Last Updated on September 1, 2021
We recently ran an Introduction to Google Analytics webinar, so we’ve been talking about Google Analytics a lot with clients over the last few weeks and it’s become apparent that very few organisations are really making the most of the information that Google Analytics can give them.
People tend to fall into one of two categories. Either they don’t have Google Analytics running on their website at all, or they do have it running but they’ve never actually logged into it or looking at the data it contains.
Used correctly, Google Analytics is one of the most powerful marketing tools that your organisation has. So why are so few people are making proper use of the information that it contains?
If you had a website built for you then the developers may not have installed Google Analytics in the first place, or perhaps they installed it but never really briefed you on what it is and how to use it. Perhaps you built your site yourself and didn’t install Google Analytics because you weren’t aware that it existed or didn’t know what it can do or how to install it.
Another common scenario is that people do have Google Analytics running but never look at it. Indeed, it’s not uncommon to discover that you can’t access the Google Analytics account because it was set up by your developer and is owned by them. Even when they do have access to the Analytics account few people really make use of the data that’s in there, largely because it can be completely overwhelming if you’re not familiar with the interface and don’t know what you should be looking for.
In this blog post I’m going to address this, firstly by explaining briefly what Google Analytics is and why you should have it running on your site and then by talking about how you could be using the data it contains to drive your marketing and the performance of your website.
What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a free tool that enables you to analyse the traffic to your website. To run it you set up a free Google Analytics account and then install a small piece of code on every page on your website. This code enables Google to record how people behave when they visit your website alongside some of the attributes those people have. You can then log into your Google Analytics account to view this data. Here are some examples of the kind of information Google Analytics can give you:-
- How much traffic you’re getting to your website – number of users, how many pages those users view, how long they spend on your site, what proportion of your visitors are new to you and what proportion have visited before
- The characteristics of those visitors – what browser and device they’re using to view your site, basic demographic information, their interests
- Where your web traffic comes from – where your web traffic is coming from, which of your marketing activities is generating the most traffic to your site and which is not,
- How visitors to your site behave – the pages from which they enter and exit, how long they spend on each page, how they progress through the site, which elements of your site they interact with and which they do not
- How much business your website generates for you – the number of visitors who convert, whatever that means for your business (buy something, book an event, request a demo, send you an email, fill in a contact form), which sources of traffic to your site have the highest conversion rates
Why do I need Google Analytics on my site?
For most businesses, your website is the centre of your digital marketing activities. Everything points to your website. Whilst you’ll undoubtably have social media profiles as well, your website is the one tool that you can completely own and control yourself. Understanding how your website is working is critical to developing an effective marketing strategy.
Small businesses typically have small marketing budgets. You need to know what works and what doesn’t so that you can focus your spending accordingly and spend more money on marketing activities that you know generate business for you and less on those that don’t. How do you know which is which? Google Analytics tells you.
Without Google Analytics you’re essentially flying blind with no idea what’s working and what isn’t, continually throwing mud at the wall and hoping that some sticks.
How do I know if Google Analytics is running on my site?
If you’ve inherited a site that someone else built for you, or a developer built your site a long time ago then you may not know if Google Analytics is running on it or not. The simplest way to tell if you have Google Analytics on your site is to use a tool like Builtwith.
Simply go to the Builtwith website and enter your site’s address into the search bar then click ‘Lookup’ as in the screen shot below.
Builtwith will produce a short report that shows you all the technologies that are running on your site, starting with Google Analytics, as in the screen shot below.
If you have Google Analytics running but don’t have access to it then the next step is to try and get access. The only thing you can really do at this point is go back to whoever built the site and ask them if they installed Google Analytics and, if they did, ask them to add you to the account.
If you can’t contact them or they refuse to add you then unfortunately there’s nothing you can do to break into the account. Then the only thing you can do then is set up a new account, generate a new tracking code, install the new code on your website and remove the old code.
This is far from ideal as it means you will lose all your old analytics data and only be able to track the site from the day on which you added the new code, but very occasionally that’s the only option.
