Your Google Analytics dashboard has a new look. Today we’re offering you a first glance, and we’ll be going into more depth throughout the week.
The first thing you’ll notice is the new “My Stuff” section, where you can set up a dashboard that includes the metrics that matter most to you. You’ve had this option before, but it’s more visible now. There is also a new Shortcuts option, which lets you create new tabs for metrics that matter most to you.
For example, this data is from FreshPlans, our lab site, which has an international audience. Our visitors’ locations aren’t especially important to this website. For a local business that’s working to increase the percentage of local traffic, location would be very important. This site doesn’t use ads; for a website that’s investing in pay per click, seeing how the ads perform would be key. Being able to set up custom dashboard and shortcuts will be a big help for a lot of people.
Intelligence Events — things Google finds surprising about your traffic — are also more accessible and they are shown in a form that’s much easier to grasp.
With the new, simpler format, we can quickly and easily see that traffic dropped severely over Thanksgiving weekend. This is not a surprise to us, but it’s good to know — if it weren’t a predictable seasonal variation, we’d need to explore further and figure out what was happening.
Continuing down the left edge of the dashboard, we see that real-time reporting and standard reporting (which used to be on tabs along the top of the page) are now the next options:
Audience, Traffic Sources, Content, and Conversions should be familiar, though there are some new reports for paid advertising (one that lets you compare costs easily should be a benefit for those using a variety of paid sources) and for Adsense.
Jump in if you haven’t yet and see what’s new on your dashboard. Come back tomorrow for more details.
A while back I was looking at Google Analytics with a colleague. “Clients don’t want to know about their analytics,” he said. “Here’s what clients want to see.”
He reached for his mouse and drew a red smiley face over the screen.
It’s true that plenty of people don’t like analytics much. If traffic is up and business is good, that’s all they need to know. I’ve had a surprising number of clients assure me that looking at analytics makes them feel as though their heads are about to explode.
Let’s say that you’re one of the intrepid few, though. You’ve mastered the basics and you’re ready for new adventures. Here are 10 things you might not already have looked at:
- Location Are your visitors coming from your service area? Go to Audience>Demographics>Location and find out. Click through to your service area and check under Visits to see what percentage of your visitors come from the geographic area where you work. If you only serve one county and you have only 13% of your visits coming from that county, your happy face for increased traffic is deceptive.
- Network Go to Audience>Technology>Network. Most of the networks you find there will be public internet service providers like Verizon or AT&T, but if you scroll down the list you may see something interesting. You can discover things like whether people tend to visit from work, whether your website is used for research, and whether particular kinds of companies are following you. If your customers are enterprise level, you can even see which of your potential customers might be visiting your website repeatedly — a good reason to put them on your Dream Client list. (One of our websites had visits from “the executive office of the President” this year, which we thought was cool. Maybe yours had some visitors who would liven up your day.)
- Browser/OS While you’re in Technology, have a look at the browsers. The typical website sees most visitors coming to their website with Internet Explorer — especially if people visit you mostly from work and you have a corporate audience. Here at Haden Interactive, IE brings us only 12% of our visitors. Chrome is over 38% and Firefox brings about 35%, so we’re looking at a more than usually tech-savvy group — or people who get to choose their own browsers even at work. Not a corporate audience. It’s a mistake to stereotype on the basis of browser choice, but it’s probably as good a way of making guesses about your audience as more common demographics.
- Engagement This might be new to you because it’s fairly new — it’s the new report on the length of time people spend at your website and the number of pages they view. Go to Visitors>Behavior>Engagement and notice that there are two tabs. We typically see a C shape, with more people making brief visits, fewer in the middle, and then a second larger grouping making long visits. This metric doesn’t necessarily tell you much about your visitors, but it gives you a benchmark from which to improve. Note the levels of engagement now, check the levels for individual pages, change and test to increase your engagement.
- New vs. Returning You’ll find this report in Visitors>Behavior. Add a Secondary Dimension to discover what sources new and returning visitors use to find you. Is Facebook bringing you almost as many new visitors as Google? Then you should make sure that your Facebook posts continue to speak to new people, as well as to the friends you’ve made there. On the other hand, if Facebook isn’t bringing you anyone new, it might be that your Facebook posts aren’t appealing to folks who don’t already know you. Fix that and you may see more new traffic.
