Distracted by the Metrics: How to Make Sense of Your Google Analytics Numbers

Distracted by the Metrics: How to Make Sense of Your Google Analytics Numbers

If you’re not paying attention to your statistics you’re missing a lot. But paying attention to stats without focus and educated attention is almost as bad. I recall a statistician at Dell who presented the most elegant and useless deck I’ve ever seen. Every type and color of Excel chart art was used to represent what was happening on Dell.com. What was not represented was what ACTIONS we should take to improve the numbers. Or insights into what changed, what went wrong, what went right.

I know from some of my friends who still work at Dell, that much has changed since the salad days of Dell’s Global Online Group, now called eDell. And I’m certain many of the magicians of magic charts are still inside Dell, but I know the Test and Target group has some well-oiled and well-executed actionable measurements and change management.

Okay, but what about your small business? How do you look at the massive amounts of data on your Google Analytics dashboard and get ideas about what to do next to improve things? Here’s the quick course in ACTIONABLE ANALYTICS for small business.

The Google Analytics Overview

Small Business Google Analytics


If you’ve opened Google Analytics you’re familiar with this overview dashboard.

And while it’s pretty, there’s not a whole lot of actionable information on this page. There are a few things to pay attention to: 1. Is my overall traffic and page views per visit, trending UP or DOWN?; 2. How much of my overall traffic is made up of First Time visitors (New) and what am I doing to engage them on the ONE CHANCE I have to earn their readership; 3. are they staying on the site and reading? (visit duration). But the nuggets of information come from drilling in to a couple specific screens.

Referral Traffic

How did your visitor get to your site?


Like the pie chart above (pie charts are pretty) this one outlines exactly how my visitors found my site. And while this data is a great start on solving the riddle of success online, it’s only the start. We’re gonna go a slice deeper in a second, but let’s look at what we see here.

Direct and Google Organic search make up 60% of my traffic. So my SEO volume and quality is going to be quite important in keeping those numbers high. (But that’s not news, is it?) Next is my favorite social media tool, LinkedIn at nearly 9%. The secret here is joining and contributing to relevant groups on LinkedIn. When you write a winner and it’s relevant to one of your topics, put that post inside a LinkedIn Group and ask for feedback. Next are Twitter 8% and Google+ 2.5% (probably worth continuing to work) and Feedburner is looking pretty good at 4.5%, these are people who have subscribed to my RSS feed, basically subscribers. Pulling up the rear is Facebook Mobile 1.25% and Facebook Web 1.2%, I am either not doing a great job of sharing on Facebook, or it’s not the right audience for my content. (I am not currently running any Facebook promotions.)

So then let’s check in on the social network sharing that I do on a consistent basis and see what gets action, besides the top four (Facebook, Twitter, G+, and LinkedIn).

Social Networks Dashboard

The Value of a Referral in Social Media


Of all the social media outreach I do, only TWO of my minor social networks is actually having an impact. Disqus is my commenting system, and doesn’t really count. But it does show that if you get people to comment you get some serious action and stickiness. And then YouTube. While it only drove ONE visitor, they obviously jumped around the site for quite some time. Probably looking at the other videos available. So where would you say I should spend time on these social channels? When you drill into the details, and know what you are looking for, it’s pretty simple to see what’s working and what’s not.

So, finally, let’s look at the content that’s holding all the love.

Page Content Dashboard

Content Marketing with Social Media


What you want to make note of in your content map is WHAT CONTENT continues to drive traffic long after you’ve written it. This is sometimes referred to as Evergreen content, or content that like an evergreen tree never dies or fades. And then we can also see a META organizer page The Twitter Way (the framework for my book on Twitter) still has some value as an organizing principle. And finally, what am I actually hoping to achieve by blogging at all? What’s the GOAL OF UBER.LA? In my world, it’s LEADS and REFERRALS. Is you CONTACT page attracting enough attention? Are you writing content that people want to follow up with you directly about to get more information, or more ideas of how you could make a positive impact on their business?

The questions are easy.

1. Where are they coming from?

2. What are they looking at?

And the actions I can see from this quick measurement are also pretty clear.

1. More time on LinkedIN, and less time on other networks.

2. Update and refresh the Winning content.

3. Time to finally publish The Twitter Way.

I will admit to being mesmerized occasionally by the flow of real-time stats. But you’ve got to know what to look for, know what you can change, and most of all, know what IS WORKING. Then focus on and repeat those activities that are generating the results you want.

@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Having a lot of information may distract you from initial purpose, the reason why are you analyzing at the firs place? This post reminds you of simple questions you should ask when looking through big amount of information, thank you!

  2. Excellent post…when you consider the importance of content to a) effective communication with prospects and b) effective site optimization, it’s a shame more people don’t look at their page stats. I’ve had a couple of clients who did not realize they were paying for clicks and getting zero site visit duration. The least you can hope for with paid search is that people actually read your landing page and learn about your business.

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