Good question. Firstly, if you don’t know what Google Analytics is, Wikipedia defines it as: “a free service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about the visitors to a website.” I’m not at University anymore so I have no problem quoting Wikipedia, we all know it’s super reliable. If you don’t already have it installed on your website, check out this post by Google, and DO IT! For the rest of this article I’m also going to assume you know a little bit about Google Analytics and have used it before. If you have any questions, simple or complex, drop us a comment and we’ll get back to you. Below are some quick things to be doing and monitoring in Analytics.
Firstly you should set up a filter, to filter out any traffic coming from your own IP address(es). This is especially important if your website traffic is quite low, as your own visits can skew the figures quite a bit. To set up a filter you need to:
- Log into you analytics account
- Click on admin at the top right of the window
- Choose the website you want to create a filter for
- Click on “Filters” in the tab menu
- Choose “+ New Filter”
- Name your filter, something like “Exclude My Visits”
- Keep “Pre-defined filter” checked
- Then make sure the following are selected in the drop downs – “exclude” “traffic from the IP addresses” “that are equal to”
- Enter your IP address into the next 4 fields – To find out your IP address search Google for “my IP address”, Google will display it at the top as “Your public IP address is 184.108.40.206” or whatever is it
- Choose the profile you want to add the filter to – I sometimes like to create new profiles for different filters, but it’s not really necessary
- Click Save – You can add more filters for different IP addresses if you use different computers or different Internet connections.
We’ll now look at “Unique Visitors”, this is pretty important as it’ll show you just how many different people came to your site within a certain timeframe. A great thing to do every once is a while, is to set the time frame to something like 1 year or 6 months, then from within the chart choose “unique visitors” from the drop-down, change the selected box from “day” to “week”/”month”. You should then be able to see a general trend for that time period, hopefully you’ll see it going up… If you want to get a bit more technical, you can export the details as a CSV, open in Excel, create a line chart, add in a trendline, and that’ll show you a more scientific trend; rather than relying on your eyes and personal judgement.
The Overview will show you what you need to know. In general it shows you where your traffic is coming from, be it Search traffic (both Paid and Organic lumped into one), Referral Traffic, Direct Traffic or Campaign Traffic. To look a bit deeper, you can open up the Sources and click through each one. I like to focus on referrals, especially if you’ve been building links, as this is where you can see if these links are in fact sending traffic to your site. You might even see some that you didn’t actively build, which is always nice; someone linking to you because they actually like your content or site. It’s also good to look at Organic visits within Search to see what keywords are driving people to your website, however personally I prefer to go to the “Search Engine Optimisation dropdown”. To see the details in here you require a webmasters tools account to be linked to your analytics, and you then need to allow the connection. Just follow the steps; it’s pretty simple process. Within this SEO section, you can select “Queries”, this will show you what people are typing into Google to trigger your website. The impressions show roughly, and it’s very roughly, how many times that query triggered your website to show up on someone’s Google results page. You can use this to determine what people are searching for, and if you’re not getting many clicks for something you think you’d want to, you can focus on optimising you site for these terms. Sorting by clicks will show you what search terms are driving traffic from Google to your website. You can then see if all your hard work targeting a certain keyword has been working. Searching for specific keywords will also show you trend for that keyword, you can see how, over time, your efforts have worked. You can also look at Landing pages, which gives you an idea of what specific pages are attracting the most visits or impressions from Google. Unfortunately you can’t see both the Landing page and the keywords driving traffic to that landing page at the same time. Maybe one day?
Another aspect I really like to look at is the content. Here you can see what pages are getting the most traffic, it can often lead to an understanding of your users. If they’re not going where you want them to, make it easier for them to get there, or make it more obvious. If you have a blog, a good little tip is to search for “blog” or “news” or whatever you call it, to see which posts have attracted the most traffic, this will give you an idea of what your audience find interesting and should be writing about. Do take into account that blog posts are released at different times, so you’ll want to careful before focusing all of your efforts on writing about something that has simply been around for ages.
Back up in “Audiences” you will be able to see “Visitors Flow”; this is an interesting little tool that shows the journey your users have been through on your website. Find a page you’re most interested in, perhaps a conversion page or contact page, click on it and then choose to “highlight traffic through here”. This will show you where the majority of traffic comes from and goes to next, as well as the whole journey people take when going through this page. By exploring this tool, selecting different things and different segments of traffic, you can build up a better understanding of how different users are using your website; it might really surprise you. Here’s what it looks like:
Obviously there are some other really important things to monitor, such as conversions, conversion funnels, demographics, advertising, page speeds, social media and a whole wealth of other important features. Perhaps I’ll do a part 2 and explain a few more of my favourites? But I would recommend looking through these few things to understand your user base a bit better.