- Mobile If you haven’t already, check Visitors>Mobile>Devices, and see what percentage of your visitors use mobile devices to reach your website. This number has increased significantly this year for most of the sites we care for, and you may see the same thing. Check our suggestions for mobile visitors to find next steps if your mobile visitors are becoming more important to your website.
- Visitors Flow This is one of the most underused and yet valuable sections of Google Analytics. You’ll get a graphic representation of the way visitors move through your website, and you can drill down for lots more details. Read our post on Visitors Flow to find out how to begin using it.
- Network Referrals You probably already know whether your own Twitter or G+ accounts sends you traffic, but you might not be aware of the traffic you get from other people’s social shares. Go to Traffic Sources>Social>Network Referrals. Our lab site shows referrals from places like Squidoo, Tmblr, Diigo, and Ning, even though we aren’t there ourselves. You’ll also find referrals from blogs, forums, and such — anywhere people are talking about you. We’re seeing sites with nothing but Facebook and LinkedIn, and sites with 25-35 different listings here. This area will tell you whether you’re getting talked about, which networks are working best for you, and how your own efforts are doing. It can help you establish baselines for linkbuilding and social media and give you an idea of whether your content is interesting enough to create buzz — if buss would be useful to you.
- Search Engine Optimization In order to use this data (find it under Traffic Sources), you have to hook up Webmaster Tools with Google Analytics. Once you do this, you can see how many times Google has offered your website for various queries, and what position you were in on the page. I hope you know by now that looking things up at Google and seeing your website at some position means nothing much. This section of analytics tells you where, on average, your website was for various keywords when it was shown to searchers. This is the place to get accurate information on this subject.
- Site Speed Google would rather direct people to faster sites than slower ones, all things being equal. If you have any competitors online, that means that you need to have as fast a website as possible. Check the Site Speed report under Content to find out which pages load slowly, and have that fixed. Note that you can segment out different devices (if you have enough data — not all websites do) to see if your mobile visitors are loading slowly and skewing your results.
“So what’s that traffic spike about?”
“Ummm… was that the day we did the radio interview?”
“No, I think that was last month, wasn’t it?”
“Well, then, was it when we posted the infographic? That got a lot of repins at Pinterest.”
If you take care of your own analytics, the chances are good that you’ve had a conversation like this with your coworkers, trying to figure out whether a particular action got responses, or what caused an anomaly in your data.
Avoid this kind of uncertainty by annotating your analytics.
In Google Analytics, this is very simple. The screenshot at the top of this page shows the rectangular button, circled at the bottom of the picture, that lets you add or read annotations. Click it, and you’ll see any annotations you already have, plus the “Create new annotation” button circled on the right.
To create an annotation, find the date you want to write about on the line graph. You can see we’ve clicked on a recent date above — it’s the circled blue dot at the top right. Now click on “Create new annotation” and you’ll get a text box to write in. Make sure that you write something you’ll understand when you look at it later.
Once you close the annotation panel, you’ll still see speech bubbles (also circled in the screenshot above) that show at all times on your Visitor Overview page. If, in the future, you see an interesting pattern, you can click on the bubble and find out what was up on that day.
Some things worth annotating:
- Changes at your website
- Public events involving your company
- Promotions and campaigns
- Social media starts and changes
- Changes in offline marketing
It’s also a good plan, if you do some detective work about a spike or a dip in your traffic or conversions, to make a note of what you’ve discovered. Even if you think you’ll remember it, other people might not. If at some point in the future you have someone else working with your analytics, it will be good to have that information available.
When you look at your referral traffic in Google Analytics, you see traffic from links on other pages. It may make you happy to see it, but do you know what to do with the information?
For most traffic to your website, analytics can give you good ideas about on-site optimization: what’s working and what needs work at your website.
This is an area of analytics that can show increases and decreases that don’t necessarily have much to do with your website.
For example, a blog post linking to your site may bring you a lot of traffic while that blog post is getting plenty of visits, but traffic will fall off when that post loses traffic — perhaps because it was time-sensitive and doesn’t continue to show up in searches. Or you may receive clicks through from an ad or sponsorship announcement that end when your month of sponsorship ends.
Neither of these examples says something about your website.
Instead, referral traffic can give you ideas about off-site optimization: the kind of linkbuilding, social media, and advertising that is likely to be beneficial to your website and your business.
In this example from our lab site, we can see that Google (this is referrals from Google, remember, so it will be Google groups and other types of content, not search at Google.com) and Pinterest are the top referral sites, and that both show growth. We should step up efforts there.
