Whenever teaching our clients how to read Google Analytics I am always seeing fear in people’s eyes. The complication of Computer data in the past and the fear of the unknown I am sure are the reasons why. However, Google has had a while now to get the kinks out. The System is a lot easier to use now than it has ever been.
Looking over and managing website visitor data is crucial to the success of your company. Whether you are running a new startup or a simple weblog, you should be keeping track of your visitor’s log. The challenge of course is there is so much data gathering now that it is hard to decipher. What is valid to your goals and success and what is not. Therefore we at Turnkey have come up with some basic tips. This article is assuming that you have set up Google Analytics properly.
How to read Google Analytics? So Scary??? Not anymore!!!
How to install Google Analytics
If you need assistance in setting up Google analytics, please contact us and we will be more than happy to help. First, you need a Google Analytics account. If you have a primary Google account that you use for other services like Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar, Google+, or YouTube, then you should set up your Google Analytics using that Google account. Or you will need to create a new one. This should be a Google account you plan to keep forever and that only you have access to. You can always grant access to your Google Analytics to other people down the road. But you don’t want someone else to have full control over it.
Once you have a Google account, you can go to Google Analytics and click the Sign into Google Analytics button. You will then be greeted with the three steps you must take to set up Google Analytics. After you click the Sign-Up button, you will fill out information for your website. You will then be given a tracking code that you will need to add to the header of every page of your website. Google Analytics offers hierarchies to organize your account.
You can have up to 100 Google Analytics accounts under one Google account. There are no right or wrong ways to set up your Google Analytics account—it’s just a matter of how you want to organize your sites. You can always rename your accounts or properties down the road. Note that you can’t move a property (website) from one Google Analytics account to another—you would have to set up a new property under the new account and lose the historical data you collected from the original property.
How to read Google Analytics goals
Effective analytics includes knowing your Purchases, donations, email signups. You need to configure your Google Analytics account to track these particular actions with goals. After you install your tracking code on your website, you will want to configure a small (but very useful) setting in your website’s profile on Google Analytics. This is your Goal setting. You can find it by clicking on the Admin link at the top of your Google Analytics and then clicking on Goals under your website’s View column. Goals will tell Google Analytics when something important has happened on your website.
For example, if you have a website where you generate leads through a contact form. You will want to find (or create) a thank you page that visitors end upon once they have submitted their contact information. Or, if you have a website where you sell products, you will want to find (or create) a final thank you or confirmation page for visitors to land upon once they have completed a purchase.
Set goals – Revise your goals often.
When adding a new goal to google analytics, You will choose the Custom option. Unless one of the other options are more applicable to your website. Click the Next Step button. Set custom goals in google analytics. Name your goal something you will remember, select Destination, and then click the Next Step button. You will enter you thank you or confirmation page’s URL after the .com of your website in the Destination field and change the drop-down to “Begins with”. You will then toggle the value and enter a specific dollar value for that conversion. Click Create Goal to complete the setup.
If you have other similar goals/conversions you would like to track on your website, follow these steps again. You can create up to 20 goals on your website. Be sure that the ones you create are highly important to your business. These goals (for most businesses) include lead form submissions, email list sign-ups, and purchase completions. Depending on your website and its purpose, your goals may vary.
Quick How to read Google Analytics Glossary
Before we begin, there a few terms you should know. You’ll see them often in how to read Google Analytics data, and I’ll use them throughout this post.
- Dimensions—A dimension is a descriptive attribute or characteristic of an object that can be given different values. Browser, Exit Page, Screens, and Session Duration are all examples of dimensions that appear by default in Google Analytics.
- Metrics—Metrics are individual elements of a dimension that can be measured as a sum or a ratio. Screen views, Pages/Session, and Average Session Duration are examples of metrics in Google Analytics.
- Sessions—A session is the period of time a user is actively engaged with your website, app, etc., within a date range. All usage data (Screen views, Events, Ecommerce, etc.) is associated with a session.
- Users—Users who have had at least one session within the selected date range. Includes both new and returning users.
- Pageviews—Pageviews means the total number of pages viewed. Repeated views of a single page are counted.
Know your glossary terminology.
- Pages/Session—Pages/session (Average Page Depth) is the average number of pages viewed during a session. Repeated views of a single page are counted.
