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Are you one of those people who added Google Analytics to your site months ago, but haven't been back to check your results since then? Or maybe you're one of those compulsive checkers who peeks at your Google Analytics data every hour or so without ever doing anything based on the results?
Just like dieting and exercising, Google Analytics is one of those things that most people implement with the best intentions, but fail to follow through on. In fact, Google Analytics can be an incredibly powerful tool in building and growing your website – but only if you take the time to act on the data trends it uncovers.
So let's look at a few of the key website metrics tracked within Google Analytics, as well as explore a few ways you can make changes to improve your site based on data from this program.
Site Usage Statistics
Initially, many people make the mistake of thinking that the number of visits is the most important statistic in this area. But while this number certainly is meaningful, it doesn't give you much information about your visitors. For example, would you rather have 1,000 monthly readers who are highly engaged and responsive, or 100,000 who bounce off your site within 15 seconds of landing on it?
Instead, the best metrics to focus on here are bounce rate and average time on site, as both of these statistics demonstrate reader engagement – a crucial element in increasing conversions.
The bounce rate refers to the number of single page visits to your site – aka, the number of people who land on your site and never proceed further into your content. If people aren't making it past your first page, chances are they aren't performing whatever action you want them to, whether it's subscribing to your email list, purchasing an item or contacting you for more information.
Similarly, average time on site gives you an idea of how much content people are consuming when they visit your website. Although it doesn't show exactly how many pages each visitor lands on, it will tell you – at a glance – if people are engaging with your content or clicking the back button as soon as they land on your site.
And although there's no hard and fast standard for what constitutes a good bounce rate or average time on site, the general consensus is that a 30-50% bounce rate and at least 3:00 minutes average time on site are good goals to strive for.
If you aren't meeting these standards, it's worth spending some time analyzing why your visitors are leaving so quickly. Consider the following questions:
- Based on my most popular traffic sources, what types of information are my visitors most likely to be looking for right away? Is this information immediately available on my site?
- Can I personalize my on-site experience based on how my visitor arrived to the site in order to make it appear more relevant right away?
- Is the value I provide to my visitors immediately apparent, or should I restructure the site to make my USP more obvious?
Understanding Traffic Sources
The next statistic you'll want to analyze is the breakdown of your referring traffic sources:
In this case, there's no standard that says you should have a certain percentage of your traffic from one source compared to another and, in fact, the ideal balance between direct traffic, referring sites and search engine visitors will vary based on your specific niche or industry.
However, there are still some corrective actions we can take to increase traffic, depending on where the majority of your traffic comes from. For example, if the bulk of your traffic comes from referring sites, click on the “Referring Sites” link in the summary in order to find out which sites send over the bulk of your traffic:
Since it's clear that these visitors represent some point of connection between you and the referring site (if you weren't somehow related in your visitor's minds, they wouldn't click through to your site!), consider ramping up your relationship with each referring site. Can you contact the owner and offer to write a guest post for his or her site? Can you buy advertising space on these sites or in their email newsletters? Anything you can do to get your name in front these audiences more frequently will help to generate additional traffic.
Alternatively, if the bulk of your traffic comes from the search engines, it's a good idea to take a look at the specific keywords that are sending you traffic. To do this, click on “View Full Report” under the “Keywords” section of your Traffic Sources dashboard:
On this screen, you'll be able to see the most commonly searched for terms that are sending people to your site, as well as how their bounce rates and average time on site. To act on these results, look for the keywords that are performing best and then add more content to your website that targets these keyword phrases. Or, if you see a cluster of several similar keywords, add more content about these keywords, as they obviously represent a topic that visitors to your site are interested in learning about.
Connecting with Content
One final data set within Google Analytics to consider are your top content pages – basically, the most viewed pages on your website. It's important to study this data for the same reason we looked into the best performing keyword referrals above. If people are connecting with certain pieces of content on your site better than others, then it makes sense to add more similar content in the future.
To find out which of your pages are most popular, navigate to the “Content” section of the Analytics dashboard, and then click on “Top Content”. This will pull up a list of the top 10 most visited pages on your site, as well as statistic about their performance.
The results you find in your Google Anaytics data may surprise you. People may react better to pages you didn't even think they'd notice, while your site may be found by keywords you never considered. That's why it's so important to analyze and react to the data you're able to generate about your visitors' behaviors. You never know what opportunities you're missing out on until you take the time to review your metrics.
So although these recommended action steps barely scratch the surface of what Google Analytics can tell you, even implementing these small changes can make a big different in terms of your traffic and conversions.