Chief Technology Officer, State Bar of Missouri
Google Analytics is a wonderful tool that provides insight about the people visiting your website. The best part? It’s completely free.
After creating an account and entering details about your site into the tool, you are given a small code snippet that must be added to the pages in your website. Most websites utilize Content Management Systems that already have a place built in for this code. Once the code is in place, Google will begin collecting statistics about your visitors. At this point, it is beneficial to familiarize yourself with the tool and the terms it uses.
What to look for
In the early days of the internet, hits were the statistic most often cited. However, this statistic can be very misleading and is often not very useful at all. Pageviews are a better statistic for gauging the amount of traffic your site receives because one pageview can generate many hits.
Another great statistic is the number of visitors. A single visitor could visit multiple pages, thereby generating multiple pageviews. This statistic gets us close to the number of people who are visiting your site, but fails to account for duplicate viewings, so the visitors statistic will count the single visitor multiple times. Opting instead to view “unique visitors” provides a more advanced look. Unique visitors is a statistic that attempts to count visitors only once, no matter how many times they visit the site during a given time period.
When you first launch Google Analytics, you are greeted with some overview statistics about your site as a whole. However, the real value is being able to drill down to individual sections, and even individual pages, to get statistics about that particular piece of content.
Tracking your goals
It would take far more space than I have here to review every feature on the platform, a key one to note is the Goals feature. Goals is part of the tool that helps you track conversions; it allows you to identify target pages that represent the end of an action taken on the website, such as a “thank you for registering” page or a “membership renewal confirmation” page. When visitors land on these pages, Google Analytics will track and tally them. You can later use the data to discover how they were funneled into the registration process and to create visual dashboards tracking progress towards your goals.
Overall, I like to think of Google Analytics as a tool to help us make better, and more useful, websites for our members. The data can show us if our members are having trouble finding specific pieces of information. It can show us how long they stay on the site and help us identify stale content that is no longer useful. You will get the most out of the platform by understanding your own content, how you want that content to be consumed by your visitors, and by identifying which statistics are meaningful to you. Which statistics are most useful can be different for each piece of content depending on how you intend it to be consumed by your visitors. With the flexibility and features it offers, Google Analytics should be in every bar’s web toolbox.