Do you know who’s visiting your site? Where they’re coming from? Which pages they’re visiting, and for how long? If you don’t, you probably haven’t installed Google Analytics.
If you own a website, Google Analytics should be one of your best friends. It’s a free, simple-to-use analytics tool that helps you learn all about the people who visit your website. If you don’t have it installed, do it now. Here’s the basic Google Analytics setup information.
Once Google Analytics is installed, you'll have a dashboard full of information to look at. There's so much there that it can be overwhelming at first. So here are the six things you should focus on when you get started.
1. Number of Visits
This is probably the #1 thing you’re interested in – how many people visited your site? You’ll want to track this (within Google Analytics) on a monthly basis so you can see whether traffic is increasing or decreasing. If it’s growing, great! What are you doing right that’s leading to that growth? If traffic is down, what did you do that month to cause the dip?
You’ll also want to look at which pages people visited. Which are your most popular pages? Why do you think that is? And what can you do to leverage what you’re doing on those pages to increase traffic to other, less popular pages?
Just be aware that number of visits isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of website analytics. It’s fun to look at, but the data below will probably be more useful in developing your ongoing website strategy and tactics.
2. Number of Unique Visitors
Some people only visit your site once and then they’re gone for good. Others come back time and time again. Repeat visitors are good (especially if you’re trying to build a sense of community around your website, such as with a blog) but you need new visitors each month to grow your traffic.
What can you do to keep visitors coming back? Write great content, give helpful hints, encourage and respond to comments, recognize people for their contributions to the website / community... To bring in new visitors, you could consider guest posting or writing articles for other (preferably larger) sites, amping up your SEO efforts, pay-per-click( (PPC) advertising, using social media...
3. How Long People Are Sticking Around
There are a few ways of looking at this.
Average Time on Site – This tells you how long people are staying on your site.
Average Time on Page – Similar to the above, this tells you how long people are staying on a particular page. Use it as an indication of how interesting your content is to visitors; if they’re not interested, they’ll leave quickly.
Bounce Rate – This one is confusing to many people. Put simply, it’s the percentage of visitors who enter your site on a particular page and then leave from that page without visiting any other pages. Each page has an individual bounce rate. These are averaged to create your site’s overall bounce rate.
A high bounce rate (over 50%) is often viewed as a bad thing. It can indicate that people are not interested in what they’re seeing so they quickly leave the site. However, that can be due to misleading inbound links (which imply that your site or page is about something other than what it is) or to people quickly finding the one thing they’re looking for. For example, news sites often have high bounce rates because people come to read a particular article and then leave. The key is to use bounce rate in conjunction with some of the other measures listed here.
% Exit – This is the percentage of viewers who leave from a particular page. Often, you’ll see a higher exit rate on pages like ‘About Us’ or ‘Contact Us’ because these are typically the last pages people visit after they’ve seen everything else on your site that they’re interested in. You want the exit rate on your key entry pages (e.g., home page, specific landing pages) to be low – this shows that people are going deeper into your site after they read that first page. If you find any pages with a high exit rate, take a closer look to see if there’s something about that page that could be turning people off.
4. Where in the World Your Visitors Come From
Aside from the fact that it’s just plain interesting to see where visitors are coming from (China, Brazil, New Zealand – wow!), this information allows you to evaluate how well you’re reaching your target audience. If you only operate in a particular country or geographic region, readers outside that country or region will probably be of less value to you that those ‘at home.’ Think about what you can do to better target the right country or region. For example, can you tailor your content to their specific needs or use location-based keywords?
5. Traffic Referral Sources
Where on the web are your visitors coming from? If they’re coming from search engines, which keywords are they using to find you? Can you use those keywords more often to bring in even more traffic?
Perhaps visitors are coming directly from other websites. Check the backlinks to see which links they’re following to get to your site. Can you create more content on your site that could generate these types of links? Or maybe you could provide an incentive for the site owner to put even more links on their website.
Often, you’ll find that visitors are coming from links in emails you send out or from your RSS feed. If so, add a few more links to those sources to encourage readers to check out other pages on your website. For example, add a ‘Weekly Specials’ link to your email signature or a ‘Favorite Products’ link in the sidebar of your RSS feed.
6. Devices Your Visitors are Using
Who cares which device someone used to access your site – the most important thing is that they visited the site, right? Wrong. As more people are accessing websites from mobile devices (e.g., smart phones, tablets), the way your site displays on those devices is becoming more important. Most websites are built to optimize the viewing experience on a desktop or laptop computer; they may be difficult (sometimes nearly impossible) to read on a mobile device. So, for example, if you find that a significant portion of visitors views your site on a smart phone, you may want to consider reconfiguring your website using responsive design to ensure that your site loads optimally for those visitors. [Note: One of the things I particularly like about the new Genesis 1.8 parent theme (for WordPress, from StudioPress) is that it has responsive design built right in - and more themes are coming online with responsive design also baked in. If you're looking for an easy way to ensure that your site looks great for all visitors, regardless of which device they're using, then I highly recommend Genesis 1.8. I'm an affiliate, and I use it for my own sites, as well as my clients' sites.]