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One of the most important lessons I learnt from my initial career in retail management was the value of real data analysis in relation to planning and making business decisions.
As an enthusiastic department store sales manager I would join fellow colleagues as the end-of-day sales reports would print off on one of those huge dot matrix printers. We would scan for specific departments under our management influence and see whether we had made that days sales plan and where we were in achieving that weeks overall target.
But the really useful information printed off the following morning – these reports contained sales & profit density information: essentially what each product range was generating in terms of sales and margins. We would then walk around each department reviewing the positioning of product on the sales floor compared with the margins individual products or entire ranges where giving us.
As the emphasis in large scale retail moved from a sales-focussed approach to maximising profit, these analytical skills became an increasingly essential part of being a successful retail manager, and this review and revise approach is a technique I have deployed and used in every business I have run over the years, as well as when working with clients.
Measuring your Business Success
As a business owner you’ll already have your own different ways of measuring the success of your business – number of enquiries, actual sales/income per month – end of year net profit, but looking at your online progress may not be.
Your website is the key platform from which to promote your business from – it’s therefore a logical next step to measure the results of your website.
Introducing Google Analytics (GA)
What is GA?
Google Analytics provides powerful digital analytics for anyone with a web presence, large or small. It’s one of the most powerful digital analytics solutions available – and it’s free for anyone to use. There is also a large amount of free resources available too e.g. custom dashboards you can import (more on those later!)
Setting up GA
I don’t want to spend the bulk of this article on the process of setting up Google Analytics for your website – if you don’t have access to or it isn’t setup already, get in touch and we’ll set this up for you to accelerate the process.
21 Google Analytics Fundamentals
The first step is to log into Google Analytics
Go to http://www.google.com/analytics/ and click ‘Access Google Analytics’ (top right hand side).
The following items are some of the key ‘reports’ or views that you should take a look at and explore. In future lessons we’ll introduce additional concepts and information that are also available.
This report gives you an overview of the traffic on your website.
Key information and options on this report include:
1. Change the date range, to identify and compare different time periods.
2. Change the time interval, to spot trends for specific days, or a gradual growth of traffic.
3. Visits: the number of visits to your site
4. Unique Visits: the number of unique visitors
5. Pageviews: the total number of pages viewed by website visitors
6. Pages / Visit: literally the number of pages per visitor.
7. Average Visit Duration: how long visitors spent on average on the site
8. Bounce Rate: the percentage of single page visits i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page without having interacted with the rest of the page.
9. New Visitors vs Returning Visitors
This report shows you the top pages accessed on your site.
10. Page: the name of the page
11. % Pageviews: the percentage of total pageviews for a specific page
Referrals – All traffic
This report shows you a list of referring websites that users followed a link to get to your site. Use this report over time to identify your key network partners and to develop others. Good quality links bring traffic to your site and also help establish your authority with search engines like Google.
12. Source: the specific website that linked to you.
13. Bounce Rate: the specific bounce rate for a specific referral site
14. Avg Visit Duration: how long visitors stayed on your site for a specific referral site
15. Keywords: the top keywords used by visitors to your site
16. % New Visits: the percentage of visitors that were new to your site that used a specific keyword
This report shows you the number of visitors as a graphic representation of the world.
17. This screen allows you to click on countries and drill down to different geographic levels.
This report shows you the top exit pages for your site. Use this to question the content on specific pages and what you can do to keep the visitor on the site. Target the high % exit pages, however sometimes a page might be just the natural exit page of your website.
18. Exits – the total number of exits by page.
19. % Exit – the percentage of exits to pageviews
Social Network Referrals
This report is accessed via the Acquisition menu, drilling down through Acquisition / Social / Network Referrals and shows you information about which social networking platforms link back to your site. The spikes you see in traffic in the diagram below are related to specific blog posts that were linked to and publicised across the different platforms. New content that is publicised = more traffic!
20. Visits – the number of actual visits for the social network specified
21. Avg Visit Duration – how long the social network visitor stayed on your site for. Compare and contrast the different networks.
Homework / Actions
- Login and explore your own analytics
- Change the time intervals and see if there are any trends. Maybe a certain day of the week shows more traffic to your site than others?
- How do returning visitors compare with new visitors? Why do you think this is the case?
- What are your top pages? Does your blog get much traffic?
- Who’s linking to you? Take a few moments to maybe reach out to your top 3 referral site owners (excluding the likes of Google and Social platforms!) and thank them for the link
- What are people searching for when they find you? How does this compare with what you think potential visitors SHOULD be finding you with?!
- Which top 3 countries do your visitors come from? Are there any surprises?
- If you have some social referral data – what is your top referrer, and was it the expected platform where you are most active?
…and finally, commit to regularly looking at your analytics – maybe once a week to get into the habit, and start questioning the results – let it help inform your decisions about what content you are producing and linking to.