When it comes to certain software and applications for business websites, there is a lot to talk about. One example is WordPress; another, and today’s subject in fact, is Google Analytics (GA). There is so much to talk about GA that, in fact, that this article is the start of a multi-part series! So, for those who are either interested or want to know more in depth about this handy application, read on.

First off, what is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google at a ‘freemium’ cost. That means anyone can sign up for a basic account and use it for free. However, to access more advanced features that are offered, you will have to pay a recurring fee.

On a basic level GA will track and report on current website traffic, advertising ROI, social networking accounts and applications, and even real time analytics. It will start doing this once you’ve set up an account and installed a small amount of tracking code on each page in your website. This code is unique and consists of a snippet of Javascript code, or a coding language that runs through the viewer’s browser when they visit your page. This code in turn works with a larger Javascript file on Google’s server to collect information on the user’s data.

The end result of this code is a measurement on dimensions and metrics, the foundation of GA. Dimensions are the attributes of data such as cities (where user traffic is coming from), the web pages being measured, or the social media platforms you’re examining. Metrics are the measurements for these very dimensions. For example, if you’re looking at how your ads performed in Edmonton (the dimension), the 1,500 paid sessions recorded are the metric.

So what does this all mean for business owners? Well, you can use this information to do all of the following and they’re all good reasons to use GA if you’re not already.

Reason 1: Stay on track of your goals

At some point you may feel as if you’ve lost sight of what your business’s goals actually are. By adding them to Google Analytics, the application will keep track of your goals for you and collect data on whether or not you are headed in the right direction to achieving them or if you’re going off kilter.

It’s best to keep your goals simple; maybe you want to increase lead generation from your website, or you want to get a lot of traffic from your e-mail newsletter campaign. You can also set GA up so that it will identify how many people are using the contact page on your site and clicking through, whether it’s to make a phone call or send you a message. GA can collect data on all of these types of goals and more.

Reason 2: Understand your audience better

If you’ve ever wondered about who your audience was, then Google Analytics is the key to finding out. When you set up certain basic features, it will identify several aspects of your audience such as age demographics, gender, the city and country they are coming from, and whether or not they are referral traffic or organic and direct traffic to your website. You can also discover their interests, age, and devices (i.e. whether they use mobile devices, tablets, or desktop computers to access your website).

These are all very basic metrics your account will measure once GA is set up for your business’s website. Once it is set up, you can basically understand who your audience is, where they’re coming from, and how they are finding your website. You can then determine whether a certain campaign such as e-mail is working if there is room for improvement yet.

Reason 3: Identify bounce rate causes and address them

We’ve written an entire blog post about bounce rate, but to recap, here’s what that is. The bounce rate is the percentage of single visit traffic that is accessing your website only to bounce away from it and leave. The lower the bounce rate is, the more willing your customers are choosing to stay on your business’s website. If it’s high though, that means there’s something driving people away from your site.

Again, Google Analytics is your best bet to discover how low or high your site’s bounce rate is, and whether or not it means you need to improve your home page ASAP. Usually the home page is the very first sight your customers will see of your website, and if it leaves a bad impression on them, then it’s likely you’ll see that in your bounce rate. This feature is usually visible from the get-go, and GA can also perform real-time tracking so you can see who’s visiting your website at that very moment.

So, if you’re concerned about how long people are staying on your website, identifying the bounce rate and addressing causes of a high percentage can be easily done on GA.

Reason 4: Figure out which social platforms to target

Direct traffic and referrals are not the only sources to find a website these days. Social media is usually where younger demographics are willing to go to find a business’s website if they’re interested and like what they see from your business. If that is your target audience, then you have got to keep an eye on these channels and see how well they are performing.

You can examine these channels in full within Google Analytics’ “Acquisitions” section (we’ll talk about that more in a later post). You can then understand better which channels are gaining the most interest amongst your audience and where improvements need to be made. For example, if you post a lot on Twitter more than Facebook, then the metrics will reflect that high traffic. If you do and there isn’t a lot of traffic, though, that could mean something is off and you need to address the issue.

Studying your social media goes hand in hand with the next reason to use Google Analytics:

Reason 5: See how effective your content campaigns are

Content is king, and if you create and post good quality content regularly then you can get a lot more traffic and visitors. Google Analytics can keep track of all of the content you create that receives views and shares. Using this data, you can enhance your most popular blog posts, infographics, etc. so that they appeal to your target audience in a more productive way.

To sum up, Google Analytics is a must if you are a business owner and you want to stay on top of how your website is performing. Its insights allow you to improve the performance of your website and even increase conversions. While many more analytics management platforms exist now, Google Analytics is the most relevant solution for managing your website’s analytics and understanding your audience better.

Now you know more about the what and why of GA for business owners. Stay tuned for part 2, in which we go over the basic terms used in the software!