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How to Get More out of Google Analytics

Dec 03 2012

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How to Get More out of Google Analytics

As a website owner there's a good chance you use Google Analytics to track visits to your website. It can be a very powerful tool to get to know your website, visitors, and keywords intimately -- provided you know where to look and what to look for. Here are some top tips to getting the most out of your Analytics account. 

Compare Metrics to Last Year by day of week, not by date.

Many webmasters like to check the status and growth of their visitors by using the "Compare to" tool in Analytics (found when you click the date range on the upper right). The obvious approach would be to compare the same dates versus last month or last year, such as March 12th vs February 12th, or March 12 in 2012 to March 12 in 2011. But this approach won't give you the best views on your growth, for one big reason: the days of the week won't match up. 

To get a better comparison view, make sure the day of the week matches up to what you're comparing to. For example, you should compare March 12th 2012 to March 14th, 2011, which both land on a Monday. Different days of the week can result in very different visitor metrics, since less people in general use the internet during weekends and holidays. This way you'll get a more accurate view of your growth per day and not by date. 

Amir Benesh, owner of http://www.yhiny.com, uses this tactic to better measure visitors to his NYC-based real estate firm's website. By using this method he has discovered that most of his visitors search for vacation rentals on Mondays and Tuesdays. Using this information he now uses email marketing for vacation rentals on Monday mornings each week, resulting in an over 36% growth in vacation bookings over last year. 

Mark down important changes on your website in Analytics whenever possible.

If you double-click on any plotted date within the Traffic Visits graph, you can input in notes for that day. Did you recently change the homepage layout, switch hosting servers, or add new features? By plotting the change directly into the data, you can see the effects of these changes on your visitors. Maybe they love the new homepage and visitors are spending more time on your site. Or maybe your new hosting company provides faster loading times, resulting in less bounces. Whatever the change, you can only analyze it if you measure and track it. A tiny change can have a big impact on your visitors so you'll want to note these changes and their effects. 

See your Search Engine Ranking directly in Analytics alongside your keywords.

This can be a huge time-saver if you want to keep track of your keyword rankings in Google search results. There are many paid services that will track keyword rankings for you but there is a simple and free way to do this. This post by SEOmoz provides an in-depth look at how to implement search engine ranking positions viewed directly with your keywords. Once put into place, it should take only a few hours to a couple of days to start seeing results, depending on the amount of traffic you receive. 

See which of your landing pages come up for each keyword and optimize accordingly.

We all know how to view the keywords that bring visitors to our site (Traffic Sources -> Search -> Organic) but do you know which page they land on when they search for "blue hat"? Sometimes Google brings visitors to one page when another page of your site would suit the term better; maybe they landed on the green hat page after searching for blue hat. To see the landing page for each keyword, in Sources -> Search -> Organic, choose Landing Page under Secondary Dimension. While you can't force Google to show your blue hat page for "blue hat", you can insert blue hat information or a link to blue hats on the green hat page. This way you can better optimize what users see when they land on a page for each keyword. 

Utilizing these tips in your Analytics account will allow you to get a bigger picture view of your data and to optimize for a better site experience for your visitors. Better experience means visitor happiness (and time spent on site) will increase and bounces will decrease, leading to an overall better SEO position for your website: a win-win for all.

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 Steve Patterson
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