10 Ways to Use Google Analytics to Increase Web Traffic

What’s the secret to getting more web traffic?

Is it promoting your site in a variety of places?

Or is it maximizing one source of traffic?

I think it’s neither.

My web traffic philosophy is simple:

“Find what’s working and do more of that!” (Tweet This)

It’s a straightforward strategy.  You concentrate on the traffic strategies that are working and ignore the rest.  It’s like that famous expression: “Starve the Ponies, Feed the Stallions.”

So you might wonder: How do find out what’s working?

Easy… you install and monitor Google Analytics on your site.

In my opinion, Google Analytics is the best tool for monitoring your traffic stats.  Unfortunately not many people know where to get started.  In this post, I’ll show ten ways to use Google Analytics to increase your web traffic:

I – The “Big Six” Metrics

There are six basic numbers you should monitor in Google Analytics.  Each tells a different story about your website.  For instance, here are my metrics for the month that I’m writing this post {January 2012}:

At  the very least, you should track these six numbers.  They provide a instant overview of your web traffic stats:

  1. Visits: The total number of people who come to your site (not unique visitors).
  2. Page Views: The total number of pages they’ve checked out
  3. Pages per Visit: The average number of pages each visitor has read while on your site
  4. Average Time on Site: How long the typical user stays around
  5. Bounce Rate: The percentage of people who read one article and then leave your site.  {A low % is better}
  6. New Visitors: The percentage of people who are brand new to your site.  {A low % means people come back for more}

Your goal is to increase the first four metrics and decrease the bounce rate and new visitor percentages.

Using my site as an example…I get decent traffic, but I need to get more people to come back and stick around.  That means I can break down my “one million blog visitors in 2012” goal into three simple things I’ll measure:

  1. Increase Visits
  2. Decrease Bounce Rates
  3. Decrease New Visitor Rates.

These are the main numbers I’ll monitor in the months to come!

II – Compare to the Past

This is my favorite feature! In your dashboard you can get a side-by-side comparison of two dates. This is an excellent way to monitor the trends on your website.  For instance, here’s how my stats look when compared to a similar date range from last month:

Google Analytics - Compare to Past Dashboard
Click to Enlarge

I love the Compare to Past feature because it gives a graphical snapshot of your site’s growth.  Either you get a green % which means this number is improving or you get a red % which means it’s worsening.

III – New Vs. Returning

You can find this metric by going to Visitor –> New vs. Returning in your Google Analytics Dashboard.  Here’s what it looks like in my account:

In my opinion, you want a high percentage of returning visitors.  This means visitors value your content and come back for more.

Sidebar: I have a low returning visitor number because I get a lot of search engine traffic and I haven’t don’t much to get these people to “stick around.”  {The good news is I have a solution that I’ll discuss in a February post.}

Like I said, you want more returning visitors.  That means your site is growing an audience.  In the last few weeks, I’ve done a few things to get people to come back.  Looking at the above image, you’ll see I’ve generated 600+ returning visitors.  The change in percentage isn’t much, but I like the fact that I’ve “hooked” 600 more people.

IV – Direct Traffic

You can find this metric by going to Traffic Sources –> Direct Traffic.  Here’s what it looks like for me:

In theory, Direct Traffic is the number of people who already “know” your site and come back (ie: bookmarked, type URL in browser, etc.)  But I’ve learned that Direct Traffic is a label that Google Analytics places on any traffic source that can’t be classified.  Like some URL shorteners or certain feed readers.

Ultimately you want more direct traffic.  However it’s also important to get an accurate number.  That’s why I recommend using Google’s URL Builder to track your sources of traffic.  This handy little tool can be used to track your different sources of traffic within the Google Analytics dashboard.

