How to Use Google Analytics To Grow Your Small Business

How to Use Google Analytics to Grow Your Small Business

Content Last Updated: May 11, 2023

You probably already know that when it comes to marketing your business, Google Analytics can be a very useful tool to tell you what’s working and not. But if you’ve tried to dive into the data, you may have run into some issues as Google Analytics isn’t the most beginner-friendly…

So how, then, do you use Google Analytics to grow your business without getting lost in a sea of numbers?

Great question! And trust us when we say that if you feel lost when you open up Google Analytics, you’re not alone. Instead of navigating through all the dashboards and making sense of all the data, we recommend people stick to a few of the basic (and, in our option, most immediately useful) reports.

This includes looking at key metrics like how people got to your site and what they did when they were there— so that the money and energy you are investing in your marketing is going to the right places.

If breaking down Google Analytics sounds like exactly what you need, keep reading– because, in this blog, we tell you exactly what data you should be looking at to grow your business and precisely where to find it!


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Why Your Marketing Data Matters

We can both agree that Google Analytics is a useful marketing tool. But why should you even care about your data?

Well, because knowing your data can save you from blindly throwing spaghetti at the wall, hoping something will stick.

What do we mean by that?

We meet with clients who spend their valuable (and limited) time, energy, and money in the wrong places.

One of our clients was spending 70% of their marketing budget on Instagram because they thought that it was their most important channel. But when we pulled the numbers, Instagram only contributed 20% of their leads and 10% of their sales. It was actually their blog posts that hadn’t been touched in over 6 months that were bringing in the most leads (60%), and their automated email sequences that were driving the most sales (40%).

In this example, it’s not that the platform wasn’t working; it was. But are those resources best spent there? Would they yield more of an impact somewhere else?

Marketing isn’t a gut feeling. It’s knowing your audience like you know your best friend. Creating marketing around their needs and pain points. And tracking it all so you can make better decisions based on what’s actually going to move the needle.

How small business owners can get the most out of Google Analytics

Before we dive into what key reports you should be looking at, it’s important that you’ve set up your Google Analytics properly and that you have at least a month or two of data to analyze.

If that’s not you— save this post for later, and check out our post on How to Set Up Google Analytics.

In order to figure out what reports to grab, we need to start with questions we want answers to. Here are some of the most important marketing questions your data can answer.

Question 1: Where is your traffic coming from?

You know that in order to grow your business, you need to reach new people! Maybe that means spending time on Instagram every day, engaging and posting great content, writing (or paying someone to write) SEO blog posts, or investing in ads.

There are a lot of ways to reach new customers, but how do you know what’s working and what channel these new customers are actually coming from?

First, consider what your end goal is. Is it to get them to submit a form? Purchase from your site? Book an appointment to see you?

Ideally, you’ve set up your Google Analytics to track your end goal as a conversion or event so you can see exactly which traffic sources drove leads, sales, or bookings for you. If you haven’t done this yet, don’t worry, you can still use this report. But instead of looking for conversions or events, you’ll just have to base it on how much traffic comes from each channel and how engaged that traffic is.

Which Acquisition Report Should You Use?

In Google Analytics 4 (GA4), there are two reports that tell you where your traffic is coming from. Don’t be fooled, they may look very similar, but they tell a very different story.

User Acquisition Report
This report tells you how people got to your website the first time they visited. So, if the first time someone visited your site, they clicked from a Google Search Ad. Then, they followed you on Instagram and clicked to your site a few days later from the link in your bio and made a purchase; that purchase would be attributed to the Google Search Ad.

Traffic Acquisition Report
This report tells you how people got to your website each time they visited. If the first time someone visited your site, they clicked from a Google Search Ad. Then, they followed you on Instagram and clicked to your site a few days later from the link in your bio, and made a purchase; that purchase would be attributed to Instagram.

Both reports can be found under Reporting > Acquisition.

