How to Make Sense of Google Analytics

By Chelsea Berler

There are still many small business websites and content marketers that are not using Google Analytics (or any analytics, for that matter) to measure the effectiveness of their efforts. Other businesses may have downloaded or even tried Google Analytics, but don’t know how to make sense of it or are intimidated by the data.

But I urge you to put GA to work for you. This valuable tool can uncover if your online marketing is working and help you calculate the ROI of your online marketing. However, for many small business owners, the mere mention of terms like analytics and data (related to marketing online) can seem like a mind-numbing jumble of numbers.

Don’t let Google Analytics do a number on you!

Tap into the data for a targeted online content strategy that you can apply to your websites, blogs, micro-sites, social media and more. Following are some useful tips to help you better use Google Analytics as a tool to track traffic to your website, see where it’s coming from, what brought it there, and know how site visitors behave.

When you better understand which marketing efforts are producing more leads, conversions, and sales, you’ll be able make more informed decisions about investments of time and money in your marketing.

What you can do with the information.

With information from Google Analytics, you can assess whether your social media strategy is effective, which blog topics are favored among your readers, which landing pages get more sign-ups, leads or buyers, and which search terms are most popular.

By diving into the data, you’ll be able to gather insights about your site visitors. The more comfortable you get working with GA, you will see that the data offers a wealth of information to refine and optimize your marketing strategies. So be sure to:

Check average session duration.

This stat shows the average length of time your visitors are spending on your website. The longer people spend on your website, the more they are becoming involved with your content. If you are producing a bunch of content but the average session duration is below one minute, there’s a problem. Your visitors either can’t find your content, or they don’t find it interesting.

Find out who’s visiting your website.

Google Analytics provides an overview of site visitors and specific information about their demographics. You will be able to gather details about your audience, such as age, gender, precise geographic location, and language. You will also be able to learn which affinity categories your site visitors fit into, meaning the types of interests and lifestyle they have, based on their search history. Audience reports will also provide information on the behavior of your site visitors, such as how frequently they visit your site, what technology they use to access your site, and how long they remain on your site. Overall, the user audience reports help determine whether you are reaching the correct target audience. If not, you’ll want to adjust your marketing and content strategies.

Discover how visitors got to your site.

The “acquisitions” section reveals how visitors ended up on your website…the origin of the traffic that landed there. The main categories in the acquisition reports section include organic search, social, direct, referral, display, and paid search. Organic search refers to the traffic driven to your site by the words users entered into a search engine to find your website. Social refers to traffic driven by social media, and you can see whether traffic originated from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or any other social channel. Direct refers to traffic generated by someone typing your domain name into the browser. Referral refers to traffic that came from a website that linked out to your website. Display and paid search refer to traffic driven by Google Ads.

Knowing where your traffic comes from helps you make decisions about where to concentrate your marketing efforts or how effective those efforts are. For example, if you are spending a large budget on Google Ads, but the majority of your traffic is coming from organic search, you should either concentrate on your blogging efforts and reduce your ad spend or refine your ads strategy. If you are spending a ton of time on Facebook but you are getting more traffic from Pinterest, consider scaling back on Facebook to concentrate more on Pinterest.

Find out why visitors are leaving.

Bounce rate refers to the percentage of sessions where your visitor leaves your website from the same page they entered. There are a number of explanations for a high bounce rate. Your visitors may simply find the information they need on the first page. Alternatively, they may experience navigation or usability issues.

You can also use Google Analytics to find the pages your visitors most frequently leave your website from. These are called “exit pages,” and each page of your website will have an exit rate. This information is crucial for optimizing key user journeys, such as a registration process or completing an online purchase.

Track content performance.

Behavior reports reveal critical information about your content—more specifically, how well your content performs and how your content drives users to behave. In the behavior report, you will see which pages produced the greatest number page views and how users navigated from one page to the next. Are most people arriving on your homepage first? Are most visitors arriving through blog posts, and if so what topics? Are visitors clicking from your blog posts to a call-to-action opt-in page or a contact page? When someone reads one blog post, are they likely to navigate to another post or download some additional information? The more you know about how visitors are using your site, the more you can adapt your site to enhance your website’s effectiveness.

Monitor conversion rates.

Conversions reports are for somewhat more advanced use and provide more customized information than the behavior report. When you’ve set goals within Google Analytics, the conversions section provides data specific to those objectives. For example, if you have an opt-in offer, you can set a goal for driving visitors to the download or thank you page. You’ll be able to analyze the user actions that lead to reaching that goal, user demographics of those who reached the goal, and even assign a dollar amount to achieving each conversion goal.

Becoming more familiar with Google Analytics helps you be more effective in your marketing and ultimately achieve better results. Getting up close and personal with your data will prevent wasted time, allow you to correct or tweak your efforts, and learn more about your customers. So I recommend tapping into this amazing free tool now. You have everything to gain from free information and nothing to lose.