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Google Analytics and Sitting with the Cool Kids

When the most popular kid in school saves you a seat at the cool table during lunch, and then offers you advice on the stuff that really matters – how to dress, how to pass notes in Ms. Violette’s class, how to ace Mr. Leo’s math test, and how to score an invite to Cameron’s party Friday night – you’d be a fool to turn it down. Especially since it won’t cost you anything and, let’s face it, you could really use the popularity points.

Google Analytics is pretty much like that. Super cool, smart, good looking, tons of friends, and is asking you to hang with the cool crowd. Our advice: Do it.

Unless you’ve been home-schooled until now, you know that Google Analytics is a web analytics service that tracks and reports website traffic. It was launched in 2005 and is the most widely used analytics service on the Internet. Basically, G.A. is class president, homecoming royalty, and runs the community service club.

Before we get rolling, remember this: G.A. is free. It’s a service that business owners would gladly pay for, but Google is giving you the goods at no cost. And even if you’re already using it, you can always benefit from a few friendly reminders about G.A.’s capacity to analyze large amounts of data – in real time – to see how your website is performing. Because having access to data is one thing, but making smarter decisions for your business, based on that data, is where G.A. helps you shine. You can use analytics to make better choices — from defining your target audience to how you measure your results. So are you?

Earning your marks

With Google Analytics, you not only get to see spikes in your web traffic, but you can track to see if those spikes are directly related to something you did – for example, a post, with a cool video, at a certain time of day. And once that’s established, you can take steps to continue what works, and add new steps to see if those tactics work as well, adding on to your marketing campaign.

Your G.A. report tells you how many people visited your website, their geographical location, when they visited, whether one section of your site experienced more user engagement than another, your bounce rate, and so much more. Harnessing this information – which is presented in lists, charts, graphs, pie charts, spreadsheets, and more – and putting it to use is probably the most underutilized but crucial aspect of Google Analytics.

The deeper you dig through this data, the more sophisticated the details get. You can find out what your audience’s interests are, how they log on (from desktops, tablets or mobile devices), and how many of your visitors are new compared with those who are return visitors. The further you go, the more you’ll start to grasp who your audience is and how to target them and give them what they need – and just so we’re on the page, that “need” should involve something your business can provide. With this information, you can identify who among your desired demographic is most likely to convert, and then you can cater your content accordingly. Did we mention this is free?

We could keep going. You’ve got the Universal Tracking Matrix, which allows you to build a tracking link for any online marketing tool you use (ads, newsletters, website) so you can specifically track that link within G.A.

Also, Google Chrome has a plugin which shows some pretty awesome frontend data to any website associated with your Google Analytics account.

With G.A., the more the learn, the happier you’ll be. So do it. Sign up and take that seat at the cool table. We’ll see you at Cameron’s party Friday night.