Pro Tip: When looking at these reports, make sure you focus on the chart with the channel breakdown. For each channel listed, it tells you important data such as how many people used that channel (users), how many times your site was accessed from that channel (sessions), and how many conversions resulted from that channel.

What do the different channels mean?

  • Organic Search: Anyone who came to your site from a search engine (like Google, Bing, etc.) through an organic link (not an ad) will be included in this channel grouping. If you’ve been focusing on search engine optimization (SEO), you not only would hope to see this channel performing well but also improving/ growing MoM.
  • Referral: Any traffic that came to you from another website that doesn’t fall into any of the other categories would be included here. If you wrote guest blog posts, were featured on a podcast or other website, or if you’re listed in any directories, you may see regular referral traffic.
  • Social: Any traffic from social media platforms would most likely be accounted for here. However, If you’re running ads on social platforms and don’t use proper UTM tagging, this grouping will include both your organic and paid social. That isn’t ideal, as you’d want to know how well your paid ads are performing AND how well your organic social strategy is performing separately.
  • Direct: This is traffic that goes straight to your website. This includes people who bookmark your site and visited it later on or who typed your URL directly into their browser. Sometimes, your email marketing traffic can get lumped in here if you haven’t done an intentional job of UTM campaign tagging.
  • Paid Search: Traffic that came through a search engine (like Google, Bing, etc.) through an ad gets added here. Note, you must add UTM tags or turn “auto-tagging” on in the ads platform to have this separated from your Organic Search traffic.

Question 2: What channels are performing well (…or not well)?

AKA What channels are driving conversions on your site?

So you’re on an acquisition report, you’re looking through your channels, and your seeing numbers in each row. Now, what do you do with them? How do you know if a channel is performing well?

IF YOU HAVE CONVERSIONS OR EVENTS SET UP

Use the drop-down under “Conversions” or “Event Count” in the table header to toggle between which conversion you care most about (purchases, add to carts, leads generated, or just “all goals”).

This allows you to break down which channel brought in the most conversions– or which one has the highest conversion rate.

Ask Yourself: Is one channel bringing in significantly more conversions than any others?

If yes, it’s important to note that your business relies on that channel. Now, ask yourself, is the channel something like organic traffic or email that you own and is relatively stable? Or Is it more volatile in nature that requires constant feeding, like ads or social media?

Ask Yourself: Which channels have the highest and lowest conversion rate?

Look for which channel has a high conversion rate, is performing well, and bringing quality traffic to your website. That’s a channel that you may want to invest more into to grow your business.

Now, look for which channel has a low conversion rate or isn’t performing as well. If you care about this channel, or if it’s key to your strategy, you may want to look into improving and optimizing it. However, if you’re not tied to it, you may also want to consider reallocating your resources to other channels that are performing better (as long as it’s not a channel you’re reliant on for conversions).

Before making any of these key decisions, check both your User Acquisition and Traffic Acquisition reports. Sometimes, a channel does a great job bringing people to your site the first time but doesn’t play a huge role in nurturing and converting them. And that’s okay! It doesn’t mean that channel isn’t important.

IF YOU DO NOT HAVE CONVERSIONS SET UP

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get quite as full of a picture without conversions and/or events setup, but you can look at a few other metrics to get a general idea!

Ask Yourself: Which channels bring in the most traffic?

Does most of your traffic come from one or two channels? If yes, that means your strategy is heavily reliant on those channels continuing to work for your business. This can be dangerous. If this is the case for you, you’ll want to think about how you can grow other channels so you have a more sustainable marketing strategy.

Ask Yourself: Do any channels have a significantly lower engagement rate?

Your engagement rate is the % of people who visited your site for at least a minimal amount of time (it defaults to 10 seconds, but you can manually update it to up to 60 seconds), saw at least 2 pages, or completed a conversion.

If a page has a significantly lower engagement rate than the others, it could be because:

  • The page is getting the wrong people on it (i.e. people who have a problem you can’t solve),
  • The people on the page are not on the right page (i.e. landing on the contact us page when they aren’t ready to convert), or
  • Your page may not be doing a good job at engaging people, or something on the page is broken.

