Back in February, I started a series of blog posts that detail different aspects of Google Analytics. Part 1 focused on the basic setup of Google Analytics. Part 2 is going to look at the standard reports that come with a Google Analytics account, as well as definitions of key metrics that are used in website analytics.
If you followed the steps outlined in Part 1 when you first read the post in February, you will have about a month’s worth of data in your account, which will be very helpful when looking at the reports. If you did not implement at that time, not a problem, I’ll have plenty of screenshots for you to examine in this post.
So let’s get started with the Standard reports. You can find these in your left side navigation.
There is so much data in Google Analytics that it can easily overwhelm the new user – especially if you are not familiar with the lingo. When you first login to your Google Analytics account, you will be brought to the Audience Overview report. This report will introduce you to the main analytics metrics.
A visit is a group of interactions that take place on your website within a given timeframe. A visit ends when a user is inactive for more than 30 minutes, the browser closes, or at midnight.
Unique visitors is the number of individual users who visited your website. It does not matter how many times this user visits your website, they will be counted once. Google determines this by putting a cookie on the user’s computer to identify that they have visited the website before. If the user clears their cookies, they will show up as a new unique visitor.
A pageview is a view of a page on your site that is being tracked by an analytics tracking code. Everytime a user views a page, that is counted as an additional pageview – even if they simply reloaded the page or went to another page and came back to a page they already viewed.
Pages / Visit
This is the number of pages on your website that the user viewed during their visit. This is a great metric to look at to determine if people are consuming your content and are a “good” visit.
Avg. Visit Duration
This is the average amount of time the user spent on your site during their visit. This is also a great metric to use when determining if a user is good quality. The more time they spend on your site, the more content you can assume they’re consuming.
Bounce rate is the percentage of visits where the user only viewed one page and then left your website. If a specific page of your website has a high bounce rate, you may want to evaluate the page structure and content and make improvements.
% New Visits
As mentioned in the unique visitor definition, Google places a cookie on a users computer when they visit your website. Google looks for this cookie every time a user comes to the website. If the cookie is not present, then the user is classified as a new visitor. % new visits is the percentage of visits of users who have been classified as new visits.
Within the Audience side navigation, you will also have reports that dive deeper into your visitor’s geolocation, language, computer operating system, and internet browser. All these things can help you tailor your website so it functions the way it should for your users.
Traffic Sources Reports
This is one of my favorite sections of Google Analytics – it helps you to see how people are getting to your site. If you remember from Part 1 of this series, this is the question people have been asking me about that helped spur this series of posts in the first place. While there are many other reports in this section of Google Analytics, I’m going to focus on the actual sources section for right now.
Search traffic can be broken down into two types: Organic and Paid. Both come from clicking on a listing in a search engine. Example: Go to google and search for “backpacking equipment” and click on a link, any link. You would be classified as search traffic.
The difference between Organic and Paid search traffic has to do with where you click. If you click on a paid advertisement that goes to our website, you will come in as paid search traffic. If you click on an organic listing, you will be organic search traffic. Right now, paid search ads are listed on the top, right side, and bottom of the search result pages and are denoted by the word “Ads.”
Referral traffic comes from a user clicking on a link on another website that brings them to your website. This could be a news article on OregonLive, a link in someone’s tweet, or a review of your services on a business listing.
Direct traffic comes from a user typing your website, www.amplify-interactive.com, into their internet browser’s navigation bar – they know your website URL so they go right there. Direct traffic can also come from a user’s bookmarks. They’ve been to your site before, bookmarked it, and then uses the bookmark to get back to your website.
Google allows you to add parameters to URLs so you can better track the traffic that comes to your website. This traffic bucket is a compilation of this tagged traffic. I’ll go over how to tag your URLs with these parameters in a future blog post in this series.
Until then, here’s a quick example of the type of traffic that might be included in this bucket. You decide to do Facebook advertising for your website. These ads will direct users to your website when they click on them. Since you want to know if this type of advertising is effective, you’ll want to know how much traffic you received and what those users did on your website. By tagging your destination URL for these ads, you will be able to see the data from this campaign in this traffic bucket.
The content reports in Google Analytics look at many different aspect of your website, such as specific pages, Site Speed, Site Search, Events, AdSense, Experiments, In-Page Analytics, and more. Several of these reports require additional effort on your part to have data populate them, so I will only focus on the ones that run off the basic setup.
Site Content – All Pages
If you want to know where users are going on your website, then this is the report for you. This report can help you determine what content your users really enjoy on your website, which can assist you with creating new content.
The Site Speed reports are pretty interesting when you have data; however, it is quite possible you won’t have a lot. This report only receives data from browsers that support the HTML5 Navigation Timing interface or have the Google Toolbar installed. So if your users are not visiting your site with Chrome, Firefox 7 or above, Internet Explorer 9 or above, Android 4.0 browsers and above, or an earlier brower version with the Google Toolbar installed, you may have a blank or very sparse report – like the one below.
So the more important question – why is site speed important to you? Have you ever gone to a website and it took FOREVER to load? Did you wait for it to load? or did you just leave and try to find the info you were looking for elsewhere? Exactly! You want people to stay on your site. So you want your website to load as fast as possible. Google believes this is so important that they’re actually using site load time as a ranking factor in their search results.
In the past, this report has kinda sucked. The point of it is to show what your users are clicking on and where. However, until recently, the report would only show you the overall percentage of clicks for a particular page on your site. Example: you have a link to your product page in your navigation and you have a link to it in the body of your page. The percent of clicks will be the same for both of these, even though the majority of the clicks are probably on the navigation link.
So the good news is that Google recently upgraded this and implemented several improvements. With a few minor changes to your Google Analytics account and your tracking code, you can now see the actual number of clicks for the navigation bar versus the link in the body of the page. I’ll go over these changes in a later post, but you can also search for “Enhanced Link Attribution” to find documentation on these changes.
This set of reports will show you data on your conversions. Part 3 of the Google Analytics series will be on setting up goals and how having goals will expand your Google Analytics reports. I’ll go into more detail about these reports at that time.
So…now that I’ve bombarded you with information, let’s take a big, deep breath and recap what you now know about your website.
- The number of users who come to your website, the number of pages they view on average, and the amount of time they spend on your website.
- Basic demographic info for your users.
- The device and operating system your users use to access your website.
- How users get to your website.
- The content the users view on your website.
I hope you feel more confident about your website and the information you are getting from your Google Analytics account. Please feel free to ask questions in the comments section below and make sure you come back in the next couple of weeks to learn how to set up goals.