SEO Tips: How a small business can use Google Analytics

Google Analytics allows you to track a plethora of information about your website.

You can certainly track the basic statistics like visits, page views and bounce rates (i.e. how many users clicked off your website after just one pageview). But you can also track more complex statistics. Statistics like which keyphrases drove which traffic to your website, which websites drove traffic to your site and even track how a user clicked through your website.

What’s the best thing about Google Analytics? It is 100% free and very easy to implement.

All you need is a Google Account (like Gmail) and the ability to paste a couple of lines of HTML code into every page of your website (usually done via pasting it into the site’s footer). You don’t need to know HTML. You just need to know how to copy and paste and have access to your site’s code. If you have a blog like WordPress, there are plugins that make installing Google Analytics a snap as well.

The Google Analytics dashboard includes some of the most useful information. It is here where a site owner or online marketer can get a quick snapshot of visits, pageviews, pages/visit, bounce rate, average time on site, percent of traffic that are new visits, graphs of traffic trends, maps of geographic traffic sources and even a pie chart of traffic sources by type (direct traffic, search engines, referring sites, etc.). The dashboard even includes the five pages that receive the most traffic across your website. Again, all of this information is FREE!

For those that want to get their hands dirty, Google Analytics offers more advanced options such as:

1.    Mobile stats – Discover which cell phones or mobile devices your users are on when they access your website. Alternatively, discover which mobile carriers your site visitors are on when they visit your site. This will help you to build the proper experience for those users and focus on the platforms that are most prevalent.

2.   In-Page Analytics – Ever wonder where people are clicking on your pages? Which links? Which images? Which navigational elements are attracting the most clickthroughs? Now you will know. Just go to the Content section and click on In-Page Analytics and Google Analytics will do an overlay of any page on your website with fancy little bubbles pointing out what percentage of people click where. It’s slick. You’ll love it! Yeah, yeah it’s still in ‘beta’ but so was Gmail until just a few years ago.

3.    Custom Reports – If you want to look like a rockstar to your boss or your team, use this function to automate reports in whatever format you wish. It can even be scheduled and sent out to email.

4.   More, More and More – Just start digging around. The genius over at Google are constantly adding new, cool features. Don’t worry, you won’t ‘break’ anything.

How often should someone check Google Analytics? Really that depends on you. Typically, an ecommerce site or mid-sized blog would check Google Analytics daily. Smaller sites may only need to check it weekly however. If you are really obsessed with stats, you can even setup a flat screen TV that displays the stats live. Tribune does this with the majority of their websites like LATimes.com, ChicagoTribune.com, KTLA.com, etc.

It really depends on how vital you feel it is to your company’s success. General rule, check it each morning. This allows you to be aware of any traffic anomalies and react accordingly.

If you are small business owner, the data from Google Analytics will be some of the most useful information you will gather. It will provide great detail on what your customers are most interested in from a product/content aspect, where people are losing interest (exit rates) and—perhaps most importantly—how people are discovering your company.

Be sure to react to what you see and look deeper than just ‘Top 10″ data that Google Analytics displays by default. Learn how to use Microsoft Excel well and export your data from Google Analytics to Excel. Do a few pivot tables to really crunch the data.

So, go get Google Analytics at: http://www.google.com/analytics and put it on your site right now and enjoy geeking out on all the data by tomorrow morning.