Google Analytics primer: here’s how to combine Google Analytics and AdWords to optimize your business
A Google Analytics primer: here’s how to combine Google Analytics and AdWords to optimize your business
Change is the only constant
Okay folks, this year there have been a number of changes in the way you as a business owner can access and analyze data analytics for your website. Here, we’re going to give you a bit of a Google analytics primer, but like with any good Web-related thingy, this post has add-ons.
We’ll explain how to combine Google Analytics with Google AdWords to generate more traffic to your site. In case you’ve been meditating in a cave in the Himalaya for the last five years, let’s remind ourselves of why your online presence is more important (and useful) than ever.
For starters, you won’t be surprised that Google has done a mountain of research into the even bigger mountain of data they control. One thing they’ve found is that half of all those conducting a local search went to a store that day, with 34 per cent of those searching on laptops or tablets doing the same. Add to that the benefits you can derive as a business from having a lively and interactive social media presence. Then think about whether you’re set up for e-commerce. Do you sell stuff through the internet? If you’re in the service sector can you take orders or bookings via your website?
Even if you use a third-party for tasks such as payment processing or order placement (say, bookings.com as a hotelier or guest house owner), it’s still very useful (and most interesting) to check your site data on a regular basis. Doing so enables you to experiment with new content, tweaked key words or phrases, and site structure or design – then see the resulting movement in data points.
There have been some changes to the Google Data Analytics interface this year, so this primer is to help you navigate the latest version. Google provide this service free, despite its value as a utility. They do this because
- It maintains their authority as the market-leading search engine
- It’s a useful vector via which to sell their Google Adwords products
Neither of which should bother you, by the way. I’m going to show you how to use the product to analyze and optimize your site, organically, without having to splash any cash on any Adwords.
Meat for the data grinder: a Google Analytics primer
First up, you’ll need to have an actual website to analyze. That shouldn’t be a problem. But what if you have 20 websites that you want to check out (and you just love numbers, like Michael Burry in The Big Short). No problem. With Google Analytics you can have up to 100 ‘accounts’. We’re going to use a single one, just to show you the log-on process and the tools you’ll then have at your disposal. Then, we’ll show you how to find keywords that you can work into your online content to raise your visibility in search engines.
I’m going to use a site I’ve created for another upcoming piece about the website building software Wix, to walk you through the process. Follow this link (right click and open it in a fresh window).
You’ll see this.
Obviously, you click on sign up, and you’ll then see this, which is at
You’ll have to create an account name and fill in the details of your website.
It’s a good idea to check out the ‘data sharing’ settings further down this page. Naughtily, they’re all pre-checked, so uncheck any you disagree with.
At the very bottom of the page, there’s a blue ‘Get Tracking ID’ button to click. Click it and you’ll be asked where you are in the world and then asked to accept the localized user agreement. Once you do that, your site will be registered and you’ll have a tracking ID:
You’ll also now be able to see the interface screen, which arrived in it current version in May of 2017.
Down the left-hand menu you’ll see the core criteria Google uses to disaggregate user data.
You can check on data in real-time, examine the stats on your ‘audience’, ‘acquisition’ (from whence your site visitors come), ‘behavior’, which reports on what visitors do when they’re on your site, ‘conversions’, which tells you about purchases or ‘sign-ups’, ‘discover’, and ‘admin’ (a settings tool).
Go to ‘discover’ and you’ll find there are a whole slew of add-ons that you can get up with to tweak your online presence and make it better optimized. The data you now have access to can, for example, tell you what time of day your site is most visited. It’s just one of the data points with high utility for planning your marketing strategy. For example, knowing which time of day is best for you to upload a new blog or Facebook post has real potential value for your business.
We’ll take a look at one of these sub-menus so you can get to grips with some of Analytics’ features. Click on ‘Acquisition’, then on ‘AdWords’, then on ‘Keywords’. It’ll give you a barrage of data about the keywords relevant to your site or sector. You’ll have access to a whole dashboard of stats that’ll give you your own datasets. If you want, for example, to make an independent check on how your costly SEO campaign is going, this tool will help you work out whether the company you’ve hired for optimization is having some impact on your core figures.
