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8 min read

Google Analytics for small businesses

There are many insights you can extract from Google Analytics, but, without being a marketing expert, where do you start and how can you use it at a basic level to understand the performance of your business website and marketing – and, most importantly, make improvements?

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics (GA) is a premier analytics platform that tracks site (and app) performance. It’s an extremely important digital marketing tool, as it helps you better understand your customers. By analysing data for your business in one place, you can see what’s working about your website and marketing, and what’s not. You can then do more of what works, and fix what doesn’t. And the best part? It’s free to anyone with a Google account.

How can Google Analytics help my business?

The volume of data that GA provides makes it an essential component of any website manager or marketer’s online toolbox. It processes this data intelligently, then generates reports to display it to you in a clear way. These reports help you understand who your best customers are, how visitors reached your website, what steps they are taking as they transition from marketing through to your products / services, as well as what your most profitable conversion paths are. And that’s just a few benefits. 

But the scale of data can be overwhelming, and without a sound knowledge of Google Analytics, it can prove difficult to make data-driven decisions for your business. GA is seriously underused by businesses. It all comes down to how much time you have as a business owner. The more time you can allocate to analysing your GA data (or employing a specialist who can do this for you), the more insights and actions you can take forward for the benefit of your business.

Here are some examples of how GA can help your business:

  • Understand who your customers are

    GA insights will help you better define your target audience.

    GA’s Audience Overview section provides a general profile of users who have interacted with your website – where they’re located, what devices they use, how much time they spend on certain web pages, etc. It provides unique user numbers (all data can be provided for specific time frames), number of sessions per user, page views, average session duration, bounce rate, lifetime value of a user, cohort analysis, demography, age, the technology they use, their behaviours and interests… by working these metrics into your marketing strategy you can not only develop your website to better suit them, but you can engage with them more effectively within your marketing strategy. A win-win. (This data also confirms whether the customer you were targeting in the very beginning, is the right one!)

     

  • See where your traffic is coming from

    The insights you can gain from GA reports can be vital to improving your marketing activity. Data collected can help you understand:

    • How much traffic is driven to your site by different marketing channels
    • Which websites refer the most visitors
    • The conversion rate of visitors from different channels
    • Where your site visitors are located

    You can then use this data to tailor your marketing activity. Invest in the channels that are performing well, and move away from the unsuccessful ones. The perfect recipe for a successful marketing strategy.

  • Understand your top performing pages/popular products and services

    What can you do to optimise your most successful pages further, for even better results? Can you add a more powerful call to action? Is there a particular product you’re launching that you could link to from one of these high performing pages? Can you add additional content to it to provide more value and draw even more traffic? Can you include an e-newsletter sign up box on the page to help build your email list?

    If GA data tells you that your most popular content includes blog posts, consider writing additional content around these subjects, including a clear call to action (typically at the end of the post) and a couple of links to your products/services where appropriate.

    Try to refresh the information in your best performing posts periodically to keep the text fresh and up-to-date.

    There will always be some product categories that outperform others. There tends to be an 80/20 rule, where 80% of your sales come from 20% of your product categories. GA offers Product Page Analysis, which will help you learn about your most popular products so you can give them additional attention to increase their sales further (and shift your focus away from underperforming categories).

  • Improve your website to achieve your business goals

    Google Analytics helps you to better understand and adjust your website in order to increase your returning visitors and communicate with them in a way to best encourage a conversion. You can set ‘goals’ within GA to measure how often users complete specific actions, known as ‘conversions’ e.g. make a purchase, download a guide, sign up to an e-newsletter, etc. Defining goals helps GA deliver critical information to you such as the number of conversions and the conversion rate. Without this information, it’s almost impossible to evaluate the effectiveness of your online business and marketing campaigns.

7:55

Video: A quick overview of the Google Analytics interface

by ConversionUniversity

In this video from ConversionUniversity, they look at how to navigate the GA interface to gather different insights. 

What are some of the key metrics I should be looking out for?

If you’re not well-versed with digital marketing and analytics, you might find some of the metrics used on Google Analytics confusing. What exactly is a bounce rate or a session? Helpfully, you can usually hover over different reporting metrics to get a handy explainer exactly what data you’re looking at. Below we’ve provided a quick overview of some the key metrics you’ll need to look at and understand:

