Tuesday, April 26, 2011 9:26 AM
Picture this: it's a Monday morning, and you're going about your usual business of monitoring activity on the company website. You comb through the information on Google Analytics. The landing and exit pages are trending in a predictable pattern, your AdWords campaigns are doing well, and most factors appear to be normal. However, the Google Analytics pageview graph shows an inexplicable bump in last week’s data…an increase in homepage visits.
A co-worker suggests that this may be a fluke occurrence, with consumers making purchases in anticipation of the weekend's activities. However, neither of you can recall this type of increase in weeks past – was it there, but less pronounced? The only way to tell if this is anything out of the ordinary is to compare this week's numbers to those from previous weeks.
Google Analytics has a handy built-in feature which will allow you to compare data between any time periods.
Comparing dates, step by step:
- When looking at the chart you’d like to analyze you’ll notice a calendar in the top right hand corner. Select the first time period you’d like to compare.
- Check the “compare to past” option, and two more date boxes will pop up.
- Repeat the same process to select dates.
- After clicking “Apply,” two results will show up instead of just one, each in a different color. These colors will correspond with the colors on the calendar, representing your chosen dates.
Now you have a handy visual aid with which to make comparisons of your data.
If you notice a discrepancy in traffic, the first place you should look is the Traffic Sources section, found on the left hand side of your screen, just below the “Visitors” option.
Let’s look at this a little closer: Traffic Sources
What changed in the time between those two data sets? Goggle Analytics can provide you with a wealth of information in order to get you started.
On this day, after seeing the bump in your pageview data, you head to the Traffic Sources tab to see what might have caused the increase. Using Google Analytics’ date comparison tool, it quickly becomes evident that the percentage of your traffic coming from Referring Sites jumped significantly around the time of the pageview increase. This knowledge is helpful, but vague. Google Analytics allows you to take it one step further in order to truly pin down the source of your increased traffic.
By clicking on the “Referring Sites” option under the Traffic Sources heading, the data will be broken down even further to show you the individual URLs that have sent visitors to your website. Now you can see that at the time of the bump, hundreds of visitors were directed to your site by a blog. You go to the website in question and come across a very flattering review of your product that has multiple hyperlinks to pages on your own website.
You contact the blogger and ask if he might consider a partnership, promoting and linking to your site in exchange for you doing the same. He willingly agrees, and that unusual bump you first noticed becomes commonplace, as traffic continues to increase and conversion rates rise.
By tracking your data in real-time and comparing it to previous weeks’ results, you were able to spot a change and take steps to ensure that it benefits your company in the long run. Google Analytics gives you a one-click way to seamlessly compare days, weeks, months, or even years of data. Even if you don’t see an unexpected change in your recent data, take the time to play with current and past stats a bit, comparing them for subtle differences. You may be surprised at the patterns you find. Finding those patterns may lead to a positive change in your marketing practices.