Google Analytics Guide: Improving Your Web Traffic with Data

The Value of Information

When it comes to the web, traffic is king. Millions of dollars are invested in getting traffic to websites, in the hopes that those websites will then make even more millions of dollars. But how do we know if our strategies are working? If a website starts getting more traffic, is it because of a particularly strong advertising campaign, or is it simply due to a temporary rise in interest? For that matter, how do we know how much traffic we're getting in the first place?

By using analytics software, we can determine not only how people are finding our sites, but what they do and how long they stay. The extra information makes it easier for us to both attract customers and better satisfy their needs.

Choosing Google Analytics

There are a number of options for analyzing your web traffic, but Google Analytics has a lot to recommend it. For starters, it's free (Google wants you to optimize your site and make better use of their other servies, like AdWords and AdSense), yet it does pretty much everything you're likely to want.

Who Are You, and Where Do You Come From?

The first thing we want to know about our visitors is simple: how many of them are there? If our website has no traffic, there's no point in trying to analyze it any further; we first need to work on providing more content and improving our SEO to get some visitors! Once people are coming, however, we want to know how they're finding us.

Sometimes we'll be getting traffic from different advertising campaigns we're running, in which case we'll want to analyze them to find out which are most effective. On the other hand, sometimes we'll find we're now ranking for a keyword we weren't previously targeting, and we'll want to do some SEO for that keyword to increase the amount of traffic coming in.

What Do You Want. and Did You Find It?

Once a visitor reaches our website, we want to know if they found what they were looking for. Even if we don't make any money off of a visit, if the user finds out site useful they're obviously more likely to come back! By tying factors such as what users were searching for to how long they stayed on the site, where they arrived, and what the last page was that they loaded, we can make an educated guess as to whether we're meeting the user's needs. If the user didn't find what he or she was looking for, either because we don't have it or because they just ended up on the wrong part of the site, we can make changes to increase usability.

You Got ‘Em, But Can You Keep ‘Em?

Once you've managed to attract visitors, can you get them to come back? It's always easier, after all, to retain an existing customer than to attract a new one! By tracking what percentage of your visitors have been to your site before, you can get an idea of how well they like your content and whether your site needs to be improved. Seeing how often they return and how many pages they view on each visit will also give you an idea of your visitors' needs.

Improving Your Site With Analytics

Once you've collected and analyzed your data, it's important to act on it. If you find that your site is too slow, for example, speed it up by removing extra javascript (or plug-ins, if you're using WordPress). If people are finding your site with a search term that you don't actually talk about, add a page about that term. If people keep leaving from a particular page of your site, figure out why – are they finding what they need (in which case you just want to make sure they come back next time they have a question) or are they giving up? Is your site difficult to navigate, or just ugly? Analyzing the information can help you improve your site, making it work better for both you and your visitors.

Adapt to Your Viewers

Not all of your users are the same; don't treat them as if they are! You can gather information on how users are accessing your site – type of device, browser, etc. Optimize your page so that it will look good on every device, but use Analytics to find out what type of systems the majority of your users are running (and make sure it looks awesome on that platform, of course!) as well as to find platforms you might not have thought to test for. It might seem like a pain to test for browsers that only have a small share of the market (and it is) but isn't it worth it to ensure that everyone can use your site?