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Demystifying Google Analytics: A Beginner's Guide for Small Business Owners

As a small business owner, you probably already understand the importance of having a strong online presence. Maybe you've even established one. But how do you know if your website is effectively reaching your target audience? This is where website analytics come into play, and when it comes to website analytics I've never met a better player than Google Analytics.

The problem is that things like analytics can be tricky, data can be useless if you don't know what you're looking at, and most self-help guides on things of this sort need another self-help guide just to understand what that one is saying.

So today I'm breaking it all down. Google Analytics in simple terms. All in an attempt to help YOU harness its power to make informed decisions for YOUR business growth. I'm nice like that. 😉

But first why?

Having robust website analytics data is indispensable for small businesses, serving as a compass in the digital landscape. And when I say indefensible I don't mean that in a figurative sense. I mean that in a where-does-the-analytics-end-and-the-strategy-beginning-kind-of-indefensible.

When used correctly; Google Analytics is the lens through which entrepreneurs gain profound insights into their online performance, understanding the intricacies of user behavior, preferences, and engagement patterns. It offers a comprehensive understanding of website performance metrics such as traffic sources, user demographics, and behavior, enabling businesses to make data-driven decisions to optimize their marketing strategies and improve user experience.

But that's not all! It also helps in identifying the effectiveness of different marketing campaigns and channels, allowing businesses to allocate resources efficiently and focus on tactics that generate the highest return on investment. And..... Google Analytics can empower you to set and track business goals, such as conversions and engagement metrics, providing a clear roadmap and rubric for growth and success.

Installation Required....

The goal of this blog is the help you understand how to utilize Google Analytics to the best of your ability. Given how often we've detailed the Google Analytics Installation Process recently we'll be glazing over that part here.

If you haven't yet installed Analytics - stop what you're doing right now and do that. Here's a helpful article.

If you need help with Google Analytics installation or the update to GA4, The Clever Catalyst can help, handle, or walk you through the process.

The Basic Metrics

There are A LOT of metrics that either come standard in Google Analytics. We'll help you break down some of the most common/useful/important.

Pro-Tip: Once you've had Google Analytics for a period of time you can start turning on comparisons when looking at data and that can be incredibly useful. Seeing that you had 100 website users this week looks a lot more impressive when compared to your previous week of 30 users.

The Hard Part: Interpreting Your Google Analytics Data

I am not a fan of calling things 'hard' but when it comes to interpreting data I have to disappoint myself because it isn't easy. Once you have the integration installed you will start getting data almost immediately and you can see and 'understand' that data to a limited extent also almost instantly.

If you see you have 10 real-time, active users right now. Then you have 10 users on your website. But most of us aren't looking to see how many real-time users we have or how many of them are women or in Texas.

Most of us are looking to know more complex things like:

  • where did these real-time users come from?

  • what content on my site performs better with women and why?

  • are my potential customers finding what they need on my site?

Learning to interpret this data will take time but like most things, it gets easier with practice and informative blogs from The Clever Catalyst.

Interpreting Your Data: Look for Patterns & Trends

Start by identifying trends and patterns in your data. Look for recurring behaviors, such as peak times of user activity, and correlate them with external factors like promotions or social media campaigns. Recognizing these patterns helps you capitalize on successful strategies and adjust those that may need improvement.

This may seem complicated for small business owners like you but in reality, you are in a unique position that marketers like me are often jealous of....a position of omniscience. Which is a fancy way of saying that you know everything. You know why your traffic might have been down last week because you know EVERYTHING that was involved in last week.

Interpreting Your Data: Save Time & Mental Energy with Benchmarks

Establish benchmarks for key metrics based on historical data or industry standards. Setting specific, measurable goals helps you evaluate the success of your campaigns and website performance. Regularly monitor progress towards these goals to stay on track and adapt strategies as needed.

A good time to do this is at the beginning of paying attention to these things. Or before a campaign so can compare a new normal to a previously established normal.

Interpreting Your Data: Segmenting for Better Information

Google Analytics allows you to segment your data based on various criteria such as demographics, traffic sources, or devices. Utilize segmentation to gain deeper insights into the behavior of specific audience segments. This enables more targeted strategies to meet the diverse needs of your audience.

This usually just means simply clicking on a segment to further break it down. See a big increase in mobile traffic? Try segmenting mobile traffic specifically and see where they are coming from or what they are doing. Segmenting allows you to zoom in on one specific group of data for even better data!

Interpreting Your Data: Don't Overvalue Your Data

Be cautious of misinterpretations that can arise from isolated data points. Consider the context and cross-reference multiple metrics to form a comprehensive understanding. Additionally, ensure that external factors, like seasonality or industry trends, are taken into account when analyzing data fluctuations.

Just because your website traffic plummeted on the week you started social media content doesn't mean people are boycotting you because of bad content. It could be unrelated. Take note of things that stand out to you and then remember to watch for trends.

Remember when it comes to data there is no 'wrong' way

Most people avoid getting started with Google Analytics because they think they can't do it right so what's the point? And while I'm right there with you with most aspects of marketing - I am the only marketer you will ever meet that needs convincing when its time to run paid ads - but analytics is not one of those things you need to wait until you can nail to get started.

First of all, it's FREE. Second of all, it takes less than 20 minutes - even if following a video and requires NO maintenance. And likely most importantly it is never too soon to start collecting data.

If for no other reason, you should get it installed for the legacy data you'll be collecting now but once you have it you'll find yourself playing around with the charts and graphs. Which is a good thing. Taking the time to play with the dashboards and get used to what you can do in the system is better to be done BEFORE you need it.

So get started today! Install that Google Analytics and/or start playing with the charts. There is no pressure to do anything with the data before you are ready and there is no wrong way to collect information to help you drive the success of your small business!

And remember The Clever Catalyst is here for you. Whether you're looking for done-for-you services like getting that analytics dashboard ready for you or coaching calls to empower you to dominate that data, we got you!

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