That was easy.
Next, however, we see traffic from Proteacher.net and Crowdflower.com. Proteacher send much less traffic than Pinterest and Google, but is growing faster. Crowdflower is falling. How can we decide whether these are good places for us to put resources?
First, we have to find out what these links are. A search at Google using our site name and specifying the site will show us the links:
We find that teachers have been sharing our site at a professional discussion group. This is a lot like Pinterest, but not as popular. We can’t place links there ourselves, so we can only be happy we have the links and notice what kind of content appeals to this audience. Refining our linkbait can encourage this type of link.
Crowdflower is different. A search shows no links at Google, and the site itself is unrelated to our website. It is probably referral spam, so we should ignore it.
We continue down through the list, seeing social media and links we would expect to send traffic — and one more example of actionable items, in this case visits from mobile Pinterest and TalkLikeaPirate.com.
Where Pinterest is concerned, the mobile numbers are still low, but the increase is impressive — we’d better make sure our site looks good on mobile devices.
Talk Like a Pirate Day is coming up in about a month, so this no-change is just a good reminder to us to update and polish up the page that site links to so it’ll be ready for visitors when we get closer to the Big Day.
You’re looking, as is so often the case with Analytics, for surprises.
If you never look at your analytics, you won’t know what’s surprising. Check it often enough to get a sense of what’s ordinary so you can catch opportunities — or let us help you.
Knowing your audience is key to a successful website. What if you don’t have plenty of analytics data to work with because your site is new or just planned? What if you haven’t captured the data you need, either because you don’t have analytics installed or because you have too few visitors to provide the data you need? What if your current website is so far from what you need that the data you have doesn’t even seem relevant? How can you discern the user journey without having a mp or traffic information?
Let’s try a thought experiment.
1. How will your visitor find your website?
Maybe your current site isn’t bringing in much search traffic, or you don’t yet have a website. Determine the best keywords for your business and check out the competition. This lets you know what you need to beat in your quest to be the best choice for people searching for those keywords. Is it realistic to think that you’ll have lots of search traffic? If so, what kinds of searches will bring people to you?
If you can tell that you won’t be getting lots of search traffic right off, consider how paid search ads, social media, or offline marketing might get your visitors to you. What kind of person will find your website through these other strategies?
2. What will their initial experience be?
For one site we’re working on right now, the site owner thought their most common visitor would be a journalist. Yet the content they planned didn’t speak to journalists. We’re talking right now with someone who wants to appeal primarily to lawyers, but they’re thinking of using Facebook as a major source of traffic. If there’s a mismatch between your expected guest and what they find when they reach your page, you need to fix that.
3. Where will they go next?
Your visitors’ path or paths through the site has to be planned. You don’t want to drop them onto a page and see what happens. You want to have a clear path that lets your visitors meet your goals and theirs easily.
4. At what point will they leave?
Your visitors won’t stay forever. You want them to be able to experience a successful completion of the transaction you’ve planned for them: they should read your blog post, buy your product, call you to enquire about your services, subscribe to your newsletter, or download your white paper. Go through the entire path yourself, from start to finish, and see how well it works, how satisfying an experience it is. Will your visitors want to come back and have the experience again? Do you have some next step for them to take at the end of the experience?
As you take this walkthrough, whether it’s a walk through your website or through the notes you have for your planned website, note the areas where things aren’t yet the way you want them to be. Identify the places where people might experience frustration, the places where they might leave — or the places where they might want to take action, so you can make it very easy for them to do so.
Next — and this is very important — collect the data and compare what you expected with what really happens. Are you wrong about your typical visitor? Are people following the paths you created or blazing their own? Are they leaving at the points you expected, or are they straying off the path early because it doesn’t fit their needs?
That’s the end of the thought experiment. Now it’s time to get in their with the real data and work with it:
- Change your strategy to suit the data.
- Continue capturing the data and responding to it.
- Reap the rewards.
In The Big Bang Theory: Herb Garden Germination, physicist Sheldon and his girlfriend Amy decide to do a little research on Dawkins’s meme theory. Amy tells party girl Penny, “Sheldon and I engaged in sexual intercourse. In other news, I’m thinking of starting an herb garden. Mum’s the word. Gotta go.” She and Sheldon are testing a hypothesis that titillating news will spread more virally than a more mundane announcement.
Hint: they’re right.
