biz ladiesLife & Business

Biz Ladies: How to Use Google Analytics Data to Grow Your Business

by Stephanie

Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from marketing consultant and self-proclaimed analytics geek, Liz Lockard. On the daily, Liz helps entrepreneurs build more traffic to their websites and is also the creator of Google Analytics: The Missing Manual, a DIY Google Analytics course for small businesses. Today, Liz is sharing her expert advice on how to harness the power of Google Analytics to help your business grow. Thanks, Liz, for sharing your insights with us! — Stephanie

Read the full post after the jump . . .

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I get it. Google Analytics can be a little intimidating. There’s a LOT of foreign-looking data points in there and terms that just don’t make real-people sense.

If you’re not familiar with it, Google Analytics is the best free tool on the Internet for your business (yes, really!). By simply slapping a piece of code on your website, you can know all sorts of juicy things about who’s coming to your website from where and what they’re doing once they’re there.

Don’t have it set up yet? Check out my quick tutorial here.

So what sort of marketing insights can Google Analytics give you about your business? Quite a few, it turns out.

Meet Susan. She loves what she does — making personalized children’s wall decor for her clients. Her business is still growing, but she has a few regular customers. She’s had a website up for about a year now — just a simple WordPress site where she blogs about the latest trends in kid’s wall decor and shares children’s bedroom decorating tips and stories from happy clients. She’s tried several different tactics to try and get more of the right kind of people to her site (so they can hopefully order from her!), but she’s still not quite sure what’s working.

How can Google Analytics help Susan or you and your business? Let’s assume you and Susan already have it installed on your sites.

1. Where is my audience located?

This map is an example of the visual data you can get from Google Analytics. You can find out where your website visitors are located — from what country to what metropolitan area.

Want to see this for your site? Once inside Google Analytics, simply head to Reporting – Audience – Demographics – Location.

How could this help Susan? Let’s say Susan is evaluating the shipping options she might need to offer for her customized wall decor. If she sees that a lot of her traffic is coming from another country, she might want to think about what international shipping arrangements might be required to send her wall decor across country lines.

Maybe she’s also thinking of hosting a local mom meetup to get some of her tribe together. This location detail in Google Analytics can let her know if she has enough of a local online following for a meetup to make sense.

2. Do I need a mobile site?

Lots of people are talking about how we’re all moving to a mobile world and everyone is consuming media via mobile devices, so you better run out and spend thousands on a mobile-friendly site.

If you’re anything like me, you’d like to see if that actually holds true for *your* business before you shell out a pretty penny for some fancy responsive (read: mobile-friendly) design. Don’t get me wrong — if you’re starting from scratch or already redesigning your site, it’s a good idea. This advice is for those of us who already have an existing website and a limited budget.

For Susan, she’s not working with a lot of cash on hand but is feeling the pressure to address the mobile issue.

How can Susan use Google Analytics to help her decide if mobile design is something for which she should use what little budget she has?

She can head to Reporting – Audience – Mobile – Overview.

Susan will see a chart like this. If her mobile traffic is 10% of her total, we could probably say she could safely table the mobile design stress for the moment. If her mobile traffic is 70%, Susan should probably keep a better eye on how her site is experienced on mobile.

3. Where are people dropping off before they hit buy or sign up?

Each order Susan does is custom made, so interested prospects simply fill out her contact form to get in touch to discuss their project. But how well is that contact form converting for her? Meaning, is there a good percentage of people who visit her contact page and end up contacting her?

Susan can head to Reporting – Conversions – Goals – Goal Flow in Google Analytics to find this out.

If she has goals set up for her contact form or maybe for her email newsletter, she’ll be able to see a visual representation of how many people are visiting her contact or newsletter sign-up pages (and where they’re coming from) and how many are “dropping off” before they hit that submit button.

If Susan’s getting 95% of her contact page visitors to drop off, she might want to take a closer look at that form. Does it load properly in all the major browsers? Is she asking for too much information? Is there some sort of techie glitch happening with the page?

One small tweak on this important page could mean a lot more dollars in her bank account.

