Google Analytics is a very powerful tool that can reveal all kinds of insights about who visits, shops and buys from your site. In turn, you can draw important conclusions about who is most likely to buy from your business.
Setting up a Google Analytics account is free and easy, but you’ll have to dig a little deeper to get to the insights that really make a difference. Here I’ll review the six best Google Analytics tips for small business owners.
1. Use Custom Segments
Google Analytics has a feature called segments that makes it easy to see how different groups of visitors interact with your website. Right out of the box, you can instantly check on several different default segments including mobile traffic, direct traffic, bounced sessions, converters and new users. Each is extremely helpful and requires no setting up beyond getting started in Analytics.
Custom segments help you zoom in for a closer look. You can segment your traffic by browser type, traffic channel, geographical region, device types and more. You can also set up custom segments to analyze the behavior of users who reach different benchmarks of your sales funnel, such as reaching a landing page, scheduling an appointment or placing an item in a virtual shopping cart.
Default and custom segments are managed from the Audience reporting section of Google Analytics.
2. Review Social Media Performance & Trends Reports
Do you market your small business on social media? Many small business owners do, and they’re often curious about how they can do so more effectively. The Social Media Performance & Trends reports generated by Google Analytics can help answer those questions.
On the surface, these reports let you see how visitors from social media interact with your website. You can also break apart and analyze traffic from different channels such as Facebook or Twitter.
But perhaps the greatest benefit from these reports is the ability to track conversions from your social media campaigns. Not only does Google Analytics keep track of visitors from social media campaigns who immediately make purchases, it also keeps track of people who arrive at your website via social media and then return to make purchases later.
3. Set Intelligence Events
Most small business owners don’t have the time to pour over Google Analytics data every day. However, it’s important to know when something unusual – good or bad – is going on with your website. If your shopping cart is broken, or if you’re getting a surge of social media traffic, you want to know why and Intelligence Events are the answer.
These are custom alerts managed through the Google Analytics reporting interface. There are automatic alerts and custom alerts. Use this feature to be tipped off about spikes or dips in your traffic, unusual numbers of page views and suddenly high bounce rates. You can also associate Intelligence Events with your Google Analytics Goals to learn when you’ve exceeded sales-oriented benchmarks.
And yes, Google Analytics can send you emails or text messages when Intelligence Events are triggered.
4. Give Monetary Values to Your Goals
Goals are specific actions that you want visitors to complete on your website. In Google Analytics, you can define various Goals to measure the effectiveness of your different marketing efforts. By assigning monetary values to your goals, you can easily see how your website is affecting your bottom line, for better or worse.
You can set Goals from the Admin section of Google Analytics. The Goals interface has a field for defining each Goal’s value, which is where you can put the monetary value. For online purchases, this could be an average sales figure. For Goals such as email signups or requests for service, you can factor in the average conversion rates and average lifetime value.
5. Compare Historical Traffic Trends
Want to see how your website traffic behaves from one month to the next? Or do you want to analyze changes that might have resulted from an ongoing sale? Want to know whether a massive social media push has made a noticeable difference?
Google Analytics offers two ways to compare traffic from different periods of time. The simplest is the Previous Period option; with this option selected, simply enter in a desired date range and Google Analytics will automatically compare it with traffic from the most recently identical range. For example, if you select dates spanning a Tuesday through Saturday, Google Analytics will compare that with traffic data from the previous Tuesday through Saturday.
The other option is to set custom date ranges if your needs are more specialized. For example, if you have a seasonal business, you may want to compare trends for a given month or week on a year-over-year basis.
6. Set Annotations
Google Analytics throws a lot of data at you, and it’s easy to forget about important findings. Annotations are essentially digital post-it notes that let you mark important notes on various traffic reports. Did you get a surge of traffic from a social media campaign? Mark it down. Did conversions dive when a competing store opened its doors across town? Mark it down. There is no end to the useful annotations that can add valuable clarity to your data.
Making annotations is easy. You do it by clicking below each report graph, and they can be set to either private or public, depending on whether others are authorized to use your Analytics account.
Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can help small business owners take their marketing (and profits) to the next level. But to truly excel in Google Analytics you must know how to use some of the program’s more advanced features. Consider these six tips as more of a starting point than a destination. In time, you’ll be mining Analytics insights on your customers that could boost every aspect of your small business.
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