V – Referral Traffic

You can find this metric under Traffic Sources –> Referring Sites.  Here’s a snapshot of mine:

Referring Sites is a ‘catch-all’ for the various sites that people use to find your content.  These can include web properties like:

  • Facebook
  • Stumble Upon
  • YouTube
  • T.Co (Twitter’s URL shortening service)
  • LinkedIn

The information in this dashboard is extremely valuable.  It basically tells you what’s currently working for your website.  My advice?  Find where you’re getting traffic and do more of that!

VI – Search Engine Traffic

You can find this metric here: Traffic Sources –> Search Engines or Traffic Sources –> Keywords.  I prefer the Keywords option because it lists the total number and the specific phrases that people use to find your site:There is lot of information that can be gleaned from the search engine/keywords metric.  Basically these are the people who are {probably} new to your site.  Knowing what they’re looking for makes it easier to customize their user experience and give them content that hooks their interest!

VII – On-Page Bounce Rate

You can find this metric here: Traffic Sources –> Keyword –> Click on the Content You Want to Track or Content –> Top Content–> Click on the Content You Want to Track

Both of these options give you the ability to monitor the pages that get search engine traffic.  I prefer the keyword option because it gives the exact phrase that people use.  That way I can better convert this traffic into returning visitors:When tweaking on-page content your goal is to decrease bounce rate.  This means you’re giving the reader ‘something extra’ to do.  What that something extra means really depends on the goal of your site.

Here are few ideas:

  • Read more content
  • Read your “money pages”  {see below}
  • Click on an affiliate link
  • Subscribe to a newsletter
  • Follow you on a social media site

My advice is to take a hard look at the pages that get the highest amount of search engine traffic.  Ask yourself – “What is the next step I want people to take?”  Then re-optimize this page to help people take action on that goal.

VIII – Referral to “Money Pages”

A money page is any spot on your site that directly relates to income generation.  As an example, I like to refer some traffic to my affiliate marketing strategies page because it recommends my “Affiliate Marketing without the B.S.” information product.

Your “money pages” can be found using this tab: Content –> Top Content –> Select the Page You’re Targeting.  Here’s what I get for the above example:

Recently I’ve optimized old blog posts; inserting links to this particular page….

…And I think you should do the same!

Your goal is to get more people to check out the pages that lead to more income.  So it’s important to grow the amount of traffic to your money pages.

IX – In Page Analytics

In Page Analytics is something I’ve just started to test.  The idea behind it is to see the percentages of clicks that each link generates.  This metric is important because it helps you optimize the conversions you get on web content.  Simply put, you want to put the most important things in front of visitors and eliminate everything else.

You can find this metric here: Content –> In-Page Analytics

Like I said, I’ve only started to play around with this tool.  So I don’t have a fancy graphic to show you.  Instead, I recommend you check out Ana’s post on conversion optimization improvement where she shows talks about using In-Page Analytics.

 X – Add Goals

Goals are extremely important! They give you data on the number of people who complete a desired action on your website.  Like checking out a money page.

It’s a little tricky to set up a goal.  That’s why I’ve included this video from Google on how to do it:

Like he said in the video,  you can use goals to measure three basic metrics:

  1. URL Destination
  2. Time on Site
  3. Pages per Visit

As an example, I set up a goal back in August 31st that focused on improving my Time on Site metric.  This measures the number of people who stay around for longer than 1 minute and 21 seconds (my average ‘time on site’ at the time I created this goal.):

Goals are extremely important because they measure how well your site converts.  My advice?  Figure out that ‘next step’ you want people to take, and set up a goal that tracks this metric.

How Google Analytics Can Increase YOUR Web Traffic

I’ve only scratched the surface of Google Analytics.  There is a lot more you can do with this tool to grow your web traffic.  And that’s why I recommend you keep current with my Traffic and Conversion Series.  In the months to come, I’ll cover a number of hacks and tricks you can use to get the most of this tracking software.

Till then…I recommend you implement the ten ways you can use Google Analytics.  Plus, take a few minutes each month to evaluate the growth of your site.  Print out a sheet that measures the “big six” metrics I mentioned and work hard to improve these numbers moving forward.

