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How Google Analytics Helps Solve Your Website's Mysteries

"Data! Data! Data!" he cried impatiently. "I can't make bricks without clay." Even Sherlock Holmes, the greatest detective literature has ever known, knew that hard, empirical evidence is critical for analytical deductions. With an incredible wealth of knowledge available to Internet marketers, it's easy to argue that all decisions on the web should be backed by data. Google Analytics--an extremely powerful and free tool from Google--can reveal a lot about a website’s traffic, if you know what to look for.

Mobile Motives: What devices are visitors using?

Traffic from tablets and mobile devices is higher than it's ever been. Google Analytics allows businesses to see how visitors are coming to their site through a number of devices. Why does this matter? The goals of a mobile visitor and a desktop visitor are often very different. A mobile visitor might be looking for directions to your location or a way to contact your business, while desktop users might want to learn a bit more about your product offerings.

Google Analytics Clue #1Check out the "Mobile Overview" under the "Audience" tab for a breakdown of devices users are using to visit your site.

The Usual Suspects: Finding your target audience

Understanding your target market is Business 101. Most business owners can probably give you a general idea of where their customers can be found. The challenge is discovering and tapping potential markets. It's tough to know where to start. Enter: Demographics. This handy tool gives you a mapped overview of where your web traffic originates, all the way down to the city!

Check out the example below. This company, based out of Florida, sees most of its traffic from surrounding counties.

Little did the owners know, an engaged market was emerging in New York. These visitors accounted for over 4% of their total site traffic. When we drill down even further, we find that just over 2,700 visitors came from New York City. This is equal to about 4% of the total site traffic for that month, too. This type of granular information is an invaluable tool for marketers and business owners alike.

Google Analytics Clue #2Check out your traffic demographics under the "Audience" tab.

Suspicious Activities: What are your visitors doing on your site?

Knowing how and why visitors leave your site is another important metric to consider when making decisions about your website. Often referred to as "leakage," analytics data can show which pages visitors leave from most often. This type of data helps provide insight into how visitors are perceiving your site content or design, and identify deficient pages. The result: visitors stay on-site longer and find the information they're looking for more easily. Keep in mind that some pages are supposed to have high exit percentages. This includes confirmation and logout pages.

Google Analytics Clue #3You can see the exit percentage for a page by visits the "All Pages" tab under "Site Content."

With a better understanding of these and other tools within Google Analytics, you can solve some of your company’s greatest website mysteries. Really, it’s elementary, my dear Watson.