Many of us working in the industry know the importance of why you should track and measure the visitors engaging with your site. It’s in our core. We know the value.
This article is for all you people out there questioning why you should use Google Analytics on your business site or blog.
What are the pros and cons, what should you expect in terms of what you need to do as well as expected outcome.
First of all, I have to state that there are options to using Google Analytics, such as Adobe Analytics or Webtrends for businesses or simpler trackers such as Piwik or Open Web Analytics outlined by Contently.
I could go on for days (well, almost) talking about why, but if I had to boil it down to one answer, and one only it’d had to be:
Without knowledge about your performance, you have no idea on where to improve. Plus, it’s free!
That last part is a very important factor too. Looking at other web analytics tools as a business you might be in for a yearly fee reaching more than tens of thousands of dollars every year. Yes, even Google Analytics comes in a paid version for those of you that have a lot of traffic to your site and need that little extra. Expect to cough up an additional $150,000/year for Google Analytics Premium then. Yikes, that’s a lot. But needed for a lot of major companies out there.
So, what are the top benefits of using Google Analytics?
There are some really good articles written on this topic before, such a Paul’s 25 Reasons to use Google Analytics. Still valid after more than 2 years.
I spend a lot of time with clients today that already use Google Analytics, but looking back it’s been more and more clients that have been using other web analytic tools and wanted to know the benefits of migrating to Google Analytics. I’m not saying that one excludes another, it’s just that we must all realize that they measure things somewhat differently. In terms of what defines a visitor and what a session is, to name a few.
One of the biggest reasons for me being such an advocate for GA is the ease of use. Comparing to other paid tools, GA is such a breeze to work with on a day to day basis, acquiring knowledge about your visitors.
One of the first things we all want to know is things like where are my visitors coming from? And that’s a question that could be answered in so many ways, just as the above screenshot is showing. Most part of the traffic is coming from Google organic searches looking at it from this perspective.
The question could of course be answered in a variety of ways. Same subset of data, but in this case we’re looking at where the visitors actually are located. Same question, but two answers based on what question we want to have answered. But the thing is, just by installing the basic tracking with no additional customization this data becomes available to us.
This is powerful for so many reasons.
On some occasions we might want to know on what kind of devices our visitors are viewing our site on. Trust me, these occasions happens very often, since it’s very important to optimize correctly all the time. For this particular example we can see that optimizing for mobile traffic isn’t very important since most of the visits are originating from an actual computer, desktop or laptop. But then again, mobile usage is increasing at such a speed so it’s almost impossible to comprehend.
Looking at data from Google, we can see that more than 50% of the users in a few selected countries use their smartphone to perform a search every day. So having only 4% traffic coming from mobiles like in the above example is very low for being end of 2015.
But by measuring, we know.
Keeping track of your goals
The only downside with all analytics platforms is that all they do is gather and present data. To be honest, they’re pretty dumb tools because they require something to get very useful.
You! Congratulations! :)
No, but really. That is actually very good, because you are best at defining the goals of your website. Google Analytics is used on millions of sites all over the world and it has to be very generic. So in order to make it very useful we have to define the goals ourselves.
Let’s take this site as an example. What do you believe could be a realistic goal for a blog?
- Increase in unique visitors?
- Ad Revenue?
- Signups for a newsletter?
- Comment on a blogpost?
Just to name a few and give you an idea. But let’s have a look at the latter one, shall we?
We can see by looking at a defined goal that during the given time period 12 people left a comment on one of my posts. Given that I’ve been so silent recently, that’s still good ;)
This is a goal that I’ve defined manually based on an event that’s being sent into Google Analytics every time someone submits a comment. For me, that’s a goal.
- Where did these people come from?
- How did they find me?
- What made them convert (leave a comment)?
- Have they visited before?
- Questions, I have so many questions!
What is your goal? You are the best one suited to answer that.
It could be anything, really.
- Shares on social media
- Downloaded a PDF
- Watched a video
- Submitted a specific form
- Clicked on your phone number while on a smartphone and called you
Just to give you a few more examples.
Extending the usage of GA
There are loads of metrics and dimensions in Google Analytics out of the box. But there are ways to extend that data giving you even more valuable input.
Let’s take e.g. Google Search Console. It’s a great free tool that gives you valuable insights into how your site is performing in search. Imagine having that data available to you in Google Analytics.
Well, no problem really.
Curious on what kind of weather there was at your visitors location when they visited your site? Does it makes a difference if it is rainy or sunny? Are people converting more (buying a specific product perhaps?) when the weather is this or that?
Well of course, that’s possible too thanks to Simo.
Another very neat thing is that you have the possibility to gather data on what people are searching for on your site, using your own internal search function. And then be able to put that data alongside all the other data. Are people doing site searches converting more that those who doesn’t? Or are they using site search because they can’t find their way around your site? Or are they not using it at all?
As you see, there are loads of reason to be using Google Analytics. And this post is only just scratching the surface of the tool, but it will give you an idea on what the possibilities are. The only one setting its boundaries are you.
In order to know where to improve, you have to start measuring. And Google Analytics is a powerful yet free tool that can help you do so.