What Basic Google Analytics Can Tell A Marketer, and Questions to Ask Next

Basic Google Analytics for marketers

What are basic Google Analytics tools for marketers?  “What marketing questions can website statistics like Google Analytics answer?  What should I do with this information?”  Here are nine key marketing questions, the Google Analytics stats to get a handle on them, and some followup questions to pose.

I’m ignoring metrics from Google Analytics that help with site design, like browser usage and connect speeds. We’re talking hard-core marketing here.

Google Analytics Definitions

In case you need a refresher before we start, here are links on basic definitions (clicks, visits, visitors, and page views), how to install Google Analytics tracking code, and an intro to Google Analytics.

Basic Google Analytics Insights

VISITORS

1.  Is traffic to my website growing, declining or stagnating? What are the trends?

Stats to focus on: Visits per period vs last period;  absolute unique visitors per period vs last
Questions to ask yourself: Are numbers of visits and unique visitors growing, steady or declining?  Do I see spikes when I run various campaigns and promotions?  Because of technical limitations in tracking, trends are more meaningful than absolute numbers.

2.  How useful are visitors finding the site? What are the trends?  In essence, are users engaged?

Stats to focus on: Average pageviews, time on site
Questions to ask yourself: Are pageviews increasing or decreasing?  What about visitor time on the site?  If there are changes from last period, why? Are high pages views and time on site due to visitor interest or their difficulties finding what they are looking for?

3. Who are my visitors? Where do they live?  Are they new visitors or returning?

Stats to focus on: Map overlay and  new vs returning
Questions to ask yourself: Where are my visitors concentrated geographically?  Does my copy need to be modified (language, jargon, pitches) to tailor the appeal?   Which group is growing faster, new or returning visitors?  Do I need to run new campaigns targeted to the slower group?  How should I reposition product and service offerings on web pages to encourage visitors to return?

Sorry, no individual visitor emails from Google Analytics. You marketers already have data on user actions from other sources:  email inquiries, mailing list signups, downloads if visitors register with an email, and of course purchases.  Work on a system to add these client and prospect emails to your database.

CONTENT

4.  What pages of my site are most useful to visitors?

Stats to focus on: Top content, content by title, bounce rate
Questions to ask yourself:What are the five most frequently visited pages? What pages should be top pages that aren’t?  What can I change to make those pages more useful, accessible or interesting?  How can I change the link structure to get visitors there? Which page has the highest bounce rate, and why?  What can I do with that page to keep people on the site, i.e., substantive content or offers or page redesign?

5.   Where do visitors first land, and how do they proceed through the site?

Stats to focus on: Top landing pages,  click patterns
Questions to ask yourself: What are my top entry pages? How many visitors land on the home page versus  other pages? Where is traffic coming from that is landing directly on internal pages, and how can I get more sites like that to link?  What is the click path from the home page — where do most visitors go, and where do I want them to go?

6.  From what pages do visitors exit the site?

Stat to focus on: Top exit pages
Questions to ask yourself: What are my top exit pages?  For other than Thank You landing pages after purchase, how can I change copy or links there to keep visitors engaged in the site? Are they clicking outbound links, and do I want them to?  (Maybe yes if these are Adsense ads or affiliate banners.)

TRAFFIC SOURCES

7.  What traffic sources — direct (typing a URL), referral, search engine or paid ads — are driving visits to my site?

Stat to focus on: Traffic Sources Overview percentages
Questions to ask yourself: What traffic sources are growing over last period, and why?  Is off-web promotion increasing direct traffic?  Are a growing number of related sites or blogs linking to mine?  Have I changed copy on pages, which is leading to better organic search engine traffic?  Are my paid ads campaigns working better than last period?

8.  What other websites are referring visitors to my site?

Stat to focus on: Referring sites
Questions to ask yourself: Where can I find sites similar to those referring traffic and request a link?  Which referrers are bringing visitors who stay on the site the longest?  View the most pages?  These may be the best sources of high-quality prospects.   Should I request that other referring site improve the link description to drive more traffic?  What sites should be referring but aren’t on the list?  Why, and what can I do to get them to add links?

9.  What keywords are driving traffic?

Stats to focus on: Keywords and phrases
Questions to ask yourself: What are the most popular keywords bringing visitors to my site in organic search?  Are those keywords in my site’s metatags?   What keywords are NOT driving traffic, and how can I tweak my site (with substantive copy, page redesign, or formatting)  to change that?  How can I modify my paid search ads, if any, to incorporate keywords that my customers are already using in organic search to find my site?

Now that you’ve got the basic Google Analytics tools mastered, what marketing insights do you glean regularly from your Google Analytics reports? Please share your expertise and experiences in a comment.

Reference Links on Basic Google Analytics:

Definitions of key stats:  clicks, visits, visitors, pageviews, and unique pageviews and the technical explanations of these definitions.

Table of web analytics software from Wikipedia

Intro to Google Analytics from the site itself.

How to add Google Analytics Tracking Code to your website for free

The Missing Google Analytics Manual (a post from the Development Seed blog filled with great links, organized by topic.)

An explanation of why stats from Google Analytics differ from server logs, by FutureNow.

What Google Analytics Metrics Should You Monitor?

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