4. What else should I write about?

If you’re anything like Susan, you know that keeping up with the demands of a blog-posting schedule can be tough. At some point, it feels like you just run out of ideas!

Never fear, Google Analytics can help with that one, too :)

If Susan heads to Reporting – Content – Site Content – All Pages, she can see a straightforward chart (like the one below) of what pages are getting the most visitors.

How does this help her editorial calendar for her blog? Well, she can simply see which pages/posts are most popular and write more on those topics or even write an update or a Part 2 to those posts. Done and done!

5. What websites are sending me the most traffic?

If Susan’s tried even a little bit of marketing online, she probably has more than one website sending her traffic. How can she find out what’s working?

In Google Analytics, she can head to Traffic Sources – Sources – All Traffic to see a list of the websites sending her traffic along with how many visitors each site is sending.

Here, Susan can see which of her marketing efforts have actually sent her website some visitors. And, more importantly, she can also see how well that traffic is performing on her site. If she doesn’t have goals set up to measure how well each website traffic source is converting into customers and newsletter subscribers, she can use the bounce rate as a way to measure the quality of her traffic.

What’s a bounce rate? It’s the rate at which visitors “bounce” from your website before visiting a second page. The lower the rate, the better. A lower bounce rate is generally an indicator of better quality (meaning more interest in what you have to say!) traffic.

So if Susan is spending a lot of time guest writing for a blog in her niche, but she’s getting little to no visitors from that site, OR it’s sending traffic that has a bounce rate of 90%+, Susan might want to consider spending her time elsewhere. Marketing = improved!

What about You?

We’ve seen how Susan can start to use Google Analytics to help her small business. Now it’s your turn. Do you have Google Analytics set up for your site? What’s your favorite insight from it? Did you find this post helpful? Let us know in the comments!

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  • WOW! Thank you so much for this post. I will print it out and keep it at my fingertips. We are in the mist of a redesign that *might* include advertising so this is all very interesting. We are in conversations about responsive design, which has turned into a much bigger discussion than I ever imagined for a blog our size. Great advice in this post.

  • Great introduction! And very easy to understand even with a German Google Analytics :)
    I really hope I can make the most of the information gathered there…

    looking forward to more blog related BIZ Ladies posts ;)

  • LOVE THIS! Such a great article. I just sent this to a Client to convince them they need Google Analytics. Once you get a handle on the data it really provides clear direction on what is working in your media mix.

  • Thanks for sharing this info.! I love using google analytics but haven’t been using all the features. Thanks for explaining so clearly. As a visual person, the screen shots are super helpful :)

  • This was a really brilliant and well crafted guide. I cannot possibly understate how important the “Goals” section of google analytics is and how many people don’t use it. I’ll take it one step further- if you want to turn your website into something of a machine, you can start by sitemapping it for the people who visit (discovered via GA), and then testing how effective you were via the Goals section. I talk about this here: http://wordpress.tv/2013/01/15/amanda-blum-wtf-do-i-put-on-my-site/

    Sidenote: if you are using WordPress, there are multiple plugins that will help you add GA to your site and also v ur stats from the WP dashboard. (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/googleanalytics/) and (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/google-analytics-dashboard/)

    if you are using WordPress and can’t afford to institute responsive design on your website, there are plugins that will offer a very bland looking but usable mobile version of your site. (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-mobile-pack/) FYI, responsiveness is not actually “mobile” but rather make your website easier to read at any width- so desktop vs smaller desktop vs tablet vs large mobile vs small mobile. To see this in action, visit a newspaper site and make the window very large and then very small.

    Perhaps the only point not hit on here that is really important is that Google Analytics also offers you the ability to see what browsers your users view your website on. This may not seem like a big deal, because Safari, Chrome and Firefox users all see your site in mostly the same way. However, if for some reason, usually based on age, a large portion of your viewership uses Internet Explorer, then you’ll need to make some special accommodations in your design of your site. IE simply doesn’t use the same CSS as the other browsers and the site can look quite different. This is especially true in aging populations where the browser is very outdated (IE 7 or less).

