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How to Make GA Easy (Google Analytics) for You Now

Making GA Easy!

GA – Google Analytics, does that phrase sound hard? Are you always trying to learn more for crafting a better blog and website presence? How can you uncover useful insights to continually improve?

Trying to determine things like who your audience is, what resonates with them, and what topics are most popular for visitors to your website, all matter in developing your content marketing and digital strategies.

I’m using Google Analytics since getting my writing business website onto self-hosted WordPress. But, I’m not sure I’m using GA to the full extent. So I decided to take a closer look and review basics as a starting point. I can’t wait to share a few tidbits with you in this post. 

Luckily, I happened upon a few good sources including a WordPress Pittsburgh Meetup I was able to attend, first via a Zoom meeting, and then, by attending a local part two presentation. Woot woot!

And, even though this is stepping back to beginner level, the information is an excellent checkpoint because, as you know, things are in constant flux in Google land. 

Not only that, but a good review and better understanding for using Google is always a good thing, giving you new ways to get better at gauging and using the data you are collecting with analytics.

Gauge and use the data you collect in #GoogleAnalytics to improve your website for visitors. via @SueAnnBubacz Click To Tweet

First Things First with GA

If you’re like me and added Google Analytics to your site before Google Search Console was a thing, then the first thing to do is update so you are using the Search Console as your main data collections dashboard.

You can have up to 100 accounts, 50 properties, and 25 users working from your Google Console. I know, surprised me, too!

And mentioning things I didn’t know, here’s another. You can export data directly from the GA dashboard to other programs/tools like Excel or Google Sheets, or to PDFs to view, share, or save. Plus, you can automatically email (perhaps to a client) regular (like weekly) reports of selected data, setting a schedule to do so for up to one year. How about that?

Ray Sidney-Smith of W3 Consulting and host/presenter surprised the group with these tidbits and lots of other Google goodies. Ray is a certified consultant and a Google Small Biz Advisor, so no wonder he gave so many tips and useful ideas in presenting Google basics.

My favorite quote from Ray is, “A peppy site pleases,” referring to site speed, an important metric for search engines and user happiness, too.

He mentions, for example, in reviewing user behavior, there may be an indication of a problem if there’s a common stop spot or bottleneck page. In this case, check page loading time or site speed to see if one is a factor or a marker for improvement.

And that’s the main point, the big shizzle dizzle for why Google Analytics (GA after this) matter to every website owner and in particular for business sites. How will you use GA?

Ray stresses 3 key components for you to remember in all of your analytics campaigns, making your Google data so business imperative.

3 Key Components of GA

1- Collect Data:

Collecting data is the first thing you need to do. If you’re not gathering information and data sets, it’s impossible to learn anything or make further use of the information.

Pro tip: Integrate user and customer information and data you collect outside of GA to strategize for better-informed solutions.

2- Gather Insights:

Without taking a closer look at the analytics you are collecting, you can’t glean insights to use for making improvements or changes. Without a deeper review and understanding of the relevance in the totality of the gathered information, meaningful analysis and useful insights won’t be found. There’s no point in collecting data if you don’t review it then analyze it to improve and use what you discover.

Note: In the example above, for instance, what if analyzing for stop spots has nothing to do with site speed after all? Maybe the stop spots turn out to be on a page with a CTA (call-to-action) button and that’s the problem. The button isn’t working!

Again, only by analyzing audience behaviors and pinpointing trouble spots can you understand (or recognize) a problem. And fix it.

3- Take Action:

If you don’t use the data to inform insights and analysis, you can’t make use of the information (you are busy collecting) for corrections, adjustments, or improvements. Step three, then, means the data you collect and pull insights from, is put into action. When done well, the data and insights you find are strategized for use in a meaningful way that increases awareness of your key audience and how to serve their needs.

Use Google Analytics to strategize a meaningful way that increases awareness of your key audience and how to serve their needs. via @SueAnnBubacz Click To Tweet

Brush Up on Basics

In a recent ownermedia.com webinar, Rob Hatch reminds of the important decisions you need to make before you begin setting up GA or tracking specific goals or actions.

He says the first step is to determine exactly what you want to measure and why. Analyzing what IS important versus what is NOT, is the key, according to Rob.

For example, when you measure for traffic as an indicator, Rob asks this question, “Is more traffic always better?”

