Why You Should Be Your Own Google Analytics Ninja and 4 Steps To Do It – Part 1

by Nicolas DAlleva on September 18, 2012

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So, now you’ve made the move. You took a leap of faith and now your company is fully operational on the Internet. The meaning of “operational” may vary according to your business model and your exact product/service, of course. For instance, if you were running a brick-and-mortar supermarket, being operational would mean nothing more than having merchandise, a few staff members and open doors. It would be enough to do business, right?

Uh… arguably, yes.

The placement of products in the shelves has a huge impact on what sells and what doesn’t. Big supermarket chains can magically choose which brand of cereal will be the top-seller, just by rearranging their position. And the main input for the analysts that make these decisions are those harmless security cameras you see on their ceilings. Wading through hours of footage, they figure out what aisles people stare into the most, and then they can do all sorts of interesting changes. Main point being: profit.

But… I thought this was an article about Google Analytics?

It is. And how many articles have you read about Google Analytics that begin with rambles about supermarket organization? The point I’m trying to make here is that overall analytics – whether it’s Google’s or not – is not some weird phenomenon that is restricted to websites, the Internet or other loony worlds that didn’t exist a few years ago. The analogy holds, because your main approach to analytics should be what I call “the supermarket approach”. Think of your web pages as corridors in a store, and operate according to that.

Now, can this be done with tools other than Google Analytics? Probably, yes. Is there any reason to do it? Well, maybe you like to spend money unnecessarily. In short, Google’s toolbox for business owners is unparalleled. They offer great tools in all respects – advertisement, monetization, and analytics, of course – that are integrated into each other, that are free, and that are constantly upgraded to include newer technologies.

I’ll assume you’re sold on Google Analytics (GA) by now, and get your ninja jumpstarted. The path of the GA ninja rests on 4 principles or action items. We are going to jump into 2 for this first part and give you a little time to absorb them & test them out on your own web property.

1. Keep Your Eyes Open

Yes, it’s just a metaphor that means you have to create your GA account and install the code. This is easy as pie, with one exception. If you’re running a full-blown e-commerce operation, you might need some help to setup the Javascript transaction tracking code. Or maybe you feel like getting your hacker on, since the help pages on GA are highly educational. If that isn’t the case, all there is to it is a simple cut and paste operation to your HTML.

If your website is running on a Content Management System (CMS) like Drupal or Mambo, chances are there will be a multitude of plugins begging to solve your problem. WordPress and WordPress Multiuser are examples of this, and some of their most feature-rich themes even have native support for GA.

Tracking visitors is as important as having your website up.

2. Setup Goal Tracking and Multichannel Funnels

Now that tracking is up and running, you want to establish landmarks that will signal how deep your relationship to the client is. Guys at Google call this figuring out what metrics are important to your business. Having an email newsletter people can sign up to is one such goal, and is exactly what Permission Marketing is all about. Other possibilities are number of pages viewed, time on site and social engagements. I wish I could tell you what’s going to be important to your business but that’s for you to decide. Once you figure out that, setup goals to watch those numbers.

For instance, I may be launching a new widget where in “Phase 1” of my marketing deployment I want people to socially engage and tell their friends about it. I don’t really care about the sale at this point, I just want to get people talking. Based on my goals, I’ll want to keep an eye on how many people are clicking through to my social channels.

If you don’t have any real “goals”, you really just want to know how much time people are spending just looking around your store, or reading your blog posts. These metrics will indicate what are the biggest attractions in your amusement park, how people interact with them before making a purchase, and how people find you online. Once you know that, you can use those as the building blocks to enhancing your online presence.

Since it suddenly feels like we’re back in abstract unintelligible Internet land again, we could probably use a good supermarket example.

Remember those smelly cheese stands right next to the wine section in upscale restaurants? They didn’t exist until a few years ago. Buying expensive wine wasn’t something you’d even think about when going to the supermarket. How those stands came to be is quite surprising. The smelly cheese wasn’t bringing in big sales, plus there wasn’t much profit in them anyway, so supermarket executives would discard them in favor of, say… diapers. What the security cameras showed was that people who buy bottles of wine that cost 300 dollars were the same guys who stopped at the smelly cheese stands.

