Making Google Analytics Smarter
Google Analytics is one of the most useful tools around for learning about how your website users are interacting with your site. If you’ve ever struggled with how best to use Analytics data to strengthen your online presence, you’re not alone! The following are things that I often suggest my clients focus on in order to avoid getting lost in a sea of data and make the Analytics data (and your website) work for you.
Give the correct people access to Analytics – first things first: you want to make sure that everyone who would benefit from viewing your website’s Google Analytics data has access to it. There are the obvious people who will need access, like your organization’s website manager, but you’ll also want to include people like members of your Communications team, possibly your Executive Director or Chief Executive Officer, and your Director of Programs. Adding users in Analytics is easy - here's how.
Set up Goals in Analytics – once you’ve established specific goals for your website, Google Analytics can help you track progress towards them. All that’s required is to set up the goals in Analytics and review the resulting data regularly. With this information as a basis, you can make any necessary changes to your website to keep you on track to meet your goals.
Set up Enhanced Link Attribution – Google rolled out this addition to In-Page Analytics in 2013. It’s an important improvement because it provides much more detailed in-page information about user behavior than was previously available. By tagging different content on a page, you can access Analytics data broken down by individual links, buttons and icons, even if they take you to the same place. This is hugely helpful in figuring out how users are responding to the design of your site. For example, is an individual link more effective at getting people to a specific webpage or are people using a button more to get there?
Here are Google's instructions for setting up Enhanced Link Attribution.
Enable Demographic and Interest Reporting – I highly recommend enabling Analytics’ Demographic and Interest Reports, which will give you helpful information about the age, gender and interests of your site’s users. It’s simple to do (here are instructions) and the information can help you see user behavior patterns and to refine your site to better match the behavior of your target audience.
Connect Google Adwords and Analtyics – if you have a Google Adwords account, it’s important to make sure that it’s linked to your Google Analytics account so that you can track the impact of your Adwords campaigns on your site’s traffic. Here’s how to link the two accounts.
Configure Site Search – if you have a search box on your website, enabling Site Search within Analytics will help you see how the search function is being used. For example, how frequently is it being used and by whom? Are users satisfied with the search results?
It can also help you see if any changes need to be made in order to make information on the site more accessible. If many users are searching for the same piece of information, it’s probably an indicator that the information needs to be made easier to find. There’s more info here about configuring Site Search.
Connect Analytics with Google Webmaster Tools – connecting Google Webmaster Tools with Google Analytics gives you another powerful tool for learning things like how Google is indexing your site, how the site is showing up in search engine results, as well as providing hints and some direct ways of impacting your site in terms of SEO.
Add Event Tracking for Google Analytics – adding Event Tracking to your Analytics toolbox will give you even better access to data about your users’ behavior within a specific webpage. It can tell you things like how many downloads of a particular document occur, how many times a video on your site was viewed or how many times users clicked on a link to an external website. You’ll most likely want to have a developer set this up, but here are some basic instructions, if you want to have a look.
Enabling the features mentioned above, reviewing the data regularly and being ready to make changes to your site as needed will take you a long way toward understanding your users better and creating a site that works for them, as well as one that meets your goals.