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Squarespace Activity and Google Analytics Compared

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Over the course of this series, we've set up a complete online presence using products such as Squarespace and Google Apps to provide rock-solid web and email services with almost no configuration and zero maintenance required.

In this part of our series, we'll show you how to gather analytical information about your Squarespace site's visitors, as well as comparing it to Google Analytics.

Website Analytics

For many of us, website analytics are only used to find out how many visitors our site is getting and what pages they're visiting the most, commonly referred to as traffic. Whilst this is probably the most popular reason that anyone uses analytics services, it's merely the tip of the iceberg.

Analytical information can provide much more than simply how many hits a site gets. It can provide detailed information regarding where your visitors are coming from, what page they're going to most frequently and even what search terms people used in a search engine before coming to your site.

Let's take a look at two different scenarios where analytical information can be useful.

1. Popular Content

Analytical information can provide much more than simply how many hits a site gets...

Imagine we're running a blog that specialises in writing reviews for iPad games. Analytical information can provide us with details about how much traffic each review gets.

Since we can't review every game that's released, this analytical information can show us which game genres are the most and, more importantly, least popular.

If the reviews on our site with the least amount of traffic are on tower defence games, then there's no need to invest as much time in reviewing them as much as any other genre, since our readers just aren't interested.

This analytical information provides us with a great way to target the content that our readers want.

2. Marketing Campaigns

Larger companies with dedicated marketing departments keep a very close eye on this type of information as it can determine whether or not a marketing campaign is working and, therefore, worth the investment.

Let's now imagine we've just purchased an equal amount of ad space on a couple of highly popular sites, such as the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. Any visitors clicking on an ad to come to our site will be recognized as referred from those sites.

If we look at our analytics information and find 90% of people came from the New York Times website, then it makes sense not to continue to advertise on the Wall Street Journal since only 10% of our visitors came from there - especially if we paid the same amount to each site for placing ad content. The principle here holds true for your marketing efforts, regardless of the size of your online business.

Squarespace Analytics

Now that you're more familiar with the benefits of analytical information, let's take a look at how Squarespace's Analytics service works.

Squarespace refer to their analytics service as Activity. There's a very simple reason for that, it's not a complete analytics service. It is, however, more than adequate for any freelancer or micro-business to use and gather useful information with.

1. Setting Up

As we've previously created a Squarespace site, there's nothing else to do in regards to configuring any analytics, it's already set up for us.

2. Accessing Analytics

To access the service, first log in to Squarespace and then select the Activity menu.

3. Overview

Squarespace's activity provides a number of different features that we can use:

  • Traffic Overview
  • Referrers
  • Popular Content
  • Search Queries
  • Detailed Activity

Comments aren't a required part of analytics but still falls under the remit of activity in Squarespace.

Traffic Overview

In this section, we're given a general overview of how many hits our site has had over a selected time period. You can choose between hourly, daily, weekly and monthly.

A useful graph is provided, giving us a graphical representation of the time periods where our site sees the most traffic.

Below this is a table, providing a detailed breakdown of the number of page views we've had.

  • Views represents the total number of hits that our site has had across all the pages.
  • Unique refers to the number of unique visitors. If someone visits the site 10 times, they will show up as a single unique visitor. Likewise, if you reload the page a hundred times, your view count would increase but the unique count would remain the same.
  • Robot tends to refer to search engines and other web crawlers that automatically look at sites for the purpose of indexing. They aren't usually reflected as the same type of visitor as a human, hence the name difference.

You'll notice on the right-side is also a column detailing the browsers, operating systems and the robots we previously mentioned that are visiting your site.

Referrers

Under this section, you can find out which sites have been linking to you and where your visitors have been coming from. The number of hits you've had from referrers will also be displayed in table form as well as a useful pie-chart.

You'll notice that a similar method of selecting a date range is available, but with the ability to select up to the last three days.

Popular Content

Whilst knowing where visitors are coming from is useful, knowing what they're being referred to is even more so.

All of the pages on your site, including any blog posts and galleries, are listed within this section and broken down based upon their hit count. Similar to the referrers section.

This allows you to identify which products, services or galleries are proving to be the most popular on your site.

Search Engine Queries

You can determine exactly what keywords and search terms your visitors are entering into Google and other search engines, providing you with further insight into what your visitors are looking for.

Again, similar to the previous sections, you're able to break the data down into a number of different time frames as well as view an overall pie-chart detailing the percentage of hits based upon a certain term.

Detailed Activity

Squarespace provides the ability to view specific information for individual visitors, under the Detailed Activity section.

