Analyse This: Using Google Analytics to make sense of your website

Somebody, perhaps it was Mark Twain, once said that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. We look at telling the difference.

Somebody, perhaps it was Mark Twain, once said that there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. If you run a website or social media page you'll no doubt have become obsessed, at some point, with how many hits, likes or pluses you receive every time you post a comment. Intuition would tell us that the more we get, the better we're doing, right? Well don't believe the numbers.

To make sense of any statistic we need to put it in context. Google Analytics (GA) is a free service that will allow you to track a huge range of numbers for your website. Without guidance, however, these numbers can be overwhelming. This is where you should work with somebody qualified to figure out what numbers actually matter to you. Some people will tell you that you need to lower your bounce rate (the number of people that leave your site after looking at only one page.) But what does that matter if your goal is to have them look at only one page? Others will focus on the overall number of visitors. But what does that matter if none of the visitors are potential customers? GA can also track which pages are popular, what things have been clicked on, what device people are using and more.

In order to sort the wheat from the chaff, I work with my customers to create a customised 'dashboard' (one of the features within GA). This allows us to pick out the handful of stats which really matter to the client and I. We then schedule a weekly or monthly email, so that they get these stats straight to their inbox. This serves as a reminder to run the numbers and compare them to previous months so that we get a meaningful sense of progress (or not.) It also means that we can make small adjustments cheaply, but regularly, that will have a long-term impact on the success of their website.

We're not always 100% correct (because statistics never tell the whole story) but by making such analysis a regular part of your marketing plan you can move closer, by small degrees, towards a powerful online sales engine.

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