One of the coolest things about Internet marketing is the ability to get feedback on how your efforts are working.   By spending just a little time with web analytics tools, small business owners can dramatically improve the performance of their website. While there are many tools available, Google Analytics is certainly one of the most comprehensive tools to tell you who is coming to your website, where they are coming from and what they are looking at when they arrive. Unfortunately, the  Google Analytics report is so comprehensive that it can be overwhelming.

If you’re just starting out, it’s helpful to start with the basics. When you log in to your Google Analytics account, it defaults to showing you the last 30 days of data, but you can always look at longer or shorter time periods simply by editing the dates. The measures highlighted in teal  are the ones I tend to pay the most attention to.

Site Usage:

  • Visits Visits tracks the number of unique sessions on your website. A session means any user who comes to your site at least once, regardless of how many pages they visit. This number will be higher than unique visitors because it counts multiple sessions, as long as they occur at least 30 minutes apart.
  • Unique Visitors – Ideally, unique visitors is supposed to tell you how many different people visited your site. However, it’s not a perfect measure. Google sometimes counts people multiple times based on changing IP addresses and DNS records, so take it with a grain of salt.
  • Pageviews – The total number of pages loaded, regardless of whether they’re from new or returning visitors.
  • Pages/Visit – This indicates the average number of page views per visitor. Want to have visitors stick around and visit more pages? Improve your navigation and add relevant internal links between pages.
  • Bounce Rate – This shows how many people viewed only a single page on your site before leaving. In general, the lower your bounce rate, the better, but there are exceptions.  For more on this topic, check out Allison’s more detailed explanation of bounce rates.
  • Average Time on Site – This is the average length of time that a visitor spends on your site. How long do you want people to stay? Is the purpose of your site to move prospects through your sales funnel, direct them to a contact form or learn about your product or service? Different activities take longer then others, so focus less on this measure, and more on how many pages and which pages people visit.

Traffic Sources

People come to your website from variety of routes. Your traffic sources will give you clues as to which parts of your marketing are most effective:

  • Search Traffic – This is the traffic that comes to your website from one of the major search engines. It can be comprised of traffic from both organic and paid searches.
  • Referral Traffic – This is traffic which comes from a link on another website. Social media is popular because of its ability to drive referral traffic, but it’s not the only source of referral traffic. Links to your site from directories, linked blog posts and other sources will fall into this category.
  • Direct Traffic – When you have built your brand, people will come looking for you. This number reflects the the visitors who arrive at your site by typing your web address into their browser bar.
  • Campaign Traffic – This  allows you to measure the effectiveness of specific promotional campaigns such as AdWords, email or other promotions. Identifying specific pages or paths you can track how effective a specific message or medium is.

This only scratches the surface of the volumes of data available. Rather than spend time trying to manage all the different metrics, pick a few. Then create a plan to improve your performance and measure again. Remember, leads and sales are always the most important metric.