Ever looked at Google Analytics for your website and thought to yourself, no wonder it’s free, how can anyone understand all these lines and charts.
I am going to attempt to significantly simplify your life by recommending the critical few metrics you should use to analyze the performance of your digital marketing campaigns and website.
I’ll show you how to pull five critical metrics and analyze them to help diagnose the health of your business online.
As they say, knowledge is power.
First thing, check to see if you have Google Analytics setup. If not, you can install it yourself or have your webmaster help you. This is an important step in becoming a Digital Giant.
You have your website, but how is it performing? What are your website objectives? Is it an e-commerce site? Do you want people to find your business? Maybe you are looking to grow donations for your non-profit? Well, today I will break down your website’s data and how to make observations of your websites KPIs so you can identify its strengths and weaknesses and ultimately if it is achieving its purpose.
Every organization has a website and depending on their objective the KPIs they measure will be different. It’s similar to using different stats for different positions in sports. Not every player (site) has the same role or job to do. Knowing what to measure can help you optimize your site for your goal.
You can use this template and follow along with your own website data while reading this blog. Digital Giants recommends having a comparison period to track your performance. Use 3 month periods to review quarterly performance.
Sessions are a basic, top-level measurement that shows the overall traffic for the website. This is the number of visits to your website over a period of time. This is useful when looking at website growth over an extended period of time such as year-over-year or month-over-month.
I typically use this metric to understand how well a site is performing overall. This is useful when comparing the current period to the previous one, such as this quarter and last quarter. If you extend the date range long enough (12 months) you can identify seasonal patterns for the website.
This is an example of sessions year-over-year. We can see the improvement in traffic in the early months as well as a seasonal pattern from October to January.
This is the number of new users coming to your website. Measuring this over time can show how users are visiting your site. If the amount of unique users is high then your site may have an issue with getting people to return.
It’s crucial to have a mix of new and returning users, though the exact percentages vary by industry, goals, and more. Returning visits are a positive sign since they indicate that people are thinking about your brand, and may be thinking about making a purchase.
If I notice people are not returning to the website I will find out what pages they visit and then audit that page to find where it can be improved. Common reasons why visitors don’t return is because they get all the information they need and have no reason to come back, there is nothing for the user to engage with, or the page lacks useful information.
You may need a good Google My Business Listing if people are just coming to check your phone number or address.
This information is provided in the audience overview. It is presented as a new visitor vs returning visitor. To drill down new user journeys consider looking at landing pages to see where they enter or, segment your audience to show only new users and review the user flow.
All Traffic – Channels
This is a useful metric when you need to understand where your website traffic is coming from. Understanding what channel is performing the best can help direct marketing efforts or identify gaps.
The most common channels are
- Organic search – These are the users that have come to the site through a search engine. This could be Google, Bing, Yahoo
- Paid search – These users came to the site through paid efforts on a search engine
- Direct – Users typed the url into their browser to come to the site
- Social – Users were directed to the site through a social network. This includes networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
- Referral – There users enter the site via backlinks from on-indexed pages, social platforms, and email
In most cases, channels will have consistent performance. This provides a good baseline to use for comparison if we are running a campaign. Or, if there is a drop in performance we can identify what channel is at fault and begin to investigate the cause.
As you get deeper into your understanding of each channel, you can track which channel drives the best leads or sales. Over time you can invest your precious marketing dollars on the channel that drives the best ROI. For example, you can figure out whether organic search is better than social media at driving conversions.
Pages Per Session
Pages Per Session is the average number of pages users visit while on your site. This is a great way to see how engaged your users are during their visit. If the pages per session are low and session duration is short it could mean that the content on the site is not engaging to the user. If pages per visit is high and page duration is low it could mean that users are having issues finding what they came for. A good pages per session could be 2 -4 pages. This is dependent on your website’s structure. Combine this metric with User flow to ensure that your users are completing the intended journey while they are on site.
One of the more useful KPIs, this measures how often users leave the website without any actions. Pages with a high bounce rate typically do not have a reason for users to stay. This can be caused by misleading advertising copy, lack of content or variation of content type. Pages with a bounce rate of 40%-60% are considered normal.
Channels can impact the bounce rate as well. Organic channels typically have a lower bounce rate than paid channels as organic users have intent when they come to the site. These users come with a question they want to have answered. Users from paid channels saw the ad and it sparked interest but many abandon the journey quickly. So if you run an advertising campaign the landing page could see an increase in bounce rate.
Top Landing / Exit Pages
This data shows you how users are coming to your site and where they are leaving from.
Top landing pages can be the home page, a product/service page, or even a blog post. This will help you determine which pages to optimize to keep users on the site or if you need to optimize pages because they don’t appear here. You should help your visitors find what they are looking for as quickly and easily as possible, drive them to the right page versus driving their own path through their site.
Top exit pages show you where users are leaving your site from. If these pages are not at the end of the sales funnel they may need to be optimized to keep users on the site. Keeping users on the site will improve the chance that they will complete the desired action/goal.
Goals / Events
To best understand your audience it is recommended that goals are set-up in Google Analytics. There are a variety of goals that can be put in place depending on your objective or audience. Some popular goals are:
- Pages viewed
- Time on site
- Destination pages
More in-depth goals can be created with the implementation of Google Tag Manager. With Tag Manager, you can set-up events on your website. Events are things such as form submission, link clicks or downloads. These can be placed behind such things as Calls-to-action or an Add to Cart button. Each of these events can be tracked in Google Analytics and set as goals. Using this data can show you how many users are completing your goals.
Using location in Google Analytics can help you understand where your audience is, and if you are reaching your intended audience. If you operate a small business you may only want to target those who are in your city and the surrounding area. Using locations can help determine if this is happening. This could also show you if you are reaching potential customers from outside of your market. If you notice an increase in traffic from an outside location there may be an opportunity there.
To find this information go to Audience -> Geo -> Location. From here you can select to view Continent, Country, Region, or City.
A common area that is overlooked when setting up Google Analytics is the enabling of demographics. This captures important information about your audience such as age, gender, location, interests and affinity groups. This is useful as it will help you better understand your audience and allow for you to develop content and campaigns specifically for them.
To enable demographic tracking in Google Analytics go to the property settings (Admin -> Property – Property Settings) scroll down and enable demographics.
After reviewing these KPIs you should be able to identify your website’s strengths and potential areas for improvement. Most of all, you will develop a better understanding of your audience. Understanding how users engage or do not engage with your site, helping you tailor your message and user experience to increase conversion whether it is a sale or an email registration.
If you need help understanding your website’s performance contact us and we can help you begin to drive more conversions.