When you're new to the website space, it can seem like websites are very set and forget. You build it, put it up, and then forget that it exists. In an ideal world you should be constantly observing how your customers are reacting to it so that you can drive conversion, generate leads and give them the best digital experience you can.
But how can you gather the information required to make these decisions? Easy - Google Analytics.
Google Analytics (GA for short) is a data collecting tool that tracks activity on your site. Even if you only use it’s basic features that require no additional set up, it collects an incredibly wide variety of metrics. These can be used to learn more about your customers, optimise your site, increase your revenue and literally change the way you think about your brand.
A user’s behaviour, rather than their feedback, is a much more useful tool to discover what they actually think about you and your business. Whilst it can be hard to collect and analyse information in a physical store or in person, Analytics is your little spy buddy who watches everything your customer does, collates it, and reports on it.
Some of the metrics it collects for you are website traffic, website channels (how someone reached your site), how long they spent on the page, what city the user is from, what device they used (desktop, mobile, tablet) and much more.
If you’ve ever had a question about your website, Google Analytics can answer it.
I really don’t feel like it makes sense to have site if you don’t have Google Analytics (or some sort of Analytics tool). If you have no idea what’s happening on your site how can you even begin to properly leverage it? Rhetorical question - you can’t.
This is one of my favourite things about Google Analytics - it’s free.
You can sign up for an account with your Gmail whenever you like, set it up on your site (this usually takes less than 5 minutes for most sites), and it will start collecting your data straight away.
The only time you need to start thinking about paying for Analytics is when you hit the really big leagues, at which point you can consider upgrading from GA Standard to GA 360. GA 360 is the premium version of the tool.
Google Analytics 360 comes with a bunch of things that only huge businesses need. This includes a dedicated account manager, the chance to dive into some REALLY complex data settings, and heaps more. To illustrate just how big you need to be though, consider this - a GA standard account will track all your data as long its under 10 million sessions a month. If your business doesn’t come close to this threshold (and if it does, wow, congratulations) you’re fine with the free version.
Let’s get down to it - how can you use Google Analytics to your advantage?
There are very obvious answers, such as finding out how much traffic your website is getting, but there can be much more innovative solutions to be had.
All of these scenarios are based on real clients and real situations. They include some marketing key terms including Bounce Rate, Traffic and Referrals. Check out the Glossary if you come across any terms you don't understand.
We wanted to implement a pop-up on your website to collect email addresses for our newsletter list. As we all know, pop-ups piss people off. They’re also a very good lead collection tool when used correctly.
To make sure we were walking the fine line between not annoying people but also getting people to fill out our pop-up form, we needed to be able to tell how people are reacting to it.
We implemented a pop-up that required the user to fill out 4 fields, popped up after 5 seconds on site & appeared on all pages of the site.
We found that although we were getting some entries from the form, we checked our traffic and noticed that our bounce rate (the rate at which people enter your site and then immediately leave, without clicking on anything) was now at a scary 80%, up from 40%. This means that an extra 40% of people were leaving the site immediately because the pop-up annoyed them that much.
Additionally, using the traffic data that Google Analytics provided, we could tell that even though the number of entries we were getting from the form seemed OK, it was actually only 2% of our overall sessions. This was not the result we were after!
We used Google Analytics to tweak the pop-up various times and to check the results, finally landing on a 50% bounce rate and a 7% pop-up completion rate. This was the happiest medium we found, where people were only a little pissed off at the pop-up and filled it out at a much higher rate.
For any website that I work on regularly, I keep a close eye on their Analytics.
During a routine check of high traffic URLs, I noticed one URL that I had never seen before was in the top 5. Fluctuations in traffic aren’t usually that extreme so it warranted investigation. I clicked through to the link and it was a 404 (page missing error)!
I brought this up with the team that managed the marketing for this brand, and it turned out we had a campaign running and it was directing traffic to this broken page by accident - somebody had added an extra letter to the link!
This is a big issue. It means money is being spent on directing customers to a page on which they can’t actually do anything, so effectively every dollar of that campaign spend was being wasted.
Thankfully the campaign was only a day or so old, so we redirected the incorrect URL to the correct URL, so all customers were now reaching the right spot.
We created a hidden page on the website to be used for a special promotional campaign, at a physical event the company was sponsoring.
We created a QR code that customers could scan while at the event that would then take them through to this page. The page contained a discount code for a percentage off their purchase.
This page wasn’t available on Google and wasn’t linked to from any spot on the site.
At an initial look, we found that on the day of the event we had really high traffic on the page. We were pleased that so many people had engaged with our QR code.
We then did some further analysis the day after. We checked our referrals for the day of the event, and found that an online bargain website had directed us 500+ users that day - very strange! After looking into it, we found that someone at the event had copied the URL of the hidden page and posted it onto the bargain site for others to use the promotional code!
From this data we were able to re-evaluate how successful the campaign at the event actually was, and consider how we could avoid something like this in the future.
I get it - it seems like a lot of work & effort for a small business. Who has the time to look at that kind of data right?
However it’s really important to note that Google Analytics can only start tracking your website stats once it’s been installed. Stats cannot be back dated.
Say you’re a small business now, but maybe you get much bigger in the immediate future. Maybe you then have the time and resources and personnel to start really looking into your site performance. If you don’t install Google Analytics now, you’ve lost all your historic data already.
You don’t even have to look at it for it to start adding value to your future business!
Keen to get started with Google Analytics?undefined
I can do everything from setting up your Analytics, running training, or providing ongoing reporting. I can also provide instructions if you prefer to self serve - there's a solution for every experience level.
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