Google Analytics can provide a cornucopia of data to website owners and marketing teams. It’s fascinating to see your user statistics beautifully arranged in eye-pleasing visualizations, but seeing the data is one thing — understanding what it means for your business, your brand and your revenue is another.
Let’s talk a bit about how to use your analytics data to formulate a marketing strategy. You will find plenty of posts that explain what “Bounce Rate” means, and how to track Events on your website, but what is really important is how you use this information to improve your website’s performance.
Since strategies will vary depending on the type of website you’re managing, this post is designed to give you a general idea of how to put your analytics to use. Another thing to keep in mind is that in order to get useful insights from your website data, it’s important to have enough data to analyze. A sufficient sample size will allow you to segment the data for more granular analysis and more meaningful takeaways. A longer time frame will help you account for seasonal trends as you interpret the data. If your website is new, give it at least six months to collect data so you can see what’s working and what isn’t.
Bounce rate is a metric that always stands out to website owners, as it tells you the percentage of people who visit your site and leave without either visiting a second page, or triggering an event. Since there are a number of reasons why a “bounce” can occur, website owners are generally advised not to pay too much attention to bounce rate to the exclusion of other user engagement metrics.
While having some percentage of users bounce from your site is inevitable (and not always indicative of a problem), a very high bounce rate may mean your site has an engagement problem. First, let’s identify what healthy bounce rate looks like.
According to a RocketFuel study, the ideal bounce rate should fall somewhere between 26-40%, and anything higher than 55% is probably worth looking into:
- 25% or lower: Something is probably broken with your site tracking.
- 26-40%: Excellent
- 41-55%: Average
- 56-70%: Higher than normal, but could make sense depending on the website
- 70% or higher: Reason for concern as something is probably broken on the site, or with tracking
So let’s say you’re in the 56-70% range, and most of the people who visit your site are immediately taking off. What can you do to fix this?
- Address pages with the highest bounce rate first – Review these pages to find what it is about the page that might not be service the users’ needs.
- Ensure your pages are loading quickly – Compare your page load time to the average load time in your industry. Work on speeding up any page that is loading significantly slower than the average.
- Keep a clean-looking site with quality content – Keep spammy, salesy copy to an absolute minimum and provide users with content that is compelling, informative & concise.
- Make sure your title tags and meta descriptions are relevant – Make sure your title tags and meta descriptions are relevant. If they’re not adequately setting expectations about what users will find on the page, those visitors will be disappointed and bounce.
New Vs. Returning Visitors
Another important metric for your analytics is the number of users who return to your site after their initial visit. Google Analytics has a built-in New vs Returning user report that will show you how many people have visited your site two or more times. Tracking your returning user rate is a key part of analyzing your website’s ability to engage users and entice them to convert, whether that means making a purchase, signing up for a newsletter, or other goal. Users who return to your site are typically doing so because they are finding some value in the content or products you are offering.
It probably goes without saying that the more returning users, the better. Therefore, working on your returning visitors numbers should be a constant effort for website owners and admins. If your returning visitors have declined or plateaued, some action items to remedy the problem are:
- Improve the quality and compellingness of your content – Get rid of low-resolution images, typos, spelling and grammar errors. Replace with high-quality images, and well-written copy. Put in the extra effort to publish content that will keep users coming back.
- Reduce the number of ads on your page – Ads are generally unappealing to users. If you have ads on your page, consider showing less or none.
- Compare your prices to the competition – If you own an E-Commerce website, people may be finding your prices to be too high.
- Give discounts and special offers – Discounts and special offers are great for giving users an incentive to return to your website and make a purchase.
Devices and Browsers
It may seem redundant to check your website on every device and browser, but there’s actually a high chance that if your site isn’t optimized across all devices and browsers, there will be some compatibility issues somewhere. This includes different versions of devices and browsers, for example. I’m not exactly saying that you should reinstall Windows 95 for QA, but keep in mind there are plenty of devices and browsers that will be used to access your site besides the latest versions of Google Chrome and iPhone. The last thing you would want is to lose a conversion or a lead simply because a browser failed to render your site properly, or because your content looks wonky on a certain device.
This is where Google Analytics can be extremely handy. Hopefully you have set up Goal and Event tracking at some point to monitor micro and macro conversions on your site, but if not, you can start with metrics like bounce rate and new vs returning users. Check out the “Technology” tab in Google Analytics for data on browsers and operating systems, and “Mobile” for device data. As always, be mindful of the amount of data per device or browser, as having only a little volume will not be sufficient to draw any conclusions.
To see how your site looks on different devices, check out the Emulation feature in Google Developer Tools. Check out this video to learn more on how it’s done.
Google Analytics’ “Acquisition” reports include data on traffic source (the website that directed the user to your website), and medium (whether the user searched for your site organically, clicked on a referral link or a paid ad, or visited the site directly). Using this information, you can see where your digital marketing strategy is making an impact, and where it’s falling short.
Naturally, you will find that some traffic sources are delivering a high amount of traffic, while others aren’t doing much for you. Probably the most difficult, but also most important question to ask yourself is; is it worth investing more time, effort and money into a traffic source or social media channel that isn’t yielding much of a return?
The answer is very much a judgment call on your end. One thing to consider though, is that it’s OK to focus more on the marketing channels that are already working for you. If you’re doing well on a particular social media site, for example, that’s a green light to continue marketing to that audience, and probably increase your efforts there. Similarly, if something isn’t your bag, there’s no shame in reassessing your marketing mix and using fewer resources on tactics that aren’t moving the needle.
It’s also important to consider that some channels may not be driving a lot of traffic, but that traffic might be very valuable or convert very well. Some channels might drive a lot of traffic, but that traffic bounces or doesn’t convert. Some channels might drive a lot of traffic that doesn’t convert, but those users later come back to the site again through other channels and convert. So these numbers should be interpreted in context.
The End Game
Ultimately, the main purpose of using Google Analytics is to improve conversions. Nearly every website has some sort of conversion goals, whether it’s selling a product or enticing users to sign up for a newsletter. The reason Google Analytics is such a powerful tool, is because it lets us analyze each step of the user’s journey and where we can make improvements along the way to optimize their path toward completing that goal. Luckily, if you have read and implemented the suggestions in this article, you’re well on your way to increasing your conversion rate. Remember: what gets measured gets improved, and there’s always room for improvement!