Big epiphany: put that cheese stand right next to the wines, and think of them as one product. Bam! This is what Multichannel funnels are all about. They’re here to give you this business intelligence.

(I now apologize for not being a refined connoisseur of wine and cheese, and for referring to it as “smelly cheese”.)

Speaking of smelly cheese, go to the supermarket and buy some because we are going to delve into the next two recommendations in part 2 of our ninja series! While you are eating your cheese, sipping on some good wine, and implementing the 2 aforementioned tips, please take some time to discuss your success in the comment portion below so we can help everyone ‘Keep Up With The Web’!

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October 26, 2012 at 5:00 pm

i use statcounter alongwith google analytics, i have found it really informative which can provide great insight info about daily traffic. Google analytic is good in terms of providing greater information about the business part of my blog. thanks for sharing this information.
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Sherryl Perry
October 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Wow! Statcounter! I haven’t thought of that tool in a long time. Personally, I’m enough of a geek to enjoy delving into Google Analytics but other programs are definitely worth investigating. A program that I’ve heard good things about is Clicky analytics. I’m curious how you use Statcounter along with GA.
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Darren Mortimer October 4, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Hello Sherryl.
This was really interesting for me. I have been doing some “very basic” SEO on my own webite.
I have had a Google Analyctics account for a while but haven’t really looked deeply into all of the many reports. I’m looking forward to the next three posts.
Just off to read part two now 🙂

Sherryl Perry
October 27, 2012 at 6:51 pm

Hi Darren,
Thanks for taking the time to comment. I apologize for not replying sooner.

Google Analytics can be overwhelming. I found the best way to manage it is to concentrate on measuring and tracking one thing at a time. The reports that I tend to rely on the most is where my traffic is coming from. Sometimes, the source of traffic can be surprising and at the same time point us to opportunities.

Having said that, I’m linking to an article that I wrote about an unexpected source of traffic that I discovered. I decided that it was a nice bump but certainly not something that I want to spend time and energy on. It could have been a new source of valuable targeted traffic though.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Sitizens Online Social Game – My Top Referral Traffic SourceMy Profile

October 3, 2012 at 3:22 pm

I find the eventual integration of brick and mortar business models with that of virtual sites interesting. Its an actual evolution that I can witness during my lifetime. Eventually I think we’ll be hiring brick and mortar professionals to run our online business.
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Sherryl Perry
October 27, 2012 at 6:48 pm

That’s an interesting thought Scott. There’s definitely things that we can all learn from other businesses regardless of whether they’re virtual or brick and mortar. Thanks for the reminder.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Sitizens Online Social Game – My Top Referral Traffic SourceMy Profile

Steve Hippel
September 23, 2012 at 11:41 am

Hi Sherryl
I use GA and webmaster tools. The first website tracking tool I ever used was Statcounter. I still use Statcounter and have a paid account now.
It’s not better that GA but it does have an easy to use interface that allows you to drill deep down into individual visitors. Studying individual user behaviour is a great way to see how traffic arrives at, moves through and leaves your website.
I also find it better for quickly seeing what keywords are working best for me.
If you have a high traffic website, you will need a paid account but it’s pretty cheap. Free accounts will only give data on your last 500 hits.
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Sherryl Perry
September 25, 2012 at 1:07 pm

Hi Steve,
Statcounter sounds vaguely familiar to me. I may have used it at one time. Thanks for mentioning it. If someone here is looking for an easy to use interface, they should check it out. I’ll also keep it in mind in case I hear of someone who is overwhelmed with GA.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Why You Should Be Your Own Google Analytics Ninja, and 4 Steps To Do It: Part 2My Profile

saad naeem
September 21, 2012 at 11:29 pm

for some reason i use clicky on my most Wordpress blogs because in clicky i can see which posts which are giving most bounce rates and i can individually track the visit of each person which google analytics doesn’t let you do.
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Sherryl Perry
September 23, 2012 at 11:31 am

I’ve heard good things about Clicky Saad. It’s definitely worth a mention. I stick with Google Analytics partly because I’ve been using it for years. It’s always more than met my needs. I suspect that if I were to build an eCommerce site, I’d really want to take a closer look at Clicky. Being able to track individual paths of your visitors would certainly be insightful.

