How can you tell how your website is performing? Do you know how many visitors you get? Where they come from? What pages they visit? What they’re interested in? What they’re not?
You may have spent a lot of time and money to bring your website to the public. But have your resources been put to good use? Enter Google Analytics. Simply sign up for an Analytics account with Google, and you open up to many useful and detailed reports at your fingertips about your website’s performance.
Oh, and did I mention it’s all for free?
What Is Google Analytics?
Quite simply, Google Analytics tracks the activity on your website and analyzes and synthesizes it for you in all sorts of reports…so many you wouldn’t believe! All you have to do is sign up for an account, install some code on your website, and you’re ready to go!
Once your website is set up, you’ll see the Dashboard when you log in to your account. This gives you a quick snapshot of all the data it’s collected for you, such as popular pages and where visitors are from. It’s also drag-and-drop, so you can click and move, add, or delete features to your liking.
Near the top of the Dashboard is a useful collection of tidbits under Site Usage. This is a great way to see your website at a glance. It shows how many visits you’ve had in the past thirty days, the average length of a visit, how many times a single page has been viewed, the percentage of first-time visitors, and the percentage of visitors who left after viewing only one page (called bounces).
However, you aren’t stuck to just the past thirty days. You can choose any range of dates, and you can even compare one time period to another. Simply click on the date drop-down menu in the upper right.
But this just skims the surface. Along the left-hand side is a menu of many more reports, all offering tons more detail than the Dashboard overview. Let’s take a look at some of the reports.
Who are your visitors?
Click on Visitors, and you’ll see many reports that will tell you all sorts of details about who’s coming to your website. At a glance, you can see basic information. But drill down in the submenus, and you can get to Browser Capabilities, which tells you the different browsers and operating systems your visitors are using, their screen sizes and colors…all useful information in determining your website’s appearance.
You can also get statistics on how many visitors are new, and how many are returning; what languages their computers are set to; the countries where your visitors live; and greater specifics on visitor activity day by day, such as length of visits, page views, bounce rate, and more.
Information about your visitors can be quite useful in helping determine if the audience you built your site for is actually using your site. You may find that you need to tweak the design to look better in visitors’ browsers or try to keep people on your site a little longer. Or you may determine that you’re attracting the wrong crowd altogether. It’s important data to have.
How do visitors find you?
Also key in researching your website visitors is how they found your website in the first place. You need to know if your efforts are paying off. Start by clicking on Traffic Sources in the left-hand menu, and you see at a glance where visitors come from. But let’s drill down for a little more.
Direct Traffic reports to you how many visitors came to your website directly, by typing in your web address or by clicking on a bookmark they already made. Referring Sites tells you from which websites people are clicking a link to get to your site. Here’s where you’ll see how your inbound links are working. Search Engines shows the frequency with which your visitors use different search engines to find you, and Keywords gives you a report on what terms they’re using. With each of these reports comes even more detail on what these visitors are doing. For example, you can determine how long visitors stay on your site if they used keyword X versus keyword Y.
What are visitors doing on your site?
Here’s the down-and-dirty truth of how your website is functioning to meet visitors’ needs. Click on the Content menu, and once again, you’ll see lots of submenus to help you cull the information you need. This is all great stuff for figuring out if people are viewing the pages you want them to view…and if they’re staying on your site.
For example, Top Content lists for you the popularity of the pages on your website and gives you information about how long visitors stay on each page, how many leave your site after visiting that page, and so on. You can also go to Top Landing Pages to see which pages people come to first on your website. You may be surprised that they could be pages that aren’t set up to “greet” visitors. Conversely, Top Exit Pages shows you what pages people leave on. Finally, Site Overlay is a cool feature that opens up your website in a new browser window, and shows you exactly which links people are clicking on.
Of course, all of this is just the beginning, even though it can seem overwhelming! Google Analytics offers so much more, such as goal conversions, where you tell Analytics to measure exactly what you want your visitors to be doing on your website. Google Anayltics is easy to start and always offers opportunities for more.
To get started, you can access Google Analytics at http://www.google.com/analytics. Additionally, if you’d like to take a look at its reports and other features for yourself before you sign up, the folks at Google have a great tour for you at http://www.google.com/analytics/tour.html. Enjoy using this free but powerful tool to get a handle on your website’s effectiveness and productivity. You won’t be disappointed!