2 December 2017

Google Analytics - Understanding the Basics to Maximize Your Business


We continue our revised course with Internet Income Lesson 36. Each new lesson of this course contains updated tips, real-world advice, and in-depth, step-by-step instructions on setting up your Internet-based business. Author George Little continues to use plain English to explain the ins and outs of starting and running a profitable online business in today’s ever-changing global market. Read the previous lesson 35 here.

In this lesson, you will learn about Google Analytics. Google Analytics, in a nutshell, is a measuring tool. It measures information about activity on your Website. You take that information and learn from it. Then, you take what you have learned and use it to improve your site for better performance. Better performance translates into a more profitable Website.

Setting Up Google Analytics

Old cities like Rome, Paris, London, and even New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, have modern public works systems engineered to be built over old systems. While they are modernizing their water, sewer, or transportation systems, they must keep their old ones running efficiently until the new systems are fully in place. It would be cleaner and simpler if they could just tear out the old ones first and then build the new, more modern systems. But, they can't do that. Likewise, Google, while not old compared to these old municipalities, is getting relatively old in Internet time. When you consider the rate of advancement in Internet technologies, as much modernization has been needed on the Internet in just the last couple of decades as has been needed in many of our old cities' public works systems over the last couple of centuries. Thus, like old cities, Google, although it provides very useful services, can be somewhat confusing to navigate at times. New stuff built over, and designed to work in conjunction with, old stuff, is often a recipe for awkwardness and confusion.

Nowhere is this awkwardness and confusion more apparent that when one attempts to set up Google Analytics, especially to work with multiple old Websites that are already using many Google services.

To use Google Analytics, you need to coordinate a few things. If you have more than one Google account, you must know which account encompasses the site on which you are now working. You must have the Website verified by Google, which involves downloading a verification page (provided to you by Google) and placing it in your site directory. You then must complete the verification process (which can be carried out in different ways depending upon your preference, the preferred method being to have an authorization code sent to you by text and then to type the authorization code when prompted. Then, you should ascertain from Google a longer authorization code that you must use in your site code (or input into WordPress using a plugin such as Yoast SEO). To get the full use of Analytics, you also need to sign up for the Google Search Console. A further complication is that the name of this Search Console service changed in 2015. It was formerly called Google Webmaster Tools.

To be an effective marketer, you should also use Google AdWords, which enables you to post Google paid ads. Via the Search Console, AdWords can be incorporated into your Analytics reports as well. To get the most value from your site, you should also consider running Google Ads on your site via Google AdSense. Thus, there are many things to sort out, but it is worth the trouble.

If you have more than one Google Account, it is easy to get the verification and authorization codes confused. It helps greatly to create a spreadsheet ahead of time that lists all your accounts and their verification and authorization codes and to double check that you have not gotten your codes crossed up with the wrong account. For example, if you have the verification code page from one Google account downloaded to a Website that is included in another Google account, Google services will not work properly, if at all, for that Webpage.

Google used to allow one person to create multiple accounts, but would not let you combine them. Now, Google aspires to one login for all your accounts. This can be another source of possible confusion if you have multiple accounts. Plus, Google also allows you to create additional users for an account. If you create or authorize additional users for accounts, you must keep that sorted out as well.

The Google Help Center can help you to sort all these issues out.

It's Worth The Trouble!

We will give you more specific guidance in setting up Google Analytics in the next lesson, but, before we do, we want you to see why it's worth all the trouble. Thus, we will first discuss what Google Analytics can do for you and then return to the questions that may arise in setting it up in our next lesson. In the meantime, if you have just one Website and just one Google account, then you may be able to set up Analytics without any difficulty just by following the prompts from analytics.google.com. (Remember to create a spreadsheet for the information and codes as you go!) If you do not have just one Website and one Google Account, just read through the section below for now and come back to it for review after your Google Analytics accounts are set up, sorted out, and configured.

The Value Of Google Analytics

Acquistion, Flow, & Conversion

We've often discussed the importance of attracting visitors to your Website (acquisition). We've discussed the importance of your content and how your content must flow, influencing your visitors' behavior while on your site. And, we have discussed in detail the importance of your visitors joining or purchasing once they arrive at your Website (conversion). Let's look at how Google Analytics helps us to measure (and improve) how efficiently we deal with these concerns.

1). Traffic to your Website (Acquisition)

Google Analytics allows you to see where your traffic comes from, i.e. the source of your traffic. It is important to know how visitors find your Website. Do they come from search engines? If so, is it the result of paid ads or organic listing? Do they come from social media sites, from other Websites, from email marketing, from other sources? The more realistic question is what percentage of your traffic comes from each of the source categories. Then, within each category, which particular sites (i.e. which search engines, which social media sites, which Websites, etc.) provide the best traffic?

When you log into analytics.google.com (and choose the proper account if you have more than one), you will see a link for "Acquisition" in the menu in the left-hand column. Under the Acquisition link is a list of links to various reports providing information about how people arrive at your Website.

The "Overview" link provides an overview, not only of acquisition, but also "behavior" and "conversion." We will address those subjects later. (The conversions column of the overview link will not display any information until you have configured your conversion goals.)

