If you’ve enabled Google Analytics for your website, congrats! You’re a step ahead most. But are you really taking advantage of the full power of the tool to help your business grow?
Good news: there are just three things everyone must do inside of the Google Analytics platform to get the full capabilities, become a more advanced user, and generate more insightful reports. But, they take a bit of know-how. Even better news: I'm here to share that with you now. Grab a cup of coffee and get ready to implement!
1. Set Up Internal Traffic Filters Properly
You check your own website, don’t you? So do your designers, interns, and your mom. We call that "internal traffic." And it artificially skews your data. The fix? Filter internal traffic out. Basically, anyone who isn’t a customer needs to go!
Just plopping in an exclude IP filter isn’t the best way to do it. Why? Because of this very important tip to remember: when you set up a filter in Google Analytics, you cannot undo the effect it has on your reports.
Let's remedy that. Instead of setting up a permanent filter, it's best to create a new view, and leave one main unfiltered view untouched. This unfiltered view will hang out in the background - don’t use it to run reports, but leave it as a backup in case other filters or reports get messed up. It's a blank slate to return to.
To create a new view:
- Click on Admin from the Analytics home
- Select your account + property
- Use the view drop down menu to create a new view
- If you're creating a new view for your website, select website, name it and then click save
Then, in the new view, add in any exclusion filters you want to get rid of internal traffic. (Truth be told, this step itself could be its own blog post -- but luckily, Google has a great resource if you're stuck here.)
Don't know what your IP address is? Need to find the IP address of your website team, friends, or parents to filter that "internal traffic" out? Look yours up, and ask your team to do the same, using a super simple IP Address Lookup tool or by Googling “What’s my IP Address?” Then, simply add it to your filter. One stipulation: if you or your team members have a dynamic IP like I do, or use a mobile device to check your website, it gets a bit more tricky but is doable with cookies.
2. Set Up the Right Goals & Tweak Based on Insights
Your website is meant to influence people to do certain things, whether it’s to buy a product, contact you about your services, or even to visit more pages. Goals are the tracking method to determine when people are doing those actions, and can help you figure out what’s preventing people from doing them if they're not.
Here's a great tutorial from Google on how to set up goals.
But the key isn’t setting them up. The real insight comes from knowing which ones to set up and how to interpret the results.
Consider your website and the intentions behind it. What do you want your visitors to do? Is it easy for them to do this? Are you clearly asking them to do what you want?
Once you’ve set up Goals, generate reports to analyze how visitors are navigating through your website. Built-in tools for this include In-Page Analytics and Behavior Flow, both under Behavior in the sidebar. The In-Page Analytics report shows you a screen shot of your website and tells you where people are clicking to navigate through pages, which can help you tell when things aren't eye-grabbing or positioned well. Behavior Flow reports on the series of pages visitors go through on your website, including where they drop off and how they navigate.
What path does a person take to complete a Goal? Is it easy? Who drops off where? These kinds of questions can help you make better choices for your website design and content.
Take my own Behavior Flow report for example. Most of my visitors enter my website through my Homepage, then navigate to my About page. Those that don't exit at that point continue to my main Services page. I could improve my conversions by doing more to keep visitors from dropping off from my About page and use a stronger call to action to make a clearer path to conversion.
What you'll find is that the best websites constantly analyze this data to find better ways to convert visitors into customers instead of watching customers exit at undesired places. A website is a constant work in progress, remember!
3. Enable Demographics & Interest Reports
How well do you really know your audience? Google Analytics can give you all kinds of information about your audience that can help you gain more insight. Enabling Demographics & Interest Reports will provide information about gender, age, and interests. Do what the pros do: use this info to better target your content and advertisements in appropriate places.
To enable your Demographics & Interest Reports, you’ll need to update your Google Analytics code by adding in a single line of code in your back end to increase the amount of information your website gathers and discloses.
Quick tip: while you’re updating your code, confirm that it’s in the <header> of your website. To do this, you'll need to look at the source code between the <header> tags of your website using tools like the Web Inspector in Safari. If the code isn't between the <header> tags, Google Analytics is executing after the page finishes loading instead of immediately. This means if someone visits and your page doesn’t load completely before they navigate away, you’re missing data!
Once you have the reports enabled, you can dig deeper into the data to find out more about your audience. I found that while most of my audience was made up of females between 25-34 as I suspected, my audience was made up of a lot of movie and TV buffs! This insight gave me ideas about content marketing in relation to popular TV shows or movies to attract attention by using relevant examples for them.
What's the most useful feature of the reporting tool for your business?