In this post, we give a quick overview of Google analytics and its close cousin Google search console. We then outline when you do need Google analytics and when it is not worth your time and trouble. We finish with a short overview of where you can learn how to use analytics.
We only cover Google analytics here because Google has the largest market share of any search engine. Bing has its own analytics tool that provides some useful insights.
What Is Google Analytics?
What is Google analytics? It is a free software tool that allows you to measure and analyse visitors to a webpage. It can actually do more, but for our purposes this definition is sufficient.
Google analytics is not perfect. It certainly has some useability issues and there are alternatives available. However, if you need data on your website performance, then it is the best place to start.
Analytics allows you to understand your website visitors. Where they come from, who they are (demographics) and how they behave on your webpages. If you run a marketing process analytics allows you to track touch points and conversions.
What Is Search Console?
Google states: ‘search console is a free service offered that helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your site’s presence in Google Search results’. Analytics allows you to track visitors to your site, whereas search console allows you to check and monitor the performance of your site.
Search console (formerly known as webmaster tools) also delivers more data on the pages of your site. It shows how users interact with pages and the queries they use to find those pages. If you do in house SEO, search console also provides data on incoming, outgoing and internal links.
You do NOT Need Google Analytics IF
If digital marketing is not part of your marketing process then you don’t need analytics. If you are using Adwords, display or social Ads then you do not necessarily need Google analytics. They all have their own interface and analysis tools that can be adequate for simple campaigns.
If your website is part of your marketing mix but you use an external agency for SEO, social or digital ads then you should not need analytics. Any decent agency will compile data from Google analytics and other tools and report on their findings.
You could maintain a website as a branding exercise. If the website exists as a resource hub or to build credibility with existing clients the need for analytics is debatable.
Finally, if, for whatever reason, your website traffic will always be low (let’s say less than 100 organic visits per month) then the returns may not justify the effort needed to learn the analytics tools.
You DO NEED Analytics IF
If SEO is part of your marketing mix and you work on search engine optimisation in house then you absolutely do need Google analytics. If you are using Adwords or social then Google analytics gives you more data and more capability to track campaigns and conversions.
If you are trying to increase traffic to your website and/or increase conversions of that traffic into customers then without analytics you will be stumbling around in the dark.
Finally, if you would like to keep a check on the performance of any agency you employ then you may wish to invest resources in analytics. This decision ultimately comes down to trust.
How To Learn Google Analytics
If you decide you need Google analytics and install it on your website that’s great. If you then do not spend time learning how to use the tool you could make all sorts of wrong assumptions.
One quick example. You could look at the bounce rate on your Google analytics home page. It may state your bounce rate is 80%. There is plenty of information online that will tell you that is bad.
That might be true, but a high bounce rate could be a good thing. It depends on what your objectives are. The important thing to understand is how Google analytics calculates bounce rate.
There are many free Google Analytics courses available online. We recommend Google analytics for beginners course. If you want to take the course assessments it will probably take six or seven hours of your time to complete. You can also flick through the information, understand what you need and leave the rest for another day.
Before diving in and using any digital marketing tool it is always a good idea to check it is 100% something you need. There may be a cost involved. There will always be a hidden cost based on the amount of time you need to invest in learning how to use the tool. If you are taking on SEO in house, we suggest you definitely do need Google analytics. If not the decision is less straightforward.