In their social circle, they can feel pretty confident that sex will interest everyone more than gardening, and sure enough, the false news spreads throughout the group within 24 hours. At your company website, it may not be such an easy call. How can you tell whether details about your new product will be more thrilling to your audience than an upcoming sale or a company-wide controversy?
Facebook Insights has a measure of virality that can give you an idea. As soon as your page gets 30 Likes, you’ll see the Insights overview on your Admin panel:
Click through and you’ll see more information. Specifically, you’ll see your total Likes (the number of people who have clicked on “Like”); the total number of friends of all your fans added together, which constitutes the theoretical number of people who might see your posts if all your fans shared them; the number of people who’ve taken action with any of your posts in the past week; and the Weekly Total Reach, which is the number of people who have seen any of your content during the week, including ads and promoted stories.
You get green up arrows if the numbers are increasing and red down arrows if the numbers have gone down since the previous week. As a rule, you want to see up arrows. You’ll also see a line chart if you like to get a quick visual image of how things are going.
Look below the chart and you’ll see measures of reach, engagement, “talking about this,” and virality for each recent post. Reach and “talking…” are the same as above, while engagement refers to clicks on the post.
Virality measures the percentage of visitors who took an action such as sharing your post. Click on the word at your insights page to sort your posts by virality, with the most viral at the top of the list.
We mostly see virality levels of 1 to 5%. However, if you have very small numbers of visitors you might have much higher levels — say, if all three of your visitors shared the post, in which case you’d have 100% virality. As always, larger numbers give you more useful data.
If your numbers are large enough, look at the posts that have higher levels of virality. A quick glance at all our pages showed that questions and pictures tend to have higher levels of virality, broadly speaking. Each page, however, shows its own pattern. What’s yours?
Once you know, see if you can align that virality with visits to your website, sales or other conversions, new Likes, or other metrics. If you can, you have good reason to increase the types of posts that had greater virality. Even if they include herb gardening.
This week’s E-myth podcast talks about quantifying marketing efforts — if you didn’t keep track in the first place. E-myth is a business consulting company, and they do their weekly podcast by posting a question and then discussing the answers given. This week they discussed the answer I suggested. If the people in the question had a website with analytics installed, I suggested, they could use that data along with their financial records to reconstruct enough data to allow them to come up with hypotheses about their marketing, which they could then test.
At several points in the podcast, the E-myth coaches suggest something I didn’t mention: getting a pro to help you figure out what your analytics mean. “I think,” the coaches said, “you should look into getting an expert to help you do that” and, “You might need to hire someone with that skill set.”
We do analytics professionally here at Haden Interactive, so that got me thinking about when a business ought to do their own analytics, and when they should bring in an expert.
- If numbers make you feel as though your head is going to explode, you shouldn’t try to do your own analytics. I met last week with one of our clients who keeps track of his own analytics. He opened up the data on his laptop and we gazed at it together, enjoying the way you can notice something intriguing on one screen and then approach it from multiple other angles to get the full story. If this sounds insane to you, there’s no reason for you to be trying to manage your own analytics. There are other things that you’re good at, and you should spend your time on them.
- If you don’t see how web analytics connect with action, you could use some help. I’ve worked with companies where a report goes out every month and someone glances at it, and nothing happens. This is a waste of time and bandwidth. Sometimes, it’s true, the analytics just show that you’re doing the right stuff and should continue, but the data should always provide you with next steps. If you don’t get any new ideas or information from your analytics, you’re doing it wrong.
- If you are able to understand your analytics and you know how to use it to create strategy, but it doesn’t get done, then you should get some help. You can’t do everything yourself, and you don’t need to. Getting a quarterly analytics report from an analytics expert lets you be confident that the quantification will get done, even if you’re too busy to think about it.
If you’re new to web analytics and you want to try to use them yourself, check out some of our posts on the subject:
- How to Install Google Analytics
- Your First Visit to Google Analytics
- Google Analytics: Worth Looking At
- Comparing Clicky with Google Analytics
- When Traffic at Your Website is Down
- A New Perspective on Analytics
Once you’ve given it a try, look back at the questions earlier in the post to determine whether you need some help getting the most out of your analytics. If you’re ready to get that help, either in the form of training or of expert analytics support, call Julianne at 479.966.9761 and we’ll get you on our calendar.
Remember those visual puzzles where you have to decide which picture shows a complex shape from the back or side? Sometimes that kind of mental shift can be useful and refreshing.
