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Measure Once – Cut Twice – Understanding Google Analytics

google analytics

Yes, I know, the title is backwards, right? —Or did you miss that?

The old adage should read, “Measure twice only cut once.” It refers to the practice of preparing and making sure you are you have all your ducks in a row before you fully commit. Sadly, I have forgotten that mantra all too often. I was building a new table a couple years ago, and I was rushing to get to a certain stage by the end of that day and totally shot myself in the foot. I thought I could skip a few steps to verify that my measurements were right, and as a result I cut the piece I needed too short – and to make matters worse, I didn’t have enough wood to re-cut. It was either run to the store and buy a new piece (ie. and waste a bunch of time), or it was delay the finish of the project.

Does that sound familiar to you? Do you fall into that habit all too often? More specifically, does it happen to you when it comes to your marketing?

I find that we often are in a hurry to “get something out” or meet a deadline that we can forget to go through vital steps before we do it. When it’s a flop or doesn’t yield the results we expect, we scratch our heads and wonder why. It can become a never ending cycle—unless you stop it.

The number one reason I see this happening is because we don’t understand the essential ingredients that cannot be skipped before we take that next step.

There are lots of tools out there to help with this, but I want to explore one that is so often misunderstood today – Google Analytics. Everyone seems to know about it and that it has important information contained in it, but it is viewed as “Raiders of the Ark-esque” when it comes to getting the data out of it.

Let me take a few moments to help you unpack it and offer you a resource that can help you to dig deeper and truly see it at work.

#Analytics is about taking your data and outside influences and building insights from all of it. – Fiona Roddis… http://tinyurl.com/lv9xf8r

So let’s launch in…

Understanding Google Analytics

If you boil it down, Google Analytics asks and gives you answers to 3 big questions about what is going on with your website:

  1. Who is visiting my site?
  2. Where did they come from?
  3. What did they find the most interesting when they were there?

That’s it in a nutshell. Those are the big 3 questions that are answered. They also form the cornerstone of any good marketing strategy – who, where, and what.

If we dig a little deeper into each question, we can gain even more insight into what is going on with your website.

When it comes to your Audience it’s important to know the locations of your visitors, as I’ve often seen analytics that reflect tons of visits from overseas to a local business – a definite mismatch there. I also want to know what percentage of my visitors are using a mobile device to access my website, as that determines important design elements. Lastly, I am interested in how long my visitors are staying around and whether they are visiting for the first time or are returning visitors.

Next, I take a dive into the the Acquisition section – where are my visitors coming from? My number one question I want to answer is who referred them. In other words, did they do a search or just type the url in directly. Or did they perhaps click on a link from another website, social media, or even an email I sent out. The final thing I want to know in this section is what terms are people using when doing a search and I am showing up in the results, and even more importantly which ones are they clicking on.

The last section tells us more about the Behavior of our visitors, or put another way, where are our visitors spending their time on my site? The number one question I want to answer is what content do my visitors visit the most when they come to my site? I am interested in what pages, as well as what blog posts, are valuable to my readers. As an added bonus, you can even see how long (on average) people are spending on those posts or pages. One little-known feature of the Behavior section is the fact that you can see what pages people are visiting first (ie. pages that are attracting visitors) as well as the pages that are the exit point for my visitors – in which case, I might want to look at how I might keep them engaged in clicking to another page before they leave. One bonus in this section the the behavior flow map, which gives you a great visual of the most popular paths people take through your site – I like to compare that to the path I designed initially, and see if I need to make tweaks based on that information.

So there you have it – a quick tour of Google Analytics!