Using Google Analytics When making decisions

By | October 1, 2007

I’ve been using Google Analytics for about a year now. And up to know I haven’t done much with it. It collects data and I look to see if the visitor count is increasing, though truth be told I’d love it to stay steady ;).

Last week I decided that I was going to try and use Google Analytics to help me decide what to do with this blog. You may ask why, but I’m hoping it can help me provide you with better information and me with a better website.

How can analytics help
To be honest I didn’t know where to start so I decided to look at some of the features of analytics. These are the ones I’m hoping will help me:

  1. Capability to track users through the website (sort of)
  2. Track statistics on users, like location / operating system / browser / etc..
  3. Track page statistics, like how often pages get visited and how long
  4. Where people came from
  5. Give differential reports

Lets walk through how you can use them to improve the website, starting with the first :).

Capability to track users through the website
Why is it useful to track users visiting your website. Easy, if you find that your visitors don’t visit a page then you may be able to figure out why. For example can’t they find the link, is it to deep in the website. This kind of information can help refine the navigation through the website.

With analytics you won’t be able to track individual visitors, but you can see the general flow through the website. So if you changed the navigation and visitors suddenly can’t get to a page you have a good idea as to why.

Track user statistics
I hope it’s clear why this helps refine a website. Just knowing where your visitors come from helps you target content. Or blog posts in my case. Just like knowing the browsers they use and the average connection speed helps you refine the implementation of the website.

Analytics offers a very thorough overview of the visitors system. From operating system (eg: windows) to JavaScript support.

Track page statistics
One of the features I particularly like is the capability to track which pages are most viewed. This helps me refine what people are looking for and what type of text and images they like best.

But it also helps with something else. You can roughly determine how long it takes before a page on your website becomes popular. As well as how long it takes for search engines to send some real traffic to it.

Where people are coming from
With this I do not mean the location like ‘US’ or ‘United Kingdom’, but the referrer of the visit. This helps me to determine in which areas my website is currently good. For example right now most of my traffic comes from Google. I prefer that most of my traffic comes from other websites though.

So this tells me I should improve my content to get more links from related websites. As well as improve my lay-out so other website owners are more likely to link to my website.

Give differential reports
And last but not least the differential reports. A differential report is when you compare the current month against the data from the last month. You can have these e-mailed to you, which I like.

You can set these up by going to any page in Google Analytics and then clicking the date in the upper right corner to set a timeframe. You can also set the ‘Compare against previous’ option. This will give you a differential report. (Sorry I can’t give any screenshots, since I’m using the Dutch variant of analytics)

You can then see how you have improved or worsened over the past month.

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