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Search engines, Web browsers

Google Analytics – how free, powerful statistics can drive your business


Since the power of the internet has taken over, it’s no surprise that businesses who created their online presence first, stormed ahead of their rivals by making their brand more accessible. Google and indeed other search engines have been an enormous influence in the success of the internet and websites by tailoring their ‘search algorithm‘ to ensure they offer the best set of search results based on various parameters. Today’s challenges are not to write a good website, but to make it ‘search engine friendly.’ Google Analytics is a hugely powerful tool to help you along the way.

Depending which set of statistics you read, Google dominates between 70-90% of the internet search market and it’s clear too that the term Google is turning into a verb…“Have you Googled it?” is a common question asked now. Therefore, when creating a website, it needs to be Google-friendly and there are many ways to do this which we describe here and are worth reading before you attempt to analyse your website’s performance.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics (Photo credit: Colin ZHU)

Once you’ve been through an iteration of search engine optimization (SEO) it’s very important to track the progress of your website and Google Analytics  give a mind-blowing amount of data for you to use and contribute to your website’s performance. It might be that you want to make it appear higher in search results but there are other uses too – have you got a flash-based website and worry how many people try to view it from an iPhone (which doesn’t support Flash)? Well, you can find this out using Google Analytics.

The information capture provides statistics about location, search terms, technology used and bounce rates (the number of people clicking ‘back’ to Google from your site) to offer an illustrative and  comprehensive overview of your site. It will count the number of hits, unique hits, hits per search term and whereabouts the site ranked given a specific search term. The list goes on but why is this useful?

Well, firstly, imagine you have a set of keywords that describe your website – you will probably want users to find you based on these. For example, if you were an Italian restaurant in Glasgow, you’d need to predict what people would type, in order to find a business of your nature…I’d guess ‘italian restaurant glasgow.’ So once you have collected data with Google Analytics, you are able to find out:

  1. If anyone has searched for ‘italian restaurant Glasgow’;
  2. The average position on the search results your website appeared;
  3. The click-through rate (CTR);
  4. The bounce rate – how many people visited your site and then clicked ‘back’ to Google. Ideally you want a very low bounce rate.

This is the high-level data – but you can also find out the user habits once on your website – which pages they visited, how long they visited each page for and their total visit time to your site. These are all helpful in terms of finding out which pages people like and which pages drive people away from your site.

Location is an important part of website design and optimization – it’s also a very satisfying statistic on Google Analytics when hits are plotted on a world map with a shaded colour key to find the number of hits per country. If you click on a particular country, you can also see which district the hits came from – this is especially useful for local businesses such as in our restaurant example. If most of your hits are coming from a region in another part of your city, then consider including your district name in the keyword search terms to localize your search performance.

Google Analytics v2.0

Of course, it doesn’t end there – what type of device was the user looking at your site from – and which browser? There is little point in having a website that displays beautifully in Firefox if most of your visitors look at your website from Safari on an iPad. Those of you with web design experience will understand the convention of placing the most important data – such as logo’s in the top left hand corner of the website. This is the most likely area to be seen on any device.

Over time you should be able to see a trend – with better website performance, do you notice an increase in table bookings and profits?

There are other tools within Google Analytics too – if you have Adwords or Adsense accounts, they can be linked to track real data with projected keyword data assisting your campaign in terms of search words and bidding amounts.  Adwords and Adsense are keyword campaigns to drive traffic to your website, also through Google.  For example, you may have a current bid for ‘italian restaurant Glasgow’ is 5 pence, and you had a target of 20 top 3 hits per day. Google Analytics can tell you how many times you are reaching the top and therefore if you can risk bidding differently – especially if your appearance in the free listings is meeting your target.

Another aspect that may be important to you is the language people use to find your website. If you are a multicultural website or one that has many office locations, it could help your decision-making with having versions for multiple languages. Lets face it – there is nothing worse than trying to book a hotel online, in Paris when you can’t speak a word of French! Google can break down these statistics nicely for you – we discovered that about 4% of our traffic was from the Netherlands and it’s no wonder they only spent an average of 31 seconds on the site – you can’t rely on all Europeans speaking English.

It’s very easy to compare time periods in Google Analytics – it helps you see a ‘before and after’ comparison when you are working to improve the website performance. Depending on the setup of your website development and marketing, you may need to work with other teams in your company to make this happen but follow the advice in google-optimization and wait to see the results!

So overall, you’re probably reading this far and thinking ‘what is the downside?’ Well the truth is – there isn’t one…Google Analytics is free, it’s simple to use – which is hard to believe given the amount of statistics generated and has proven results in assisting website performance. The golden rule is to remember nothing happens overnight – patience is virtue with website performance!

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About theithandbook

Reaching every day people and businesses with simple, effective and modern IT advice.

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