Is it possible to run a successful website without an understanding of key web metrics? Possibly, but you would certainly face an uphill battle.
The truth is, in today’s increasingly competitive environment, stunning aesthetics and solid content alone won’t cut it. Unless you get very lucky indeed, your chances of success are massively increased by understanding how your audience engages with your website.
As the saying goes: knowledge is power. And, if you want a greater knowledge of your website, one tool stands head and shoulders above the rest: Google Analytics. In fact, almost a prerequisite for running a thriving site.
Today, we’re going to be talking website metrics in detail. Not the most glamorous topic, I know, but certainly one of the most important for any aspiring webmaster. More specifically, I’m going to discuss six things WordPress users can learn about their website from Google Analytics.
1. Your Website’s Demographics
When it comes to producing great content, it pays to create an audience profile. For example, your audience might be (primarily):
- 30-40 years old
- US based
- Decent disposable income
- Interest in fast cars
With this broad set of characteristics in mind, you can create a persona for your average reader — a persona you can keep in mind as you write.
By picturing your “average reader” when writing, it becomes much easier to think up topics, craft a style, and find a unique voice that really resonates with this “person” – a.k.a., your audience. It’s a tried-and-true strategy that content marketers have been using for years.
Of course, in the early days of your blog, defining the characteristics of your audience involves an awful lot of guesswork. Thanks to Google Analytics, however, it doesn’t have to be this way forever.
Google Analytics has an entire section devoted to demographics. This gives you cold, hard data telling you the type of person who frequents your WordPress website – such as location, gender, age, and interests. This allows you to refine the persona of your average reader into something more accurate.
For example, you might learn that your audience is younger than you expected. Therefore, you could (reasonably) assume that your readers have less time and disposable income than originally anticipated. The result: you write shorter posts, tailor your writing style to a younger audience, and promote more affordable products. The better you understand your audience, the more your content will resonate.
To access this feature, ensure the Demographic and Interest Reports are enabled by navigating to Audience > Demographics from the Google Analytics dashboard.
2. Your Website’s Most Engaging Content
Too many list posts? Over-dependent on long-form content? Repetitive content can make your blog feel stale and bore your audience.
On the other hand, varying your content – in terms of topics and type – means your blog is far more likely to stand the test of time. But what is the magic formula? And how do you know what your audience really wants?
Again, we need to turn our attention to Google Analytics’ real world data — specifically post-by-post metrics. This will tell you what types of content your audience engages with the most.
For example, if a post has a better-than-average time on page, this tells you that your audience is highly engaged. A high bounce rate and exit rate suggests the opposite. With this information at hand, you can tailor your output to give your audience more of the content it wants.
To find this information, head to Behavior > Site Content in Google Analytics. As well as listing your top-performing pages (in order), you can analyze the performance of any individual page.
3. Your Website’s Non-converting Pages
Google Analytics provides WordPress webmasters with lots of invaluable data when working towards a specific objective – perhaps a social share, an eCommerce purchase, or an email subscription.
For a start, Analytics will automatically track every one of your goals – a “goal” is defined as any predetermined visitor action. With this feature built-in, you’d be foolish not to use it.
However, as in most walks of life, you’ll learn far more from your failures than your success stories. The data gleaned from a failed conversion is worth far more to you than a routine success. It gives you the opportunity to shore up your sales funnel’s weak spots so that you can drive even more conversions down the line.
There are two sections of Google Analytics that are particularly useful for this.
First, Exit Pages – found by navigating to Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages. If you have a multi-page sales funnel, this will essentially tell you where you’re leaking visitors. You can then redesign the leaky page and refine the content to boost your conversion rate.
The other useful section is the Behavior Flow – from the Analytics dashboard, navigate to Behavior > Behavior Flow.
This section lets you visualize the path your visitors take through your site. For example, after visiting a particular page, you’ll learn what visitors do next – where they specifically go or if they leave. By better understanding the flow of visitors, you’ll be able to streamline your sales funnel for maximum success.
4. Your Website’s Optimal Scheduling Window
Let’s say you’ve just spent the last few days crafting the most beautiful piece of content – engaging, informative, and all kinds of awesome!
The next question is a biggie: when should you hit publish to guarantee maximum traction? Get this wrong and your exceptional post could flop – and think of all the new readers that will cost you.
Fortunately, you can use Google Analytics to tweak your editorial calendar to ensure you publish during your site’s peak hours. You can create a custom Analytics report to analyze which hours see the most traffic and which day of the week is busiest. Then, schedule your post during the sweet spot, so that it’s more likely to be seen – simple, right?
Custom reports are somewhat tricky to configure, so I recommend following this in-depth tutorial.
5. Your Website’s Search Queries
How do you produce content that consistently meets your audience’s needs?
It’s a question that many a blogger has asked, and (unfortunately) one with no definitive answer. Suggestions usually include researching forums and other blogs, considering personal pain points, and following up on questions asked in your blog’s comments section.
Another idea is to use your visitors’ search queries for inspiration. As you’re probably aware, WordPress ships with built-in search functionality – it isn’t the best, admittedly, and can be improved by installing a carefully-selected search plugin.
However, perhaps you didn’t realize that Google Analytics can be used to track what real site visitors are searching for. This information is available by clicking through to the Behavior > Site Search section.
Although the WordPress search function is rarely used, the few searches that do occur can tell your lots of useful things about your site – where there is a gap in your content, perhaps, or that your visitors are trying to learn more about a given subject.
6. Your Website’s Load Times
SEOs are constantly updating what they believe goes into Google’s ranking algorithms. The one thing that most can agree on, though – largely due to Google releasing this information! – is that website speed is an important ranking factor.
Now, there are literally hundreds of guides out there covering how to speed up a WordPress website — this is one of my favorite examples, written by our very own Nick Schäferhoff. As such, today’s post will refrain from adding any more to the discussion!
However, I will recommend Google Analytics as a useful tool for tracking your website’s speed over time. This is particularly useful if you’re looking for hard data to measure how effective changes to your site have been.
Google Analytics’ speed report is available by navigating to Behavior > Site Speed. The report provides lots of useful metrics, including:
- Average page load time
- Average domain lookup time
- Average server connection time
- Average server response time
- Average page download time
You can also drill down your page speed reports to learn average load times by browser, country, and page.
With a free tool as powerful and insightful as Google Analytics at WordPress users’ fingertips, there’s no excuse for making (bad) decisions based on speculation and hunches.
You might think you understand your audience, but remember: Internet users aren’t always the most rational folk. Until your hunches are backed up by real world statistics, it’s better not to take any chances.
Install Google Analytics today and see what competitive advantages you will uncover.
Care to chip in? What else can WordPress users learn from Google Analytics? Let us know in the comments section below!