2012 is about achieving big goals.  The best way to get started is to set a traffic goal and use Google Analytics to reach it.

What do YOU think?

Comment below…

Take Action. Get Results.

46 thoughts on “10 Ways to Use Google Analytics to Increase Web Traffic”

  1. Love it, Steve. I’ve been getting more into Analytics last few months too. You removed the header completely? You know what? I like it. I really do. And I am sure you did it for stickiness and conversions so I like it even more 🙂 It is pretty unique too!

    • Thanks Brankica. Glad you liked the article.

      I am retooling the look of the site a little bit. I want a cleaner header and am having one worked on.

      For now though…less is more. 🙂

  2. Comprehensive post on Google Analytics!

    Thanks a lot, Steve! This post will really be helpful for me to learn, analyze and improve my new blog’s traffic 🙂

    Right now, my traffic strategy is to guest blog and comment on sites so that I can get more exposure and traffic (And a few back links) at the same time.

    Your post will really help me to experiment and make improvements based on that.


    Jeevan Jacob John

    • Thanks Jeevan,

      Guest posting is always a great way to drive some extra traffic. It works on many levels. I really need to do more of it myself.

      But fine tuning traffic and sources once you have some coming helps too! 🙂

      • Yes, of course. Guest posting can help you a lot, if you use it effectively.

        Right now (this week), my focus is own leaving a lot more comments than usual – my goal was to leave 100 quality comments per day, but as you can guess, I couldn’t achieve that (However, I am doing okay – 50 comments per day :D).

        Although I am not seeing anyone (except for a few people) visiting back to my blog – and I am okay. I guess they will check my blog out after I consistently engage with them, right? What do you think, Steve?

        • I feel ya, A long while back I tired to do the 100 comments a day thing. It was rough. HOURS spent commenting. Now I just go for 10 or so a day. Just enough to get some link juice, read some of the better articles and keep in contact with those people I associate with.

          As for people checking back…yes, consistency is the necessity. You will get random people following the comments for usre, but consistent commenting can really work to build relationships. Obviously this is limited by the amount of time you have..since good commenting take TIME!
          Anyhow good luck with your commenting quest

          • Yes, I can understand.

            It has been rough (really rough). I haven’t been able to do 100 comments – but, I am did achieve 50 comments a day – still doing it, until tomorrow. After that, I have planned to do 10-15 comments per day – on the same blogs that I am commenting this week – so, I can really build up the relationship with the blog owner/audience.

            Thanks Steve 😉

  3. Thanks for the post Steve.But I think that its good if the number of new visitors to the website are also increased.Its because they’re one of the main source to generate conversions.
    Retaining customers are always nice but acquiring new ones are better for the website.They come with new requirements, new opportunity etc, so you get the chance to increase your target market.

    • Venus,

      Well…not sure i agree new are “better”. They are all important. Newer may get more “buys” but older visitors may do more of the things to help “spread the word”

      Ultimately you want to do all you can to keep ALL your metrics pointed in the right way

  4. Hi Steve, have to disagree a little with your statement in Section I:
    “Bounce Rate: The percentage of people who read one article and then leave your site. {A low % is better} ”
    Usually I would say you are right as we want people to stay on the site and read more content. Therefore ‘low is better’ is true. OTOH if you wan to monetize a site and make the visitor click through to a merchant (affiliate link) or click on an adsense ad, then ‘low’ is not so good as it means that less people click to your advertisers.
    Also the engagement you refer to in Section VII ‘Click on an affiliate link’ doesn’t IMHO reduce bounce rate.

    In total, a very good post – thanks for that.
    Have a nice weekend.

    • Tom,

      I don’t disagree. A quick click on a link would count as a bounce, and of course be a very acceptable one. I guess my point is that you cannot assume that all the bounces are going where you want them to go.

