Ask Mike: Google Analytics

Last Friday, we went on a virtual walk with Mike around Valpo's Kirchhoff Park while Mike discussed the benefits of using Google Analytics for your website or mobile app.

Even if you're never used Google Analytics before, you've probably heard the term; it's been the most widely-used website analytics tracking tool for quite some time. But what is Google Analytics exactly? What does it do, and what benefits come from using it? 

TRACKING YOUR TRAFFIC

Simply put, Google Analytics specifically tracks and reports your website's traffic data. In using the service, you can better understand how your users interact with your website or app. You can learn things like:

  • Who's using your website or app;
  • What demographics currently make up your user base;
  • Your users' general location;
  • What browsers were used;
  • The time of day your users accessed your website/app;
  • Where your users clicked; and
  • How long they stayed on various pages.
     

This kind of data is perfect for understanding who your current audience is and how to make their experience better on your website or app.

THE PURPOSE OF TRACKING

Informed Decision Making

The main purpose in tracking your website or app's traffic is to aid you in your decisions for bettering your online presence. 

A great example of this is if you're looking to expand your online presence by taking on a mobile app project in addition to your current website. You wouldn't want to spend the resources and time on building a mobile app if it isn't going to pay off, but how can you predetermine its success or failure?

Well, you can check your Google Analytics data to see how many of your current website users generally use mobile devices to access your website. If a large portion of your users are mobile users, and it seems that they would benefit from having a mobile app available to them, then taking on an app-building project may be worth considering. But, if 90-95% of your users are accessing your website specifically through desktop computers, and only a tiny portion are using mobile devices in the first place, then a mobile app project would most likely be a huge waste of time and money for you.

At Trail 9, we ran into a situation just like this earlier last year. In running our client's Google Analytics, we discovered that only a very small percentage of their website users were accessing their website using mobile devices. Due to these results, our client decided to scrap their mobile app project idea and instead focus their funds on projects with more likely success.

Validating Your Design Success

Another great use of Google Analytics is validating the success of your current design. Because you can track your users' journey through your website or app, where they click and the pages they visit, you can determine at what point they decided to leave it. You can then use these determinations to better understand their cause for leaving. Is your navigation system working, visible, and easy to use? Are there any misleading icons or links that aren't being used correctly? Are your users ultimately finding what they need, or is your website's flow too complicated or time-consuming for them to complete?

A good rule of thumb for user navigation is that your users should only have to click 1-2 times to find the information they're seeking. If they have to click ten times to get something, then they're being asked to use too much effort, and they'll more likely be lost to you. 

Another perk in using Google Analytics is that you see what keywords your users are searching for throughout your website. You can then decide how to use these keywords more efficiently in your website, whether by creating new menu items or pages featuring them or removing aspects that people aren't generally using. These kinds of edits simplify and improve the user experience.

Tracking Your Marketing Campaigns

A lot of your Google Analytics data can be used specifically for gauging the success of your individual marketing campaigns.

For example, you can track your landing page URLs and see how effective those individual pages are in attracting traffic. You can also see how long users are staying on your landing pages and if they continue on to other pages on your website when they're finished. If they leave your landing pages quickly and don't navigate anywhere else on your website (adding to your page's bounce rate), then you'll know that the campaign isn't currently as effective as you want it to be, and you can plan your next steps for improvement.

As a side note, this is why one-page websites fall short in analytics tracking; you can't judge what your users are doing on a one-page website in nearly as much depth as you can on a multi-page website. Users go to one-page websites and leave again; there's no other option there. It's more difficult to gauge what the cause of their leaving your website actually was. 

IN CONCLUSION

Your can make your Google Analytics tracking service as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. But, all in all, Google Analytics is a great tool that can help enhance your website or app's user experience as well as your marketing efforts as well as let you see firsthand how effective they are.


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