Thanks for taking the tie to join the conversation.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Tracking Changes to Your Website Blog and Social Media StrategyMy Profile

Jessica Johnson September 21, 2012 at 2:40 pm

I’ve used Google Analytics for years but never used the goal tracking on it. Can you divide the goal tracking up to show mobile only?

Thanks for the helpful write-up!

Heather Stone September 21, 2012 at 5:21 am

Nick and Sherryl,
Thanks so much for sharing this post with the BizSugar community. I don’t think there’s any possibility bloggers can improve the performance of what they do without some way to measure the audience they are attracting. I’m waiting anxiously for the next installment!
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Sherryl Perry
September 23, 2012 at 11:27 am

Hi Heather,
Thanks for letting me know that you found Nick’s article on BizSugar. I love that community. When I check my analytics, it always pops up as a top source of referral traffic. (Look for part 2 of Nick’s post tomorrow!)
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Lee September 20, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Hi Nick, Great article, I love the supermarket comparisons. I am quite new to seo and its nice to see articles like these which are friendly for people like me. I do look at my analytics, I am still trying to work out how people on the other side of the country come across my little local website!?

Sherryl Perry
September 23, 2012 at 11:26 am

Hi Lee,
Thanks for letting us know that you enjoyed Nick’s article. Google Analytics often contain little gems of information. It’s good to hear that you take a look at yours. They can really help us to make informed decisions.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Sitizens Online Social Game – My Top Referral Traffic SourceMy Profile

September 20, 2012 at 11:14 am

I am still routinely shocked to find businesses with absolutely no visitor tracking installed on their website. Some of these websites have had thousands of pounds spent on them and run PPC traffic with no way of knowing what is converting and what isn’t.

Sherryl Perry
September 20, 2012 at 10:07 pm

It amazes me to Shaun that some businesses still don’t use Google Analytics. I can’t imagine a successful business making strategic decisions without being armed with data. Not only should businesses use this tool, they should also be tracking any strategic tactics that they implement or change to make sure that they know what is that affected their traffic. To know that a traffic source has either significantly dropped or risen is one thing but if you’ve also tracked what you have done that could have caused the affect, then you have information that you can act on.

Thanks for taking the time join the conversation.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Tracking Changes to Your Website Blog and Social Media StrategyMy Profile

Manny Gonot
September 20, 2012 at 10:10 am

Thanks for this insightful article, Nick. Your supermarket analogy is spot on and makes perfect sense. Too often, we look at Analytics and get overwhelmed by the numbers, you’ve outlined here a very good system at making all that data work for you by pinpointing exactly what works in your supermarket…I mean, website.

Sherryl Perry
September 20, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to join the conversation Manny. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed Nick’s supermarket analogy. I’ll be posting part 2 soon!

Khaja moin
September 20, 2012 at 2:17 am

Hi Nicolas,
I`m working on eCommerce site. I just added GA code to header of the page. Is it enough or should I need to add at other places too?
At present GA is running and I can see visits to the site.


Nick DAlleva
September 20, 2012 at 10:35 am

As long as the header file is sitewide, you should be fine. Just view the source & make sure the GA code is on every page.

September 18, 2012 at 9:57 pm

I’m enjoying your smelly cheese with wine analogy. Much more interesting sounding than Multichannel Functions! I look forward to your further explanations of these topics.
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Sherryl Perry
September 20, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Hi Leora,
I enjoyed Nick’s smelly cheese and wind analogy too. I have to get part 2 posted soon!

