Want to improve your site, but not sure where to start?
The answer is to begin with the data. Instead of randomly making changes you think you need, use actual user behavior to drive your updates.
If you have a website, there’s a good chance you’re already using Google Analytics. Today, nearly 40 million sites use Google Analytics—or GA as it’s sometimes abbreviated—and that number has been growing steadily for nearly a decade.
But despite the millions of users, many site owners are still completely confused about what their analytics have to offer. If you’re confused about all the data, you’re not alone.
But wouldn’t it be better if you could see through the dozens of pretty charts and graphs to what really matters?
Today, I’ll break down the 11 most actionable statistics. Study these and make changes based on their recommendations, and you’ll find precise places where you can improve your site’s performance and conversion rate.
1. How do you stack up against your competition?
One of the first metrics you should check is the benchmarks tab. This will tell you how you’re doing compared to other sites in the same industry.
Of course, this data isn’t 100% accurate because not all of your competitors may be using Google Analytics, but it’s better than nothing. It will also give you a general perspective on how your site is doing.
You may already have a good understanding of whether your website receives more or less traffic than your competition, but do you know how engaged your visitors are compared to your biggest competitors?
By comparing stats like average time on site you will get a better idea of how you stack up against your others competing with your audience and where you need to make changes to start improving your website.
2. Where do your visitors live?
You might assume all your visitors are from your local area—but you might be wrong.
To find this, go to Audience in the sidebar. Next, click on Geo, then Location.
I’ve found that using the map overlay feature in the country view is usually useless and doesn’t provide much insight about your visitors. It’s usually too broad to be actionable.
However, by drilling down to the city level you might get more useful information about your audience. Just click on City underneath the map.
For example, just because your business is based in the U.S. doesn’t mean that most of your traffic is coming from a U.S. city—the majority of your traffic could be coming from London.
Once you dissect the geo data and have an idea of where the majority of your audience is located, you can then modify your business to better suit these specific audiences.
3. Who’s buying, and who’s just window shopping?
If your product or service is a one-time purchase, your goal is to get more new visitors into your website. But if you’re looking for repeat business, then your goal is to increase your returning visitor count.
(Generally, the second option is better, since it’s easier to get existing customers to buy again than to find new customers for each purchase.)
You can use your analytics data to figure out who’s buying, who’s returning to buy, and who’s just browsing and then leaving. One good way to do this is by using cookies or referrer information to see different types of visitors.
4. How quickly are people leaving your site?
Getting more traffic to your website is one way to increase your sales, but another way would be to control how many people leave your website.
The percentage of people who leave your site after one page (instead of browsing around for a little bit) is known as your bounce rate. You can also check the time on site and time on page, which tells you how long people stick around.
If people aren’t staying, you may want to modify your website design or product offering so that it is more attractive. This is usually the easiest way to increase your revenue.
5. Are you compatible with the right browsers?
You may be an advanced computer user, but your customers may not be.
By finding out which web browsers your customers are using, you will be able to determine if your site is displaying correctly for them.
Right now, Chrome dominates the web—it has nearly 60% of worldwide market share. But that might not hold true for you.
For example, if 30% of your visitors are using Firefox, but your website isn’t compatible with Firefox, then you could potentially be losing a lot of business. The same goes for mobile browsers and different operating systems.
6. Are you compatible with the right screens?
If you flash back to 1990, people had very bulky monitors with low resolutions. But today, most people browse the web with high-resolution flat screen monitors, laptops, or mobile devices.
Today, there are about as many mobile users as desktop users, with tablets lagging far behind.
The screen resolution section in Google Analytics allows you to see what resolution your customers are using.
There are two things to look out for here. First, you can see if you have space to add more to your site. More isn’t always better, of course, but if most of your users have giant screens, you can use the space to provide them with a better experience.
But the opposite may also be true. If most of your users are on mobile devices or using low-resolution monitors, you need to optimize for their smaller screen size. A good way to do this is to use a responsive design that adapts to the dimensions of the user’s screen.
7. Who’s sending you traffic?
Referring websites will give you a better idea of how people are getting to your website.
While search engines might be a huge source of traffic for some sites, others might see referrals from other types of sites. If you suddenly get a burst of traffic from a website you have never heard of, go and check it out.
See if you can get a burst of traffic from that website again, or try to find other opportunities on similar sites.
8. Where do you rank on Google?
You may already know the keywords that drive traffic to your business, but have you tried to increase your rankings for those keywords?
If you notice a keyword is driving a lot of traffic to your site and you are showing up on page two of Google for that term, try to get on page one. Sometimes, the difference between pages two and one are just a matter of a few simple fixes.
Work to improve your on-page SEO, like linking to that page from other places on your site, including an image or two, and mentioning the keyword a few times.
Or if you want, you can sign up for Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords) and start a pay-per-click campaign for those keywords.
9. What products or services would interest your visitors?
Once you figure out what your visitors like and dislike, you can offer them new things that you think they’ll be interested in.
Or if people like one particular item, you can offer other products, services or even content that could complement that item.
As you grow your business, this is one of the best ways to start getting more sales from your existing traffic. In many cases, it is easier to up-sell current customers than it is to obtain new customers.
10. What causes people to leave your website?
Look to see where people are leaving, what pages seem to cause people to leave, and where you could make your content more interesting on those pages. Create better calls to action or add links to other places on your website.
This data will help you understand what people don’t like about your website and keep visitors around longer. You could also use Google Website Optimizer or my own SEO Optimizer to improve the performance of your web pages.
11. What are your goals?
It’s amazing how many people don’t have goals set up within their analytics account.
With Google Analytics, you can tie different user actions together into a goal. For example, you could have a goal of a completed purchase, a newsletter signup, or something else.
GA will automatically let you know what percentage of users meet this goal. It’s a great piece of information you can use to improve user flow to whatever your goal is.
If you don’t have goals, how do you know that you are meeting your numbers? If you don’t have goals in your Google Analytics account yet, it’s time to start! Make sure you tie in goal data with all of your other traffic stats.
Now, you’ve got a great idea of what actionable steps to take to improve your business’ website.
Looking through the data can be fun, but you really need to browse carefully to find the most important metrics to work on. Look for information on what your visitors care about, where they’re coming from, and how they’re viewing your site.
The great news about these metrics is that they never get old. You can keep improving your bounce rate, creating new products, and meeting visitor demands as long as your site is online.
Which technique will you use first to improve your site?