember what caused them.
Goals: Goals are a function of Analytics that is dramatically underused. Many people don’t even know goals exist in Analytics, and others know little about them or don’t know how to use them.
Goals can be very helpful. Goals will let you track the effectiveness of your sales funnel, your squeeze page, your ads, etc.
Here’s how goals work:
- Traffic comes in from a specific traffic source
- You have a specific action you want people to take
- Users take that action
- You now know where the traffic comes from, how many people saw the offer, and how many people took the desired action
To set up a goal, open Analytics and go to Admin at the top of the page. Then click Goals on the left hand menu. Select New Goal, then select Custom. Click Next Step.
Choose a name for your goal. It can be whatever you want, but be sure it will be easy for you to remember what you’re tracking with it.
You might name it something like “Squeeze Page For Weight Loss Report”, for example.
There are several types of events you can track:
- Destination – User ends up at a specific page
- Duration – User is on page for a specific length of time
- Page/Screens per session - User views at least X number of pages
- Event – User views a video, for example
Let’s say your ultimate goal is to get users to make it to the download page for your lead magnet, which happens after they opt in to your list. You’d choose a Destination goal, then set your value to the URL of your thank you page.
If you’d like more detailed information about setting up all the different types of goals, here is an in-depth tutorial from Analytics: