You may have installed Google Analytics on your site and spent time poring over the multitude of reports that it provides, but are you struggling to get actionable ideas out of what you are seeing? If so, don't worry, it can be like this for many in-house staff members or site owners, especially if you are trying to fit learning Analytics in around your other commitments. This post is designed to give you some ideas about where to start - they're sure to boost your understanding and you might find that you are inspired to investigate some theories of your own!
As an aside - it is getting more and more important to ensure that your site has good usability, since Google have been indicating more and more loudly that this is a factor they are looking at. It makes sense to use the tools at your disposal to check for any issues.
Improve Pages that Users Aren't Finding Useful
One of the most important elements that Google Analytics can measure is visitor engagement. This is the set of metrics that helps you decide what information is interesting to your visitors. While it might not always be content that immediately leads to conversions if you have interesting copy on site it can act as "link bait" and encourage people to link to you.
Typically, good content has a lower bounce rate and a higher average time on page. It's worth starting simple and listing the pages in the Analytics content report by descending bounce rate, and filtering the results to show unique page views higher than 50. This is so you can identify the pages that are getting a high bounce rate which have enough data to confirm there really could be issues.
If you only have a low number of page views on a certain page it's likely that you will have a higher bounce rate, because it will only take a small number of bounces to skew the data.
Focus in on Traffic Sources
Once you have spotted a page that has a high bounce rate (and anything over 50-60% is to be considered high) you need to try and identify the culprits for it.
Things to check out straight away are the mediums and sources sending traffic to the page. To do this I would actually recommend working down the top 10 pages you have identified and clicking into each one from the content report, so that you can see the sources sending traffic to this location only.
So, click on the top result and then select "secondary dimension" - "medium". This will reveal the overall medium that is causing the highest bounce rate, whether it's referring, organic, paid, direct or a custom campaign.
If you notice that referring sites have a higher bounce rate you can then drill down further to reveal the site name by changing the secondary dimension to "source".
If you notice that organic traffic is causing a particularly high bounce rate, change the secondary dimension to "keyword". If it's paid traffic that is causing an issue, you can try changing the secondary dimension to campaign or ad group, to get a better picture of what isn't working.
How do you Reduce the Bounce Rate?
Well, there are a few steps that you can take, but the answer depends on what the issue is.
If you have discovered a number of sites that are sending traffic with a high bounce rate, make sure that those sites are really relevant to yours. If you have acquired the link from that site via link building, have a look at the tactics underpinning your link building campaign. You should really only be looking for links on related sites - the less related they are the bigger the spam signal you are sending to Google. This is really something you want to avoid, especially since Penguin.
If it's certain paid or organic keywords, it's time to review your keyword research. Maybe you think that your customers search for "apples" but really they are looking for "apple pies in London". Get specific, review your customer feedback, look at your competitors and check what is converting. "Apples" might be a high volume term, but if 90% of people visiting on that term bounce, it's wasted money and effort.
If there aren't any obvious culprits, the hard answer is that your content is simply not engaging enough. This can sometimes be a difficult message to deliver, but keep the solution in mind. If you can write some standout copy that demonstrates your expertise, answers customer questions, does something funny or really showcases your talent you are going to be getting better results from your existing traffic and multiplying that traffic, as people link to your content. If you can add eye-catching images and videos this often helps. If this is something you struggle with, it may be time to speak to your local online marketing company or web designer.
Hopefully that gives you some simple pointers for identifying what visitors are finding less interesting on site. Time to turn it around so the next time you are analysing the huge improvement in visitor engagement!
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Analytics, SEO and PPC girl working at OneResult, in the UK. Can often be found cutting up GA data, writing ads and building links...soon to be moving on to new pastures after a wonderful 3 years with the agency. What new challenges are around the corner?