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How to harness the power of Google Analytics for your business.

In my last column, I touched on using Google Analytics (GA) to make sure you’re getting the most out of your Search Engine Marketing. Now let’s dig a little deeper.

One of the simplest and most valuable features to use is Goals. Goals are how you tell Google Analytics what to keep track of, from leads to newsletter sign-ups. To begin your custom setup, use the “Admin” button and then click “Goals,” then “+ Goal” from one of the goal sets (which help you easily group goals together). Choose a name that quickly reminds you what you’re tracking. You can toggle between active and inactive if you don’t want to track all your goals all the time, but because GA uses all your goals when compiling data, be aware you can’t go back and eliminate now-inactive goals from your historical data.

Tracking visitors

Goal types include URL Destinations, which keep track of how many people visit a specific URL. If you’ve got a posted special or a seasonal message with its own URL, this feature will tell you how many visits it gets. You can use goal funnels to track the movement of each visitor through your marketing funnel; for example, you can see at which point in the funnel the majority of visitors left, which may mean that point needs some work. It lets you track through 10 steps, but is only really useful if you’re trying to get visitors to move through a series of pages.

Visit Duration and Pages/Visit goals are pretty self-explanatory; the former tells you how many people stick around for a set period of time, or tracks visitors who spend too little time on a page, while the latter tracks the number of pages people visit before they leave. You can also set pages or screen per session goals.

Setting Event Goals is a little less straightforward, but once you have your events set up, you can easily select an event as a goal. An event can be a download, a visit to an external link (for example a manufacturer’s site), how much time a visitor spends watching a video or whether they used your social media button, just as a few examples.

Of course, in a retail business, the bottom line is key, and you can use GA to track any activities tied to revenue, such as leads.

Urchin Tracking Modules

If you really want to get down deep in your analytics, you can use UTM parameters. Urchin Tracking Modules (UTM) were named after the software company acquired by Google more than a decade ago that laid the groundwork for GA; they’re basically tags you can add to a URL to know in detail how people got there; for example, you can know how many visitors came from a particular tweet on Twitter.

Various UTM parameters are available, such as campaign source (a required parameter that identifies the source of your traffic) and campaign name, with which you can identify the results of a specific promotion. To get the most out of GA, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with UTM codes, and Google Analytics has a comprehensive Help feature that will lead the way.

While I hope this column has sparked you to make use of Google Analytics, remember that I don’t have space here to be exhaustive. Check out GA for yourself, explore, and discover how it can work best for your individual business.

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