Google Analytics is the industry standard for measuring website statistics, but the interface and sheer amount of information you can get from it can be overwhelming. Here’s a guide to the key statistics you should be keeping an eye on – and how to find them.
Not yet using Google Analytics?
1. Checking traffic growth
Clicking Audience > Overview from the left menu in Google Analytics will show you a graph of day-by-day traffic over the last 30 days.
But every once in a while it’s a good idea to look at the bigger picture by changing the date option at the top right to cover the last year or six months. The resulting graph is an instant overview of whether you’re increasing or decreasing visitors in the long-term. Although there will naturally be highs and lows in the graph, overall you should be able to see a steady upward trend.
This simple tip will tell you in two seconds whether your promotional efforts are paying off.
Digging into reports like Search Engine Optimization and Social – both under Traffic Sources – will tell you which sources are the reason for the increase or decrease in traffic.
2. Checking your bounce rate
The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who view one page on a website before leaving – either because they close the browser or hit the back button.
The idea is to have a bounce rate as low as possible.
Realistically speaking, if it’s around 50-60% that’s fine. Sites that have lots of visitors from search engines or networks like Twitter will usually have an even higher bounce rate. That’s because visitors from those sources tend to visit the page they came for and leave immediately after.
To lower your bounce rate you need to encourage more visitors to view a second page. One simple way to do this is by including links to related pages at the end of your post. You can either do that by adding the link in manually at the bottom of your post or use something like the Related Posts via Categories plugin for WordPress which does it automatically.
If your bounce rate is very low – and definitely if it’s in single figures – the chances are you’ve got a reporting problem with your Google Analytics code. The usual reason this happens is because it’s been added twice by two different plugins. Ana Hoffman has a good post on bounce rates that includes how to fix this kind of problem here, under “Can A Bounce Rate Be Too Low?”.
3. Check visitor flow
Let’s say one of your goals is to have visitors go to a particular page on your site like a mailing list sign-up or products page.
An easy way to check if you’re successful in guiding visitors to your goal page is to take a look at the Audience > Visitor Flow. This shows the most common routes visitors take as they navigate through your site.
By changing the way you filter the data you can find out how effective you are at encouraging visitors to visit key pages and whether you need to change the wording of links and call to action headlines.
Advanced tracking using Goals
The Goals feature of Google Analytics is a more advanced way of analyzing whether you’re being successful at guiding users to your “money” pages. The video below from Terry Dean of MyMarketingCoach.com is a pretty good run-through of how to set up Goals in the new Analytics interface.
4. Real-Time web statistics
Google Analytics has a fairly new feature that lets you see live data about where your visitors are coming from and what they’re viewing. This can be especially useful if you want to see if the tweet about your latest post is drawing followers to your site or how much traffic a guest post is earning you.
I need to warn you that watching new visitors come and go on the real-time map is seriously addictive. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
To view the live report, click Real-Time > Overview. This will show the general picture – you can also drilldown to get more info on the locations, search engine traffic and the keywords used to find your site and social media traffic. Basically, hang around this section too long and it’s bye-bye productivity.
5. Check how often users share content
Getting shares on social networks is crucial to growing your audience. For an overview of which networks you’re a hit on, go to Traffic Sources > Social > Network Referrals.
This report shows which social networks send you the most traffic. Clicking on the name of the network will bring up the pages on your site which are shared the most on that network. This can help you see, for example, whether doing free ebook promotions is more effective on Twitter or Facebook.
6. Compare two time periods to see if you’re growing
On any report page you can click the date option at the top right of the page and check the Compare to option to see two time periods rolled into one chart, along with figures comparing the increase or decrease between the time periods.
This is another quick and easy way of taking a snapshot of your progress in building traffic to your site.
When viewing site statistics it’s important not to get too fixated on this particular week or month. The key thing is to make sure that over longer term periods like six months or a year, you can see a general upward trend. If you can see that, you’re on the road to greater success.