With more than 4 billion people with internet access, it makes perfect sense to invest time in improving your website and online presence. Your website can be a veritable growth machine. Understanding how visitors interact with your site can give you clues on where you can do better.

Google Analytics is a treasure-trove of information when you know how to use it properly. You can learn the basics or dive in like a pro; either way, you’ll be able to give your business a boost by using analytics.

Analytics is a free online tool you can use to improve your business and make decisions based on data, not hunches. Data can take the guesswork out of decision-making and save you oodles of time, so you can act quickly focus on other areas of your business.

Use it to drill down into the details of who’s visiting your site, how they get there, and what they’re doing on your site. Then use that knowledge to supercharge your business.

1. Invest in the right channels

Analytics can show you how visitors are finding your site. You’ll see where they’re coming from: e.g. from a search engine, by entering your URL in the address bar, through an AdWords campaign, via social media, by clicking on an email link, or from another site.

That’s really important because knowing the source will let you optimize your website for how you want visitors to get to it. It will help you decide where to invest more money.

For example, if you see that many people are coming to your site via your Instagram channel, you might decide to create more content there. Or if you see that people are looking for you on search engines, perhaps more SEO is a wise investment.

You can also do the reverse and invest in the channels that aren’t performing: use similar content to boost those channels and bring more people to your site.

2.   Improve your web pages

Analytics can show you where your visitors ‘land’ when they first visit your website, as well as how ‘popular’ each page is, and how many people land there.

The best performing page isn’t always the home page – in fact, it can depend a lot on the source and on your marketing efforts. If your email campaign is doing its magic, for example, then your most viewed page may be your campaign landing.

You’ll know exactly how many views you’ve had on each page. Using this data, you can measure your pages against one another and find out why some are less visited than others. Maybe the copy needs work. Or maybe the layout is confusing to users. Use this information to A/B test and optimize your content.

Bounce Rates

Analytics will also show you the ‘bounce rate’, which is the percentage of people who leave your site after having landed on that page, without going anywhere else on the site. You generally want a low bounce rate on most pages (you want to drive them to visit other pages, too).

High bounce rates may mean that you have to invest a bit more on low-performing pages: either visitors are finding the content uninteresting, or the UI isn’t working for them, or it’s not what they expected to see. Ideally, you want a bounce rate high only for conversion pages, which are the ‘action’ pages of the site (download an ebook, fill out a newsletter form, contact you, etc.); that’s when you want them to leave the site.

Time Spent on Pages

Combine the bounce rate with the time spent on each page, and you’ll get a better idea of why they might be leaving the site. (Keep in mind that returning visitors tend to stay longer on your site, as they typically know what they’re looking for or find your site interesting.)

Use this data to make your content pages more engaging. Your goal is to get your visitors to the right page, decrease the bounce rate, and increase the time spent on each page.

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3. Improve your marketing campaigns

Analytics offers insights into the people who visit your site, like age, gender, and country (and sometimes interests). You can also find out what kind of device they’re using, and whether they’re new or returning visitors.

This is gold for email marketers because you can improve conversions by tailoring your content marketing to those demographics, complete with customized campaign landing pages. The real benefit, however, is in measuring the performance of your campaigns.

How do you know if they’re effective? Email marketing software like MailChimp will track what recipients do on the email – but you lose them once they land on your site. With Analytics’ Behavior and Conversions report, you can track what your visitors do next and see if there’s a conversion resulting directly from your email campaign.

You can also use the New vs Returning report to see how engaged your visitors are, and use this to remarket to those audiences if they’re dropping off somewhere on the site. For better results, use this data to adapt your next campaign around the actions that your users are taking.

google analytics new vs returning

4.   Improve your ads

AdWords and Analytics link up, so you can set up tracking with UTM links so you’ll know exactly which campaign or AdWords group is resonating with your target audience. Together, Analytics and AdWords are a very powerful duo.

You can optimize your ads as well as your pages based on the audience that you know is already visiting the site. For example, if you know that many visits are coming from a particular country or city, you can boost your AdWords spend in that area or with those restrictions to maximize that opportunity.

Analytics will show you how many of your visitors use desktop computers or mobile. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are more people in the world using mobile phones than desktop users, so this is an opportunity to reach out with AdWords campaigns that target only mobile users, for example. Ensure that your website is optimized for popular browsers and mobile devices for a smooth user experience.

The Acquisition overview will show you how effective your AdWords campaign is and how people clicking on your ads behave once on your site. Getting your keywords right is critical in determining your AdWords spend. You may think you know what your customers are interested in, but the only real way of knowing is with data. The Keywords report can be useful, but recent Google changes mean that keywords don’t always show up in Analytics.

However, by linking your AdWords and Analytics accounts, you can get more data on effective keywords and boost your SEO with relevant and interesting content. This will offer a better understanding of the conversion path for your visitors and help you optimize your AdWords campaigns.

5.   Share your dashboard

Google Analytics is a really important tool that any first-time and expert marketer can use. Empower your colleagues and partners with relevant data so that, they too, can help drive traffic and sales.

You can create and save dashboard views, custom reports, and segments to save time. You can also share this information with colleagues or contractors. With these custom reports, you only share what you want the other person to see (your data remains private).

A custom report can include specific dimensions, like City, and metrics like Pageviews or Bounce rate, for example. See Google Analytics’ Solutions Gallery for tips on how to do this and quickly build insightful dashboards.

You can get a basic overview as well as a deep-dive analysis of what’s going on with your site, which can give you key insight into boosting your business online.

If Analytics is all new for you, visit Google Analytics Academy to get your bearings with the basics.