Google Analytics: Wait, What Am I Doing?

Five methods of segmentation to have a more informed view at your site traffic.

Okay, so Google Analytics is installed on your website — something, something website header — and your analytical data rolls in.

That looks like a good amount of impressions. Our bounce rate… looks strong? Admit it: beyond what data populates in the initial Google Analytics overview, you have no idea 1) what to look at 2) what it all means and 3) how to benchmark it.

Please don’t be concerned; instead, you can use the following list below to understand the important Google Analytics metrics to monitor.

  • Look at the keywords that generate the most traffic.

A good place to start would be the keywords — which Google Analytics labels as “queries” — that are driving traffic to your website. With your Google Analytics reporting open, head to Acquisition >> Search Engine Optimization >> Queries.

Once open, by keyword, you can see the number of times your website (any page of your website) appeared in the search engine results viewed by a user. You will also see which ones received the most clicks (with the click-through rate calculated) and your average ad position or keyword rank.

This can be beneficial for a number of reasons. For one, this data can help guide your SEO efforts. What are users typing and using for keywords to find you? You may also want to consider SEM for particular keywords that you identify as critical to your business, but you see low average ad position.

Helpful tip: in order to enable visibility into the “Queries” section, you will need to have “Search Console” — previously known as Google Webmaster Tools — enabled. Otherwise, you will not have access into this information.

  • Attribute web traffic by channel.

From the default Audience Overview of your website data, it is easy to then move on to the demographical and geographical statistics of your web users. Yes, you will need to review and analyze this data to define your common web visitors. However, understanding how you have acquired these web sessions is arguably more critical information to digest.

Go to Acquisition >> All Traffic >> Channels to see a list of users segmented out by the most frequent sources of web traffic, which Google defines as the “default marketing channels”. Take time to examine this information and assess what marketing campaigns are bringing in 1) the most traffic to your website and 2) the most engagedtraffic to your website.

Understand where your web traffic, conversions and transactions are coming from and allocate your marketing dollars accordingly.

Helpful tip: While under Acquisition >> All Traffic, also make sure to review the Referrals tab. In this section, you can see what websites include a link to your website. Is there a particular referral source providing heavy traffic? Bolster that relationship.

  • Sync your AdWords campaign with Analytics.

If you are running a PPC campaign via Google AdWords, syncing the AdWords account with Analytics will be an important step in conversion attribution and performance measurement.

Start by opening up the Admin page of your Google Analytics account and go toProperty Tracking >> AdWords Linking. Select the appropriate Link Group Nameand AdWords Account and you will be good to go.

Ignoring this step, and running an unlinked PPC campaign, will result in all PPC-referred traffic filtering through Analytics as Organic traffic versus the preferred google/cpc source and/or Paid Search channel. In order to properly track website traffic via your PPC efforts, syncing these two accounts together is key.

Helpful tip: Use the segmented PPC traffic and benchmark against other channels and traffic sources. How do PPC-referred users engage with your website versus other forms of traffic? Allocate your marketing budget accordingly.

  • Understand how users navigate your website.

While still in the reporting tab, head to Audience >> Users Flow to see a visualization of the user path through your website. Beginning at the starting pages, you can see exactly where and how users are interacting with your website with the data in green. If users are starting on your homepage, what page do they most frequently hit next? Services? Contact Us?

If you have a particular page in mind, you can go deeper by clicking that page on the Users Flow Analysis and select “Highlight traffic through here”.

You can also see how traffic diminishes through each interaction, which should align with the digital marketing conversion funnel. Notice on each page highlighted you see the drop-off in red. If a significant percentage of your users are dropping off on a particular page, this helps sound the alarm and allow you and your team to examine causation.

Helpful tip: If traffic seems to be dropping off a rate higher than desired (or expected), game plan a solution. Is your navigation confusing? Do you need more (or stronger) calls to action? Rework your content?

  • Check on your site speed.

Often times an overlooked element of onsite SEO, Google Analytics allows you to — at a high-level — examine the site speed and load times of your website. By going toBehavior >> Site Speed >> Overview, you can see the page load time by browser, country, and page. This data is also reported over time, making it easy to identify a particular date or event that may have caused a recent spike in the wrong direction.

The “page” tab is key; review site speed by page and make the proper adjustments to whatever pages that are dragging. Compress your images or scale back your content as needed. If anything, do not ignore this aspect of your website. In a blog post back in April 2010, Google did confirm that site speed was being taken into account for search engine results. Plan accordingly.

Helpful tip: At the top of the page, select the “+Add Segment” option to add in a “Mobile Traffic” segment. Use this data to contrast load time by device (desktop, tablet, and mobile) and to ensure mobile compatibility. With all the talk — and Google algorithm emphasis — around mobile traffic, don’t shoot yourself in the foot with a poor mobile experience.

We’re only looking at the tip of the iceberg here with data available via Google Analytics, but becoming proficient in both reviewing and understanding this data is a step to where you want to go. The five data-sets listed above are actionable; digesting them the correct way can have positive implications to you, your website, and your business.

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