A new client told me this week that they outsource their AdWords and associated Analytics account and every month they get a spreadsheet or a series of graphs like the one below.

Google Analytics Graph

The spreadhsheets meanwhile are rows and rows of data such as
CTR 1.81% compared to 1.80% in the previous period. Bounce Rate up to 46.23% on one page and yet the Exit Rate is down by -8%. Average time on page is 00:01:12 compared to 00:00:59 for another page.Cordwangle down a point.*

And so on.

But what does it all mean? What is the business owner actually going to do with all this new found knowledge every month? And it is the same every month. Column after column of numbers, percentages and acronyms or pie charts that show more people find them on Google then they do on Ask Jeeves.

No wonder business owners would rather go face the drill than the drilldown of an elaborate but often pointless pivot table.

I told my new client to turn the whole thing on its head and she would be surprised with the results.

I like cooking. However I never cook a recipe unless there is a picture of how it should look when it’s finished. The same sort of thing should also apply for Google Analytics.
For a business owner to make sense of Google Analytics and to act on the treasures buried deep within the data, set a little time aside and do the following:

1. Write down what you want a visitor to your site to do.

Example: I would like a visitor to be interested enough in what we do to contact us

2. How is the person going to achieve point 1?

Example: They arrive on one of our pages, have a look at what we do, might check who we are and either phone us or fill in the online form.

3. Which of our pages best does that journey?

Example: Home > Services > About > Contact

Now there are many different journeys and my example may well not be appropriate to you. You will however get an idea of looking at it the other way round i.e.

Does the data match our anticipated journeys RATHER THAN what is the data trying to tell us

Now..
There are a number of ways to do all this and creating Goals is a good place to start. The point however is that you can see if your user journey is working or not and if not where it is breaking down.

Consider this…

With point 3 above in mind:

Which of our pages best does that journey?
Example: Home > Services > About > Contact
In the previous period..

  • Homepage visitors 1000
  • 750 then went to “Products & Services” page
  • 600 then went to “About us” page and stayed for 15 seconds before 599 of them then left the site
  • 1 went to “Contact us”

As the business owner of this data, if you have time to improve one page, which one needs the most improving?

Interpreting the data in reality is much more difficult than the example of course and you probably need someone to help you do this as they will have experience in setting measures and spotting certain user journey characteristics. And when we do it we tend to focus on one predicted journey at a time. That works quite well.

Summary

As with all of this, the technology is meant to be there to drive the business forward and Google Analytics retrospective view of the data your site generates can be used fantastically well for future updates. It can pinpoint trouble spots as well as those pages that are doing suprisingly well on search but the user journey hits a dead end and they leave. Create some of your own user journeys and try and relate them to a set of your own pages. Through your data, follow the journey to see where your visitors actually join and leave and you will very quickly cease to view Google Analytics as pulling out teeth.

*

CTR
Click Through Rate is the number of clicks that your ad receives divided by the number of times your ad is shown. The higher the rate (%) the better.


Bounce Rate
Visitors to your website who leave your site after viewing only one page. A high Bounce Rate (>50% as a general guide) is not usually good.


Exit Rate
The last page a visitor sees before leaving your site. Unlike the Bounce Rate, these visitors may have also visited other pages before leaving. A high Exit Rate is not good for most pages but remember some pages are designed to be the last page i.e. Contact Form.


Cordwangle 
Taken from a classic Kenneth Williams Song