Google Analytics is the most popular free tool you can use to measure the success of your inbound marketing efforts. With it, you can view the volume of your website traffic, track where your users are coming from and where they’re going, and learn how and why your users are visiting your website over any given period of time.
Of course, Google Analytics can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be. Most business owners only scratch the surface of what’s possible within Google Analytics, but if you want to get the most out of your inbound marketing efforts, it’s time to dig a little deeper. Try incorporating these 15 Google Analytics tricks into your campaign:
1. Create Goals. Goals are one of the simplest features to use in Google Analytics, but they’re also one of the most neglected. Head to Admin > Goals > New Goal to set up your first goal. For most sites, conversion is the most important goal, and Google has many templates to choose from in order to track conversions effectively. Once set up, you’ll be able to monitor your conversion progress at a glance.
2. Create Custom Dashboards. Go to Dashboards > New Dashboard to create your first dashboard — you can have up to 20 at any given time. Once you select your opening template, you can add as many widgets as you would like (widgets include both standard and real-time data projections for almost any metric you can think of). This is extremely useful for generating a consistent report or high-level view of your overall progress.
3. Set Custom Alerts. Not all of us have time to check Analytics every day for unusual activity. That’s why custom alerts are useful. Go to Admin > Custom Alerts, and you’ll be able to “Create New Alert” for one of several different actions or behaviors. You can apply the alert to All Traffic or just a segment of your traffic, and set the alert to go off when a certain metric rises or falls dramatically within a given period of time. The alert will send you an email or text message when the condition is met.
4. Stop Tracking Yourself. If you care about your website, you probably visit often to make sure everything is working in proper order or to manage and update content. This is great, but your visits could be skewing your traffic information in Analytics. In order to exclude yourself and your coworkers from Analytics data, set up a filter under the “Admin” panel. If you have a static IP address, go to All Filters > Add New Filter, and set a Predefined Filter to Exclude traffic from your given IP address.
5. Integrate Google Search Console. If you haven’t already set up Google Search Console for your site, I highly recommend doing so. Search Console will give you insights Google Analytics can’t offer, such as information about the links pointing to your site, impression data, index issues, manual spam actions, and even organic search keyword impression and click data. If you connect your Webmaster Tools account with your Analytics account, you’ll gain access to new reports such as Queries, Landing Pages, and Geographical Summary.
6. Segment Your Audience. You might have multiple target audiences coming to your website, and it’s important to distinguish between them. Go to Admin and select Segments to build customized segments that define different audience groups. Name your Segments whatever you’d like, and build them out as much or as little as you want. You can distinguish between age, gender, language, location, technology used to access your site, traffic sources, and user behavior.
7. Measure Your Speed. The download speed of your site is a ranking factor for SEO, and can also invite or deter new users. You can check out your site speed metrics in Behavior > Site Speed > Overview, or Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timings if you’re interested in how the individual pages of your site are performing. This section can help you identify and diagnose any problems with your download speed.
8. Check for Browser Differences. Your site could be configured differently for different Internet browsers, and Google Analytics gives you the perfect opportunity to check. Head to Audience > Technology > Browser and OS to see load times and bounce rates for each browser visiting your site. If one browser stands out with poor data, it could be an indication of a loading error or formatting problem.
9. Get a Real-Time Snapshot. Check out Real-Time > Overview to see a snapshot of your site metrics as they’re happening. You’ll be able to view how many users are currently on your site, how they are accessing your site, and where they’re accessing your site from. Just don’t drive yourself crazy trying to monitor this one; it’s kind of addicting to watch.
10. View Behavior Flows. Go to Behavior > Behavior Flow to see a pretty (if somewhat complicated) map of your users’ behaviors. While it may look overly complex at first, you can narrow down its scope by using the drop-down menu to select different variables. This chart can give you a great sense of how and why your visitors are using your site.
11. Create Custom Campaign URLs. Google offers a free tool to help you build custom URLs for your various marketing campaigns, so you might as well take advantage of it. You can identify five parameters: your source, medium, term, content, and campaign name. Once you have a custom link set up, you can use it in its full form or shorten it using a URL-shortening tool like bit.ly (which I recommend) — either way, you’ll reap the full benefits.
12. Analyze Site Searches. If you have a search function enabled on your site, you can use Behavior > Site Search to analyze data on what your users are searching for. Users who perform searches on your site are more likely to convert than those who don’t, and if you can see what your users are searching for, you’ll know what they want, allowing you to strategically publish more content related to those search queries.
13. Track Your Email Campaigns. First, go to Admin > Custom Definitions > Custom Metrics and create a new metric called “Email Opens” with Integer formatting, a minimum value of 0 and a maximum value of 1. Make sure it’s active, then create an email in whatever email management software you use, and paste the following code in a text content block:
<img src=”http://www.google-analytics.com/collect?v=1&tid=UA-XXXXXXX-YY&cid=*|UNIQID|*&t=event&ec=email&ea=open&el=*|UNIQID|*&cs=newsletter&cm=email&cn=062413&cm1=1″ />
Make sure to replace “UA-XXXXXX-YY” with your own Google Analytics account information.
14. Email Weekly Reports. If you don’t want to mess with Google Analytics manually, you can email yourself a weekly or monthly report, giving you a snapshot of the metrics that are most important to you. First, create a report with a date range such as “Last week” or “Last 30 days” and click “Email” in the upper-left (or you can save it as a Shortcut for future viewing by clicking “Shortcut”). You can set any number of email addresses and send it on a regular basis in the format of your choice.
15. Keep Watch for Updates. This isn’t a trick like the others I’ve outlined above, but it’s extraordinarily useful if you’re a regular Google Analytics user. Google is constantly rolling out new features and new functions for Analytics, so it pays to keep watch for these additions as they come out. Google Analytics has a Twitter account which is generally great about tweeting new features and enhancements.
These tricks still only represent a fraction of Google Analytics’s capabilities. Put them to good use as early as you can to make the most of them for your website.
If you’re interested in more information on Google Analytics, check out my Definitive Guide to Google Analytics for SEO Professionals.