Today the success of your website revolves around your ability to collect and harness data. If you don’t have hard facts about what your website visitors like and dislike, then you’ll have a tough task making them happy.

But how can you collect this information?

Fortunately, Google has you covered.

Google Analytics is a platform from the search giant that provides deep insights about the people who visit your website, helping you build up a better picture of how its performing and where you might be encountering problems. The purpose of the tool is to make it easy to generate information that gives you a competitive advantage.

Understanding the app, however, isn’t easy, especially in the abstract. So here, we’re going to look directly at the kind of data that the app shows you and why it’s valuable. Let’s get started.

Discover The Location And Langauge Of Users

Let’s say that you’re an online retailer who sells shoes to customers all over the world via international parcel delivery. As you process each order that comes through your system, you get a feeling that your target market isn’t where you thought it was. However, without data to support your intuition, it’s hard to know whether you’re right or not.

One of the great things about Google Analytics is that it shows you the location of all of the people visiting your site. Suddenly, you’re able to match delivery addresses for your shoes to the location of people arriving at your site.

Knowing the location of people accessing your site is essential for several reasons. First, you want to know what language these visitors speak. Your website could be in English, but if you’re attracting large cohorts of people from the Spanish-speaking world, then it would be wise to develop a Spanish-specific site.

Second, location information gives you an idea about whether you’re appealing to the right people. If you direct your marketing budget to local customers (because you run a local business), but you’re attracting foreign traffic, that’s telling you that you’re doing something wrong.

Count Email Conversions

When it comes to email marketing, you want to know two things: the percentage of people who sign up to your site, and the proportion who convert (and buy your products) after receiving a marketing email. Google Analytics shows you both (so long as you set it up correctly).

Once you know the percentage of people who subscribe to your site, you can use that information to conduct experiments.

Let’s say, for instance, that you want to change the layout of a landing page. All you need to do is collect data on the rate of subscriptions before the change and then compare it to after the transition to see if your modifications generate more sign-ups. If they did, great stuff! If they didn’t: back to the drawing board.

You use the same principle to test other page elements too.

Google Analytics also shows you the number of people who go on to buy your products after receiving a promotional email. Knowing conversion rates helps you calculate the ROI of your email marketing campaign, enabling you to find out whether it is money well spent or not. You could discover, for example, that for every pound you spend on email marketing, you get £14 in sales – just what you want. Equally, you could find out that you get less than a pound back for every pound you spend, telling you that you need to make changes.

Find Out Your Bounce Rate

Knowing how many people click onto your site and stay there is essential information. Not only does it benefit your SEO, but it also tells you whether you’re giving customers the kind of service that they expect. A high bounce rate could be an indication that you have the wrong strategy.

So what might cause a high bounce rate? Well, one possibility is that you’re attracting the wrong kind of organic traffic for specific keywords (or that your content isn’t relevant). In itself, that’s not necessarily a problem: a small change to your targeted keywords can often resolve the issues. However, it could harm your domain long-term if you keep attracting the wrong kind of people to your site.

More serious bounce rate issues arise from poor web design and confusing (or ugly) layouts. If a visitor doesn’t like what they see when they arrive at your site, they will often click the back button and return to search results. Google and other search engines punish websites in the ranking when this happens, so you want to avoid short “dwell times” where possible. Doing something as simple as adding a seductive title or more interesting images can often solve high bounce rate issues. Again, Google Analytics gives you the data you need to experiment.

Discover Your Site’s Engagement Rate

Knowing that a visitor is on your site is useful information, but what you really want to know are the aspects of the experience are holding their attention.

Google Analytics provides a suite of tools that allow you to measure the so-called “engagement rate.” It shows you things like where your users go most when they visit your site, how long they stay there, and how they move from page to page. You can use the engagement rate to discover what kind of content your customers like, the most popular products, and identify parts of your site that don’t seem as appealing.

Track Average Pages Visited

Why might you want to track average pages visited?

The main reason is so that you can see whether engagement improves over time. The more pages customers visit, the logic goes, the more engaged they are. Just as before, you can use this information to track changes to your site. You can test different titles, CTAs – whatever you like.

Conclusion

So what have we learned about Google Analytics? We’ve discovered that it is primarily a tool that allows you to experiment with your site and get real, quantitative results.

You can see why it’s useful. The more data you collect, the more you’re able to refine your pages and, ultimately, give your visitors what they want.