1. Add a note to the Google Analytics timeline when you make a change to your website.
Adding a quick note in Google Analytics every time you make a change to your website can be enormously helpful towards helping you understand the direct effects of your changes.
Three months from now, when you're looking over your site traffic trends in Google Analytics and trying to figure out why your bounce rates jumped up on April 12th, you probably won't remember making any changes on that day. But if you added a note, you'll see a little bubble (from yourself) right before the bounce rate spike, and you'll instantly have an idea of what caused the change.
How to add a note to your Google Analytics timeline: On any screen in Google Analytics, double-click on the point on the graph for the day you made your change. This will bring up a text field that will allow you to make a note.
2. Find out what you're doing right by segmenting your visitors
Don't spend all your time in Google Analytics investing things that you think are wrong with your website. It's equally important (if not moreso) to be aware of what you're doing right. Even if this is your first website and you feel like you have no idea what you're doing, chances are you're still doing a couple good things that are engaging site visitors.
Advanced Segments (which aren't actually that advanced...they're pretty easy) help you focus your Google Analytics reports on different types of visitors. For example, you can focus on visitors who DON'T bounce and see which pages they came in on, and which pages they were interested in.
3. Understand all of your visitors better in one click with Visitors Flow
If there is one page in Google Analytics that can tell you the most about your visitors, it's Visitors Flow. If you click nothing else in Google Analytics, click Visitors Flow and stare at it for a couple minutes. It's a single picture that's worth a thousand lessons about your visitors.
Visitors Flow is several reports combined into one:
- Referral sources
- Top landing pages
- Second, third, and fourth page clicked
- Page stickiness
But the real value in the Visitors Flow screen is that it gives you a comprehensive feel for how your visitors (all of them) use your website.
4. Use "Intelligence Events" to explain seemingly-random traffic changes
If you keep a close eye on your traffic, you'll occasionally see major spikes (and drop-offs) in your pageviews. You'll get curious, log-in to Google Analytics, check out your Top Pages, and maybe notice quickly that one of your landing pages has jumped in rank, traffic-wise.
But sometimes you won't be able to figure out where the sudden traffic spike (or dip) came from. You'll scratch your head and think "Huh. I'm happy that my traffic doubled today, but I have no idea why."
This is where the Intelligence Events feature comes in. Glance at Intelligence Events and you'll see an alert like "Overall traffic jumped 200% today." Then you can click on that report, and figure out the different theories Google Analytics has about what caused the spike (it'll give you a confidence rating like "95% sure the traffic jump came from X").