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Wednesday, Jul. 27, 2011 at 10:40 am

Google Analytics Basics: Data Doesn’t Make You Money

By Josh Hay
July 27th, 2011

First Step: Getting Google Analytics

So, you spent some time to get and install the Google Analytics code and want to jump into the world of online tracking, reporting and optimization. Let’s be blunt here: you didn’t do this to geek out to your friends; you didn’t do this to boast how many page views you have; you did this to MAKE MONEY.

Right now with no direction, all you are doing is sorting through over- (or depending on the suite, under-) whelming numbers. They seem to have little value, and no one has any idea what to do with them. Until you learn what you are working with, those numbers are useless.

Second Step: Interpreting and Gleaning Insights from your Data

The goal now is to tackle your Google Analytics step by step and figure out how you can use your data. On Grok, FutureNow has talked about approaching your analysis process based on the buying stages, starting with approaching those areas of your site that are most broken for the late stage visitors. One of the main areas to tackle, beyond the “conversion funnel” for late stage visitors, is the initial point of contact your visitors make with your site – The Landing Pages. In the case where you’re looking specifically at the late stage experiences for paid search engine advertising, Google Adwords reporting can help tell you how successful your campaigns are, but you need to know what happens once people land on your site from these late stage campaigns.

The place to start finding this data is the Landing Page report. Click Content in Google’s navigation and the menu will expand to show the Landing Pages link. Look at your top landing pages and ask yourself a couple of questions:

  1. Are these the best pages to send visitors to, in terms of connecting scent from the ad to the landing page?
  2. What are the other sources of traffic sending visitors to these landing pages, and am I speaking effectively here to the other sources as well?

Nowadays with Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Google Plus and blogs, there are many sources of traffic sending visitors to your site. But having more traffic sources doesn’t make any difference if only one or two of them are actually making you money. So, after pulling the landing page report, take a look at each page individually. Google has a new tool called In-Page Analytics (Melissa wrote a post about one way our analysts like to use this tool), located in the bottom right corner. Click it, check it out, and let’s discuss another way to make use of this feature.

Spend a minute with each page and see where the top clicks are happening within this page, the traffic, time spent, and more importantly the bounce rate (how many people hit this page and immediately left). This tool helps us get some insights into what is happening for the visitors when they first land on the site. Set a calendar reminder and try to look at this report and these pages once a month. This data will change and it is important to get a good idea of how your customers are acting so you can optimize. Think of your website like a retail store: this is the first thing people see when entering and you need to know where they are going. Are they checking out the displays and featured items? Are they running to the clearance rack? Or are they taking one step in and leaving your store?

Third Step: Turning Insights into Profit

Looking at people’s first move on your site is only the beginning of understanding how you can make more money online. If your bounce rate is high on these pages, optimize the pages! Start by asking yourself…

  • What is this page’s goal and how can I more effectively persuade people to take action?
  • Is there enough data above the fold on the page?
  • Are there Calls to Action or text links to move people forward?
  • Is the text persuasive?

Lots of insight can be gained, and basic needs for landing pages can be fixed, by testing with Google Website Optimizer. So go ahead and TEST TEST TEST! Reduce your bounce rate and move customers forward to find what they want. And if you’re stumped by the question of knowing what to test, don’t just start testing everything… be smart about it and try out the Move, Remove or Improve strategy. Or get help from a pro. There are plenty of companies out there offering help with conversion rate optimization and/or testing, like FutureNow’s OnTarget subscriptions for website improvement. Whatever you do, don’t just sit on your data!

Add Your Comments

Comments (83)

  1. Lotta good points here. I would guess over 80% of analytics users simply view and misunderstand their data but just get the warm and fuzzy feeling because they see traffic.

  2. Great tips. Its so easy to get excited when you start a new site about all the traffic you are getting, but getting eyeballs to your site is only half the battle. The real goal is conversion! Thanks for showing us how to focus.

