Beyond the Hits

August 1, 2009

Using Google Analytics to shape the response to your Web site.

Your Web site is one of the best promotional tools you’ve got. But more and more often we’re finding that some clients aren’t really using this tool to see how well their site is working for them. So with this special issue of BROADcast, we’re sharing a more in-depth look at Google Analytics.

BroadBased Web developers always install Google Analytics in the sites they build or redesign. Why do we swear by this product? Because we believe it provides information that can positively influence your marketing decisions.

“Google Analytics gives you not only a snapshot of new and repeat visitors, but it drills down to give you valuable answers to key marketing questions,” said Jan Korb, BroadBased CEO.

Not to mention that it’s free!

The following are some perspectives on the usefulness of Google Analytics tools.

Not All Visitors are Equal

Google Analytics Map Overlay

Although Web site owners want to attract as many visitors as possible, Google Analytics can tell you if the right ones are coming by. Are they ones that browse and spend time on your site or those who jump on and bounce off before they’ve even turned a page?

Tracking the daily or weekly changes in flow of visitors, watching for trends and peaks on specific days — perhaps after you’ve launched a special offer for your product or services — can guide your subsequent campaign decisions.

Let’s look at an example on the Web site of our client The LBA Group and see how it defines their best customer base. Google Analytics’ at-a-glance map overlay shows that most of the visitors to the LBA site come from Florida, specifically Jacksonville, the company’s headquarters, and surrounding cities. Those were the visitors that came and stayed a while. The visitors from Venezuela, Singapore and Hong Kong (yes, all three were represented!) were on and off within seconds, as were visitors from outside a roughly 100-mile perimeter.

Not All Paths Lead to Your Goals

With Google Analytics you can track the pathway your visitors take to your “goal” pages. If your goal is to drive visitors to your Contacts page or to the Submit button for a sale, Google Analytics will show if you’ve accomplished it. If they’re backing out just before they send that e-mail or make that purchase, it’s time to rethink your offer or the way it’s presented.

Something else to watch for is the path visitors are taking to your site. Are they coming in through popular search engines or via a link from another site? Are most of the visitors who follow through to your goals pages coming from one specific site? Or would you like to drive more through the most popular search engines? These decisions may lead you to recheck and possibly revise your keywords and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) effectiveness.

Google Analytics Traffic Sources

Our client The LBA Group finds the majority of its visitors coming in through popular search engines, which is just what they hope to accomplish. On BroadBased’s own site, Google Analytics tells us that most visitors also come in through major search engines. The majority travel first to our Team then Contact pages, which is where we want them to go. Capabilities, the Case Studies, then Portfolio follow in that order.

“In a well designed Web site, people navigate in a consistent, sequential order,” said BroadBased Web Developer Sean Collins. “Google Analytics tracks that for us to be sure the site gives the right directional signals.”

Not All Content is Top Choice

Google Analytics’ dashboard offers reports on the top landing pages and the top exit pages, which pages draw new or repeat visitors and which navigation routes elicit the desired push to your goals pages. Those reports can guide you in decision-making about arrangement of the key tabs in your navigation bar or wording in your body copy.

These reports will clearly show the products or services with most appeal to your potential customers, or which blog or subject matter is the most popular. It will help you to make the sales and editorial positions that will pay off.

Customization is Key

The sky’s (nearly) the limit for custom reports from Google Analytics. Its newest feature is a custom reporting page that lets you create your own data from any of the many measurements available on the site.

Or you can take the slower route. Google Analytics can be activated as an overlay of your actual site. As you roll your mouse over every tab and link, it shows how many visits you’ve received in a defined period and other valuable data. Here’s an example from The LBA Group’s site:

Google Analytics site overlay for The LBA Group

For the purposes of design, we at BroadBased also appreciate the reports on which flash version, screen resolution, colors and JavaScript the majority of users have.

“I must confess I check our Google Analytics dashboard dozens of times a month,” said Korb. “It’s just fascinating to see how our newly redesigned site is doing its job for us, and it’s helping us tweak areas we’d like to be even more productive. This is a great tool for any marketing planner and one I recommend to all of our clients.”


Jan Hirabayashi founded BroadBased in 1996 and is the company's CEO and lead marketing strategist.