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January 20, 2022

How to Get the Most Out of Google Analytics

Google Analytics is full of valuable information and features. However, it’s no secret that it can feel confusing, complicated, or downright intimidating if you don’t have experience with the platform. With so many concepts to learn and different reports available, newcomers can feel a bit overwhelmed, leading some to wonder if there’s an easier, better way to filter through their organic traffic data.

Whether you’re a total newcomer to Google Analytics or simply looking for some extra help with your next marketing campaign, here’s a detailed rundown of what Google Analytics is, how it works, and how you can get the most out of its powerful features.

What Is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics (or GA for short) is a data analyzing tool designed to help organizations understand and monitor the performance of their content, eCommerce store, and digital marketing campaigns. Think of it as a blueprint for how users find and interact with a given website. It can help determine the top sources of user traffic, gauge the success of marketing activities and campaigns, and even help track goal completions such as user purchases.

Additionally, Google Analytics can help you discover patterns and trends in user engagement, offering valuable information about how many people visited a specific page, how long they stayed there, and even the performance of particular keywords. Google Analytics serves as a backbone to SEO strategies, helping businesses and enterprises gauge the efficacy of their SEO methods at any given time. Best of all, it provides actionable insights to help you better attract, engage, and retain visitor traffic.

How Does Google Analytics Work?

Integrated via code or Google’s official WordPress plugin, Google Analytics collects information about visitors to a given website. Through JavaScript, GA transmits data to Google’s servers, collecting and analyzing user insights in real-time. For instance, let’s suppose you’re running an eCommerce website dedicated to selling the latest fashion trends. Naturally, you want to do everything you can to beef up your fashion digital marketing, laying out some SEO breadcrumbs hoping that fashion enthusiasts find your website.

Maybe you begin this process by updating your landing page content, hoping the optimizations lower your bounce rate—the percentage of people who leave your website without taking a single action. You might also update your backlinks, publish outbound content to feed those backlinks, optimize website images, and all the other SEO tips and tricks that make for a solid, user-friendly website.

But how do you know those SEO optimizations are making a difference? The answer lies in your Google Analytics reporting, which begins with the JavaScript programming language working with the HTML code that makes up your website’s pages. An easy way to think of this process is to imagine your pages’ HTML code like the .doc file format used for Microsoft Word documents. Like a Word document, an HTML file can tell your computer what text to display, where to include tables and images, and even what formatting to use.

However, unlike Word documents, HTML pages are read-only. This means they require a special programming language like JavaScript to allow interaction with a given website. In other words, without JavaScript, you wouldn’t be able to change text or communicate with a server. As a standardized language, JavaScript gets around this limitation because many web browsers provide additional interactivity when given instructions written in JavaScript. Whether it’s a pop-up menu or a flyout menu to help guide users through your website, all of these things are possible thanks to JavaScript.

This is especially relevant to Google Analytics because JavaScript allows your computer to communicate with other computers connected to the internet. This means that when someone visits a website with Google Analytics implemented, a small JavaScript page tag will run in each visitor’s browser. This tag then collects data and sends it to Google’s servers, telling those servers what pages a person visited, how long they stayed there, the keywords that brought them there, and other valuable information.

Important Note: Because this process relies on cookies, it can’t collect data for users who’ve opted out or otherwise disabled cookies altogether. This is especially important given Apple’s App Tracking Transparency update, along with similar limitations made by Facebook and Google’s 2023 plans to block third-party cookies in Chrome.

Google Analytics can use this information to generate detailed reports, which businesses and enterprises can use to optimize and refine their SEO strategies. These are the most important reports to watch:

