Google Analytics may seem daunting to some small business owners. Honestly, Google Analytics is sometimes daunting for the seasoned marketing professional. But, when you are running a business that has a website element (which you ALWAYS should), it is essential that you keep on your site performance. You do not have to hire an expensive marketing consultant or digital agency, Google has made this platform fairly accessible to all users. Having an understanding of your online business will help inform insights on how to improve, not just for on-site visits, but for your brand, service, and or product overall. Below is a very top level guide to Google Analytics created with the small business owner in mind. This is by no means comprehensive, but it is meant to provide a starting point. In the following, I will go through some key metrics that are especially crucial to your online business.
Before we get into the “how to” element, I would like to discuss the strategic approach, specifically around benchmarking. Benchmarking is key to understanding your performance. Setting appropriate benchmarks is seen as rather tricky by some experienced marketing professionals. And it can be. The obvious choice is to benchmark yourself against your competitors, but getting the data necessary for these benchmarks is not always possible. For me, and for our purposes, I suggest you keep it as simple as possible. Set your benchmarks based on your own performance. Since seasonality is a key factor in many site / online buying behaviours, comparing yourself to previous month’s performance is not always your best bet. It is much better to compare yourself to your performance to the same month in the previous year. If you want to look at a quarter’s performance, for benchmarking purposes, you should look at the same quarter from the previous year as well. In evaluating these trends you should consider what may have caused a spike in user traffic on a given day, week or month. Likewise, you should also evaluate what may have caused a dip in site users as well.
Understanding Traffic Volumes
- Site Traffic: (Reports - Acquisition - All Traffic - Channels) Site traffic is a crucial metric for obvious reasons. To properly evaluate this metric, you will need to assess:
- User trends: (Note: you can change timeframe of user trends by utilisng the calendar tool in the top right corner). The utility of looking at user trends lies mainly in your peaks and troughs. As you know your site and social media interactions the best, you will be able to assess if a new promotion or post has resulted in an increase in users. Also, it is important to look at year on year to see if user volume is increasing or decreasing. If if it decreasing, it is essential that you look into what has changed from the last year.
- Traffic Source by Channel: Just below user trends, you will see a chart that showcases your users by channel source. Typically, this would include organic (through search engines), direct (through typing url into browser window), referral (coming from other site platforms), social, email, paid search, and display. If you are not running any paid media, the last two are not applicable. It is crucial to know what is driving the majority of your traffic and what channels are not pulling their weight. If your traffic from organic is low, you will likely have a SEO issue. If your social traffic is low, you are likely not spending enough time posting and interacting on social media. Insights like these will and should inform your digital marketing strategy.
Understanding Your Users Behaviour
- Site Engagement: (various locations) Understanding user engagement is also hugely critical in optimising your digital presence. The more time the user spends and the more actions they take, the better the indication that you have a strong and user friendly site. To fully understand your engagement performance, you should look at pageviews, time on site, and bounce rates.
- Page Views: (Reports - Behaviour - Overview) Like the user trends graph, you can view page views over time and adjust time accordingly in the top right corner. Pageviews would be a similar metric to user trends as it does measure site usage, but by page instead of by user. So this metric will indicate page consumption over time as opposed to uses over time. Again, for benchmarking purposes, you should evaluate performance based on the previous year. The more pages your user views, the higher your overall site engagement will be. With that said, this on it’s own does not indicate success, a high page view can also indicate a user’s inability to find the information they are looking for, which is a UX problem.
- Pageviews per session: (Reports - Audience - Overview) Another good engagement metric would be pageviews per session. This metric helps put our previous report in context. If users are visiting less than 2 pages per visit, your site likely needs to be optimised. You may want to include crosslinks or CTAs on your main landing page to draw users deeper into the site
- Most Visited Pages: (Reports - Behaviour - Overview) The metric that I consider most frequently is the most visited pages report. This will show a numbered list of your top most visited pages on your site. 99% of the time, the first on the list will be your homepage for obvious reasons. You should take a look at your highest trafficked pages as this will indicate the type of content your user is interested in. You should also take a look at your lowest ranking page and think about why it isn't getting visitors and what you can do to optimise. Perhaps it is hard to find on your site. Maybe the page titles or call to actions to visit the page are not clear enough to your end user. Or it could be that this information is just not important to your user. (note - make sure you click on full report or arrows at bottom right to view full list).
- Average Session Duration: (Reports - Audience - Overview) The amount of time a user spends on your site is also crucial. It will give you a somewhat good indication of how engaging your content is. (though visits through mobile and visits to contact pages tend to be much shorter for very good reasons). While this mstric can only be benchmarked in terms of previous performance, I would say that, if you have an average duration of less than a minute, you may have a slight engagement issue with your site. To fix this, you would need to create more engaging and visual content to make the users stay longer.
- Bounce Rate: (Reports - Audience - Overview) Bounce rate is a bit of a funny one, though still important, somewhat. The issue is that GA canculates a visit as a bounce if no user action is taken (no clicks). I personally take issue with the way this is measured as a user could come to your site, write down your address or number, come to your store, and purchase a product. Which is a hugely successful converting encounter, but GA captures that interaction as a bounce? I don’t really get it, which is why I don’t personally place a lot of emphasis on this metric. With that said, a bounce rate of 80%+ should be considered carefully. To optimise for this metric, you may want to consider adding anchor links (in-page links that anchor to content deeper within the same page) or crosslinks (links that will send the user to other site pages) or engaging content on the homepage (budget calculator, assessment tools, etc.)
Understanding Site Purchase Trends
- Conversion: (Reports - Conversions) While it could be used for all types of sites, this section primarily will apply to sites that include an eCommerce platform. If your site’s goal is to collect leads, a form completion could be a conversion. If your site is a content platform, you may want to indicate social shares as a conversion. You can assign any action to be a conversion really, but for our purposes, we will focus on ecommerce.
- Ecommerce (Reports - Conversions- Ecommerce): If you are selling online, you absolutely need to be tracking your results. The key metrics you should consider in your assessment are as follows:
- Ecommerce Conversion Rate (Reports - Conversions - Ecommerce - Overview): This is the percentage of sessions (site visits) that result in purchases. Again, benchmark yourself against yourself, if you see this rate decreasing or if it is overall very low, you should take a critical look at your path to purchase. Across industries, the typical conversion rate is anywhere between 2.35% and 5.31%. Another solution to low conversion is the implementation of product landing pages (will discuss further in later chapters).
- Average order value (Reports - Conversions - Ecommerce - Overview): This is the average amount of revenue earned for each order. This is an interesting metric to evaluate as you can get insights into items per order and overall value of each conversion. This type of information can give rise to ideas such as packaging like products (that users typically buy at the same time) as a discounted package deal.
- Top Conversion Sources (Reports - Conversions - Ecommerce - Multi-Channel Funnels - Top Conversion Paths) Assessing where your conversions are coming from is key. If social is your best channel, do more social. If organic search is at top, make sure your search engine optimisations efforts are ongoing. If you are paying for media that is not converting, this will be a clear indication to change/opimtise your media strategy. If any of these channels are low, you will need to look at overall optimisation (will be discussed in chapters that follow).
- Cart Abandonment rate (Reports - Conversions - Ecommerce - Shopping Behaviour): For many online retailers, cart abandonment rate is one metric that you should seriously consider. Most common reasons for site abandonment is complicated check out process, unexpected delivery costs / taxes, and security concerns (among a few other things). This is why it is important to ensure a accessible path to purchase and communicate delivery costs and ensure the user’s safety clearly on your site.