Note: This post was originally published on Dukeo when I was a contributor there.
Using Google Analytics to track one’s progress as a blogger is a fairly common thing these days. It’s readily discussed, and there are some really great tools out there that help facilitate using it to its full potential.
What often goes ignored are some of the ways in which you can make understanding your Google analytics report much easier. The thing that most people find daunting is that they think there are terms and aspects of the service that they’ll never understand. Fortunately, with a little bit of time, we can make this untrue.
The greatest thing about using this tool, is that even if you’re just now learning how to use business analytics or website analytics, you’re probably benefiting already. It’s that simple, you just might not know it, yet.
In this article I want to break down five tips that will make your Google analytics report easier to read, interpret and put to use.
1. Focus Your Attention
The thing I remember most about logging into Google Anayltics for the first time was having no clue which tabs mattered to me.
Am I supposed to be looking at real-time events, or are demographics more important? Why is there an in-page Google analytics tool? I don’t understand what the purpose is!
Once I started messing around with the general layout, I think I got most of my questions answered. What I still lacked, though, was an understanding of where to focus most of my attention. After a bit of reading, and some coaching from a friend, I learned the following things:
- I need to keep track of visitor engagement.
- I need to know what my users are clicking on, where they’re going once they leave my site.
- I need to know if people leave my site quickly, or spend time reading my content.
- I need to set some goals for myself.
After I was able to spend some time with each of these points, I asked my buddy how to use this information. He pointed out a few things to me that ended up saving me a tremendous amount of time. He gave me a bit of a routine for each time I visited my Google analytics dashboard.
- Always spend time on your general overview. This is visible the moment you log in. It shows the bounce rate (how long people stay on your site), visits, pageviews, unique hits (people coming to the site for the first time), pages per visit and the percent of new visits I had.
- Check out where your traffic is coming from, and use that to better utilize your most successful features. By selecting the Traffic Sources Overview, I was able to obtain the information I needed to start using all of my incoming traffic more wisely. I learned about keywords that were popular and the type of traffic I was getting. Perfect!
- Finally, spend some time learning where your visitors come from. I wanted to know which countries my content was most successful in, and I was really surprised out how far some of my traffic had come. By simply looking at the ‘Audience’ tab, I was able to find this information under ‘demographics’ in addition to a number of other useful sections.
What these tips allowed me to do, was create an agenda each time I was on my Google analytics dashboard. It allowed me to create a routine that gave me real information, which helped me focus my efforts on what mattered most to my visitors.
These sections, of course, only touch the surface of what you can find out with Google analytics, but it’s a great place to start when you’re getting used to it or need to focus better.
2. Create Custom Reports
This is one of those tools that people sometimes don’t even know is available if no one is around to point it out. That’s why I think it’s so important to include, as anything that helps us create a better reporting strategy is going to be worth the time.
For starters, an SEO report is a great introduction to this tool. Creating an SEO report is one of the simplest ways to better organize the information you are looking for with Google analytics. At the top of your overview page is a tab that says
custom reporting, which can be used to set this up.
It will include variables chosen by you, in which you can narrow down groups of pertinent information such as bounce rate, visits and the number of conversions you’re making. Additionally, you can filter certain groups of information.
Traffic sources, for example, might be something you want to track via referrals, and this is a great way to do that all on one report.
After you’ve completed setting up your first report, simply click on
Customization to see all of your reports and access them individually!
3. Create E-mail Reports
Admittedly, I am sometimes really bad about checking in on everything I need to keep track of. My Google analytics report became one of those things. The more I used it, the more I got used to seeing the information and I began to grow complacent about checking it often.
Something that saved me some time, and made me more diligent was enabling e-mail reports.
Near the top of the dashboard, again, you’ll find a small tab for creating e-mail reports. This will allow you to specify which e-mail address to send the reports to, how often you want them sent and for how long.
I think the coolest thing about making use of this monitoring tool is that it makes checking your e-mail a little more purposeful, and we’re all about consolidation, right? Check your report and get all of your e-mails sent from one place and your brain will thank you.
4. Use In-Page Analytics
Believe it or not, I used to think this tool was a little redundant. Am I not already seeing most of what it shows me in data form? Well, yes and no.
It’s sometimes easy to ignore making use of the in-page analytics tool because we take it for granted. It’s quick, visual and really useful. I’ve heard some of my colleagues say that it’s almost so convenient that it becomes unappreciated.
What it really does is show you things you would be paying for otherwise. There are great services out there outside of Google Analytics that will break down page usage and click percentage. They’ll even let you do some really specific page experiments to test different stages of development. The cruddy thing is that a lot of them charge you for it.
With the in-page analytics provided by Google, not only are you receiving information that tells you where you most common clicks are, it’s telling you where you are likely to make the most conversions, how popular certain content is and where to turn your focus for experimentation and areas of improvement.
In essence, it’s everything you need to begin understanding how your website can be better in addition to showing what you’re doing correctly. While it may not be as extensive as a paid service, I think most people would agree that it provides the most useful information you’ll take from any of those services, anyway.
5. Create Goals
It’s hard to ignore the fact that Google Analytics will actually help you with your website goals. This means you’re not doing all of the work yourself; but instead, turning it over to your report to help track and inform you of where you stand.
Something that bloggers are consistently trying to keep track of are subscriptions to their content. By setting up a goal that helps track your conversions, you’ll see what’s working best for you – allowing you to cultivate the strategy more effectively.
5a. Creating a Google Analytics Goal
To create your first goal, simply access the ‘Admin’ tab on the top-right of your dashboard. Once you’ve created your goal for your website (setting up a URL destination is an easy place to start), simply keep track of your progress by watching the goal overview, or take a look at the goal flow. The goal flow is a visual representation that helps you better see the success of your goal.
The bottom line here is that creating goals and tracking them consistently will help you differentiate between successes and failures on the site you’re tracking. Making these distinctions help you get the most out of what analytics has to offer and also improves the chance that your website will be used to its potential.
6. Start Your Campaign Today
The worst thing you can do is let moments slip when they could be used to start improving how you handle your website. In order to begin making use of strategies that ensure real conversions and higher levels of readership you must focus on improving your Google analytics practices.
While it may seem like a difficult task, it’s only going to take a small amount of analytical skills to begin benefiting.
You can start your campaign today by using the focus elements outlined in the first tip, and slowly you can begin to explore all of the tools at your disposal. By starting today you make a commitment to getting more familiar with the interface and learning about all it has to offer.
Plus, just in case you didn’t know or catch it earlier in the article, you can do all of this for free – so why wait?