  3. Great article. Google has good tool called In-Page Analytics. It is possible to get very interesting info with it, but unfortunately it does not show so much info as Heatmap. I hope in future google will integrate Heatmaps into Analytics. There are some different solutions ofcourse, but as far as i know, it is impossible to integrate with google analytics.

    Additionally there is interesting analytics software Yandex.Metrika. And this stuff has Heatmaps! So hope oneday i will see heatmap in Google Analytics!

  4. Google Analytics is a great tool for people trying to see what is or isn’t keeping visitors on your site. I like to check what keywords people used to get to my site, and then what page they landed on. If i see that many people came onto the same landing page and then got off of the website, i know that landing page needs to be optimized. I have been using Google analytics for a while now and I am very happy with the information they provide.

    Everyone should give it a shot!

  5. I had been using Google Analytic tool since couple of years ago. It is good to trace the incoming keywords, but without good content in a website, high bounce rate will occur. All this details figure will be showned in G Analytics. Which allow you to spot weakness at your website and work out improvement action plans.

  6. I think the problem many people have with conversion is the landing page. It’s difficult to know just how to word things to keep people interested.
    Another problem is maintaining the balance of information. If you have to little, people likely won’t see what they’re looking for. And if you have too much, people will be overwhelmed and leave the page.
    Google analytics is a great way to see which links are popular and should be given more attention.

  7. I had a lightbulb moment while I was reading this post…I always checked out the data in my google analytics and never really bother to analyze the data there…usually I just looked how many people visited and how they landed to my site…I should start your idea of “turning insights into profits”, that can really help a lot…

  8. I will disagree lit bit with the statement you made that we use Google Analytics to make money well actually I think Analytics helps and figures out the weaknesses of your money making campaign. You know that one wrong impression can turn the whole concept wrong. I will simply say that if someone want to take huge benefits from analytics it is nothing much difficult all you need to do is to spend time on your analytics and give attention to the every detail you found. You will not only find out where you are lacking but also you will get some new ideas that what should you include.

  9. Great post! It can be so frustrating and just plain old mind boggling when it comes to testing and tweaking your landing pages. Keeping it simple is key though would you suggest just the title then the copy or video or even the opt in button or create multiple pages and just test those rather than making the tweaks one at a time?

  10. My most visited page gets about 100 views a day, but most people leave once they’ve read it. I have related articles below the post, but I can’t think of anything else to improve it.

  11. This is an awesome post for beginner users of Google Analytics and I wish I could have had some valuable advice like this when I was first starting out. Google Analytics is most certainly something that every webmaster should be utilizing. It just provides such a vast amount of information without slowing down your website loading times in the slightest that its hardly comparable to any other site analysis software. And it’s FREE!

  12. Till date, Ive only used google analytics and its site optimizer to split test my squeeze pages. Ive never looked at the tool from the perspective of seeing the organic traffic that flows to my site. Quite an insightful article :) Cheers!

  13. It’s so easy for technical people to waste time looking at irrelevant data in analytics and trying to guess what it all means instead of taking a step-by-step approach to acting on that data.

  14. It’s tempting to just look at the big picture – to wake up and run to check the stats. But you’re right, it’s not enough.

  15. Thanks for the info on landing pages. I’ve been mostly looking at the number of page views that each page gets, but it makes sense that landing pages are what matters most. I’ll go see if I can figure out how to do this with analytics.

  16. The information that you present is very insightful. However, your answer in the use of the word “optimize”, I beleive, is over simplified! The comments that I receive on my sight indicates that the bounce is more sensory generated than anything else ie vison/sight. Unfortunately,eye-candy comes first before engaging the mind. I suggest to my readers to understand the Gooogle Heatmap and begin filling in those areas with attention grabbing graphics and text. Of course, what I suggest is a form of optimization!:) Okay, so what you say works!

  17. Certainly, data from your own Google Analytics won’t be worth any dime at all. But maybe data for competitors, now that’s something else.

    Google Analytics data is there to help us in making decisions for our website, to know if the website is doing effectively for the set goals. What you should really have pointed out is, before you create a website, make sure that you have a clear GOAL for it. Analytic is not the goal, just a supplement for it.