  • Overview Reports: Acting as a snapshot of your site traffic, Overview Reports are a valuable indicator of how visitors are interacting with your site. Insights include the overall number of users for a specific time frame, the number of new users in a given time frame, the number of sessions, and the number of times each user visited the site. Likewise, Overview Reports can tell you how many page views there were per session, the average time users spent on your site, as well as the overall bounce rate. In short, the Overview Report is a crucial first step towards understanding whether your site is delivering value to visitors.
  • Acquisition Reports: With the data about how users interact with your site, it’s essential to know the source of this traffic. This is where Acquisition Reports come in. These reports will offer insights into which marketing channel brings in visitors, whether it be organic search, paid ads, email, social, or something else. At the same time, they will outline what sources are sending traffic to you, whether it’s Google, Bing, Facebook, or another platform. Likewise, Acquisition Reports will highlight which organic keywords sent traffic to your website, though this will require you to set up and sync Google Search Console to your account. Analyzing how each traffic source performs is key to understanding which marketing strategies are working and which need improvement.
  • Behavior Reports: Another way to check the success of your marketing strategies is to look at how users behave once they’ve clicked on your website. After all, you want to know what pages they visited, how long they spent on those pages, and which navigation paths they took to get there. Likewise, you need to know whether there are any friction points in that process or any hitches in your website’s design or content that might make visitors want to leave or otherwise seek information elsewhere. This is where GA’s Behavior Reports come into play, as they help you ensure you’re giving your website visitors the best possible experience. By analyzing user behavior, you’re in a better position to provide the content your users want. Whether it’s through adjustments to site usability, messaging, calls to action, or simply more content, you can improve audience engagement and retention along the way.
  • Conversion Reports: Once you’ve established where your traffic is coming from, the pages they’re visiting, and how they’re behaving once they reach your website, it’s time to check if they’re taking the desired actions necessary to fulfill your business goals. Thanks to Conversion Reports, you can see how your site performs in relation to your goals. This report allows you to track the actions on your website that you deem as “good behavior,” such as purchases, email newsletter signups, contact form submissions, among others. At the same time, you’ll be able to review your conversion rates and funnels to determine if they’re optimal or need improvement. Likewise, you’ll see which sources (search engines, social media, etc.) deliver the best conversion results.

How Can I Get the Most Out of Google Analytics?

While the inner workings of Google Analytics might seem complicated, the truth is it’s relatively easy to get started. Available in both free and paid versions to anyone with a Google account, there are several ways your business can leverage the tools provided by Google Analytics. With the enormous amount of data Google Analytics provides, it only makes sense to streamline as much of that process as possible. Here are some general tips to help you get the most out of your data.

Have Google Analytics Reports Emailed to You

No one wants to spend an entire afternoon sifting through data. It’s exhausting, entirely too time-consuming, and frankly, there are better options. Of these options, having your reports emailed directly to you ranks among the top. Clear and full of valuable data metrics to help you identify new opportunities, this is one simple yet effective tip that could put you ahead of the competition. After all, less time sifting through data means more time spent on critical, strategy-oriented tasks. Best of all, setting up your reports to be emailed is relatively easy. Start by logging into your account and heading to the Admin section. From there, you’ll want to select “All Website Data” from the “View” section, wherein you’ll find the “Custom Alerts” tab. You can set these custom alerts to send email updates or text notifications whenever an event (aka something relevant to your site) occurs.

Note: You can use the Alert Conditions section to customize specific scenarios for email alerts. These might include sudden spikes or declines in traffic or whenever a particular goal is completed. For the best results, try creating alerts for essential information you’d like to monitor on a daily or weekly basis. These can include unique visits, page views, bounce rates, and demographic breakdowns.

Optimize the Paths Through Your Website

Creating a user-friendly, conversion-friendly website is no small task. It requires a lot of work, careful consideration of your website’s layout, and a great deal of SEO know-how. Though your home page often acts as the focal point, the truth is that it might not always be your most visited page. In fact, your Google Analytics data might very well show that other pages of your website are attracting a lot more attention. For example, a well-maintained company blog could easily account for a large chunk of incoming traffic, especially if that blog is filled with targeted long-tail keywords. While this is just one example of how your analytics might surprise you, it serves to highlight the importance of making sure all the navigational paths through your website are simple, straightforward, and clearly mapped out.

Compare Your Historical Traffic Trends

Want to compare historical traffic trends? Google Analytics makes it possible. This is especially powerful if you run an eCommerce site, as you’ll gain direct insight into how well certain campaigns did in the past compared to any current traffic spikes. For instance, suppose your eCommerce swimwear company is accustomed to seeing a certain amount of traffic every June, namely related to yearly campaigns you run on summer swimsuit trends. As part of a new directive, you’ve decided to try something different this year. Following a new ad campaign, your reports highlight a sudden spike in site traffic. While the data suggests this spike is most likely related to your new ad campaign, Google Analytics can provide actionable insights into how much of that traffic might be natural growth. In other words, your ability to compare past data will give a much clearer understanding of how well your new efforts are paying off and help you plot a path forward.

