Jul. 30, 2010 | by Adam Boulton
Your analytics data is nearly as important as the financial accounts of your business when it comes to making a decision about your website. Your analytics data helps you understand how effective your site’s marketing, design and content is. And just as you wouldn’t hire more staff without being sure you have the budget for it, you shouldn’t redesign your website without understanding what your customers do when they are on it.
Below are seven ways Google Analytics can be used to help make the right decisions during a redesign.
1. What browsers and windows sizes should we support?
When designing your site you want to ensure that the majority of your customers can view your website and convert without browser versions or sizes preventing this.
I’d personally think that you should design your website in a size that at least 95% of your visitors can see without having to scroll horizontally. An easy way to check what browser sizes your current visitors are using is to go the Screen resolutions report under Visitors > Browser capabilities > Screen resolutions.
By comparing to site average you can also see if any particular screen resolution(s) has a significantly higher bounce rate
A quick way to check if your site has browser compatibility is to look at the browser report and compare each type to the site average, for the website below it is clear that there is poor support for safari.
The mobile browser report can help to decide whether a mobile version of your site is needed by looking at the bounce and conversion rate of mobile visits.
2. What territory specific pages or languages do we need to support?
The languages report under visitors is a useful way of seeing the proportion of foreign visitors to your site; this is particularly useful if you have an international website as it may indicate territory specific versions required that may help increase conversions.
Additionally, even if your website is UK focused, you may find that foreign speakers use your site. This is especially relevant if your business is travel related as foreign people living in the UK or visiting short term may be interested in your services. See this report under Visitors > Languages.
3. Can our customers find what they are looking for?
The internal search reports are really insightful as they show what your users are looking for once they are on your site, giving you an indication about missing or difficult to find content. A word cloud is a quick way to see what search terms regularly appear.
To create a word cloud, download the data, put the search term in column A, the number of times it was searched in column B and paste the formulae =REPT((A1&” “),B1) down column C. Grab all the words from Column C and paste into Wordle.
Word cloud from the internal search of World Vision, one of our charity clients (posted with permission)
4. Which landing/promotion pages need improving?
In a redesign it is important to understand which pages need changing as well knowing which pages are working well and should be left as they are. Google Analytics offers several reports & metrics for interpreting the performance of individual & groups of pages:
Goal funnel visualization – one of the most easy to understand, it graphically shows where visitors are leaking out of your sales funnels. Goal funnels need to be set up manually and when done so can be found under Goals > Goal funnel visualization
Site overlay – Using this report (Content > Site overlay) you can see at a page level what visitors are actually click on helping to show the effectiveness of call to actions and promotions. Not only can you look at the number of clicks on these items but also the ecommerce value i.e. users clicking this button have gone on to generate xx revenue
£ index – this under used metric, shown in the top content report, shows how important visits to a particular page are when visitors convert. You may find that pages like the about us, shipping & returns pages have high £ index values as visitors often view them before making a purchase and help a user decide if they should buy your products. Sounds obvious but it might suggest that including a shipping and returns policy info box on product pages helps improve conversions (particularly likely on high value goods).
Bounce rate/exit rates – bounce rate shows the number of visitors that viewed one page and then left, while exit rate shows visitors that leave the site after viewing a particular page (they may have viewed multiple pages before). These metrics can help you understand which landing pages are under performing or common places that visitors are leaving your site.
(Page URLs removed from image)
However, these reports, like most analytics, must be understood in context to know if there really is an issue or not. When evaluating a page it is important to consider the objective of the page, how does its performance compare to other pages and are any problems a result of a design, content, product or brand issue (always difficult to know!).
The analysis of the above reports provide a great starting point for user testing as they can help identify issues on your site that are preventing conversions.
When a new site is built it is obviously important to bench mark performance before and after using KPIs that are relevant to your business such as visits, conversions, average transaction value, revenue etc.
However, it can take a few weeks for these metrics to settle down making it difficult to tell early on if there are any problems with your new website. By setting up custom alerts you can get near real time warnings of any errors or changes that may have occurred. The sensitivity of these alerts depends on your website, suggested values are used below
5. Is tracking set up correctly?
A common error that occurs in Google Analytics is a large amount of self-referrals showing up in the traffic source report i.e. the top referring site is your own! This can happen for a number of reasons such as certain pages not having tracking codes, use of frames, page redirects or sub domain and/or multi domain tracking not set up correctly. These self-referrals overwrite the original referral information preventing you from knowing where these visitors came from.
To be able to fix these tracking errors quickly before they skew your reports, it’s useful to use a custom alert (Intelligence > Custom report) to email you if there are any large daily increases in self-referrals.
Even with this alert I recommend that you add an analytics check into your QA/testing process to ensure no errors or loss of data when an updates are made.
6. Has the redesign affected our search rankings?
With any luck your new site and content will have significant improvement in search engine rankings and subsequent increases in traffic.
But it wouldn’t be a lie to say I’ve seen a big brand push a site live without removing the staging server robots.txt file, which was being used to blocking search engine access, this in turn caused the new site to completely drop out of Google! Even if large changes in rankings like that don’t happen, its useful to monitor organic traffic after launch to be aware of decreases or increases in visits (as well as changes in rankings using this GA filter).
If you do see drastic falls in organic traffic I’d recommend not reacting unless you’re absolutely sure you know the cause, rankings tend to jostle around a little after a redesign and you could end up changing something for the worse.
7. Tracking 404 pages
When launching a new site it is important to ensure you redirect old pages to new pages, however, errors can easily occur with redirect rules causing users to land on 404 pages.
Tracking visits to 404 pages in Google Analytics is easy, simply add the tracking code to the 404 page template and ensure the page title has 404 in it. Then to see which pages are missing navigate to Content > Content by title > find and click the 404 page, this will show you a list of page URLs that have been requested but not found. Unfortunately a custom alert does not work here as you cannot have the page title as an alert, therefore it is important to check this report regularly after launch. You can also use Google webmaster tools to check 404 pages but I prefer the additional traffic insights Google Analytics can give.
Please share in the comments any other reports, filters and advanced segments that can help during a redesign.
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