I spent the day learning about a completely different type of analytics at 8th & Walton, trainers for Walmart suppliers (of whom I am not one).
The type of analytics we were looking at has a lot in common with Google Analytics. As the trainer, Julie James, said, “Chances are good that what you want is in there — it’s just a matter of finding it.”
The details of finding your data in Google Analytics are completely different from the software I learned about today, but Julie made some points I think we should all keep in mind when we’re working with our web analytics:
- “Finding the data is only the first step,” she pointed out. “It doesn’t do any good to run reports if you don’t use them.” How often have you looked at your analytics reports and either grinned smugly or complained about Google instead of doing something about what you see?
- “Look for the best and the worst.” I usually say, “Look for surprises,” but Julie made an excellent point. Identifying your weakest pages (okay, she’s not talking about pages, but the principle is the same) and strengthening them can make a real difference. Finding your strongest pages and doing more of what you did there can also make a difference. If you’ve been searching for a starting point, that’s a good one.
- For some metrics, such as traffic volume, you want to see ongoing improvement. For others, such as bounce rate, you may have a baseline goal. For still others, the results are most meaningful in relation to other metrics. Figuring out which item is which before you run those reports is wise.
- Sort out the things that are too common to matter in your particular case. For example, I learned today that knowing what else people buy with your product is very useful — unless it’s bananas. People buy bananas with absolutely everything. Just so, seeing large numbers of visits from California, Texas, and New York is normal — there are lots of people there, that’s all. Lots of visitors from Nebraska means something.
- “Things don’t happen that fast,” said Julie, meaning that focusing on a week’s worth of data doesn’t usually give you actionable data. Actually, sometimes things happen that fast online. However, we often see clients overreacting to small amounts of data. Knee jerk reactions to limited information can not only lead to bad decisions, but can also keep you from collecting enough data to make good decisions.
If you need training in any of the things 8th & Walton trains people in, don’t hesitate to choose them. If not, I hope you can still benefit from these ideas next time you look at your analytics reports.
We’ve been asked for a post on how to install Google Analytics. Since things have changed since the last time we approached this question, we’re making a new one.
First, you must have a Google Analytics account. Go to the GA website and sign up. Next, go to the Admin page and tell Analytics what URL (web address) you want to track.
You’ll give the account a name, type in the URL, and specify the place and time zone. Make sure the name will make sense to you, even if you later add another account. For example, you might not want to use the name of your company if you might later want to add a separate blog on a different domain. I use the URL itself.
Next, you’ll have to agree to the terms of service. At this point, you can choose whether to allow Google to capture and share information about your account. Saying yes lets Google learn more about how people use the product, and it doesn’t let anyone see your individual account information, so I say yes, but I come from an academic background, so I believe that information wants to be free. If you have a different philosophical stance, now’s the time to take that stance and say no by unclicking those boxes.
Now Google will generate some code for you.
You copy the code and paste it into the code at your website. In order to do this, you must have access to the code.
This is very important. You don’t want some business competitor to be able to see just where you’re getting all your traffic, do you? So you don’t want it to be easy to get analytics information for your website. This code must be placed into the code of your website, right before the </head> tag on each page.
If you don’t know what that means, you should send the code to your webmaster and ask to have it installed. We’re saying “on each page,” so you may be worrying that this will cost a lot on your large website. No worries. Your webmaster will use includes or a template to install this all across your site. It’s a small task.
For WordPress users, it’s an even smaller task. Install a plugin like WebNinja or Google Analytics for WordPress.
You’ll need to find your Google Analytics ID number. It looks like this:
Your plugin’s Settings page will have a place to put this number:
You’ll still have to give your Google Analytics log in information to be able to track data — again, you’re being protected from malicious use of the code, so don’t be troubled by this.
You should see data in 24 hours.
Web analytics give you the information you need to make informed decisions for your online marketing strategy… if you’re collecting the right information.
What if you haven’t been? Is it possible to reconstruct information?
We ran into this question recently while working with an engineering company. They were paying out fairly large sums for PPC (pay per click) advertising on Google and bing, and they were getting calls from new customers, so they felt happy. Naturally, if they could reduce the amount they spent and still get those calls, they’d be even happier.
Usually, this is a fairly simple matter. We look at analytics to see what’s going on, develop a strategy, and implement it. In this case, the paid ads weren’t showing up in the web analytics — or not in a way that could be identified.
