Do you ever freeze up looking at the massive amounts of data in your Google Analytcs? Are you unable to move beyond the default dashboard and find it difficult to understand what data you need to explore and what needs to be ignored?
Well, the good news is, you’re not alone. There are millions of people that, despite having access to tons of data are only able to get a small zit of insights. The bad news is that it is actually quite tough to make sense of the massive data puke that Google Analytics throws at you.
So how should you go about it?
What you need at this stage is an ideal “order of operations” that’s going to allow you to determine precisely which data you need to dive deeper into and which data you need to ignore.
Start with Macro Insights
Again, the goal here is to figure out where you need to dive in deeper. By starting with macro insights you can identify specific and actionable items that have a strategic impact on your business.
1. How Many Visitors are coming to my website?
This one is a no brainer that almost everyone who opens up their analytics dashboard looks at. Unfortunately, that’s all that most people look at! But in this case, when we’re looking to get maximum leverage from this amazing free tool, this is the first question we’re looking to answer- with data.
So dive in and measure visits to your website which would be the sum of all sessions. Also measure unique visitors. Ideally, you should try and go as far back as you can and look for long term seasonal trends or patterns that you can find. You want to get really comfortable with these metrics and truly understand whether they are being measured correctly.
2. Where are visitors coming from?
Now that you know how many people are coming to your website, it’s time to find out where they are coming from. At this stage, you’d want to measure referring urls and keywords and figure out which websites are sending you most traffic and which ones are not.
The goal here is to develop an understanding of what’s really driving that traffic to your website. Is it relationships you’ve forged? Direct marketing campaigns you’re conducting or affiliates etc? Also, figure out what you haven’t done that’s driving traffic to uncover new opportunities.
From a search perspective take a look at how much traffic you’re getting from various search engines and then dive deeper to look into what precise keywords and phrases are driving traffic. This data will be very useful in streamlining SEO and PPC campaigns. Differentiate between branded and non-branded keywords as that will give you an idea of how early your prospects are in the consideration cycle. Similarly, branded traffic will give you an indication of how strong your online brand presence is.
3. What do I want visitors to do on my website?
Interestingly enough, to answer this question you’re actually required to move away from Google analytics and have a little chat with your bosses, the business owners and your upper management. This is where you answer three really important questions and more importantly get everyone to agree upon the answers. These questions are:
- Why does your website exist?
- What are your top three web strategies (Paid campaigns, Guest blogging, Social/Viral Marketing etc)?
- What do you think should be happening on your website?
The answer to this question can be in the form of metrics, KPIs or even simpler, just a little list of acquisition strategies for your website comprising of tactics like PPC, SEO, Email Marketing or maybe even a simple mission statement that allows you to connect your website to your bottom line.
Putting these questions after figuring out how many people are coming to your website and where they are coming from allows you to put things into context and actually develop a decent understanding of basic web reality.
4. What are visitors actually doing?
Now for the money question; what are visitors actually doing on your website? This is where you’re going to jump into some deeper data to really pave the way to getting the insights that can truly impact your business.
- Take a look at Top Entry Pages
The goal here is to identify the various “home” pages of your website and identify them as entry points for your visitors.
- Identify Top Viewed Pages
Top viewed pages are different from top entry pages. This metric will allow you to get a good understanding of what content is being consumed by your visitors. By looking at the above two sets of data together you’ll be able to get some semblance of why people are doing what they are doing on your website.
- Find out how People are “Experiencing” your Website with Site overlay (click density) Analysis
Once again, you need to do this for your top ten most viewed pages and identify the click patterns. By doing so you’ll be able to get a clear understanding of the navigational challenges of your website as well as user intent. Furthermore, you will be able to identify optimization actions you can take based on this analysis.
- Conduct Abandonment Analysis
Irrespective of whether you’re an eCommerce website or a blog, there are specific goals that you’ve set for your website. A visitor needs to go through a series of steps in order to accomplish what you want them to do. The objective with abandonment analysis is to take a look at these funnel steps and figure out where the highest abandonment rate is happening.
By understanding visitor behavior in context of abandonment you will be able to identify big opportunities for improving the conversion rate of your website-fast and effectively.
By getting better assimilated with content consumption and navigation behavior on your website you will get a much better context and richer understanding of true customer behavior that you can actually leverage to your advantage.
It’s important to understand that the order of operations mentioned above is actually deliberate and important to stick to. We’re all tempted to get started with conversion rate but pursuing macro insights in this order will truly allow you to bridge the gap between what visitors are doing on your website and what you actually want them to do.
Now go, dive!