Google Analytics: Knowing What the Heck This Stuff Means!Wednesday, May 25, 2011 12:03
Understanding the numbers in Google Analytics and connecting them to a business strategy is a job. It’s not something you can force into an excel document or prove the value in a few short minutes or even in a few short months. Data takes time, patterns come and go but one thing is for sure, you need to have some deep understanding of your analytic data.
Last week I had a wonderful client of mine send me an email asking for my help with something. This is what he wrote:
‘Site visits jumped 16%, page views only 12%, Average # of pages and time spent dropped. Tells me that wrong people getting directed to website or wrong content? What can you tell me and how do I figure that out?’
If anyone can answer this in less than an hour without looking at a client’s actual data collected, do yourself a favor and fire them. Seriously. I’ve worked for people and have had clients who have received a knock off answer without any regard to WHY but based on a gut instinct and ‘experience’. I’ve been doing this for 10 years and yes of course I had an idea of maybe why, but I ended diving more into a solution as to why when I took time to review.
Remember, give a client a short answer and look into things before giving them the long overview. It’s important and a client deserves this, as much as you deserve to take time in every business strategy.
Using this as an example, I am going to take you through my thought process and how I was able to help this client with ONLY looking at their analytics and website while not asking them a bunch of questions.
*Note that I am referring to the ‘New Style’ of analytics not the old or original. *Also note that since this is a client area I can’t simply show you screen shots, but I will gather some for a follow up post using LIV interactive.
- Site Visits + 16%
- Reviewed New VS Returning users, with a higher number of new then returning users as the average.
- Remember that new users, their first visit, time spent will depend all on your user experience (and great content). If you have a great user experience they will stay longer on your site than your returning, BUT if you already know you need to change up the website or you have a poor user experience they could spend much less time on your website than average.
- With new visits, you need to review content pages because people generally become more educated with your brand and website on their first visit.
- One key area we looked at here was where the new visits came from. If the referrer was Google (organic) more time is generally spent because they were already looking for something similar to your content. *Note that this could also increase your bounce rate also.
- Page Views + 12%
- Now we want to dive deeper into the page views, and look at what specific pages people were viewing.
- In the content>site content>pages>explorer – you can view the pages that were viewed the most. What I do is copy and paste some of the pages in, those generated or within the top 25. I’ll find, as I did in this case there were 3 separate paths/directories that when I pasted into my browser I got an error that the page was not found. It is no surprise that the time spent was 00:00:01 and had high numbers of visits. *Remember Google uses averages, where the low end here will effect the higher end.
- Now click on the Navigation Summary tab. This will tell you where people moved from page to page, which again is very important. This will tell you, Did I do good and people navigated how I wanted them too? OR I need improvement in user flow.
- Average Pages -
- The average number of pages decreased, and this would have been tied to three factors: New vs. Returning users, Content (in this case 3 paths were not found when I pasted them in) and general ‘What was the content on? How often were you posting new content to the website?’
- Here we found that the average number of pages decreased because we had more returning visitors to the pages in question, where returning users generally know more about the company and website and are viewing only what is new. So it makes sense that the average pages went down, and it is all good that it did.
- Time Spent -
- Time spent does again have everything to do with what I’ve mentioned above. Particular in Page Views we are able to see where time spent was and why it decreased. In this case with 3 directories that had 00:00:01 time spent and the average page number was 1.25 with a high ratio of people visiting the pages, this drops your time spent quite a bit. What we did find is that on the pages we expected to have a higher number and with an average stat we also expected so again this fact is ok.
- Conclusion – Numbers provided are generally an average, which means that they don’t always show you a success factor up front. Understanding that people who spent no time on the website will take away an average time of those who do is an important piece to remember. My best advise is to always work on your Organic Search as much as possible as the numbers within this will most likely be your largest. ALWAYS ask someone like myself who has years of experience reading analytics and forming them into a business strategy for some help. It’s amazing what a couple of hours a month of consultations to help understand the numbers can do for your business.