Google Analytics is a comprehensive tool which allows businesses to monitor their audiences and optimize their performance. It offers insights into a multitude of data, so if you don’t want to drown in numbers you must first identify your goals and then focus on the data that shows you the status of their completion.
This granular data is called KPIs (key performance indicators) which are like steps in the overall goal achievement process.
That doesn’t make a KPI a goal in itself, but rather a benchmark for monitoring of the successfulness of your efforts. The steps you will undertake to achieve goals will be measured by KPIs. Obviously different businesses will have difference goals and hence different KPIs will be crucial for them. It is no point to track every possible metrics out there; you must decide what is important for your business.
Focus on the KPIs that bring you closer to your goal
Let’s compare two companies – an online shop selling sports equipment and a freelance photographer. For the first one, the ultimate goal would be customers adding products to the cart and completing the purchase process. On the way to achieve this goal the e-commerce business will need to monitor, among other indicators, completed transactions (how many visitors actually bought something), incomplete transactions (how many visitors added products to the cart and then abandoned it), the average transaction value or time customers spent in the online shop before they completed the transaction.
The data gathered in such analysis would help to optimize the shopping experience on the website, set up a well-suited remarketing campaign or make other decisions which will help the e-commerce business to meet their sales objectives. On the other hand, the objective of a freelance photographer would be different. He would focus on generating leads that is on getting in contact with his clients. The KPIs he would most likely measure would be the number of contact forms submitted, bounce rate (how many visitors left the page without performing any action or clicking further) or the sources of traffic that led to the submission of the contact form.
However, it’s erroneous to believe that same business models (for example online shops) can set up the same standard set of KPIs, because even if business models coincide, industries may differ completely. For example, an e-commerce providing baby-sitting services might rely more on leads from social media channels and users’ recommendations than funeral services e-commerce that wouldn’t be shared via social media so often, thus such traffic wouldn’t constitute an important KPI.
The universally important KPIs you need to track
Nevertheless there are certain KPIs that should always be taken into consideration regardless of the character of your business. They include visibility KPIs, related to the reaction to particular keywords and the hierarchy among them, ratio of new vs returning visitors, traffic sources (organic, paid or via social media channels), conversion rates by channel or traffic distribution by region.
A great overview of the most important Google Analytics KPIs you can find here. In order to better understand your data and visualize it in the most meaningful way you might want to use data visualization software that connect with Google Analytics or struggle through the flow of data on your own.
To make your efforts pay off remember to concentrate on your own, specific business goal, monitor KPIs in real-time and integrate the data to your daily decision-making process.