Every business has different goals for what they want their website to accomplish and should have key metrics to make sure they succeed in meeting those goals. Some business owners only require a website to act as an online brochure, while others are concerned with how much revenue the website is actually generating.
The simplest way to start measuring your website's impact is to use Google Analytics. This free tool is advanced enough for the most expert of users, but easy enough for the non-tech small business owner to understand.
Installing Google Analytics
To start using Google Analytics you'll need to paste a small piece of code into a template on your website, so that it is included on each page of the website.
Installing Google Analytics is quite simple:
- Visit http://google.com/analytics
- If you have a Google account – use it to sign in or make a new account by following the instructions
- Once you have signed in you can click the sign up button and you will now be prompted for some information about your website – including the domain name and the time zone that you are in
- On the next screen you may be prompted to accept Google's terms and conditions
Most modern websites should be template driven, which means that you can simply paste the analytics code once and it will be included on each page. Normally the analytics will go into the header template anywhere above the tag, which could be called header.php for example.
If you are unsure or if this sounds too technical, it may be a job for your web developer or tech savvy friend to help you with, but once complete Google will begin collecting information as people visit the web site.
It is worth noting that if you are using the popular WordPress Content Management System, you can simply install the Google Analytics for WordPress Plugin, which will take care of tagging up each page for you.
Understanding the Data
Don't worry if you do not see any data in Google Analytics straight away, it can take up to 24 hours for it to appear. It is worth waiting for a week to capture a decent amount of data and then start to explore the different screens within Google Analytics.
Some of the key information you want to look for is:
- How many real people have visited (Unique Visitors)
- How many people found your site after making a search (Search Visits Report)
- What other websites are sending you traffic (Referrers report)
- What words did people search for to find my website? (Keyword report)
You can start to compare these key metrics on a month to month basis to monitor how you site is performing and how any changes that you make impact the metrics. For example, if you begin a social media campaign or optimize the content on your website for search engines, it's important to have a baseline to measure against so you know if your changes are successful.
What Will I Gain from Using Google Analytics?
For some business owners, spending a small amount time looking at Google Analytics can have a dramatic effect. By understanding where your customers are coming from and what they are doing can influence where you see and position your website going forward. It can even affect your sales strategy by highlighting low hanging fruit that with minimal cost and effort can reward in higher profits.
If you have a simple five page website and have never considered who is looking at it, why not take the time to install analytics and find out who your potential customers are? If, when you first install the analytics, you find that not many people are finding your site, it may give you the motivation you need to expand your website and give your company a greater voice.