All you intrepid browsers of the web (not web browsers as in IE and Firefox) will probably have heard of Google Analytics, and if not, well frankly you are missing out. It is one of the essential tools of the SEO world, unavoidable when associated with PPC campaigns, and one Orchid Box uses on a daily basis to track our clients’ progress.

 

First a little history. The Analytics interface was developed when, having purchased Urchin Media in 2005, Google took on the “Urchin on Demand” system – a piece of technology which enabled the user to track visitor information on clicks to their site, opening up new possibilities in online market research. Although Google do still sell the Urchin software the best free online tracking tool you can use today is Google Analytics – indispensable even if you don’t have an Adwords account.

 

Sign up is free and easy, and once you have registered you will receive a special hidden Javascript tracking code to add to the pages of your website. After this has been completed Google will begin collecting data for your site. Though it is not failsafe and has limitations within the system (such as ad-blocking software sometimes preventing tracking), the data amassed will almost certainly be enlightening to you as a marketer or webmaster.

 

So how do you use Analytics? Below are just a few tips and pieces of advice you might find helpful.

 

Google Analytics Interface

 

The first page of analytics allows to manage your various accounts – if of course you have more than one, and indeed subdomains within these accounts – if you require you can separate your site’s blog from the main data for example.

Analytics Frontpage

 

Once you have clicked through to the report you want, you will see a simple overview of the activity on your site on the ‘Dashboard’.

 

Dashboard for Analytics

 

Google gives you a large graph which, unless you have changed the parameters, will display the traffic data for your site over the last month – not including the current day. There is also other general information including geographical records, keyword progress and landing pages.

 

The graphs that analytics creates for you are very easy to manipulate, a drop down box to change the dates and parameters without much hassle.


The dashboard gives you several options:

 

Options



Visitors’ gives you an invaluable overview of your visitor traffic: their setting, language, browser, operating system, their activity on the site and plenty more invaluable statistics.

 

Traffic Sources’ tells you where these users are coming from, whether it be organic (searching for keyword terms in google), via Pay Per Click or referring sites. This enables you to keep track of your PPC visits and how long users visit the site, whether they register or complete a sale; an essential tool to optimise your ad campaigns.

 

Content’ unsurprisingly is concerned with your site’s individual pages and which ones are more popular with your users, tracking what percentage of visitors leave straight after viewing this page. 

 

Finally there is ‘Goals’. Here is where you can set your targets for the site and track them. It might be that you want users to buy a product, register for your site, or even just post a comment on a blog – all this can be recorded and analysed with Google.

 

Using Google Analytics

So what can you see from all these numbers and graphs? Quite a lot actually.

 

Analysis of visitor data can allow you to track where your users are coming from – if you’re a local company looking to target a smaller area to drive traffic and business this is vital. It can also show you statistics that help you optimise your site functionability. You might see that users from Internet Explorer are leaving your site after much less page views than those in Firefox – this would suggest your site doesn’t work as it should in that browser.

 

Traffic Sources is even more important. This section can tell you if your linkbuilding is working, which sites are effective at driving traffic and indeed converting goals for your site. It also allows you to follow your PPC clicks beyond their referral and look at which ads are effective at converting traffic, even which keywords are performing best. This enables a controlled PPC campaign to be made at a profit, and keeps you on your toes in optimising site visits.

 

Content and Goals are fairly self explanatory in their uses. Content enables you to see which parts of your site interest your users most, and which ones refer the most conversion. Once your goals are set they can be tracked through the many other mediums on Analytics to ensure your site is successful.

 

 

Top 5 tips for Google Analytics

1/ As with everything SEO-related - stay organised!

 

There are plenty of useful trends that can be lost if you don't record the trends from before - although Google records the data for you it's up to you to determine how to process that into valuable changes to your site. Orchid Box always keeps a record of any changes made and the statistics relating to those changes.

 

2/ Don't be trigger fingered, but stay reactionary.

 

A steep drop one day might be an anomaly that needs ignoring, but it should be investigated all the same.

 

3/ There are no defined numbers for Goal Conversion success.

 

One site might have a much higher percentage of conversions than another due to its content rather than anything you can do; on the other hand though it might also reflect badly on your registration or checkout process. Here at Orchid Box we have different clients with different aims so we understand someone searching for hair styles might want something a little different from a book lover or a parent. It seems obvious, but it's easy to get sucked in by numbers alone.

 

4/ Make no assumptions.

 

Investigate everything! One page getting lots more conversions or page views? One ad much more successful at keeping users on your site? There's a reason for it whether it be something important or just an anomalous result within the data (e.g a user clicking 100 pages when the average is much lower would increase your mean significantly).

 

5/ Don't be afraid to try new things - but learn your lessons.

 

You may have found a technique works much better on one page for converting traffic, or a certain type of ad is much better for your site; the important thing is that you use that information in the future to improve. As everyone at Orchid Box is always told - it's all about optimisation!