  • Session: A group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame.
  • Time on page / site: The average amount of time users spend on a single page / your site.
  • Bounce rate: The % of sessions with a single pageview. The lower your bounce rate, the better your website is designed to engage users and encourage goal conversion.
  • Pages per visit: This is a measure of how many pieces of content (web pages) a particular user or group of users views on a single website. Pages per visit is usually displayed as an average, which is calculated by dividing the total number of page views by the total number of visitors.
  • Conversion rate: The number of conversions divided by the total number of visitors. The higher the better!
  • Acquisition: Understand how people find your website using the Acquisition reports. The reports present data based on the source and medium of your users, along with other acquisition dimensions. There are dedicated reports for your paid traffic from Google Ads, organic traffic from Google (if you have linked your Google Search Console account), traffic from social networks and traffic from custom campaign tags. 
  • Campaign tags: Inbound marketing can be tracked and reported by Google Analytics using campaign tags. Extra details (query parameters) are added to the end of URLs which are then included in the Acquisition reports. Campaign tags include campaign name, source, medium, term and content. Learn more about campaign tags.
  • UTM tags: These are the individual query parameters used to make up a campaign tagged URL. The UTM tags include utm_name, utm_source, utm_medium, utm_term, utm_content and the lesser known utm_id. UTM stands for ‘Urchin Traffic Monitor’ (Urchin was the precursor to Google Analytics).
  • Channel: Channels provide top-level groupings of your inbound marketing. Each channel combines source and medium so you can understand overall performance. 
  • Cohort Analysis: The Cohort Analysis report shows you users segmented by date. For example, you can use the report to see when users are acquired and when they return to your website.
  • CPC: Cost-per-click can be seen in the Acquisition reports and typically refers to people clicking through to your website from paid ads. 
  • Goal: These are used to track desired actions on your website. 
  • Referral: A referral is reported when a user clicks through to your website from another third-party website. The Referrals report allows you to see all of the websites (by domain) that are sending you traffic. You can also drill-down to view the ‘Referral Path’, which allows you to see the individual pages linking to your website.

… We could go on! Loves Data provides a helpful, in-depth Google Analytics glossary.

Examples of how you can leverage GA data to problem solve

We’re going to look at two example of how you can use GA data to identify issues and solve them. 


Issue 1: I’m not selling many products/services via my website

Understanding visitor behaviour can flag a number of issues that could be putting people off from making a purchase.

Actions:

  • Look at your bounce rate – is there a high percentage of people who are leaving your site after viewing just one page, and not choosing to shop around? What’s the touchpoint where they stop engaging with your site? Is it a landing page, checkout, blog post? (Behaviour Flow report in GA will tell you this.)
  • Check their time on site and time on page to understand how long people are staying on your website.
  • Do you have a search bar on your website? GA has a built-in Search Terms Report that lets you see what your visitors are looking for on your site. Do you have web pages that fit their requirements? Is the data flagging a customer need that you don’t currently cater for?
  • Do you fully understand your customers’ interests? GA’s Affinity Categories report distinguishes user interests so you can learn what they’re passionate about, their habits and interests. Align your brand with what truly matters to your customers to encourage sales.
  • Assess your Landing Page report in GA, which shows you the duration and bounce rate for each page to see which pages receive the most engagement and which ones need work.
  • Once you’ve reviewed your data, test and refine small adjustments to your website design, clarity of content and – subject to the data insights – product offering to see if they have an impact on your conversion rate.
  • Allow enough time for the changes to bed in. Review and analyse any impact on your GA data – have they improved? Keep testing and refining until you meet your goal.

There are many more insights you can get from GA to help you sell more through your website. Marketing expert Neil Patel shares some additional recommendations on this article on e-commerce reporting and analytics


Issue 2: I’ve just launched a new product, but I’m not sure how successful my online marketing campaign has been. I’m not sure which of my online marketing channels are the most effective.

You can create custom URLs that feed into GA data, helping you identify the campaigns that refer traffic.

Action:

  • Add parameters and values to your URLs manually, or you can use a platform-specific URL-builder tool to create your URLs and append the parameters.
  • For links to websites, use the Campaign URL Builder on the Google Analytics Demos & Tools site.
  • Further resources and instructions on how to set up custom campaigns for Android-app ads, iOS-app ads, manual set ups as well as the five parameters you can add to your URLs can be found on Google’s Help Centre.

By adding campaign parameters to the destination URLs you use in your campaigns, you can collect information about the overall efficacy of those campaigns, and also understand where the campaigns are most effective. When a user clicks a referral link, the parameters you add are sent to GA, and the related data is available in the Campaigns reports. For example, your new product launch campaign might be generating enquiries on your website, but you’re promoting your campaign across a number of social media channels and partner sites. By using custom URLs, GA will be able to tell you which channel is sending you customers who generate the most revenue. Additionally, if you’re running different versions of your launch campaign across varying channels e.g. ads, social media, email marketing, guest blogging, etc, then it can help you compare results so you know where your marketing is the most effective, and where to invest your marketing budget moving forward.

What if I need help with Google Analytics?

The more time you spend analysing your GA data and actioning its insights, the more informed and effective your website and marketing strategy will be. Time isn’t something many business owners have, so it would be worth researching opportunities to work with a specialist in this area – even if it’s to help you set everything up correctly and transfer some skills to you or a member of your team to handle ongoing. While a quick Google can point you in the right direction of Google Analytics specialists, you can’t beat a recommendation so also ask fellow business owners if they’d recommend a consultant or agency that might be able to assist you in this area.

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