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Google Analytics is Getting an AI Boost

Google Analytics

Last week, Google announced that it has added real-time, AI-enhanced reporting capabilities, as well as easier sharing of data, to its popular Analytics site analysis software.

The new functionality – dubbed “Automated Insights” – is available on late-generation Andriod/IOS devices now; a web version is also in the works.

Why this is a big deal

“Google is taking the initiative and wants to let people know that it is going to be like a brain.” — Kevin Lee

Between 30 and 50 million marketers use Google Analytics. Google Analytics powers analytics on 54.4% of all the sites on the web.

But while Google Analytic’s user base his huge, the actual range of tasks used by most users is quite narrow. Many – perhaps most – don’t need to dive too deeply into Google Analytic’s deep data stores to perform their jobs.

As Didit’s Kevin Lee observes in a story in Advertising Age covering Google’s announcement,

“I think what Google is realizing is people tend to exhibit the same behaviors when they pull reports from Analytics. Some people just want to see a geography or conversion report. They see people are exhibiting repeat behaviors and are streamlining the process for them. Google is taking the initiative and wants to let people know that it is going to be like a brain and put things in front of you… It can be like Amazon putting products you’ve previously bought in front of you when you visit their site.”

Advanced Google Analytics users already know the value of Custom Reports, Intelligence Events, and Automated Alerts, which, when set up correctly, vastly improve the experience of using GA. By automating some of these processes, Google hopes to bring the same level of personalized sophistication to the marketing masses.

Immediate beneficiaries

In the blog article accompanying the launch of Automated Insights, Google specifically cited e-tailers as likely users of Google Analytics’ new capabilities.

“During this busy time of the year, retailers face questions that can be the difference between making their numbers for the year or falling short: Which products are going to be popular this season? Where should we advertise? How are our customers hearing about us and purchasing from us? Answering just one of these questions and acting on that information can take analysts and marketers hours or even days.”

Automated Insights is aimed at eliminating this “time to insight gap”, improving e-tailers’ ability to respond to fast-moving market conditions. This will mean budgets can be adjusted more quickly, product pages can be tuned to more closely align with instantaneous market demand, and content can be more accurately planned and generated to better serve rapidly-shifting consumer interest.

“Data insights in Google Analytics automate the first steps of answering these questions by instantaneously surfacing opportunities and anomalies hiding in the data. For example, they can tell you which products are experiencing higher than normal sales growth, which advertising channels are driving the most conversions and the best returns, and on which devices customers engage with your brand. This moment-to-moment information gives retailers the power to make nimble, smart decisions that directly impact performance.”

What’s next?

Google Analytics has become the industry standard in Web Analytics; its capabilities have grown by leaps and bounds since the software’s early, somewhat crude incarnation as Urchin. But many of its users (especially relative newbies to analytics) find Google Analytics’ UI intimidating. Consequently, the process of getting useful intel out of Google Analytics is, for many, more difficult than it should be. And while Custom Reports and Filters are the best line of defense against data overload in Google Analytics, not everyone uses them.

Google Analytics’s upgrade will definitely have a big impact on the way the millions of marketers use Google Analytics everyday. It “unsilos” the most important Google Analytics data by making it streamable and shareable. It’ll also change the nature of much digital marketing work as it’s performed today.

As Google Analytics gets smarter, and eliminates the routine “digital drudgework” that consumes so many hours of so many analysts’ lives, a larger share of Google Analytics users will be able to focus on marketing, not reporting mechanics – a good thing for all concerned.

Google Analytics 101: How To Optimise Your Marketing Strategy

Google Analytics

If you’re not too familiar with Google Analytics, trying to find out how it works can be a little daunting task. With so much data available to look for, it’s hard to know where to look to find the most important metrics.

Marketers that want to better understand their audience, and strengthen their marketing strategy, need to know how to best utilise all of the data available inside Google Analytics. Without knowing which sections to pay attention to, you could spend hours digging through the platform and walk away with your head spinning.

Similarly, without analyzing your website traffic, it’s hard to assess the effectiveness of your current marketing strategy and know when it’s time to make a shift. However, if leveraged correctly, Google Analytics can provide valuable insight into who visits your website, how they got there in the first place and what pages they spend the most time on; this is powerful data for marketers that can be used to enhance their strategy.

