Google Analytics is a free service from Google that gives detailed information and statistics about the visitors to your websites. It is apparently used by 57% of the top 10,000 websites online today.
Launched in late 2005, Google Analytics is widely recognised as the most reliable way of tracking website traffic. It is also one of the most feature rich traffic services available. It can track traffic from search engines, referring websites, direct traffic, pay per click networks, email marketing and much more. You can also link your account to your Google Adwords so that you can track conversions.
Analytics is free so all you have to do is login to Google Analytics and create an account. You can then add your website using the ‘Create New Website Profile’ option.
When adding a new website to your profile you have the option of tracking a brand new domain or adding to an existing one. Adding a profile to an existing domain is a useful feature as it allows you to track different areas of your site (e.g. member area, forums etc).
In the profile settings area of each website in your account you can set the goals you want to achieve. For example, you can aim for a set period of time for visitors to stay on your site or the total number of visits.
The dashboard for your page shows you a lot of useful information. By default traffic stats are shown for the last month however any period of time can be set at the top of the page. A summary of your site usage is shown on the dashboard. The following is shown:
- Page views
- Pages per Visit
- Bounce Rate
- Average Time on Site
- New Visits
By default the visits metric is shown as a graph however this can be changed to show any of the above metrics.
The first 3 metrics are self-explanatory. Visits tells you exactly how many people visited your website on a given day. This is sometimes known as unique visits as it doesn’t matter how many times the visitor views your website that day, it is only counted as one visit.
Page views is the number of impressions generated on your website e.g. one page load equals one page view. Pages per visit is simply the average number of pages each visitor views on your website.
The bounce rate is a very important metric that you should pay attention to. It is the percentage of visitors who left your site after viewing one page. For example, people who visit your website through a search engine and then choose to click the back button rather than view other areas of your website. A high bounce rate generally indicates that a lot of your traffic do not find the information on your website relevant (this will happen when your content is of a poor quality or the traffic coming to your site is not targeted).
The average time visitors spend on your site will give you an idea of how long visitors are viewing your content before closing their browser or clicking the back button. New Visits tells you what percentage of your traffic is new to your site. If the New Visits percentage is low it means that a lot of your traffic is coming from returning visitors which is great – a sign they obviously enjoy your website (this is common with some types of websites such as forums).
If you want a quick and easy way of seeing what countries your visitors are logging in from, you simply need to view the map overlay. The map overlay report shows the total number of visits from each country and breaks the traffic from each country down further by showing you the metrics mentioned above (e.g. bounce rate, % new visits etc).
Another useful section in the home dashboard is the Traffic Sources Overview. It’s a quick and easy way of seeing the main sources of traffic to your website.
The Dashboard Menu
At the top left of your Analytics account you will see a dashboard menu. There are 5 different sections available:
- Traffic Sources
Added in 2009, the Intelligence section allows you to setup daily, weekly or monthly alerts that report any abnormal changes to your traffic. For example, it would alert you if your bounce rate suddenly jumped on a given day (perhaps highlighting an error on the page).
The Visitors section gives you a complete overview of the people who have visited your site. In addition to displaying the total number of visits, page views, bounce rate etc; it also tells you:
- The browser that visitors were viewing your site on
- The operating system they were using
- Their screen resolution
- Their main language.
- A breakdown of the different kind of mobile devices that were used to view your site is also shown.
If you want to know where your traffic is coming from, you need to review the Traffic Sources section. This is where you can find out more information about direct traffic and referring websites. Traffic from search engines is also detailed and the keywords and phrases that are generating search engine traffic for you.
The Content section shows you the areas of your website that are getting the most traffic. This quickly indicates the areas of your website that are performing well, which is useful for planning further content.
I have only touched upon some of the main features of Google Analytics in this article. If you understand your visitors and understand where your traffic is coming from, you’ll be in a great position to plan what you should do next to promote your website and make more money.
I strongly encourage you to use Analytics with every website you launch. Even if you only reference the statistics every now and then, it’s still worth installing as overtime it will show detailed reports of how your website has grown and why.
Switching between different websites in your Analytics accounts is also a breeze that drastically reduces the time you need to spend checking your stats. To find out more about Analytics, I recommend signing up and testing it out for a few weeks. You won’t be disappointed.