I have an obsession with data and analytics. Left to my own devices, I could spend hours geeking out to data, spotting trends and making connections.
One of my favorite free tools for this is Google Analytics.
1. Make goals
Whether it’s a company site or a personal blog, it’s hard to know what to measure if you don’t have goals. You can write the goals in a notebook, Word document or even in Google Analytics. The goals feature on Google Analytics makes it easy to track your progress.
2. It’s more than just page views and clicks
In 99 percent of cases, page views are a very superficial and unhelpful way of looking at a site’s traffic. Page views simply reflect how many times viewers opened a Web page. There isn’t a whole lot you can take away from the number of page views. Instead, think about looking at unique visitors, time on the page, bounce rate, loyalty, where visitors are coming from and why they are coming in the first place.
3. Set up weekly or monthly custom reports
One of the best features, in my opinion, is the ability to create and automate custom reports with your key measurables and objectives right in Google Analytics. Not only is it automatic, but you can also export the results in a clear, concise PDF, HTML or Excel file for easy sharing.
4. Use the advanced segments feature
This is another underrated featured in my opinion. The advanced segments tool is a great way to track traffic from a particular source. For instance, if you are interested in figuring out which social media sites generate the most traffic, you can set up individual advanced segments for each site (such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, etc.). This lets you break down your analytics into small, manageable sections.
Jessica Malnik is a PR/marketing coordinator, social media specialist and videographer. She writes on her personal blog, where a version of this article originally ran.