If you care about the success of your website (who doesn’t?), you need to keep track of metrics related to your web traffic and audience.
If you care about the success of your website (who doesn't?), you need to keep track of metrics related to your web traffic and audience. After all, how can you cater to the needs and requirements of your audience if you do not fully know about them?
As such, it becomes necessary to gather analytics and metrics data about your visitors, and model your website accordingly. There are various tools that can help you accomplish this, both free and premium. In fact, any web host worth its salt provides stats and analytics tools in the control panel itself.
However, one such highly popular tool is Google Analytics, offered for free (premium version available too) by the search engine giant Google! Considering the fact that Google happens to be the apex source of traffic for virtually every website on the internet, using a service provided by Google to measure the performance of your website is surely a very good idea.
I will cover some very basic how-to info, just to help you get started quickly. If you need further information, perhaps the Google Analytics documentation will help you.
There are a zillion things that you can accomplish with Google Analytics. However. for the majority of users, it makes sense to employ this service for a specific set of goals, in order to get the most of it. Here is what I think you should consider using Google Analytics for:
Probably the biggest forte of Google Analytics is its real-time reporting and website metrics. You can analyze your traffic and conversion rates by means of graphs and statistics. Real-time reports can be used to gain an in-depth overview of your website's performance.
If you are running an eCommerce website, you can use Google Analytics to locate your best-selling products and promotions that are working well for you. You can set up goals to distinguish between clicks and sales.
What good are analytics if they do not enable you to better comprehend the performance of your website? Google Analytics helps you understand your website's performance: you can measure the speed of your website, as well as use in-page analytics and event tracking to see how users interact with your website. Even more, you can use site-search reporting to better understand your conversion rates.
Considering the fact that this is the age of mobile apps, Google Analytics does offer a special set of features meant solely for mobile devices. Apart from integration with Google Play, it also comes with app-specific metrics and crash and exception reporting. Plus, there are also special SDKs for Android and iOS.
You can also use Google Analytics to gather specialized information about how your users visit your website, which device and/or browser is being used, and how they interact with your site. Also, Google Analytics focuses on traffic sources, including the clicks and visits generated via social media platforms.
Among other things, Google Analytics offers API and filters for data collection and management. Plus, it also integrates well with other Google services and products such as AdSense, AdWords, Wildfire and Google+.
Using Google Analytics is pretty straightforward, especially with the help of videos and reference articles linked above. Here, I will point out certain Must-Do tasks that you should perform when using Google Analytics.
First up, if you haven't done so already, connect your Analytics account to Google Webmaster Tools. If you are wondering what the latter might be, I wrote about Webmaster Tools some time back for Market Blog.
Next, enable Google Site Speed and Site Search via the Analytics Dashboard. Once again, a slow website or one with broken links is not liked by anyone, so you need to keep an eye on your website's overall speed performance. Google Analytics makes your life easier by helping you accomplish the same.
Another feature of Google Analytics that is often overlooked is Multi-Channel Funnels. Since this is a unique feature in its own right, I will try to explain it here itself, rather than linking to the documentation.
In the absence of Multi-Channel Funnels, how would you track a visit? You will obviously consider the source that the user came from (say, RSS feed or email newsletter), and eventually converted into a buyer. However, calculations are much trickier than this.
Say, you are running a blog, and you also publish eBooks on your site. Now, I see a tweet of yours on Twitter and visit your blog. I like what I see and subscribe to your content (let us say, RSS feed). Now, you release an eBook two months later, and I get to know about it via the RSS feed, visit your website again, and possibly purchase the eBook.
You see what has just happened here? In the absence of Multi-Channel Funnels, your RSS feed will get the sole credit for this sale of eBook, whereas in reality, it was your tweet that did the hard-work -- Google Analytics can be used to understand such funneling of traffic and visitors. This will obviously help you plan your website promotions in a better manner (for instance, in this example, you will understand the role played by Twitter, which might otherwise be overlooked).
If used properly, Google Analytics can serve as a very handy tool that can help you promote your website to the maximum extent possible.
What do you think of Google Analytics? Share your thoughts with us using the comments below!
We have also published introduction guides to Google's Webmaster Tools and Pagespeed Insights. These apps, accompanied by Google Analytics, are essential to maintaining a successful website.