Even to a seasoned web veteran, Google Analytics can be a bit overwhelming. With an endless amount of data at your finger tips its easy to loose focus of metrics that can actually help you make better decisions in your business.
If you’re just starting out with website analytics, go slow.
Usually the best information comes from one or two lone metrics, not diving down into every page ad nauseum. Here are a few shoulds and should nots of your website analytics.
Should Not: Spend too much time on the Dashboard
Take a deep breath. Its not as scary as it looks.
By and large, beginners love to spend their time on the dashboard because the dashboard is where the BIG numbers are. Metrics like visits, pageviews, and visitors look the most impressive and are great for bragging rights. Ten thousand pageviews could make it sound like business is booming but pageviews by itself doesn’t tell you much.
Pageviews is a vanity metric.
Vanity metrics are any numbers that may look impressive but don’t offer any actionable information on their own. Let’s relate this to something tangible. Pageviews on your website is like a car dealership counting how many times somebody has test driven the red porshe on the lot. Some people fall in love at first sight and buy it on the spot. Other looky loo types may test drive it a dozen time with no intention ever to buy. Without knowing what type of of person is looking at car, the number of test drives doesn’t matter.
Do you want to own the dealership where 100 people a day test drive the porshe and no one buys it or the dealership that has one customer who actually is willing to pay for it?
Pageviews are like test drives, they dont mean much without a conversion.
Pageviews are also “artificially” high. I say “artificial” because although it may be an accurate count, it doesn’t represent customer activity. Have you ever looked at your competitors website? Look at more than one page on their site? You boost their pageview count but have no intention to buy something from them.
Even Google said this about pageviews:
"It is more useful as a basic indicator of the traffic load on your site and server rather than as a marketing measure."
“Looks” don’t grow your business, buyers do. Let’s look at some metrics that can tell us something useful.
Should: Look at your “Keywords”
Want to know how your customers talk about you? Look at the “keywords” link under “traffic sources”. For someone to find your website on the internet they can either type your websites url (http://www.yoursite.com) directly into the browser or they type something about you into a search engine like Google and (hopefully) your website shows up in the search results.
Heather Lutze author of The Findability Formula illustrates why knowing how your customers search for you is so important. If you’re an HVAC Contractor dont assume that someone with a broken air conditioner is going to type “HVAC Contractor” into Google. They’re going to type in “Air conditioner repair man.” You need to speak the same language as our customer while introducing them to the accurate industry jargon (via writing articles for their industry publications for example).
Use your top keywords to know what your customers think you do and use that same terminology to relate to prospective customers.
Should Not: Worry about your “Top Exit Pages”
Top Exit Pages describes itself pretty well. Its the pages that visitors are on before they exit your website. But Exit Pages can be two faced. In one sense, its never fun to say good bye, even if you never met your visitor face to face. Where are they going? Will they come back? Both tough questions to answer.
On the other hand, they might have just found exactly what they’re looking for.
Is your “Contact Us” page one of your top exit pages? Maybe all they needed was your phone number to call you.
Your best content may be your top exit page because you’ve thoroughly satisfied all of their questions.
Don’t fret about “exits.” Give your visitors quality information and they’ll be back when the time is right.
Should: Use the “About This Report” Feature
As complicated as analytics can be, Google does a great job of coaching you along the way. On the bottom left of every Google analytics page is the “About this Report” button. It provides a quick interpretation of the metrics you’re looking at.
For example, I have no idea what a “Bounce Rate” is. I navigate to the bounce rate page and click on the About this Report button.
Should Not: Try to Learn it all on your First Visit.
Take your time. Pick one metric and see if you can visualize how your customers are interacting with your website to make it that way.
Should: Pop the Hood on your Website
You change the fluids in your car every 3000 miles, your website deserves the same attention. None of this information is any good to you if you don’t take action. Revisit it regularly and it will be like an old friend in no time.
Leave a comment below mentioning how looking at your analytics has changed the way you do business.