Whether you are just getting started in building a business online, or a longtime website owner who wants to learn how to get more traffic, understanding web analytics is a critical step to online success.
There is an endless array of web analytics products out there, most costing a considerable monthly fee. For anyone new to website management and/or digital marketing, Google Analytics is not just a great starting point, but is a fantastic platform for evaluating your web presence and growing your online business. And the best part is that it’s absolutely free!
What Is Google Analytics Used For?
For a digital marketer, knowing a bit about who is visiting a website, when they came, and where they came from is critical to assessing the performance of current marketing efforts, and adjusting strategies for future efforts. Google Analytics both records this data and offers myriad ways of breaking down and filtering this data.
For social media managers, Google Analytics can help them evaluate the amount and quality of paid and organic social traffic they are bringing to the website and converting. While all social media platforms offer analytics to some degree, most meaningful conversions happen off of social platforms. Sending this traffic to a website ensures better conversions and Google Analytics help monitor and optimize the site and marketing strategies for those conversions.
Google Analytics can also be extremely helpful to website administrators who need to make sure their site is optimized for particular devices, geographic locations, and search engine results.
Why is Google Analytics Important?
As mentioned above, Google Analytics is incredibly important to digital marketers, social media managers, and web administrators, but perhaps you are very new to online business and don’t know if you will have the time to learn analytics or the money to hire someone to monitor your data for you. Do you still need analytics?
The answer is an emphatic yes! Google Analytics could be compared to the black box on an airplane: It records a wide variety of metrics and helps you to both diagnose problems and optimize for better performance. If you don’t have it recording in the background now, you won’t have any data to look at when you are finally ready to assess how you’re doing and strategize for the future.
So even if you just launched your website and haven’t gotten your marketing up and running, take the time out right now to get Google Analytics on your website. It is surprisingly easy even for newbies, and shouldn’t take you more than 30 mins to an hour.
How Does Google Analytics Work?
When you sign up for a Google Analytics account, you will be given a snippet of code to add to the appropriate place in your website. These days, most website platforms either have a place to enter this code or have a plugin available to make adding it very easy.
Once the code is installed on the site and verified, Google will be able to monitor all traffic to the site, as well as what each visitor does while on the site. If you are worried about the privacy of your visitors, it is important to understand that this data does not include any personal identifying information (known in the industry as PII) about specific visitors (like IP addresses, names, addresses, etc).
Is Google Analytics Worth It?
As mentioned above, Google Analytics is completely free, which, for what it offers a website owner or marketer, is pretty astounding. Why does Google give analytics away for free? Well, they do get something extremely valuable in return – data which they use in optimizing their own search algorithms and other products.
Considering that search engine optimization (SEO) is pretty much all about appearing first for specific search query results on Google, this is unfortunately one of those “if you can’t beat ’em, join ‘em” situations. Basically, Google is trading data with you and giving you access to an analytics platform that could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars a month otherwise.
Even if you choose to use another service to monitor your web analytics, we always recommend having Google Analytics run in the background. A smaller third-party company could raise their rates, go out of business, or suffer a change which could cause you to lose your valuable website data history. Google Analytics is robust, universal, free, and it’s pretty clear that Google isn’t going anywhere soon.
How Do You Read Google Analytics?
Even going over the basics of using and understanding Google Analytics is far too big a topic to cover here, but if you have had it running on your website for a while and are itching to dive into the data, there are countless tutorials and online resources available to take you all the way from newbie to expert. A great place to start is Google’s Analytics Academy.
If, however, you want a more visual, interactive, and easier-to-read analytics dashboard than Google Analytics, but want to avoid monthly subscription fees and sketchy third-party contracts, a great solution is Google Data Studio.
What is Google Data Studio?
Data Studio is an online tool that can pull data from Google Analytics and other valuable web resources including Google Ads, Google Search Console, and Google Sheets, and display customized reporting via graphs, tables, timelines, pie charts, maps, and more. If you’ve seen those pretty and expensive 3rd party analytics dashboards, Google Data Studio is basically the same thing – except, it too is free!
The downside to Google Data Studio is that it takes quite a bit of knowledge and familiarity with Google Analytics to build reports and dashboards. This is not a tool for beginners, however, if you hire someone to build a Data Studio report for you, the great news is there is no monthly fee to Google and you own the report or dashboard!
At Blink;Tech, we are big fans of great quality free tools that keep the ownership of our clients’ data in their hands and save them money on monthly fees. A marketing budget should be focused on marketing, not on 3rd party subscription fees. Both Google Analytics and Data Studio are great examples of invaluable tools that save our clients’ money and help us focus on delivering results for them.
If you need help with your analytics or are about to launch a new web business, please give us a call. We specialize in helping startups and entrepreneurs like you!