Getting Analytical with Google Analytics

by Claire Minnaar

Google Analytics has been around for quite some time. As many of you may already know, it’s a few lines of code that you place in your website code that allows you to record your website traffic and then receive great input on what your users have been up to while visiting your site. One of the best features of Google Analytics is that it is FREE, so there really is no reason you shouldn’t use it!

Here are a few things you can do with Google Analytics:

  • View your most popular pages.
  • View what pages most users leave your website on.
  • Discover how users are finding your site and / or what search terms you are being found for.
  • Find out more about your users e.g. what browser they are using (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, etc), what connection they are using (dial up, ADSL, etc), where they are based in the world, and so on.
  • Run standard reports and build custom reports which can be emailed to you or someone else OR exported in PDF format.
  • Compare historical data e.g. compare last year’s traffic with this year’s traffic.
    Set up reports that can be sent via email (this is one of my favourite features as it saves me time having to log in every other day to check stats – they automatically get sent to my inbox for me).
  • Manage multiple sites in one console – this is another favourite for me. I run about 10 different sites and can access the stats all via one login to Google Analytics, which, again, is another time saver.

So, you’ve setup your Google Analytics – now what?

With a little time and effort, there are loads of things you can do. Here are a few things that would be considered the most important to me and my websites:

Know and understand your traffic

This is possibly one of the most important things you should know about your website other than that it is running and functioning correctly.

If yours is a website that sells advertising, you must know your unique visitors and page views in order to sell advertising space effectively.

Another reason to know your stats is to ensure that your traffic is either remaining constant or increasing. Your website is a form of marketing – you WANT traffic. So, if you are seeing those figures falling, it’s an indication that you need to do some investigation to find out where your traffic has disappeared to.

Improve your content / SEO

If your bounce rate is high on a particular page of your website, then investigate why this is the case. Why are people leaving? Perhaps the page isn’t useful, perhaps the page is not found or perhaps the page is just boring.

Know your visitors

Where are you visitors from? Often knowing where your visitors are from helps you to ensure that you know how you can improve and what content is best included on your website. In addition, it will help you with marketing your advertising space. For example, if most of your traffic is from Italy, marketing a restaurant in Cape Town on your site may not be worthwhile for the restaurant advertiser.

Know your popular times

This goes hand in hand with knowing your visitors, but I felt that it should be considered separately as I know that, for me, it plays an important role knowing what time of day my sites are most commonly visited. Why? Because I know that if my site’s highest visitors are usually at 2pm, I want my content up to date and ready to go by 2pm e.g. special announcements, competitions, new features, etc.

Find website errors or pages that are broken

No website owner wants to know that something is broken or not working on their site. The reality is that it is always possible that a gremlin will creep in and result in a page not working properly or at all. It could be as a result of server upgrades from your hosting company, new browser capabilities, human error….the list goes on.

Regardless, it needs to be fixed! Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Make sure you have 404 pages implemented on your site. Ask your webmasters to make sure you have 404 pages setup for when a page cannot be found.
  2. Give your 404 page a standard title e.g. Page not Found / YOUR WEBSITE NAME
  3. When doing a search for page views in your Google Analytics, you can search for how many times that page has been viewed by searching for a page with the standard title you entered above.

Know your traffic sources

Understand where your traffic is coming from. Remember that search engines (e.g. Google, MSN, Yahoo! and Bing) need to be your friend if you want to be found naturally on them. So, make sure you are being found by search engines and, if you aren’t receiving traffic from them, you may need to investigate further. Take into account that it does take some time to be found by certain search engines, so don’t panic too quickly.

In addition to search engines, make sure you know where else your traffic is coming from e.g. Facebook, websites you pay to advertise on, etc. These play an important role on determining whether you should be investing your money elsewhere e.g. if you are paying an advertiser X Rands and you are getting 1 click through per month, it would make sense you pay that X Rands to an alternative source.

Setup regular reports

Setup reports that can be emailed to you daily in PDF format. This saves you having to open your browser, log in, find the report, run it, etc. Rather, get it sent automatically to your inbox so that you have it when you log onto your computer first thing in the morning.


Google Analytics has some very advanced features. These would be the basic ones that will help you to get started.

Remember to give your website time before expecting too much too soon from your stats. Be patient and understand that it’s a learning curve.

Good luck!

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