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Google Analytics: Where to Start?

Uh ... now what??

The code is on your site. You know your data is clean. It's time to start doing something really awesome.

But what do you do now? How do you get started?

Step Back

Start by logging out of your GA account. Take out a piece of paper. Now, ask yourself, "Why does my site exist?" "What has to happen for a visit to be successful?" "Under what circumstances was a visit a failure?"

Starting from this point, begin to create a list of questions. Don't even think about what reports are available yet. We'll get to that later. Just list the questions you (or your boss) need answers to.

Questions should be focused on business goals and customer experiences. Rather than asking "Which page has the highest bounce rate?", ask "Which of my pages are underperforming?" The first question will give you a single metric, the second will take into account the context of the page, the marketing used to get to the page, the goals of the site, etc. In other words, worthwhile questions will probably require multiple reports to answer.

Another Hint: If you really can't think of any questions, or if you've already exhausted your list and you're now looking for more, try Analytics Intelligence. It's a great starting point.

Your list of questions might be short. That's okay. In fact, it might be preferable initially. Expect your list of questions to change over time.

In practice, you will be creating lists of questions regularly. Maybe weekly. And as you answer questions, you will likely replace them with other, more refined questions.

As you complete your list of questions, you still should be logged out of Google Analytics. Dont let the colorful graphs and shiny reports sidetrack you yet - now comes the important part.

Finding Answers

Now it's time to look at that list of questions and think about what elements would provide answers or clues. Good, worthwhile questions probably require multiple measurements to get a complete answer.

It may be best to think about it anecdotally. For example, if you want to know which marketing methods are not performing adequately, you might imagine a potential customer clicking on your ad. If they leave immediately, that probably means something went wrong. It could be a disconnect between the marketing and the landing page. If they stay on the site but go to a different area than you expected, it may represent a failure of the marketing to communicate the intended message. Think of all the scenarios that would indicate a failure.

Begin to Analyze

Now is the time to start matching up indicators with reports. This will vary with each site. You may decide for your site that a mixture of time on site, time on page, bounce rate and conversion rate give you an indication of the success of a particular campaign. Determining how to weight these metrics will depend on the site and the marketing.

After analyzing your reports in this manner, you should be able to create a to-do list. The to-do list could include items like "Perform A/B testing on landing page", "Stop funding campaign 123", "Send more email newsletters", "Purchase a web log analysis tool", etc.

The Cycle of Life

As you optimize your site and campaigns, your questions will change. They will become more refined. As one area is perfected, other areas in need of your attention will surface. This should be a cycle of asking, optimizing and testing until your site is finally so perfect that every visitor who comes to your site can't help but download your mobile app or give you money. That's the idea, at least.