How to analyze Google Analytics
As I mentioned before we will
be looking at Google Analytics for several options that are not present
in the other statistical service options or are very limited. We have
already covered some parts of Google Analytics such as setting up the
initial mail account and implementation of the code in a module. But now
we need to set some extra options before start looking at a large
amount of data.
First things first, when you
log in and select the web site of your choice, you get a great dashboard
that shows you the main statistics for that site.
You can alter that
dashboard later, if you want some different views. But one of the things
that we really need to do right now is to filter our own visits. If you
have a static IP address, you can set up a filter.
Filtering out your static IP address visits
Go to your Dashboard and click on Analytics Settings in the upper left corner of page. You will find a link to the Filter manager in the right corner at the bottom of your screen just after the site profiles.
Now you can add the following filter:
If you don't know your IP address you can look it up at www.whatsmyip.com. Please note that the input should be formed as 63\.212\., and so on, so don't forget to put the "\" in the right place.
Excluding your visits from a IP dynamic address
If you don't have a static IP
address you need to create a page for your web site that contains a
special string for a cookie to be set. The page should contain the
Create that page outside
Joomla! as a standard HTML file that only you know about. The HTML page
you create only needs to contain this string, so you don't need to
create a new content page. After you placed the file online using FTP,
you can browse to it using the URL you have chosen, and upon opening the
page with your browser the cookie is set.
If you want to filter out other
computers please go to that page using that computer. Now you are ready
to create a new filter with the following settings:
That should do the trick and
clean your future visits. Looking at your Dashboard menu you have
several options, the best to start with:
Top landing pages
Getting the big picture of traffic
Let's look into the specific areas of your Google Analytics and see what you can do with all that data.
In the default screen of the
visitor overview you get a graphical expression of your web site's state
of growth over the last month. In this specific graph you can see the
wave movement of weekend drops in traffic. You also get the numbers that
give you an expression of how well your site is built to get people to
read more than just one page.
In this case there is work to be done as 1.5 Average Pageviews
for the site in question is not good enough. If it was a blog, then it
would not be a problem as blog post readers tend to read one article and
then move on.
To compare the figures above, here is another screenshot of a different web site for the visitors overview:
As you can see, the numbers are very different. This site has many returning visitors and a very low bounce rate.
What to look for by numbers
Let's look at what information we should look for in the numbers shown in the preceding screenshot:
you saw in the two preceding screenshots tell you how often the site is
visited. You can see how many visitors you get (in both cases for a
month), along with the number of unique visitors. A unique visitor is
tracked by a cookie that Google places on the computer of your visitor.
These cookies have a long lifespan, some up to five years. This means if
a visitor revisits your site in a month or two, he/she is seen as a
returning visitor. If your visitor clears their cookies or has cookies
disabled, his/her next visit is counted as a unique visit. The last
option is an indication of whether your site attracts people who are
coming back to your site to read more over and over again, or if they
are just one day flies who move on and never return. If your site is an
e-commerce site, then you really want more returning visitors because
they are more willing to buy after a few visits to your shop.
While the number of
pageviews is a traffic indicator, the number of pageviews per visit is a
quality indicator. A page in this respect is not a reload of the
article your visitor is reading, but it is the page displayed if the
visitor moves to read a new article on your site. The more pageviews per
visit, the better the site is at retaining visitors and encouraging
them click through to other pages on the same site.
Time on site:
The time that a visitor
spends on your site is also a good quality indicator, but it can also
have a different meaning. If your site is very fast loading (which it
should) and mostly picture based, you can go through relevant pages very
fast. If you have a long loading time, few pages, and short content per
page, you need to check your loading time. It is very likely you will
see fewer returning visitors as well.
A high bounce rate means
that people will come to your site, read a page, and will move on to
the next site. This can also be seen as a quality score. In most cases a
low bounce rate means people have a higher interest in your web site
and find the information good enough to browse around. A high bounce
rate can also be an indication of good quality—it depends on what kind
of site you have built. A site that wants to capture the visitors and
keep them on the site has bounce rates and time spend on the site
different as compared to a site made for AdSense or an affiliate site.
The last two (AdSense and an affiliate site) want their visitors to
click on an advertisement or move to a vendor's site. So, if they do
that well, visitors won't stay long! If you have a site that presents
people with solutions for their problems, then a high bounce rate could
also mean that they have found the information they wanted right away
and they are off to implement it.
In all the previous four
cases, you need to take the actual purpose of the web site into
consideration. An e-commerce web site has to have a different visitors'
overview than an affiliate web site. The first one needs returning
visitors to do well, the second one needs to get their visitors to act
and buy the product from another web site.
If you find very large
discrepancies for your site, you know that the layout of your site and
the articles need more work to capture your visitors. A very good
indicator is the Benchmarking
function, which you can find a link to, in the visitor menu. To get
those benchmarks you need to share your data (anonymously) with Google.
