Meet Patrick. Patrick is a visitor on your website, and you want to learn more about him.
By visiting your website, Patrick has shown that he is interested in your business or message. Now it is your turn, to convince him to do something for you: whether that’s making a purchase, signing up for your newsletter, or reading a blog post.
But how do you do that? Luckily, Google offers a free tool called Google Analytics, and with minimal setup, you can learn so much about your web visitors like Patrick.
However, even though over 30 million websites have Google Analytics installed, few know how to fully leverage it.
Of the 60 small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) we interviewed, over 50% complained that not having expertise in Google Analytics is their greatest barrier to using data to optimize digital marketing.
Although there are many classes and tutorials online, almost all of them focus only on the technical aspects of the tool, but fall short in tell you what business questions Google Analytics can help you answer. In other words, they only teach you how to use certain features, rather than which features are worth using to answer your specific business questions.
We at Humanlytics wanted to fill this knowledge gap. This post is the beginning of a blog series called Google Analytics Insights, which will (1) first showcase what fundamental business questions Google Analytics can help you answer, and (2) provide you with both detailed guides and tools to help you answer those questions. Let’s begin.
Before We Jump In: Google Analytics Basics
Before digging into the world of Patrick, let’s first take a step back and see what kind of information Google Analytics can provide us in the first place.
Google Analytics offers several basic metrics to quickly give you a sense of how users are engaging with your website. More specifically, these basic metrics can help you answer these questions:
- How many people are visiting my website? (total sessions and users)
- Are people coming back to my website? (# new vs returning users, sessions per user)
- Are people going beyond my home page and looking at other pages? (bounce rate)
- How long are people spending on my website on average? (average session duration)
- Overall, is my website accomplishing my business objective, whether it is selling my product, or collecting leads? (conversion rate)
Even though using these high-level metrics is a very quick and easy way of getting a general impression of your web presence, they are not detailed enough to help you understand who your visitor segments are, and how each segment interacts with your website. In order to fully understand your web presence and arrive at concrete action steps, you need to dig deeper into your website visitor data. This brings us to our first question about Patrick, i.e. about visitors to your website.
Question 1: Who is Patrick?
By “Patrick,” I am, of course, referring to all the visitors of your website.
More likely than not, you will have different types of visitors landing on your site, and each type may differ drastically in terms of age, gender, visitor behavior, etc.
Understanding your audience can help you more precisely target each demographic segment with your marketing channels, maximizing the quality and quantity of your reach while minimizing spending.
Furthermore, even though designing a beautiful and useful website is important (more on that later), not understanding the different user segments visiting your website means that you wouldn’t know what kind of website design they consider beautiful and useful.
Google Analytics not only can help you understand your customers via multiple pre-defined dimensions such as new vs old visitors, male vs female, and geographic information — it can also provide you with options to create your own customer segments that are relevant to your business (such as people who have visited your site over 3 times).
More specifically, Google Analytics can help you answer questions about your visitors such as:
- Which user group contributed most sessions to my website? (total sessions by user group)
- Which user group is more likely to continue exploring your site after arriving at the landing page? (bounce rate by user group)
- Which user group is most engaged and spending the most time on your site? (average session duration and average pages/session by user group)
- Which user group converted the most? (conversion rate by user group)
- Which user group spent the most money on your website? (revenue by user group, e-commerce only)
Question 2: Where did Patrick come from?
We already saw how different kinds of visitors may engage with your website differently. Likewise, it is useful to know how your visitors are arriving at your website.
Optimizing your marketing budget across the highest-performing advertising channels not only can bring you more visitors, but also can bring you higher quality visitors who are more likely to purchase your products and services.
Google Analytics can help you with such optimization by identifying which channels are driving the most traffic and engagement. More specifically, the questions it can help you answer include:
- Out of all the channels, which resulted in the most website visits? (channel as % of all sessions)
- Sessions coming through which channels have the best on-site experience? (bounce rate, average pageviews/session, average session duration by channel)
- Which channel resulted in the most conversions for purchases and/or lead generation? (conversion rate by channel)
Question 3: Which pages did Patrick visit, and how was his experience on those pages?
