Digital marketing is resource intensive. But, if you aren’t tracking the results of your online marketing, the efforts you put in could be worse than useless. To figure out whether your online marketing is effective and to better decide how to allocate your time and your money, you need to see who is arriving at your site and what they are doing when they get there. Google Analytics is a free and powerful tool that allows you to do just that. Google Analytics is easy to set up and use. With a few basics, you can be on your way to a better understanding of your site’s visitors and the best ways to reach them.
Setting Up a Google Analytics Account
Setting up Google Analytics account takes just a few minutes. All you need is a Google account, which is free to sign up for. Intimidated about implementing the code because you aren’t that familiar with HTML? Don’t worry, if you can cut and paste, you can implement Analytics on your site.
Sign up for Analytics by visiting google.com/analytics. If you are logged into a Google account, click on “Access Analytics”. If you are not logged in or do not have a Google account, you will need to “Sign in” or “create an account”. Once logged in, click on “Sign up”. You’ll need to provide an account name (it’s best to use the business name), website name (this can be either the business name plus website or the URL), the URL of your website, your industry (if you can’t find a category that works, Other is just fine) and time zone.
Decide on whether you want to share data with Google and then click Get Tracking ID. I usually keep all options checked, but you can deselect them all if you want. It won’t hurt your tracking purposes either way.
Next, you’ll need to implement the Google Analytics code on your site. To do this, simply copy and paste the provided code into the HEAD section of each page. A lot of CMSs (content management systems) will provide a section that you can add the code to once and it will populate it on all pages. In a future post I will be showing how to implement Google Analytics with Google Tag Manager. If this is beyond your expertise or you don’t have the permissions, contact your webmaster or web host and they might be able to get it done for you or point you in the right direction.
Deciding on Your Website Goals
Now that you have set up a Google Analytics account, it is time to set up some goals. What are goals? Goals are certain events that the visitor completes on your website. Each time an event is completed, Google Analytics logs it as a conversion. You can set up goals for numerous things but the default ones are the time a user spent on the website, pages (or screens) a visitor has visited or loaded, or a destination like a thank you page after a contact form is filled out. More advanced goals will be tackled in future posts.
It’s important to understand how you want visitors interacting with your website and tailoring the goals to track them. Do you have a contact form or a lead generation form with a thank you page? Set up a destination goal to track the conversions. Is your site more of an informational site that does not have many calls to action? Then set up a goal for either pages visited or time spent on the website.
Tracking Your Advertising Efforts
If you use AdWords to bring traffic to your site, you can use Google Analytics to ensure that you are getting the best results out of your campaigns. Analytics gives detailed reports about your conversions and your return on your advertising investment. You can use the information provided by Analytics to improve your geo-targeting and to better choose which sites where your ads appear.
You an also build custom URLs to use in banner ads, email marketing and other online campaigns. These URLs allow you to A/B test ads that point to the same URL, see the effectiveness of different keywords and identify the sources of your traffic. You can also use the Google Play URL Builder tool to get the same information for mobile ads.
Reading Your Reports
It will take around 24 hours for Google Analytics to start giving you your first information. After that, you’ll be able to get basics on the Overview page under the Audience tab. This will show you how may people have been to your site, how many pages they check out, your bounce rate and more. The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who look at one page and then move along to other sites. If your bounce rate is high, that means that people aren’t sticking around long enough to sign up for more information or to complete a sale.
On the Overview page under the Acquisition tab, you can dig deeper into how your site is receiving traffic, those visitors behavior and any goals they have completed. If most of your traffic is coming from one channel like direct, maybe it is time to start a marketing campaign. Are the visitors from one channel showing a higher bounce rate than the others? Dig into how the visitors in that channel are using your site and make changes so they stay on the site longer.
Google Analytics has a ton of information that it can feel daunting at times. In the next few months we will be going over the information that can be mined from the vast data contained in your account. We will also be going over some of the more advanced aspects including combining Google Analytics with Google Tag Manager, advanced segmentation and customized dashboards just to name a few.
How do you use Google Analytics? What goals have you set up in your account? Let us know in the comments.