  18. Too right! I can’t tell you how often I hear people telling me “I’m in top ten SERP, I get enough traffic but I still make no money! Internet Marketing sucks!”. Sometimes I find it funny and sometimes just sad (especially if I take a look at their webpage and see completely crappy content, lol).

    Yes, SEO is important. Yes, it’s good you have optimum keyword density, meta tags, long-tailed keyword-rich title and all that. BUT JEEZ, it’s all COMPLETELY pointless if your content isn’t high quality. People who browse Internet usually have a short attention span and are selfish (I’m sure all of us are when we’re looking for stuff on the web!)..

    You need to catch your audience’s attention using HIGH QUALITY content and provide VALUE and make sure your content (especially if you’re trying to sell something) TRIGGERS thoughts or responses in your reader’s mind. Put yourself in reader’s shoes and you’ll know, it really is as simple as that.

  19. Great article about Google Analytics.

    For over a year of blogging and checking Google Analytics everyday, I really can’t make use of the statistics and all those numbers. I knew what are top landing and top exit pages but I just can’t seem to help myself how I can increase my earnings.

    I also use the in-page analytics and I found out there are few clicks on the home page. Perhaps because my visitors are clicking my ads some seconds after they land on a certain page.

    I assume my bounce rate is high because of the ads. But still my adsense earnings are still low despite the considerable amount of people who click them. Perhaps I still need to analyze more why.

    This is why it is called Google Analytics.

    Thanks you for this post.

  20. Your exactly right Data doesn’t make you money, but applying that data and knowledge will…

  21. I’m curious, what is your take on the bounce rate? I know that there is a lot of speculation out there that it is a very inaccurate metric.

  22. In addition to Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools is great for finding high value keywords that you’re very close to ranking for and other data to help you “Make Money”.

  23. Whilst I agree with what you’ve discussed what I’ve found to be highly profitable, is an integration with ecommerce programs and analytics codes so you can view actual conversions against where your traffic comes from, whether it’s paid advertising or organic. So in essence this data does make you money by allowing you to refine your marketing strategies!

  24. I’m glad that this article helps to put analytics into perspective. It can at times seem overwhelming-especially if you do not know what all those numbers and data mean..I am gonna take a deeper look now.. :)

  25. I think GA is a great thing for the affiliate industry, have a objective source and check if you can trust your partners stats.

  26. i agree with you, data is just a data, we should use the data to do correct analyze, google analytics is definitely great tool to help you analyze and the turn them into profit

  27. I agree with Chris, Google Webmaster Tools offers more help and more options that can help the webmaster to make more and more money

  28. I use both Analytics and webmaster and find webmaster much more easier to understand. As the above poster says, helps find other keywords.

  29. [...] este artículo “Creating Custom Limited-Access Google Analytics Dashboards” de Michael Harrison.“Google Analytics Basics: Data Doesn’t Make You Money” de Josh Hay, es una lectura interesante para todos aquellos que empiezan a usar Google Analytics y [...]

  30. This was timely for me because I’ve been pulled in both directions by others recommending “use GA on your site” and “never put GA on your site” Personally, I like seeing the info it offers and look forward to exploring more options with what you have suggested.. Thanks!

  31. Analytics doesnt show real time stats and that is something I miss.

  32. Google Analytic code is a great way to track your backlinks, however, I recommend you to use Awstats as well. It is a pre-installed tool which comes with hosting control panel with free of cost… So using both of these tools parallel will gives you an exact details of website progress…

  33. Thank you for your article and your advice. Most webmasters forget that the landingpage is the most important page in a webproject.

    I prefer Piwik to track my stats. But it is nearly the same.

  34. Good advice here. Too often I find myself just playing with the graphs and not utilising the full power of it as a way of actually improving a site!

  35. Google analytics are a must for website owners. Without it, you do not know why people come to your site and then bail out. You can see which pages they land on, what they type to get there, how many pages they spent on your site. It really is great for anyone trying to learn why they are (or are not) converting business.

