Defining "success" for your digital activity matters both on a big-picture level (just WHY do we have a website at all?) as well as on a page-by-page-campaign-by-campaign level (what do I want people to DO on this page, or with this Tweet?).

You'll recall that in a previous email I suggested that success is entirely dependent on context. For those with an e-commerce site it might be "sell more stuff" whereas for those with a museum website, it might be "get more people to come along to the museum".

With this in mind talking generically about how to measure success might seem like a mistake, but you can bet your bottom dollar that one of the main tools you'll need to get your head into is Google Analytics. It's the daddy of all analytics tools: it's free, it's ubiquitous, it's hugely powerful, and it's really, really scary when you first open it up and see ALL THE THINGS.

Let's try and de-scarify it a little bit by focusing down on 5 commonly asked questions and some possible answers to these.

(Oh, and this all depends on you having Google Analytics installed on your website. If you don't, you need to close this email right now and go set it up or ask your web guys to do to. Running a website without Google Analytics is a "driving blind" mistake of the first order...)

(Having trouble getting this done? Feel free to drop me a tweet or reply to this email and I'll see if I can help!)

So. Here goes...

Reading time: 5 minutes

1. In a general sense, how is my site performing?

The "overview" picture for your site is important from a more strategic point of view - but also because questions like "are there more or less people than last week?" is the sort of thing your CEO or Director is going to be asking, so it's good to have these to hand. 

So, look at these:
  • Audience Overview (Navigate to Audience > Overview) - this gives you the number of users and their engagement levels (number of pages per session, bounce rate, etc) for your defined period. 
  • Acquisition Overview (Navigate to Acquisition > Overview) - this tells you how people got to your site, whether via an email campaign, direct link or via Google search
  • Content Drilldown report (Navigate to Behavior > Site Content > Content Drilldown) - this shows you which sections of your site are getting traffic and how this compares to previous periods
Use a dashboard (Navigate to Customization > Dashboards) to save yourself time when you want to look at the big picture - you can even set these up to automatically email you or your boss regularly with a PDF overview of anything you've added to a dashboard.

2. How is this particular page performing?

Quite often you'll have carried out some activity - an emailing, or an offer, or maybe a homepage feature - and you want to see what sort of impact this has had on visits to a particular page. You can set up goals and funnels for particular paths (more on this in the future!) but the first thing you can check is how a specific page has performed.

To do this, navigate to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages and then use the search box just under the graph view. This will let you search for specifically named pages - and will then show you how that individual page performed, with bounce rates, pageviews and time on page values.

(Hot tip: install the Page Analytics Chrome Extension to see this and other analytics data overlaid on any site you're tracking)

3. What does an individual actually do on our site?

Although all Google Analytics data is aggregate and anonymous (in other words you can't specifically follow a known user through your site), Google have recently introduced a new report which you can find under Audience > User Explorer which lets you see actual users and the way they have moved through your site. It's deeply interesting to see how real people come to your site, the devices they use and the time they spend.

4. How did people get to our site?

Acquisition data (how people got to your site) is all held under the "Acquisition" menu on the left - the "overview" section you first end up on shows you which "channels" were responsible for this: Direct / Search / Referral etc. (If you need help with terms, check out our Google Analytics Definitions guide.

Delving into this section further will uncover a whole host of useful stuff - at some point in the future we'll look at Campaigns, Conversions and so on.

One of the common "I want to know" questions is what keywords people typed in on Google in order to get to your site. To answer this, you need to go through an additional step which is to connect your site to Google Search Console. GSC is a powerful tool for understanding how your site appears to Google - the state of your index, any issue in downloading your site map, etc. Once you've connected it to Google Analytics, you'll also be able to see what words people used in Google search that landed them on your site. 

5. How many people downloaded [x] document or clicked [x] button?

This is commonly asked for but also a tricky one. Because Google Analytics requires the tracking code to be on anything it tracks, it can't (out of the box) measure either downloads OR clicks on things like "buy now" buttons - unless of course they specifically go to a page which has got the tracking code on it..

There is a way around it - you can track "Events" using Google Analytics - but it'll require some additional technical work to put this tracking in place. You can do this with some extra code to pass these interactions in to your analytics - but nowadays we recommend using Google Tag Manager to help do this - ask your web guys to help you with this if you need. 

That's it for now. If you want to read further, try these: Don't forget to email me if you need help - if I can't help I may know someone who can... 

Until next time!


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