Understanding Goals is one of the most vital parts of using Google Analytics successfully, especially for small businesses. Large Ecommerce stores have the advantage of a plentiful supply of traffic and data, and large businesses in other sectors are already using multiple goals tracking all sorts of different data. To start off, you probably only need one, one that you can build on going forwards.
The most common goal to set up is a contact form completion. If most of your business comes through enquiries, then you’ll want to accurately track how many you’re getting on average, and then be able to track them back to where they came from, how they got to the point of conversion and what percentage of visitors are making enquiries.
As part of setting up goals, you’ll also want to set up goal value as a way to track the monetary value of each conversion. It’s simple to do, and provides excellent feedback for how well your site is performing. Simply take the average value of an actual conversion (i.e. after they’ve been through the enquiry process), multiply that by the percentage of enquiries that actually convert and you’ll have the average value of a goal.
It’s not an incredibly accurate measure, but it’s good for eyeballing the performance of your website and the value of different marketing techniques compared to one another.
Understanding how customers use your website is important for making sure your website does what it’s supposed to do. Creating a conversion funnel will show you which elements of your website are working well, which are turning people away, and measure the success of your expected customer journey.
A conversion funnel tracks where people enter your site, and then tracks their journey through it compared to a journey that you consider to be the conversion process. You can then see a visualisation of this journey that shows where people entered the funnel (whether it’s at the beginning, as expected, or half way through), and where they left it. What you’re left with is a perfect visualisation of the largest roadblocks for your customers.
Conversion funnels don’t directly measure success, but they do show you how successfully different elements of your site are performing. Once you know how your site is performing, you get a better idea of how your business is performing, and areas that need improvement. Even if everything is running smoothly, there are always improvements to be made.
Especially at the beginning, too many small business owners focus only on the most obvious numbers in Google Analytics: visitor numbers. While these are somewhat important, they’re really meaningless by themselves. A site with 100 visitors and a site with 10,000 are just as successful as each other if they each only have 1 conversion. When looking at your Google Analytics reports, you should really be focusing on conversion rate as a measure of success.
Your conversion rate may be based on an Ecommerce measurement of transactions made, or you may have to set up your own individual goals to measure it. Either way, it measures what percentage of your visitors are actually completing a transaction, whether that’s buying from a store, making an enquiry or even downloading an ebook or signing up for your newsletter.
You should be aiming to increase conversion rates rather than increasing traffic. Increasing traffic is partly an organic process and entirely pointless if they don’t convert. Knowing how many people are converting, though, is a number with a value behind it.
All that said, conversion rate also doesn’t tell the whole story of your business’ success. In order to give conversion rate more usefulness, you also need to track your average conversion value. After all, converting 10 customers at £10 each is just as good as converting 100 customers at £1.
For Ecommerce stores you can keep track of average order value, which will tell you how much customers are spending on average with your store, while for non-Ecommerce businesses you can set your own goal values to get a rough idea of how much each one is worth. Keep track of either, or both, to make sure you know how much money your site is making you, and how successful it is.
If your business is on social media, you’ll want to keep track of how well it’s doing on there, with reference to how that feeds into your website. Google Analytics makes it very easy to track visitors based on where they’ve come from, especially if they’re from one of the big social media platforms.
Keep an eye on how visitors from different platforms act on your website, including their individual conversion rates and values, so that you can measure how much value your social media presence is adding to your business.
Not everything in Google Analytics is going to be useful for your business. Some of it is mostly useful for larger businesses, or ones that have a broader range of activities to measure. Some of it will never be relevant, while some of the most relevant information is hidden within 3 different submenus.
Create a custom report and you’ll be able to see all the most important information at a glance. Not only does it make it much easier to navigate Analytics, it also means that nothing will get forgotten due to being difficult to find or obscure. Everything important to you is easy to access, and everything irrelevant is out of the way where you don’t have to interact with it.
Knowing exactly what’s contributing to your business’ success is important, and Google Analytics sadly doesn’t provide all the answers. Real life events, from major news events to seasonal sales to changes in your site, infrastructure or even personnel, can all have knock-on effects on the performance of your business.
Google Analytics gives you the ability to annotate your timeline to keep track of what happened when, and then see how that affects what happens on your site. You don’t need to track everything, of course, but anything that might affect your performance can be noted down so that when you come to look at performance later, you can see what’s contributing to your success.
Above all, it’s important to remember that business success doesn’t happen overnight, and neither do results. Don’t feel the need to keep a close eye on Google Analytics performance every second of every day, especially since results are delayed anyway. Analytics doesn’t provide a valuable, real-time measure of business success, but a long term overview of how well your business is doing.
Measure success over long periods of time, and compare to previous quarters and previous years. Long term trends are much more valuable than short term bumps and dips, and more telling of your success.