Google Analytics: Your Hardest Working Employee

by David Moffitt on

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a free service which enables website owners to track invaluable data about its users in order to provide a better platform on which to market their products. This service is available to the entire the internet community, and it was launched in late 2005. After it was rolled out to the public, Google encouraged the community to try out its new web analytics software. Around the world, web developers and nerds alike dropped what they were doing and immediately signed up to test this service. In fact, due to the overwhelmingly pervasive response, Google was receiving so much traffic that they were forced to suspend the new sign-ups about a week after it had been launched! Google continued to run this service on an “invitation-only” type basis until mid-August of 2006, which is when the service became fully available to the public.

In the alpha stages of analytics, large websites noticed a heavy performance loss at the cost of running this service; however, today’s asynchronous version of the analytics tracking code permits the service to load in tandem with the rest of the web page, allowing for uninterrupted page-loading. Additionally, Google makes registering extremely easy, and they also contribute in-depth tutorials detailing the steps necessary in implementing analytics onto your own website. How does it work? Well, Google provides you a small snippet of code that contains your unique Google Analytics ID, and this code is to be placed within the Header tags on every page of your website. When a user navigates to your page, the code snippet collects information about that user, and sends the raw data back to your Google Analytics account, which, in turn, organizes and processes that data, and then converts it into readable, graph-able, beautiful data.

To provide an example of how the service works, imagine you are running a small bakery. You want to launch a website to market your brand, and to provide customers with important information about your company. As a business owner, you should have some idea of who your target demographics are, but Google Analytics can provide extremely detailed information, not only about the total number of people visiting the site and where they are located, but also what kind of actions they are taking, which pages are the most popular, and even how long they remain on a given page. The analytics service can also track which browser software the user is using, and also the type of device on which they are browsing—whether it be desktop, tablet, or mobile.

How Does Google Analytics Help Businesses?

While some of this information may not seem very useful to a business owner, it is incredibly valuable to the developers and advertisers. Knowing where to display your ads is one of the most profitable steps a business can take in increasing revenue. Google even created a page for its analytics software that shares success stories about different companies that have utilized this service, and have seen significant growth as a result. Some companies, such as BuildDirect, have increased their sales by an amazing 50%.While I can only scratch the surface of Google Analytics’s massive capabilities, there are dozens of pertinent features that have not been mentioned. One of the most important facets is the ability to understand where users are entering your site. If they are being directed to your page from a Google search, analytics will outline the most popular search results which led the user to your page. If the user is coming to your site because they clicked on an Adwords campaign, it will tell you specifically which campaign led them there. This is extremely useful because it gives you a visual representation about which aspects of your company seem to be driving the most amount of traffic. After this information has been analyzed, your advertising department can cater to the data provided from Google Analytics, thus creating ads that will be of greater interest to your customers.

What Can Google Analytics Track?

“Conversions”, or pre-defined events that are tracked by the analytics account-holder, provide information about certain events happening on your site. For e-commerce sites, it’s common to define conversions as making an online transaction. When a user lands on a certain page, usually the confirmation page, or “Thank you for your Purchase” page, the tracking code will send all of the information about that purchase back to your analytics account. This allows e-commerce site owners to see which products are the most popular and what the average sale order is, among many other useful bits of information. Alternatively, you can set a conversion trigger on an event such as downloading a PDF file, or clicking a link that provides further information. This notifies your company know that the user finds this content useful, and will probably spend more time on your site, therefore this can be tracked as a conversion.

Sometimes, users who navigate to your site will exit immediately after discovering that it is not what they had intended. This is referred to as the site’s bounce rate. A high bounce rate can indicate that your site is being advertised incorrectly, or it is being advertised to the wrong users. It can also be indicative of a broken webpage - Google Analytics will breakdown the bounce rate for each page on your site, which can shed light a technical issue that may have otherwise been overlooked.

Conclusion

No matter how small your business is, your product inventory (or lack thereof), who your demographics are, or the size of your budget, Google Analytics provides business owners with indisputable facts about how their customers respond to its outreach. Prior to analytics, this data would either have been virtually unattainable, or it would have cost an arm an a leg paying a team of experienced developers, analysts, and market researchers. So even if you’re a broke, young, inexperienced start-up, Google Analytics is a reliable and effective source of market research. If you aren’t using analytics already, what are you waiting for?