The Power of Google Analytics
Knowledge is power. As a small business owner, you know how true this statement is. You make decisions daily based on what you know. Unless you speak geek, though, you may be making decisions about digital marketing and your online business presence without having a lot of knowledge or experience in that realm. Time and time again, small business owners have contracted for web design services or digital marketing and social media management services only to discover later that they weren’t getting a good return on their investment. When hiring someone else to provide digital marketing services, you still want to be able to track activities and measure the success of those efforts. You want to be able to have an informed conversation about your goals and results. A basic understanding of Google Analytics can give you the knowledge and power you need to partner intelligently with consultants to develop marketing strategies and make informed and impactful marketing decisions.
Setting up your analytics account is relatively easy, and basic services (likely all you’ll need as a small business owner) are free. First, you’ll need a Gmail account since all Google services are connected through a Gmail login. If you don’t already have a Gmail account, you can easily set one up by following these setup instructions. Next, you’ll install a tracking code on your website that’s connected to your Google Analytics account. Moz provides step-by-step instructions to install Google Analytics, but if you’re working with a marketing agency or consultant, they should take care of that work for you. Once your Google Analytics account is up and running, you’ll have access to a ton of information, but it takes time to collect usable data as Google tracks users who visit your website over time. Be patient until you have enough data to sift through. Over time, though, you’ll have so much data that it can lead to information overload and frustration in not knowing what it all means or what actions you should take once you have the data.
The ABCs of Google Analytics are the fundamentals: the data you collect will be about the basic business principles of acquisition, behavior, and conversion, and those are the factors you’ll want to measure. A HubSpot white paper details how the ABC information from Google Analytics is key to establishing and monitoring marketing goals and strategies, but here are some of the basics of ABCs and why they’re important. Google Analytics can tell you how people get to your website, what they look at while they’re on your site, how long they stay on your site, and actions they take as a result of visiting your site. Now that’s knowledge that can be powerful!
Acquisition information reveals how people find your website. You can learn how many visitors found you through internet searches or through paid advertisements or social media links, for instance. You can see how many visitors are repeat visitors and how many are new to your site. Knowing how visitors find you can lead to more informed decisions about where to market your business.
Behavior tells you how people interact with your site. You can see what pages users visit most frequently and how long they stay on a page. A term you’ll hear often when talking about web analytics is “bounce rate.” The bounce rate is a measurement of how many people visit one page and then leave your site. A high bounce rate is usually considered to be bad; however, if visitors find what they need on the first page they visit and contact you as a result, your bounce rate will be high while you still got the results you wanted. If you’re trying to steer users to fill out forms or make purchases online, though, your goal will be to have visitors on your site longer and looking at multiple pages. A high bounce rate in that instance would indicate that your site or your messaging and strategy may need some work. Another behavior metric that might be helpful in determining best marketing strategies for your business is knowing what devices people are using when visiting your site. If most of your visitors are using mobile devices, you want to be certain that your site functions well on smartphones. You may also want to target advertising efforts to platforms used more frequently on mobile devices, such as social media.
Conversions are the actions people ultimately take on your website. Do you want visitors to join your newsletter? Do you want them to fill out contact forms? Make purchases? Pick up the phone and call you? All these actions are conversions of some sort that lead people to interacting with and using your business products or services. Google Analytics can measure these interactions so you know if there are points during the conversion process where people leave the site or if there are points that seem to be especially effective at prompting conversions. Having that information at your fingertips lets you know what’s working and what’s not working, and you can make adjustments as needed. There are even special features in Google Analytics for e-commerce websites that can be very helpful in gathering data about your e-commerce marketing strategy and sales.
In addition to the ABCs, Google Analytics lets you learn more about your audience, and, again, that knowledge is powerful. The audience feature in Google Analytics details user information by geographic location, by age, by gender, and other factors. Knowing this information about your audience can be very beneficial when developing marketing campaigns and measuring your return on investment. For instance, if you own a business that provides services in a regional area, knowing where your visitors live (state or city) will let you know if your marketing efforts are reaching the right people. If you run a destination-oriented business such as a bed and breakfast and have a lot of visitors from a specific area, you might want to start targeted advertising in that location to drive more business your way. Learning more about your audience can help you better interact with them for higher conversion rates.
Having all this information about your website’s visitors is great, but without well-defined goals and routine monitoring, you won’t know whether or not you’re successful. You may set simple goals that you can monitor over time such as lowering your bounce rate or increasing the number of pages each user visits or the length of time spent on your site. Those goals are easily monitored over time in Google Analytics.
Google Analytics also gives you an opportunity to set goals to track specific actions. The goals setting is especially helpful if you’re hoping to grow the number of people who sign up for your newsletter, share content from your site on their social media accounts, click to find out more about a product or service or to find a location, and, of course, make a purchase. Google Analytics has already designed settings to track those types of goals, but you can also create your own customized goals. If you want to know how many visitors play a video on your site, for instance, or how many users visit a certain number of pages or stay on your site for a certain length of time, you can set up a custom goal to track that specific interaction.
Viewing Google Analytics information is pretty simple once you have everything set up. You can customize a dashboard view to see the items that are most important to you, and you can also set up in-page analytics to see user information overlaid onto your website. The in-page analytics gives you a picture of what visitors find most helpful—and what they ignore. The impact of all the knowledge you gain by using Google Analytics is the power to make informed marketing decisions and to participate from a more informed perspective when developing your marketing strategy with business partners. You’ll be better able to determine the most lucrative avenues for digital marketing. You’ll know what improvements or adjustments you should make to your website to boost sales or contacts. You can feel better about investing money into digital marketing efforts when you feel knowledgeable enough to monitor the activities and see the successes.
Invest a little time, and you can learn to speak enough geek to feel like a boss in the online realm as well as in your day-to-day business. Google has resources to help you become familiar with the analytics tool. They even have a Google Analytics demo account they invite users to download as a way to learn more about tool’s capabilities, and they offer online courses such as the Analytics Academy for beginners. Time invested in learning the basics of using Google Analytics is well spent since you’ll be in a better position to participate actively and intelligently in digital marketing decisions and you’ll have data to support new strategies and improvements.