Small Business Trends Radio

How to Use Google Analytics

Below is the transcript of a Small Business Trends Radio Show episode featuring Jerri Ledford, Co-Author of the book, “Google Analytics” a how-to book for beginning users of the Google Analytics program, which was broadcast on November 15, 2006. Jerri shares tips from her book and explains how to better tune your website to attract more traffic and convert more visitors into buyers.  You can also listen to the show via the audio player at the bottom of the page.

IMPROVE WEB SALES WITH GOOGLE ANALYTICS

Google Analytics: Grow Your Business, Increase SalesAnita Campbell: For those of you who may have ever wondered, “What draws visitors to your website? What pages those visitors see most often or how many of your site visitors are responding to your marketing links?”  There’s a way to know all of this and a lot more about your website and the best part is, it’s free. Today’s guest will give you the skinny on the program that makes it easy for you to know everything you need to know about your website visitors.

Our guest today is Jerri Ledford, Co-Author of the book “Google Analytics.”  Google Analytics is a how to book for beginning users of the Google Analytics program. Jerri along with Mary Tyler, wrote the book to help take the mystery out of website statistics for small business owners.  Website statistics, also called “analytics,” doesn’t have to be a confusing, frustrating tool. Instead, Jerri and Mary have tried to make analytics as painless as possible.

So, welcome to the show Jerri. Website analytics – even the term sounds intimidating. But are analytics really all that complicated?

Jerri Ledford: They can be.  But the good news is that Google makes it really easy.

Anita Campbell: OK well tell us, how can small business owners actually use these analytics to grow their business? I’m actually very intrigued about this subject because I’ve been using the analytics at Google myself, so I’d love to hear a lot more about how to do that.

Jerri Ledford: OK Anita, I’m really excited about Google Analytics, it’s the coolest program, it’s really simple to use, and the real story is that it helps you see.  Not only how many visitors are coming to your website, but also what those visitors are doing while they’re there.

So, for example, where do they come into your website? Do they come in on the front page or do they come in on the middle page in response to a marketing piece that you’ve sent out. Where do they come from? That’s always a big key, especially if you’re planning some kind of a marketing campaign. You want to know where your users are coming to you from so that you know where you need to concentrate your marketing efforts.

What do they do when they’re on your site? How many pages do they look at? Where do they spend the most time? If you have a retail website then where are they making their purchases at? Where are they going before they make their purchases? How long are they spending on your site before they make those purchases? That helps you figure out the value of the customer, the value of the pages, the value of the products that you have on your site.  There’s so much that you can do with Google Analytics.

Anita Campbell: Jerri, tell us the basics about where to find Google Analytics for example.

Jerri Ledford: Google Analytics is a Google program.  You can get it from Google.com/Analytics.  It’s a quick, easy program to get. You paste a little piece of code into the coding on your web pages and then you wait. It takes about three to five days for Google to start collecting information and on average I’d say 30 to 60 days before you get enough information to start making intelligent decisions based on that information.

Anita Campbell: That sounds really easy. Tell us a little bit about the background about Google Analytics, because when I heard the background, that’s when I knew this was a real invaluable program.

Jerri Ledford: It is, it’s really neat. Google purchased a company called Urchin Software back in March of 2005. Urchin Software was and is obviously under a different name now, a website analytics program.  But when it was Urchin Software, it cost several hundred dollars a month for anyone that wanted to use it.

Google said, “We have a better idea.  We’re going to give this away for free.” And in the first, I believe it was the first 48 hours that Google Analytics was made available, over 250,000 people began using it. So there’s really a very high demand for this. Unfortunately, what happens is many people begin to use the program and they don’t understand exactly what they need to do with it.

Anita Campbell: So let me get this right. Here was a program that sold for a couple of hundred dollars a month…

Jerri Ledford: Yes.

Anita Campbell: Google swoops in, buys the company and then makes it free for the world to use. Is that right?

Jerri Ledford: Exactly.

Anita Campbell: Small business owners are beneficiaries of all this free stuff that’s available out there?

Jerri Ledford: Absolutely, and there’s so much that you can learn using Google Analytics. Just as a quick example. My personal website, when we were writing the book, I kept seeing that people were hitting my front page and then falling off my website. It’s called a “bounce.” They hit your front page and then leave immediately.

