Google Analytics for Web Designers

Most web designers have heard of Google Analytics, but many of them have not taken the time to understand just how valuable the data can be.  There is a wealth of knowledge you can gain about your web traffic that can help improve your site design and marketing efforts.

For web designers it is important to understand how visitors are interacting with your site. What pages are visitors landing on? What pages are visitors exiting on?  How long are visitors staying on site?  Where are visitors leaving in the conversion funnel? All of these questions are crucial for turning a pretty website, into a pretty website that converts!

Let’s break down the important visitor data specific to web designers that will contribute to improving usability, engagement, and conversion rates.

Entrance Pages

In Google Analytics:  Content >> Top Landing Pages

It is important to understand what pages users are entering on when they get to your website.  For new visitors, this will be the first time they browse your site, so you will want to make sure the page they land on is engaging and compelling.  Are they landing on the homepage?  a service page?  a viral blog post?

For a typical company website, it is normal for the majority of users to enter on the homepage or a service page. For a blog or news focused site, it is not unheard of for popular posts to be the top entrance page.  Look at the top landing pages and the bounce rate side-by-sideDo you notice a page that has a noticeably higher bounce rate than the other pages? There could be a number of reasons why this is.

  1. The page was not relevant to their search query
  2. The content was not engaging enough to keep the user on the page
  3. They were reading that days blog post, then left (usually enters via direct traffic)

For designers, look at the page and see if there are things that can be improved from a design standpoint.

  1. Try a different content layout
  2. Try a new call to action/offer
  3. Test a different headline
  4. Test different graphics/icons/fonts/colors

Which ever are the top landing pages, these are the pages that get the most attention.  Whatever the clients objectives/goals, try to work in ways you can incorporate those goals onto the page.  Add a quick contact form, make the phone number prominent to entice users to call, create a download graphic, etc…

Exit Pages

In Google Analytics:  Content >> Top Exit Pages

If visitors are consistently exiting on a certain page(s), look at the page and ask yourself why?  Similar to landing pages that visitors are entering on, look to see if there are ways to improve the page.  Typically individual blog posts will have high bounce rates because the user reads the post then leaves.  In order to keep the user engaged in the content, try adding relevant links to other content throughout post.  For e-commerce sites, try adding similar or complimentary products that the buyer may enjoy.

Bounce Rate

In Google Analytics:  Visitors >> Visitor Trending >> Bounce Rate

Just to define Bounce Rate quickly, it is when a visitor enters a page, then leaves without visiting another page or is idle for over 30 minutes.  As we discussed, bounce rate is a more useful statistic for e-commerce site, rather than blogs or news sites because there are more variables to take into consideration. Users who visit blogs frequently bookmark web pages to view later, which can skew results.

Nevertheless, web designers can use this information to help gain insight on what pages need attention.  Try using a testing software like Google Website Optimizer to run A/B and Multi-Variate tests to improve page engagement.

Also check out Lowering Your Bounce Rate: What to Analyze

Time On Site

In Google Analytics:  Visitors >> Visitor Trending >> Time On Site

Usually the longer you can keep someone on a site, the more likely they are to convert into a lead/customer. Many times you will notice a correlation between bounce rate and time on site.  If the visitors time on site is very low, typically the bounce rate will be very high.  So what can you do to keep people on your website longer?

  1. Add a video that explains the service/product
  2. Add graphics that help explain the content
  3. Make sure there is a consistent layout across all pages
  4. Fix any broken images or links
  5. Add a poll or survey
  6. Incorporate social media features (Google Friend Connect, Tweetmeme button, etc…)

Goals/Conversion Funnel

In Google Analytics:  Goals  >> Funnel Visualization

Probably the most important data to look at is the goal visualization funnel. This graph will show you where visitors enter the conversion process and at what step users exit or complete the funnel. This graph can identify flaws in your sales process.  It could possibly be that an error is occurring during the process and users are unable to move on to the next step.  It may also be that your checkout process involves too many steps or that you ask for too much information so nobody is filling out the form.  Especially for e-commerce sites, it is important to optimize the checkout process by minimizing the number of steps it takes to purchase and offering multiple payment and shipping methods.

Here are some quick tips to help with the checkout/goal funnel.

  1. Add fields that are MANDATORY only
  2. Remove “Optional” fields
  3. Explain that you do not spam
  4. Add secure payment logos
  5. Give multiple payment/shipping options
  6. Show a cart summary during the process
  7. Remove unnecessary steps or combined

Browser Type

In Google Analytics:  Visitors >> Browser Capabilities >> Browsers

When looking at browser types it is important to see which browsers and browser versions people are still using.  Just because a website looks fine in Firefox 3.5 or IE 8 doesn’t mean that someone using IE 6 will not have issues rendering the page.

Seeing browser stats will make you aware of which versions you still need to make sure the website renders properly in.  If you notice that less then 1% of the visitors are using IE6, it probably is not worth your time to figure out why something is not working properly.

To find out how to test your site in all browsers (Including mobile ones), have a look at our post on how to test a blog.

Screen Resolution

In Google Analytics:  Visitors >> Browser Capabilities >> Screen Resolutions

5 years ago web designers used to design a website for 800 x 600, now with flat screen monitors becoming the norm, the minimum screen resolution is usually around 1024 x 768. Screen resolution data can have a big impact on how you design your site.  Analyzing resolution data over a period of time can allow you to see trends in user monitors.

Mobile Devices

In Google Analytics:  Visitors >> Mobile >> Mobile Devices

With the innovation of smart phones and other mobile devices, there has been an increase in mobile web usage.  This has made web designers rethink how they design web sites.  Using Google Analytics, you can start to see an increase in the amount of mobile device traffic.  Now that people are browsing websites on their iPhone’s and Blackberry’s, designing a mobile version of your site (or for blogs; ensuring your normal website displays well) is imperative to cater to these visitors.

If you haven’t installed an analytics solution on your website, go sign up for a free Google Analytics account and start tracking your visitor data.  If you just take 20 minutes a week to analyze the data and see what users are doing on your site, it can help assure you that your designs are doing what they were meant to do.

I would love to get some feedback from web designers.

How do you utilize web analytics data to benefit the overall designs of your sites? What other analytics solutions do you use to help understand your web visitors?

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