  • Thank you for making this article so handy & accessible. I understand do much more about how to gain insight from Google Analytics. Love the Biz Ladies feature. I never miss it.

  • I have Google Analytics and this guide educated me. Now I just need to use the info Analytics is presenting me with and formulate a marketing plan. I seem to be a slow learner.

  • Thank you for ALL of the Biz Ladies posts and this one included. I come to this site because I LOVE design, art, and creativity and you conveniently make me learn things I’m not into but need to know.

    I’m working for my mom’s business, which is VoIP and hosted internet phones- totally unrelated to Design Sponge- but have gotten so much help on how to market her, write for her website and do SEO from these articles. Thanks!

    Thanks to Amanda for her helpful comments as well!

  • i’ve bookmarked this post…so much great info here…i want to learn to use google analytics more effectively than i have been!

  • This was very helpful! I have been putzing around in Google Analytics for a few months now and I think it’s time I start making myself some goals!

  • I have heard abt GA for a while & was intimidated to start the research. This was super helpful in summarizing its benefits especially with the example u used bc we do custom painting as well. And i want to thank Amanda for her explanation about wordpress & how it fit together. Much appreciated!

  • This is the greatest thing EVER. Thank you for breaking GA down into easily understandable situations!! It’s the best one that I’ve found online. Thank you!

  • So grateful for this post, I have google analytics for my site, but could barely look at it and most important udernstand it. It is such and important and relevant tool for the success of any internet based business. This post has helped me to see things clearer and made me realised how important it is, now I need to figure the goals out. Thanks so much. Marga

  • Margarita:

    set up small goals. Imagine how visitors should travel through your site- and really you need to narrow this down to different types of travelers. The goal is this: if your goal is for customers to go through 3 pages, if they fell off one page, could you make an assumption about what was wrong on that page based on the test? If you’re using the same basic goal for everyone who comes to your site, that’s not effective. If its merely to get people to your purchase page, that’s also not effective. Different visitors have different goals. For instance, some of those visitors, a success point is merely filling out a contact form. For some visitors (ie press) its finding the press page. So rather than asking visitors to make the successful jump from home page to “successful purchase” page, its more useful to see, once people are on my store page, and they go to cart, and then checkout, how many fall out, where?

  • Thanks so much for this post Liz. This is some of the best information I’ve read on the net about how to improve my site (and my business) by using Google Analytics as a tool to sharpen my marketing prowess! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m going to set up my Google Goals now… Warm wishes to you from Down Under!

  • very clear! i’ve not pursued *goals* so i will look into that, thank you! i have to put a good word in for ‘analytics pro’ for iphone – very nicely designed. the only thing more fun is ‘real time’ analytics. watch out, highly addictive stuff. x

  • One of the biggest mistakes bloggers make when using Google Analytics is to look at the data in hindsight and become overwhelmed by complexities. Instead you should focus only on the basics (i.e. Visitors) and use that information to test your assumptions.

    For example: if I post 3 times per week will I get more visitors than if I post once? Or, How many visitors did I get from a specific guest post? Then look at your Analytics to see the results. Keep it simple.

  • I always love Biz Ladies, but this was the most helpful post ever. There is so much on Google Analytics that I didn’t know how to access! Even the guys helping me with Google Adwords have never walked me through all this. Thank you so much!! Can we have a part 2 on how to set up goals?

  • Super helpful- I have been using Google Analytics to see where traffic is coming from, but that’s about it! I’m really going to try to start making the information work for me now that I know what to look for.

  • This post is totally helpful. I had Google analytics installed on my site but was a little overwhelmed by the amount of information it provided. Reading this made me want to explore. Thanks.

  • continuously i used to read smaller content which as well clear their motive, and that is also happening with
    this article which I am reading here.

  • Wow, this is by far the most helpful post about Google Analytics that I’ve read. Even though I only have a blog – and a pretty small one at that too – I now see how to use this data to help me grow my audience. And it comes at such a perfect time too, as I’ve been doing a lot of planning in terms of content too these days. So a huge thank you!

    Hope you’re having a great week!

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