This is the square one solution that you’ve been looking for.

I tend to rave a lot about advanced data and complex testing.

But what if you’re just getting started? I’m talking about a level of knowledge where you’re like, “Um, can someone please tell me how to find Google Analytics?”

Illustration of a computer screen displaying Google Analytics

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I feel you.

I was often the kid in the class who wanted to ask the question, but didn’t because I was afraid everyone would think I was dumb.

But you’re not dumb. And you need answers to the basic questions in marketing and conversion rate optimization.

So here’s the deal. If you’re in digital marketing, you need to know about conversion rate analytics.

You need to understand conversion analytics because you need to know what works, what doesn’t, and how to make it better.

When people visit your website, you’re expecting them to take some sort of action. You might want them to sign up for your email list, buy a product, or fill out a form.

When they do follow through on that action, that’s called a conversion.

Illustration of "conversion" as with images of pages and stacked coins

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But what are the factors that contribute to the highest conversion rate? Is it your awesome ad copy? Is it the user-friendliness of your site? Your images? The customer’s sheer desire? Does the product sell itself?

To answer those questions, you’ll need to run some tests. For example, you might compare the copy in one ad to another ad to see which works better.

And when you do that kind of testing, you need to know which option gave you a higher conversion rate.

That’s why it’s important that you know how to read your analytics. However, if you’re new to this analytics thing, all those percentages and metrics might be foreign to you.

Don’t worry. I’m here to help.

I’m a huge believer in data. Why? Because it works. Numbers don’t lie. Data tell us what we need to know without hesitating, hoping or otherwise messing up our lives.

If you’ve visited my site, you’ve probably seen this — one of my favorite quotes. “In God & Google we trust; everyone else bring data.”

It’s a riff off of a quote attributed to Edwards Deming …

Photo of Dr. W. Edwards Deming and his famous saying, "In God we trust. All others must bring data."

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Why am I so insistent upon data?

Because data is the only path to conversion optimization success.

But merely saying “data” — that unadorned and all-encompassing word — is not enough.

We have to understand the data.

I’m consistently surprised at how many people simply don’t understand the data. I wrote this guide with a passion to help digital marketers and marketing directors to really understand the numbers and be able to translate those numbers into actionable tasks that improve their website.

How you can dominate conversion analytics.

1. Get Set Up With Google Analytics

Google Analytics lives up to its name. Twice over.

First of all, it’s a Google tool so you’ll have some insight about your website from the undisputed search engine champion. That alone will help you with your SEO and CRO efforts.

Also, it offers a wealth of analytics that are indispensable to any upstart webmaster.

Almost everything you could want to measure about your website traffic and conversions, you’ll be able to with GA.

The icing on the cake is this: Google Analytics is free.

Screenshot of the Google Analytics dashboard

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It’s not difficult to get set up with GA, although it might seem intimidating if you’re completely new to web development.

Begin by following the simple process to get started with Google Analytics.

Once you have an account and property set up, you’ll need to copy the tracking code to your website. That tracking code is a bit of JavaScript that tells Google Analytics what’s happening on your website. It needs to be on every page, but the easiest way around placing it again and again is to put it in the footer, which loads with every page.

It’s good practice to put the tracking code in the footer, at the bottom of the page, so that if the JavaScript takes a moment to execute it won’t slow down the speed of your site.

It’s important that your site loads as quickly as possible because Google uses page speed as a ranking factor. Besides, slow websites kill conversion rates.

Once you’ve set the tracking code, it’s time to hurry up and wait.

Unless your website gets an enormous amount of traffic, you probably won’t see quality analytics for a couple of days. Give Google Analytics time to work its magic and then review your metrics.

This is just the start. Adding Google Analytics to your site should be the very first task that you do as you begin to embrace the wonderful world of conversion rate data.

2. Set Up the Right URL

You want someone to take some kind of action on your site, right? And when that does happen, you need some way of notifying Google about the action.

You’ll do that with a URL.

For example, if you have a landing page with a call to action (CTA) button to make a purchase, you’ll take the person to a new URL to complete the transaction.

It’s that URL that you want Google Analytics to monitor. Make sure there are no other URLs similar to that one on your site.

For example, if your conversion URL is http://example.com/buynow, there shouldn’t be any other URLs that begin with http://example.com/buynow.

The URL must be unique.

3. Set Up Goals

One thing you can do while you’re waiting on GA to collect data is to set up your site for goals.

What are goals? Well, once again, our goals are conversions.

Unfortunately, Google Analytics has no idea what your goals are when you first set it up. You’ll have to inform the tool about what conversions you want to track.Annotated screenshot of Google Analytics navigation menu highlighting dropdown menu with Conversions > Goals > Overview

That’s not too difficult, though.

Go into GA and view All Site Data for the website you’re working with.

On the left-hand side bar, scroll all the way to the bottom and click on “Conversions.” Under it, click on “Goals” and then “Overview.”

Then, in the main screen, you should see a button labeled “Set up goals.” Click on that.

