You probably have Google Analytics set up on your website (if you don’t, you should.. it’s free). But do you know how to interpret the data in your account?
According to a 2013 study by the American Management Association, the ability to interpret data is a key component to business success now and into the future. In particular, the skills needed to make decisions based on data: critical and analytical thinking, problem solving, data analysis (drawing conclusions), and communicating and presenting findings.
Since gathering data doesn’t help unless you actually DO something with it, Google has set up a comprehensive training program to help get you up to speed on their system, what it tracks, and how to generate reports. It’s free. Learn more and sign up.
If you don’t have 4-8 hours to consume the content in the Google course, you still have to rely on data generated by your website and the traffic that you send to it in order to know what’s working and what isn’t.
Below you’ll find a brief description of the basic types of data tracked in your Google Analytics account.
You need to understand the benefits of each type of data, as well as it’s limitations in order to use it effectively in your business.
Sessions: Each time a visitor lands on any page of your website, a session is created and lasts until the visitor clicks off the website.
Users: The total number of individual visitors is the Users. Google Analyitics filters out known bots so this number actually represents visits generated by people.
Page Views: The total number of individual pages loaded (or reloaded) by all visitors during the time period. (If you click the refresh button in your browser right now, that will record an additional page view for this page.)
Pages Per Session: Total number of Page Views divided by the number of Sessions equals the Pages Per Session. The higher this number, the more engaging the visitor finds your content and the more likely your visitors will stay long enough to take action (subscribe or purchase).
Average Session Duration: Average time each visitor stayed on your website is the Average Session Duration. Longer times = more engagement = more positive effect on your business.
Bounce Rate: Visitors who only visit one page on your website and then leave are logged as Bounces. If your website has only one page (if it’s a stand alone optin page, for example), then your Bounce Rate may be as high as 100%. For multi-page websites, Bounce Rates will likely vary by type of content and source of the originating traffic, and range from 30-80%.
In order to determine what this data actually means for your business, you need some other data as well.
Where is your website traffic coming from?
Google helps you categorize your traffic by tracking the source for you under Channels.
Direct traffic: Traffic that lands on your website without another referral source is classified as Direct traffic (the website address is typed directly into the search bar). You likely navigate to Google.com this way.
Email: Links clicked inside email (any type, sent by anyone) that result in visits to your website are tracked under Email. Some email service providers allow you to add Google Analytics tracking to your email marketing messages — if you have this enabled, this traffic will be broken out under Campaigns (Note: When you enable this feature, the data is shared globally to all Google Analytics accounts and is not limited to only yours. If you include a link to another website in your email, the owner of that website will see the data from your campaign in his account).
Referral traffic: When someone clicks a link on a website before landing on your website, that click results from Referral traffic.
Search traffic: Traffic that is the result of entering search terms into a search engine can be further classified as either organic or paid. Organic search traffic results only from the link showing up in search results. Pay-per-click (PPC) or paid search traffic can help increase the traffic your site receives via search engines.
Social: All social media driven traffic can be found under the Social classification. This includes the big sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but also lessor-known sites you may not have heard of like Scoop.it.
What the Data Helps You Determine
In your Google Analytics account, you can view the first section of data in aggregate for the whole site, or broken out by channel.
For example, the number of Users, Page Views, and Bounce Rate for visitors who came to your site via social media.
By viewing the data by channel, you can begin to determine which channel is bringing you the most targeted traffic.
Targeted traffic is traffic that is made up of your ideal client or target market. The more closely the traffic represents who you are actually marketing to, the easier it is to engage them with your content. Organic search traffic is often much less targeted as it contains viewers who simply end up in the wrong place online, while referral traffic (particularly that sent from your own email campaigns) can be highly targeted.
When targeted traffic lands on your site, they visit more pages (increased Pages Per Session), spend more time on your site (increased Average Session Duration), and are much more likely to take action (contact you, buy, or subscribe).
By gathering website traffic data, and learning to interpret what it means for your business, you can focus your time and attention on those activities get you in front of your ideal client and stop spending time on those things that don’t.