The question is: Is it worth it?
Well, the answer is yes. Just look at the following picture and you
will have some good indicators, which will show whether your site is
doing above or below average.
Learning more of you traffic sources
The traffic sources screen
is clearly divided into several sections to give you a direct view of
the different sources that bring traffic to your web site. Having a
large percentage of visitors through search engines means you have done
your SEO work well. But the higher it is, the larger the drop will be if
your ranking in the results starts to fall.
What you are looking for
is direct visitors who know your web site address already and more
At the bottom of the screenshot there are two sections—one is called Sources and the other Keywords. There is also a table that shows the top five for each of those fields directly, and following that is a link called Full report, and that is the one you want for the keywords.
For the traffic sources, you need to look at the following two options in the traffic sources menu.
This is a great
source overview to see what sites are linking to your pages and are
sending you traffic. You can use this list to find possible partner web
sites to start communicating, sharing, and exchanging links with. You
can also identify possible scraper sites that use your RSS feed or
articles to their benefit. It is up to you if you want to take action on
those sites. It is possible that they are sending you more traffic than
you might have expected.
This gives you a table
with the search engines that send you traffic. In most cases this will
be Google, followed by Yahoo!, and then the smaller search engines. If
you click on the search engine's name in that table you will get the
keywords in that engine that have sent you the most traffic. It is very
much possible that your Yahoo! keyword terms are different to those from
Reading more about your Keywords
section of Analytics will give you, just as the other statistics
providers have done, the keywords that rank at top in the search engines
at this time. Google does not stop after 500 pages. It will give you
all the keywords for that month or any other time period you select. In
the example we used it means there are 2.456 keywords that have directed
traffic to your web site.
Looking through such a list will
give you all kinds of variations for the same keyword combinations. You
need to look at the top 25 or 50 and see if there is a pattern that
matches your keywords list. If there is, you are on the right track.
Don't see a keyword pattern
If there is no pattern
visible, you have to work harder as the visitors you are attracting are
not the ones you want to come to your site. Most of them will be
incidental visitors that were misdirected. As we have seen before, this
might also be supported by a high bounce rate.
A large number of totally
unrelated keywords means not only your visitors are lost but also the
search engines. Go back to your keyword list and start working to get
them a place in your articles and make sure that the menus and
categories of your site match in a topical structure.
Structure and content analysis
The last, but certainly not the least important section is all about content, which is the cornerstone of your web site.
Take your time to go through all
the different menu items to look at the pages in your site from
different angles. One thing you might notice is the fact that your top
landing pages are also your top exit pages. This is also largely
dependent on the topic of your site and your site's "stickiness".
Again it is totally
different for e-commerce sites and affiliate sites. If the top exit page
for your e-commerce site is the page just before the checkout payment
page, you need to analyze the process and see how to improve that final
page. Just improving that single page may result in a lot more
transactions being completed.
Another way to see how your pages are helping you to keep more visitors is by using the Navigation Summary.
This will show you which pages your visitor visited next and tells you
the exit click and next page click percentages. The entrance paths will
show you in a clear manner the pages to which people are moving next.
The Site Overlay
is one of my favorite tools. It opens in a new window and puts an
overlay over your web site as a kind of transparent sheet. On that sheet
Google shows you the number of clicks that have been done on a specific
item. You can click through and navigate your web site right through
that overlay and see the click information in numbers and percentages
for each item. Now, you can see where people click on your site and
which items are not as popular as you might have thought. In one case I
noticed that a certain image was clicked on a lot, but there was no
action attached to that image. By connecting a link to a relevant page
that fits the image I realized a higher click through rate, more
pageviews and, even more important, a better experience for my visitors
as they clearly expected the image to be clickable.
How to select a different time span
In the standard view, Google
Analytics shows data for just a month. You can select another time span
by clicking on the start date and an end date for the Date Range in the agenda and then hitting Apply.
You can also select the Timeline
and change it by moving and/or extending the sliders. This might give
you a better view if you are looking for a special spike or drop in your
If you select a large time range, you may need to try and use the other views such as week-or month-based graph.
You can even compare two different date ranges to see how your traffic has changed.
only show you the number of hits your articles have had and that can be
cleared by clicking on the Reset button.
The reason I haven't
included any Joomla! statistics components is due to the fact that they
slow your site down over time as the data in your database grows. Most
of the components are also focused on visitor numbers and not on how
they got to your web site. Having a nice module with a number of
visitors to your site may sound appealing, but it offers no insight to
the behavior of those visitors.
have run Joomla! statistics components on several of my sites, but now,
they are all replaced by StatCounter combined with Google Analytics.
These services give you more information that you can use to further
optimize your site than any Joomla! component I have seen.