One of the most powerful (and free) web analytics tools available today, Google Analytics offers incredible insights for analyzing visitor behavior. Go beyond the pretty graphs by setting goals, measuring events or diving deeper with advanced segmentation. If Google Analytics is new to you, this beginner’s guide is a great way to get oriented with Google Analytics before using the advanced tools below.
Set up Website Goals
Goals are a high value action that you want customers to perform. Do you want visitors to subscribe, download a file, fill out a form or buy something? This is where you need to identify the purpose of your website. The goals you set up in Google Analytics should reflect your business objectives and will help you understand conversion rates as well as analyze visitors that convert. Once you have identified the purpose of your site, you can choose from the types of goals below:
This type of goal is defined as a visitor reaching a specific page. This could be a ‘Thank You’ page after subscribing to a newsletter or loading a contact information page. Note that when you fill in the Goal URL textbox, it’s easier to use the URI component instead of the full URL. If you want to take things to the next level, define funnels for your goals to create a path for your traffic to move through.
Time on Site
With this type of goal, set a length of time for Google Analytics to measure against each visitor. The goal is met when visitors spend more (or less) time than you define. Gaming, photography, or article based sites are a few examples that should utilize this metric to evaluate engagement.
Page per Visit
Similarly, set goals to track the amount of page views per visitor. Individuals on your page are monitored for the amount of pageviews per visit and complete the goal if they are greater or less than the number you set. Blogging sites are another example that may use this type of goal.
Met when a pre-defined Event is triggered, Event goals are used in conjunction with event tracking (learn more on this below). Configure the conditions based on Category, Action, Label or Value – while you can use all of these options, only one is needed.
A few important notes
- You can attribute monetary value to each type of goal. Perfect for monetizing visitor interaction, any time a goal is met the amount is recorded and summed up in the goal reports.
- Goals cannot be deleted. However, you can turn a goal off or edit a goal to change the criteria.
- Up to 20 goals can be set. There are 4 goals sets that contain 5 goals each. There is no specific hierarchy required, but it does provide the option to organize goals in to different categories.
Event Tracking is a great way to measure user interaction with your site. Calls to action, downloads, outbound clicks or video plays are examples you might want to track as events. Enabling event tracking is not a hard process. A code is added to the URL you want to track. First, let’s take a quick look at the syntax:
_trackEvent (category, action, label, value)
Category: This is the primary element you want to track and should function as a first way to sort events. You can think of it as the “What.”
Action: This is the definition of the interaction with your visitor. It can be clicked, played, stopped, or paused on the page of the URL.
Label: This is an optional descriptor field that can be used to provide additional information about the event. You can use it as a unique identifier, such as the placement of the URL.
Value: This is an optional numerical value that can be used when you set up goals for your event. You can use explicit values, like a price, or inferred values that are defined elsewhere, like Download Time.
Non-interaction: An optional boolean value that when set to true, the event hit will not be used in the bounce-rate calculation. This can be used to prevent a click on a video from being included in the bounce rate.
The example below is appdev.com selling Pro memberships. The event tracked would be the “Buy Pro” call to action (CTA) on the side bar on the front page. The value is defined as ‘FullPrice.’ If you were to run a promotion for 30% off membership, you can change the CTA to reflect that and all the other elements of the _trackEvent would stay the same except for the value, which could be changed to ’30discount’.
<a href=”http://www.appdev.com/” onclick=”_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘GoPro’, ‘FrontPage’, ‘SideBar’,’FullPrice’]);”>
<a href=”http://www.appdev.com/” onclick=”_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘GoPro’, ‘FrontPage’, ‘SideBar’,’30discount’]);”>
After time, you can compare the performance of the full price versus the 30% discount, the different pages, and different placements of the CTAs by drilling down in the Content>Overview>Event Category report.
Best practice tips
- Identify all the possible events that can occur on your pages. This will help you to build a consistent report structure that scales well.
- Identify how you want the report to look. This will direct the structure of your Event Tracking Implementation.
- Use a clear and consistent naming convention. Every name you supply will appear in your reports, which is why it is important to consider how you want the category/action pair calculated in report statistics.
Advanced segmentation is a capability that allows you to create custom reports that dive into statistics unique to your company. It is extremely valuable to track and compare visitors; you can find information regarding customer behavior that can be used to optimize customer experiences and improve conversion and/or engagement.
It is important to realize that not all visitors are the same. Google Analytics can produce reports that compare four segments at one time, which can be applied to most reports. Try segmenting your branded search keywords. What pages does this segment view? What products do they buy? Do they meet any of the defined goal targets? Now compare these metrics with non-branded search, all visits, or direct traffic. Depending on performance, you may be able to identify improvements to your site and the customer experience.
Advanced segments can even be applied to Event Tracking. See how visits with events can be compared to visits overall by defining a custom segment with “Total Events Greater than 0”.
Analyze Traffic Sources
Where do your visitors come from? The Traffic Sources section can help you understand the effectiveness of referrals, direct traffic, organic search keywords and campaigns. Start with the Traffic Sources > Overview report to see the distribution. A high dependence on search could put traffic at risk if Google rolls out an update, thus a balanced portfolio is optimal.
When looking over the remaining reports, examine the bounce rate, pages per visit, and average visit duration to measure engagement.
Is there a high bounce rate for paid or organic search traffic? That means you most likely aren’t targeting the right terms. Which keywords drive visitors to your site? Also click over to “Ecommerce” on the explorer bar. Of those keywords, which ones generate the most revenue? Knowing which keywords to focus on makes a big difference for investing time or money in optimizing your site.
See which pages are the most popular for direct traffic. Is there a page deep in your site that ranks high? Make sure visitors can navigate back to the home page easily. Look at the Ecommerce tab as well to see if there are any pages that have a low number of visits, but a high conversion rate and make those pages more visible.
Knowing which websites that refer the most effective traffic is important because there is only so much time that can spent marketing your site. Examine how much traffic is referred, which landing pages are most popular and how visitors interact with your site. Can you think of any referral sources that are not in the report? If so, reach out to business contacts such as clients, partners, or industry blogs and ask for links to your site.
Lastly, you should put your Advanced Segmentation skills to use when examining the Traffic Sources reports to figure out which customers make you successful.
Now you can track the areas of needed improvement and success on your website more thoroughly by setting goals, measuring events, or diving deeper with advanced segmentation. The amount of data that Analytics is able to yield can be overwhelming, so make sure you’re always tracking data that has a real impact on the health of your website.