An Overview

Google Analytics is a powerful tool for brands, bloggers or businesses alike. Through use of Google Analytics, you can uncover a tremendous amount of data about your website that can be used to enhance your marketing and business development strategies.

The back end of Google Analytics is broken down into eight main sections: Dashboards, Shortcuts, Intelligence Events, Real-Time, Audience, Acquisition, Behavior and Conversions.

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Almost all eight sections contain sub-sections that provide a ton of data, but not all sections are critical for marketers to pay attention to.

Before we dive in to the sections that matter most to marketers, let’s get familiar with some basic Google Analytics terminology:

  • Users: These are people who have visited at least once within your selected date range, and includes both new and returning visitors.
  • Dimensions: These are descriptive characteristics of an object. For example, browser, exit page and session duration are all considered dimensions.
  • Metrics: These are individual statistics of a dimension, such as Average Session Duration or Screenviews.
  • Bounce Rate: This is the percentage of single-page visits, meaning that someone left your site from the same page at which they entered; aka, they didn’t interact with your site.
  • Sessions: A session is the period of time that a user is actively engaged with your website.

Now that you’re familiar with the Google Analytics sections and terminology, let’s dive in to the areas that you want to pay most attention to in order to save time and strengthen your marketing strategy.

Zeroing in on what matters most

There are three sections that matter most to marketers: Acquisition, Audience and Behavior.

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The Audience section provides a tremendous amount of data about your website visitors. It contains multiple subsections that provide information about the gender, age and location of your website visitors. You can also uncover information about their interests, as well as the browsers and mobile devices used to access your site.

The Acquisition section will provide detailed information about how people arrive to your site. Digging in to the “All Traffic” tab will show you exactly how people are arriving at your website – whether it be a search engine, social media site or blog that you’re a contributor for.

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The Behavior section helps you understand how people are interacting with your site. You’ll visit this section to better understand which pages on your website are the most popular.

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Focusing on these three sections will help you save time when digging through Google Analytics.

When used together, the information uncovered can help you make decisions about which marketing efforts (be it guest blogging or social media posting,) are most useful in driving website traffic.

Analyzing these sections within Google Analytics will provide you with insight that will enable you to make smarketing (smart, marketing) decisions about the type, tone, and placement of content that you use on your website.

Traffic Channels

Before we dive into who exactly is visiting your site, it’s important to understand how they’re getting there.

To see your various traffic sources for a set period of time, go to the Acquisition tab and click the “All Traffic” dropdown. Select the “Channels” button, set the time period at the top of the viewing pane and scroll down to see the results for the give timeframe.

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Here’s a simple breakdown of what these different channels mean:

  • Direct: Visitors that came directly to your website. They either typed your URL right into their browser, clicked on a bookmark or clicked a link in an email. Direct traffic is a strong indicator of the strength of your brand.
  • Organic Search: You can thank search engines like Google and Bing for these website visitors. An organic visitor is someone who got to your website by clicking on a link from a search engine results page. A lot of organic traffic is a strong indicator of the value of your content and SEO strategy.
  • Paid Search: You’ll find any paid search (think Google AdWords) campaigns in this viewing pane. A lot of paid search traffic means that you’re Google AdWords are working well.
  • Referral: This represents visitors that clicked a link on another site to land on your website. Years ago, before social media was what it is today, all other traffic (that wasn’t direct or organic) fell under the referral tab. Within the past few years, Google created a separate tab for social traffic, which makes it easy for marketers to focus in on just the websites that are driving traffic to their site. If you guest blog, this is the section to visit to see how much traffic is being driven to your site from your guest blogging efforts. A lot of referral traffic means that you’re being talked about (and linked to) from multiple other websites.
  • Social: As a social media marketer, this is the favorite section within Google Analytics because it shows me exactly what social media channels drive the majority of traffic to your site. This data can be used to shape your social media strategy.
  • Email: The number of visitors that came to your website from an email campaign. If you do a lot of email marketing, you’ll want to dig through here to see how effective your campaigns are.

Looking at the traffic channels will allow you to see which channel is the largest driver of traffic to your site. You’ll notice that the Channels are listed in order of driving power; the Channel at the top is the one that drives the majority of site traffic.