A table will appear and it should be empty. In the header of the table, you should see a big red button labeled “+ NEW GOAL.” Click on that.

Screenshot of Google Analytics "New Goal" button

Although it looks like there are numerous options on the next screen, you’re really only looking at two. You can set up a goal from a template or create a custom goal.

Click on “Custom” (at the bottom) and then “Continue.”

Screenshot of Google Analytics Goal Setup form

A new page will appear with “Goal Description” near the top. Give your goal a descriptive name (something better than Goal One, maybe).

Under “Type,” select “Destination.” That will be your destination URL, which you’ll identify in the next step.

Screenshot of Google Analytics Goal Description page

You can leave the default “Goal Id 1/Goal Set 1” for now.

Click on “Continue.”

As I said, on the next screen, you’ll enter your destination URL. Leave the drop down in front of the URL field set to “Equals to.” That means you want an exact match of the URL that you enter into the field.

Screenshot of second page of Google Analytics Goals setup form

There’s a toggle switch right below the URL field that’s labeled “Value.” Switch that to “On” if the conversion puts cash in your bank account.

Keep in mind: if the click of the button just sends someone to a shopping cart, that’s a great conversion, but it doesn’t immediately put cash in your pocket. The buyer could easily abandon the shopping cart.

On the other hand, when the buyer clicks the final “Confirm Order” button that causes money to change hands, then you can put a value on the conversion.

If you do decide to flip the “Value” switch, enter the dollar value amount of the conversion. For example, if you’re selling products for $100 each, then you would enter $100 in the value.

Leave the “Funnel” switch off for now. It’s great for tracking someone from initial interest to an actual sale, but right now you’re just getting started.

Finally, click “Save” to save the goal.

Congratulations! You now have a goal set up to track your conversions.

This is where things get exciting. You’re beginning to gain the real, tactical, actionable, and powerful data that will put your conversion optimization game into real life.

4. Analyzing Your Conversions

Once you’ve set up a goal, you’ll need to go into “hurry up and wait” mode again. That’s because it will take Google Analytics a little while to collect data on your conversions.

Don’t worry. It’s worth the wait.

After a few days, fire up GA again and click on the “Conversions” option at the bottom of the left-hand sidebar. Select “Goals” and “Overview” again.

This time, the main screen will show you a graph with some tables.

Screenshot of Google Analytics Goals Completion Overview report

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The graph at top shows you how many goal completions (that is, conversions) GA has tracked during the time period. It’s a great way to get a quick overview of how well your site is doing.

Below the graph, you’ll see a table with the following metrics: Goal Completions, the value of those completions (Goal Value), and the Goal Conversion Rate (the number of conversions divided by the number of visitors).

Below that table, you’ll see another table that gives you a breakdown of goal performance by URL. For each URL you’ve set up as a goal, you’ll see the number of goal completions (clicks on that URL) as well as the percentage of overall goal completions those clicks represent.

You’ve entered the phase of real data analysis now. You may not have done any actual optimization per se, but this is nonetheless a crucial step toward that goal.

5. Testing Improvements

All this number-crunching is fine and dandy, but what do you do if you see that you have a conversion rate of just 1 percent for a particular goal and you want to improve it?

Here’s what you do: you test an alternative that you think might give you a better conversion rate.

For example, let’s say you think you can improve conversions with a different text on the CTA button. To verify that, you’ll have to test the new text against the old text and see which one has the better conversion rate.

The important part here is this: make sure that the CTA buttons are on different landing pages, which will have distinct URLs. That’s how you’ll set them up in Google Analytics.

Get with your development team so that half of your visitors see the landing page with the old button text (that’s the “A” option in A/B Testing) and the other half of your visitors see the page with the new button text (the “B” option).

Concept vector illustration of A-B comparison. split testing

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It’s important to make sure the only thing different about the two landing pages is the CTA text. Otherwise, you won’t be able to be sure any difference in conversion rates is due to the CTA.

Then, create your new goals for each URL in Google Analytics. Just follow the instructions from Step No. 3.

Make sure you run the test long enough that you have a good sample size. Also, make sure that you let the test run for at least one business cycle.

Once the test is completed, check your analytics to see which option had the better conversion rate. You’ll simply compare the two URLs in the Goals report that you just looked at.

If Option B did, in fact, give you a noticeably higher conversion rate, use the new text for all of your traffic from now on.

Rinse and repeat. Find ways to optimize your site, test your hypotheses, and make the necessary changes.

This is where conversion optimization tools come in handy. Google Analytics itself does a fine job of allowing you to conduct split tests, but you may want to consider investing in another CRO tool. There are many available!

Conclusion

It takes time to become a conversion analytics guru.

Fortunately, though, with the right knowledge and some experience using Google Analytics, you can be well on your way to maximizing conversions on your site.

As you can probably tell from the discussion above, it doesn’t take a ton of time or a high IQ to get started.

And that’s the key — getting started.

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