Question 3: Which pages on your site get the most traffic?

For most businesses, this is the homepage. But sometimes, the other top-viewed pages will surprise you! Sometimes it’s an old blog post you forgot you even wrote or a page on your site that you don’t keep up to date (it happens more often than you’d think).

To determine this for your business, You’ll want to navigate to the Pages and Screens (Under Reporting > Engagement).

In order to make it easier to navigate through this report, we recommend changing your rows to be organized by “page path and screen class” instead of page title (unless your SEO titles are dialled and you know exactly what each page is by the title).

Now take a look at those first few pages that get consistent traffic. When was the last time you checked them to make sure they were up to date? If it’s been a while… you might want to do that now (we’ll wait).

Finally, ask yourself the following questions:

  • If you have events or conversions set up, are the appropriate events/conversion happening on those pages?
  • If you expect people to sign up for your newsletter from your top blog posts, how many ‘form submits’ ‘CTA clicks’ or ‘leads generated’ events are happening on those posts?
  • If it’s a page someone is supposed to purchase on, how many of those events are happening?

And if you don’t have those events set up— we can help! We’re experts in helping you identify exactly what you should be tracking and setting it up for you so you know it’s done right and done well.

Question 4: Which pages bring the most traffic to your site?

One mistake we see people make is assuming that all traffic enters their site from their homepage. Lots of people will, but if you have an SEO strategy in place and/or a blogging strategy— you should see traffic entering from your blogs and your SEO-optimized landing pages. If you run ads, they should be funnelling traffic to specific opt-in or conversion landing pages.

To find out which pages (or posts) are bringing in the most traffic, check out the Landing Page Report (Under Reports > Engagement).

This report breaks down which pages people entered your site on. Do any of them surprise you? Again, do your prominent ones have up-to-date information?

As you look at this report, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which pages are bringing in the most sessions? Do all those pages have clear call-to-actions so your visitors know where they should go next from that page?
  • Do any of these pages have a really low “Average Engagement Time Per Session”? This number tells you if when someone landed on this page, they stayed on average for only a few seconds (meaning you probably need to give this page some TLC) or if they stayed for a longer period of time, meaning this page is doing a good job of capturing their attention and keeping them exploring your site.

Other things you can do in Google Analytics

This is just a small taste of all the magic that you can learn from your Google Analytics. For many small businesses, this is more than enough for the early stages while you’re DIYing your marketing and sorting out your systems.

But at some point, you’re going to want to take your business to the next level. And when you start thinking about scaling, you may start considering…

  • Hiring a contractor to support one or two marketing channels. When you do this, make sure that the $ you’re investing is actually paying off in revenue. Remember, not all marketing is good marketing. There are a lot of talented marketers out there, but unfortunately, many people don’t know what they are doing as well.
  • Investing in a professionally designed & developed website. For every big investment you make, you should ensure it’s worth it. Also, remember even the best-designed website and copy will need optimization occasionally. The only way to ensure your website stays awesome is to track it.
  • Experimenting with new content or channels. Maybe that’s making some YouTube videos. Maybe it’s launching a course. The only way to know how that fits into your existing strategy and how to connect it to your website is to, you guessed it, track it.

Google Analytics (with the help of a trained professional) can get you answers to the above questions.

When you’re company is still small, grabbing a few reports from GA4 will go a long way and give you enough information. But once you’re ready to take your marketing to the next level and invest more in your business’s growth, you’ll want to make sure the things you are doing are actually working.

Your GA4 setup will (and should!) look a bit different from any other business. As there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all setup (we wish!), we usually recommend reaching out to a specialist to set things up for you. With a custom setup, you’ll have complete clarity and confidence that what you’re spending time, energy, and money on is actually driving revenue.

If this is something you want, it’s something we offer with our Market Better With Data service! Book a complimentary consultation, and we’ll walk you through how it works.

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