Clients ask me sometimes:
Do I really need Google Analytics? Is it worth it?
If you had to ask…the answer is probably a resounding “YES” for you. Here’s why…
What makes Google Analytics so useful?
Because of the extensive amount of data it tracks, and how it helps you interpret your website success. I don’t even get how some people think it isn’t necessary. Even if you think GA isn’t critical to your online success, it definitely is critical to your continued success. Do keep in mind, the data isn’t useful unless you actually act on it or at least use it as a pulse to know when things are going wrong.
What about reasons for NOT using Google Analytics? (NONSENSE):
- “But it slows down my site” – every site out there has it and the GA script is probably already on the user’s browser (perhaps even embedded into Chrome itself). It won’t affect your pageload.
- “But what about privacy and Google having too much control?” – I think Google already knows everything about your site. Regardless if you’re using GA or not, the users that come and go from your site will most likely be doing it from sites with GA. The way I see it, they already have all your info. So might as well get access to it to use for your own benefit.
- “I want to use an alternative for whatever ____ reason.” – yes, there’s Matomo (Piwik) and what not. Supposedly friendlier, faster, private, blah blah blah. GA is complex but not all that hard since there’s so many free guides on it elsewhere. It’s the standard. Just stick with it. Why take a chance on another analytic software?
- “I don’t care about any of these metrics.” – fine. But you better be sure you won’t be hiring a developer, SEO guy, marketing consultant, ad guy, or other contractor later that might need some of this information. I say better be safe than sorry.
- “I don’t use any GA information whatsover to grow my business.” – tracking metrics is important for business growth. Maybe your business is more reliant on Facebook shares or Instagram likes. That may be the case but what happens when those networks eventually fall out in favor of others? Then you’d wish you had a more unbiased metric-tracking system like GA that can stay relevant with you as you switch customer engagement platforms.
- “This isn’t a longterm site.” – legit reason. If the site is gonna be taken down in a few months, sure why not. But if this is for an event that’s gonna end. You still might find utility in the info for future events. Anyway, all up to you.
#1 – TRAFFIC COUNT (hits and pattern)
This the first thing everybody thinks of when it comes to reading GA data. It shows you your traffic amount. How many users/hits per day, per week, per month, per year, custom date-range, etc. GA is super cool in that you can see real-time traffic. Might be helpful if you just released a sale or some event and want to adjust on the fly to user behavior.
Useful for knowing not only how many hits you’re getting but also to see patterns over time. Once you’ve got enough data, you can see how traffic cycles up and down throughout the week, month, and year.
Last but not least, you know to check things if traffic suddenly falls. Maybe your redirects or permalinks broke. Maybe your site was hacked or your server was down.
#2 – GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION (local and global)
See where your visitors are geographically located. Useful on both a global level (comparing visits from different countries) vs local (comparing visits from different cities). Lets you know if you’re targeting your users well. Lets you know if your content might be appealing to other visitors around the world that you didn’t think of.
#3 – TRAFFIC SOURCE (direct, search engine, referred from another site)
See where your traffic is coming from. Are they super loyal visitors typing your domain directly into the browser? Or are they finding you on search engines due to your good SEO or helpful content? (GA can even tell you which keywords they used to find you!)
Or are they referred to you from other sites and backlinks you have out there? Maybe passed around on social media. Quite often, small business owners need to decide whether to invest in SEO or social media. Or maybe just ad-campaigns?
#4 – CONTENT BEHAVIOR (popularity, and flow)
Know exactly which pages of yours are the most popular. Then use that to your advantage however they like. Maybe redesign your busiest pages to funnel traffic onto other pages. Or readjust your business offerings to cater to a more profitable niche. You may be shocked to find out why some of your visitors are seeking you out.
Next, find out how traffic usually flows within your site. Again…adjust your web design to funnel if you don’t like their usual page-flow. Want more hits to a certain page? Alter your design to make it more appealing to click on. Remove friction. Increase engagement!
#5 – VISITOR DEMOGRAPHIC (age, gender)
Learn about your visitors. Their age, their gender, and which pages of your content are appealing to each. You may be shocked to find that your website/content appeals to a different demographic than you were hoping for you.
#6 – SOCIAL NETWORKING (referrals)
See how much traffic each social network is bringing you. Helpful to know where to focus your time. I believe this metric will expand in time to see how many comments and shares, and hits within the network.
#7 – DEVICE/BROWSER AGENT
Learn what device and browsers they’re using to visit your site. If 85% of your traffic is coming from mobile. Then you know darn well to really clean up the mobile version of your site. Perhaps make it super fast to load faster for slow mobile connection.
8% of your users still on Internet Explorer? Then make sure your site is compatible with that browser. What if they’re surfing your site from a TV, or car, or some other non-computer device? It’s nice to know! GA also shows you what ISP networks they’re on as well.
#8 CONVERSION TRACKING (visits, sales, user action)
If set up for it, GA can track many different calls-to-action. Really useful if you have specific user behavior that are more valuable to you than others. You can even assign a dollar amount to these behaviors and track your conversion rate.
You can even track which exactly which link was clicked on your website. How cool is that?
#9 – ADVERTISEMENT TRACKING
See which of your Adwords are working and which are not. Really helps to know which of your advertising efforts are the most effective. Prune the bad ones, and boost the working ones.
#10 – MULTI-SITE COMPARISON
Quite often, we aren’t running just one site. Maybe you have 2 or 3 that may or may not be related. Google Analytics presents a convenient to compare traffic between them. How else would you get to see tracking data between two unrelated/unconnected sites? Pretty hard, right? In fact, you can even track each site separately as well as together (useful if you want separate and combined stats for multi-site networks).
These are metrics I think are simply not as important for the reasons listed in each.
- Bounce rate – a high bounce rate or low read time might not be bad if your site efficiently solves people’s problems.
- Exit pages – similar reason as bounce rate. You have to know that all visits will end. It’d be great if you controlled where they ended but it doesn’t always work.
- Pages per visit – I honestly don’t care. Sometimes the person who only visits one page is because they loved and bookmarked it as a reference, and the other person who visits 5 pages is just clicking around and then leaving because none of your content “stuck”.
- Conversions – I think GA can be so frustratingly difficult to track conversions that really matter. Luckily, you don’t need it as much as you think you do. Just look at your bank account. If you’re making more money, keep doing what you’re doing. But ok, yes….track conversions if you’re doing a lot of split-testing.
I agree with you and use GA on every site as a default. If you are going to use analytics then it’s just not worth messing around with any of the other options in most cases.
I just read an interesting little comment about why (for certain kinds of sites) maybe it is better not to use analytics at all though. https://garrettdimon.com/2019/quitting-analytics/
Thanks for sharing that link, MB. I wholeheartedly agree with everything Garrett said. I mostly use GA for reference only. I don’t need it at the meeting table for every important decision. The numbers are tracked and referenced for contextual purposes from time to time.