We began looking around trying to figure out why this was happening.  It turns out that the reason that I have such a high ratio of bounces on my personal website, is because the program that I used to design the site doesn’t render well in anything but Internet Explorer. Had I not had Google Analytics – I never would have known that.

Anita Campbell: So, it really does help you analyze your sites.

Jerri Ledford: Absolutely. It helps you look at everything from the way that your site is designed to the content that you have on your site. In looking at the analytics for my personal site, I find that there are certain pieces of content that tend to attract more people – and they spend more time on those pages than on other pages.

That helps you target what you want to include on those pages, or if you find that you have two or three pages that draw a lot of attention and they gather longer site visits, then you can take what you have on those pages and say, “Well, maybe I need to expand this into other parts of my site.”

Anita Campbell: Help us understand a little bit more specifically the kinds of numbers, metrics and data that Google Analytics will actually gather for you.

Jerri Ledford: What do you need? Google gathers…

Anita Campbell: Everything?

Jerri Ledford: Basically everything that you need. There are a few limitations, but not too many. With Google Analytics you can get the number of visitors to your site.  You can find out where they came from, not just simply where, as in physical location, although you can very graphically see what locations in the world that visitors to your site are from.  But also as in Internet location. Did they come to you from a different website?

On my site we found that I had a huge number of referrals coming from a website that, five or six years ago, I had an advertisement on. Come to find out the advertisement is still there and it’s still pushing over half of my traffic volume.

You can find out where people are leaving your site, which is very important. If you find that they’re leaving as soon as they hit your site, if they’re doing the bounce thing, then you know you have some design issues that you need to address.  If you find that they are surfing through your site, maybe putting stuff into a shopping cart but then leaving on a specific page before they complete a purchase, then you know that you have something there you need to change. Because you have something that is causing your customers to lose interest. 

You can, incidentally, assign a value to just data. If you don’t necessarily have a retail site, you can assign a value to data so that you can give yourself a better view of how valuable the information on your site is. The possibilities are endless!

Anita Campbell: So when you say how valuable the data is, are you saying that you can use Google Analytics to determine what type of information people are clicking on to read more of?

Jerri Ledford: Exactly! One of the ways in which you can do that is to assign a dollar value to, just say for instance, you have a purely information website. All you have available to your customers is information in both online format and downloadable format and you want to find out which of those formats is more valuable to your customers. You can assign each type of information a different dollar value and then code your website so that when Google reads that – it reads it as a product, rather than simple information.

Anita Campbell: Oh, I see.  Jerri, as you said, “Google Analytics tells you everything. It gives you mountains and mountains of data.”  What do you do with that data?

Jerri Ledford: It depends on what you’re trying to do. If you are, for example, trying to measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaign, then you can look at the data that Google offers you. To start with, everything is very visual. One of the most difficult things about other analytics programs, and in the book we sort of contrast to another very popular analytics program, is that they give you mountains and mountains and mountains of data. But you have to analyze all of it. Google Analytics gives you very graphic, visual representations of your data, which takes a lot of the chore of the analyzing away.

So, with your marketing campaign, you want to find out which of your marketing campaigns is most effective. You assign each marketing campaign a code, and then you can go into Google Analytics, and you can pull up the referral analytics for whichever sites were referring visitors to your site. Very quickly, according to the code that you’ve assigned those marketing campaigns, you can see which one of those referral links was most effective. Then you can take that information and apply it to your other marketing efforts.

It also works with keyword advertising. One of the very awesome features of Google Analytics is that it integrates very well with Google’s AdWord program. You can very quickly look at the analytics surrounding the referral keyword to find out which keyword was performing best for your website. That includes not only keywords that you have purchased, but also what’s called ‘organic’ keywords.  These are the search terms that people just type into a search engine to find a specific topic or subject. The number of times that your website is referred based on those ‘organic’ words can often times help you figure out which keywords you’re not purchasing, but that maybe you should consider purchasing.

Anita Campbell: I assume that would also figure out how to tweak the content on your pages as well to emphasize certain keywords over others?

Jerri Ledford: Absolutely! You do get a very clear view of the keywords that are drawing most traffic to your website.

Anita Campbell: Ah, I see!

Jerri Ledford: It’s a wonderful program!

