Google Analytics consists of a very powerful suite of tools, and to get the most out of them, you will need to understand how all the information provided and reported can be important for your business. If you don’t take the time to try and understand what is being extracted and reported to you, you’ll be wasting a great deal of the power and usefulness of Google Analytics. Here are some best practices that you should keep in mind, so that you get the most out of the information being provided to you, and maximize your usage of Google Analytics.
Remember what you’re measuring
Because this suite of tools provides so much information on so many reports, it’s very easy to get caught up in reviewing vanity metrics that don’t really have great relevance to your business. A good example of this is the number of visits to your website, which is a statistic that contains only lightweight value to your business, but which is commonly focused on by a number of reviewers. The best way to use Google Analytics is to pay the most attention to those five or 10 key performance indicators (KPIs) which have the most importance toward achieving your business objectives. It’s fine to take a cursory review of some of the other glam statistics, but the ones that you should focus on are what you have already decided are your KPIs.
Measure your conversions against goals
Right from the start when you begin using Google Analytics, you should set it up so as to measure your conversions against the goals that you have set for your business. Then when those conversions start happening, you’ll know that you’re on track to accomplish the goals you set for your business. For just about everyone, the conversion rate should be the most important KPI, no matter what your business objectives might happen to be. If you have multiple business objectives, it would be a good idea to assign an arbitrary monetary value to each of those objectives. This will help you to gauge your overall performance with respect to your objectives, and help you get closer to achieving them.
Make sure to set up Analytics properly
By setting up Analytics properly, we mean that your account should be configured so as to measure those aspects of your business which are of primary importance. This will help to ensure data accuracy, and it will also allow you to make use of additional tools that will help analyze site traffic. Some of the setup steps to incorporate would be tracking events and campaigns, setting up Analytics for e-commerce, enabling reports on Interests and Demographics, applying Attribution Modeling, learning about Multi-Channel Funnels, setting up Tracking for Search on your website, tracking Site Speed and Keywords, and linking your AdWords account with Analytics.
Create custom reports and dashboards
Since Google Analytics permits the creation of customized dashboards, you should make use of this feature so you can quickly access the data which is most useful to you. Make sure you have at least one or two dashboards which focus on the KPIs most relevant to your business. You will have the capability to generate as many as 20 different dashboards, but the ones you should really focus on are the five or 10 KPIs which you established at the outset. You may also want to take advantage of the dashboard templates which come with Analytics, because these are dashboards which have proven valuable to other businesses and have been submitted to Google by users. You can also create custom reports in Analytics, and you should definitely take advantage of this capability to produce reports specifically designed for your company.
Compare historical data
When you’re using Analytics, you see information from the past month because that’s the default, but you can actually choose any range of dates you might have in mind. You can also use the Compare To checkbox, which will allow you to compare current results side-by-side with any range of dates you select from historical data. What you should be looking for in this comparison is some kind of positive change from the past to the present, especially with regard to your KPIs. The best time to make this type of comparison of past and present statistics is after you have installed some improvements, so that you can see what kind of impact they’re having.
Use advanced segments
Google Analytics Segments allow you to assess website traffic based on certain criteria, and then to compare segment performance to the overall performance of your website. Segments can be created based on visit dates, metrics, or dimensions, and they are a powerful tool to use in the creation of reports within reports. For instance, you could classify visitors according to those who either expressed interest or purchased something from you, so that you will be able to study their website behaviors in greater depth.
You might want to specifically identify high value customers by using the built-in Recency-Frequency-Monetary Value segment. This will include information on customers who made recent purchases, those who made frequent visits, those who most frequently converted, or those who are likeliest to make a follow-up purchase. Another possible segment you might want to create could focus on those website visitors who came to your site at the time you were conducting a specific campaign, and this would help you measure the effectiveness of that campaign.
Use filters to refine your reports
Google Analytics can be configured so as to eliminate traffic from your office computers or workstations, your developers’ machines, and any home addresses you might be using. This will guarantee that only actual data gets recorded by Analytics, and that irrelevant data gets eliminated. You can set up this kind of filtering in Analytics Administration. If you have any other sections of your website which are frequently used by internal users, they can also be excluded from Analytics data, so that information displayed on your reports can be as accurate as possible.