“Who, what, where…?”

Marketing insights for small businesses

“Who, what, where…?”

Know the “Who, what, where, why, when, how?” of your website traffic

This is the second post in a series of blogs discussing the power of Google Analytics. In this post, I will discuss how you can use it to understand your website traffic.

The analogy I give below is particularly aimed at small businesses, with a shop and an e-commerce site. However, the same principles apply to anyone with a website, from those with tourism business, to service providers, to bloggers.

Imagine the days before the internet

Imagine, in the days before the internet, that you had a bricks and mortar shop and no other outlet for your business. (It’s possible that some people reading this have such a shop with little or no online presence, in which case, most definitely read on…)

So, you are in your shop, the door opens and the first of the day’s customers walk in. Are they regular customers or completely new? This is probably one of the first questions you subconsciously ask yourself as they walk in. As a shop owner, it is likely that you know your regulars and that you also have a sense of who your customers are by seeing who walks in through the door; where they are from, what age group they are in and what they were interested in buying.

You might have noticed differences in what your customers show an interest in buying according to age-group or gender, for example. You may even have noticed that some groups of people are entirely absent from your shop altogether. Do you notice any patterns in your loyal customers compared to those that browse or those that fleet in and out? Are the browsers more likely to buy if you had a special offer on?

And do you notice a difference in sales if you make your displays more attractive? What effect do some carefully placed promotions have? Those items that people pick up and put down again, are they more likely to budge if they are just that little bit cheaper or people think they are getting a bargain? And what about that dark old corner of the shop which didn’t get much attention? Has installing better lighting and a new product range livened up that corner and suddenly got some footfall going past it and, better still, some products moving from its shelves?

You would have a sense of some of these things, just by being a vigilant business owner interested in getting to know their customers. However, even if you are the most attentive business owner, there is lots of important information you would miss. Not to mention, recording all the minutiae in detail would be pretty cumbersome and most likely impossible.

Black box of information

So, fast forward to the present day and it’s likely that your shop is either partly or entirely online. All of the above questions about the type of online customers you have, how they behave on your website (whether or not an actual online shop/e-commerce site) and clues about what they want, can be found out using Google Analytics.

If you are not already using any sort of analytics, then you are probably not aware of how useful it can be. Maybe, like many, you have had Google Analytics set up by your web developer but you have never used it. In this case you already have a black box of information about your website visitors.

Photo by David Bartus

By reviewing this information, you have an idea of who your customers are and how they move through your shop. It shows you whether there are products that they are interested in but don’t buy, so you can ask yourself why; perhaps because of the price tag. You’ll be able to see what age groups they are in and where in the country, or even the world, they are from. You’ll see how many of your visitors are those that just browse and what proportion tend to actually buy a product.

And what about the analogous dark old shop corner; is there a web page or portion of your website that is unattractive or off-putting, from which people leave directly? Well, by using web analytics such as Google Analytics you can not only get a feel of the above but have the information recorded accurately and presented to you in a way that makes sense. And with accessing this information comes power, since you now have the knowledge to inform you in making smart marketing decisions for your business.

“Turn the light on for me, please!”

“How can I actually get access to all this information?” I hear you ask.

The first thing is to get a Google Analytics account and have it linked to your website. This involves putting a bit of code on the back of your website which allows this linking so that you may view the summarised information of your website visits on your account. You may need your website developer do this for you. Alternatively, most of the “kit” or DIY websites allow you to do this via a plug in or similar. If you are stuck, please contact Heb Insights and we will be happy to help.

Once your Google Analytics has been set up correctly and you have checked that it is recording data, you can start to view it. I find leaving a period of data collection of at least a month useful, to get a flavour of your traffic, although this could be shorter for busier sites.

After a collection period, you may view important information on the graphs displayed on your Google Analytics account Home Page. From these graphs, you can click to see more. This navigates you to one of the pages contained in the left-hand side menu. This menu, in itself, contains a mind-boggling amount of useful information.

A quick cheat-sheet

As a starter for ten, here is a quick guide to how to access just a few of these key bits of information, via your left-hand side menu in your account. For each page that loads, don’t forget to keep an eye on the date range and select what makes sense for you. I suggest looking over the last month if you are just beginning on your analytics journey.  If you have been collecting the data for long enough, looking back over the last year can show you seasonal trends very clearly!

In the left-hand side menu of your Google Analytics home page:

Who? For example, what age group and gender are my visitors? Go to Audience, then Demographics.

What? For example, what pages were they most interested in? Go to Behaviour, then Site Content, then All Pages.

Where? For example, where in the world do my website visitors come from? Go to Audience, then Geo, then choose Location

Why? For example, why did they access my site? This is really for those of you with a search bar on your site (which is very useful). Go to Behaviour, then Site Search

When? For example, when in the week are my busiest periods for visitors? The simplest way to view this is via the graph in your Home page dashboard. Go to Home and view the “When do your users visit?” chart on the right-hand side of the page (most likely the 6th graph that you see when panning left to right).

How? For example, how did they access my site? Go to Audience, then to Mobile. This will tell you whether your audience is using a mobile, desktop or tablet to view your website.


This is only a very small proportion of the questions that can be answered. More on answering similar questions about your website traffic in a later blog-series. The next post in this series will be on using your Google Analytics to monitor progress of your business.

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