The world today revolves around the internet – we use it for absolutely everything, including the majority of our shopping. Whatever your business may be, it could likely benefit from making some tweaks to your online web presence. You could be a freelancer with a small blog or a huge multinational corporation – it doesn’t matter. Engaging with more people online means more potential customers, which means more revenue for the company! If you do wish to optimize the flow of web traffic to your company’s site, you’ve likely considered hiring a digital marketer or webmaster of some kind. However, it’s also easy to learn to analyze web data for yourself – particularly if you own and operate a smaller business, or cannot afford to pay a dedicated web analysist.
Google Analytics (GA) is a part of the Google Marketing Platform. Essentially, GA comprises of a set of intuitive tools for digital marketing. There are hundreds of things you can monitor, like the number of visitors to your site within a particular time period, average time spent on each page, and even the performance of your social media accounts. The information you gather can give valuable insights into how well your company’s webpages are doing and, more importantly, what areas you need to change in order to direct more traffic to your site.
One of the other ways Google Analytics can help your business is by monitoring your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This is a practice by which companies fill their websites with highly-searched keywords, meaning they appear top of the search list when people are looking for what they have to offer. Using GA, you can monitor how people are arriving at your website (be it from direct searches, adverts, or links on other websites) as well as which of your keywords people are using most frequently.
There’s a lot to know if you’re just getting started with Google Analytics, and it may seem overwhelming at first, but this article should provide a good starting point. We’re taking a quick look into what GA can do, how to use it, and how to implement it. As well, we’re going to compare Google’s service against similar products from IBM and Adobe. Google has a dominant market position with their platform, but the other options certainly have their merits too. This article is a good place to begin if you’re thinking about optimizing your company’s web presence.
How Was Google Analytics Created?
In 2005, Google bought a company called Urchin that specialized in collecting statistics about internet usage. Google noticed an opportunity to provide these tools to businesses, allowing them to optimize traffic to their pages. Their initial goal was to make the technology accessible to everyone, as normally this kind of tool was only available to huge companies who were willing to pay extortionate amounts for their analytics data. Despite their initial aim being rather charitable, it’s also become a profitable venture for Google, as they sell their analytics platform to very large companies for hundreds of thousands. Fortunately, it’s free for everyone else!
Google were the first ones to see the opportunity, but even they did not expect GA to garner quite the reception it did. When it first launched, the platform had so much web traffic that it had to be taken straight back down. Only after a year of adjustments did the service launch again. At first this was by invitation only, but it was released freely soon after. Ever since, Google Analytics has held a dominant position in the ‘digital marketing’ market – with over 55% of all websites (yes, all websites) using GA to optimize their performance. This, in turn, gives Google over 85% of the web analytics tool market.
What Can Google Analytics Do for Your Business?
Now we get on to the important bits. What actually is Google Analytics, and how can it help your business? Put simply, GA monitors all the web traffic to your page and tells you everything you need to know about your website’s performance. It allows you to set goals and edit your webpages in order to increase the number of visitors you’re getting. As previously mentioned, this increased flow of potential customers can only be good for revenue. Check out the list below for a few valuable insights that Google Analytics can give you:
- How many visitors you have – this allows you to see exactly how many people are viewing your site every day. You can split this up by specific page, and it also tells you how long people spend looking at each page.
- Your ‘Bounce Rate’ – this term is used to denote the number of visitors who leave without actually using the site. This could be people who’ve clicked a link accidentally, or were just uninterested with the things they saw on your homepage.
- Information about your users – obviously this doesn’t mean their personal details. But you can see if they are new or returning customers, where they are based around the world etc. It can also tell you if people are using a mobile (so they’re likely on the go) or desktop computer.
- How are people getting to your site – they could be searching for you directly, or be finding you using SEO. They could also have clicked an ad or a link from another site. You can also see what the other sites are that are leading people to you.
- Progress updates on your quantifiable goals – one of the main things GA suggests you do is create S.M.A.R.T goals (that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely). This could be something like: I want to reduce my Bounce Rate by 25%. Google uses the data it collects to suggest business improvements and keep tabs on the progress you’re making.
