Google Analytics: How to Get the Most out of Your Data

Google Analytics is an amazing tool to leverage data into actionable insights. While basic metrics such as number of visitors, unique visitors and pageviews are good information, they only skim the surface. To get a true understanding of your visitors, you will need to take it a step further.

Set up and connect a Google Webmaster Account

Google Webmaster Tools is an excellent resource to analyze how Google “sees” your site. Webmaster tools offer a variety of applications, including the ability to review search queries and landing pages, fix crawl errors, as well as block or remove pages from the results page. Once you’ve created an account and linked it to your Google Analytics, the following steps can make Google Analytics work harder for you:

  • Submit a sitemap — An XML site map allows search engines to identify the pages on your site and helps identify dynamic content that may be missed during the normal crawling process.
  • Review links to your site — This section lists the links that were crawled and indexed, as well as the most common link sources and pages with the most links.
  • Analyze search queries — See which search queries triggered an impression, the number of clicks and the average position.
  • Identify crawl errors — Find URLs that Google couldn’t crawl or that returned an error code; review site speed.

Now that you’ve set up a Google Webmaster account, here’s how to optimize Google Analytics:

  • Connect your AdWords account — Linking your Google AdWords and Analytics accounts can help you reveal deeper connections using data from your AdWords campaign. Analyzing the user’s path flow once they have clicked on an ad can provide meaningful insights into what is working and what may need to be adjusted.
  • Enable site search — Knowing the keywords that visitors are using to search for your products/offerings is invaluable and can help with developing a more robust SEO campaign. The frequency of keywords can help determine if certain information should be in a more prominent or homepage position. The site search function for blogs can inspire ideas for blog post topics.
  • Set filters — This is very simple, but seems to be overlooked by a lot of sites. In order to avoid skewed data, filter traffic to exclude IP addresses originating from the office and anyone else that may frequent the site other than potential customers.
  • Set goals — Goals are a flexible way to measure your site’s performance and should be consistent with the objectives of your site. Setting goals will help you identify qualified users and how they navigate once they arrive on your site. There are four different types of goals:
    • URL destination — Tracks each time a user goes to a specific URL. These goals are often set on thank you and confirmation pages.
    • Visit duration — This goal measures the number of users that stayed on your site for a predetermined period of time.
    • Pages/visit — Very similar to visit duration; rather than tracking time, this tracks how many pages were viewed during a single visit.
    • Event goals — In order to use event goals, you must first set up events. Once a user completes an action that you have defined as an event, it will increment the count for that goal.

Setting up and linking the proper accounts to your analytics will help you better understand your visitors and their actions — the first step in making your site work harder.