Understanding visitors: A guide to Google Analytics

Here, Nicky Hughes discusses how your business can get the best out of Google Analytics.

Google Analytics (GA) is an incredibly powerful tool, but many features are underused. A lot of people just use GA to see how much traffic they’re getting on a daily or weekly basis, but if you really want to understand how users use your site, and how to improve its performance, GA is packed with valuable data. Here are just a few of the insights that Google can offer.

Using behaviour flow

The ‘Behaviour Flow’ tab ( under the ‘Behaviour’ tab) is a really powerful part of GA. It allows you to see the path visitors normally take from when they visit your site to when they exit. With this part of GA you can diagnose potential problems with the site: are a lot of people leaving the site on the same page? How could you change the copy or design to prevent this? How many people are landing on the pages you actively want them to land on and which pages acts as a trigger page (if any) when it comes to conversions?

Checking site speed

Site speed is really important, for lots of reasons. The first one is the most obvious, you want your site to load as quickly as possible, because a slower site means higher page abandonment by users. Also site speed is a direct ranking signal. So, if your site is a bit slow then your site’s search engine rankings might suffer. While it’s not a huge ranking factor, it shouldn’t be ignored and GA can help with just that. From the ‘Behaviour’ tab, navigate to ‘Site Speed’ and from here you can check average page load times, check out suggestions to improve speed and find out how quickly your site loads in different browsers. Ideally you should be aiming for page load times of less than two seconds.

Finding out what people are searching on your site

So you’ve got a search box in the upper corner of your site, a box that pretty much every other site on the web has. It works fine and people, you assume, use it, but how many? And what are they searching for? Well, GA can answer both those questions for you and more. You will have to set it up first, but that’s fairly painless, you can find more details on that here. Once set up you can get all sorts of wonderful information from site search. These include finding out how many sessions used the search box, what terms they searched for and how many average page views were generated through searches.

Traffic breakdown

The biggest and simplest way of using GA is finding out just where your traffic is coming from. Are you getting more traffic from organic search results or from paid? How effective are your email campaigns at directing traffic to your site? And what about social? Are your social campaigns proving effective at driving traffic? Within each of these categories you can then break down how your visitors are using your site. You can see bounce rates, average session times, page sessions, as well as goal conversions. Just navigate to the ‘Acquisition’ tab, then to ‘All Traffic’ and then ‘Channels’.

Device segmentation

Mobile web searches have been rising steadily over recent years, in fact, back in May 2015 Google reported that mobile searches have surpassed desktop searches. But, when it comes to your site, how high? How much should you be focusing on mobile and tablet searches compared with desktop users? To determine that you would need to know how many visits to your site are from mobile and tablet. Well, GA can tell you exactly that. Your website should already be optimised for mobile (if not, why not?) but if most of your users are searching for your site on a smaller screen you should definitely consider taking a second look at the design of your site.

This is just a brief overview of the main benefits of one of the most powerful tools on offer from Google. And what’s more, it’s completely free.

Nicky Hughes is digital communications manager at Onespacemedia

Further reading on Google Analytics

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