Google Analytics is for sure the most widely used website statistics tool. Since it first rolled out in November 2005, the platform has undergone some spectacular changes so it could offer you the most targeted data about your users and their interaction with your website/app. And since it’s such a big tool, loaded with lots of features, you could easily miss some of the opportunities it could offer to you. Below I have briefly explained 5 essential Google Analytics features that will help you make the most of the platform.
1. The Users Flow Chart
Users Flow is a graphical representation of the paths users took through your site, from the source, through the various pages, to the page where they left your site. Not everybody will care exactly how their visitors perform but the information presented with a chart is much easier to digest. How you think people interact with your website can be very different from reality, so I suggest you to take a look at the data and not make random conclusions.
You can find this information under: Audience > Users Flow.
Initially you may feel a bit overwhelmed since the charts look kind of messy. But pay attention to the thicker lines between page blocks – this means that more users are following the same route. To get a clearer picture and focus on one particular segment, just click on it and then select “Highlight Traffic through Here” from the small menu that will pop up.
2. Custom Dashboards
Google Analytics Dashboards are simply collections of widgets that allow you to quickly visualize data. By customizing the dashboards you can display, on your GA entry screen, the data that’s most important for you/your company. You can have up to 20 dashboards with max 12 widgets in it for each view / property in your Google Analytics account. For instance, each company department could create its own customized dashboard to quickly access site performance statistics that relate to the goals of this department. Have in mind that the customized dashboards are private for each particular user. You can only share the template showing your dashboard’s configuration, but not the data.
Here’s the official Google Analytics guide on creating and customizing dashboards. Or, if you prefer, you can use an already created dashboard – there are hundreds of free, shared dashboards to choose from in the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery.
3. In-Page Analytics
With In-Page Analytics you can make a visual assessment of how users interact with your web pages, including what they click and don’t click. It shows a live web page from your site and overlays click data, enumerating the percentage of clicks a particular link receives.
To start, go to Behavior > In-Page Analytics, which opens your site’s homepage. From here you can navigate In-Page Analytics the way you navigate your site: click any link on your homepage, and when the new page is loaded, the corresponding data is shown for that page. Use these insights to optimize your website layout, improve user experience, and increase conversions.
The data you’ll see can help you answer questions like:
- Is the layout optimal for what I want users to accomplish on the page?
- Are my users seeing the content I want them to see?
- Are my users finding what they’re looking for on the page?
- Are my calls to action motivating or visible enough?
- What links are users clicking?
4. Backlinks via Referrals
In the terms of web traffic, a “referral” is like a recommendation from one website to another. Google Analytics helps you figure out which external sources are sending you the most visitors and are most valuable in helping your business achieve its goals.
To find which websites refer to yours, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals. Then think how your links got onto these other websites, and can you continue building traffic from these domains. By monitoring the referrals you can discover potential partners, who are associated with your mission.
The referral traffic also provides added Search Engine Optimization (SEO) benefits, since by definition it is driven either by an inbound link or social activity, both of which send positive signals to the search engines about your site. It might be a good idea to set up a weekly custom alert in Analytics to email you if there is 10% or more increase/decrease in referral traffic over the previous week. In this way you can quickly react if further linking opportunities or a sort of issue occur.
5. Real-Time Reports
Real-Time reports in Google Analytics allow you to monitor activity as it happens on your site and are updated just seconds after a new hit has occurred. For example, you can see how many people are on your site right now, which are the top active pages, top referrals, keywords and geographic locations driving the traffic.
Here are a few suggestion on how to make the Real-Time tool work in your favor:
- you may monitor a temporal marketing campaign (like a social media promotion or the release of a newsletter) as it unfolds and see how your audience is reacting to it right away. If the response triggered is different than what you expect, you can adjust the campaign.
- you can monitor goal completions as you test changes to your site
- you can detect current trends; for example, if you notice that a blog post or a news is suddenly gaining attention due to some event happening, you could highlight it on the homepage of your site
- you can a/b test new features on your website in real-time
Now grab a cup of coffee, open your Google Analytics account and get ready to unleash all the valuable data that this platform can offer to you. And if you decide to certify your GA expertise – check out my blog post with tips on how to become a certified Google Analytics specialist.