To dig deeper into the data, click each Channel to see more information.

For example, when you click Social, you can see the entire list of social media sites (again, listed in order of most to least powerful) that drove traffic to your website during the selected timeframe.

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Analyzing the power of different channels will help you decide which efforts to focus on, and potentially spark ideas to increase traffic from other channel types.

Here are a few ideas to increase traffic across all channel types:

  • Direct: Share the link to your website with friends and family the next time you’re with them. Tell them to type it directly into their browser and voila! You just got a nice direct traffic boost.
  • Organic Search: Make sure that you’re utilising H1 and H2 tags, meta descriptions and keywords in all of your website pages and content updates. The stronger your SEO, the greater likelihood that someone will find you on a search engine.
  • Paid Search: Try adjusting your keywords and/or targeting options to make your ads more relevant.
  • Referral: Start reaching out to popular blogs and forums in your industry to see if you can guest post or perhaps be featured on their site. Contributing content to other sites is a great way to increase your referral traffic.
  • Social: Increasing the frequency of your posting, and the number of links you share on social media will undoubtedly result in a boost of social traffic. I recommend increasing your efforts on one channel at a time to see what drives the largest impact. For example, make February your Twitter month; aim to tweet a lot of links that drive back to your website and at the end of the month, analyze the website traffic. Then, come March, turn that attention over to Facebook and see which social channel drove more traffic.
  • Email: Start including more calls to action and links in your email campaigns. Make sure that your calls to action stand out in your email templates and serve to drive people back to your website.

Once you’ve implemented some of these ideas, take the time to review the Channels breakdown again to see the impact of your efforts.

If your efforts to grow traffic from one channel go unnoticed in your analytics, try a different one. For instance, let’s say you have a ton of referral traffic and very little organic traffic. If your attempts to improve SEO and grow organic traffic have little impact, it’s probably not worth the effort. You’re better off continuing to guest blog, as it’s proven to be a critical marketing activity that is worth your time and effort.

Audience Demographics

Understanding who is visiting your site in terms of their age, location and gender is the best way to tailor your site to suit their interests and preferences.

If you want your website content and imagery to appease and resonate with your audience, you need to know who they are.

To find this information, head over to the Audience tab. You’ll want to focus on the sub-sections of Demographics and Geo.

First, let’s look at the Demographics of Age and Gender.

As you can see, the majority of the following website visitors are aged 25-34, followed by those aged 35-44.

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Knowing this, your aim to create content that is geared towards, and valued by, young professionals. Some examples are tips for professional development and advice for managers leading a team of employees.

Understanding how old your website visitors are, and whether they’re male or female, is helpful if you’re looking to capture their attention when they land on your site.

For example, if 90% of your website visitors are women, you could deliver a more personalised website experience for them by starting your “About” or “Welcome” page with “Hey ladies!”

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Through analyzing the Gender section, you can see that the majority of your site visitors are female. It’s not skewed too heavily though, so you don’t want to tailor your site to females only. Digging in to the age and gender of your website visitors is useful if you want to craft creative content for your blog posts and website pages that captures their attention and gains their trust.

For example, telling your fans to “Treat yo self” to a free guide on your website isn’t going to resonate with individuals in their 60’s. However, it WILL get a chuckle from millennials.

Finally, you want to look to see where your website visitors are from. Looking at the Location tab under the “Geo” dropdown will show you the countries, states and cities of your website audience.

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When you first click “Location” you’ll be shown the list of countries. Not surprisingly, the majority of your website visitors are from the United States.

Looking at the different states is a great way to gain insight that can be levered for any AdWords or paid Facebook campaigns you’re going to run. You want to target those states and cities that you see are frequenting your site.

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You can see that New York dominates the results by a large margin. Clicking on the individual states will bring you to the list of cities, within that state, that your website visitors come from.

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If you don’t see your city as the top city, you might want to consider shifting your marketing strategy, and content, to target those in your geographic area.

Content Drilldown

Last but not least, it’s important to dive in to the content to see which pages people spend the most and least time on.

To do this, click the Behavior tab and go to the Site Content drop-down. You’ll want to look at the Content Drilldown, as well as Landing and Exit Pages to see which pages are most viewed on your website.

