If you're not up to speed on Google Analytics best practices, even this free tool could still be a waste of your valuable resources. The following mistakes are common among many SMBs, yet are some of the easiest to course correct:
1. You Haven't Set Up A Dashboard
Think of your GA dashboard like the one in your car: It has mission critical information as to how the engine is running. Fortunately, it's also customizable. To get a handle on your web traffic, set up a dashboard that focuses on the data most important to your business. Different businesses will be focused on varying data points, but many opt to include page views, bounce rates and top referring sites at a minimum. Here are some tips from Google on setting up your dashboard.
2. You Don't Have Set Goals
Driving traffic to your site isn't a goal that will keep you in business, yet most SMBs don't know what they want their website to do. It might be a money saving operation, such as having your website host documents or downloadable forms that used to be handled by an administrative assistant. If you're in e-commerce, there are goals for measuring how well email campaigns are converting, as well as which items are your top sellers. Get ahead of the competition by setting up goals that track relevant conversion paths. Check out this guide from Google on creating goals.
3. You Didn't Set Up Google Webmaster Tools
Among many other assets, Webmaster Tools enables you to see how your business ranks in search results, compare your query to similar or nearby towns and find keywords you hadn't considered before. Furthermore, the data can't be added retroactively, so even if you work with a marketing partner, it isn't possible to recreate this information.
4. You're Not Looking At Behavior Flows
Don't let all the wavy lines fool you. Behavior Flow provides valuable information as to how and why your visitors use your site. Go to Behavior > Behavior Flow to find a chart of your users' behaviors on your site. This shows referring sites and what your visitors click on as they travel through your web pages — insight that isn't possible to gain in a brick and mortar store.
5. You Aren't Tracking Your Email Campaigns
This might seem most relevant to e-commerce sites, but understanding what your visitors click on provides key insight into how your offerings answer their needs. Under Admin > Custom Definitions > Custom Metrics, create a metric called "email opens" and make it active. When you create an email, all you have to do to track conversions is to cut and paste some code into the email.
It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the numerous metrics and tools within the GA dashboard, but these best practices will put you on the right track.