Google has a very powerful and comprehensive tool to tell website owners if the effort and money they are spending to drive traffic to their websites is paying off. It’s called Google Analytics, and it mines the big data of website traffic to reveal a wealth of information: Are customers visiting your website from a desktop computer, a tablet, or smartphone? What browser and operating system are they using? What time of day are they visiting? Are they local, or in a different province or country?
Here are some of the details that Google Analytics reveals:
1. Pageviews: The total number of times a page on a website has been viewed by anyone. This is useful for checking how often pages are referenced. For example, if a visitor views a webpage, visits another area on the site, then returns to that first page, it will count for two pageviews.
2. Entrances: The number of times someone has entered a website on a specific page. Links and search engine results don’t always lead to a website’s home page, and the number of entrances per page can help pinpoint what areas of the site are drawing in solid traffic.
3. Bounce Rate: The percentage of people who visited one page on the site and then left without viewing any other pages: by going back to Google, through a link to another website, or by closing their browser. A high bounce rate is not necessarily a bad thing. Bounce rate can be an indicator of whether people who came to the webpage found exactly what they were looking for, such as contact details, phone number, or a useful article.
4. Direct Traffic: Traffic that comes from people typing a website address directly into their browsers, without clicking on a link or going through a search engine like Google. Direct traffic is a good indication of how well people remember a website address, and can be an indicator of a successful print campaign.
5. Referral Traffic: Traffic that comes from a link on another website or social media network. Referrals are skyrocketing in importance for search engines, and are often essential to ensure a website is found. Referrals from a social media site indicates whether a strategy is working.
6. Organic Traffic: Traffic that comes from a search engine such as Google, Yahoo!, or Bing.
7. Session: The amount of time Google will allow a user to be inactive on a site before being considered as “timed out” in Analytics. The default is 30 minutes, meaning that if someone opens a webpage, goes to lunch for an hour, then comes back and goes somewhere else on the site, Analytics will count that as two visits.
Analytics Works! One example of the power of Google Analytics is with a new responsive mobile-friendly website built for Victoria Harbour Ferry last May. After several months, Google Analytics revealed:
1. Mobile traffic from tablets and smartphones counted for 43% of website visits.
2. Among that mobile traffic, the Rates and Fares page was the most popular.
3. This Rates and Fares page had a higher than average bounce rate on mobile devices.
The culprit for the high bounce rate turned out to be a rates table in .pdf format, which was not particularly friendly to use on a smartphone or tablet. A new mobile-optimized calculator was built, and subsequent Analytics reports showed a lower bounce rate, longer time on site and, one can assume, a more enjoyable customer experience.
Google Analytics provides vital information about a website. It needs to be installed and configured properly to give business owners the wealth of information needed to save time and make productive updates on their websites.