By: Tom Pick
on Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Google Analytics (GA) is a powerful, easy to use, and best of all free website analytics package ideal for small to midsized businesses. Once a business owner or manager completes the simple setup process, it's just a matter of placing a short snippet of tracking code on every page of a company's website and then watching results come in. Other than the tracking code, there's nothing to install or maintain.
The main dashboard page in GA shows, for the past 30 days, a number of high-level statistics at a glance including total website visits, mobile (smartphone and tablet) vs. non-mobile (desktop or laptop computer) visits, and visits by country. Clicking on the "Standard Reporting" tab at the top lets you drill into statistics about your website's visitors, sources of traffic, most commonly viewed pages and more.
One of the most powerful features in GA is Advanced Segments, which is basically a way to look at all statistics for any subset of your site traffic rather than just all visitors. While there are many uses for Advanced Segments, among the most helpful is the ability to segment groups of visitors based on traffic source.
For example, suppose you're interested in knowing how the behavior of social media visitors to your site differs from all visitors in general. Setting up an advanced segment for social media visitors makes it easy to do this analysis.
To start, log into your GA account, click the "Standard Reporting" tab, and in the left sidebar navigation area, click "Traffic Sources," then "Sources" then "All Traffic." In the center of your screen will be a list of individual traffic sources to your website. At the lower right of the screen, set "Show rows" to 500 so that you can see all sources of visits to your site (or at least the first 500).
Make note of all social media traffic sources: LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and possibly sites like StumbleUpon, Reddit and Tumblr. Note that visits from Twitter often show up in GA as coming from a URL shortener (like t.co) or a social media management tool (like HootSuite), so include these on your social traffic sources list as well.
Next, click on "Advanced Segments" near the top-left of your screen. Give your Advanced Segment a name (e.g., All Social Media Visits" or "Social Presence"). Then, over on the right side of your screen, click "New Custom Segment." Specify include "Source" to contain your first social traffic source. Then click "Add 'OR' statement" and include source to contain your next source of social visits. Repeat until you've added all of your sources.
To complete your Advanced Segment, click "Add 'AND' statement" and set "Visits" to greater than zero. Finally, click "Save Segment" and try it out. Click "Advanced Segments," select both "All Visits" and your new segment, and click on the "Apply" button.
You can now view your social media traffic compared to all traffic along any dimension. For example, do social media visitors tend to convert at a higher or lower rate? Do they spend more or less time on your site? Which pages do they visit most frequently, compared to all visitors?
Once you've got the hang of it, you may want to set up custom segments for other groups of visits such as traffic from search engines, from industry news sites, or referred from business partner websites. The possibilities, if not quite endless, are very extensive.
Understanding how visitors from different sources behave on your site can help you design different content, navigation paths and calls to action that maximize the value from each source of visits. It all starts with using special features in GA, like Advanced Segments, to improve your understanding of your website visitors.