Having a website is a necessity for launching a new business. Whether you are a photographer, blogger, or a consultant, creating a place for potential customers to find you online is the most important step towards becoming an entrepreneur.
Launching a website is nothing like the Field of Dreams [If you build it, they will come]. Through hard work, a good foundation for SEO, and a solid hustler attitude your website can become a destination for identifying new customers and communicating with existing ones.
Once you’ve established a website, Google Analytics is how you know for certain if people are finding you, or if you are just shouting out in the void. At first Google Analytics can look like a foreign language, and while there are many things you can dive into in analytics, we’ve outlined the basics below.
Logging into your analytics account for the first time can be a bit overwhelming. You’ll start off by navigating through analytics using the following tools:
The Left Sidebar
This is where all the information housed within Analytics lives. You’ll want to get comfortable clicking through the reports and seeing what all you can glean from your website visitors. There is a lot of information in this section, but most of what you need in the beginning is highlighted throughout the post.
This is how you decide what timeframe you are looking at. When you log in, this will automatically display the last 30 days of traffic. To view more, click on the calendar and select a new date.
View your website visitors
Upon logging into Google Analytics you will land on the Audience Overview. This is one of the most important reports Analytics can generate for you.
This number corresponds with the number of times someone has visited your website. It combines people who have visited more than one time. Sessions will reset after 30 minutes of inactivity (if for example someone opens your website and walks away). When they return to the screen, this will count as a new session.
This is the unique number of individuals who have visited your website and is often known as the UMV (Unique Monthly Visitors).
This number is a count of the number of individual pages that have been viewed. One user can look at more than one page and it will be counted in this report.
Pages per Session
This is the average number of pages an individual user looks at in a single visit. Ideally you want this to be between 3-5.
Time on Site
A record of the average amount of time a single user spends on your website. The more time someone spends on your website, the more engaged they typically are.
This is a percentage of the number of people who visit one page and immediately leave. You want this number to be low.
Understand where your visitors are located
If you are a local business, you want to ensure that your visitors are coming from your location. This is not as important for national businesses or blogs, but can lend perspective for where you should focus your efforts if you want to break into a new market or region.
To access this report, click on AUDIENCE > GEO > LOCATION. From the left menu that appears, select the CITY view. If you see a lot of visits coming from an international location, it is likely that those are not real visitors. Bots will often hit websites, artificially inflating visitor numbers. Learn more about fully managed cloud hosting.
View what pages are the most popular
To access this report, click on BEHAVIOR > SITE CONTENT > ALL PAGES. This report demonstrates what pages were visited the most during the time frame you have specified at the top of the site.
For bloggers this will show what content is the most popular. If a specific topic or page is drawing a lot of interest, you should create more posts like that one. For photographers or other small business owners, this should display what potential customers are most interested in.
See who refers traffic to you
Understanding where your traffic is coming from is one of the most important ways to grow your business. If you see a large number of visitors coming from any one source you can decide if you need to invest advertising dollars or more time into obtaining additional traffic from that specific source. If you find that your traffic is coming from a blog, it might be worth working to get to know that blogger better so they continue to send traffic your way.
To view referral traffic, click on ACQUISITION > ALL TRAFFIC > REFERRALS. Direct means that someone has either typed your URL into their browser or clicked on a link from an email. Any other traffic, including what comes from social media, will show as a referrer.
How to know what looks fishy
One of the most important things you can understand from analytics is when traffic does not look like it is authentic. A few months ago a bot figured out a way to hit dozens of blog websites at the same time, with the appearance of being referred from Reddit. Initially it made bloggers and business owners think that their website had gone viral, but after investigation it came out that the bot was just directing people back to a Reddit thread with a link to a SPAM website.
If page views are high and bounce rate is over 90%, chances are that traffic is not authentic. The only way to remove this from your account is by blacklisting the bot’s IP address on your server. For most small businesses, this isn’t necessary, but understanding that the traffic is not real is important.
PRO TIP: Understanding how your presenting yourself and how the online world see’s you is important. Reputation management can be tricky, but something that can greatly improve your online presence, make sure to present yourself in the best manner. Find out more about the importance of online reputation.
This is just the surface of what Google Analytics can do for you. For most small business owners, this is enough to understand what you need to know to continue to grow and build your website. If you want to dive deeper, Analytics Academy from Google can help you learn even more!