A Short Guide to Google Analytics

Digital Marketing By Peter Richman, 18th July 2013

If you haven’t yet signed up to Google Analytics, you’re about to learn why you should. Knowing where your business is coming from is an exceptionally powerful marketing tool with countless opportunities. However, like any tool, the system is wasted unless its user spends some time getting to know the basics.

Read on for an overview of the most useful features that Analytics has to offer.

What is Google Analytics?

Put quite simply, Analytics is a system that offers an in-depth examination of the traffic on your website. This information is then presented to you in a variety of ways, the choice being totally yours.

And, unlike most other analysis systems available, it’s free.

The overall function of the service is to break down exactly where your visitors are coming from. This is compelling for so many different reasons.

Imagine there is a particular website that is driving a large number of users your way. Wouldn’t you want to know about it? It would be prudent to capitalise on that relationship. Perhaps they would consider carrying a banner advert. Furthermore, there could be hundreds of similar sites you need to be approaching to carry your link.

So you can see how the system quickly adds potency to your marketing.

AdWords – how are they performing?

Arguably the most powerful feature of Analytics is the ability to link in your AdWords account. Investing in advertising can sometimes feel like a gamble but with AdWords you can quite easily track your return on investment and keep a scrupulous account of what works and what doesn’t.

One way to do this is to add the AdWords tracking code to a contact form. If a user clicks your pay per click (PPC) advert and ends up filling in this form, Analytics will log this as a conversion. It’s a great way to keep tabs on how well your AdWords investment is performing. You’ll be presented with in depth post-click data on keywords, search queries and lots more.

Even if you don’t use AdWords for PPC adverts, there are plenty of other features that you’ll find useful within Google Analytics.

Goals and funnels

‘Goals’ is an interesting way to track conversions on your website. When a user visits your website there may be a particular action you want them to take. This could be completing a lengthy form or just simply visiting a particular page. So in its essence, a Goal is just a page view, defined by the URL of that page. Logging this URL in the Goals section of Analytics will allow you to track the number of conversions in a given period.

Goals that you set can then be linked to pre-defined Funnels. Funnels are a great way to identify leaks in your site and patch them up. A Funnel tracks the expected path of a user from when they first arrive, right through to when they complete the conversion. If you lose them along the way, you will be able to see where it happened and fix any problems that might have caused the bounce.

Custom Reports, Segmentation and tracking facilities

A lot of users find Analytics a touch overwhelming at first; the sheer amount of information available is quite staggering. A great place to start is Custom Reports. You can choose the information you want to see in each report and even save them for future reference. It’s a quick and simple way to see the stats you need at a glance.

Advanced segmentation is an attribute that allows you to personalise your Analytics account specifically. You can organise your data with amazing precision, which in turn provides you with reports which match your needs perfectly.

Analytics also offers a sophisticated cross channel and multimedia tracking facility. With this feature, you can get right to the heart of your website’s traffic. It allows you to track mobile, internal, flash, video and social network visits. Internal search analysis tells you exactly what your users are searching for, adding power to your marketing. You can also compare how your website is performing alongside industry averages.

Motion Charts

Motion Charts allow you to literally visualize your statistics. You can define the x and y-axis metrics and the colours and sizes of the ‘bubbles’ that represent each statistic. It’s a dynamic, Flash-based chart that can help you explore site usage over time.

To see a motion chart, go to any report that displays segmented data, for example, a keyword report. Click the ‘visualize’ button and a chart of bubbles will load. Each bubble represents individual keywords. You can then modify the x and y-axis and the colour and size of the bubbles.

When you are ready, click ‘Play’ at the bottom of the chart and there you have it: a moving image of how your keywords are performing over time.

Analytics Intelligence

Introduced towards the end of 2009, Analytics Intelligence has quickly become many users’ favourite. Intelligence acts like an assistant whose sole responsibility is to keep a keen eye on your site’s statistics. It constantly monitors the traffic to your website and if something significant happens (for example, if your bounce rate suddenly soars), it will notify you with an alert.

Perhaps there is something in particular that you want to track. Let’s say you’re running a huge advertising campaign in a particular geographical area. If you ask it to, Intelligence will let you know what effect that campaign is having in its area. This is extremely powerful for tracking the effectiveness and longevity of your campaigns.

Powerful information at your fingertips

No doubt you’ve invested a lot of time and money in your company’s website, so don’t let that investment go to waste. Being able to analyse your traffic in such meticulous detail is one of the most valuable marketing tools available.

Don’t be put off by the overwhelming amount of information and options when you first arrive. On closer inspection, Analytics is remarkably user friendly. Taking a couple of hours to get to know the system is time well spent. There are many online tutorials available and Google itself offers a great help system.

So if you don’t have an Analytics account already, what are you waiting for?