Google Analytics is probably the most popular free tool to keep track of how your website is performing, and for good reason. It offers a lot of great features, though they can be intimidating at first glance. This program has a lot to offer, so wrapping your head around it all might seem a bit daunting. However, once you pick on how to use some of its more advanced features, you’ll have more valuable control over your digital marketing efforts.
1. Read the Reports
Analytics reports give you a very clear picture as to how visitors are interacting with your website. When you log in, you’re brought to the audience overview page by default. This general overview breaks down your website stats, which include total website visits, page views, unique visitors, average visit duration, bounce rate, and percentage of new visits within the given time frame. Though this information is helpful, there are other reports you can check out to get more detailed information about your traffic.
Content Overview: When you click on Content>Overview in the left navigation panel, you’ll see a report that tells you what people are specifically looking at when they visit your website. You’ll see specific information about you page traffic, including which of your pages are most popular. This is helpful in identifying which pages you might want to get rid of, improve, or downplay.
Traffic Sources Overview: Knowing where your traffic is coming from allows you to fine tune your online marketing efforts. Analytics sorts sources by search traffic, referral traffic, direct traffic, and traffic from AdWords campaigns. Click on Search Engine Optimization and you’ll see what keywords lead users to your website, as well as what pages users are landing on and what geographic areas they live in.
Intelligence Events: This nifty tool allows you to set alerts for when specific events happen on your website. For instance, you might want to be alerted once a certain number of people make a purchase or download a free resource in a given month. Google will calculate the actual performance against the expected performance. You can set intelligence events for both web analytics and AdWords.
Conversions: This section allows you to set and monitor conversion goals for your site. You do this by specifying the goal URL to track. For instance, if your goal is to get people to sign up for your newsletter, then set the confirmation page as your goal URL. You then set up a sales funnel consisting of all the pages your visitor will go through to ultimately reach the confirmation page. KISSMetrics has written an excellent guide to using this feature.
2. Use Reporting Tools
Reporting tools let you use and control your analytics data in a variety of ways. If you’re a WordPress user who’s hungry for more analytics power, you’ll be happy to know that there’s more than one plugin for that. For example, Google Analytics for WordPress by Yoast lets you track things like views per category, views per author, and can automatically track pageviews and outbound clicks.
If you aren’t a WordPress user, there are also other tools that give you more control over your analytics. Google Analytics Evolution allows you to plug your data directly into an Excel spreadsheet. Bringshare.com allows you to merge your data with other sources to generate reports, white papers, and other company documents.
3. Explore Advanced Features
Advanced segmentation. This feature gives you more detailed information when it comes to where your traffic is coming form. For example, you can create and view the segment of people who bounced from your website in a given month, or only visitors who made a purchase. You can even create multiple segments and compare them on the same chart.
Custom Reporting. Just as the name suggests, custom reports allows you to create customized reports based on specific criteria and metrics. You can create reports that tell you things like bounce rate per city and Page Views by browser. You can find this option under the Customization tab.
Flash Tracking. Tracking Flash content on web pages has always been a major challenge for web developers. Google addresses this with Flash Tracking. It translates your tracking code into ActionScript 3 language, making it easier to track Adobe Flash content like forms and buttons.
Customized email reports. You can schedule reports to be emailed to you once, daily, weekly, monthly, or on a quarterly basis.
If you’re fairly new to analytics, then Google is a great place to start. Even after you learn your way around, you’ll find that there are still more features to learn about. The best way to learn is to tinker around and see which ones serve you best. Soon enough you’ll be rocking graphs and spreadsheets like the pro that you are.