The dashboard looks pretty similar to proprietary dashboards used by search engine optimization specialists. While theirs may have some add-ons and extra twinkly bits, the core data is pretty much in the same ball park. You get figures on ‘bounce rates’ and ‘conversions’, etc.
However, the dashboard assumes that you’re also getting into AdWords. For example, CPC represents ‘cost per click’, which divides the cost of your AdWords ‘campaign’ by the number of ‘clicks’ it generated.
If you want a more basic overview of your visitors’ behavior, click on ‘Behavior’ and then on ‘Overview’. This’ll give you numbers of page views, unique page views, average time on page, and bounce rates (the proportion of users who ‘bounce’ quickly off your home page without having had time to take in the content, or interact with a ‘page element’ such as a menu or video insert).
Another useful attribute is applying an ‘internal filter’. If you have a number of employees on a network (or have several websites which are administered by your employees), you can set up internet protocol address filters that strip out activity generated by your employees (and yourself, of course). Any normal company network uses its own site many times every day, so by excluding your own data you can restrict your analytics to non-internal users.
Sign in to Google Analytics and go to ‘Admin’, then click on the account (one of your websites) you want to filter. You’ll need to know your company’s network IP address (it may have more than one, so gather all of them for this task). Do that by simply googling ‘what is my IP address’ from one of the networked terminals. In the ‘Account’ column, click ‘All filters’, then click the button with the legend ‘+ New Filter’. It’ll prompt you to enter IP addresses; just input those babies and save the changes. Google provides detailed instructions on the process.
And while all this data can do a lot for your core understanding of your web presence, to use keywords properly you’ll have to get up into a different bit of kit.
Google AdWords and how to use them
You’ve got Google Analytics, but also create an account with Google AdWords. However, be aware of this: when a screen comes up that says ‘Welcome to Google AdWords’, don’t bother with the fields you’ll see, just click where it says ‘Skip the guided setup’. This enables you to experiment with keywords without defaulting to a screen requiring you to actually set up a Google AdWords campaign.
Once you’ve done that, fill in your location details, and click okay. On the next screen you see, click on the ‘Tools’ dropdown menu, then click on ‘Keyword planner’.
You’re in. But what about your keywords? That depends on you, and what line of business you’re in. At this point you have to get inside the heads of your customers, and ask yourself this question:
If I wanted to find my own site in a search engine, what words or phrases would I use?
Come up with a list of two-, three-, and even four-word key phrases you might use. Assume that unless you’re the only person in the whole world providing the service you do, most or all of the one-word keywords are too heavily used for your purposes. So if you’re a dentist, too many people will search for ‘dentist’ alone. However, people might search for ‘Orlando root canal dentist’ (depending on your specialty). Try to come up with words that when you put them into the field marked ‘your product or service’ are ‘Goldilocks’ keywords:
Goldilocks keywords combine the highest number of monthly searches with the lowest ‘competition’ in Google AdWords Keyword Planner.
From there, you find your personalized ‘Goldilocks keywords’ and use them in your blog/Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn posts and your core website content. Don’t overuse them, but sprinkle them as you would atop a ‘skinny’ cupcake. No more than two per cent ‘coverage’ in other words.
The benefits of site self-optimization
It can be a very instructional exercise to make a fist at optimizing your site in this way. For example, you can (with Google Analytics) have differentially configured websites (with content designed to test keyword or design parameters) and see how they compare.
What it does is give you a window on your customers’ desires and behaviors. How they find your site, the pages they like most, the form of words that turn them into ‘conversions’. If you’ve got the time for it, it can be fun. What you’re doing, in the end, enables you to analyze and strategize about your customers’ behavior in a way that is impossible in a brick-and-mortar environment (unless you get every customer to fill in a detailed questionnaire). In the meantime, play around, experiment. We hope this Google Analytics primer will give more power to your elbow. We’ll be back soon with advice on how to optimize your business for local searches, which are an ever-more-important feature of the search landscape.