How do I install Google Analytics?
If you don’t have Google Analytics running on your site then you will need to install it. If you have admin access to the backend of your WordPress site then this is something that you can do yourself without needing help from your developer.
There are two stages to the process and we have brief guides to both of them elsewhere on this site.
- Setting up your Google Analytics account and generating the tracking code
- Installing the tracking code on your website
- Installing a Universal Analytics tag on your website from within the Google Analytics 4 interface
If you’re using something other that WordPress then there are some guides below that will help you install Google Analytics. If you’re using something other than these systems then it’s possible that you may need to talk to your developer.
Once you’ve set up a Google Analytics account for your website then you need to make sure that the right people have access to it. If only you can access it then the Analytics data will be lost if anything happens to you.
If you’re operating as a one man band then that may not be a problem but if you’re in a small business then you will probably want to make sure that more than one person is able to access the account. We have worked with clients before who have lost their Google Analytics account because only one person in the organisation had access and that person left.
Getting started with Google Analytics
When you first log into Google Analytics it can be pretty overwhelming. There’s an incredible amount of information in there and it can be hard to know where to start. The best way to approach it is to think about what information you need in order to understand how well your marketing is working and really focus just on that.
Google Analytics presents your data divided into four different categories, each one giving you a slightly different type of information.
This is where you can learn more about the characteristics of the visitors that are coming to your site.
- How many visitors does your site have?
- What % are new visitors and what % are returning?
- How many pages are people viewing on average per visit?
- What’s the average number of pages viewed per visit?
- What browsers and devices are people using to access your site?
Here it can be useful to look at trends over time. Is the overall amount of traffic you’re getting rising or falling? Can you see peaks in the traffic that coincide with marketing activity you’ve done? The audience data gives you a broad sense of whether your site is working as a tool to generate more business for you or not.
- How do the visitors to your website find you?
- Which of your marketing activities is generating most site visits for you?
- Which third party websites are generating traffic to your site?
- Is there a difference in the ‘quality’ of visitors from different sources?
- Which sources of visitors generate most conversions / sales?
Acquisition data gives you really useful information about how people are finding your site. This tells you something which aspects of your marketing are working and which are not. If you know what’s working then you can do more of it, and perhaps invest less time in the aspects that are less successful or take the time to better understand why they’re not working so well.
- Which pages on the site are the most popular overall?
- What are the most popular landing pages?
- Are there any indications of problems with any of these pages?
- A high bounce rate for a landing page without a good reason
- Very short time spent on a page?
- What search terms are people putting into the internal site search?
- What counts as a conversion for your business?
- What conversions do you need to be tracking?
- How many conversions is your site generating?
- What sources of traffic are generating the most conversions?
Behavioural and conversion data together are the missing part of the puzzle. Whether your marketing is working is not just about understanding which activities are generating traffic to your site but also about knowing which activities generate good quality traffic to your site.
You can have all the visits to your site in the world but it means nothing if those visits don’t translate into new customers for your business. The behaviour and conversions sections of Google tell you what people actually do once they arrive on your site. To what extent do they engage with the site and, ultimately, do they buy from you?
When you’re assessing the effectiveness of your marketing activities, you should be looking not just at the basic response rate – how many people clicked through to your site as a result of each activity – but also the conversion rate – how many people actually bought something from you as a result of a particular activity?
Sometimes you can find that a particular activity generates a lot of traffic to your site but none of those people go on to buy anything. Conversely another activity can generate a much smaller number of visitors to the site but a much higher percentage of those visitors go on to buy from you. Understanding the quality of the traffic that comes from your different marketing activities is what really enables you to focus on the most productive activities and get the most bang for your marketing buck.
We offer one to one Google Analytics training in blocks of a half day or a day – get in touch if that’s of interest.
We have some free Google Analytics videos that dig into different elements of the Google Analytics interface in our video library.
We also recommend Google’s own Analytics training videos in its Analytics Academy which cover the basics in a very clear and well structured way.