5 Ways to Use Metrics to Improve Your Website With Google Analytics
By Courteney McDonnell
About Web Analytics
I often experience bursts of renewed confidence for tackling my life improvement goals right before falling asleep. Tomorrow, I’ll work out before heading to the office. I’ll send that RSVP to my cousin’s wedding. I’ll get into the office early and finish my article about Google Analytics. Eight hours pass and, without fail, I hit the snooze button. My cousin is still left wondering if I’ll have chicken, fish, or beef. My local gym has officially put me on the “New Years Resolution” membership train. I do, however, finish my article about Google Analytics (I’ll settle for one out of three).
While Google Analytics might not be on your list of life improvements, it can help something you probably do think about: your online marketing strategy. Website owners often wonder why they aren’t on ‘page 1’ of Google. Your solution here lies within your starting points. And you can’t change what you don’t measure.
The tools available for measuring a website’s health can be intimidating. Translating a Russian novel was more likely than understanding the dashboard when I first installed my Google Analytics. In this article, I’ll provide you a few areas within Google Analytics that are easily accessible and digestible.
1. Audience Overview: Am I getting any traffic?
This one is super important and one of the easiest metrics to find. Take a look at the “Audience Overview” section within Google Analytics. Start simple: Focus on the number of visits and then take a look at how many of those visits were unique (first-time visitors). If this is your first go, I suggest adjusting the time period so that you can see at least 5–6 months of data. Don’t overwhelm yourself with the daily trends yet. Just make sure your website has a pulse.
2. Channels: How did my traffic get here?
After confirming your website has a pulse, identify from where that pulse is coming. Are visitors typing your URL into their search bars (“direct traffic”)? Perhaps a link on Zillow generates much of your traffic (“referral traffic”). Navigate down to the “Acquisition” tab and jump into “Channels.” This will help you identify which avenues might actually need your attention versus ones that are already successful.
“The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.”
— Carly Fiorina
3. Referral Traffic: Who is referring to my site?
Did you notice that you’re getting a lot of “Referral” traffic? Mysterious. Who are these angels and why are they sending visitors to your site? Stick within the “Acquisition” tab but jump down to “All Referrals” for a little bit more insight. Take notice of any sources which are driving a significant amount of traffic to your website. If it’s a quality website, you could share the love by linking back to them within your own content or reaching out to the site’s owners to network. Or, you might notice traffic coming from a source on which you advertise. We’ll jump more into this below so you can better identify if this traffic is worth it.
4. Bounce rates: Which traffic is worth it?
You’ve identified where your traffic is coming from, but is it good traffic? Take a look at your bounce rates. A “bounce rate” is determined by the percentage of visitors who come to your site and leave from the same page. If you’re investing in advertising among several websites (such as Zillow.com and Homes.com) stick on the same “All Referrals” tab for detailed bounce rate information. Identify which is producing the lowest bounce rates. If it doesn’t seem that much of your traffic is coming from Referrals, head up to the “All Traffic” option within “Acquisitions.” Maybe you’re creating a lot of content and generating organic traffic. If the bounce rate is high though, perhaps visitors aren’t finding what they expected and it’s time to revise your content strategy.
5. Visitor Flows: What’s my traffic doing?
Not so scary, right? Now that you’ve built some confidence, strut on up to the “Visitors Flow” section back within “Audience.” I promised to keep this article focused on the basics. Given that, all I’ll ask you to look at is the “1st Interaction” column and check your audience’s most-popular first move. Is it the move you were hoping for? While many variables may impact a visitor’s first move, it’s important to highlight any trends so you can start connecting the dots.
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.”
— Sherlock Holmes
6. Bonus Tip: Avoid Inflated Metrics
Worried that most of the metrics are coming from you? It might be time to exclude views generated from your own IP address. Head up to the “Admin” link. You should see an “All Filters” option listed beneath the “Account” column. If you have the appropriate level of access, you can add a new filter and exclude your IP address. Check out Google’s instructions for a quick walk-through on filters.
Google Analytics can provide some incredible insight. When you’re ready to dig deeper, I suggest checking out the Google Analytics for Real Estate eBook.
Were these tips helpful? What other insight are you hoping to gain from Google Analytics? Let us know in the comments below!
Published on March 14, 2014