I’ve been invited to write on the Web Africa blog on a monthly basis and this is my first post. Over the course of the next several months I’m going to write a series of blog posts on Google Analytics. Too many people who own websites aren’t aware of the power that Google Analytics holds and I hope that through this series of posts you’ll learn something useful.
As a start, the first thing we need to look at is what Google Analytics is, some background information, what it can do for you and what basic features are available.
In its simplest form, Google Analytics is Google’s solution to web analytics or website visitor statistics monitoring. The best part is that Google offer the software for free and it’s incredibly easy to set up.
In Spring of 2005, Google acquired Urchin and in November 2006 the first version of Google Analytics as we know it was released. Google Analytics has been developed by Google ever since and we currently sit at version 5.
Website publishers across the globe use Google Analytics for a number of reasons:
- Understanding where the visitors to your website are coming from.
- Being able to track trends and patterns of your website visitors.
- Analysing which inbound marketing tactics are performing best
- The ability to integrate it with Google AdWords for better measuring of campaigns.
- Visualising core metrics.
The Google Analytics interface consists of 5 Standard Reports that are further broken down into various sections. These 5 reports are as follows:
Real-time reporting is a powerful report that physically shows you what your website visitors are doing. This includes things such as how many people are currently viewing your website, where these visitors arrived from, what words they searched for in Google and how long they’ve been on your website. Two more advanced real-time features are that of Events and Conversions, both of which are in beta release and will no doubt be built on over the months to provide us with even more insight.
The Audience Report is probably the most well known report in the suite. This report provides you information such as how many visitors have been to your website, how many page views you have received, the visitor duration and the bounce rate. These are very much the most basic and core statistics that a website owner would want to know. The report is broken down into a number of sections that include:
- Demographics – The languages and locations your visitors speak and come from.
- Behaviour – Are your visitors new or returning, how often are they returning and what level engagement do you receive from them.
- Technology – What browsers, operating systems and service providers do your visitors use.
- Mobile – Are your visitors using mobile devices and if so what devices are they using.
There are a few other features available at face value, but these you can explore by yourself. The Visitors Flow report is quite interesting and useful.
Traffic Sources Report
Another useful and common requirement for website owners is knowing where visitors to their website are coming from. Fortunately Google Analytics has a very comprehensive reporting system around this which offers a great deal of insight, such as:
- How many people are coming directly to the website.
- What websites are pointing visitors to your website.
- What percentage of the visitors arrived from search engines and what words did they search for.
- What percentage of the visitors arrived from paid campaigns and which adverts did they click on.
These 4 points are outlined in their simplest form, the actual reports go into far more detail and it is worth dedicating time toward understanding these reports.
Google has also expanded this section to include insight into various Search Engine Optimisation related matters, social media reporting and a Cost Analysis feature that is currently in beta release.
The Content Report section of Google Analytics has experienced a number of updates over the years and now offers incredible insight into how your content is performing on your website. Search Engine Optimisation revolves strongly around the creation of content and this is more than likely a strong motivator for Google to ensure that this report is of the highest quality. The report consists of a large number of features:
- Which pages on the website are visited the most.
- How many times are the various pages on the website visited.
- Which pages do visitors leave the website from.
- How long does it take the website and its pages to load.
- Various speed suggestions to assist in speeding up your website.
- Heat-mapping on your website to determine where visitors are clicking.
Further features include site search, event tracking, AdSense insight and an Experiments section. The basic features as outlined above are usually perfect for the novice user, but advanced users will want to explore the further offered features.
Argubly the most important report for any website owner who makes use of a website to sell a service or product. Conversions (or goals) are used to track completed actions by users such as making a purchase, filling out a form of downloading a document. Conversions allow you to extract useful information on your visitors who have either become an actual customer or are close to becoming on.
The report is somewhat more advanced than the previous 4 reports and deserves a whole blog post for itself. In a future post I will discuss the creation of destination, duration, page views per visit and event goals, and how they are the most important aspect of your website marketing.
As you can tell, this is an incredibly powerful piece of free software that should find its way onto most websites and offers nothing more than pure benefit to the website owner.
Next time we’ll look at signing up for Google Analytics, setting up account properties and installing the ever important tracking code.
Until then, Cheers!