  36. Exactly. Google analytics is only there to track ROI and provide you data of your status on the search engines and other sources of traffic. With also some modifications, you can also track your leads with it for you to know how many have hit the subscribe button, or how many have clicked the download button. Google Analytics is really a good supplement, but it doesn’t make you money. Content does! Thanks for a great post.

  37. Great tutorial on analytics, thanks. Inspiring me to focus on creating more specific landing pages and target them from the different srcs you mention – fb, twitter, etc.

  38. In-Page analytics has been an extremely useful tool for our business. Love it. Thanks for this article… Google Analytics is the best!!

  39. Well, I’m using Google Analytics to track Daily activities such as visitors, page views, etc. It always depends on the person on where or how they use Google Analytics. As for me, knowing how many people are visiting my website is good enough.

  40. It’s true that Google Webmaster tool helped me a lot more than Analytics. May be that’s because I’m not an analyst

  41. You are right. So many times I look at my Analytics and aside from unique hits, I don’t really drill down enough to probably take full advantage of the info this tool provides. The section about landing pages was great because I normally spend a heap of time tinkering with my homepage however it may not even be the page that my visitors go to or see first!

  42. Well, I actually have a very similar methodology to yours!
    I always imagine how my visitor will see my site. What he will think. How he will react to the info. Good read!

  43. Just installed Google Analytics and was wondering what all the other numbers were so this post is just on time for me.
    Thank you so much for this informative post!

  44. I tend to believe that other third party tools like M. samurai are more oriented towards monetization than google tools, however i agree with you that data is only data unless you have the insights to turn it into profit.

  45. Is it correct that the googlebot crawl rate is dependent on PR? Doesn’t this make it harder for users who are just beginning?

  46. there are several tools and methods to find keywords ideal for making more money as keyword generator google adwords. I think it is more effectively as Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools.

  47. Sometimes interpreting Analytics data can be misleading if you dont have enough visitors to justify a trend or regression.

  48. Addition to that Google Adwords Keyword Tool also helps to find good relevant keywords and also we can use Google Trends to find out the trend of that keyword.

  49. In my opinion interpreting analytics data correctly is as complicated as driving the traffic to your website through seo.

    Better said, use SEO to drive traffic to your website and analytics to improve the usability/ content / conversion. Starting from this, you might wanna add a fourth step to your list: Testing with real users (or usability testing). We often make the mistake of thinking a website that suits us as proffesionals but you’d be amazed how the average user interacts with a website and it’s information.

  50. Excellent post Josh. I am new at internet marketing and it’s not hard learning everything there is know about it or associate with it like seo, designing, marketing, data, coding, research, writing and alot more. It’s just sometimes overwhelming. Lately I been studying data in my google webmaster tools, have yet to fully understand all of the data but this post has help me tremendously, Thanks will bookmark this site. Stephanie

  51. In the case where you’re looking specifically at the late stage experiences for paid search engine advertising, Google Adwords reporting can help tell you how successful your campaigns are, but you need to know what happens once people land on your site from these late stage campaigns.

    Thanks for article

  52. Collecting only data doesn’t mean to rank higher but utilization of data to engage users and readership add more value to use of Google Analytics and Google Webmaster

  53. These three ways above are very useful to users who want to earn money from their site, I also suggest using Google analytics because the tool provides detailed information, chances are you will be able to determine and improve your site better than before

  54. I think good content is what drives websites to make money. There is a difference between data and information and the later is well organized.

  55. This post applies to me cos i spend alot of time just analysing the stats on my analytics page

  56. To continue Chris mind, Google Analytics are even better for showing high value keywords that are worth optimizing. I usually look at the most popular keywords of my website, then check SERP’s of them and if they are high enough I try to put some SEO on them. According to my own experience there’s a big difference between positions in the first google page. While fifth can give you some visitors, third or second will give you 5+ times more!

  57. I agree with Chris, the webmaster tools is great. I will go check my landing pages now – it is important that you promise the customers what they expected when clicking on a link.

