Google Analytics is the must-have tool for any webmaster or website owner.
Created by Google, Analytics tracks and reports website traffic to you in a variety of ways. It's main approach is to show useful dashboard-type data for the casual user (beginner/intermediate level), and more in-depth, complex data for the more advanced webmasters.
Google Analytics can identify poorly performing pages, show you where visitors came from, what device and operating system they were using, how long they used the website for (or even each page) and their geographical position, as well as a host of other features.
The data offered will enable the webmaster to see what techniques are and aren't working - using this, you'll be able to make calculated alterations to specific areas of your website. This goes for structure, keywords, alt tags, meta data and the current setup of your URLs, as well as a host of others.
Base line statistics
The great thing about Google Analytics is that it can cater to a variety of different users, whether they be extremely knowledgeable in search engine optimisation or very minimal skills. The main dashboard offers the key figures and data that most users would need - the number of unique visitors to the website, the total number of page views received, the average number of pages visited per session, the average session duration/time spent on website, the bounce rate (when someone leaves the website instantly), the top ten languages, countries and cities the site was accessed from,the top ten web browsers, operating systems and service providers the visitors were using and the option to choose the date range of the data shown.
Find out where your visitors are coming from
Google Analytics has a section called "Acquisition" - this segment essentially lets you see where your website visitors are coming from to get onto your website, whether it be through a Google search, paid AdWords campaign, social media or backlink. The tool displays these figures in charts and graphs so you can see which areas you are doing well in and which you aren't. This is a great way of analysing what you need to do next to increase your readership.
Behavioural data reporting
Another feature - this time included in the Behaviour section - is the Behaviour Flow. This shows the most common paths that visitors take after getting to your website. This may be from the home page straight to the contact page, or they may spend time in your about section reading up about your company and what you do. This will give you some good feedback to allow you to decide where these people go via structural and content-based changes to guide your readers to the right places without them having to make too many choices themselves. You can do this by including visual call to action buttons to the most important areas of your website, by changing the wording and links in your text and so on.
Real time feedback
Google Analytics also has a handy real-time section so that you can see what your current website visitors are doing - other features include behaviour of the user (i.e. which pages they travel to, how long they spend reading each page), your traffic sources (i.e. organic searches, social media, pay-per-click) and the devices/operating systems the user is running to access your website.
This can be really useful if you get a large number of visitors to your website as you can monitor their activity as they are doing it. This will enable you to see if there are any common trends or events happening with that group of people, such as them all dropping off at a certain page (this could indicate a broken link or other error).
If you don't have Google Analytics implemented on your website, you can do so very easily for free! Just head over to www.google.com/analytics and sign up for an account, filling out all of the neccessary details. You'll then be provided with a tracking code which either you or your developer will need to implement onto your website - you'll then gradually start seeing your data feed in to your Analytics dashboard.