Your business website is your digital home base and many times it’s the first place a potential customer is introduced to your business.
Every time someone visits your website, they leave a digital footprint that contains helpful and valuable data. This data holds a wealth of information that can provide insight into the people who visit your website and help shape your marketing strategies.
Google Analytics is an ideal choice to access this data. Not only is it free, but it can also easily integrate within most websites. Every small business owner should take advantage of Google Analytics data to provide both your potential and existing customers with the best website experience possible. Plus, it’s a great way to ensure your digital marketing efforts are producing results.
As a business owner, clearly you want access to this type of information to help make marketing decisions, but it’s understandable if you’re feeling a bit apprehensive about getting started with Google Analytics.
To help you better understand what Google Analytics can do for your business, we sat down with our Vice President of Marketing Platforms, Justin Bell, to provide some insight into what exactly Google Analytics is and how it can benefit SMBs.
Google Analytics (GA) is one of the many tools available to help anyone who operates a website measure how people are discovering and engaging with that website, how well the website is performing and where the traffic is coming from.
Every time a website visitor views or interacts with a web page, GA collects data and then provides a reporting interface where the website owner can go and mine that data to gain insight into what’s working (and what’s not).
One step that many small business owners skip is defining the goals and purpose of their website. Before getting started, you need to be able to answer the question: “What is the purpose of my website in terms of driving my business?”
Here are some suggestions on what your website can do for your business:
Having a website is great (and recommended) for nearly all SMBs, but just putting a site up on the Internet is not enough. You need to understand the true purpose of your website. Even if you’re a business who only has local customers, having a website makes it easy for people to find your phone number or storefront address.
According to Justin, once you have your website goals defined, Google Analytics can help measure success. “Google Analytics gives you the ability to measure how well your website is performing in relation to your goals. By using this information, you can make informed decisions on how to optimize your website to create your desired outcome for visitors.”
Once you set up Google Analytics, you’re likely going to log in and quickly realize there’s a lot of information included in this platform. It offers multiple categories and types of metrics you can track, so Justin recommends you focus on the metrics related to your website goals.
Specifically, he recommends that small businesses focus on data related to two key areas: traffic and user engagement.
One of the most important things to understand about your website is how much traffic you’re getting over a set period of time and where that traffic is coming from. Each person coming to your website is called a visitor, and those visitors make up your traffic. Once you know how much traffic you have, you can break that down further and segment those visitors.
“The channels are particularly helpful as it tells you exactly where your visitors came from,” explains Justin. “For SMBs, this helps you figure out what marketing activities are working and which ones aren’t leading to traffic.”
The term “channels” refers to where your visitors came from. You can find this report under Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.
What you may see in your Google Analytics will vary based on the type of traffic coming to your site, but as an SMB you can expect to see:
In addition to channels, another helpful metric is the geographic location of your website visitors.
“Not all traffic is the same, so you want to understand if people visiting your site are the right people and if they’re potential customers,” says Justin. “For example, if you’re a local business, and you have a whole bunch of traffic coming from the other side of the country, those likely aren't the visitors that are going to actually support your business. Knowing this, you can create a strategy to target people in your geographic area that are important to your business and more likely to interact or engage with you.”
In short, understanding how much traffic and visitors you’re getting and where those visitors are coming from allows you to create a strategy for increasing your traffic and growing your business in the process.
As a business owner, it’s incredibly helpful to understand what people are doing on your website.
As Justin shares, “It’s not enough to know how many visits you’re getting—that’s only the tip of the iceberg. What you really want to know is what people are doing on your site. You want to be able to use that data to consistently improve your website and your overall marketing efforts.”
A good place to get started with understanding your user engagement is in the Audience section of your analytics. Your audience overview will provide helpful information on how long people are staying on your site, how many pages they visit and if they’re new or returning to your site.
For example, the data on new versus returning visitors helps you determine whether people have a purpose for coming back to your website more often. Ideally, you want people to visit your site regularly so they’re connected to your company and you can stay top-of-mind.
You should also consider how they’re accessing your website. Are they coming to the website from their phone, tablet or desktop computer? You can find this information by going to Audience > Mobile > Overview.
“More and more visitors are accessing websites on mobile devices, so checking out this data can help you ensure that you’re meeting the needs of visitors,” says Justin. “For example, if you have 75% of people visiting your site on a mobile device, but your site isn’t optimized for those devices, you can make the changes needed to make the site work better on mobile.”
Another helpful area to look at is your exit pages. Having insight into which page visitors most commonly leave the website matters because once they leave, they’re no longer engaging with your website. You can find this report at Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages.
What you want to understand is their motivation for leaving. Are they leaving before or after achieving one of your goals? Is there something happening on that page that results in them leaving?
If you see that they’re leaving before they achieve the desired goals, you may be able to pinpoint why they left your site.
Justin shed some light on why this critical part of Google Analytics is easily overlooked. “When you have this information, you can then objectively look at that page, and try to interpret and understand why they would exit. Perhaps that leads you to discover a technical problem. Maybe there's an image that's broken, or there is a formatting issue on a mobile device. Or it may be your visitors are confused by your content. Using this data, you can identify patterns and set out to fix it so you’re able to retain those visitors.”
A key challenge SMBs face is figuring out how to make the most of their website as a way to market their business and support their customers. Unfortunately, websites are no longer set-it-and-forget-it. Technology is evolving quickly, alongside the needs and expectations of your potential customers.
Google Analytics provides a way to make smart, strategic improvements to your website that support your goals for the site, and ideally, your overall business.
Justin provided a great example of why Google Analytics is a must-have tool for SMBs. “Let’s say you own a brick and mortar store. People come in and out of that store, they look at your products, maybe they buy, and maybe they don’t, but at the end of the day, all you have is the cash in your register to make a hypothesis from. That means you miss out on key data that provides insight into their behavior. You don’t know how they found your store, what they came to look at, and you definitely don’t know how to follow up with them.”
In the digital world, you have the capability to understand why everybody is coming to your website; what they’re looking at, whether they’re buying or not and if they come back multiple times. According to Justin, “The metrics provided by Google Analytics give SMBs the opportunity to optimize their customer experience through understanding what is and isn’t resonating with website visitors.”
Ultimately, Google Analytics provides a way to measure what is happening on your website and to determine if your website is truly working. From there, you can optimize the content and images to maximize your digital presence and online marketing efforts.
Google Analytics is a free tool and is industry-standard when it comes to tracking and organizing your website data.
Justin explained how the Web.com website builder works with Google Analytics. “Our Website Builder is fully compatible with Google Analytics. Instead of trying to create our own tool to rival GA we’ve made it as easy as possible for our customers to install it on their website.”
To get started, you’ll need to set up a free Google Analytics account and then connect it to the website builder. While that integration is easy, as a Web.com customer if you run into any challenges, you can contact our website coaches directly from the website builder interface.
As Justin says, “The website coaches are only a click or phone call away. They can guide you through the process of getting Google Analytics set up on your website via live chat or by phone.”
Having a website and not knowing anything about what it’s doing for you, your business or your visitors is like driving blind. Getting Google Analytics set up on your website takes a matter of minutes and is an essential tool for any small business that has a website.
Best of all, even if you don’t fully understand everything included in Google Analytics, you can get started with the basics today. Then, over time, you can learn more about how to use it and make the most of the data to improve your website.