      This is some of the problems of overly cluttered pages. (ones with adsense, banners, linked articles and just a huge assortment of outgoing links) this plethora of links ends up making people choose “none”

      If ALL you have is adsense and internal links you know people are one way or another doing what you want. Or just hitting back.

      as for section VII… you are again right. It doesn’t reduce bounce. I think I was really unclear there.

      My point was those are the positive things that you desire. Anyhow…know you know all that 🙂

      Thanks for the comment and giving me a chance to clarify.


  5. Hey, Steve! Interesting article! I think another important thing that should be analysed is Top Content – what did readers like the most and what didn’t? This way you’ll know how to approach them and what are they interested in.

    • Tony,

      For sure!

      I would go further too. I try to do this on ALL the top content individually. ANd then on some of the close ones. What makes group “A” (top content) do better than “B” (close ones). Then try to apply “A” to “B” if it is an outside answer (like links from guest posts, backlinking, social media)

      AND of course if it is a content issue…you surely want to go where your audience desires.

      ANOTHER good way to ensure you are writing what the audience desires is with polls. Periodically I will simply ASK what people want to hear more about, or read an ebook about. This can be a great way to make sure you are really understanding what your audience wants

      • I have to admit, I didn’t go that far. Thanks for sharing your strategy. You have also reminded me that has been a long time since I created a poll.

  6. Steve,
    I love Google Analytics but have not yet looked into all these things. I just used the “compare to past” feature and it’s a great tool! Thanks for the tips here, they are really helpful.

    • Steve,

      Google Analytics really does quite a lot. It is all about getting in there and playing with it!

      Glad you got a few good ideas from this. Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

  7. Hey great tips!~

    Have you tried looking at the Top Exit pages, from that category, you can then find those leading exit pages and edit it, optimize them and reduce the bounce rate, perhaps leave a link at the bottom of the entry and get them go on another blog article. 🙂

  8. Good post My tip I’d like to add is that you should link out from your guest post to a squeeze page rather than, or in addition to a content piece. That way you can build you list and increase revenue!

    • Jason,

      There are definetely good reasons to do what you say. I would say it depends upon your ultimate goal. With linking to a squeeze page you do get more direct “action” but you also lose a little link juice. With a strong call to action you can get both. But I would agree there is strong reason to do what you say…i would say it depends upon the person and what they are offering.

  9. Great post. I currently use Google Analytics and have only ever paid attention to number of visits, but never really gave the other metrics more that a first glance. One thing I’m interested in is finding out number of visits to a specific page in my site, I.e. the “money pages”.

    • IT is very easy to check all the stats for specific pages. This is really the strength of metrics, because THOSE pages are really the ones you care about..not the raw numbers

  10. Simple and actionable – just the way I love it!

    And someone has been playing with the design…. lol

    Thanks for the mention too!

  11. I’ve been checking Google Analytics more recently Steve and I really love the compare tool. I had to stop reading your post and run over to compare this year to last and I knew there would be a huge difference and boy was there ever.

    Great resource to continue to fall back on so thanks for pointing everything out. At one point I went back and found out exactly what “direct traffic” meant too. People kept asking me so I wanted to be sure I was sharing the right information.

    Great comparison and I sure hope I get your numbers some day. 🙂

  12. Great article Steve,

    i feel stupid atm , i have been using Analytics for almost a year now , and i only find out about the compare function now :/

    ill be sure to check out the rest of your blog now 😛

  13. Really great article, Steve. I’d never compared with the same time period from the previous year like that. Can you believe I’ve never seen that checkbox? I must be blind. Thank you, again!!!

  14. Great info, Steve. My favorite thing is Compare to the Past. I could play with that all day. 🙂

    VIII Referral To Money Pages stopped me in my tracks. I admit I hadn’t thought of going back and optimizing old posts and inserting links to money posts. I’ve put in some links, but not necessarily targeted the money posts. Doh!


