Google Analytics is used by 50 million websites, but it’s not one of its parent company’s better-known products. It provides unprecedented insight into the public, without their even realising it. It’s unintuitive to use, and yet its recommendations can be incredibly simple. Whichever way you look at it, Google Analytics represents something of a paradox.
Google’s free analytics service tracks and examines website traffic. It’s installed by inserting embedded tracking code snippets into each page of a website’s HTML. These lines of code record each user’s demographics – their location, which device they’re browsing the internet on, any known interests, and so on. Tracking snippets also observe the buttons they click, how many seconds or minutes they remain on each page, etc. If the same individual returns six hours later, Google Analytics will know. It’s even able to disregard internal traffic or specific IP addresses, so your IT manager’s endless page editing won’t be recorded as customer activity.
Google Analytics matters for several reasons:
- It indicates who (and where) your prospective customers are. Google Analytics’ user acquisition data identifies which groups are interested in your company’s products and services, enabling you to target them more accurately.
- It highlights where site traffic is being acquired from. One social media platform or ad campaign often dominates in terms of click-throughs. That might suggest more investment is needed elsewhere, to avoid over-reliance on a single traffic driver.
- It shows what people are interested in. If one page of your website receives the most visits, that could indicate a key area for future growth. Alternatively, it may be necessary to raise the profile of other services/webpages/promotions/related sites.
- It demonstrates where visitors abandon your site. A high level of departures on the Costs page might indicate your prices are too high, and rapid homepage abandonment may suggest the site loads too slowly or isn’t conveying relevant messages.
- It can be used to improve SEO. Search engine optimisation metrics include the total time spent on a website, how quickly page content loads, and so forth. Google Analytics is superb for detecting areas where page rankings could be enhanced.
Reporting statistics may help to improve the website’s design and content, its overall functionality, or even how your company promotes itself. Advertising, marketing, and PR often involve throwing money at the wall, to see what sticks. If half your site traffic comes from links in third-party tweets, building a following among the Twitterati may be a priority. Revealed patterns of behaviour might have ramifications for how your firm portrays and promotes itself going forwards.
Indeed, Google Analytics’ greatest strength is its forensic analysis of seemingly disparate findings. The Segments function enables you to compare visits from a search engine with visits from a social media site. Equally, trends in traffic volumes or behaviours might be revealed by comparing last month’s figures to the same period last year. It’s even possible to set up alerts for unexpected events like traffic spikes, potentially identifying broken web links or a new recommendation from a high-profile source.