WHAT ARE USER ANALYTICS?


The term “User Analytics” refers to monitoring, recording and analysing the way website visitors use and interact with your site.

The two main tools in use by the vast majority of website owners is Google Analytics and a heat mapping service. There are many others, but using these two tools can tell you everything you need to know about your visitors.

It’s one thing to install these on your website, but learning how to interpret the results is the key to understanding how your website is being used and whether improvements need to be made.


TOOLS OF THE USER ANALYTICS TRADE


Google Analytics

Used by almost 30 million websites, Google Analytics is a very popular free tool.

The interface can be overwhelming at first, but once you’ve learned how to read and interpret the data you will find a wealth of information at your fingertips.

Google Analytics can tell you:

  • How many people visited your website
  • Which pages they visited and how long they stayed there
  • Which browser they were using and on what device (desktop, mobile, tablet, etc.)
  • Basic demographic information such as location, age, gender, and in some cases, their interests



Heat mapping

Heat maps are used to display data in graphical form. For websites, heat maps can show you:

  • Where users have clicked and how often
  • Where users have scrolled; in particular, which areas of the page they lingered on and which areas they ignored
  • Some heat maps use mouse movements to correlate with eye movement, showing you where users have looked on a page.

Heat maps are very useful when examining the elements on your page and deciding which are worth keeping and optimising and which ones should be discarded.



GETTING STARTED WITH USER ANALYTICS


Especially for eCommerce, User Analytics is a vital component of managing your online presence. By examining how people are using your website, which content they find the most useful and – most importantly – whether they are taking the journey you want them to take, you can make the most out of your website as a lead and sales generation tool.

If you’re a new website owner and you want to get started with analysing your traffic, the below steps are recommended.

Click on each heading to expand the area you need the most help with.



Google Analytics


Signing up for Google Analytics

Visit google.com/analytics and click “Sign in to Analytics”.

You will be guided through the process to set up your account.

Creating your Analytics property

Your “Analytics property” is where you will see all the data collected from your website.

Once you’ve logged in to Google Analytics, go to the Admin tab.

In the Property column dropdown, click where it says “Create new property”.

Fill out the fields with the name of the property (e.g. My Website) and the URL of your property (e.g. http://mywebsite.com).

Click the Get Tracking ID button and your property is set up.

Installing your tracking code

Your tracking code is a block of javascript that you need to insert into each page of your website you want to track.

The code needs to be inserted into the head of the HTML document on each web page.

If you don’t have coding skills or you can’t access the code of your website, you may need someone to help you with this.

If you are using a Content Management System (CMS), there may be a plugin you can install to insert the code for you. Click the CMS you are using below for more information:

Visit the WordPress plugins directory to browse the many plugins available.

Yoast do a very popular Google Analytics plugin.

I personally use the Insert Headers and Footers plugin.

Visit the Joomla! Extensions Directory for a list of plugins.

One of the highest rated plugins is Nice Google Analytics by TriniTronic. And it’s also free!

Once you have your tracking code, login to your administration panel.

Select Administer, click on Site Building, click on Blocks and select Add block.

Type Google Analytics in the Block Description field and paste your tracking code into the Block Body field. Choose PHP code from the Text Format drop-down menu and click on the Save block button.

Click on Blocks at the top of the page. From the Region drop-down menu, select Footer and click on the Save blocks button.

(Source: Chron.com)

For Magento, you will need your Google Analytics account number instead of your tracking code – your account number is the one that begins with UA-xxxxxxxx-x.

Log in to your Magento site’s administration area, then navigate to System, Configuration, Sales, Google API.

Expand the Google Analytics section, pick Yes from the Enable drop-down then enter your UA number in the Account number field. Click Save Config and you’re done.

(Source: SiteGround)

Login to your Shopify admin area and navigate to Settings, Online Store.

Paste your tracking code into the Google Analytics code field.

Save and you’re done!

(Source: Shopify)

Heat maps


Finding a heat mapping service

There are several heat mapping service providers, all with different features and pricing structures.

It will come down to which service has the features you need at a price you are willing to pay.

Some of the most popular heat mapping service providers are:

Crazy Egg: a very comprehensive heat mapping service.

Hotjar: comes with modal popup surveys and feedback polls (free option).

Lucky Orange: offers granular data on your traffic.

Clicktale: offers recordings of your visitor’s sessions.

There are also several WordPress plugins that offer both free and paid heat mapping services.

Installing your tracking code

You will need to follow your service provider’s instructions to install the heat map tracking code on your website.

Before signing up you need to make sure their service is compatible with the CMS you are using. Some providers have developed their own plugins to help install the code, others can advise on a third-party plugin or provide instructions on how to insert the code manually.


INTERPRETING THE RESULTS


Once you’ve got your analytics tools installed, you’ll need to learn what to do with all that data.

Heat mapping is fairly straightforward and your service provider will give support while you learn, but Google Analytics can take some getting used to. The interface can be overwhelming at first, and many people simply don’t use it because they never get used to the terminology.

