Google Analytics Part II: Tracking Visits from Start to Finish

The more you know about visitors to your website today, the more successful you'll be at using SEO to attract and convert more visitors tomorrow. Google Analytics can help with a vast array of tools for tracking visits from start to finish, including where they're from, where they go on your website, and when and where they leave.

  • Map Overlay – Displays a world map showing the areas where your visitors are coming from. Click anywhere on the map, and it will go in for a closer look at that specific country or state. Below the map is a “Site Usage” tab. In this area you may use the “Detail Level” drop down menu to specify more detailed results by continent, sub continental region, country or territory, or city.

If you see that a large percentage of your visitors are coming from New York City, for example, but you don't have any information on the site relevant to that area, then you should be able improve your conversion rate simply by adding content more relevant to people from that part of the country.

  • Site Overlay* – Shows the “hot spots” of visitor activity on each page, with a breakdown of what percentage of visitors are clicking where.

If you see that one of your call to action buttons never gets clicked, you may need to try tweaking its content or moving it somewhere else on the page.

* Be aware that if you link to the same URL twice on one page, and visitors click 2% on one and 3% on the other, both will show 5% because it's the same URL. Though Google is working on this issue, Crazy Egg is a good alternative to refer to in the meantime.

  • New vs. Returning Visitors – Compares the number of people who are new to your site with those who have visited before.

If you see that you aren't getting a lot of return visitors, you may need to add some incentive in terms of frequently updated content, such as a blog, forum or newsfeed.

  • Visitor Trending – Displays visits, absolute unique visitors, pageviews, time visitors spent on your site and the bounce rate (or the number of visitors who left the site after viewing just one page).

If you see that visitors aren't spending much time on the site and leaving after just one or two pageviews, you may need to consider improving the relevance of the content on the site or tweaking the site design to make it more user-friendly. You can even pinpoint the specific place on your site where visitors are losing interest and tweak that page accordingly.

  • Visitor Loyalty – Shows how often people have visited your site, how recently, how long they spent there and how many pages they viewed.

If you launch a new marketing campaign, for instance, take a look at visitor recency. It's one good way of judging the success of your campaign at pulling in more visitors within the relevant time frame.

  • Browser Capabilities – Identifies various aspects of browser capabilities, including a breakdown of visitor:

Browsers used to find you, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox and Mozilla

Operating systems, such as Windows, Macintosh and Linux

Screen colors and screen resolutions used to view your website

If you see that many of your visitors use Internet Explorer 6, for example, you may need to be careful with your site design as that particular browser is very touchy and may look misaligned.

When weighing all of this data, it is important to remember that no analytics program is 100 percent accurate. However, Google Analytics serves as an invaluable guideline for evaluating your site's SEO, content and design, then making changes accordingly.

Still to come, Google Analytics Part III: Google Web Optimizer.

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