Google Analytics

Using Google Analytics to Understand Your Audience

Last Updated on by Michael Brockbank

It takes more than just a handful of posts and keywords to build a popular website. You need to understand how to engage your target audience as well. This is where optimizing tools come into play. Google Analytics is one of the most used and trusted platforms on the Internet. It can provide you with a wide range of data to help you understand your audience. It’s through this understanding that can then help you develop strategies to succeed.[adrotate banner=”8″]

7 Key Points of Google Analytics

Google Analytics has a great deal of information readily available. It can seem overwhelming at first as there is so much you can do within the system. Here are several key points of which you should pay attention. These will guide you to build strong content strategies.

1. Sessions

Sessions are the total number of times visitors have come to your website. This includes both new and returning individuals. It gives you an idea regarding the type of traffic your site receives whether it’s from search engines or social media sites like Facebook.

Obviously, you want the number of sessions to be as high as possible. However, pay close attention to the “Returning Visitors” section. This demonstrates whether visitors are coming back to your site for more information or never coming back at all.

It’s important to note that this is also dependent on how people have their computers set up. If someone is using privacy settings, he or she may not show up as a returning visitor.

If your sessions are high and the “New Sessions” percentage is low, it means people are coming back often. This is ideal for any website as it can boost awareness and reputation, especially if those people are sharing your content.

2. Bounce Rate

A bounce is what happens when someone visits your site and then hits the back button without further exploring your pages. This often happens when you have content that didn’t meet the expectations of the visitor. Poor meta descriptions, titles and content in general can easily lead to a bounce.

Page Titles
Be as succinct and accurate in a page title as possible. If you create a title labeled, “8 Ways to Cook Chicken,” you better have eight engaging ways to cook chicken. A large portion of your audience is looking directly at this short blurb of words when searching through sites like Google and Bing.

Meta Descriptions
A meta description is a very short synopsis of the content. Usually, these are two to three sentences long and should detail why someone would want to visit the webpage. A well-developed meta description can decrease the bounce rate of your pages as visitors get a better idea of what the content provides.

If you’re using WordPress, Yoast SEO can be invaluable when developing both titles and meta descriptions. Using current optimization trends and practices, it will advise you whether the content needs to be adjusted or not.

3. Behavior and Site Content

The behavior of people when visiting your website is where some of the most prolific information is gathered. You get to this area by:

  1. Expanding “Behavior” on the left of your screen in Google Analytics
  2. Expand the “Site Content” section under Behavior
  3. Click on “All Pages”

This will show you pertinent information regarding any one specific page on your website. For instance, you can arrange to view what webpage has the most Pageviews from visitors. You can also check other stats such as unique pageviews, average time on the page, the number of times visitors came to your site because of that page, bounce rate and how often people leave the site from that page.

The number of times certain pieces of content are visited demonstrate what your audience finds the most valuable. Lets take my blog Crossing Colorado, for example. More than 10% of the visitors to the website are viewing a review I created for the Emerge Body Slenderizing drink mix. I can also see a 0% bounce rate, which demonstrates that nobody hit the back button. The 46.71% Exit rate tells me that more than half of the people viewing this piece of content are further exploring the website.

On a side note, I can tell from the number of visitors that writing reviews seem to be the most effective for Crossing Colorado.

4. Behavior and Landing Pages

Landing pages are those where visitors come to your website. Essentially, it’s how your audience lands on your site to begin with. This information can be found in Google Analytics under the “All Pages” information stated above. Using Crossing Colorado again as an example, I can see that 9.37% of my traffic is landing on the Emerge article.

Social links, search engines, advertisements, direct typing and more contribute to the the number of sessions in Landing Pages. This data can show you whether or not certain campaigns are effective. For example, I could launch a pay-per-click campaign to increase the number of visitors on my worst-performing article. Landing Pages will show if those adds are successful.

Pages that are performing low may need to be adjusted in terms of content or search engine optimization. However, keep in mind that the content of poorly performing posts may simply be uninteresting to your target audience.

5. Acquisition Overview

The overview for Acquisition can be helpful when determining how people find your website on the Internet. The four primary methods are: Direct, Organic Search, Social and Referral. If you run ad campaigns, it may be shown in this area as well.

The number of sessions that show in the “Direct” column refer to people visiting your pages from links or directly typing in the address of the site. For instance, I derive a fair amount of traffic from direct links because of how my posts are delivered to content curation websites. In fact, more than 60% of Crossing Colorado’s traffic come from direct links such as these.

Organic Search
This is where you can see if your content is being found in search engines. Google Analytics will also show you the keywords used in those engines to find your content. This is the number of times your links were clicked on from sites like Google. If this number is excessively low, then you need to delve deeper into a content strategy that includes optimizing for search engines.

Social Media
Social media plays an important role in the lives of millions. It’s no wonder why this would be a factor when engaging your audience. In Crossing Colorado, I can see that 3.31% of my total social media traffic comes from people using Twitter. This information can help you develop strategies to include social engagement and how those followers are using your site.

So, the Referral area is a bit messed up when looking at acquisition. Unfortunately, bots can quickly bloat this number and provide false readings. You’d think Google would do a better job at preventing these junk-views from showing up. However, you can add filters to Google Analytics and remove those false sites.

6. Demographics

What list of audience understanding would be complete without general demographics? This is located within the “Audience” section of Google Analytics. It provides basic information regarding the people who visit.

Demographics are useful because it can help you tailor the content to a certain age group or gender. For instance, Crossing Colorado is viewed more by people between the ages of 25 and 34. It’s also visited by more women. I can then take that information and build content to cater to that audience if I wish, which many improve everything from bounce rate to average duration on the site.

7. Audience Benchmarking

Benchmarking is one of my favorite aspects. It pits how your website performs against the average of other sites in your industry. For example, Crossing Colorado out-performs the average “Beauty and Fitness” websites in the world for those that receive between 0 and 99 daily sessions. Google Analytics will also show the number of sites the information was collected from. In my case, it was the average from 307,404 websites globally.

This tool shows how your website compares to the others in your industry in terms of generating traffic. Although I am 351.27% higher in direct traffic, I don’t generate anything from “Paid Search” campaigns while the average website collected 431 visitors. I don’t see the sense in spending money on paid advertising when I really don’t have anything to sell.

You want your website to continue out-performing those within your industry. If certain numbers are lower, you’ll need to develop strategies to improve. At this point, you might want to check out the competition and see what they offer or how they conduct themselves online.

It’s an Ocean of Information

These are only a handful of the things Google Analytics collects on a real-time basis. I know there are plenty of other good sections that I am missing, but these are the seven I pay the most attention to. It helps me discover what people want to see on my site while continuously improving statistics over time.

When your visitors are craving certain pieces of content, it’s in your best interests to deliver. Understanding how people use your website is pivotal in determining what they crave the most. Although you want new people to visit, it’s your return visitors that can determine if your site is successful or not. Spend some time exploring Google Analytics and what it can do to help you develop stronger content.

Michael Brockbank
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