Whether your site gets 100 or 100,000 visitors a month, sorting through all that web analytics data can be daunting. However, some basic web analytics tips can make wading through everything way easier and far more effective for your growing brand.
Web analytics allow us to see the demographics and behavior of our web visitors, including where they come from, what they do, who they are, and at what point they exit our website. For small businesses that lack the budgets and expertise of a full marketing department, knowing which numbers to look at and understanding what they mean can have a huge impact.
We’ve broken down three key elements for successful web analytics deployment. As we’ve discussed previously, we’re huge fans of Google Analytics (learn how to set up an account here). It’s free and there are a ton of great resources on our website for beginners and pros alike.
Determine Your Business Goals
Before diving deep into the nitty gritty of Google Analytics, it’s important to start by asking yourself this simple question:
What is the primary goal of my website?
Websites are a critical part of any modern business plan, but just having a web presence isn’t enough. If you’re going to turn your web analytics into actionable knowledge that will improve your site’s performance, you need to know why your website matters to your business. Consider these questions to refine your focus:
- Are you looking to drive more traffic from search engines?
- Are you trying to attract local and mobile users?
- Is your website primarily for e-commerce?
- Do you want users to engage with your site through social media?
Once you have a clear understanding of the purpose for your site, you can begin managing your web analytics data without getting lost in the limitless information available.
Turn That Data Into Actionable Knowledge
After identifying the goal(s) for your website, get a jump start on your web analytics with just three main steps:
- Keep It Simple
Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful tool for marketers. However, for small business owners with more limited resources, deep dives into individual sessions are less useful than understanding overall trends.
Within Google Analytics, there are two key terms we need to understand: dimensions (the attributes we’re measuring) and metrics (the measurements themselves).
With our business goals in mind, we need to identify the dimensions that will help us determine our key performance indicators. There are dozens of metrics to consider, such as conversion rates, average pages per visit, and ad clicks, but not all of them will be relevant for our particular goals. Determine the business goals for your website before working backwards to figure out what info you’ll need to achieve them.
If, for example, you want your SEO to be more competitive on Google, you can track how overall traffic from organic searches is faring. From the Google Analytics homepage, click on AcquisitionàAll TrafficàChannels and you’ll see Organic Search as an option.
- Use Automation
Digging into the depths of Google Analytics can be overwhelming and slow. To get the most out of these metrics, we suggest using the dashboard function. Dashboards allow us to visualize our data over time, so we can chart trends that affect our website’s performance.
Dashboards mean we don’t have to generate reports manually—instead, they’re produced for us automatically. We suggest checking on these dashboards at least once a month. Then, based on the knowledge gained from them, make adjustments to your strategy to help you meet the specific goals for your website.
We also advise paying attention to Google Analytics notifications. These messages alert us to configuration errors, changes in traffic patterns, and optimization suggestions to ensure that our data is as accurate as possible. As easy as it might be to delete these emails, remember that they’re automated nudges to check certain aspects of your data that might prove problematic if left unattended.
- Tag Your Campaigns
To make sure you get the most insight from Google Analytics, our last suggestion is to adopt UTM parameters as part of your regular marketing habits.
UTM parameters allow us to collect information on specific campaigns to gauge their effectiveness. Google Analytics offers five key parameters, including:
- utm_source: Identifies where your traffic comes from (i.e., Facebook, Google search, newsletter)
- utm_medium: Identifies what medium this traffic comes from (i.e., email, CPC)
- utm_term: Identifies paid search keywords/search terms
- utm_campaign: Identifies elements for each individual campaign, such as a product launch or specific promotion. If you don’t tag your campaigns with UTM parameters, the metrics around your campaigns can get muddled, so we especially recommend taking this step!
- utm_content: Allows you to differentiate distinct parts of your content (i.e., unique parts of a campaign email) to see what motivates users. For example, this element will tell you which links users are actually clicking on in promotional emails.
While it may initially sound complicated, adding UTM parameters to your campaign URLs is incredibly intuitive once you get started. We highly recommend using the Campaign URL tool from Google Analytics to seamlessly add parameters to every campaign URL and learn how to make your marketing efforts even more effective.
Web Analytics Don’t Have to Be Difficult
Small businesses don’t have to eschew the goldmine of information that is web analytics just because they don’t have the resources of larger companies. In fact, although it’s 100% free, we actually prefer Google Analytics over many other costly services.
All it takes is three key steps: Determining your goals, measuring the right Key Performance Indicators, and staying consistent in your UTM parameter usage. These tips are sure to have a huge effect on your brand, providing you with meaningful information to help improve your marketing efforts.
Looking for more guidance to make the most of your web analytics? Learn about our on-site Google Analytics training!