For anyone involved in online marketing —and whether you realize it or not, if you are in business, you are involved in online marketing —it is very important to be familiar with Google Analytics. This free service provides a wealth of information, from how many visitors your site has to where they come from, how they find you, and at what point on your site they leave.
However, it is important to understand some of the terms used on the site and in the field of search engine optimization (SEO). Some of these terms are very easy to understand, while others are a bit more complicated. The following are some of the key terms you will need to know in order to understand what Google Analytics is trying to tell you about performance of your website.
Total visits. This is the big picture. This measures the total number of visits to your website on, for instance, your home page. If you are analyzing this metric, be sure to look at data for at least several months or even up to a year. Look for the “monthly trend”: You want to see this number increasing.
Sessions. This is a very broad term. It can tell you how many of your site’s visitors are new (unique visitors) and how many are back for another visit (recurring visitors). However, you can expand this metric to also tell you how many visitors found your site through organic traffic (for instance, using a search engine to find you) or via a social media site, and how many were directed to your site from a paid referral service. It also tells you how long visitors stay on your site.
Bounce rate. This term is a bit confusing, but very important. Say a visitor finds your site, takes a look at your home page, and then moves on without examining your site any further. This visitor has “bounced,” likely moving on to some other location on the web. It is important to keep your bounce rate as low as possible. You want your visitors to hang around and see what you have to offer. If you have a high bounce rate, Google Analytics can also tell you where visitors were on your site when they left, which can help you make changes to bring your bounce rate down.
Conversions. This is another very important term. For e-commerce businesses, this is a dollars and cents term. If someone visits your site and makes a purchase, bingo: Your website has converted this visitor into a customer. But even signing up for a newsletter, clicking to watch a product video, or filling out a contact form are examples of conversions. You want this number to continue to grow.
Geography. As you might expect, this tells you where most of your site visitors are located. This metric always offers a surprise or two.
Social media. Are visitors finding your site on LinkedIn? Facebook? Google+? Knowing this information can help you determine where you should put most of your marketing efforts—or where more efforts are needed. This has larger implications of what type of content you should be creating because this is directly related to qualifying. Factors like attention span, sophistication, age and the time of day you are posting all matters here. This is where you SEM and SEO campaigns begin to merge into a integrated strategy. Which we will explore later on.
While there are many other metrics to explore (including “customer value,” “cost per lead,” “lead to close,” “customer retention rate,” and others that are more specific to e-commerce sites), the bottom line is that Google Analytics can tell you how well your site is performing and, even more important, what the trends are causing success or failure. It is important to become familiar with the system and these different terms to make better decisions to improve your site’s performance for a greater return on your investment.
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