  58. Thanks for this information. I haven’t delved too much into the in-page analytics but after reading this I will.

  59. When I look at the landing pages, I look to see where my visitors are hitting first in order to choose options to monetize those specific pages better and/or improve conversions.

  60. Being relatively new to the world of IM i have found Google analytics to be quite helpful to at least get an idea of a number of different stats that are quite helpful. I guess the best parts would be tracking your main keywords and studying where traffic is coming from geographically and from what sites etc

  61. Possible subject for next post – “is the text persuasive”. This question, albeit simple to state, is immensly difficult to answer. It’s no longer about writing good copy – it’s about writing influential and persuasive in a direct yet subtle manner.

  62. This Line is true “having more traffic sources doesn’t make any difference if only one or two of them are actually making you money” Stumbleupon and twitter may drive great traffic but when we have no income from this traffic then its really useless.

  63. Google Analytics is a great tool if you know how to interpret the statistics. This post is really informative, thanks.

  64. I like using Adwords Display Network to find other websites that send me good traffic (i.e. people that actually buy my products), then contacting them directly for advertising/affiliate/partnership opportunities.

  65. Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools is great for finding high value keywords that you’re very close to ranking for and other data to help you

  66. Google Analytics is great for finding high value keywords that you’re very close to ranking for and other data

  67. This will be a shock for a lot. In the third step you wrote 4 points i will ask my self a lot as i am new blogger and i hope i can get good blog one day.
    Thanks for sharing these great tips.

  68. Chris has a good point there, although I find that sometimes the data in GWT seems out of date. If you’re looking for general search keywords in your industry, I would also recommend the AdWords keyword tool. It’s terrific for coming up with search keywords that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

  69. When using Google Analytics, should you see what keywords people use to find your site and write more content containing these keywords?

  70. Had to laugh when I read this post. Because it is about me. To often I stare at the numbers nodding and shaking like I know what it means for my sites. Some good info and tips there that I shall be using and after reading chris’s comment I shall also take a look at the webmasters tools

  71. Google keywords tool is also important.

  72. What is the Landing Page report? Where can I find that?
    Anyway, this is a very useful post and I should read it again.
    Thanks.

  73. Yes and if you don’t have a rank tracker, it’s nice to be able to “reverse engineer” a bit and look to see what people are searching for when they are on your site. I had a huge influx of traffic and didn’t know why. Found out I was on page 1 of Google for a high traffic keyword I wasn’t even targeting. Made for a nice surprise, but I was able to go back to my site and focus more content on that keyword.

  74. Multiple testing with google analytics has shown me that a good plan is to use multiple tools and server side analytics in conjunction with analytics. The reason is because analytics is dependent on js being loaded to function. So you get a more complete picture when you use both

  75. Google analytics are a must have tool for every website that intends to generate income. From collected data you can learn a lot about your visitors and trends they follow. Thanks

  76. I agree Google Analytic and Google’s Webmaster tool can be a great combo!

  77. Sometimes links from social media like the sources you have mentioned can increase brand awareness.

  78. Yes. On both accounts.
    This is the reason why it is important to make your website valuable via blogs, forums, articles, white papers, etc. In this way people will be more interactive with your site, link back to it and increase your rankings. Google favors established companies but also takes care of proactive ones.

  79. It does now!

  80. Bounce rate is a very important metric. It shows how many people leave your site before even bothering to click on one link. A high bounce rate can be an indicator of a poorly crafted page or advertising campaign that does not correspond properly with the landing page.

  81. Great article, most of the people who start a new blog use google analytics to keep track of the traffic.
    They just get happy by seeing the traffic stats, but they fail to get the complete picture.
    Those using google analytics should read this.

  82. I’ve just built my first website in the hopes of monetizing it down the track. Once my content was in place I installed Google Analytics and I must say its quite overwhelming to the newbie. There is so much information to sift through and process. Thank you for this article and some clarity on Google Analytics.

  83. Data is useless if you do not apply it to your marketing effort. Having said that, it is not easy to break the data down and able to use it effectively. I for one do not actively use the data to drive the marketing effort…time to think about changing this.

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