the eye-opening world of google in-page analytics.

To hear Avinash Kaushik, one of the world’s foremost analytics evangelists, speak — as I was fortunate enough to do at SIMTech10 — would make anyone with a pulse want to dive into researching more about their website traffic. The hitch, of course, is finding the time to do so. But with the recent rollout of Google’s In-Page Analytics Beta, you can get eye-popping measures on your key pages in an instant.

If you have Google Analytics linked to an account, you start by logging in, selecting View Report, clicking Content (upper left) then choosing In-Page Analytics [Beta]. It will then pull up your top page in a window with various traffic metrics as well as which links visitors clicked. Like so:

Screen capture of Oswego home pageOn some browsers, if you open up another tab within your analytics account (for me, anything on oswego.edu), pages will have in-page metrics superimposed … which means you can surf various areas of the site for a quick read on how users interacted.

Of course, this brings other contextual considerations:

1. All bounces are exits but not all exits are bounces. I want to say Hubspot‘s Kyle James made this summation at HighEdWeb10, the best definition of it: A bounce is when someone hits their first page on your site and next leaves your site, while an exit means they have visited one or more pages of your site before departing. If someone surfs a bunch of pages, finds what they are looking for and then leaves, then this exit is not necessarily unglorious. Generally, you’d wince at a high bounce rate — do you want people visiting just one page of your site? — although there can be mitigating factors … if your home page is the default in computer labs when a machine is turned on, you could expect a high bounce rate.

Where do you want a low bounce rate? For specific landing pages meant to steer people to find more information or take actions. Thus this page having a bounce rate of 0.0%, presuming it’s not an error, is outstanding:

I mean, about a week with 274 visits and every one passes along to either a desired action (apply, check out majors, schedule a tour, see costs and scholarships) or another navigational element — and none leave — is that even possible? I guess so, but it brings us to another key consideration:

2. Sample size. You want to see what works and what doesn’t, but a day or two does not a pattern make. Especially if any of those days is a weekend, when our traffic is decidedly lower, results may be atypical. But if you see patterns emerge on a well-trafficked page for a week or two, you can draw more reasonable conclusions. For instance, over the course of a week, I’ve seen that home-page news items listed as having video tend to draw 5 to 6 times more clicks than those without. That’s a fairly remarkable difference, though one next wonders if the content itself is more compelling, with or without the indication video is available.

3. Be prepared to be wrong. We all make assumptions about our websites all the time. “People often skip to our A-Z Index instead of navigation.” “Topic navigation is more useful than audience navigation.” “Users won’t scroll.” Wrong, wrong and wrong. Maybe it’s because we installed drop-down accordion menus on our home page (among others), but our A-Z Index generally draws less than 5 percent of traffic there, and much less throughout the site. Topical navigation sees much higher clickthroughs than A-Z, but audience navigation (especially Prospective Students, Current Students and Alumni) appears very strong in some areas. As for scrolling, long pages with good content get just as many clicks farther down as they do above. People will indeed scroll for content they want.

These are only a few thoughts and tips. I have to admit jumping into analytics — especially a tool as rich as In-Page Analytics — is a bit overwhelming, and certainly a learning process. But so far, I definitely think it’s worth it!

3 Comments

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3 responses to “the eye-opening world of google in-page analytics.

  1. Thanks for the great insights. I’ve always had a hard time wrapping my brain around the difference between bounce rate and exit rate. The explanation you share from Kyle James goes a long way in clearing that up. Thanks!

  2. Tim Nekritz

    I think I was a bit intimidated and overwhelmed by it at first, but I’ve found it fairly easy to use. Again, the main limitation is available time.

  3. Pingback: Taking Google’s In-Page Analytics Out for a Spin « View from the Trenches

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