This case is a good example of how a little lateral thinking can let you make up for missing information. Here’s what we did first:
- We looked at the analytics for the Adwords account, saw some common patterns, and made recommendations based on what we saw there. You should always keep an eye on your ads’ performance and tweak your set up in response. The client made some changes in his ad text and bids, as well.
- We updated the content, and the client also had the code updated. These improvements in the site lowered the cost of the ads. I used to work with a PPC specialist who said Adwords is like an auction where the price of the chair depends not only on who else is bidding, but also on how good the chair is going to look in your house. Another way to look at it is to understand that Google wants to earn a certain amount of money from their page, so an ad that gets more clicks and a site that satisfies Google’s customers better will pay them more, and your price per click goes down.
- We asked the client to connect the Adwords and analytics accounts (here’s how) so we could see the paid traffic and the organic (unpaid) search. At this point, if there had been goals set up, we could have compared the conversion rates of the two types of traffic, and within a couple of weeks we’d have seen some information.
There are two problems, though. First, there are no goals set up: conversion for this client is a phone call. Second, he’s paying out hundreds a day on his ads, so we want to be able to get some data for him as fast as possible.
First, we can take a broad view. We checked the traffic sources for the few days since we finished taking the steps described above (the chart below is on the default dashboard of Google Analytics; we’ve removed the specific data for our example, but you’ll see the actual numbers on yours). We can see that organic search is bringing in the majority of the traffic, which is what we like to see. We can also see that both direct and referral traffic could be increased, suggesting that some linkbuilding and social media would be beneficial.
Now, we can hone in on the data. We can’t check conversion rates, but we can compare paid traffic with the site average on other metrics. Our paid traffic information is new, but the site average is based on long-term data. We see that the paid visitors spend more time than average on the site — just over 38% more. This is a good sign. On the other hand, we can also see that the percentage of new visitors is actually lower for paid traffic than for organic search. Our client is paying repeatedly for the same visitors.
Moving in closer still, we can look at the cities from which clients come. Fortunately, our client has a national market, and his service is specialized enough that he can track his new customers’ cities. We can see, when he gains a new customer from Schenectady, whether this new customer came from paid search or from organic search. We can also tell how many times they visited, and whether they kept clicking through the ad, or if they came back directly.With a little math, we can determine the conversion rates we need. In this case, it looks as though the ads are doing a good job, so we just need to bring the cost per conversion down as low as possible.
If your business wouldn’t give you this information, that just means that you have to look from another angle. Keep digging until you find a way of getting a good guess at the information you’re lacking.
In this case, we can come up with a good list of actionable items from our digging:
- Set up measurable goals on the site, whether with dedicated phone numbers, compelling contact forms on the ad landing pages, or specific landing pages for each ad.
- Rework the ads’ landing pages to encourage customers to come back directly instead of revisiting through the ads.
- Now that the cost of advertising is going down, shift some of that investment toward linkbuilding and improved landing page design to increase organic search traffic, referral traffic and conversion.
In short, when you don’t seem to have the information you need, begin collecting it — but also dig for it in other ways and work toward actionable discoveries.
We have several clients who are just getting to know their web analytics right now. Are you in the same position? Or have you, perhaps, given up looking at your analytics because you haven’t been able to get much useful information from them in the past?
Maybe you haven’t checked on your Google Analytics since the new version became the only version, and now you’re not sure where to find anything (figuring that out has been on your to-do list for months, but it never made it to the top of the list…).
Whatever the reason, we have some suggestions here for getting some actionable information on your first visit to Google Analytics.
We introduced you to your GA dashboard last month, but perhaps you don’t really want to delve into everything and take up web analytics so much as you want to find some fast ideas on how to increase your traffic.
In that case, go to Standard Reporting> Traffic Sources> Overview and see how people reach your site. Read Balanced Web Traffic to get a sense of what each possible pie chart might mean, and then jump right ahead to All Traffic and find your Top Ten sources of traffic. It’ll look something like this:
Our lab site has Google, bing, and Yahoo in the top three slots, and that’s very common. If you don’t have any of the major search engines among your top traffic sources, you need to improve your website.
Direct traffic (people who type in the web address or use a bookmark) comes next for us. If you don’t see much direct traffic, you may need to make more of an effort to invite your clients and customers to visit your website. Training your counter staff or sales associates to say, “Have you been to our website?” while they wait for the receipt to print out can increase your traffic significantly.
