Use Google Analytics To Evaluate Your Web Design and Content
As a graphic and website designer, I often meet with business owners who work as lawyers, accountants, medical specialists, financial planners and insurance brokers. The conversation will turn to my own services and these professionals often share with me, “it’s time to update my firm’s website”, or “my website isn’t generating any business”. Naturally, along with questions about their brand, products, services, I’ll ask “Why do you feel that way?”, or “Have you reviewed your analytics to understand what’s happening with site traffic?” Most of these people will answer in one of three ways: 1) “What’s that?”, 2) “My web developer might know…”, or 3) “I’m pretty sure that my clients don’t come from the web”.
Search engines your site’s images and content. SEO, advertising and social media marketing all play a role in generating traffic (and prospects). The only way to measure website design effectiveness is by reviewing site statistics.
Dropping the baton
Design firms typically include some form of search engine marketing activities as part of any web design proposal. If a full-time person is not assigned to monitor analytics, the data is forgotten. The fact is, ignoring statistics and maintenance of a website is the same letting a new car fall into disrepair by skipping recommended maintenance.
An encyclopedia of insight
Website analytics tools from Google allow you to gain a detailed understanding of traffic coming to your website. Analytics captures thousands of data points reflecting:
- Number of visitors are coming to your site
- How are they finding your site
- New vs. returning visitors
- Which pages are seeing the highest traffic
- How long are visitors staying on your site pages
- What pages visitors enter from, and leave from
- How links, calls to action and forms are performing
- What days of the week and what times of day are busiest on your site
- And much more
If you don’t have analytics setup already, you can begin the process by going to Google Analytics and signing up. If you’d like more detail about visits from Bing, you’ll need to register your site using Bing webmaster tools. You’ll be issued a snippet of code to insert in your website’s header or footer. A website designer or programmer can assist you with getting the code inserted and verified.
Tip: If you are setting up Google Analytics for the first time, or having someone do it for you, I recommend you keep the account under your control. This ensures that you will always be able to grant or revoke access to your account data and any ensure that customizations are fully accessible. Don’t let your web design or marketing firm create your account under their control. As web designers and SEO companies come and go, you’ll be guaranteed continuity.
If you’re not sure if analytics code is installed on your site, you can check by searching your page’s source code using a web browser. You’re looking for a number that usually begins with the prefix “UA”.
Tip: To view page source code within popular browsers:
- Firefox: Go to: Tools > Web Developer > Page Source
- Safari: Developer > Show Page Source
- Chrome: View > Developer > Source
WordPress and Google Analytics
If you are operating a WordPress website, your account code information is stored within your one of your site’s SEO plug-ins or general theme settings. The Google Analytics from MonsterInsights plug-in provide a summary of Google analytics within the WordPress dashboard or you’ll need the Google account username and password to view site analytics.
Tip: If analytics were setup, the person or firm who built your site should have the account information, or you can create a new Google Analytics account. Setting up a new account will probably remove access to your site’s historical data.
If your analytics code is installed properly, data will appear in the dashboard within a few days.
Tip: Allow 30-60 days to collect data. Anything less may not accurately reflect seasonal changes or economic events that could affect your site’s traffic.
The 30,000 ft. Analytics View
Google Analytics is powerful and highly customizable. There are plenty of step-by-step guides in video or written form to help get you up to speed.
Tip: Be patient, it takes time to fully master all the options for reporting and analysis. For beginners, a look at broad unfiltered data in the default dashboards can be very helpful.
The screen capture above shows you the major data sections within Google Analytics. Along the left hand side of the dashboard (as of January 2017) are:
Intelligence Events allow you to setup alerts if a certain set of conditions are met in relation to your site metrics. The alerts let you take a granular approach based on time:
- Daily Events
- Weekly Events
- Monthly Events
Real-Time data gives you a sense of what is happening in the moment:
- Traffic Sources
Tip: Real-time data is used to test “tags” from Google’s Tag Manager
Audience data helps paint a picture of the visitors who come to your site. This includes detail on desktop vs mobile or tablet, devices, geographic location, age and gender, etc.:
- Active Users
- Cohort Analysis
- User Explorer
- Users Flow
Acquisition data will show you how your visitors are finding you, including organic, direct, referral, Adwords and Social:
- All Traffic
- Search Console
Behavior data provides a look at how visitors are navigating your site, and where they are dropping off. You’ll find other useful information about page speed, popularity, and more:
- Behavior Flow
- Site Content
- Site Speed
- Site Search
- In-Page Analytics (being removed by Google)
Conversions data helps you keep track of goals and event tracking you setup. Goals will help you improve the effectiveness of your site:
- Multi-Channel Funnels
Along the top bar you’ll see these four categories:
Home – This tab is the Launchpad to access analytics data of one or more sites you may be tracking
Reporting – Accesses the home analytics dashboard for any site you are tracking
Customization – Allows you to create custom reports using predefined templates or your own.
Admin – This tab gives you access to User Management, Filters and Views. Filters allow you to include or exclude data based on a set of parameters. Filter data with unique “Views” and preserve raw unfiltered data in the base “View”.
Within each of the Google Analytics sections, you’ll see a small “graduation cap” icon. This links to Google’s Academy content which provides very helpful videos and content to make the most of analytics data.
Tip: Keep in mind that the base Google Analytics setup only captures page-level data related to your website. You can track behavior within a page by adding Google “tags” to buttons, videos, images, and forms and more to gather more detail about how visitors are engaging with individual pieces of content on a page within your site. Tags can be helpful in tracking a download, a purchase, a button click within a specific page.
Addressing Site Issues
Establish a baseline of data to build a picture of your site’s performance and areas that need improvement. Use buyer personas to temper your plans for content, design and interface changes. Buyer personas are a psychographic and demographic profile of your “ideal customer”. A well-developed profile will give you a better sense of what your site visitors are looking for, and their expectations about your product and service.
Understanding your buyer personas provides deeper understanding of analytics data about design, interactivity, and technical issues. Combining persona data with analytics data will help you to plan website adjustments with confidence.
Get Started Today
To learn more about site analytics or hire our team to set up and review your site’s data, contact us today. We’re here to help.
About the author: Tom Weinkle is a founder and partner of Vortex Communications, a graphic and website design firm who offers brand agency services, graphic and WordPress web design, build, troubleshooting and training services along with search optimization, social media and inbound marketing services. Based in Miami, Florida, Tom has over 25 years of experience in branding and visual communications for the healthcare, medical, law, accounting, software, financial services and banking industries.