Monitor Your Page and Website Speeds

With page speed becoming a factor for Google Search and Google Ads, it’s never been more critical to ensure you’ve optimize your website’s speed. In addition, data suggests that site visitors are less likely to trust a page that takes longer than a fraction of a second to load, let alone the 3 to 5 seconds it can take the average person to abandon a page. Thankfully, Google Analytics makes it easy for you to check whether your site and page speeds are up to par with Page Timing Reports and Speed Suggestions Reports. While there’s no set number you need to focus on, scores falling below the 90 to 100 range tend to highlight a need for improvement, even if those improvements are small. Such tweaks might include compressing your images or even cleaning up your website’s code. At the same time, you might look into using browser caching or implementing a Content Delivery Network (CDN), each of which can give a much-needed boost to page speeds. Whatever route you choose, a close eye on your Google Analytics after the fact is a surefire way to check the impact of these changes.

Optimize Your Visitor Insights By Device

Traditionally, desktop experiences made up a significant portion of web traffic. However, recent statistics indicate that mobile devices have surpassed desktop computers, accounting for 54.8% of all online traffic in 2021. This highlights that mobile browsing and mobile experience continue to play significant roles in overall search engine rankings. As such, it’s crucial for every business to optimize their websites for mobile use and keep a close eye on how much of their search traffic is coming from different devices, along with the behavior of that traffic. Mobile-optimized websites tend to feature special design elements for smartphone and tablet users, and sometimes these elements break. By filtering your visitor insights by device, you’re able to better gauge whether or not your site is providing a smooth experience across the board on both desktop and mobile. Suppose the data shows that your mobile bounce rates are higher or that your session durations are considerably shorter than desktop. In that case, you can utilize those insights to determine whether your site’s mobile design, elements, or structure could use some work.

Set Up Goals and Funnels

While Google Analytics can tell you a lot on its own, you won’t be able to get the most out of the platform until you set up some Goals and Funnels. Found under the Conversions tab, these allow you to set end goals for your site, plugging in possible paths to conversions that you’d like to track. If you want to see how certain on-site functions influence user behavior, it’s crucial to set these up. For example, as a digital marketing agency, one of our goals is to drive potential customers toward our Contact page. Therefore, our landing pages are filled with a variety of relevant targeted keywords, information, and calls to action to convince visitors to contact us about our services. Though we continue to optimize our content over time, we can measure the effectiveness of our efforts thanks to Google Analytics. If we start to notice people exiting the funnel, we can use the data we’ve gathered to find out where the disconnect is occurring and address the issue. To set up your own goals, head over to your “Admin” tab, then select “Goals.” From there, choose the option to create a new one. You’ll notice there are different types to choose from, ranging from Destination-related to those related to Duration, Pages/Screens per session, and Events. You also have an option to add a monetary value to each of your goals, giving you a basic idea of what might help you earn revenue.

Track Your Progress Over Time

When using Google Analytics, it’s easy to become hyper-focused on what’s happening right now. While that’s obviously important for many reasons, you still want to compare this information to past performance. After all, things can change at any moment. This is no more apparent than in the recent shifts in consumer behavior. Aside from obvious shifts resulting from the pandemic, millennials, in particular, have begun to prioritize buying from sustainable, ethical companies, even if the products have a higher cost. Additionally, keyword trends and referral platforms have continued to rise and fall in popularity. Keywords that might have generated a ton of traffic in the past may no longer be as popular, or you might have noticed that you’ve fallen in rankings for a few of them. At the end of the day, it’s important to remember that running a business or an online marketing campaign is a fluid process. There’s an ebb and flow to traffic and results, and it’s up to you to keep track of it, monitoring your campaigns closely. This will give you the most accurate snapshot of where you are, rather than focusing too much on a single point in time.

Work with the Google Analytics Experts at VELOX Media

No matter your business or campaign goals, Google Analytics is an exceptional tool that can help you make sense of your traffic data, boost your organic search rankings, and grow your business. Want to learn more about how you can get the most out of your metrics? Reach out to the digital marketing and Google Analytics experts at VELOX Media. From customer insights to competitive market analysis, we can help you track, measure, and optimize your most successful digital marketing campaigns.

VELOX Media is an award-winning, ROI-focused digital marketing agency that specializes in strategy, organic search marketing optimization, paid management, and web development.

We specifically target a 400%-800% monthly ROI above spend and are ranked among the top 3% of agencies in the world by Google.

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