So you’re all set up in Google Analytics? If not then take a look at our guide to getting yourself (and your site) registered and tracking data.
If you are then you’re already well on your way to digital domination! Now it’s time to delve into the data. Upon landing on the Google Analytics home screen you’re probably a bit overwhelmed and wondering “where the heck do I start?” But don’t worry… we’re here to help…
In reality, you are not going to need to use every single tool on Google Analytics – especially if you’re just starting out. It’s better to focus on some of the most fundamental tools you can find within the platform.
In this blog, I will talk you through the most useful tools. This way you can ensure you’re easily able to track your business performance and use the insights you’ve gained to meet your business goals.
To really get to grips with Google Analytics, you will need to have access to an account that already has a lot of data in it. That way, you’ve got something to look at as we go through each section in more detail.
In this article, we’ll assume you are using the test account from the Google Merchandise Store. This is freely available and accessible to everyone so it’s perfect for this purpose. You can access this account by going to https://analytics.google.com/analytics/web/demoAccount
Key tools you need to know about
As a business, your main priorities will be to learn about the types of users who express an interest in your product or services and to understand their behaviour on your website. With this in mind, the key sections that I will discuss in this article are the dashboard, audience, and acquisition panels.
The dashboard shows you how many users have visited the site, how long they’ve spent on the site, and (most importantly) how many of these users have converted.
Conversion rate measures how many of your users met one of your goals. A goal is an action you’d like your user to take. This could be anything from making a purchase, reading one of your articles, or clicking a video on your website. I will go into more detail on goals and conversations in my next article (coming soon).
Sessions can sound quite complex but they’re actually relatively straightforward. A session is defined by a set of interactions on your website that each user takes within a given period of time.
For example, a user arrives on your site, analytics will start tracking time from that moment. If 30 minutes pass without any kind of interaction, the session ends. However, if the user interacts with an element (like an event, social interaction, or a new page) Analytics resets the expiration time by adding on an additional 30 minutes from the time of the interaction. When you close the web browser or restart the computer then the user session will also end.
When do your users visit?
This shows what days and times your visitors are active on your website. This can be a useful guide for determining when would be a good time to post content to gain maximum engagement.
What pages do your users visit?
This indicates which pages of your website are being visited the most. It is very useful for checking the performance of your pages and their content. You can also see whether users are navigating and landing on your pages in the way you expected, and what content is most important to your customers.
What are your top devices?
This shows what sort of devices your users are using to view your website – in other words, whether it is a desktop, mobile, or tablet device. You will want to make sure your site is optimised for all devices as if it isn’t it can cause your customers to quickly abandon your website.
The audience panel in Google Analytics contains some incredibly valuable insights into your user base. Here you can find information on your users’ demographics, behavior, whether they are a new or returning visitor, and how many sessions they’ve had on the site.
This section shows a wide range of user demographics such as their age, gender, interests, and location.
It is important to check up on the user demographic that is visiting your site to make sure that it lines up with your chosen target audience and personas as, if not, your campaigns could be a little off-target.
The bounce rate is the percentage of user sessions where there was no further interaction with the website. Essentially a user lands on the website and leaves without doing anything further – such as opening another page. You’ll want to keep an eye on this as if this happens often on a particular landing page as it is a sure sign that something isn’t working.
The acquisition panel breaks down your traffic by source – in other words where your users came from. In these reports, you can see which of your campaigns are contributing to your goal conversions and this can help you decide where you should focus your valuable time and budget.
Navigate to the panel on the left and go to Acquisition – Overview. Here you will find the sources that your users are coming from, these are defined as Organic Search, Direct, Referral, Social, Display, Paid, or Other. These terms can sound quite complicated but they’re actually relatively simple to understand.
Organic search is defined as traffic to your site that was “earned” – i.e not paid for as part of an ad campaign. If you’ve written a good article that is of interest to your audience you’re much more likely to get stronger engagement with your website. This information validates this effort and shows what content is working when it comes to SEO.
This is any traffic where the referrer or source is unknown. It normally means people have manually entered the website URL to get to the site – it could be that they have bookmarked the site or that they know the URL by heart.
Traffic that came to your site through a source other than a major search engine. Link Building is a great way to build up referral traffic to your site. For more information take a look at this article – https://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-link-building
This indicates traffic that came from a social networking site such as Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, or Instagram. Keep an eye on this panel as it can be useful for finding out what’s working in your social media strategy. If, for example, Instagram isn’t pulling much traffic to your site, you may want to consider why this is and revisit the content you’re posting on that platform.
Display traffic comes from users who have clicked on one of the display advertisements that you ran on another website. Display ads are made using a combination of text and images/video. You should think about relevant websites and brands that would interest your users when considering where to place your display ads.
Paid traffic comes from your paid search ads which appear in the search results of Google, Bing, etc. You can find out more about paid search here – https://ads.google.com/intl/en_uk/home/resources/what-is-paid-search/
So there you have it! That should be plenty of information for you to sink your teeth into and hopefully gain a much better understanding of your business. Next month we’ll be discussing how you can track conversions on your site using Google Analytics.
In the meantime, if you want to discuss some of the other tools Analytics offers you should feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can always arrange a time for a cup of tea to see how we can help you to use Google Analytics to meet your business goals.