I shared this article first in August 2017. Many use Google Analytics successfully, but I have to admit I am not one of them. I guess Randy Ingermanson’s advice to read up on how to use it makes sense. Another point on my to-do-list 🙂
But feel free to make up your own mind.
Good Morning, Afternoon, Night (depending on where you are or when you read 🙂 ) Poets and Writers. Most of you have a blog and I believe that Randy Ingermansons suggestions about how to use Google Analytics could help you get more traffic.
This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 16,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.
Marketing: Google Analytics
If you’ve got a web site then you need Google Analytics.
What’s Google Analytics? It’s a free tool created by Google that lets you track things that happen on your web site.
What kind of things can you track? Lots of things:
- How many people visit your site.
- How many pages they visit.
- Which pages they visit.
- How long they’re on your site.
- How they got to your site.
- Who sent them to your site.
- Typical paths they take through your site.
- Which pages they come in on.
- Which pages they leave from.
- How fast your pages load.
- Which days of the week people visit most and least.
- Tons more.
Installing Google Analytics
If you don’t have Google Analytics installed on your site, it’s easy to get it going. Here’s what you do:
- If you don’t have an account on Google, (a Gmail account or a Google Plus account or whatever), go to plus.google.com and sign up for one. It’s free and all you need is an email address.
- Once you have a Google account, go to analytics.google.com and sign in.
- Set up your account to track your web site. You can find directions here: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1008015
- When you finish the above step, you’ll have a small piece of code that you’ll need to insert into every page on your web site. The exact way to do this depends on how your web site was created. If you use WordPress for your site, then you can install a plugin and paste in the code there. If you don’t know how to do this, ask your web developer to do it for you. (Usually, your web developer should have done all of the above when they created your site, but if they haven’t done it, they can do it now in very little time.)
Once Google Analytics is installed on your site, it begins tracking visits immediately. The code that you inserted in every page on your site will send messages to Google’s computers to track site visitors. You won’t ever get any personal information on who these visitors were. But you’ll get statistical information on them as a group.
Using Google Analytics
Google Analytics gives you enormous amounts of information on what’s happening on your web site. That can be overwhelming.
Every web site is different, so it’s impossible to give out advice that applies to everybody.
Instead, I’ll give you meta-advice—advice on how to make your own decisions on how to use Google Analytics.
- Schedule a regular time to visit Google Analytics to review your data. If you’re obsessive, this might be daily, but that really only makes sense if your web site is earning you thousands of dollars per month. Decide how often you should visit Google Analytics (weekly, monthly, quarterly, whatever) and then schedule it. Mark it in your trusted system—your calendar or whatever tool you use to organize your life.
- On your first visit, give yourself an hour to fiddle around with Google Analytics and see what’s available. You can’t really break anything, so try things and see what you can learn. Make a list of the things that seem relevant to you. If you have a blog, then you’re probably interested in knowing how many people actually read it. If you link out to your books on the online retailers, then you probably care about how many people click those links, and which ones they click.
- On each visit, the first thing you should do is set the date range that you want to see data for. I typically just want to know what happened in the past calendar month or in the past 30 days.
- Next, work through your list of data that you care about. Are things improving? Getting worse? Staying about the same? Do you see any crises? (For example, was your site down for an extended length of time that you didn’t even know about? Has your bounce rate zoomed up to 100 percent? Is it taking an unreasonable amount of time for your pages to load?)
- Think for a few seconds about what actions, if any, you should take, based on what you’ve just seen.
If you decide that you need to become a guru in using Google Analytics, there are courses and books you can buy that will teach you vastly more than I know. I have no particular recommendations, but you can easily find them with any search engine and make your own decision on what would work for you.
How I Use Google Analytics
You aren’t me, so the data I’m interested in is not necessarily the data you’re interested in. But for what it’s worth, here are some of the things I routinely look at in my regularly scheduled sessions on Google Analytics:
- What is the total number of page views I’ve had in the last 30 days?
- Which pages are getting the most page views? Any surprises here?
- What is the bounce rate on these pages?
- What is the average amount of time it takes for pages to load on my site?
- Since I have an online store on my site, I measure the conversion rate of my sales pages. The conversion rate for a sales page is the percentage of page views that result in an actual sale. I also look at the total number of visits to the sales pages.
I typically get close to 100,000 page views on my site each month. That’s a fair bit of traffic for an author, and not all hosting companies can handle that much traffic at a decent price. Also, not all hosting companies can deflect attacks by hackers well. Google Analytics has been helpful to me in the past in making the decision to switch to a better host—faster and more impervious to denial-of-service attacks.
For what it’s worth, I now use WPEngine.com to host my web site. They’ve proven to be both fast and secure, but they’re not cheap for low-volume sites. I’ve been very happy since switching to them. (In case you’re wondering, I have no affiliate relationship with WPEngine. They don’t pay me a single dime to mention them here, and they have no idea that I’m doing so.)
I’ll repeat myself, because this is important. If you have a web site, then you need Google Analytics. If you don’t have it installed already, do so. If you aren’t using it yet, schedule it as part of your regular routine.
Knowledge is power. Google Analytics is free and easy to use and gives you extraordinary amounts of information. Have fun!