Google Analytics is free and powerful web analytics tool that gives webmasters all sorts of statistics about their website. Over the years Google analytics has really evolved with amazing new features and become a strong product for any small-medium business or even an enterprise.
Recently during a session with one of my client (who runs an online t-shirts store), I went over some of the analytics feature that he wasn’t using. In fact he was totally clueless that many of those even existed. Even though these features have existed inside Google Analytics for quite some time now, but an average webmasters never bothers to check beyond their total number of hits on a day, traffic sources and so on.
So I decided to do a quick post highlighting some of the ‘less-used’ features of Google Analytics and why you should start using them.
1. Google Analytics Alerts (Intelligence): Google Analytics intelligence comes with a set of default alerts that will show you interesting trends in your analytics data, 24/7. When something happens out of ordinary, it is important that you get access to that information fast and focus on making strategic decisions, instead of sifting through an endless pile of data. The Automatic Alerts stores historical data as well so you can go back in time and look at some of the automatic alerts which has been triggered by Google Analytics. This can really help you discover insights that might otherwise go unnoticed. For instance, if your site’s bounce rate suddenly increases or say Search Traffic suddenly decreases, Google Analytics should be able to catch that and alert you to dig down further. Google Analytics also gives you the flexibility of adding custom alerts with your own variables & rules. Watch the following video to learn more:
2. Comparing Stats with your Past Data: Everyone loves the calendar feature that lets you see all your stats for a specific time frame (e.g. 22nd July 2010 – 29th July 2010). But sometimes raw figures doesn’t really make much sense if you don’t have anything to compare those with. Fortunately Google Analytics gives a easy way for anyone to compare their stats with a past timeline. The best part is it also calculates the difference in numbers for you and give you a quick overview of the comparison. To access this feature, simply check “Compare to past” in the calendar and it will let you select the time period of your past stats.
3. Customize your Google Analytics Dashboard: By default the Google Analytics Dashboard shows some basic widgets like Site usage, visitor overview, goal overview, content overview, traffic sources overview etc. But lets say if you are running an eCommerce website, you may also want to look at some other widgets on your dashboard like – Adwords overview, Top Landing Pages, Search Keywords etc. So if you like to see any particular widget on the dashboard, simply go to that specific page and press “Add to Dashboard” button on top. Now if you go back to your Dashboard you will see that widget at the bottom of the page. You are also free to drag-and-move all the dashboard widgets in any order you like. If you don’t find a particular widget useful and think that its taking up your dashboard space, simply press the cross (‘x’) on the corner to remove it from your default dashboard view.
4. Segment your Traffic using Advanced Segmentation: Analyzing your data in aggregate is not very useful, as it doesn’t give you the right insights of the many individual factors that builds up the overall stats. Google analytics comes with a very powerful segmentation tool that you can use to identify which segments of your traffic are performing and which are not. This leads to more analysis on the under performing segments and eventually an increased overall site performance. There are a bunch of default segments available, that makes it very easy for you to segment out your paid and organic search data or just perform some analysis on the visits with conversion and so on. Once you are comfortable with the basics, you can also make up your own custom segments and save them for later user. Watch the video below that briefly goes through the GA Advanced Segmentation feature.
5. Setting up Goals: Every website has some business objectives that it wants to achieve. For an eCommerce store it may be the number of raw sales, for a consulting business it may be the number of leads thats comes from the site’s contact page. Google analytics makes it very easy to define and track the business goals of your website. This comes very handy to justify the amount of money/resources that you are spending in order to achieve some of your business goals. For instance, you may have heard that twitter/facebook brings in a lot of traffic to a website and lets say so you have started spending 8 hours day on those sites trying to promote your products. Maybe you have gotten a couple of hundred visitors but without proper tracking it would be very hard for you to know whether it was worth all the effort? Because any typical analytics stats would only tell you that you have received “X” number of visits from Facebook or Twitter. But what it doesn’t tell you is, how many of those visitors has also made a purchase fro your store or has performed a positive action that helped your business in any way. With Google Analytics Goals tracking, you will be able to know exactly that. If you are spending money on PPC (Pay Per Click Advertising), Goals are a must have. You can learn more about setting up Goals in Google Analyics here.
Make it a habit to check your Analytics Data: Many website owners set up Google Analytics on Day 1 and never log back in to check what is actually happening. Having Google Analytics on your website doesn’t help you if you are not making good use of the data and insight it provides. So it is very important that you make it a habit to look at your stats regularly based on which you can further tweak your web strategy and (hopefully) improve your site’s overall performance. You can make Google analytics send you a daily/weekly/monthly report via email, so that you get access to all the stats right from your inbox.
So what is your favorite Google Analytics feature? Share in comments!