- Session Duration—The average length of a session.
- Bounce Rate—Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits. To explain further, visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page.
- New Sessions—An estimate of the percentage of first-time visits.
- Goals—Goals let you measure how often users take or complete specific actions on your website.
- Conversions—Conversions are the number of times goals have been completed on your website.
- Campaigns—Campaigns (also known as custom campaigns) allow you to add parameters to any URL from your website. To collect more information about your referral traffic.
- Acquisition—Acquisition is how you acquire users.
- Behavior—Behavior data helps you improve your content.
How to read Google Analytics main pages.
- On the Google Analytics Home – When you log into Google Analytics, you end up on the Home page where you can see a list of all of the websites you have set up in your account. This list shows you some basic data right off the bat such as your number of sessions, average session duration, bounce rate and goal conversion rate.
- Date Range – The Google Analytics date range selector lets you compare data. Since the data for each website changes to reflect the compared timeframes, it’s easy to see which of your websites are getting more or less traffic and conversions.
- Google Analytics Reporting – The Google Analytics Reporting page shows your Audience Overview data.
- Dashboards – Dashboards allow you to create customized views of your Google Analytics data using widgets. It’s a great way to see specific subsets of data without having to navigate through your standard reports.
- Shortcuts – Shortcuts are simply that—links to your favorite Google Analytics reports.
- Intelligence Events – Intelligence Events are alerts you can set up within Google Analytics that email you when a specific event occurs.
- Real-Time – Want to know who’s on your website right now? Real-time data gives you access to that data instantly.
How to read Google Analytics reports
- Audience reports – These reports tell you everything you want to know about your visitors. In them, you will find detailed reports for your visitors’ age and gender (Demographics), what their general interests are (Interests), where they come from (Geo > Location) and what language they speak (Geo > Language), how often they visit your website (Behavior), and the technology they use to view your website (Technology and Mobile).
- Acquisition reports – These reports will tell you everything you want to know about what drove visitors to your website (All Traffic). You will see your traffic broken down by main categories (All Traffic > Channels) and specific sources (All Traffic > Source/Medium). You can learn everything about traffic from social networks (Social). Also, you can connect Google Analytics to AdWords to learn more about PPC campaigns and to Google Webmaster Tools / Search Console to learn more about search traffic (Search Engine Optimization)
Understand your viewers behavior and habits
- Behavior reports – These reports will tell you everything you want to know about your content. Particularly, the top pages on your website (Site Content > All Pages), the top entry pages on your website (Site Content > Landing Pages), and the top exit pages on your website (Site Content > Exit Pages).
- Conversions – If you set up Goals within your Google Analytics, you can see how many conversions your website has received (Goals > Overview) and what URLs they happened upon (Goals > Goal URLs). You can also see the path that visitors took to complete the conversion (Goals > Reverse Goal Path).
- Navigation Summary – This report shows you the pages that users were on before and after a pageview of the selected URL. Allowing you to see common trends and spot discrepancies in user journeys. This is very useful when checking goal funnels and checkout progress. Another benefit is seeing pages users were on prior to experiencing a 404 error page.
Helpful tips on How to read Google Analytics.
Shortcuts and emails.
While you won’t need every report within Google Analytics, you should explore them all to see what they have to offer. When you find some that you want to visit again and again, use the Shortcut link at the top of the report to add them to the Shortcuts in your left sidebar for faster access.
Track your outreach.
You are sending out links to your website when you tweet, post to Facebook, send out an email or post ads online. You need to add a little bit of information to each of these links so that Google Analytics can tell you what’s working and what’s not with your promotion efforts. This is also key, like understanding the concept of letters in reading.
Look at Segments of your Audience.
Looking at the data for everyone who comes to your website is the same as staring at a page of letters, not realizing they are broken up into words. To make sense of how to read Google Analytics, you need to look at particular segments of your audience – those who donated, subscribed to your email, or read a dozen of your blog posts. Google Analytics has some simple yet powerful tools to do this, and you need to understand how to use them.
Measure 30 day, 90 day, and Long-Term Statistics.
By default Google Analytics will display results from the past 30 days. This is good for studying your most recent pages and publications to see which topics have been thriving. However by extending the graph to span out, you’ll pick up on larger trends. You will be able to determine pages that are garnering the majority of search engine traffic, page views, and daily visits by users. If you have been online for a while try extending your stats out to a year or even further!
