Google Analytics is a great tool, but one that may people misuse and as a result get frustrated with it. With this in mind, I though it worth putting together what we see as the 5 Golden Rules for getting the most out of Analytics
1) Use it
Google analytics is free, and is a fantastic tool for tracking site usage. Furthermore, the level off information that can be generated through Analytics is vast, and can deliver real insight into which bits of your marketing are working and which are not. Setting up Google Analytics is simple, and whilst I am not going to go into any detail about the process here (You will find this post useful if you are new to Analytics). It is pretty much a case of signing up for an account, and then adding a piece of code to your website. If you are using WordPress for your site the Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights plugin is free, and with over 1M installs, should be stable & well supported. If you want to get a bit more advanced, than I would recommend using Google Tag Manager. As well as giving you the facility to add a general tracking code, Tag manage allow you to add more codes to your site to track events like clicks, video views, form fills and the like, without having to add code to the website. It will also allow you to add Social media tracking codes like Facebook Pixel to the site.
Tag manager is a bit more advanced, but you will find details of how to use it here including how to use the new GA4 tags.
2) Don’t focus on the top line
Number of Visitors, whilst important, is not the most important measure. The quality & relevance of those visitors is far more important. If you are in a highly niche market, then maybe a dozen visitors a day is all you need, as long as they are the right visitors, and are properly engaging with your site. But more of that later.
3) Use Events & Goals to monitor visits in more depth
As I mentioend earlier, Tag Manager allows you to configure Google Analytics to track pretty much any activity on your website through Event Tracking, and setting up events is pretty straight forward. For example. If you have a contact form on your site, an event can be set up to track when someone submits this form. This can then be tracked back to source, and immediately you can see which traffic sources are delivering more valuable traffic. Form filling is just one example – pretty much any activity (Views of a specific page, Video views, clicks, pretty much anything) can be tracked as an event.
4) Don’t Micromange – its about trends not detail
Google Analytics is all about trends, and so golden rule number 4 is don’t micromanage the analysis of your web traffic. Typically, focus on month my month trends rather than live activity on the site. For example. If you start an email campaign, set it up, an then leave it to run. At the end of the month, look at the analytics (Email is great as it will deliver Analytics (Opens, clicks) over and above those in Analytics, so you can track your campaign right from start to finish. From – are people opening the email – and clicking through yo your site. to – If yes, analytics takes over to track activity further
- Is the campaign delivering the traffic?
- Is this traffic delivering the goals you set?
If yes, then great, if not, tweak the campaign, make a note of what you have done, and then leave it and look again in a few weeks. This is an iterative process. Implement -> analyse -> Tweak -> Analyse etc. A process that takes time to perfect.
5) Link it to wider business goals with Data Dashboards
The final golden rule is to link your analysis of your site traffic to wider business goals. As we say regularly, your website is just one of the tools in your marketing tool bag, A good Marketing Strategy includes multiple channels for generating and converting website visits. By using your site as the hub for this activity. Tracking what works and what does not becomes a relatively straight forward process.
When considering wider business goals, you may want to go beyond website analytics, and start to combine data from multiple sources like social media, email, CRM systems… The list goes on.
A note about GDPR
Finally I should mention GDPR. Whilst this was not the nightmare scenario many predicted, it is still on the statute books and should not be ignored. Being open about what data you collect and how you use it is key, Having a privacy statement on your site and detailing the fact that you track aggregated site usage through analytics is good practice. As should the fact that it is tracked statistically, and that no personally identifiable data is tracked/recorded. One a final note on privacy, there are 2 settings that should be changed in analytics to ensure that the above is true:
- Tell Google to anonymize IP Addresses
- Switch of User ID tracking. note – this is typically disabled by default.
Neither of these will alter your ability to track usage trends on the site, but will ensure that your users privacy is protected.
Notifying people o =that you use ctracking cookies is also best practice, but this can easily be done through a simple plugin.