Content Drilldown is the overview of which pages on your website are visited the most.

Seeing which pages, and blog posts, are most viewed by your audience is helpful in guiding your web development strategy; you want to create more of what works.

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Through analysis, you can see your homepage and services page are the most popular. Now, you want to head over to the Landing Pages view in order to see what pages people are landing on when they get to your site.

The Landing Pages view is a good indicator of the effectiveness of your social media and promotional strategy, as you hope to see the blogs and website pages promoted most at the top.

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Analyzing the traffic of this page is a good way for me to assess both the value and popularity of the giveaway.

If you don’t see your most important and/or promoted blog posts and website pages in the list of the top ten landing pages, it’s time to either reevaluate their value and/or your promotional strategy to ensure you’re driving traffic to those pages through social media and email marketing campaigns.

Spending time in the behavior section will allow you to develop an awareness of what content your website visitors find the most valuable. You can use this as a guide for what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to blog topics and page types.

For example, if you notice that the top visited pages are all blog posts about social media, yet none of your design blogs are ranking in the top, you want to spend more time blogging about social than you do about design.

Conclusion

Google Analytics is an incredibly powerful tool.

By paying attention to the demographics of your audience, you’ll be able to create content and imagery that you know your audience desires. This allows you to craft a customised and relevant site experience for your audience that will keep them coming back for more. (Thereby increasing your direct traffic!)

When you start monitoring your referral traffic, you’ll start to see which guest blogs are helping to increase your online visibility. This will help you save time by focusing only on the guest blogs that provide a return (in the form of website visits) on your content creation efforts. Similarly, by diving in to your social referrals, you’ll be armed with data to decide exactly which social media channels are the best to share your blog posts on.

By utilising, analyzing, and focusing on these various sections within Google Analytics, you’ll have a deep understanding of who your audience is, what they want and how they find you.

Australian News: Google Analytics User Conference Sydney & Melbourne 2014

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Do you want to learn more about Google Analytics? Expand your knowledge of the latest news, get the first-hand, practical information and insights with the 2014 Google Analytics User Conference.

Google Analytics User Conference will be held in Sydney on 10th of September and in Melbourne on 12th of September. The keynote presentation for the conference will be delivered directly by Google Analytics Advocate, Justin Cutroni.

If you are involved in any aspect of web strategy, design, development, online marketing management, analysis or reporting, then you definitely need to attend this conference. Learn the latest techniques and trends directly from experts from Google and other leaders in the industry. Loves Data will once again be Principal Presenting Partner, along with Singapore-based Sparkline Analytics as a Presenting Partner.

Some topics that will be covered in the conference:

  • The latest Google Analytics features
  • Networking and interactive sessions
  • Marketing optimisation and analysis techniques
  • Technical best practices and walk-throughs
  • Learn Google Analytics tips from the experts

Here is an interview with Justin Cutroni and Benjamin Mangold at the 2013 conference:

Click here for more information about the conference.

12 Steps to Evaluate Your Content Effectiveness After Google’s “Not Provided” Policy

 

Content marketers might hate Google for its “Not Provided” policy before. However, a recent announcement from the company is going to make measuring content effectiveness just a bit more challenging.

In 2011, Google explained that it will no longer report the query terms that the user searched on to reach your site. Instead, they “created” the token ‘(not provided)’ within Organic Search Traffic Keyword reporting.

At that time, the world’s most popular search engine acknowledged that the source of approximately 10 percent of organic searches would become virtual unknowns because it was critical for privacy reasons not to reveal data tied to searchers logged into their Google accounts.

However, this month, Google announced that it would extend that privacy protection to its search engine users even when they aren’t logged into their accounts. It seems that content marketers can expect “Not Provided” to cover up to 100 percent of organic searches in Google Analytics. Google can point to privacy all day long, but marketers suspect that it’s really a deliberate measure to force website owners to use its AdWords product.