Below are some key terms and explanations that you may find useful.


GOOGLE ANALYTICS – LEARNING THE FOUNDATIONS

Audience


This report shows you how many people visited your site over a set time period, how long they stayed on your site and how many pages they visited.

It can also show you which country they live in, what devices they used to find your site and in some cases, what they are interested in.

Acquisition


This report shows you where your traffic comes from – search engine queries, paid search results, social media and referral from other websites.

If you have a specific campaign set up in social media, it can also show you how effective the campaign is, and whether it is cost-effective.

Behaviour


This report shows you what your visitors did while on your site and how your site performed (e.g. fast or slow loading pages).

It also provides a graphical representation of the journey your visitors took through your site and where you lose the most traffic.

Conversions


This report is used to set goals for eCommerce, campaigns or on-page conversions. You need to set up goals and/or E-commerce tracking to use this report.

Setting up goals is the best way to measure the success of targeted objectives, e.g. page views per month, purchase confirmations, etc.

Goals and E-commerce tracking are advanced features.

Key Sections:


Overview

Sessions: the number of browsing sessions initiated.

A “session” is one period of browsing activity (i.e. the period from when someone opens your website in a window or tab to when they close it). Google Analytics will end the session when the user either closes the window or tab or after 90 minutes of inactivity. There can be multiple sessions for the same user.

Users: the number of individual people that have visited your site.

Page Views: the number of individual web pages viewed. There can be multiple page views per session or per user.

Bounce Rate: a “bounce” is when someone visits your site, then leaves from the same page they arrived at. Your bounce rate is the number of sessions that were a bounce.

Active Users

The Active Users report shows you the number of users who started a session in a time period within your selected date range.

For example, if your date range is 1 Mar 2016 – 31 Mar 2016:

1-Day Active Users: started a session on the 31st March.

7-Day Active Users: started a session from the 24th-31st March.

14-Day Active Users: started a session from the 17th-31st March.

30-Day Active Users: started a session from the 1st-31st March.

This is useful for determining the impact of a campaign or newly published content within the last 30 days.

Cohort Analysis

This is an advanced reporting feature still in development.

cohort is a number of users grouped by date.

You can currently only choose your cohort based on acquisition date, which is the date a user started their first session.

The cohort size refers to how many users you will include in the group – whether it’s all new users on one day, within one week or within one month.

You can then choose from a wide range of metrics to measure them against, such as:

  • User retention
  • Revenue per user
  • Total page views

This is a useful way of tracking your goals over time, and also to test the effectiveness of any targeted marketing campaigns.

Demographics

Shows you the age and gender of your visitors.

Interests

This report shows you the purchasing and lifestyle interests of your visitors.

This data is collected from Google’s ad networks and is independent of the data gathered by your tracking code.

To start using the Demographics and Interests reports you need to enable advertising features and turn on the Demographics and Interests reporting for the view you are using (this is done in the Admin area under Property Settings).

Affinity Categories: shows the number of users according to their lifestyle.

In-Market Segments: shows the number of users according to their product-purchase interests.

Other Categories: provides a more detailed analysis of your audience based on second- and third-tier interest categories (e.g. Arts & Entertainment/TV & Video/Online Video).

Geo

Shows you what country your users are in and what language they speak.

Behaviour

This is distinct from the Behaviour section reports.

New vs Returning: shows you the percentage split of people visiting your site for the first time vs people coming back after their first visit.

Frequency & Recency: shows you the number of sessions per user over time (e.g. how many people only had one session, how many people had two, etc.) and how many days between sessions over time (i.e. how much time has passed between the last and most recent session).

Engagement: this shows you how engaged people were with the content on your site; that is, how long they spent browsing your site in each session.

User-ID coverage: this is an advanced feature that you can only use when you have enabled User-ID tracking in the Property Settings under Tracking Info. It also requires a change to your tracking code that should only be made by someone with knowledge of Javascript.

The User-ID feature allows you to manually assign user IDs to particular sets of data in order to correlate them with certain usage patterns (e.g. people using an iPhone). It is not recommended that you use this feature unless you are skilled at analysing data manually.

Technology

Browser & OS: shows you which browser program people are using and who their Internet provider is.

This is useful for figuring out if your site is having issues with a particular browser or ISP.

Mobile

The Overview shows you the percentage split of your users visiting your site via desktop computer, smartphone or tablet.

The Devices report shows you which make and model the mobile devices are (e.g. Apple iPhone 6 plus, Sony D6653 Xperia Z3, etc.)

Custom

This is a highly advanced feature used by developers to collect their own data using Google Analytics. If you are not a developer or fluent in computer coding you should not attempt to use this feature.

Benchmarking

This is a feature that allows you to compare how much traffic you get compared to other websites in your industry. You can choose the industry to measure yourself against – this is known as an Industry Vertical.

Channel: shows you where your traffic is coming from against your industry based on source (this will be explained in the Acquisition section).

Location: shows you which country your users are in against your industry.

Devices: shows you how your users are accessing your site (desktop, mobile or tablet) against your industry.

