Posted on 13 Jan 2017
The short answer to this is yes. All website owners need to be actively looking at who is visiting their website, how they got there and what their users want. This is how you know where to improve.
The most common package is Google Analytics and in our first edition of Digital Insights, we are going to explain why you would want to use Analytics and how it can answer common questions, such as how many people visited your website, where they come from and what is your most popular page.
If you don't already have an Analytics account you will need to sign up for one and set it up on your website before continuing. How to set up Analytics on your website.
What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a free piece of software that helps you track what your users are up to when they visit your website.
But don't be fooled by the lack of cost, the amount of data contained within Analytics is massive - it's so massive that it's easy to get overwhelmed which is why people like myself help clients understand it all!
What's important is to focus on assessing your actionable information first and save the in-depth analysis for when you have a better understanding of it all.
Why use Google Analytics?
It gives you a lot of detail about your users, and of course, it won't cost you a penny.
There are instantly usable templates and apps to drill down into the detail, such as how many visits did this page get and help you jump over the statistic gathering phase of your analysis. When it comes to setting up additional tracking, there are also a number of "how to" guides available.
There is a premium version of Analytics but you really only need to start looking at that when you are getting millions (or more) of visitors per year.
Common website questions Google Analytics can answer
Before we dive into what Analytics can tell you, it's important to understand the terminology used:
- Sessions - When a user visits your site it creates a session, during this session a user can visit multiple pages and perform lots of actions. A session ends after 30 minutes so any visits after that would be a new session. To make it easier you can think of a session as an actual person.
- Pageview - When a user visits a page it is marked as a pageview, it's possible and fairly common for a user to visit the same page more than once, these are counted as separate pageviews.
How many people visited my website?
When someone visits your website for the first time Analytics records where they came from, this is found in Acquisition:
If you click on this section and then on All traffic -> Channels, Google will display a table containing all your website visits split by where they came from; this is called the default channel grouping and helps us answer the next question.
Where are my visitors coming from?
Google splits all your traffic into what it considers the main groupings of traffic. Depending on how many different places your users come from, it might look something like this:
The most important groupings to understand when talking about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) are Organic Search and Referral. Clicking on any of these headings will give you more detail about that specific channel and help you identify the most popular areas on your website.
Organic search means any visits that came via a search engine, this is where a lot of webmasters spend time trying to optimise their website to grab as much of that traffic as possible.
Referrals are where someone has linked to your website from another website and users are clicking on the link. This is extremely useful for working out which users are interested in your content and understanding what they expect when they visit your website.
Paid Search, Social and Email are exactly what they sound like, visits from social networks or any emails will be filtered into the respective groups. Paid Search is mostly made up of AdWords and similar advertising. Display is another group that can appear here if you have spent some money on display advertising (banner adverts for example).
Everything that Google can't work out where it came from gets dumped into Direct and is usually people typing in your website's address (URL) directly or visiting from a bookmark.
What is my most popular page?
Let's jump back up to the sidebar and select a new section - Behaviour.
Click on Overview and this will display your website's overall pageviews. You should see a graph displaying the pageviews of your entire website. Underneath the graphs you can see a list of your 10 most popular pages, you can also see more pages by clicking "view full report" at the bottom of the list.
How can ICG help you with your Google Analytics?
ICG works alongside clients to help them understand Google Analytics and respond to data so they can prioritise website improvements and gain useful user/customer insights. We focus on understanding clients' businesses and their markets to maximise engagement and leverage.
In the next Digital Insights blog post, we will be looking into how you can track and evaluate changes you have made to your website to see what sort of impact they have made.
If you have any questions, send them to us via Twitter using #digitalinsights @icgbrandbuilder
About the Author
Richard Barrett is an SEO/PPC specialist at ICG who deals with all things data. A self professed analytics geek, he spends most of his time digging through data to help clients understand what they need to know about their online audience.