Google Analytics (GA) is an excellent free tool used to track and measure website traffic and other factors. If used strategically, Google Analytics can provide you a wealth of beneficial knowledge. Here are two Google Analytics strategies and a variety of metrics you should be checking to get the most out of this powerful tool:
“I think the question that anybody needs to ask themselves when they have a website is what’s the meaningful action you want someone to take when they’re visiting your site,” says John Becerra, co-founder of Monkey Island, a consulting firm focusing on online marketing, search engine optimization, pay-per-click and conversion optimization.
Instead of getting lost in an endless cascade of analytics, it’s best to determine what you’d like to measure and set appropriate goals.
The type of goals you’ll want to measure depends on the type of site you have, but the following are metrics you may wish to track:
• Purchases: You can track this by sending shoppers to a “thank you” page after their order is completed, and tracking that page.
• Contacts: People who fill out a ‘contact us’ form might be useful to track if it leads to sales.
• Mailing list subscribers: This is especially important if your email marketing yields a high return compared to blog posts and social.
• Downloads or views: If a video or whitepaper is part of your sales funnel, you may want to track the number of people who download the resource or watch a video.
• Duration: It’s not worth it to put a lot of time into a page if people immediately scroll off, so you’ll want to track the results to see how much time people are spending on any given page. Then you can make changes as needed.
• Pages/screens per session: Depending on the type of business you have, it may be important for people to view multiple pages, which means they’ll be far more likely to return.
Just as important as the number of goals met on your site is where the actual traffic is coming from, so you’ll want to pay close attention to these metrics as well:
• Most referred sites: or the sites that send the most traffic your way. If the majority of your traffic is coming from specific sites, you may want to expand your partnership or affiliation (or advertising) with the site.
• Types of traffic: direct traffic (people who type in your URL), search engine traffic, paid traffic, or referring websites. If you have a deficit of traffic from any of these three places, you may want to see how you can increase it.
• Search terms: people use to get to your site, so that you can provide more content related to those terms. You can also look at the search terms people use on your own site, or site search.
• Traffic from social: Both social landing pages and the number of conversions coming from social media sites. This will allow you to put more effort into the social media sites or landing pages that are getting you the best results.
Google Analytics allows you to set as many as 20 goals, but again, it’s important to focus on just a few key metrics that you’ve determined are the most important ones for your site. So, don’t feel like you have to track every metric if it doesn’t tie directly into the goals for your website.
Becerra recommends looking at attribution modeling in Google Analytics. Although it’s often ignored, he sees it as one of the most useful tools available in Google Analytics.
An attribution model is a set of rules that shows you how many points of contact a reader may have had with your brand before a sale is made. For example, a reader may find your site via web search, and return after clicking on a link on Facebook or Twitter a week later. Then, after signing up for your email newsletter, that same reader could click on a link in your email newsletter and make a purchase. Instead of just looking at the very last metric and attributing that sale to the email newsletter, attribution modeling allows you to choose between multiple options that give you additional information about that sale:
• Last interaction: For the purpose of tracking the sale, credit is given to the last interaction before the sale. This model is useful if your sales funnel doesn’t have a long consideration phase.
• Last non-direct click: The last channel that wasn’t direct traffic receives credit. If your sales are mostly won through other methods and people simply go to your direct site for the actual sale, this model may be useful.
• Last AdWords click: The AdWords click that ultimately led to the conversion is tracked and receives credit for the sale. This can help you analyze which of two or more AdWords campaigns were most effective.
• First interaction: This metric tracks the way the person came across your site the very first time. If one of your goals is generating awareness for your brand and business, this model is for you.
• Linear attribution model: In this model, every interaction in the conversion path gets equal credit for the sale. By using this model, “you can really dissect the way in which people interact with your site,” says Becerra. The model can help you understand the entire sales cycle, and is helpful if you maintain contact with the client throughout it.
• Time decay: In this model, the interactions that occurred closest in time to the conversion or sale get the majority of the credit. This is most useful for shorter campaigns running one or two days.
• Position-based: This assigns 40 percent credit to the first and last interaction, and the remainder is distributed to the middle interactions. If you’re most interested in the very first point of contact a customer had with your site as well as the one resulting in a sale, this is a good attribution model.
Not sure which to pick, or want to geek out on this more? No worries – a model comparison tool can help you compare three different attribution models at a time to see the similarities and differences. You can even create a custom model.
It can be tempting to log onto Google Analytics multiple times a day to see how a specific page is doing, but Becerra recommends paying more attention to overall trends. Looking at your analytics once a week, and digging in more in-depth for a full analysis every month, should do the trick.
If you’re unfamiliar with how to use Google Analytics, be sure to check out our Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics.
Which tools do you find most useful in Google Analytics? Share your comments with us below.
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