The previous two questions can help you attract more quality visitors onto your site. However, getting your customers on your website is merely the beginning of their journey — the key is to provide an amazing on-site experience so they either buy your product or engage with your content (e.g. sign up for your newsletter).
To do that, you need to optimize your actual website. According to a study referenced by Forbes (link here), 94% of customers will judge a website’s trustworthiness purely based on the website’s design. Therefore a well-designed website with a smooth on-site experience will greatly improve your business.
Google Analytics helps you optimize your website by showing you detailed visitor statistics broken down by each of your web pages. These data can help you identify your best and worst pages, and optimize them accordingly.
More specifically, Google Analytics can help you answer:
- Which few pages are most frequently the first page that a visitor sees when they land on my website? (% of sessions as landing page)
- Are visitors continuing their exploration on my website after landing on those pages? (bounce rate by page)
- On which web pages do visitors most frequently leave the website? (% of sessions as exit page, % exit)
- Which few pages do my visitors spend the most time on? (average time on page)
- How much does each page contribute to the ultimate conversion of customers? (page value, setup requirements)
- (Advanced) What parts or features of web pages do users engage with the most (event clicks)?
Question 4: What is Patrick’s behavior from page to page?
Web optimization is not only about designing great individual pages, but also smooth user experiences across pages that direct your customers toward your call to action, whether that’s making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter.
More specifically, Google Analytics can help you answer the following questions. Because the user behavior funnel is not related to any specific metrics, no metric recommendations will be included here:
- How are users flowing through my site? What is the most popular user journey?
- Where are users dropping off on each of the pathways?
- Are they dropping off where you want them to drop off?
Wrapping up: Ultimately, how is Patrick converting?
The ultimate goal of your website is to achieve some business objective such as making a sale or getting more newsletter signups.
All 4 previous questions demonstrate how Google analytics can help you analyze conversion via multiple dimensions, and answer key questions like:
- How is my website doing overall in converting to my business objective? (revenue, conversion rate)
- Which user group is driving the most conversion? (revenue and conversion by user group)
- Which channel is driving the most conversion for my business? (revenue and conversion rate by channel)
- Which page and page features have the highest value in driving conversion? (page value)
- What is the ideal user flow for converting visitors on my website? (user behavior flow)
Adding on top of those great functionalities, Google Analytics can also integrate with your e-commerce platforms to track conversions to paid customer.
Additional questions GA can help you answer with regard to your e-commerce performance include:
- Which product is selling the best? (revenue by product)
- What is the average order quantity for each purchase or for each product line? (avg. quantity by product)
- What are the purchasing behaviors of visitors of different user groups and channels? (revenue by product by channel/user groups)
With these functionalities, Google Analytics can really help you understand who your site visitors are, and how you can most effectively engage with them in all of their website interactions.
However, one of the major roadblocks to using these functionalities is that Google Analytics’ user interface is not entirely intuitive in explaining what kinds of business questions each module can answer. Sometimes you need to search across Google Analytics modules to correctly answer a single question.
Therefore, in the upcoming posts of this blog series, we will produce how-to guides to navigate you through the complex use cases of Google Analytics and help you answer the questions you want to answer.
In fact, with each blog post, we will also release relevant web tools that can help you answer these business questions from your data, making it easy to draw business insights and action checklists from your Google Analytics data.
To stay updated on future blog posts, please follow us on Medium at analytics-for-humans, or on Twitter and Facebook. If you have any questions about this article, please feel free to email me at email@example.com.
This blog is produced by Humanlytics. At Humanlytics, we are making tools to make Data Analytics easy, compelling, and valuable for all businesses. If you want to learn more about Humanlytics, please visit our site at humanlytics.co.