17 Aug 2017

Google Analytics: What to Measure and Where Visitors Go

“The beauty of online marketing is you can measure everything.” For years, that’s been a pretty successful tagline, among web agencies and digital employees alike. Yet measurement, through tools like Google Analytics, doesn’t come easy because of so many variables:

  • Is your analytics tracking set up correctly?
  • Does it integrate with your other systems, like SalesForce?
  • How do you quantify the impact of offline efforts?
  • Have you set a historical baseline so you can compare?

Of course, there are more unknowns. No business’ universe is crystal clear. But you need to start somewhere, and it’s not that hard.

Assuming you’ve correctly set up Google Analytics on your website — including goal tracking — This article covers three exercises that will help you appreciate Google Analytics, measure your existing website, analyze the data, and make informed improvements.

Getting Started with Google Analytics Measurement

First, sign into Google Analytics (GA):

Google-Analytics-What-To-Measure-And-Where-Visitors-Go-GA-Dashboard
Google Analytics Dashboard

Feeling blue? Don’t worry. This home page dashboard doesn’t offer much in the way of insights.

The meat of what you want is here, in the left-hand menu:

Google-Analytics-What-To-Measure-And-Where-Visitors-Go-Menu (1)
Google Analytics Side Menu

Google Analytics Exercise #1: How do Users Flow Through My Website?

What you will learn:

If your website is organized in a way that allows you to guide users along logical paths and to pages that are important to your business.

In the left-hand menu, click on Audience, and scroll down to Users Flow. These flow charts display where large chunks of your visitors first arrive on your site, and then which pages they visit sequentially.

The key with Users Flow, in my opinion, is to highlight a specific path. Try following the steps below in your own GA account:

Step #1

Near the upper right of Google Analytics, change the date period to what you want to measure: 1 month, 6 months, 12 months? I’ve chosen Year-to-Date, for example.

Step #2

In the top left of the Users Flow pane, change the green bubble to something meaningful for your business. In this example, I’ve chosen Acquisition > Source.

Google-Analytics-What-To-Measure-And-Where-Visitors-Go-Users-Flow

Step #3

Select a page or group of pages that you want to learn more about. Then click: “Highlight traffic through here”. Now we see something like this:

Google-Analytics-What-To-Measure-And-Where-Visitors-Go-Highlight-Traffic

Step #4

Our source on the left is Google, which I have highlighted. Google has driven 15,000 visitors to this particular website in the time period specified. Of those 15,000, GA reveals where they travel once they hit your site.

Beware, though: Google can take great liberties here by “grouping” pages — sometimes it’s effective, but other times GA is way off, rendering this exercising frustrating at best, or useless at worst.

Lesson learned: 

We can reasonably deduce from this flow chart that a Google searcher is more likely to land on this website’s blog section than anywhere else (3,200 out of 15,000 Google searchers). If one of our goals for this website is to reach a new audience, it would make sense that we should produce blog content with keywords that align with what our prospects are searching for in Google. We can’t rely on our product and service pages to do that heavy lifting for us.

Google Analytics Exercise #2: Are Specific Website Visitors More Likely to Convert Than Others?

What you will learn:

By comparing your website’s traffic channels (like email vs. search engines vs. paid ads), you can see which segments are more likely to convert on your site.

Step #1

In the left-hand menu, click Acquisition and then All Traffic > Channels.

Step #2

Select a conversion goal that you want to measure against. In this example, I’ve chosen Thank You Page, which is the page that appears after someone has filled out the ‘Contact Us’ form on this website.

Google-Analytics-What-To-Measure-And-Where-Visitors-Go-Paid-Search

Step #3

Next, let’s examine the various channels, from organic search to e-mail. Which converts at the highest rate? “Referral” (links from external sites) are bringing visitors that convert at more than 2%. But in this example, it’s a misleading number. By clicking into “Referrals,” we see that 21 out of those 60 thank-you page completions came from a HubSpot page (a page that we actually built for the client within their HubSpot account). So yes, it’s an external website, but it’s not a true referral. Things aren’t as black and white as they appear to be.

Lesson learned: 

Paid search (PPC) is actually the winner here. At just under 1%, we can see that it converts at a higher level than organic, direct, social, and email. Paid search delivers the second lowest amount of traffic from these sources, so we should consider increasing investment in paid. That would direct more traffic to the site, and if the conversion rate of 0.99% held, we’d make strides toward the client’s goal of driving leads.

Google Analytics Exercise #3: Are Entire Sections Of My Website Underperforming?

What you will learn:

See which directories, or sections, of your site are keeping visitors around, and which sections are driving them away.

Step #1

In the left-hand menu, click “Behavior,” then “Site Content.” (This is where I spend probably 50% of my time in Google Analytics).

Step #2

For today’s purposes, within “Site Content,” click “Content Drilldown.”

Step #3

Now we can see how the /blog/ section performs, versus the /training/ section of the website. You’ll also notice that the home page (indicated by the lone slash) has an average time on page of more than 3 minutes.

Google-Analytics-What-To-Measure-And-Where-Visitors-Go-Bounce-Rate

Lesson Learned:

The /blog/ has a pretty high bounce rate at 87%. Although the blog is a huge source of page views (more than 50% for the entire website), it’s not retaining visitors as well as we would like. If we can reduce the bounce rate of the blog pages by 10-15%, that would make a significant business impact.

You’ll notice that the /services/ and /contact-us/ directories have relatively high bounce rates (around 80%), but markedly lower exit rates (around 45%). This means that if we are driving traffic directly to these pages, we see relatively little success; we’ve turned off those visitors by asking for too much too soon, and they bounce. But if we can nurture our web visitors and drive them later to the services pages or the Contact Us page, only 45% of those people are exiting the site.

So again, slow and steady wins the race. If we educate this website’s visitors by providing valuable information elsewhere on the site, we will see more success for this business.

Try for Yourself!

Log into your Google Analytics if you haven’t already, click around, and you’ll start to gain confidence quickly. What insights can you take from the numbers today, and what website improvements can you make tomorrow?

Do you want to learn more about Google Analytics and how it can help you make informed decisions about your website and your online marketing efforts? Talk to us today.