But this is not equal to the death of search engine optimization (SEO) or the website analytics that help drive content marketing business decisions for B2B and B2C companies. There are still many practical options available for measuring content effectiveness, including the following. Here are 12 optional ways to measure your content effectiveness:

1. Use your past keywords

No one really knows whether Google will hide Google Analytics anytime soon. However, it would be a good idea to organize and save any historic keyword data (including keyword phrases used over different periods of time in Google Analytics). By keeping old keyword data on hand (search terms people used, keywords that led to conversions, etc.), you will have a sense of what’s working in the future. In other words, if your future keyword rankings are comparable, you can loosely estimate that the keywords (assigned to “Not Provided”) are driving the same amount of traffic.

2. Use Google AdWords

Google isn’t so concerned with privacy that it won’t continue to provide keyword data for paid search customers who want to know what keywords people used before clicking on their ads. Now, it’s hardly organic data, but an AdWords account will provide some insights and an indication about whether a keyword phrase has any value. (It’s worth noting that Google won’t even give its paid ad customers access to the organic keyword data. They are kept “safe and secure” behind the “Not Provided” label.)

3. Use Bing and Yahoo!

Like other solutions for the “Not Provided” issue, you have to make some assumptions that may be off the mark. In other words, you can look at the traffic you get from Bing and estimate what you might be getting from Google — if your natural keyword rankings are comparable on both search engines. Though it’s still a bit of a leap to draw firm conclusions, the bottom line is that you have access to other data, and you can explore creative ways to leverage it. In August 2013, there were 19 billion U.S. searches, and 17.9 percent of the traffic went through Microsoft websites (Google websites represented 66.9 percent of searches, and Yahoo websites accounted for the remaining 11.4 percent)

4. Track your search engine rankings

There are multiple tools available to help you paint a somewhat accurate picture of your search performance (as rankings can vary by IP address, search engine data centers, and other variables). Combined with tools that forecast the number of monthly searches for keywords, ranking data will continue to be invaluable.

5. Make sure your conversion data is readily available

Track your forms and ecommerce sales with website analytics so you will at least know when organic “Not Provided” visitors influence some type of lead or sale.

6. Watch your landing pages

In your website analytics, landing pages are a critical area to study (given that search engine traffic affects that data). If you know your target keywords for the page, your rankings, conversion goals, and other estimated keyword search data, you can determine whether natural search engine traffic is helping those pages perform well for your company.

7. Use Google Webmaster Tools

For the time being, you can still analyze up to 2,000 keyword phrases over a 90-day period in Google Webmaster Tools. Again, grab that history for future reference — it’s anyone’s guess how long it will remain available.

8. Evaluate third-party offerings

Look for major enterprise SEO platform products to launch innovative products in the near future that supplement the search data that had been available via Google.

9. Try some web analytics “improvisation”

When “Not Provided” originally hit the scene in 2011, some online marketers started to devise ways to explore the potential of using other data to draw conclusions about the natural keyword data that had become inaccessible (e.g., through the use of filters and advanced segments in Google Analytics).

10. Use site search

You can get some insights from your internal site search that can capture keyword phrases that people use once they reach your website.

11. Review the anchor text of inbound links

Study the anchor text to see what types of keywords or phrases others use when linking to your website. While this won’t reveal the organic searches, it does provide another way to get a sense of what may be working (or to uncover keyword ideas).

12. Keep your other best practices in play

As central as keyword data is to SEO, content marketers have plenty of other tools, tactics, and strategies to help them stand out from the competition and measure their results, such as:

