There's a tool all of us use and just about no one knows exactly what it does. I'm talking about Google Analytics. I've been using it for almost a decade now and I'm still discovering new features. And by “new” I mean features it's always had but I didn't know about.
So to help anyone else out who might be in my shoes I've made a list of useful metrics you can track in Google Analytics.
Understanding Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
I'll call these metrics Key Performance Indicators or KPIs because they're the closest we can get to useful numbers. And that leads us to the first lesson about Google Analytics:
Not every metric in Google Analytics is useful.
There are lots of “vanity metrics”. Numbers that seem important or impressive but don't necessarily help you. A classic example is the # of sessions on your site. You could buy a lot traffic which could double the # of sessions. And if it's low quality everyone might leave immediately and you won't double your revenue.
This doesn't mean that that metric isn't useful. You just have to understand your business and what matters to your business.
Use Business Goals to Select Metrics
Most websites have a purpose. Either to spread a message, get leads for a service (like building a website, design, marketing etc), sell a product, or something else.
No matter what type of business you run there are three things you can do to increase your effectiveness.
- Get more visitors (I'm assuming some convert into customers)
- Convert more visitors into customers
- Increase the $ from each customers
Each business is different and which one of the three you focus on will be totally different for each business.
KPIs for Getting More Visitors
If you're just starting out or if you're just getting into Google Analytics I'd focus on getting more visitors. You need that before you can do the rest. And it's also the easiest to measure.
You know how earlier I said that the # sessions you get on your website is a vanity metric? Well that depends on your business and what you're trying to do. If you're trying to spread a message the # Sessions can be a great metric.
To make sure you aren't dropping quality. I would combine this metric with other metrics like Pages / Session, Avg. Session Duration, & Bounce Rate.
If those numbers drop (for bounce rate increase) you probably did something that made your website less useful. And I'd look into that.
Another really good strategy is to see what content is working well. And then write more content in a similar vein. Maybe how-to articles are working well, maybe opinion pieces, maybe reviews, etc.
You could do the same thing with landing pages. They're the page someone hits when they enter your site. You can do the same time of content analysis above. Regular pages are just popular pages on your site. So it could be what someone reads once they're already on your site.
You can use either in your analysis. I tend to look at all pages because it includes popular pages within my site (which I want more of). If you are solely focusing on more traffic then try to create more successful landing pages.
One of my favorite reports is the acquisition channel. It lets you see where you visitors are coming from.
If you know that 80% of your visitors are coming from organic search, 18% from Facebook, and 2% from Twitter. You can tell where you should focus your time. Organic search (SEO) & Facebook. You can stop paying such close attention to Twitter. And spend that time elsewhere.
You can see that social is only driving 1.47%. That's pretty tiny. But makes sense because I spend very little time promoting myself on social.
So if I wanted to put effort into the social channel I'm pretty sure I can increase that. It might be worth a 3 month experiment where you do a ton of marketing on social and you see how much you can improve it.
While we're on this page look at direct traffic. That's the number of people that type your name into their browser. That's a good indicator of how well people remember your brand. With 1,000 visits a month I'm very happy with that. That many people remember my website without me doing any advertising? Awesome.
Now my site has been around for a few years and I have ~200 posts on this site so it's built up some credibility. But still; this is a really good indicator of your branding.
If you're trying to do work improving your brand I'd keep an eye on this number. It should increase over time.
It's also really good to watch if you do outdoor (billboards) or radio advertising since people can't click through.
KPIs for Converting More Visitors
So far I've made the assumption that some percentage of visitors will convert. But that's not necessarily true. Someone could enter to read a blog post and then leave.
So the first thing we have to do is make sure we have some sort of goal tracking set up.
Goal / Conversion Tracking
Goal tracking, or conversion tracking, is telling Google Analytics what we want people to do. And then it measures when & if people do it.
Now that we have goals. We can see conversion rates in our reports. Let's go back to the acquisition channels report and on the right side we select a goal.
Now we can get nerdier. And not only look at the amount of traffic but also look at how they're converting. You might see that your newsletters generate a tiny fraction of your traffic but I bet they have much higher conversion rates.
The typical conversion rate for an e-commerce site is 1%. Meaning 1/100 visitors will buy something.
Anything above that and you're doing great. If it's below that or if specific pages on your site have less than a 1% conversion rate I'd look into those pages. Make sure they are clear and the user can move onto the next step (read another post, contact you, add product to cart, etc)
New vs returning visitors is a good metric to use to make sure that people found good value last time they were on your site. If you have a low number of returning visitors there could be something wrong with your site experience.
Make sure you're giving people real value. Not just hinting at value that you never deliver.
The one downside with this metric is that there is no good baseline. It's so different site to site. A good idea is to make sure it never goes down.
Another metric that could be handy but is hard to get a baseline is the bounce rate. It's the percent of people that enter your site and leave without doing anything (other page views mostly).
Show related posts, or better yet mention other pages within your site and you should see this lower (which is good).
KPIs for Increasing Revenue Per Customer
Now being a big fan of e-commerce this is the area I love thinking about. Google Analytics can only measure this if you're running an e-commerce store.
Make sure you turn on e-commerce tracking under Admin -> View -> Ecommerce Settings -> Enable ECommerce.
Assuming you have a good implementation of Google Analytics it should already be sending this data to Google Analytics. If not you'll have to add additional code to your implementation. If you're in the WordPress world. I recommend Monster Insights.
You can see how your products are doing. If you have any under performers try bundling them with other products or changing up the key value proposition
Google Analytics is endless. There's dashboards you can create, custom reports, and you can pass in custom variables. You can do all of that down the line. For right now if you're new to Google Analytics these KPIs should get you started.