Data from Google Analytics should inform your decisions about what types of content to write, what keywords to use, how to organize your website, and how to market your content. But if you misread or misinterpret the data from Google Analytics, you’ll end up making poor decisions. Same thing goes for if you setup Google Analytics wrong from the start when starting your blog or website.
Here are five major mistakes people make when using Google Analytics, and how to avoid them:
1. Only looking at aggregate traffic
Web traffic comes from many different sources—search engines, social media, referrals from other websites, emails—and Google Analytics keeps track of all of them. But many people make the mistake of only looking at the aggregate data, which combines traffic from all sources.
Reviewing specific traffic channels will give you much more information about what you need to do to improve your traffic. For example, if your traffic from social media went up during the month, but your traffic from search engines went down, you know that your social media strategies were successful, while your SEO strategies need improvement.
Another data stream to keep track of is the amount of traffic you’re getting from search engines besides Google. About 30 percent of searches performed in the U.S. come from Bing and Yahoo. If your traffic from those search engines suddenly drops off, but you aren’t checking that data, you could be losing viewers without knowing why.
Pro Tip: In order to make your channels report in Google Analytics as accurate as possible, use the URL builder. This tool ensures that Google Analytics will know exactly what source your visitors came from, even if they copy and paste links into their browsers.
2. Lumping together traffic from different devices
Just as you should be looking at traffic from different internet sources, you should be looking at traffic from different types of devices. You can do this by adding new segments to your Channels report. You will see options for mobile traffic and tablet traffic.
If your blog is performing poorly in mobile traffic or tablet traffic, you may need to change your website design so that it better adapts to tablet and smartphone screens. It may also be helpful to know whether viewers are more likely to access your website through social media when on a mobile devices, but more likely to access through email when on a desktop.
3. Overlooking landing pages
Your organic traffic report in Google Analytics shows you which of your keywords have been most successful. You should use this information to edit your blog and insert an optimal amount of the most successful keywords.
However, don’t forget to also look at the landing pages your visitors are coming to when they search these keywords. If you edit the keywords on your home page, but most of the visitors who searched for that keyword entered your blog through a different page, your changes will not increase your traffic.
To avoid making mistakes like this, you can add the landing page as a secondary dimension on your organic traffic report.
4. Conflating visits with visitors
The difference between page views and unique page views is obvious when you’re looking at how much traffic your pages are getting. But when you’re looking at the number of visitors your keywords are getting, you might be fooled into thinking an unsuccessful keyword was successful.
If someone finds your website through a Google search and then bookmarks the page, those subsequent visits via bookmark will get classified as visits from keyword searches. This can result in an artificially high number of visits from a certain keyword. Incorporating that keyword into other pages on your website is not going to improve your traffic.
To avoid making this mistake, use custom reports to keep track of the unique visitors that every keyword gets.
5. Failing to refine your goals
One of the biggest mistakes people make is failing to take advantage of the goals feature in Google Analytics. This feature is extremely useful for businesses who want to track how many people go through their online purchasing process, but it can be helpful for any blogger.
Whenever you start a new marketing campaign, you should always create at least one new goal to measure the success of that campaign. For example, if you start a weekly newsletter, you can use the goals feature to measure how many people sign up for it. Without setting this goal, it might be unclear how successful this marketing campaign is.
Google Analytics can be overwhelming, but if you watch out for these common mistakes, you should be able to use it successfully. Overall, remember to always look at data carefully and use it wisely. And remember, take the time to set it up properly from the start when you buy your domain and are launching your website.