Monday, August 08, 2011

 

Five easy steps to get started with Google Analytics

It's free, it's easy to set up, and it's (relatively) easy to use without a lot of IT support or technical knowledge. But many companies still don't have a basic Web analytics tool watching what's happening on their site.

They may have traffic volume, but that's not helpful without context. Where's your traffic coming from? What keywords are searchers using to find you? Which pages are most popular? Which are the most slippery, and are driving prospective customers away?

There have been whole books written about how to use Google Analytics, but getting started (and both making sense and taking action on initial data) is very easy. If you're starting from scratch, after you get the code on your site, I'd recommend these five things:

Give it time
I know you're anxious to look at the data, and feel free to peek, but I'd collect at least 20-30 days of data before taking anything too seriously. Over time you will see spikes in behavior, anomalies that never occur again, etc. You don't want to make significant changes based on unusual behavior early on that doesn't reflect the normal rhythm of our traffic and user behavior. So let that new analytics code marinate for a couple weeks.

Look at natural behavior
Watch what's happening with basic data. Look at page views, sources, keywords. Start thinking about which pages get the most views and why. Where does that traffic come from? Somewhere externally or another page on your site? What keywords are people using to find you? Are they using mostly branded keywords (i.e. variations of your company name) or are they finding you via problem/solution/outcome keywords? And where within your site does that search result take them? By looking at natural behavior, you'll quickly identify trends you like and trends you don't like. You'll quickly have a list of things you might want to change, stop doing or start doing to improve the direction and volume of traffic in your favor.

Focus in on anomalies
Look for spikes in traffic. Where did they come from? Did you get mentioned in a blog or article somewhere? If so, can you get it again? Look for blog posts that consistently get more traffic than others. What do those posts have in common? What keywords did you use that appear to be driving behavior? Can you use them again? And what are you doing on these pages (at these moments in time) to drive that traffic to further discovery of your product or service?

Use in-page analytics to gauge clickthrough behavior
Start with your highest-trafficked pages (your home page or blog home page). Use Google's in-page analytics tool to see, via a simple overlay on your site, which links are getting the most traffic. If you compare in-page analytics across pages, you'll likely see a trend for not just the type of content that gets the most clicks, but also the specific page placement that's driving the most activity. Is there something else you'd rather have in that spot that would benefit from increased exposure or clickthroughs?

Start tracking conversion events
Designate certain pages (newsletter sign-ups, downloads, feature videos) as conversion events. Google will give you special code snippets to place on those pages. Now, moving forward, you'll be able to track specifically how many people converted on those pages, and where they came from. As you start driving more traffic to your site, and changing how the site is displayed to optimize discovery and clickthrough, you'll have a better understanding of what's working and what's not.

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