Do you find the thought of seeking useful information from your analytics package an astronomically daunting one? If so, you're not alone.

In a recent post at the Online Marketing Blog, Thomas McMahon notes that small-business owners often can't find the time to make sense of vast reams of analytics data.

So, how might you at least take a first step toward data analysis? "The best approach is to keep it simple and start off with the basics," McMahon says. And yes, consider Google Analytics, "as it's free, feature-rich, and not too complicated to learn," he advises.

McMahon offers these tips on what to analyze first:

  • Unique Visitors. "If your unique visitor number is low, it could mean that your site is either having issues [with] search engines, or needs more content," McMahon explains.
  • Traffic Sources. Are you getting traffic from Google, Yahoo, Twitter, or other sites? This information can help decide where and how to promote your future content.
  • Referring Keywords. If these keywords don't refer to your company, then "maybe you're not optimized, or optimized for the wrong phrases," McMahon notes.
  • Top Content. Use the same format as your top content, or build out on those topics, to help drive more traffic, he advises.
  • Location. If your business seeks to have a strong local search presence, the location area in analytics can tell you the country, state, and city of your visitors.
  • Campaign Tracking. This feature helps you track visitors from your ads, wherever they appear, to a particular goal, page or conversion at your website.

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