Google Analytics is a fantastic tool for proving the ROI of your company’s web and also social media presence. That’s right, GA provides all sorts of similar insights for your social pages too. This includes what people are responding to most, how long visitors spend looking at each post etc. These stats can help you figure out if you’re reaching the right target audience, if your content is actually interesting, and whether people are likely to return after visiting. And, by linking your social media analysis with that of your website, you can tell which social media sites send the most potential customers to your webpage. This, in turn, allows you to prioritize your content posting so you can reach your target audience.
If you really want to prove your expertise at using Google Analytics, you could gain an official certification in GA. What is a Google Analytics certification from Emerson College? Well, it’s an online course in using Google’s web analysis software, from the experts in digital marketing. You’ll be taught how to use every feature, including planning, setting and monitoring goals, and creating detailed reports. Gaining a real qualification in GA is a great way to supplement your skillset and increase job security. It also gives you a range of valuable skills, such as marketing and data analysis, which increases the range of potential jobs available to you. Whatever your career plans, a certification in Google Analytics can help you achieve your goals.
What are the Alternatives?
Google Analytics has two main competitors in the ‘digital marketing’ market – Adobe Analytics and IBM Coremetrics. There are numerous features which all three services share, such as cloud integration and e-commerce support. The platforms are also all similarly priced – completely free for most small and medium-sized businesses, with annual prices upwards of $100,000 for very large companies.
There are, however, a number of important differences to consider if you’re choosing between the three. Google has the most intuitive interface – it’s by far the easiest to implement and learn to use. However, they have no dedicated customer support team, unlike the alternatives. Adobe generally has the strongest e-commerce tracking, but the platform is often described by users as ‘unstructured’. IBM and Adobe are both good options for large corporations due to some of the high-level features they have to offer, but Google’s easy-to-use interface and real time business support makes it the service of choice for small and medium sized businesses.
If you decide against using one of these three, there are still plenty of other alternatives to choose from. Just make sure to do your own research before choosing, particularly if you choose a paid service.
How to Implement and Operate Google Analytics
If you’ve decided to use Google Analytics, then great! It’s an extremely useful free service that can be surprisingly easy to use once it’s set up. The implementation can prove tricky, but the insights you will gain once it’s up and running are definitely worth the initial effort. We’ve put together a short step-by-step guide to setting up GA. If you still need more expertise, just check out all of Google’s free resources which can take you through the process in more detail.
- Implement Google Tag Manager – this tag management service is vital for Google Analytics. Essentially, this is the software that links your website’s data to the analytics platform. This step involves copying several lines of code (which can be easily found on Google Tag Manager) into the back end of your website in order to manage your tags.
- Set up Google Analytics – this step is relatively easy, and it mainly consists of creating a new account with GA. Once you’ve signed up and accepted the terms of service, you will be provided with a tracking ID. This is basically just a long number, unique to you and your website, which Google uses to send analytics data to you.
- Link your analytics tag with Google Tag Manager – on the tag manager interface is a panel where you can add a new tag. From here, you’ll need to customize the configuration (where the collected data will be sent) and the triggering (the type of data you’re collecting) of the tag. You’ll then want to select ‘universal analytics’ as the tag type and enter your tracking ID to connect the two pieces of software.
- Create your goals – this step starts by you telling Google what your key performance indicators are – essentially, what does success look like for your webpage? You can set up goals based on a number of different templates. For example, your aim could be to guide visitors to a particular page of products, or maybe you want to increase the average time visitors are spending on your site. Once you’ve set a base goal, you can go deeper and set specific quantified targets, such as an ideal duration for visiting the page.
- Set up Google Search Console – this is the penultimate point, and it ensures that you can collect all the search data associated with your website. This is vital for increasing your web traffic and tweaking your SEO settings.
- Grant your team access – if you’re working within a group, you may want to give them access to the data too. This is as simple as entering their Google email address and sending an invitation.
Another thing you can do is link Google Analytics with Google Ads (if you use this platform). This can give you an insight into which of your ads are performing best, and whether they lead to tangible results. For example, how often does a person click on your advert, leading to the purchase of a product or service? There’s no point running ads which bring people to your webpage if it’s not eventually leading to added revenue.
Once you’ve set up Google Analytics, you’re ready to optimize your web presence! You can use the service to identify areas of weakness in your online pages and make changes to help bring in additional visitors. We hope this introduction has proved useful in providing you with some background information. If you want to learn more, just check out the Google Analytics page, it’s free after all!