Do you know what’s going on behind the scenes of your website metrics? I’ve run into some people recently that have no idea what’s going on behind the red curtain. This is a step-by-step breakdown of how to get started looking at your website so you can at least make some informed decisions about what’s next or identify a problem before it gets bigger.
Let’s see. It’s critical for your business on the level of say, flossing, or that important gyno appt. Yeah.
Knowing what’s going on where, which people are coming through what door, and how many visits are actually garbage bots are not that hard to sort. If I can figure this out, so can you and I’m going to lay out the basics for you to get started.
Firstly, get Google Analytics set up for your site. GA is a free and powerful tool. If you manage more than one, fine, you can keep adding them once you have Admin privileges. You need a Gmail account to get started. If you are starting from scratch, you need to go here first:
Set up your account and get your ID name. If you also have worker bees that you need to allow in the back end to check on things, add them now under User Management on the left side. Be careful what permissions you grant to others outside your organization. You can set the levels accordingly and turn them off if/when people leave.
Next, under All Filters, enter your website IP address. Get this by typing in “what is my IP” into your search tool. This automatically filters you and your office crew out, since you are likely on your site daily and will skew your results. I also add in any web editor tools if you are on a cloud platform, etc., for the same reason. This is also important later on when you start seeing spambots. This is where you will add those IP addresses or web URLs to block as much as possible. If you manage more than one site, you should add those to the Account/Property/View – Filter, as they may differ.
Under Property/Tracking Code, you will see your Tracking ID number and the Universal Analytics script that gets added to your website code. It must be added to every page on your site. If you aren’t sure, look in the help section for your service provider for specific directions on how to add this in. If you are fortunate to have a programmer in your circle, then shoot her the code and ask her nicely to please add it.
If you plan to use AdWords, also be sure to select AdWords Linking under the Product Linking, on the left-hand navigation. This connects the dots between your accounts will allow the software to pull data from either side, depending on where you are viewing. Even if you don’t plan to use it right now, it’s not going to hurt anything if you turn it on and let it sit.
Ok. Now you have added the code and your users, so let the site roll for a week and watch the data compile into something meaningful. If you are me, then you check it first thing in the morning for a while until the novelty wears off, and you are confident that all systems are go.
A week later –
you log in and are baffled by the enormous amount of data at your fingertips. Note your date range and the fact that it defaults to the past 30 days. You can reset this to a single day, or a year, or compare two months, or two quarters, or two Januarys. Whatever floats your boat that day. Remember that GA will only pull data moving forward from the date that it was installed. If your site is four years old, but you just installed this a week ago, it will only give you that week’s worth of data.
Next, create your dashboard. For now, you can use the Starter Dashboard and then pull in other things that you determine are essential as you go along, depending on your business’s focus.
Focus on Sessions or Unique Sessions. Any web guru worth their salt will tell you that pageviews are inflated numbers because of the bouncing around that people do when they get into a site. Pageviews are a count of all of those clicks. If you absolutely must track page views, pay attention only to the Unique Pageviews and not the total. You want to know how many actual people have visited (Sessions) and compare this to how many just visited once (Unique Sessions). The other important one you should track is New Visitors %. With a new brand or site, or product site, this will tilt in the direction of New Visitors for a while, until people understand what it is and then it will settle into a reasonably regular percentage of each. You should be in the general 50/50 range here.
I guarantee that one of the first things you will ask is, “WTH is the difference between a Bounce Rate and an Exit Rate? And which one should I be worried about?” This is one of the most annoying and confusing metrics for users.
The best explanation I have seen so far is this. Bounces are the visitors who landed on a SINGLE page and immediately left. Bounce rates are important as an indicator if something is wrong. If it’s high overall for the site, take a look at the rate for each separate page. If this is a single in/out page, like a blog post, then it’s probably ok. If it’s your home page, then look more closely at ways to keep someone on the site. You should see average rates for this around 35%, but it will fluctuate from page to page.
The exit rate is the percentage of visits that migrated around the site and then left from a particular page. There is no standard rate here; it depends on what that visitor was looking for and which page they were on when they left the site. If it seems unusually high everywhere, you probably have an issue.
Last but not least, look at your Average Session Duration. If you have pages that register visits, but the session duration is 00:00, those are bots and not people. Don’t get discouraged if you see this happening. You can backtrack most of these and add them to your Filter.
Those are the basics. If you have something that you find helpful, please let me know, and I’ll be happy to add that info to this post to be a better guide for everyone.