Understanding your audience is one of the oldest foundational pieces of wisdom for any presenter, and it hasn’t lost a bit of its kick with age. You might not be up on a physical stage showcasing your skills in rhetoric and oratory (and for most of us that’s probably a huge relief!), but we’ve talked over on ninjaforms.com about how your webforms are a stage in their own right, and that goes even more so for your WordPress website as a whole!
Depending on your website traffic, you may be speaking to an audience of tens, hundreds, or thousands of people daily through your website! Do you know how big your audience is? What do you know about them? If you’re not monitoring your website traffic, the answer to that is likely no, and very little.
If you don’t know your audience then you’re just yelling at clouds, and that’s no way to maximize your website’s potential. Stick with me for a few minutes and we’ll look at what Google Analytics, the web’s premier website traffic monitor, can do for you and how you can get started using it.
Why Google Analytics? What Can It Do For Me?
So why should you use Google Analytics (GA)? What can GA do for you? More than we can possibly hope to get into in just the next few minutes, so here’s a brief overview:
FREE! First and foremost, GA is free. It costs you zero, zilch, nada. There is absolutely no financial reason not to deploy it, but the potential financial gains for understanding your customer base better is huge.
Easy to use & more than just a data dump. GA is natively very user friendly and easy to learn your way around, even for those of you who have just finished building your very first WordPress site. It’s a highly visual experience; actually having to crawl through piles and piles of data is minimal or nonexistent for the average user. It’s quick and easy to find what you’re looking for, and GA will present the data in a visually appealing, easy to digest fashion.
Who? See where your audience comes from geographically and an abundance of system data like operating system, browser, screen resolutions, languages, etc. This helps you make decisions about optimization. Are 85% of your users on Windows 7 with FireFox at 1280×1024 in Chinese? Make them feel at home!
What? What are all these people doing on my website?! See how people interact with your website, what pages and posts are most popular, and what people are bouncing off of.
When? What time of day do you get the heaviest traffic? Where does the most potential lie for that 2 hour only half-off sale? When is the least impactful time to come offline for maintenance?
Where? More than just geographic location! What site lead them to yours? Is that social media campaign really driving sales? What search term were they using that brought them here? How many people searching for X stayed on the site and purchased something, and who bounced? etc.
Powerful Custom Reports. This is a feature you’d be paying a consultant for if it wasn’t for GA. See only the data you want to see in the way you want to see it. Want only data on traffic to your site from reddit.com with a Finnish ip at 0600GMT using Chrome on OSX? You can do that, or any other manner of highly specific to broadly general custom data reporting.
Understand that this is the tip of the iceberg. As your experience and comfort level grows, you can set and track progress towards custom goals, customize alerts, send reports that support shared annotation, export to excel, implement traffic profiles, track campaigns, and more. First though, let’s look at how to get this thing up and running.
Installing Google Analytics
There are a variety of ways that you can deploy Google Analytics. Common methods include GA plugins from the WordPress repository, editing your theme’s header.php or functions.php with the GA tracking code, or making a custom plugin just for GA.
For long term reliability and maintenance reasons, we recommend using GA through a plugin. You can either make a custom plugin, or choose a pre-made GA plugin from the WordPress repository. A good example of an existing plugin is the Google Analytics Dashboard for WP.
The key take-away for you and your website here is the importance of understanding your audience and the fact that the ability to do so is right here at your fingertips. Google Analytics offers you unparalleled traffic analysis so that you can get to know your guests and users and cater to their needs. Look for future articles here at wpninjas.com diving into the details of the data GA provides and how to put it to work for you!