Anita Campbell: The reaction that I just had there; is that similar to the reaction that small business owners have when they first use Google Analytics?

Jerri Ledford: Absolutely! What happens is a business owner may look at the program and decide, “This is way more complicated than I want to get in to.” So they may or may not put the code on their website and then forget about it. Then they start hearing the benefits of Google Analytics and how other companies have used the program to improve keyword marketing, to improve other types of marketing, to improve website design, to improve website content. The volume of improvement that you can make and the volume of things that you can learn from the data that Google Analytics will collect for you.  You hear all of this, and you go, “Ahhh!”

Anita Campbell: The great thing is that once you put the code in the site, Google Analytics is collecting the data, even if you don’t have the chance to get to it right away. It’s all there.

Jerri Ledford: Exactly. You have a very flexible view of that data.

Anita Campbell: Well, Jerri, are there types of websites that are better suited for Google Analytics versus other kinds of websites?

Jerri Ledford: Not necessarily. You can use Google Analytics with basically any website that is out there. I kind of alluded earlier to the value of Google Analytics for retail sites. And it is very valuable for retail sites because there is the ability to view a value of a customer on a dollars and cents level.

But you can also do that with a data website or an informational website. You just have to, even if you are not selling a product, you have to assign your information product a dollar value. And you can still garner the same type of value information based on your users for your data type. So it is really well suited for any type of website that you have out there.

Anita Campbell: I would even add it to blogs, it can be used for them as well.  I have used the programs for blogs. Although, I must say, I don’t consider myself an expert in how to use Google Analytics, but I at least have the code out there.

Jerri Ledford: It does, it works very well for blogs. It does require a little bit more tweaking in some instances, but it’s not huge. Obviously, the more you know about how a website is coded, sometimes the easier it is to place that Google Analytics code in the right place. But it is not so difficult that the average person can’t do it. And that’s where I think that a lot of small businesses look at Google Analytics and think, “I don’t have an IT department to devote to this.” You don’t need one. All you need to do is to be able to follow directions and Google is very good about giving very specific directions on how to place that code on your website.

The one pitfall that I would say with the Google Analytics program is that their help is written in a very circular manner. So if you run into a problem placing code on your website or using the different reports that you can create, you may find yourself stuck in a loop where you are going round and round in circles and you are not finding your answer. And that’s the reason that we wrote the Google Analytics book. It presents that information in a much easier to find format.

Anita Campbell: So the book is, in a way, a “how-to” about how to use Google Analytics?

Jerri Ledford: It is absolutely a “how-to” about how to use Google Analytics. It is a book for beginners. But you will also find some very concrete examples of how you can use the program in real world situations.

Anita Campbell: Well, I would like to actually get into some of those real world situations. We’ve got a little under 10 minutes left and I wonder if we can use most of that time to actually go through some examples of how to use Google Analytics. Maybe you can give us examples based on your own experience or other companies you have seen?

Jerri Ledford: Sure. I’ll go back and mention the fact that I have used it on my website and I have learned some very valuable information about where my traffic patterns, where my traffic comes from, how often I lose people on the front page. Honestly, I’ve never gone back and redesigned my website because I like to use that as an example. Because people will pop over and look at the site.  If you are using anything other than Internet Explorer you can immediately see what I am talking about.

Anita Campbell: Where is your website by the way? What is the URL?

Jerri Ledford: It’s JerriLedford.com.

Anita Campbell: OK, great.

Jerri Ledford: That’s a personal site, but I also have discovered where I have traffic coming in. It is amazing.  You’ll find that you get traffic from some of the most unexpected places.

In addition to my website, Mary also uses Analytics on her site. Mary does a completely informational site. She does sports fiction and she has used that to track that site. She also uses the ad words campaign. So she uses Google Analytics and she has Google Analytics integrated with her Google ad words. She can see very quickly which of her ad words are performing, how well they are performing, which ‘organic’ key words she might consider investing in.  There’s just such a wealth of information there.

Anita Campbell: Well, I might ask the question even a little differently as follows. As a small business owner, what would be four or five top things I should be looking at Google Analytics to tell me and make sure I use those?  Because we all know that programs can be sometimes vast and complex and it takes a while to get used to using them. But if we can figure out a few things we can use quickly and master those then it’s easier to build on that later on.

So I wonder if there are four or five things you would recommend small business owners focus on using Google Analytics to tell them?