And, of course, more when it pertains to website traffic is not always equivalent to better for business. Targeted traffic is what you’re really after, right? And conversions.

If you think about and determine what the numbers, or data collected, are telling you and why that particular data is relevant to your business, then you are able to leverage what’s working or make appropriate changes for improvement.

If you don’t understand what the numbers are telling you and why they are relevant to the results you want, you can’t use the data you collect in a meaningful way.

The biggest insights you gain using Google Analytics per Rob, and I agree, is in learning how people interact with your website. The flow of user interaction highlights strong or weak areas on your site and also tells you what content is resonating most for visitors.

The Bottom Line for Using Google Analytics

The way Ray Sidney-Smith narrows down the purpose of Google Analytics, and in perfect agreement with Rob, is to ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. What am I trying to find?
  2. Will I find it in a GA Report?
  3. What actions will I take after reviewing the GA Report(s)?

Again, think about where the insights will lead you when setting up your analytics. This is what Ray calls “visualization of the data.

Taking a closer look at the important point above about how visitors view your website, Ray breaks it down to four areas of importance for you:

  1. Audience: who are my visitors?
  2. Acquisition: how did your audience find you; where are they coming from?
  3. Behavior: what are they doing once on your site?
  4. Conversions: are they doing what you want them to?

And, because Ray is a Google kind of guy, he reminds you to use the GA Help Center, the Getting Started Guide, Support, the Glossary, and Solutions tabs to get all the answers and help you need through Google.

There are three sections to your GA dashboard from where you’ll work. They are 1- account 2- property 3- views.

Ray explains how he uses his view section in a particular way so you will always maintain your raw data without any filters or constraints. By creating a “Raw Data View” that remains untouched, you will get everything Google collects, completely unfiltered.

Next, Ray suggests you create a “Master View” for your main dashboard and filter your own IP address(es) out for a more accurate visitor analysis. Finally, create a “Test View” where you can manipulate varied filters and tracking actions before you adopt them into your Master View.

Ray also suggests you have a handle on the basic terminology to use GA to the fullest.

Google Analytics is a helpful tool to let you understand your audience, hone in on their interests, and create content relevant to them. via @SueAnnBubacz Click To Tweet

Terminology for Google Analytics You Need to Know: 10 Key Terms

Maybe this is just a review for you, or maybe you don’t know these terms for using Google Analytics. Either way, these are the 10 key terms to know:

Hit: any data collection activity by GA

Metric:  a measurement of data (Google uses: sums, ratios, and percentages)

Pageview:  a type of hit for when a page is loaded or reloaded

Event:  a user interaction with a piece of content (example: click on a PDF)

The above terms are quantitative and the next are qualitative:

Dimension:  specific characteristics of a piece of data

Segments:  sets of users as identified by shared dimensions

Session:  period or block of time for a user on your site (every 30 minutes = new session)

Source/Medium:  refers to spec and type, identifying the origin of traffic (examples: search, social, referrer)

Goal: tracking of a discrete action and its value

Conversion:  completed action or activity important to a goal

The best way to use Google Analytics for your business website is to experiment and test things out. Thanks, Ray, for these easy definitions!

Finding Your Google Groove

One of my favorite insights is getting to see locations for people who visit. I admit I get a little kick out of seeing people from countries all over the world stopping to check out my blog! One of the most useful site stats is time on page, indicating whether people are simply flying by, or are actually lingering and reading my content.

Still, the deeper insights come from setting up goals to track specifics so, with a solid review of the basics, setting up goals is the next step. The surprise is how easy it is to do. Instead of explaining it to you here, take a look at Andy Crestodina’s how-to video to get the goal-setting skinny. Andy does a great job making things that seem complex on your website, a bit easier to understand and work on, like Google Analytics.

Tracking a campaign, whether it has sales-related results or not, allows you to gather useful information while giving you a way to measure success. It also allows you to segment your audience by interests or topics to build on later with them.

But, the truth is, overall, GA is a helpful tool to let you understand your audience, hone in on their interests, and create content relevant to them. It also helps guide you to any trouble spots on your site so you can find and improve on them.

If you are interested check out how to use Bing Web Webmaster tools to help with your SEO over on that search engine too.

What do you think? Ready to get your Google on, or to at least tune it up some? Please drop a comment below so we can discuss it! 

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