You’re an author. You have a website. And (if you’ve been properly advised) you have Google Analytics that allow you to regularly review your site traffic. But like many authors, you may be asking: “What do my analytics really mean?”
After all, when you log into Google Analytics, you’re likely to see a slew of numbers and terms you don’t know. And many authors are not exactly “numbers people” who naturally understand what all the tables, charts and digits represent. That’s okay.
Here are 10 specific things to look at in your Google Analytics, what they really mean, and what you should do as a result.
- Users (under “audience”): This is a pretty basic stat. It’s how many people visited your site in the time period you’re reviewing. “Users” is also subdivided into two segments: new visitors and returning visitors. So if 100 people visit your site in a given month, and half of them come twice, then you’d have 150 users, 100 new visitors and 50 returning visitors. Obviously, one of your primary goals in driving traffic to the site is to increase the number of users. Depending on your personal goals (selling books, building a fanbase, etc…) you may weigh new visitors more heavily than returning visitors, or vice versa.
- Pageviews (under “audience”): This is a pretty simple stat. It’s how many pages on your site were visited during that time period. So if you’re 150 visitors each visited an average of 2 pages each time they came, you’d have 300 pageviews. Again, the higher the better!
- Bounce rate (under “audience”): A “bounce” is considered a visit to your site in which only one page was viewed. So if someone came to your homepage, looked briefly at it and then decided, “nah, I was really looking for something else,” that would be considered a bounce. And your bounce rate is shown in percentages, so if, of your 150 visitors, 100 of them only looked at one page, your bounce rate would be 66%. As scary as this number may be, it’s actually not unprecedented. According to an article on GoRocketFuel.com, “As a rule of thumb, a bounce rate in the range of 26 to 40 percent is excellent. 41 to 55 percent is roughly average. 56 to 70 percent is higher than average, but may not be cause for alarm depending on the website. Anything over 70 percent is disappointing for everything outside of blogs, news, events, etc.”
- Mobile (under “audience”): Do you know what kind of device people are using to view your site? It’s important that you do. This stat will show you what percentage of your users are on desktop vs. mobile. If a large percentage is mobile, you will want to make sure that your site is mobile friendly.
- Geo (under “audience”): This cool feature will tell you which countries your visitors are coming from. Depending on the type of book you’ve written and where it’s available, this could be some very valuable information.
- Acquisition: This is a very, very important stat. It tells you where your visitors are coming from. And it’s broken down into three buckets: “organic” (which means people searching on Google/Yahoo/Bing and then clicking on a link to your site from search results; “referral,” which refers to links to your site from other sites (like Facebook, for example); and “direct” (which means people physically typing in the URL based on having read it or heard it somewhere). There are marketing efforts that can be put in place to increase all three of these, like advanced search engine optimization for organic, outreach to other sites/bloggers for referral, and making sure to include your site URL on your book jacket (direct). This stat is how you will know which of your efforts are effective.
- Site content (under “behavior”): This tells you which pages on your site people actually visited. It will break down for you all the pages that were visited, how many people visited each one, and how much time they spent on each page. If you look at very little else in your analytics report, this one is super important, because it gives you an idea of where on your site people are going and how long they’re staying there.
- Landing pages (also under “behavior”): A landing page refers to the page that someone entered your site through. And while authors commonly assume that most people come into the site through the homepage (and often they do), you may look at these stats and be surprised to learn that a large percentage of users are coming in through a blog post or your author bio. This information is important because it allows you to recreate the user experience, arriving with a fresh eye on something other than your homepage. What do they see there? Are there links to other parts of the site? An easy way to see/buy your book? You may consider adjusting what’s on these pages if you discover that a large percentage of users are entering through them.
- Users flow (under audience): This is a super cool feature of Google Analytics. It allows you to physically view the flow that users went through on your site. This visual demonstration allows you to see the pages people entered your site through, and then where most of them went from there. For those of you who prefer to see your stats visually, this may really open your eyes about where people are on your site.
- Exit pages (under “behavior”): So a landing page is where people came into your site. An exit page is where people left. If you look at the user flow and exit pages and notice that it’s, for example, the “buy the book” page that is your biggest exit page, then it’s time for you to pay some extra attention to what’s on that page. What is it that is boring or frustrating users enough that it’s making them leave? Take a look at your largest exit page and try testing a change or two to it. Try changing the copy that’s on that page, or add a photo to make it more engaging. Most importantly, make sure there are links on the page that allow people to keep reading if they’re interested. Play around with it and see if you can identify one or two small changes that might lower your exit rate on this page.
Whew! Now, all of this isn’t to say that Google Analytics will ever be easy or come naturally to authors. But hopefully, you will now know what to look at and what it means. And if you have questions, feel free to contact us for additional help!