So you are new to Google Analytics and it all looks a bit complicated. Your webmaster has set up your website with the GA code and given you access. “Knock yourself out, buddy”, he (or she) quips and you are on your own with it. It all looks a bit daunting. Where to start? Relax, here are some simple steps to get you started using this amazing and free tool.
o Break the information down into small chunks. Instead of getting pages of data focus on small areas;
o Set small goals that you can measure – getting people to look beyond your HOME page is one goal, another could be having a page of interest that you want people to click to, or just getting people to spend longer on the site;
o Compare timeframes, use the date settings to compare data prom previous weeks, months or years to see if any progress is being made;
o Export data at regular intervals to build a record of patterns and trends.
I will expand on the above as we look at the Google Analytics Dashboard. This is what you see first on opening your GA. The blue graph of “Visits” is the most noticeable feature, and above this to the right is the date range.
By default GA give you the last month’s worth of data, but by opening up that box you can set the date range to anything you like, a week, a month or even a year by entering the start date and the end date. Checking the “Compare to Past” box automatically gives dates that precede the one you are looking at for the same amount of time. For example if I choose a date range of 3 days, and check that box I will see the preceding 3 days. You can override that date range which is useful if you want to compare, say, July this year with July last year.
Setting date ranges is a very powerful tool in analyzing data. Once into the report section you want to analyze you can then set date ranges and export the data to a spreadsheet, change dates, export again – all without having to find your reports again. I find this a very useful and time saving feature.
Underneath the graph of visits we have “Site Usage”, with some pretty interesting stuff, most of which is self explanatory. When checking the “Compare to Past” box the previous date range data will show up in green, as well as a percentage increase or decrease. The two items I am most interested in are the “Avg. Time on Site” and the “Bounce Rate”. This tells me a lot about how people are reacting to my site.
What is “Bounce Rate” and what is a good one? Bounce rate means the number of visitors who hit your site and ‘bounce right out again’, not looking at other pages. The lower this number is the better. What a good bounce rate is cannot be set in concrete as there are too many factors involved, but what I have done is look at my bounce rate for a year’s date range, and then compare my current rate with that. Am I doing better or worse than my own average?
Under the Site Usage are several “overview” boxes and clicking the “view report” link brings up the full report. These reports have more information that can be drilled down into, so its important to think about your goals. What do you want your website to achieve for you? Are you trying a new marketing strategy that you want to track? Keep it simple and be very specific. I like to see where my traffic is coming from, and one of my goals is to increase my Page Rank. So for me, getting good links into my site is important and I track those results on a weekly basis.
Exporting the data is pretty easy in GA, the button is on the top left and there are choices for how the data is exported. I like to watch trends and so I export my weekly “Traffic Sources” report and build my spreadsheet using the weeks results.
That covers the most basic features of Google Analytics, there is so much more that can be gleaned and I will cover some of those subjects in future articles.