When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.
– Lord Kelvin
What kind of traffic are you generating? Which websites are benefitting you the most – and which ones are having no effect at all? Where do your marketing efforts most need to improve?
These are rhetorical questions, of course. But if you’re going to find legitimate answers to them, it starts with website measurement. You need a way to gauge your web traffic and make sense of all the noise.
And if you don’t have Google Analytics already installed, it’s safe to say you probably aren’t measuring your traffic at all.
But as Lord Kelvin said, the simple act of measuring something – putting real numbers to your hunches – means you know something about it. That’s why it’s so important that you set up Google Analytics and get an idea about your web presence.
Step 1: Setting Up Google Analytics
First things first – if you’re going to set up Google Analytics, you’ll need the following:
Ownership of a domain (or at least the legitimate access required to make changes to a website’s code)
A functioning website of some sort
A Google account
If you already have a Google account, you can simply sign in to Google Analytics and you’re off to the races. If you don’t have an account – do yourself a favor and sign up for one.
Once you’re in, your next mission is to set up a property, as Google’s website calls it. Here, you’ll enter in your relevant website information and then create a way to demonstrate to Google that you are, in fact, the legitimate webmaster of said domain.
With all of the relevant information entered, click Get Tracking ID. This is the tracking tool your website will use to capture all of the important data you’re after. If it all seems a little wonky, follow these specific steps for setting up your website tracking.
You might want to wait a little while at this point to make sure that data is being fed to your Google Analytics account. If anything’s going wrong, Google Analytics will tell you from your account that you’re not receiving any data, and what to do from there.
Step 2: Configuring Google Analytics for Your Goals
Now you’re tracking your data – Lord Kelvin would be proud. But if you want to make the most of your Google Analytics, you’ll have to configure a few options to go beyond raw data and tailor to your specific goals.
What those specific goals are, we can only guess. But here are a few tips that will help you get moving:
Create a goal. Goals are one of the vital features that tell you whether or not your website is really creating value for your company. KISSmetrics has a detailed tutorial on setting up specific goals, but the gist is this: you’ll create a goal, set the destination URL to be something like a “Thank You for Signing Up” page (if your goal is to get newsletter subscribers, for example), and then properly name and label that goal for future reference.
Create custom alerts. If you have a huge surge in traffic because an important website linked your way, you’re going to want to know that as soon as possible. You can keep tabs on information like this by creating a custom alert for an unusually high number of pageviews, for example. You don’t want your website to go viral and then crash.
Monitor your content to see what’s working the best. It’s worth knowing, for example, if one blog post is generating 70% of your traffic – so you can replicate those efforts going forward. These numbers are what help you determine what your visitors and potential customers are looking for.
Once you have a better handle on Google Analytics, the data will accrue over time, giving you a larger sample size from which to gauge your success.
But one more question remains: why does it matter?
Why Google Analytics?
Maybe your website isn’t quite ready yet. Why should you care who visits it, where they’re coming from, or which keywords they’re typing in to find you? The benefits might not be apparent when you’re still in startup mode, but there are plenty of features that make it worth the initial setup:
Discover the keywords fueling your traffic. When you know why people are landing on your site, you’re better able to pursue keywords that will make a difference in your traffic.
Track your customer experience. Does a customer reach your site and then abandon you because you have a terrible shopping cart landing page? You’ll only know that if you track your customer experience with a service like Google Analytics. Otherwise, you might be totally in the dark as to why you’re not achieving the conversions you want.
Set specific goals and targets. That’s not just simple goals like a specific conversion rate, either. You can set new, ambitious, and realistic goals for your web traffic once you know your real traffic numbers. And when you know specific numbers – like where your audience is coming from or how many of them come through organic search – you can set specific marketing goals that shore up your weak spots.
In short, Google Analytics is one of the most powerful free tools on the web for bolstering your digital marketing efforts. If you’re not measuring your traffic, then you not only stay in the dark about your numbers, but you stay in the dark about what’s important about those numbers.