Picture this: it's a Monday morning, and you're monitoring activity on the company website using 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 increase 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 Timeframe Data in Google Analytics
In the Google Analytics dashboard notice a calendar in the top right hand corner. Select the first time period you'd like to compare.
Check the "compare to" and "previous year" option. You can also compare to the previous quarter, or two custom timeframes.
Now what? When you have a discrepancy in traffic, the first place to look is the Traffic Sources section, found on the left hand side of your screen, just below the "Visitors" option.
Traffic Sources and Referrals in Google Analytics
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 "Referrals" option under the All Traffic 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.
Tracking Data in Google Analytics
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.
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