"Channels" gives you aggregate numbers of visitors for each of various categories of sources. Channels may include categories like organic search, direct traffic, paid search, and social media. This data can be helpful in revealing patterns that apply across many specific sites within each category. For example, if you are getting less traffic from social media than from other sources, you may want to brush up on your social media strategies. If you are getting less traffic from organic search, you may want to take steps to improve your search ranking in the major search engines. "Referrals" breaks it down to specific sites. Look over and orient yourself with the other reports in this submenu as well.

From these acquisition reports, you can learn which sites are referring traffic to your site, determine which sites are most important to your business. You can explore ways to encourage the sites that are sending you the most visitors. You can measure and evaluate your search engine optimization. You can also measure the results of your advertising budget and be guided in allocating your future advertising budget.

2). Flow (Behavior of the Visitors on Your Site)

Another link in the main menu on the left column of the Google Analytics dashboard is "Behavior." The Behavior reports reveal what people do once they arrive at your Website. For example, if they "bounce", that means they left the site rather quickly. Not a good outcome. If they stayed on your site, how long did they stay? What flow of information did they follow?

Recall our earlier discussions in this and the previous course encouraging you to create a path or paths of information that visitors could follow through your site. Ultimately, your desire is to direct the visitor to a conversion. That is, you want the visitor to make it to your conversion page. (Your conversion page is the one with the right balance of opportunity and motivation to prompt that visitor to take an action that will promote your business.)

This action could be to join a mailing list, start following your social media sites, or to go ahead and purchase from the goods or services you offer. The visitor's actions between arriving at your site and either leaving or making the conversion to a customer falls under the category of "behavior." These actions are revealed in the behavior reports.

You can answer many important questions from these reports. Which "landing pages" draw the most visitors? Which landing pages have the highest bounce rate (people left without going further)? Which landing pages attract visitors that make conversions. Which intermediary pages (information pages) have high exit rates and which intermediary pages lead to the most conversions?

From this information, you can ascertain the information on your site that attracts and keeps the most visitors. You can even drill down a bit to see specifically what content is most viewed. You can determine where visitors are most likely to leave your site. You can also detect patterns. For example, many visitors may navigate to one page on your site and then leave. This does not necessarily mean that high exit page is a bad page. It could be and the disappointment may be driving visitors out of the site. On the other hand, it may be a very valuable page to the visitors, one where they found the information they needed. Having found what they needed, they move on. Ascertaining whether the page has a high exit rate because of the former or the latter can be very helpful. If it is the latter case (the site had valuable information that satisfied the visitors' needs) then there are steps you can take on that page to ensure the visitor remembers the site as helpful. You would never know to examine the page carefully to make this analysis without the exit information provided by the behavior reports.

3). Conversion

As we've stated before, the first step is to define what you want the conversion to be. What is it that you want the visitor to do on your Website to make all the work you've done on your Website worthwhile? For most people, this conversion is defined as the visitor purchasing one of the goods or services you offer. Others break it down into steps, defining the conversion for a Website to be joining a mailing list, following you on social media, ordering a whitepaper, or filling out a request for additional information. Then, the actual sales take place in another venue or on another site. While most of us are individual entrepreneurs trying to make some extra money for our families with Internet Marketing, some site owners are involved in non-profit endeavors. The conversion goal for a non-profit might be to have their visitors sign up as volunteers to help with some community project. What your goals are depend on who you are and what you are trying to accomplish. You can't accomplish anything, however, unless you know what it is you want to accomplish. You must define your conversion goals with specificity.

While it is important not to confuse intermediary improvements of behavior of visitors with actual conversions, this information can also help you improve your site. The conversion reports provide you with additional information regarding behavior. For example, you can measure the amount of time a visitor spends on your site, the time duration on your site, and page screens per visit. While you are setting up your conversion goals, you can also set up intermediary goals that can be tracked by the conversion reports, such as whether a video was watched or whether certain content was downloaded.

Once you have determined what your goals are, both final conversions and intermediary success goals, you can configure them in Analytics and see the specific information that you need.

Google Analytics, in a nutshell, is a measuring tool. It measures information about activity on your Website. You take that information and learn from it. Then, you take what you have learned and use it to improve your site for better performance. Better performance translates into a more profitable Website. While Analytics can be frustrating to set up and configure, especially if you have a history different Google Accounts, users, and services, the value you receive from the information it can provide makes it well worth the trouble.

Google Analytics provides invaluable help in measuring and analyzing acquisition, behavior, and conversions for your Website. The acquisition reports reveal how visitor find and arrive at your site. The behavior reports reveal how people interact with your site. The conversion reports allow you to set goals and track whether those goals were met. All of these reports provide invaluable assistance in improving your Website to make it more profitable.

In our next lesson, we will take a detailed look at Google Analytics set up and configuration in the context of other Google Services. Read the next lesson: Preparing for GOOGLE ANALYTICS. And you may also browse through the Internet Income training Index.

By George Little, Panhandle On-Line, Inc. For more information on the Internet Income Course and other works and courses by George Little, see http://www.profitpropulsion.com

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