For most online marketers, Google Analytics is a godsend. It’s free, it’s simple, and it can tell you pretty much anything you wanted to know about your site. The only problem is, most users end up finding two or three nifty functions, then only using those functions for the remainder of their analytical needs. It’s certainly important to know, measure, and understand things like your total site traffic, organic traffic, and social traffic, but what else do you know about your customers? What other advantages are you tapping from Google Analytics?
While the functionality of Google Analytics is practically boundless (and still growing), I want to take the time to introduce seven useful functions you might have overlooked thus far:
You’ve probably already checked out the “Behavior” tab, where you can see how users react to different pages on your site, including how long it takes for them to bounce and where they generally enter. But the Behavior Flow section takes it to a new level. You might be intimidated by the visual component of the graph here, but if you break it down, it’s nothing that can’t be understood. In fact, it greatly assists you in visualizing the path the average user takes on your site. You can easily see which entry pages are most popular, where users go from there, and where you’re losing the most users. Use it as your guide to sculpt this “ideal” user path.
When you run reports in Analytics, you probably take a look at the last month’s figures, or if you’re very committed, the last week’s. But have you looked at longer trends? Analytics can peer back as far as you’ve had the code on your site, likely giving you several years’ worth of information. Take a look at your traffic patterns between then and now—do you notice any seasonal spikes that could be taken advantage of? Did you have a dip or a substantial gain during a certain year? Have your bounce rates or conversions changed significantly?
You might not think about your users’ locations, especially if you’re a national brand, but this information can be very helpful in identifying and possibly revising your target audience. Head to the Audience tab, and look at the geographic location of your users. You might find some rogue visitors from other countries that represent a possibility to expand, or you can drill down further and see what state most of your users are coming from. You can use this information to further optimize your site for those audience segments, or appeal to them in your offerings.
Hopefully, you’re already conducting experiments in your online marketing strategy. They’re your best tools in learning more and doing better for your target audiences. However, you probably haven’t scoped out Google’s own Experiments section, which you can find under the Behavior tab. Here, you can set up basic experiments around metrics and parameters you define, offering up to 10 different variations of a single page (or target) to compare different segments of traffic against. If you’re interested in learning more or if you get stuck, Google has a great guide for this section.
If you haven’t tapped into Goals already, now’s the time to get started. It’s in your best interest to set up a goal for every significant user action on your site, whether that’s getting to a certain page from a certain page, or filling out a specific conversion form. The more data you collect on these target instances of user behavior, the more ammunition you’ll have to adjust your strategy and optimize it further. You can set up Goals in the Admin tab, then view them in the Conversions tab. The process is relatively straightforward as long as you already have specific goals in mind.
Do you fumble around in Google Analytics every month to create just the right report for your campaign? If so, you haven’t found Shortcuts yet. It’s one of the main tabs on the left-hand side, but it’s often missed by search marketers. Here, you’ll be able to store your most commonly used reports and metrics, and recall them for future iterations.
Found under the Audience tab, you might have overlooked the potential of learning your users’ browser and technology preferences. The Technology and Mobile menus can give you a breakdown of exactly how users are accessing your site, giving you critical insight to ensure your site’s proper functionality and possibly come up with new strategies catering to the majority of your users. For example, if you find the majority of your users are finding your site on Internet Explorer, it might be worth spending more time optimizing for Bing.
Try these seven functions out for your own brand, and learn some new insights about your site and your customers. You don’t have to use them every week during your regular reports, but cycle them in occasionally to follow-up on one of your goals or see how your patterns are changing. Also, don’t be afraid to dig further into Google Analytics—the intuitive platform is friendly enough that you can probably make sense of new features right away, and if you don’t Google’s always there to help you out with their interactive guides. In the meantime, audit your inbound marketing strategy and see what you can do to improve your newfound metrics.