Google Analytics offers web teams a wealth of information, so much that it’s sometimes hard to know where to begin. Even experienced analytics users can get lost in the data, treading down paths that look interesting, but don’t provide a lot of direction.
That said, it’s a good idea to check your analytics regularly, even daily. Establishing a routine will help you get familiar with the system, spot anomalies, identify trends as they start to develop, and determine what you want to learn from your data.
Here are five analytics measures to review on a daily basis:
1. Audience Overview
Whenever you check in, take a spin by the “Audience Overview.” Data on sessions, users, page views, and so forth offer the most value over the long haul, as they reveal traffic patterns. But reviewing them daily gives you a sense of typical site usage and uncovers atypical events as they happen.
See an odd spike in overall visits? Check referring sources—your school might have been referenced in a news story or a social post might have gone viral. Whatever the case, you’ll probably want to know what’s happening so you can reap the benefits or anticipate any fallout.
Anomalies like this can be easier to spot on small sites, where even modest traffic bumps make an observable impact. If you manage a large site, create a Google Analytics view for off-campus traffic only—you’ll find that patterns become more interesting once you separate out internal users.
2. Acquisition Overview
Along similar lines, check the “Acquisition Overview” for a quick look at where visitors are coming from. This can be especially useful if you’ve recently launched a paid search, display ad, or email campaign—an uptick in those channels will tell you they’re working.
You might need to dig a little deeper to find other items of interest. For example, click “Referral” to find other sites sending you traffic, “Email” to see which landing pages recipients are visiting, or “Paid Search” to review which of your paid keywords are generating clicks.
3. Campaign Performance
Unlike audience and analytics overviews, campaigns require advance action on your part. Once you start using campaigns, you’ll probably want to follow them daily.
A campaign works like this: You create a special URL for a page you want to promote, then include that URL in a social media post, email, ad, and the like. From there, you can use Google Analytics to see exactly how many clicks came from that specific source.
Google offers a tool for creating campaign URLs. It adds various campaign parameters to a page’s standard URL, giving Google Analytics the info it needs to report traffic sources. (Note that some tools, like Google AdWords, can automatically ad tracking parameters.)
Campaign data appears under “Acquisition” in Google Analytics. Check there to see whether your campaigns are drawing users to your site.
4. Goal Completions
Google Analytics goals tell you how many users are completing specific actions—requesting information, for example, or watching a video. Like campaigns, they need to be set up in advance with a purpose in mind.
Campaigns track where users come from, wheras goals track what they do. You might create a destination goal that registers every time a user sees a “thank you” page after submitting a form. Or you might set up an event goal that tracks every click to a specific button, drop-down menu, or play button.
Goal data appears under “Conversions” in Google Analytics.
You can use Google Analytics events to track all kinds of interactions with your site. Sometimes, you’ll use these events to establish goals, as described above. Other times, you’ll monitor them just to see how users are engaging with your content.
For example, many college and university home pages feature “hero” images that highlight news, events, and other content. Event tracking lets you see how often these images get clicked. Prominent menu links, calls to action, and video play buttons are other good spots to deploy event tracking.
Daily, you might use event tracking to determine whether swapping out featured content boosts engagement, or to see whether visitors are watching your new video. It’s another way to assess the results of your work—you’ll find event data under “Behavior.”
OU Campus’ Site Analytics Gadget and Page Analytics Gadget make daily analytics reviews event easier. They pull top-level data directly from Google Analytics into your dashboard.
You don’t need to be a Google Analytics expert to make data-driven decisions. Start by adding an analytics review to your daily routine.
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