Small business owners need all of the leverage they can get. After all, the resources at their disposal are often limited in comparison to the big dollars that corporations and large business are able to invest in ads, data collection or any PR problems they may have. However, what is becoming increasingly evident is that the playing field is levelling out due to some phenomenal tools everyone has at their disposal, namely Google Analytics.
The most significant issue when using Google Analytics is managing it effectively and efficiently, without getting overwhelmed with the magnitude of data at your disposal. I personally consider Google Analytics my guardian. It is forever the objective watch guard that lets me know when that brilliant web design idea is not so brilliant, and that content might need a bit of work. It also lets me know when that once great design and content has aged and is not drawing the same attention it previously did.
Websites are fast becoming a strong media reach contender, with Canadians saying that they spent 78.1% of their time on this medium, on an ongoing basis, second only to television (TVB; Numeris Return To Sample Canada Fall 2014). This means that the days of posting your website and walking away are gone, and businesses need to catch up to the new reality. It is no longer a one-time event that you can check off of your list. It is an ongoing venture that requires monitoring and diligence in order to create interest, traffic and elevate search engine optimization (your ranking in the search engine results page).
Ultimately, your site visitors are the experts letting you know what works and what does not. In the world of marketing, you can create the content that studies have shown resonates with people, and generally, you come closer to your goal by doing so, but there are always unknowns that become more evident as people engage with your website. Even if it seems to flow well, there are always improvements that create a better user experience that is not so easy to foresee without seeing how people relate to your website
As a web designer and marketer, my firm belief is the success of a website lies partially in your analytics data, the rest of it lies with your clients/users, and the devil is in the details. It is often hard for all of us to have an objective view of how we have configured our website because it makes so much sense to us! How can someone see it any different than the way we intended it to be seen? You would be surprised!
Google Analytics lets you know how close or far you are from your business goals and as such, it is an invaluable tool. The challenge in Google Analytics is in how you use it, as it has been estimated that the majority of the time, it is not used to its full potential or configured properly. Here is a brief outline of what Google Analytics can do and this is by no means a comprehensive list. Consider it a light overview.
All of this information is invaluable for several reasons, but the foundation of it all is the content and how engaging it is on all of the pages of your website. If you have a high bounce rate on a particular page, and yes you can find this out, you may want to reconsider the content or images on that particular page. A bounce rate of over 50% is considered high, and means that only 50% of those who visit a page went on to investigate another page on your website, while the other 50% hit the back button. It is important to find out why the 50% were not intrigued enough to continue to another page. It could be something as simple as not having a clear ‘call to action’ (e.g., asking for participation from the user like, “call to find out more”) on the page, or in some cases, too many ‘calls to action’.
Alternatively, you may want to examine the referrer (url of the page or ad traffic is coming from) to find out whether the expectations set by the link is possibly misleading. If you have a high bounce rate that appears to be on a particular landing page that you have selected for an advertisement, newsletter or email, and you have noticed that people are dropping off at that particular page, you may have to consider that the ad does not seem relevant to the content on the page, or is possibly outdated.
There can be a lot of information to digest, and one of the reasons that people are intimidated by Google Analytics is the fear of being inundated with too much data, to the point of not knowing what actions to take. This is understandable, but one of the ways to get around this is to create your business plan ahead of time, with targets and Key Performance Indicators discussed, documented and understood by management and the web designer/developer. Once this is carefully delineated, you can then decide what kinds of configurations are essential for your success. Important questions to ask yourself are: are you trying to create brand awareness, share important information, or create more online sales? This information is crucial in setting up a system that will garner the information you need to monitor your website and to make informed decisions.
Here is a rundown of some of the interesting capabilities of Google Analytics for various business goals...
Destination Goals can help determine a specified page was reached (thank you page after signing up for a newsletter)
You can also use track Event Goals to determine the number of pdf downloads or video views (among other capabilities).
Duration Goals help you to create a predetermined time goal for a page. If this goal is exceeded a conversion has been made and you have met your goal.
Goals are all about engagement, and one of the most telling is the Page Views per session. This gives you the capability to set a specific number of pages seen, per visitor as your goal. This allows you to determine whether changes you made to a page were significant enough to create the engagement you are looking for.
Goals can really give you the tools needed to break down various aspects of your design, to figure out where people are engaged and where they are becoming disinterested.
Ecommerce Goals and Funnels
With an e-commerce website, it is important to ensure that the checkout process is not riddled with error, confusing, or simply too long. A popular tool used in Google Analytics is the creation of the funnel leading up to the completion of a destination goal, which is predetermined by you (i.e., thank you or receipt page).
The funnel is essentially the path of pages the visitor takes to reach the final destination goal. You can track each stage of the ecommerce process leading up to your final destination goal. This gives you an objective view of all pages functionality from the checkout page, to shipping, to final payment.
This is essentially a birds-eye view that allows you to see where people might be running into problems and deciding to leave the ecommerce funnel. This gives you the opportunity to determine which page is making the process difficult and have it fixed immediately before causing too much frustration, for too many people. Some problems in the ecommerce funnel can be as simple as a check box being out of immediate view and requiring a side scroll.
Goals and funnels for the non-ecommerce website
The ecommerce funnel and destination goal can also work to add a dollar value to a non-ecommerce website. This works essentially the same way it does for an actual ecommerce funnel. The only difference is the estimated dollar value is added to the final Destination Goal based on actual numbers of prospects converted to sales within the chosen area. For example, if sales are closed on approximately 10% of those who complete a lead form for more information on a particular product/service, you can then create your dollar value per lead for completed forms based on current or previous data. By putting a dollar amount on downloads or completed forms on your site, it is easier to understand the value of your website in your overall marketing strategy. It also makes it easier to communicate the value of the website design to higher ups in the company that might need more convincing.
It may all seem like a lot of information at one time, right? This is why Google Analytics also provides the functionality to streamline your data to make it as accurate as possible in the areas in which you are interested. This gives you the ability to clean up your data and get to the base knowledge that you are looking for without having to do any unnecessary digging. Filters allow you to do many things that are far too extensive to discuss here. However, it is important to note that at its very basic level, it can exclude traffic from your company network to ensure you are looking at data from clients or potential clients alone. This is done by excluding specific IP addresses or a range of IP addresses, to make the reports that much more accurate. This is especially effective if you have employees who use the company page as their home page. Overall, filters give you the tools to include or exclude information so that you can streamline your data to your needs. However, it is crucial to keep in mind that the order of filters is important, and can provide inaccurate data if not set up correctly.
Website traffic details
After ensuring your data is clean, you can also monitor various campaign strategies. The capabilities are extensive and powerful! By using various campaign parameters you can find out what advertising sources are sending you the most traffic, the most successful marketing medium (newsletter, or online ad), as well as other details including the most powerful campaigns and keywords used to find you. One of the most interesting features allows you to integrate multivariate testing by adding different parameters to the same campaign featuring different content to test which one resonates the most with your users.
In the past, the type of flexibility that Google Analytics offers would cost exorbitant amounts of money, and only larger businesses or corporations could look behind the veil of their website to uncover a treasure trove of invaluable information. Google Analytics offers all of this for free, with reasonable fees by your web designer/developer to set it up optimally. There is quite a learning curve to using Google Analytics. However, once you get up and going you will have a hard time leaving the Google Analytics Dashboard.
Overall, it is great news that, when it comes to website analytics, consider the gap in knowledge between the large corporation and small business closed.
About the author: Janice is a Marketing Consultant at JG Lea Web Design & Marketing Research. You can follow her here
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