3 Ways To Make The Most of Google Analytics

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?

A Quick Guide to Google Webmaster Tools

You just launched your personal or business blog. Awesome! Now what? Before you get too busy publishing posts, responding to commenters and growing your online presence, please do yourself a favor. Take a deep breath and press the pause button. In order to get your blog wheels rolling and attract thousands of page views each month/week/day(!!), it is essential to give your website a solid technical check. What does this mean? Well simply put, you need to make sure that Google is viewing your website (and its brilliant content) the way that it should- enter Google Webmaster Tools (GWT).

GWT can show you things like:

  • Which pages on your site are included in Google’s index?
  • What, if any, errors were found when crawling your site?
  • What other websites are linking to you?
  • How many impressions has your website received in the search engine results pages (SERPs)?
  • I could go on and on… if you’re interested, check out Webmaster Academy

In this quick guide, you’ll learn how to get started with Google Webmaster Tools, as well as a few of my favorite features within the tool to help your site flourish.

Set Up Google Webmaster Tools

  • To get started, visit the Google Webmasters website and sign in with your Google account (or create one). If you already use Google Analytics, Gmail, etc., then you’ve got a Google account and you can use that same login to access Webmaster Tools

  • Scroll to the bottom of the page and enter in your top-level domain (example: http://www.mydigitalally.com in the case of my site), then press Add a Site

  • You’ll then be prompted to verify your site. While there are four different options to achieve this, I highly recommend the “Link to Google Analytics” option for the SEO novice. Note that this option requires you to be logged in with the same account as the one you are using for Google Analytics

    • If you must be difficult, (kidding!) there are other options. You can 1) upload an HTML file to your server, 2) add meta content tag to your <head> tag, or 3) add a DNS record to your domain’s registrar in order to complete the process

  • Voila! You’re done.

Now you have a Google Webmaster Tools account that is successfully linked to your website. What’s next? On the left-hand side of the GWT dashboard, you’ll see various drop-down buttons that show all of the options available within the suite of tools. I highly recommend perusing all of them, but there’s a catch. Before you make any changes, be sure to do your homework. Long ago, there was a girl that erased all of her analytics data with one naïve, innocent click (and perhaps that girl was me…). Don’t be that girl.

My Favorite GWT Features

Submit an XML Sitemap

By submitting an XML Sitemap, you are directly telling Google which pages you want them to index. There are tons of resources available to help you create an XML Sitemap. If you’re using WordPress, I recommend Google XML Sitemaps.

Set a Preferred Domain

You may notice that a lot of websites choose to prefix their domain with “www” while many others do not. What should you do? There is no golden rule for choosing to utilize the www prefix or not. However, you must choose one and stick to it. Because http://www.domain.com is technically a sub domain of domain.com, the engines may see these URLs as two different pages and thus split your rankings. You should institute a 301-redirect to whichever version you prefer from the non-preferred version (if it’s not done automatically – thank you WordPress!) and then select your preferred domain structure in Google Webmaster Tools as seen below:

guide to google webmaster tools

Go Fetch!

The Fetch as Google feature is perhaps my favorite tool within GWT. Originally created in 2011, I regularly use the Fetch feature for two very different purposes:

1. Troubleshooting a page. As Google puts it, “The Fetch as Google tool lets you see a page as Google sees it. This is particularly useful if you’re troubleshooting a page’s poor performance in search results. For example, if you use rich media files to display content, the page returned by the tool may not contain this content if Google can’t crawl it effectively."

2. When I publish a time-sensitive post.  After fetching a page, you have the option to submit it to the index. When I’ve just written a post that is timely in nature – about a news event, upcoming festival, etc., it’s important to get traffic as soon as possible. If Google doesn’t re-crawl your site for a few days, you may just miss the boat. Using Fetch, you can tell Google right away that you have new content that searchers will be interested in reading. I recently used this in the case of my review of the Dove Real Beauty Sketch Ad, as seen below:

    guide to google webmaster tools

Time to go become a webmaster! May the force be with you!