Launching a website is the beginning of an evolutionary journey involving continual tweaks and monitoring. As competitors evolve and audiences mature, patterns of user behavior may change. Website analytics software is central to understanding where each site visitor comes from, how they navigate around the site and at what point they depart. These findings can be then used to improve future user experiences, ensuring your website continues to perform optimally.
Tools of the Trade
Many people regard Google Analytics as the beginning and end of traffic measuring, not least because typing “set up analytics” into Google returns a full page of proprietary results! You can’t blame Google for favoring its own products, but it would be remiss to ignore competitor platforms.
Different website analytics tools bring their own strengths and weaknesses. Hubspot is great for determining how many website visitors come from each distinct marketing channel, rather than what they do once they’ve arrived. Chartbeat is a very immediate platform favoring up-to-the-minute account activity over historic depth of reporting. And while KISSmetrics has an intuitive user interface and real-time activity tracking, it encourages people to fall back on Google Analytics for granular traffic data.
Here, we consider the undisputed market leader in analytics software and audience tracking. Google Analytics was among the first tools of its kind, developed after one of the software giant’s many corporate acquisitions. It dovetails with Google’s AdWords advertising portal, and is often used to refine proprietary advertising campaigns. But unlike AdWords, Google Analytics is a rather unintuitive platform on first acquaintance, and getting to grips with it requires a degree of prior knowledge.
A cornerstone of Google Analytics is the use of tracking snippets. These code snippets are added to every page of a website, collecting visitor data whenever someone visits that page. Once snippets have been installed onto your website, each analytics.js file sets a first-party cookie on every visitor browser. This cookie monitors the following attributes:
- Where the user is located
- What site they were referred from
- Their browser and screen size
- Which OS they’re using
- How many internal links are clicked
- How long they spend on the site
- Which pages are viewed, and in what order.
Setting up for Success
Once tracking snippets have been embedded, it’s time to sign into your newly-created website analytics account. This should ideally be linked to an existing Google account such as Gmail or YouTube. Begin by creating a reporting view which excludes irrelevant data, such as internal page views or traffic from your business partner’s IP address.
A wealth of information is carried on the Audience Overview page. It’s possible to specify precise time periods, identifying increasingly popular traffic sources or rising bounce rates. Audience reports down the dashboard’s left-hand side detail which demographics your site appeals to, and which audiences need more encouragement. And if all this seems too complex, simplification tools like Quill Engage distil key points into an easy-to-read report.
Meeting your Goals
Google Analytics is all about creating goals, measuring and tracking whether specific objectives are being met. Completed activities are known as conversions, such as sending an email enquiry or making a purchase. Goals enable you to evaluate if the site is performing effectively – whether people are visiting appropriate pages, or spending a suitable amount of time browsing. A marketing website exists to generate leads, whereas an ecommerce portal should funnel people to a destination. Indeed, Google Analytics can track revenue and ROI from shopping carts, with a specialist ecommerce tracking code.
Finally, if you don’t already have a Google AdWords campaign running, this is a good time to create one. Analytics and AdWords work harmoniously together, with website analytics and insights underpinning targeted advertising campaigns. Since every click-through costs money, it’s crucial to ensure adverts only appear for relevant Google searches. Knowing your online audience helps to maximize ROI on every dollar of advertising expenditure.