Using Google's Free Tools To Analyze Website Performance
Revised April 30, 2015
Originally Published April 17, 2009
Google offers a free service called Google Analytics. This service helps business owners and website managers to evaluate which online marketing campaigns and promotions are effective, as well as how visitors interact with a website.
Google Analytics help website owners gauge and make informed decisions as to what works, and what website design improvements will drive more targeted traffic; thus increasing website conversions and profits.
Easy to Implement
Google Analytics is free and easy to implement on any website whether a small business website or a large multi-national enterprise website.
(Google does offer a Premium Analytics service for large enterprises that wish to gain more insight.)
Once signed up for Google Analytics, Google will generate a code snippet that is placed in the HTML of the website to be analyzed. Within minutes of implementing this code snippet, the website traffic is tracked for analyzation and reporting tools.
Google Analytics offers a large number of reporting tools that help to understand where the website traffic is coming from, how visitors interact with the website, and what areas of the website could use improvement.
The Dashboard of Google Analytics gives a brief general overview of all the different tools available for analyzing a website and its corresponding traffic.
- Site Usage - Site Usage gives a brief synopsis of total visits, pageviews, pages viewed per visit, bounce rate, average time on site, and percentage of new visits.
- Visitors Overview - Visitors Overview gives a summary of the total number of unique visitors to a website during a given period of time.
- Map Overlay - The Map Overlay shows where geographically visitors are originating from.
- Traffic Sources Overview - The Traffic Sources Overview feature shows a pie chart of where exactly all the website traffic is coming from, whether from search engines, referring sites, or direct traffic (someone handtyped the website address into the browser bar).
- Content Overview - Content Overview shows a report of the top, most popular pages of a website.
- Goals Overview - The Goals Overview shows a report of how often a website has hit Goals that have been set; such as directing visitors to a particular page (a Goal may be when someone makes it to the Checkout page).
- Ecommcerce Overview - The Ecommerce Overview shows a report of how often a website has actually converted a visitor into a paying sale.
The Dashboard gives a quick and brief overview of how a website is performing and what areas require immediate attention.
The Visitors section of Google Analytics gives in-depth analysis of website visitors and how these visitors interact with a website.
- Visits - Shows the total number of visits a website receives
- Absolute Unique Visitors - Shows the total number of unique visitors to a website, whether these visitors arrive once, or ten times each visitor is counted only once as a unique visitor.
- Pageviews - Shows the total number of pages viewed on a website.
- Average Pageviews - Show the average number of pages viewed per visitor.
- Time on Site - Shows the average time a website visitor stays on the website before leaving.
- Bounce Rate - Shows the percentage of visitors in which the user visits a page on a website and then exits the website.
- New Visits - Shows the percentage of users visiting the website for the first time.
- Visitor Segmentation - Breaks down the website visitors showing:
- Visitor Profile By Language
- Visitor Profile By Network Location (e.g. Comcast, Cox, Verizon, etc.)
- Browser Profile Including the browser type (Firefox, Safari, etc.), operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux), screen colors, screen resolution, java support, and Flash support
(most importantly, this also shows how may visitors are on mobile browsers.)
- Map Overlay shows where geographically visitors are coming from using a map overlay of the earth.
The Visitor information is useful in providing website benchmarking, analyzing new versus returning visitors, investigating visitor trending and loyalty, as well as determining browser capabilities of visitors, and what technologies visitors browsers are capable of viewing, whether it's imperative to be mobile-friendly, and more.
Traffic sources allows the analyzation of where traffic to a website originates:
- Direct Traffic - This is traffic from visitors who typed in a website address directly hence the traffic is probably originating from offline marketing campaigns such as television, radio or direct mail campaigns.
- Referring Sites - This is traffic from websites that link to this website. Whether this be a link exchange program, or a directory website, this traffic is coming from external websites.
- Search Engines - This is traffic directly from search engines such as Google, Yahoo!, Bing, etc. This type of traffic most likely originated from organic searches by someone typing in a keyword or phrase in the search engine, and then found the website in the search results.
The Traffic Sources section is an important tool in gauging where website traffic is originating, what marketing campaigns are working, and what keywords and phrases people use to find the website in search engine results.
The Content section is useful in analyzing the following:
- Top Content - What pages of a website are most viewed by visitors
- Top Landing Pages - What pages of a website attract the visitors
- Top Exit Pages - What pages of a website do visitors leave
- Site Overlay - This overlay shows the percentage of clicks each link on a particular page receives, thus allowing one to gauge what links are most popular and effective and what links are not
The Content information is useful in gauging what content on a website attracts visitors and is actually effective, what links on a page get the most hits and keep people moving through and linking to other areas of a website -- versus what content and pages may not be effective thus causing visitors to leave and go elsewhere.
Google Analytics offers a number of other tools that help gauge and measure how a website is performing and what areas can be improved upon:
- Goals - The Goals section allows for setting goal conversions and measuring the results. For example actually getting a visitor to Checkout or Purchase or Submit a Request for Proposal.
- Ecommerce - The Ecommerce section allows for measuring conversions and transaction results. For example the ecommerce conversion ratio, average order value, product performance, visits to purchase, days to purchase.
- Custom Reporting - Allows one to design custom reports based on individual needs and what needs to be analyzed outside of the metrics already offered.
- Premium Analytics - Google offers premium analytic services for large organizations and the insights they need.
The Bottom Line
Google Analytics is an essential tool for any business that wants to get the best possible return on investment for a website. By using the analytic tools and gauging how a website is performing, anyone can see where the business is successful, where it is lacking, and what areas should be focused on for improvement.