Top 5 tips for a small business using Google Analytics

Google Analytics for small businessGoogle Analytics is the FREE and very handy tool from Google.  It is really easy-to-use, powerful and in a short time allows you to extract great intelligence from the traffic hitting your site.  You can then change things in your marketing to get more traffic and of a higher quality (which often results in increased sales, and profit.)

As we provide general IT support and IT consulting to small businesses in London (those with 1-50 staff), we get asked a lot of varied questions (technology is, after all, a very big field.)  Website design, maintenance, online marketing for small businesses in London – and how to measure its effectiveness – is one area.

So here are our top 5 tips for small businesses using Google Analytics.

1) Install Google Analytics in your site

A pretty obvious first one, but if you don’t have the code embedded in your site you can’t capture the data Google Analytics needs to present juicy information to you.  And, you lose any past data – Google cannot go back and analyse traffic from before you inserted the tracking code on all your web pages.

We recommend all small business owners ensure they have Google Analytics installed in their site.  It is really, really simple.

Go here and create your Google Analytics account.

Then grab the code Google gives you in your account, and simply have it inserted into the HTML code of each web page.  If you don’t know how to do this, ask your web master to take care of this step.

2) Install the new Social Plug-in Tracking Tool

Google Analytics social engagementIf you haven’t caught on yet – social is big!!  And it is important for small business.

Just released in the last few days, this cool plug-in to Google Analytics will help you see the impact of the social media movement on your site.  As this Mashable article on “Google Analytics & Webmaster Tools Now Track the Impact of Tweets, Likes & +1s explains:

“The tool compares the impact of different types of social actions on your website. It not only tracks +1s, but it also tracks Twitter tweets, Facebook Likes, Facebook Sends and other social actions.

Social Plugin Tracking generates three reports: Social Engagement, Social Actions and Social Pages. Social Engagement tracks behavior changes (time on site, pageviews, bounce rate, etc.) for visits from social plugins. Social Actions tracks the number of social actions users take on your site, and Social Pages compares your pages on the number of social actions they are receiving.

These tools give website owners a great deal more insight into the impact of social on their websites. Tracking social just makes sense, especially as social sites drive more of the web’s traffic. We also suspect that Google also wants to encourage more sites to adopt the +1 Button. Raw data showing that +1s increase web traffic is the most convincing thing Google can provide.”

 

3) Review your statistics monthly

Google Analytics statsReviewing your Google Analytics reports should take 10-30 minutes each time, and provide tremendous intelligence on how your marketing is working.

If you can look at these weekly then even better but we recommend you check your stats no longer than monthly. You need to learn and adapt from them (as you’ll see in the next two points) and if you don’t review them on a regular basis you will miss superb intelligence.

There is an amazing array of useful and complex figures in the interface, so below we outline the key ones you should review regularly – and importantly – act on.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to look at in Google Analytics

Here are some recent stats from Google based on the anonymous opt-in data pool from Google Analytics, anaylsed in the 3 months 1 Nov 2010 – 1 Feb 2011 for the UK (US is very similar):

  • Bounce rate: 42%
  • Pages per visit: 4.9
  • Average time on the site: 5 minutes and 38 seconds

Below we talk about best practice KPIs you should be striving for.  The above Google data includes a lot of sites where the web masters don’t actively maintain their website and online marketing (points 4 & 5.)

4) Tweak your website

The intelligence you can garner from Google Analytics which help you change your website so it performs better includes:

Bounce rate: easily seen on your dashboard, this should be less than 25%.  A ‘bounce’ means someone has come to your site and left immediately – they didn’t click on a single page once they got there.  Obviously, the lower this percentage the better, but if more than a quarter of your traffic is bouncing it could mean your site looks terrible, has a poor layout and/or the content is not of high quality.

Top Exit Pages: at Content> Overview> Top Exit Pages monitor this report for the top 10 pages and ask “why are people leaving the site from these pages?”  See if there is a call-to-action you can add to the page. This list is a great insight into “leakage” on your site.

Top content: Under Content> Top Content you will see the most visited pages on your site and the key stats like ‘average time on page’, ‘bounce rate’ and ‘% of exits.’  Look for pages that you think should be in the top 10 and if they’re not, address your site navigation or improve your content to get people to those key pages.

In here also look for any references to a ‘404’ error.  This means someone did a search and the link to a page on your site was presented to them, they clicked on it but the page was no longer where the search engine thought it should be. When this happen your server (website) shows the visitor a ‘404 error’ page which simply tells them the page is no longer available.  If you are seeing a lot of 404s, or one 404 page with is in your top 20-30 pages over the month you need to chase this down and fix.  Talk to your web master but the things to fix here could be an incorrect link on your site or an external site, and if you can’t get it changed simply ask them to set up a ‘301 redirect’ (this directs the visitor from the old broken link to the one you state, even if it is the home page it is better than a 404.)  And a ‘301 redirect’ is very SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) friendly way to do it.

Average time on site: this will tell you if visitors are engaged in your content.  Of course the higher the better.  Aim to have the average time on the site to be more than 4 minutes and longer if your site is more content heavy, or information is more relevant to your business.  To increase this you can tackle it on your site (better content, layout, navigation) or improving the quality and relevance of the visitors (better online marketing, per point 5.)

The number of pages per visit: this should be at least 3, it shows most people are interested in your site.  If you’re not hitting this it could be another indication that you need to work on your content, layout, design or quality of visitors – this low KPI tells you the site is just not of interest to them.

5) Adapt your online marketing

The following figures will help you change your social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc), display advertising (banner ads), pay per click (like Google AdWords) and other online marketing tools to squeeze more from your traffic.

Bounce rate: as mentioned in point 4, if this is above 25% then people are not staying on your site (which is a big objective.)  What to learn from here to adjust your online marketing is perhaps you are not advertising online in the right places.  The people that are seeing your shingle and clicking through to your site are the wrong audience for what you have to offer.

Traffic sources: you want to see traffic from your online marketing sources to be taken up the majority of the pie here.  On the dashboard you will see what percentage of traffic comes from search engines, referral sites and direct traffic.  You want the direct traffic (where people just typed your web address into the browser, or – and this is important to know – they clicked on a bookmark of your site in their browser) to be as low as possible, less than 10% (unless online marketing is not that important for your business and you want to rely on traditional offline marketing.)  Otherwise, your online marketing is not effective as most people visiting your site already know about it.

Here is what Google’s numbers recently highlighted for traffic sources, these are global averages (read this article to understand what each traffic source means):

  • 37% Direct
  • 20% Referral
  • 28% Search engines
  • 15% Other

Keywords: At Traffic Sources> Keywords what can be really interesting here is what keywords/phrases visitors are typing into the search engines to find your site.  Are they what you would expect people to use to find your site?  This analysis can also be useful when you are working on your SEO and targeting certain keywords/phrases.  Has the sprinkling of these keywords throughout your site worked?  Are engines picking them up and bringing the visitors you want?  Again, use the bounce rate in conjunction with this perspective to see whether your online marketing is effective.  If not, change something.

 

Finally, if you use Google AdWords be sure to explore the powerful tools available in Google Analytics to allow you to get a better return on your AdWords spend.  Look at setting goals for example, and track them in Google Analytics.  We run one technology seminar a month at the British Library’s Business & IP Centre, you may be interested in attending the one on Google AdWords – it is very popular.

In addition to our seminars Lucidica provide IT support, training and consulting for SMEs in London.

by Thomas Jeffs

Jeffs

Thomas Jeffs is founder and Chief Technology Officer of Lucidica.

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