Peter Halper September 18, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Thank you Nicolas for your article, i am amazed at the amout of people i speak to in regards to the usage of their websites. You have really highlighted the crittical importance of knowing how visitors use your web design. Even though you as a business person my pay to have some one else develop a website design for you, you as the owner of the website should know exactly how your website is being used. It amazes me the amount of business owners who have expensive websites developed for them but don’t know the first thing about the uasage of the site.

Thank you again for your article it was very well thought out.

Sherryl Perry
September 20, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Hi Peter,
Sometimes, I’m amazed too when I talk to someone who has had a website for years but weren’t using Google Analytics. It’s always one of the first things that I install after I launch a new site. At the very least, install it and let it start gathering data.

I think Nick has done a wonderful job of pointing out some of the basic data that we should be looking at. Hopefully, some readers will be able to relate to his supermarket analogy and take the plunge.

Thanks for letting us know that enjoyed his article and for taking the time to join the conversation!

Jeannette Paladino
September 18, 2012 at 9:29 pm

It’s important to check your Google Analytics for sources of traffic, but more important, in my view, is how long a visitor stays on your blog. If Google search sends the majority of your traffic but they come and go in a few seconds that’s not valuable traffic. If LinkedIn sends you less traffic, but they stay much longer, that’s more valuable traffic. So just adding up the numbers is not the only measure of success.
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Ian Eberle
September 18, 2012 at 9:34 pm

This is very important for mobile too. If most of the people viewing your site with a mobile device only stay for about six seconds, that means it would be worth investing in designing a mobile version of your site.

Sherryl Perry
September 20, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Ian, That’s a great point about checking our traffic from mobile devices. I have not invested inn a new design for my mobile version. I use the WPTouch WordPress plugin and it does a fairly decent job for blogs. I think people with eCommerce sites should definitely investigate investing in a design for mobile devices.
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Sherryl Perry
September 20, 2012 at 9:59 pm

Hi Jeannette,
You’ve raised a great point about reviewing our analytics to determine which traffic is the most valuable to us in the long run. You’re so right that sheer numbers is not a measurement of success.

Thanks for taking the time to visit. You always add to the conversation. You know how much I appreciate comments. I need to visit some of my favorite blogs (including yours and Susan’s). Deadlines have been keeping my nose to the grindstone lately! 🙂

Susan Cooper
September 18, 2012 at 7:06 pm

I love this analogy. It is so true. I review my analytics on a weekly basis. Daily is a bit much and you get lost in the forest, so to speak. From that data I can see what my visitors (customers are interested in and why). I then can link stories or create new ones that are in the genre. It makes a difference and it helps move my numbers.

Nick DAlleva
September 18, 2012 at 9:00 pm

Thanks for reading Susan. I love any food related analogies. As soon as I find a way to relate SEO to dipping french fries in ice cream, that will be the topic of my next post 🙂 I agree with the once a week peek method. It’s nicer to see trends sometimes, though “real time” data does help if you just changed something in the landscape of your website and want to quickly track visitor preferences.

Thanks for reading!

Sherryl Perry
September 20, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Hi Susan,
I used to review my analytics on a weekly basis Susan but I’ve slacked off on that. I do check it out at least monthly or more often if I’m curious about a new tactic that I’m trying out.

Susan Oakes
September 18, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Good tips Nicolas and Google Analtyics does have useful information. I think for some it it seems daunting and they need to know the basics first. I don’t know about the US but in my country the position on shelf is a combination of what sells but mainly the amount of money suppliers will pay for the shelf position. The supermarkets make their profit from suppliers not customers.
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Nick DAlleva
September 18, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Daunting to say the least. There is so much going on in there people don’t even know where to start – but that’s where the fun begins. I hope this article will get people at least interested in seeing what’s under the hood.

Ian Eberle
September 18, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Something I always do with Google Analytics is check out my website referrals. When I find that a website like Keep Up With The Web has sent 30 referrals to my site, I often link back.

Nick DAlleva
September 18, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Great tip! Some people are so selfish about spreading around “link juice” they would never think to do such a thing. Really great tip!

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