    • Hope it helps Peggy

      Each d=single link from a standard page to a “money” post, may not mean a lot in means of extra traffic… but it can really add up in time, Certainly worth the effort.

  15. I had found “Bounce Rate” particularly useful as it tells us where our page loses its attractiveness among the site viewers. Optimizing that page can dramatically increase the chances of increasing conversion rate.

  16. Hey Steve,

    Yikes man, you really know your stuff. I do use Google Analytics regularly but not to that extent of yours.

    It was very interesting to compare my stats to your own stats on the same dates and learn about the numbers that matter as well (and that my traffic sucks)

    Would you believe me if I told you I’d never used the compare function before? Now I know why Think Traffic has that graphic on their site! LOL

    Anyway, I am going to be using Analytics a lot more from now on.

    I was spoiled enough to be focusing strictly on Clicky numbers lately but this is a nice reason to make a better use of Google Analytics.

    Take care man and awesome article as always!


    PS. I really like your new Feng Shui around here. 😉

    PPS. CommentLuv definitely doesn’t works for me! Tried parsing the URL through Chrome and Firefox and still nada.

    • Sergio,

      CL is turned off for now. It was acting strange and I am in the middle of remodeling. Eventually I will bring it back up, but I want the site looking good first and then to make sure it is working for everyone. Hopefully the fenshui is good enough for now, but I do have some remodeling planned over the next month plus.

      Anyhow, glad the GA ideas are helpful. There is really a lot to learn from understanding your metrics…as I am sure you know!

      Thanks for dropping by,


  17. Hi Steve,

    Thanks for the great article. You provide a ton of valuable information here, particularly in an area that can be very confusing for new bloggers like me.

    I look at the metrics from Google Analytics regularly, but you’ve helped to refine what I need to pay particular attention to.

    One question, though. I get wildly different numbers from Google as compared to my WordPress Stats. I think WordPress is overstating things some, but I also think Google isn’t giving me some traffic credit where it should. For example, I’m a part of Growmap’s Twitter feed. I don’t get any credit from Google for the traffic I get there. Do you find any discrepancies with your stats tracking? If so, which one is closer to right?

    Thanks again for providing such valuable content!


    • Barry,

      First of all, glad that you may take some more action on GA metrics. I think it can really help.

      As for errors… it can be hard to say which one is “right” chances are all forms of metrics miss…or misfile some traffic. My “gut” says GA is probably more accurate than wordpress stats. But I could be wrong.

      The important thing is that you compare apples with apples. Don’t worry about what you did in wordpress stats last month not equaling what you did in GA stats this month. The REAL important thing is that you make sure the numbers always trend UP as best you can. If your site keeps growing you have to be doing something right.

      SOmetimes though “missing” data just means that it is not labeled how you suspect. The twitter from growmap could be found under refering sites (growmap), twitter or even under direct. It is sometimes hard to say how GA accounts for some various traffic.

      Anyhow, thanks for the comment and question

      • You’re absolutely right, the most important thing is that the numbers are all trending in the right direction! Luckily, mine have been doing that. Hopefully they keep moving in that direction!

        Thanks for the quick reply. Have a great afternoon!


  18. I keep looking at my google analytics account data.
    doing some research and experiments on those data helps us to raise the traffic to our blog.

  19. Thank you so much for the video on setting up goals. I’ve tried in the past to get that to work to no avail. I just figured I could get along without it but now I have no excuse.

  20. Hi Steve.
    Thank you for the compact and concise writing about Google Analytics. It take me a while to understand the new analytics interface but with your explanation in here, I do think it will easily help me to understand them faster.

  21. Hi Steve,

    Well I am really happy that I found this post, although I was using Google Analytic tool for one year now, i didn’t though it could be that powerful, specially the compare side to side features and on page information including bounce rate, thank you so much for sharing these helpful tips and hope that you will reach your one million target this year.

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