Google Analytics 101

BY: ON MONDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2014

For small business owners, venturing into the marketing and data analysis parts of e-commerce can be incredibly intimidating. Maybe you signed up for Google Analytics, took a look around, and left the site utterly confused. Maybe you've forgone using it at all. Fear not! You can learn to understand data and even improve your site based on what you find.

Take the Plunge

If you aren't sold on the need for analytics, maybe it’s because you aren't sure what the data can do for you. Google Analytics records all of your customer's interactions with your website and your ads on various devices, so you can see how customers find your company and everything they do right up through making a purchase.

You'll see much more than just which of your blog posts gets shared the most. You can see what a customer did on your website right before they decided to buy, find out which ad brought them to you, and how much time they spent browsing your site. Before you can gain insight from data, you need to collect it. There's no time like the present to sign up and get started.

Customize and Organize

After signing up, you'll need to add your site to Google Analytics by creating a "Property" within your account using your website's URL. This will create a unique tracking code you’ll copy to your site.

Once you've installed your tracking code, the data collecting begins. If you have more than one site of your own to track, continue creating individual properties for each one under your account.

Check whether your code is working by clicking Admin at the top of Google Analytics. Then choose a property from the drop down menu, click Tracking Info, then Tracking Code. If it's working, the status will read "Tracking Installed."

Next, go into Google Analytics to customize your dashboard, so you can see relevant data without irrelevant stuff crowding you. The data that's most important to you will depend on your industry and your concerns. You can create your own widgets and segments or choose from a gallery of pre-made segments. You can also click the "Add to Dashboard" link above many of the metrics accessible from the left side panel.

Make Sense of it All

What data do you need to see in your dashboard? Start with the basics, such as total site visits, new visitors, and bounce rate. Next, think about the questions you want answered about your website. For example, how long do visitors stay on my site? You could create a Timeline widget for your Dashboard with two metrics: Bounce Rate and Time on Page.

Alternatively, you can choose from Google's crowd-sourced Solutions Gallery. It includes Google's own very useful New Google Analytics User Starter Bundle. Click the solution title to see more information. If you like it, click the Import button. Select a view. Deselect any options you don't want included in the bundle, then click Create. You'll find imported dashboards in your dashboard list and imported segments in the Add a Segment drop down menu.

Leverage Your Data for Better Strategy

Take your website data one step further by using Google Analytics in DataHero. When you export your Analytics into a spreadsheet and load it into DataHero, you can compare and analyze your data on a deeper level, complete with easy-to-create graphic representations to help you visualize the important numbers. For example, in just a few clicks, you can use DataHero to create a bar graph representing the traffic volume for each of your blog post categories, so you can see which topics generate the most interest. Use these insights to plan your content marketing strategy for 2015!

Despite the complicated look of Google Analytics, small business owners can master it. The data you'll unlock will help you gain a deeper understanding of your customers and potential customers. Its value is even further enhanced when you look at groups of metrics to answer your questions about your customers' behavior. Don't be afraid to use powerful tools like Google Analytics and DataHero to improve your small biz.

Image via Shutterstock

About the Author

Diana Doherty
Diana Doherty is a writer specializing in a range of topics including: technology, gadgets, business applications, social media, military family life, and literature. She earned her bachelor's degree in English from SUNY Oswego.
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