When I open Google Analytics, I’m bombarded with data.
I see a couple big numbers that I try to interpret. I make note that there were more visitors today than yesterday. A graph gives me a general sense of activity for the past month, and the bounce rate stares me in the face. By the time I finish, all these numbers are practically written on the backs of my eyelids.
Analytics are meant to tell a story. And at the end of the day, Google Analytics is a great tool for an overview of metadata, but it doesn’t provide any explanation of where any of those numbers came from.
Google Analytics divulges the beginning and end of the story, but it leaves out the entire middle. Web analytics power users want the story behind the numbers—we want to know why things happen.
Here are four areas site owners miss out on when they rely solely on Google Analytics:
1. Direct Customer Contact
The numbers may give you the “how,” but without the “why,” you’re left playing a guessing game. When potential customers leave your site, you don’t get the chance to stop and ask them why they’re leaving, but if you provide enough customer service prompts, they might tell you.
Include feedback forms, contact info, survey options, and live chat on your site, and your customers may give you valuable information that will answer your questions.
2. Recordings of Individual Visitors
Gathering direct feedback from customers is often an uphill battle. Therefore, it’s critical to have visitor recordings, which allow you to track individual sessions within your site and identify where a user entered, clicked, and interacted with your content. Individual monitoring sounds a little Big Brother-y, but you don’t need to collect personal data, and the insights are invaluable.
We once had a client who didn’t understand why his lead form wasn’t converting. Upon pulling the individual visitor recordings, we found that it was a form validation issue. Google Analytics’ aggregated trend data couldn’t tell us this, and users weren’t providing feedback to inform the site owner that this needed to be fixed.
3. Heat Mapping
Heat maps are a great way to monitor the efficiency of your site. Instead of difficult-to-decipher graphs and charts, you’ll see a visual representation of your site showing where users scroll, click, and move their mouse on the page. This is useful for optimizing your site’s content.
For example, if you find that users only scroll halfway down the page before leaving, you need to place your call to action closer to the top. If their mouse is usually on the right side of the page, your links and ads should be on that side as well.
The easiest way to evaluate your site is to test it exhaustively from the customers’ point of view. This will ensure it’s flawless from their perspective—not just yours. A conversion rate can’t tell you what drew your customers to the landing page or what deterred them from creating an account.
Post open-ended poll questions on the website asking for user feedback, and see what they say. Chances are, they’ll discover a glitch you didn’t notice.
Figuring out what causes conversion rates to fluctuate isn’t an exact science, and even the experts don’t always get it right. But one thing is certain: If Google Analytics is the only tool you use to gather insights about your website, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Reduce the guesswork, and flesh out your data’s story by combining Google Analytics with other tools and techniques to learn the “why” behind your users’ actions.
What analytics tools do you use for your website? Share your favorites in the comments.