Saturday, September 17, 2011

7 Things You Didn't Know Google Analytics Could Tell You

Analytics software is a must-have in today's business world, where it's essential to have a powerful online presence. These days, it's not enough to simply have a counter at the bottom of your homepage, tallying visitors. That won't help you understand ways to reach your audience or drive Web growth.

Google Analytics, Google's popular free analytics add-on, can be easily incorporated into the coding of your website, allowing you to access both general statistics and minutiae in detailed, comprehensive reports. Of course, Google Analytics includes basic specs, like how many visitors you're getting, and allows you to refine your information based on date range. But there's a lot more to it than that.

Here are seven things you didn't know Google Analytics could tell you about your business' website:

1. The browsers and operating systems your visitors use

Whether they're coming from Internet Explorer or Chrome, analytics will tell you. Your website's report will show a breakdown of which browsers are used and how frequently. This feature is useful because sometimes Web features are incompatible with certain browsers and operating systems. If a significant chunk of your visitors are using a system that doesn't suit your website, it might be time for you to troubleshoot. Second, browser choice says a lot about your visitor base. If most of them are using a boilerplate program, like Internet Explorer or Safari, your site should be extra user-friendly and easy to navigate. Newer browsers with more bells and whistles, like Chrome, signals Internet savvy.

2. What isn't keeping people interested

It's good to know where your visitors are flocking, but it's perhaps more important to know which page of your website they're viewing when they click away to another site. Funneling resources to features that aren't captivating users is clearly not a smart business move, and Google Analytics can help you avoid making that mistake. By showing you the top exit pages on your website, the program shows you the frequency at which visitors jump ship navigate elsewhere, all broken down by the individual pages of your site. Based on that report, you can decide whether those ill-trafficked parts of your website should be scrapped or just retooled.

3. What draws people to your site

Your Google Analytics Keywords report will list a collection of words and phrases familiar to your organization as the main drivers to your site. But the rate for each of those terms, especially when cross-referenced with the feature that shows how many new visitors are logging on versus returning ones, can be substantially useful in developing a marketing strategy. If you know what's pointing people to your site, you can work backward—explore advertising opportunities with sites that focus on related topics or, if it makes sense, gear your homepage toward the subject matter that's drawing people in. If the point is to captivate visitors and keep them clicking around your site, this tool is a valuable one.

4. How many people just aren't interested at all

Your site can have all the hits in the world, but if people aren't finding their way to your site and staying there to explore, it's tough to foster growth online. To help you better understand how many people are coming to your site to stay, Google Analytics offers you a bounce rate breakdown. So what's bounce rate? It's the proportion of your website's visitors that navigate away without clicking through to other pages. True, you can tally that person's visit as a hit to your site. But there's no lasting power there, and a high rate indicates your site isn't making a strong impression. Check out the bounce rate among first-time visitors, perhaps the purest form of the metric because it deals with visitors who are ostensibly entirely unfamiliar with your website.

5. How much people are poking around

The depth-of-visit function sounds a little Big Brother-esque, but it's important for you to know how many pages people are viewing each time they head to your site. This feature shows the proportion of visitors that view one page, two pages, three pages, and so on. If typically people aren't looking at more than one or two pages per visit, it might be time for a redesign or at least a reorganization of content.

6. Whether people are viewing on the go

The ubiquitous smartphone and tablet means you need to keep up with that technology. If a significant portion of your website's visitors are finding you on their mobile devices, as Google Analytics can show you, you need to be sure your website is mobile-friendly and accessible. In cases where this feature shows you a sizeable enough crop of visitors are seeking you out on such devices, it could be worth it for you to explore building a site specifically designed for use on them.

7. When you've hit a million clicks

Or any other myriad benchmarks you've decided are important. From number of clicks and visitors to increases and decreases in traffic, the alerts feature of Google Analytics provides you instant updates (which can be sent to your phone) to let you know when you've achieved them. This function could help you mark milestones, like when you finally reach that million-visitor mark, or realize you're in the danger zone, like when the number of unique visitors drops by half.

Thanks to Karlee Weinman / Open Forum / American Express Company


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