Our lab site then has referrals from Google sites, such as Google usergroups. This isn’t as common as the other types of traffic mentioned; however, if you see some of this traffic, you might track down where your site is being discussed and join in the discussion. Our site is discussed in educators’ groups, but there are lots of different kinds of groups at Google-owned sites. This type of traffic isn’t search. It’s referral from a link placed at a site, and the sites just happen to belong to Google.
Next we see referrals from social media, smaller search engines, and articles. The thing to do here is to see what kind of referral traffic you’re getting and figure out how to get more of it. For example, Pinterest is our #1 non-Google referring site… and our lab site doesn’t even have a Pinterest account. It’s pretty obvious that Pinterest is good for us and we should set up an account, rather than just benefiting from our visitor’s use of Pinterest button. At least we have a Pinterest button!
If we click on Referral Traffic (and you should, if you’ve responded to all the Top Ten), we see that we have referral traffic from a lot of places, including New Scientist and Talk Like a Pirate, and we should sort through them and look for general trends. For example, plenty of referral traffic from science websites tells us that we should contact more science websites. If, on the other hand, you have little or no Referral traffic, you know that you need to get started with some general linkbuilding.
Stay on Referrals and click on Landing Pages, circled in red in the screenshot below, and you’ll see the pages at your website that are most often linked to by your referring sites. This can tell you the kind of pages that make good linkbait for your target market, so you can make more of them.
We’ve only looked at two or three screens, and already we should have a good to-do list to increase our traffic!
By the way, the Web Analytics Game at the beginning of the post was generously shared by Theodor Mavrodis, who recommends that winners wear their Black Belts over their jackets. you get a point for knowing the purpose of your website, so everyone can play!
One of the underused tools in Google Analytics, for most businesses, is the Visitor Flow tool. You’ll find this under “Audience” in Standard Reporting, and it begins with a nice diagram like the one at left.
This is from our lab site, FreshPlans; one of the reasons we built it in the first place was so we could show you our analytics. However, FreshPlans has an unusual Visitor Flow chart, compared with the typical business website. FreshPlans is a site filled with lesson plans for K-12 teachers, and doesn’t have the pages a typical business website has.
Let’s scrutinize it anyway, to get to know the tool, and then we’ll discuss some more typical examples.
Reading from left to right, we begin with the countries of origin. We see that a lot of people are going to posts from 2010/07 (we were doing a series of fairy tales that month, and that’s always one of our most popular topics), a fair number visited the home page, and most checked out hundreds of other pages — without significant differences from one country to another. We can also see that most visitors went just to one page. Since FreshPlans is a blog, people arrive via search at many different pages, and typically are just looking for the particular thing they searched for: “Jack and the Beanstalk” lesson plans, for example, or lesson plans on logic.
Next we can see where those visitors who chose to continue to another page went. In this case, the two most likely places for visitors to go are the home page and the Worksheets page. Probably the most useful thing we can see here is that visitors to the Jack and the Beanstalk page are more likely to go on to the homepage than visitors to the various stories we posted in July 2010. We could examine this post and see what there is about it that might encourage visitors to explore further instead of rushing right off to class. Then we could do the same with our other fairy tale lesson plans, encouraging our visitors to stay longer.
A t a business site, we usually see a very different path. The anonymized image below shows what we expect to see at a typical lead generation site. Most people begin at the home page. A few visitors are ready to request a quote immediately, and some are almost ready, so they choose About Us. Most people, however, want more information about the products, or choose to contact the company.
Those who make contact leave the site; they’re through. Those who wanted more information (Products) or reassurance (About Us) go on.
At this point we begin to see a couple of different kinds of behavior. We have shoppers, who go back and forth between the home page and the products page. They don’t need to — while some sites are set up to require a lot of clicking back and forth, we made this one smooth and simple in its navigation. Some of these people may leave to discuss the purchase with someone else or to think about it, some may make a phone call, which is not traced, and some may decide not to buy.
We have buyers, who go from the products page to About Us for reassurance or to the home page one more time and then request a quote or make contact. We also have researchers, who read the case studies and continue on further beyond the chart. We can follow these visitors further and see all the pages they read before they left the site.
This kind of visitor flow shows us the normal patterns of interaction with our site. It shows us the decision points for our visitors, and the places where we lose them. It can give us information about strategic opportunities. If you haven’t looked at yours, check it out.