Every visitor to your site within the timeframe specified is tagged with their IP address, geographic location and the content they viewed. Multiple instances will appear based upon the how many different pages or blog posts they've viewed, so it's common to see the same visitor stats appear multiple times.

Google Analytics

By far, the most popular analytics service is Google Analytics. It's a very powerful, and complex, service that's free to use but can be difficult to master.

1. Setting Up

Google Analytics requires a Google account. If you completed our previous guide Setting Up a Hosted Email Solution With Google Apps, you can use this and keep everything in one place. Alternatively, if you have a Gmail account then you can use that if you wish.

Visit Google Analytics and select the Sign Up option.

You'll then need to complete some information regarding your website, such as the URL and what time zone you're in. This is to ensure the information you're provided about a specific time period is correct.

Once you've registered, you're then provided with some tracking information. This looks like a big chunk of code and we have to insert this into our site. Since our series is specifically about building an online presence without coding, we can ignore that! Squarespace includes built-in support for Google Analytics tracking code, all we have to do is give it one bit of information.

Just above the code is your Tracking ID, which starts "UA". Make a note of this.

Go to your Squarespace Configuration and select the Settings page, then go to General. Right at the top of this page is where you can add your tracking number.

That's it! No editing HTML code, no checking to see if it's working - Squarespace includes full support and will automatically include Google Analytics tracking information into your site.

3. Overview

If you've just set up Google Analytics, it will take a little time for information to begin populating as visitors start to visit your site. Once it does start to come through, you'll see the following information.

As you can see, Google Analytics is pretty complex.

For the purposes of this article, I'll be covering the same features that Squarespace Activity offers. If you'd like to know even more about Google Analytics, the Google Analytics Help Center is a great place to start.

Traffic Overview

When loading Google Analytics, it will display an overview of the traffic on your site. There's a familiar graph to show the traffic as well as a breakdown below of the number of unique visitors and page views per visit.

Going beyond Squarespace, Google Analytics provides additional information such as the average time a visitor spends on the site before leaving. Usually, the longer the visit the more of the site they're reading (which is a good thing).

Google Analytics also provides more information regarding the visitors of your site, such as geographic location and language. You can select a full report, breaking down each piece of information further by clicking Full Report.

Traffic Sources

Google Analytics uses this term instead of referrers and provides a lot more detailed information than Squarespace Activity.

The overview provides an overall detail of the type of referral, whether it was from another site or search engine.

You can select All Traffic to view the list of sites that are referring visitors to yours.

Google Analytics is also very well versed in social networking and can even identify users that were referred by tweets and Facebook.

Popular Content

Identifying popular content is very easy with Google Analytics and it will identify your most popular content based upon a time frame of your choosing.

What is really great is the option to look at something called Behaviour Flow. Rather than just see which content is popular, you can actually see how users have gone from one page to another and see how visitors get to other pages.

You may find that visitors looking at your product or service pages often want to get to your contact page but if there's no easy link for them to click, they may end up elsewhere. Keeping visitors engaged with your site and the content is the key to keeping visitors on longer.

Search Queries

Search queries that lead visitors to your site are part of the Traffic Sources section and can be found by selecting the Search sub-menu.

There are two types of search terms that Google Analytics deals with, Organic and Paid. Organic simply refers to search terms that visitors entered into a search engine and found your site within the search results. Paid search terms are those included within services such as Google AdWords where your search term appeared because your site was advertised using that search term rather than within the list of results.

This is a good way to identify how any paid search ads you put in place performs. If you're spending a large amount of money and see a low number of results within this view, it's likely indicating that this particular method of advertising isn't cost-effective, meaning you can focus elsewhere.

Squarespace Activity Or Google Analytics?

On first glance, Google Analytics seems to trump Squarespace Activity in almost every way. There's far more detailed results, the ability to set marketing goals and keep track of online ad performance. You'd be forgiven for thinking that you need Google Analytics.

For many freelancers and micro-businesses, Google Analytics may be somewhat overwhelming and whilst Squarespace Activity may not have the same feature set, it's far easier to find and digest a lot of the information you'll no doubt be interested, such as visitor stats and referrers.

Instead, I would recommend you use both services at the same time, even if you're happy with Squarespace Activity. The reason for this is very simple: if your site grows exponentially and your small business becomes huge, you may outgrow Squarespace Activity and require the features of Google Analytics.

Setting up Google Analytics as early as possible, even if you aren't using it, will continually build up all of your visitor information so when the time comes to switch to Google Analytics, you won't lose any historical data and your analytics information will be completely up to date.

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