How to: Monitor your web stats with Google Analytics

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How to: Monitor your web stats with Google Analytics
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Connecting to AdWords & AdSense

One of the advantages of choosing Google Analytics is the ease with which you can integrate it with other Google services. Most online shops and businesses drive traffic to their sites using AdWords, Google’s pay-per-click advertising service. You will, of course, already have conversion tracking set up within AdWords, so you’ll already know which ads and keywords are profitable. By linking this service with Analytics, you can get a complete picture of a customer’s journey through your “sales funnel” – and spot any leakage points. The more you’re spending through AdWords, the more valuable this information is. You’ll find the option to do this under Tools and Analysis within your AdWords control panel.

In a similar way, you can use Analytics to track AdSense statistics. AdSense is Google’s display ads network, which, as we discussed last month, allows you to earn a modest income hosting ads on your site. There are several metrics you can monitor from the AdSense control panel, but linking in your Analytics account adds a new level of detail. By clicking the AdSense link under the Content menu in Analytics, you can see which pages on your site have been receiving ad clicks, and how much those clicks were worth. Ad performance is specific to your particular site, so paying close attention to which pages are making money and which aren’t can do far more for your profitability than any general approach.

Setting goals

With so much data at your fingertips it’s important to stay focused on what’s important to you. One way is to add your most commonly used data views to the Dashboard by clicking the Add to Dashboard button. You can, however, take a more flexible approach by creating and monitoring custom “goals”. These might be completed sales, visits to a particular page or other desirable occurrences.

To create a goal, click the cog icon in the top-right corner to go to the Settings screen. Make sure the correct profile is set in the dropdown and click Goals. You’ll see that goals can be grouped into sets, but for now you can simply click “+Goal” underneath Set 1.

One common use for goals is to track purchases from specific sources. For example, let’s say you’re running a Facebook Ads campaign. Facebook doesn’t provide its own conversion tracking for ads, but you can work around this using Analytics goals. All you need to do is append a unique query string to the destination URL in your Facebook ad (such as www.mysite.com.au/?fb), so that visits from that source can easily be identified. With this done, you can track arrivals from Facebook by simply selecting the URL Destination goal type and entering the URL, complete with the trailing query. This is an easy way to keep tabs on whether your Facebook ads are really effective.

If you’re more interested in how long visitors spend on your pages, you can set up a “Time on Site” goal, so that any visitor who remains on the site for more than the time you specify is recorded as a goal success. You can then simply compare two time periods to monitor your progress. You can also set up a goal relating to pages accessed per visit, another measure of visitor engagement.

Once your goals have been up and running for a while, you can view the various metrics from the Conversions | Goals section of the Standard Reports tabs. Switch to the Funnel Visualisation to see how effective your sales process is at moving potential customers from the landing page to the goal page.

Segments

The value of a good analytics package isn’t only in the data it gathers, but in how effectively it allows you to make real-world decisions based on that data. For example, let’s say you run an e-commerce website and you’re thinking of investing in a mobile-friendly version of your shop. You can work out whether the investment is worthwhile in the short to medium term by looking at two metrics: the percentage of visitors using mobile devices to visit your site, and how valuable they are to you. These figures become even more useful if you can spot a trend over time, since this will give you an idea of how urgently you need to make changes.

To look for a trend, click Audience | Mobile in your Standard Reporting tab, and choose a recent period – the past month, for example. Now click the date dropdown and select a period to compare, ideally the same month in the previous year. If you see a significant positive change in the percentage of visitors using mobile devices, it could be time to take action – but first you need to discover whether that mobile traffic is really of value.

One way to establish this is by setting a meaningful goal, then comparing what proportion of mobile users achieve it versus desktop and laptop visitors. To do this, create your goal, then go to Conversions | Goals and select Overview. Under Goal Option, make sure you choose the particular goal you’re focusing on. Finally, to compare mobile visitors with those using desktops and laptops, you need to define them as a Segment of your audience.

To do this, click Advanced Segments at the top. Make sure only “Mobile” is selected in the left-hand list (Default Segments). We want to compare this with traffic that excludes mobiles: no such default exists, so click the +New Custom Segment button on the right. Give the new segment a name such as “Non-mobile”, change the expression to “exclude”, “mobile”, “containing”, “yes” and click Save Segment. The Overview should show two lines – one for mobile traffic and another for all other traffic.

Analytics thus allows website owners to make decisions informed by real, granular data rather than gut feeling or wishful thinking. The longer you’ve been using Analytics, the more valuable the information it provides is; so, if you don’t have analytics software installed, now is certainly the time to break out the HTML editor and grab your lab coat.

NEXT PAGE: Cookie regulations, Real time analytics, Set up Google Analytics on your WordPress site (Walkthrough)...


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