Jerri Ledford: Oh sure. Well, the first thing that you are going to notice when you begin using Google Analytics – you are automatically handed four reports just the instant that you open the program. That’s probably some of the top stuff you need to be focusing on.

Anita Campbell: What are those reports? There’s Executive, Conversion, Marketing, and Content. Is that what you are referring to?

Jerri Ledford: Give me just one second, I’m pulling up the site. I know that one of them is a graphic that shows you where your visitors are coming from. That particular graphic helps you to see very quickly where in the world your visitors are located. One of the neat things about the graphic, it’s called the Geomap Overlay, is that you can very quickly look at that and find out if the audience that you think you’re targeting is actually the audience that you are getting the most traffic from.

So, for example, if you have a website that is very U.S. based and you pull up your Google Analytics and you find that the majority of your Web site visitors are coming from Europe, then you know that you may want to tweak that website a little bit to reach more precisely to the European audience that you just have naturally.  A lot of companies have found that they have put together these websites and they think, “Oh well, this specific population is my target audience.”  But then they come to find out that it’s not. It works just as well in the US as it does around the world. If you think that the majority of your users should be on the Eastern seaboard, but you pull up this Geomap Overlay, and you find out they are actually out west, then you have some regional differences that you can take into consideration and use to better target your website, your marketing, your product.  Whatever the case may be.

In addition to the Geomap Overlay, on the very front page of the Executive Overview, you also have a visit and page view graph.  It very quickly shows the number of visitors that you had to your website versus the number of page views that you had, which obviously are very different numbers. You also have a report that shows you very quickly how many new visitors you have versus how many returning visitors you have.

Obviously, if you have a website, you want both new and returning visitors and you want to know how many of each you have so that you know how to design that site to draw people back to you so that they become returning visitors and also to draw new people to your site.  The final graph that you see on the Executive Overview when you first open Google Analytics is called Visit By Source.  It very quickly shows you where the majority of your traffic is coming from. Is it coming from Google? Is it coming from MSN? Is it coming from some marketing URL that you have sitting out there?

You can look at this pie graph and in a glance you can tell what your marketing URLs are doing, what your marketing campaigns are doing, whether Google is driving most of your traffic or some other search engine is driving most of your traffic.  All that information helps you to very quickly, on the fly, decide where you need to be focusing your attention.  If you have a website, you know that it is a constant cycle of “what do I do today.”  What do I focus on today? What marketing campaign do I focus on today? What keywords do I focus on today? It never stops. It’s day in and day out. So you can look at these reports and very quickly tell what you need to be focusing on today.

Anita Campbell: So I presume then, you would want to make some changes, do some experimentation and look at it over time and see if any of that information is changing?

Jerri Ledford: Absolutely.  “Over time” is a very good point because Google does pick this information up and does track this information.  It is a few hours to a day behind the actual traffic that is going on, on your website. So, if you go in and just, for example, find that you have a marketing campaign that is far out performing everything else, you pull some of your other marketing campaigns and you broaden that marketing effort.  If you go in 24 hours later and the results aren’t what you expect them to be, the case may be simply that the data has just not updated yet.

Google updates this data, this information very regularly.  But it still takes a full day to get good, clear picture of what you are doing. Any time that you make a change on your site based on something that you’ve seen in your analytics, you want to give it at least seven days before you make a judgment on whether that was a good change or a bad change.

Anita Campbell: I see. Well, Jerri, we are coming to a close of your part of the show and I wonder if you can tell us where can people find the book “Google Analytics”?

Jerri Ledford: The book is in all major bookstores and you can also get it online at your favorite bookseller, Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. Any major bookstore that you stop into should have copies of it.

Anita Campbell: So I take it, you would recommend that not only people get the book but they should also try out Google Analytics on their website?

Jerri Ledford: Absolutely, get the book, try our program and if you have any question you can stop by our blog, which is Google Analytics Blog, and ask questions. We would be very happy to answer any questions that we can. We try to update the blog regularly, so come see us.

Anita Campbell: OK great. Well thank you so much, Jerri Ledford, Co-Author of “Google Analytics.”

Jerri Ledford: Thank you.

Anita Campbell: Thank you for joining us today. It’s been a great show!

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Small Business Trends LLC, 2009


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