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Thom Craver

Measuring for Success Using Google Analytics

Thom Craver

With a nearly 80% market share, your site may be one of the tens of millions of sites that uses Google Analytics to track the performance of your website. But what does that mean for you? What metrics should you look at and focus on? The answer is, that depends on your goals.

Every website has a different reason for being. The goal of a retail website, for example, is to have visitors buy and complete a checkout purchase. Publishers want to sell ad revenue, likely from ad impressions. The more visitors a site has and the longer a visitor stays on-site, the more the publisher can charge for the ad. Other service-based businesses exist to collect leads, typically through some sort of contact or feedback form. Some non-profit organizations are looking for donations, sometimes through third-party, one-click services like PayPal. So every site should set up different goals. In Google Analytics, you need to be an administrator of the Google Analytics profile.  Click the Admin button in the top orange bar to get to the admin area, then click through the site name(s) in your account to get to the profile. Then find the Goals tab and click the large Create a Goal button.

Create a Goal in Google Analytics

You can track several different types of goals. The most common is Destination or when a visitor hits a specific URL. Often, this URL can be the result of a form submission. Duration and Pages per visit are called computed goals. That is to say they requires Google Analytics to count how many times a particular event happened. Duration involves counting how many minutes a visitor was on your site. Other computed metrics involve how many pages a visitor looked at during his or her visit to your site.

Event metrics are a unique case. Using JavaScript, you can set certain actions to trigger an analytics event. Then track that event as a goal.

For example, if you have a link to your Facebook profile on your website, you can track the number of times people clicked that link to leave your site. The code is fairly straight-forward. On any anchor link, you add an onClick() handler and pass it some Google Analytics code. onClick() handlers are basically a way of telling the browser, when the users clicks this tag, perform this particular action. It looks something like this:

<a href="http://somesite.com" onClick="javascript:_gaq.push(['_trackEvent','External Link', 'Click',this.href]);">Some Site Link</a>

The use of this.href allows you to use the same generic onClick() handler to tag all your links. It will append whatever the href parameter is in your link.

When you set up your goals for an Event, you're asked for a few items: Category and Action are mandatory. A label and monetary value are optional. In the example above, the category is External Link; the action is Click.  To track individual links, the href value is added as the label. In the above example, the label would be: http://somesite.com. This method of tracking can be used for any links - social media profiles, donation links or other third-party sites you may link to.

You can't determine how your site is performing without tracking it's progress and what you're visitors are doing. Looking at goals is merely one piece of the puzzle. Set goals and tag your outbound links and you'll have insight to your visitors like a boss.

Thom Craver is an international speaker, digital strategist, author and adjunct professor. He specializes in SEO and Web analytics. His last article for SEMrush was "Getting Started With Local SEO."

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