The Google Analytics dashboard is one of the serious website owner’s most valuable tools. Full of useful information and is hands down the best way to keep tabs on your internet marketing efforts. This blog post will give you a first glance at the dashboard and consists of a step-by-step wizard that instructs you on how to begin analyzing traffic data on your website.
Getting Started – Sign Up
The first step that you will see, after logging into your Google Account, is the “sign up for Google Analytics” link. When you create your Google Analytics website dashboard within your Google account, you add the functions and services to your existing Google login. There is no charge for either a Google account or the Google Analytics service.
Step 2 – Install the Tracking Codes
The second step is to get and install the tracking code for your website(s). Google will ask you to enter your website data (URL, etc.), and will create a “tracking code” from that. This code should be placed within the <HEAD> </HEAD> section of your webpage. The code is invisible to visitors, but it places a “cookie” within the visitor’s browser that keeps track of your visitor’s activity while on your website.
If you are not sure about how to do this bit of programming, ask about our special offer to install Google Analytics for you.
Step 3 – Getting Familiar with the Dashboard
The third and final step in the Google Analytics process is to learn about your visitor’s browsing habits. After placing the code within your website’s header tag, the guest’s browsing activity while on your website will be recorded. A few things you can learn include:
- The amount of time spent on the site
- Links visited within the site
- How many pages they looked at
- How they found your site
These are just a few of the important pieces of data you can learn from your dashboard, and will help you to gain a general understanding of a “trend” with user activity on your website. For example, if most of the visitors exit your website on a particular page within your site, you can analyze that particular page to see if there is a reason as to why the visitors leave your site after visiting that page.
Analyzing where customers leave before a purchase of a product on any retail site will show the store/website owner what they need to change on their website in order to keep the customers from leaving without purchasing their product.
Most Important Elements of Your Dashboard
While there are volumes of great materials written about the ins and outs of Google Analytics, I would like to point out what I believe are the most important, and practical aspects of the dashboard:
Your dashboard will tell you where your website traffic is coming from. This is very important to understand how much of your traffic comes from each source, and how much (if at all) it changes over time. The 3 major traffic sources are:
- Direct Traffic
- Traffic from Referring Sites
- Traffic from Search Engines (including keywords)
Learning where your visitors come from, what they do on your site is vitally important. A few things you can learn from this section are:
- The locality of web visitors
- How frequently they visit your site
- What type of browser (and mobile device) they used to find your site.
At the end of the day, having measurement in place to evaluate your website is critically important. As such, you should configure goals for your website that you can track. Potential goals include:
- Sign ups for newsletters or special offers
- Completed contact forms
- Purchase of online items
- Amount of time spent on the site
Regular Use of the Dashboard
After completing the initial steps, you will then login straight to your Google Analytics website dashboard from then on. Your website(s) will be displayed by URL, and you can click on that particular URL to see the traffic trends that have occurred on your site since your last visit to your Analytics account.
Analyzing the pages that your visitors enter your website and which pages that they leave your website are again, the most important sections of the dashboard. By looking at what page is the most popular entry page, you are able to tell that this page is more than likely the most SEO friendly, the most linked-to page from external sources, and also what the customer is looking for the most while visiting your website. For example, if most customers enter your website on the contact page, they are looking for a way to contact you more than anything else. If they were to enter on the products page, they are obviously looking for a product that your website sells, etc.
Glancing at the traffic trends for your website will tell you specific days of the week that your website has more visitors than others, the source of the visitor (how the visitor found your website), and how many visitors are repeat visitors/customers.
Overall, the Google Analytics website dashboard is more than likely the most simple, yet advanced, website analytics software to date. There are others such as AWStats, etc. – but Google Analytics is both platform-independent and free – which is always a plus.