Helpful tips on How to read Google Analytics continued
Examine Visitor Activities.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you are not just looking at numbers based on page views or total visitors. You also want to know how many of those people are finding your content useful. Are they staying on each page for a significant amount of time? How many of the new visitors are leaving immediately? You should pay careful attention to each value for Entrances, Bounce Rate, and % Exit. The Bounce Rate and Exit percentages are very similar, with one defining factor. Bounce Rate will measure the number of users who landed on a certain page, then left without visiting any other pages.
Exit percentage counts the number of people who left your site after visiting this same page, but they could have been browsing other pages beforehand. Most site visitors will only grab the info they need and leave never to return again. Offering the right content for their attention may entice them further explore your site before taking off. And by arming yourself with the knowledge of traffic statistics you can measure a fairly plausible success or failure rate.
You may be surprised to learn how visitors are accessing your website from various locations across the globe. Google serves a lot of native countries with their regional language, and it is common to find yourself ranking within these foreign search results. The following gives you an idea of where your visitors are coming from geographically: Audience > Demographics > Location.
How to read Google Analytics Content with Popular Keywords.
Your website may have a very small number of visitors, but chances are that most of them come from search engines. Have you ever wondered what keywords they typed that led them to your website? Or what are amongst the most popular keywords that lead most visitors to your website? Of course, this information can be found in Google Webmaster Tools if you’ve added that to your website. Yet I believe Google Analytics can provide a much more comprehensive set of data. For starters, you can check out this information on How to read Google Analytics under Traffic Sources > Sources > Search > Organic.
While Google Webmaster Tools explains how your site ranks for specific keywords and how many visitors end up on your website (or page) with them, Google Analytics tells you ‘what’ they are doing on your site. You can study which pages they visit, how many pages they visit, and how long they stayed on each page. You can practically track every user action within Google Analytics and study the data to discover larger trends among visitors.
Study Engaged Traffic.
This information is available at: Audience > Behavior > Engagement. The table records unique visitors and their total number of page views based on the amount of time spent on your website. You may consider studying the bar graphs found at the very bottom of the table. The last two rows measure visitors who are on your site for 10-30 minutes or longer than 30 minutes. This data is important because these are the most engaged visitors out of all your traffic. Click here for more information on how to get subscribers.
Backlinks via Referrals.
Your referral stats both short-term and long-term will help you figure out which websites are sending you the most visitors. Now you will want to check the engagement of this traffic to see how long they are sticking around, and possibly how many pages they visit. Find them at Traffic Sources > Sources > Referrals.
Helpful tips on How to read Google Analytics in conclusion
Driving Social Media.
Social Referrals talk about websites that are generally built via user input. These may be tweets or Facebook posts or also comment discussions on news articles or social media sharing websites. This data will provide some insight into how much your fans are sharing links online, and how many people are clicking them. Here’s where you find them: Traffic Sources > Social > Landing Pages
Locate your Bounce Pages.
People are mostly interested in the highest visited pages. But what about the pages which drive away from the most traffic? Analytics data is good for picking out what you’re doing right and what you are doing wrong. When you have a page with 90% exits you know there is some reason people are not interested in digging deeper into the website. Find data on bounce pages here: Content > Site Content > Exit Pages.
Looking into Mobile Visitors.
Mobile traffic may take up a lot more of your website sources than you may believe. More people than ever before are accessing the Internet on their smartphones and tablets. Find out who is viewing your website on mobile at Audience > Mobile > Devices. The Google Analytics mobile section will define which visitors are using which devices to access your website. This also includes their average page views and time on the website, plus the other metrics we all know and love.
Analytics in Real-Time.
Google is literally tracking my visitors in real-time (Real-Time > Overview) and displaying these results also in real time. The whole thing is pretty addictive to be honest; you might find yourself wasting time looking at the stats the whole day! However this webpage sincerely offers a deeper insight towards studying your visitor’s interactions on the site. At any point during the day or night you can see who is viewing your website and what pages they are looking at.
Tailor Analytics to your needs.
There is a lot of data and it may be difficult learning how to read Google Analytics. Some advice in this article does not apply to your website. Use what you need but be aware of things you may need in the future, this is what analytics is all about.