This report is useful for measuring your site’s performance against those in the same industry, as well as telling you whether you are making an impact in your chosen market.

Users Flow

This is a visual representation of the journey your users are taking through your website page-by-page.

Use the drop-down selector to choose a measurement, and add further steps (representing further pages) as needed.

You can then see in visual form where most of your traffic is going from one page to the next, and at which point most of your visitors drop off (i.e. end their session).

Key Sections:


Overview

This shows you the percentage split of where people are coming from into your site:

Referral: these people clicked a link to your site on another website.

Direct: these people typed in your URL, or saved a link to your site as a bookmark.

Organic Search: these people were searching for something in Google or another search engine and your website was the result they clicked.

Social: these people clicked on a link to your site that appeared in social media (e.g. a link to your blog post on Facebook).

All Traffic

Channels: this provides specific information of where people arrived at your site from.

Treemaps: this is a graphical comparison of two selectable metrics such as sessions vs pages per session, new users vs average session duration, etc.

Source/Medium: this tells you which domain web traffic has come from and which channel it came through (e.g. google / organic, facebook.com / social, etc).

Referrals: this gives you more detailed information about which domains have referred web traffic to you.

AdWords

This section gives you detailed information about the traffic you gain from your paid search results.

You need to link your AdWords and Google Analytics account in the Admin area under Property Settings.

Search Engine Optimisation

In order to access these reports, you need to link your Google Analytics property to its corresponding Google Search Console property. To do this, go to the Admin area, and under Property Settings, click on Adjust Search Console.

Queries: this shows you what people typed into Google that returned your website as a result.

Landing Pages: this shows you which pages those people arrived at when they clicked on your website in the search results.

Geographical Summary: this gives your Search Console data broken down by geographical region.

Social

This report shows you detailed statistics on how your content is performing on social media.

Network Referrals: which social media channels referred traffic to your site (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc).

Data Hub Activity: see which other websites and social networks such as Delicious, Reddit, Pocket, etc.

Landing Pages: which of your web pages are receiving social traffic.

Trackbacks: this shows you which sites are republishing your content.

Conversions: this requires goals to be set up. It shows you how your social goals are tracking.

Plug-ins: this shows you which social sharing plugins on your website are getting clicks and on which pages. NOTE: this requires changes to your tracking code.

Users Flow: a graphical representation of the journey your visitors are taking through your site after being referred from social media.

Campaigns

Campaign reporting is an advanced feature for tracking your website referral campaigns using UTM tracking. It requires custom setup of campaign information in Google Analytics. You should refer to Google’s own documentation on how to set these up once you feel confident to do so.

Key Sections:


Overview

This gives you an overview of your most viewed pages.

If you have Site Search tracking enabled, you can specify particular search terms to see which pages your site takes visitors to as the search result. To set this up go to the Admin area and under View Settings, turn Site search Tracking on and specify your search terms according to the instructions. Read Google’s documentation for help with this.

If you have Events tracking setup, you can see a summary of site events (event tracking is an advanced feature).

If you have an AdSense account linked to your Google Analytics property, you can see which of your pages get the most ad revenue.

Behaviour Flow

This is a graphical representation of the page-by-page journey your users are going on through your website.

Site Content

All Pages: this shows you the most viewed pages on your website.

Content Drilldown: if you structure your site’s page URLs in subfolders, this report will show you the most viewed pages according to this structure.

Landing Pages: shows you which pages the most users started their sessions on.

Exit Pages: shows you which pages the most users ended their sessions on.

Site Speed

This section shows you how long it took your website to respond to users, how quickly each page loaded and a list of suggestions to improve the response time of your pages.

Site Search

This section contains information on how your visitors used your search function. It requires site search tracking to be set up.

Events

If you have event tracking set up, this section will provide you with statistics on all your events. Event tracking is an advanced feature.

Publisher

If you have an AdSense or Ad Exchange account linked to your Google Analytics property and live ads on your site, you can access your revenue reports here.

Experiments

This is an advanced feature for developers to set up content and site improvement experiments. You need coding expertise to use this feature.

In-Page Analytics

This is essentially a heat map of your site using Google Analytics data. You will see your website overlaid with clicks and actions.

Your browser security settings may block it from being displayed. If this happens, launch the view in fullscreen mode.

Key Sections:


Goals

This section is where you set up your goals.

You can create a goal from a goal template or set up custom goals and track them with this report.

Refer to Google’s documentation to learn how to set up goals.

E-commerce

If you have E-commerce tracking set up, you can track the performance of your online store here.

Refer to Google’s documentation for how to set up E-commerce trcking.

Multi-Channel Funnels

This report requires goals and/or E-commerce tracking set up.

Attribution

This report requires goals and/or E-commerce tracking set up.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Google Analytics Help Centre

Google’s official documentation and support portal for Google Analytics

Optimize Smart

Comprehensive blog from an analytics agency explaining all of Google Analytic’s most advanced features

Crazy Egg Blog – Analytics Category

Blog posts on all things analytics from the leading heat mapping software provider