I recently walked into a local pizza shop with a few co-workers. We looked up their menu and phone number in a standard Google search, which Google and Yelp provided. I asked one of the pizza shop owners if they’ve ever considered creating a website. His response was:
Ah, I don’t really understand that stuff. Do you mean Yelp? They help us.
I told him that Yelp is definitely ideal and that his important meta information – phone number, hours of operation, and address – was correctly crawled and served up in a Google info card for any brand name search. I told him this is all well and good, but you don’t have access to – or own – any of the data. As a local pizza shop, the majority of their business comes in from regulars and word-of-mouth marketing. But there will always be a portion of potential traffic that comes from someone – either on a mobile device or computer – searching for keywords + location. I explained how a website would allow him to better understand how digital information seekers interact and value the meta info business.
We have a pretty good idea what people like and don’t like – you know, we do this everyday. We know what people like best and some people always order the same thing.
I could see where he was coming from. Most local shops don’t “need” to rely on a website. But I didn’t let up just yet. I told him that with minimal effort, a simple website could be made – maybe by a younger, tech-savvy relative – that would help them get a little more business, as well as a library of data. I tried to make a metaphor between pizza and content, where the ingredients of pizza could be digitized in an online-ordering system via email and a recipe/tutorial section. I could see him starting to understand these benefits, but it was difficult to explain these concepts much better without a visual aid. At any rate, it made for good conversation and offered me additional insight to the mind of the local pizza shop owner.
In the world of big data, Google Analytics does a lot of heavy lifting. And believe it or not, by simply familiarizing yourself with the reports you can access through Google Analytics, you’re able to make informed decisions on how to improve your brand, elements of your website, the effectiveness of marketing campaigns and much more.
Fortunately, Google Analytics remains a free and incredibly valuable tool for website owners.
Please note: you will need to have a website and an Analytics account set up prior to using this guide.
For those that have a website and Analytics set up, you’ll notice a tab on the left side labeled “Dashboards.” These are similar to WordPress dashboards – or any dashboard for that matter – and a default dashboard is included that shows us a general overview about our website. We can actually create custom dashboards depending on the type of information we want to track and have reported. Additionally, we can import dashboards that other people create! Below are seven custom dashboards shaped to help small business owners. To use this guide, simply click on the “View the dashboard” buttons and the following page will open up in your Google Analytics account:
Just click the blue “create” button and you’re all set! You’ll be able to access any of these dashboards right in your dashboard tab since they’ll be saved. You can also edit or delete them at will.
Alright, let’s check them out and see how they benefit small business owners.
You can also see a sneak peek of each dashboard – what it looks like in my personal analytics account. Please keep in mind my personal site is informational and offers guides/articles about social media marketing and music, so the data being tracked will have a completely different iteration for your business website.
Site quality dashboard
Believe it or not, as many as 90 percent of your customers will take their business elsewhere following a negative experience. And that negative experience can be something as simple as an e-commerce transaction failure or your site not working properly.
With this tool, a site usage and quality dashboard, you are able to determine your bounce rate —or, the number of users who leave your site without browsing — based on the Web browser they are using, the kinds of mobile devices they’re using and what pages they are viewing last before taking their Internet surfing elsewhere (exit pages).
What kinds of gadgets, operating systems, browsers and screen resolutions is the majority of your customers using?
While you might think this kind of dashboard is only really useful for the geek crowd, the fact of the matter is actually that the better you understand your customers’ experience, the better you are able to cater your offerings to them. For example, if you found out 85 percent of your customers were viewing your website at a 1920×1080 resolution, it might make sense to optimize your layout to those specifications.
Keyword analysis dashboard
Let’s face it: When most people use the Internet to look for something, they’ll log on to Google and type in a phrase they think will bring them the most accurate results.
When you use the keyword analysis dashboard, you are enabled to see how many visitors came to your website due to the specific phrases or words they typed into a search engine. Armed with this kind of information, you are better able to target your customers, as you’ll know exactly what kinds of phrases they are searching for.
For example, you might think your keyword strategy is effective enough with “mobile phone.” But you might see that more customers are landing on your page while searching for “affordable mobile phone.” Adding that extra word may very well result in an impressive influx of traffic.
Social media dashboard
Social networks are all the rage these days. There are more than 3 billion people on Facebook and nearly 650 million on Twitter, so it goes without saying that successful brands need to have robust social presences in order to effectively communicate with their customers.
But the social media world extends beyond Facebook and Twitter. With Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and countless others, it can become impossible to keep track of how your brand is benefitting from social platforms.
With the social media dashboard, you can see precisely from which social networks your traffic is coming, what those social visitors are doing on your site and whether they are sharing your content, among other things.
The e-commerce dashboard
Since I don’t sell anything on my own site, I recommend checking out Portent’s guide above which has screenshots that may offer insights to any small business owners with an e-commerce website.
E-commerce is already huge, and many experts think it’s going to grow even more in the coming years. In fact, studies predict the U.S. e-commerce market will grow to $304.1 billion by the end of this year. But by 2018, that number is expected to explode to $491.5 billion.
Since that’s the case, it’s imperative you have as much insight into your e-commerce operations as possible. The more information you have at your disposal, the more effectively you can engage your customers.
This e-commerce dashboard lets you see where your customers are coming from, how much revenue has resulted from pages they originated, who your top referrers are and more. Additionally, you can track the effectiveness of landing pages and call to actions. When it comes to your e-commerce operations, you can really never have too much information. And that’s something that will only get more and more important as the e-commerce market grows.
Brand monitoring dashboard
In order to get a better understanding of how your customers use your site, you have to know where they are coming from before they land on your site.
Are they typing your name into a search engine? Are they clicking over to your website from some of your posts on social networks? What kinds of message boards, news aggregators and other similar sites do your customers visit prior to hopping over to your site?
All of this information is readily available through Google’s brand monitoring dashboard. When you know how your customers are using the Internet, you can target ads more effectively.
Referring sites dashboard
Similar to the brand monitoring dashboard, this tool gives you a bird’s eye view into precisely where your customers are coming to your site from. When you realize they are all coming from a certain location, you can effectively target that location with a specific ad campaign and hopefully enhance your bottom line as a result.
On top of that, figuring out from where your customers are coming might also encourage you to think differently about what your business offers. For example, if you are a company that sells high-quality wines, perhaps a lot of your customers are coming to your site through a high-end retailer’s website, for whatever reason. Maybe it’s then time to figure out some sort of partnership that throws your logo on a nice garment?
These seven dashboards represent only a small sliver of what’s out there. But in today’s data-driven world, it’s just not enough to be using Google Analytics. You’ve got to be able to analyze data at the most granular level in order to make the best decisions.
Generally speaking, the more data you have at your disposal, the more informed your decisions will be, but only if you can make sense of everything you’ve collected.
By making use of Google Analytics and the customized reports and dashboards that make the most sense for your company, you are able to see where you are winning and where you are losing online, and adjust your strategies accordingly.