A guide to Google Analytics for small businesses
By Mayur Kisani

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Google Analytics is one of the most powerful tools for tracking traffic patterns on your website. What's more appealing about it is that, like many other Google offerings, it's free. Analytics was launched in August 2006, but it was not available to users until a year later. Since then, it has come a long way. The platform is now easy-to-use and even integrates with other Google platforms like AdWords and AdSense.

INDUSTRY PULSE

Do you use Google Analytics to measure your website traffic?
  • 1. Yes
  • 2. No

Signing Up

The sign-up process for Analytics involves three steps — using your Google Account to access Analytics, adding your property (website) to the account and adding the Analytics code to the property.

To add a property to your Analytics account, just click on the "Admin" button and click on "Create new account" under the Account column. The instructions will enable you to get the tracking code to add to your website. Google helps with the sign-up process here.

First Steps — Audience Overview

On accessing the Analytics for your website, the first report to appear is an overview of the audience, i.e. the number of visits and a few similar metrics. Each of the sections under "Audience Overview" is mostly self-explanatory. You can see the language and location of your visitors, the number of new and returning visitors, their visit durations and the technology they used.

All these metrics are very helpful to gauge the kind of audience your website is attracting and whether you should change something to help meet your goals.

Terminologies

Here are some select terms not everyone may be familiar with:
  • Unique visitors — The number of unique individuals who visit within a specified time period. Usually identified on the basis of cookies dropped by your website on a visitor's computer.
  • New/returning visitors — A user who visits your website for the first time or does not have your website's cookies in his computer, is a new visitor. A user who already has the cookies in his computer, is a returning visitor (during a specified time-frame).
  • Bounce Rate — The percentage of one-page visits. These visits have viewed only one page of your website. It is calculated by dividing number of one-page visits by the total entries for the page. Generally, a 20-25 percent bounce rate is considered good; 40-45 percent is the average bounce rate. This also depends on the type of website.
  • Goal Conversions — These are the metrics for measuring the performance of your site toward fulfilling business objectives. A goal conversion is registered once a visitor completes a desired action on your site, such as a registration or download.
Traffic Sources

This section will help analyze the volume of direct, referral and search traffic to your website.
  • Direct traffic — This is when a user types in the URL of your website in his browser and visits your website, i.e. directly.
  • Referral traffic — This means a user clicking on a link to your website from another page on the Internet. You can also view the exact source of the user's click in this section.
  • Search traffic — Traffic from search engines. Paid search includes AdWords traffic as well as paid traffic from search engines. Keywords are the words visitors used on search engines to find your website.
Campaigns and SEO

If you're paying for campaigns (AdWords, etc.), this section shows you how well the campaign is doing and how many visitors it is bringing in. If the campaign is bringing in a lot of visitors but the bounce rate is high, or if they are visiting a number of pages and not converting, check for the following problems with the landing page or pages linked to that landing page:
  • Graphic inconsistencies between ads and landing page
  • Messaging inconsistencies
  • Ads for specific content not being redirected to your specific page
The search engine optimization reports in Google Analytics provide data about search engine queries that generated URLs from your website in search results. With this data, you can also compare results of your SEO campaign with your AdWords campaign. The SEO section in Google Analytics is further divided into three sections, summarized as follows:
  • Queries — Shows what queries users typed to reach your site
  • Landing Pages — The pages of your website users landed on through search results
  • Geographical Summary — Shows what country the users are from
Setting up SEO in Google Analytics requires a few details (like using Webmaster Tools), which can be found here.

Social

Social media is becoming an increasingly powerful tool for marketers to drive traffic to their website. Google Analytics helps measure the impact of your investment on social, with the following reports:
  • Overview — This report shows the conversion value of your social initiatives as compared to the number and value of all of your goal completions.
  • Network referrals — This report shows engagement metrics for traffic from each social network, helping you analyze the quality of traffic from each of them.
  • Data hub activity — This report shows how people are engaging with the content of your website on social networks. For example, you can see the most recent URLs of your website that people shared, and how and where they shared it (via a "tweet" or a "+1").
  • Landing pages — This report shows the pages of your website on which people landed, via social networks, and a few metrics associated with each URL.
  • Trackbacks — You can see which sites on the Internet track back to your website, i.e. have a link to your website (endorsing URLs).
  • Plugins — This report shows the engagement metrics to analyze the impact of having any kind of social sharing buttons/plugins on your website (e.g., a "+1" or a Facebook "like" button)
  • Visitors flow — The Social Visitors Flow report shows the path that visitors from social networks took through your site.
Content

According to Google, "the content section contains reports designed to help you improve the content on your site to meet the needs and expectations of visitors." You can learn all about this section here.

Mayur Kisani is a new-age marketer specializing in social media and interested in digital marketing and technology. You can reach out to Mayur on Twitter @MayurKisani or on Linkedin.