  • Create content that is high-quality and reflects buyer personas and business objectives.
  • Pursue inbound links from authoritative websites.
  • Develop ongoing relationships with influencers who may champion your cause, product or service.
  • Step up your efforts with social media.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is the most widely used web analytics solution available with almost two million websites (56% market-share) running the software and over 400,000 of the top one million most-visited sites on the Internet. It offers tremendous flexibility as it tracks site visitors, referring sites, search engine traffic and site activity – and it is free. A simple cut-and-paste of the javascript snippet before the </head> tag brings an onslaught of data about visitors’ interaction with your website! But how do you get started deciphering this treasure trove of information?
1. The Intelligence Report Explained
The purpose of the Intelligence Report is to alert you to important changes in traffic patterns. It is able to do this by performing statistical analysis on previous data and predict traffic values, compare metrics, and create automatic alerts based on: All Traffic, Visitor Type, City, Region, Country/Territory, Campaign, Keyword, Source, Medium, Referral Path, Landing Page, and Exit Page. These are displayed on the Intelligence Report in green. You are also able to create custom alerts based on: Visits, Visitors, Pageviews, Bounce Rate, Average Time on Site, Percent New Visits, Goal Conversion Rate, Goal Value, Per Visit Goal Value, Revenue, and Average Order Quantity. Custom alerts appear on the Intelligence Report color-coded blue. Because this requires a large enough sample size, the Intelligence Report makes most sense for sites with over 100 visitors per day and data going back at least one month. This report can be customized so that the information that is important to you is immediately available to you when you log in. It is also able to send you email notifications of specified alerts.
2. Using Motion Charts
Motion charts animate data allowing you to watch multiple metrics evolve over time using a slider. A motion chart is a viewing option for reports in Google Analytics that is accessed by selecting the tab with the 3 circles at the top right when you are looking at a full report screen.
Animating a report plots five dimensions: x-axis, y-axis, data point size, data point color, and time. You can adjust the speed of the animation, have it plot trails over time, highlight important data points by altering opacity, and change between bubble chart and bar chart. Here is a great video from the Google Analytics Youtube channel giving demonstrating a motion chart:
3. The Benchmarking Report
Essential to every effective business strategy is your ability to accurately track and intelligently evaluate your results. Google Analytics allows you to filter and view a tremendous amount of raw data, but what does this tell you about the success of your site? How do you know how your results compare to your competition? Google gives you the option to share your data anonymously and in return be given access to anonymous data from web sites similar to yours. The Benchmarking Report allows you to compare metrics from your site (no revenue or conversion data) with sites of a similar size within your industry that have also chosen to share their data anonymously.
Comparing information such as visits per day, bounce rates, time on site, and traffic sources can lead to meaningful insights into the effectiveness of your website and Internet marketing efforts.
4. Site Overlay Reporting
The Site Overlay Report allows you to view a page from your website with key metrics for each link displayed in a pop ups as you mouse over them. This gives you a visceral way to understand your visitors’ interaction with a given page. The default displays the number of clicks for each link, but you can easily customize the metrics you would like to view in the “Displaying” drop down menu found at the top of the report. This report is an HTML preview of your site, so you are able to follow the links to other pages on your site and view them through the Site Overlay as well.
5. Campaign Tracking
Google Analytics allows you to uniquely tag landing pages so that you can isolate data into different campaigns. This has many uses. One that I have found helpful is to create a campaign for my email signature. By adding some code to my homepage URL using the URL Builder tool and then using this link in my email signature, I am able to track just the metrics of visitors who get to my site through this link. It is also very useful to tag embedded links in digital media such as PDF files and multimedia presentations. Be careful not to tag links that will be visible to search engine robots – they will be indexed as different links to identical pages making it appear as duplicate content.
Google Analytics is a great tool for evaluating your online marketing efforts and generating reports that allow you to make data-driven decisions about your website. When you understand the metrics that are important to the success of your site, you get reporting that goes beyond raw data and answers questions. Learning how to use the features available in Google Analytics is a crucial first step to seeing what this data is showing you–the actionable insights that it contains. In order to take advantage of these metrics, you want to have clear conversion goals and know what information is helpful. If you do this, Google Analytics has the answers you need to build a successful website.
resources for learning how to use Google Analytics are: Google Analytics  http://www.youtube.com/user/googleanalytics.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics (GA) is a free service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about the visitors to a website. The product is aimed at marketers as opposed to webmasters and technologists from which the industry of web analytics originally grew. It is the most widely used website statistics service,[1] currently in use on around 57% of the 10,000 most popular websites.[2] Another market share analysis claims that Google Analytics is used at around 49.95% of the top 1,000,000 websites (as currently ranked by Alexa).[3] GA can track visitors from all referrers, including search engines, display advertising, pay-per-click networks, e-mail marketing and digital collateral such as links within PDF documents. Integrated with AdWords, users can review online campaigns by tracking landing page quality and conversions (goals). Goals might include sales, lead generation, viewing a specific page, or downloading a particular file. These can also be monetized. By using GA, marketers can determine which ads are performing, and which are not, providing the information to optimise or cull campaigns.